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Poitou

Poitou (pwätōō´), region and former province, W France, stretching from the Atlantic coast eastward beyond the Vienne River. It now includes three departments—Vendée in the west, Deux-Sèvres in the center, and Vienne in the east, as well as small areas of several other departments. Poitiers, the historic capital, is the chief industrial center. Other industrial towns are Châtellerault, Niort, La Roche-sur-Yon, and Les Sables-d'Olonne. The Vendée region, or Lower Poitou, extends beyond the departmental boundary of Vendée; it is mostly a pastoral hedgerow country (the bocages), with swamps in the west and in the south. A narrow strip, the Vendean plain, is an intensive wheat-growing region. Upper Poitou is a rich agricultural area; it also has a large dairy industry. A part of the Roman province of Aquitaine, Poitou (known as "the city of the Pictons" ) fell to the Visigoths (5th cent.) and to the Franks (507). The counts of Poitiers, who originated in the 9th cent., assumed the title duke of Aquitaine. The area was frequently contested by England and France, passing back and forth in possession until the end of the Hundred Years War, when Charles VII definitively incorporated it in the French crown lands.

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Poitou

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Poitou

POITOU

POITOU , region and former province of W. France, now included in the departments of Vendée, Deux-Sèvres, and Vienne. In the Middle Ages Jews lived in at least 20 localities in Poitou, the most important of which were *Poitiers, Niort, Vitré, Moncontour, Loudun, Bressuire, Lusignan, Montmorillon, and Thouars. Their presence is also recalled by a large number of sites named La Juderie, La Judrie, Les Judes, etc. The earliest evidence of Jewish settlement in Poitou dates from 1134 to 1143, with arrivals from Narbonne. After 1160 Jewish scholars from Poitou took part in the synod of Troyes convened by *Samuel b. Meir and Jacob b. Meir *Tam. One takkanah with which the scholars of Poitou were also associated referred to the custom of Narbonne Jewry connected with the dowry. When Poitou passed to English rule, the kings of England provided both individuals and groups of Jews (Niort, 1221) with letters of protection. Under French rule (1224) the Jews of Poitou (like those of Anjou, etc.) were attacked by the *Crusaders in 1236. Soon after he received Poitou in appanage, *Alphonse of Poitiers threatened the Jews with expulsion, but this was not carried out. In 1268, in order to finance his joining a Crusade, Alphonse had all the Jews of Poitou, as well as all those in his other territories, imprisoned and their belongings seized, extorting a ransom of 8,000 livres for their release. In 1269, following the example of *Louisix, he imposed the wearing of the distinctive Jewish *badge. Although Poitou was incorporated into the kingdom of France in 1270, the Jews there were subjected to special decrees and were finally expelled in 1291, 15 years before their coreligionists in other parts of France. A few of them who returned in 1315 were among the first to be accused (1321) of collusion with the lepers (see *France). An even smaller number of Jews returned after 1359 (or more exactly after 1372 when Poitou was liberated by the English). Some Jews from Comtat Venaissin traded in Poitou during the 18th century.

bibliography:

Gross, Gal Jud, 451; Finkelstein, Middle Ages, index; Dr. Vincent, in: Revue d'histoire économique et sociale, 18 (1930), 265–313; G. Nahon, in: rej, 125 (1966), 167–211.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]

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