Brittany, Or Britanny (Fr. Bretagne), known as Armorica (q.v.) until the influx of Celts from Britain, an ancient province and duchy of France, consisting of the north-west peninsula, and nearly corresponding to the departments of Finistère, Côtes-du-Nord, Morbihan, Ille-et-Vilaine and Lower Loire. It is popularly divided into Upper or Western, and Lower or Eastern Brittany. Its greatest length between the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean is 250 kilometres (about 155 English miles), and its superficial extent is 30,000 sq. kilometres (about 18,630 English sq. m.). It comprises two distinct zones, a maritime zone and an inland zone. In the centre there are two plateaus, partly covered with landes, unproductive moorland: the southern plateau is continued by the Montagnes Noires, and the northern is dominated by the Monts d'Arrée. These ranges nowhere exceed 1150 ft. in height, but from their wild nature they recall the aspect of high mountains. The waterways of Brittany are for the most part of little value owing to their torrent-like character. The only river basin of any importance is that of the Vilaine, which flows through Rennes. The coast is very much indented, especially along the English Channel, and is rocky and lined with reefs and islets.
The mouths of the rivers form deep estuaries. Thus nature itself condemned Brittany to remain for a long time shut out from civilization. But in the 19th century the development of railways and other means of communication drew Brittany from its isolation. In the 19th century also agriculture developed in a remarkable manner. Many of the landes were cleared and converted into excellent pasturage, and on the coast market-gardening made great progress. In the fertile districts cereals too are cultivated. Industrial pursuits, except in a few seaport towns, which are rather French than Breton, have hitherto received but little attention.
The Bretons are by nature conservative. They cling with almost equal attachment to their local customs and their religious superstitions. It was not till the 17th century that paganism was even nominally abolished in some parts, and there is probably no district in Europe where the popular Christianity has assimilated more from earlier creeds. Witchcraft and the influence of fairies are still often believed in. The costume of both sexes is very peculiar both in cut and colour, but varies considerably in different districts. Bright red, violet and blue are much used, not only by the women, but in the coats and waistcoats of the men. The reader will find full illustrations of the different styles in Bouet's Breiz-izel, ou vie des Breions de l'Armorique (1844). The Celtic language is still spoken in lower Brittany. Four dialects are pretty clearly marked (see the article Celt: Language, "Breton," p. 328). Nowhere has the taste for marvellous legends been kept so green as in Brittany; and an entire folk-literature still flourishes there, as is manifested by the large number of folk-tales and folk-songs which have been collected of late years.
The whole duchy was formerly divided into nine bishoprics: - Rennes, Dol, Nantes, St Malo and St Brieuc, in Upper Brittany and Tréguier, Vannes, Quimper and St Pol de Léon in Lower.