Charente, a W. department of France, bordering on the departments of Vienne, Ilaute-Vienne, Dordogne, Charente-Inferieure, and Deux-Sevres; area, 2,294 sq. m.; pop. in 1872, 307,520. It is formed principally out of the ancient province of Angoumois, and derives its name from the river Charente, by which it is drained. The soil is generally far from being fertile. There are many shallow ponds, called etangs, some of them of considerable extent. Numerous caverns, some of great depth, are found, among which that of Rancogne, near La Rochefoucauld, is particularly remarkable. It seems as if earthquakes had been once frequent here. Two rivers, the Tardouere and the Bandiat, the course of which is toward the Charente, disappear repeatedly, and finally are entirely lost before reaching that river. There are mines of iron, antimony, and lead, and quarries of free and rag stone. The grain crop is poor, and scarcely sufficient for home consumption; but the vineyards, covering about 2-4,000 acres, yield a considerable surplus. Their produce is mostly converted into brandy, the superiority of that made at Cognac being universally acknowledged. Hemp, flax, and potatoes are extensively cultivated. Truffles are abundant, as well as chestnuts.
Cattle, mules, and asses are numerous; horses are comparatively scarce. Game, fish, poultry, and bees are found in abundance. Besides large iron works connected with the mines, there are paper mills, especially at Angouleme, distilleries, manufactories of earthenware, etc. The export trade is mostly in brandy, which is forwarded to nearly all parts of the world. Nearly 900 fairs are annually held in the department. It is divided into the arrondisse-ments of Angouleme, Ruffec, Cognac, Con-folens, and Barbezieux. Capital, Angouleme.