This article is about the historical French province. For other uses, see Picardy (disambiguation).Picardy ( ) is a historical province of France, in the north of France. The historical capital and largest city is Amiens.
The area was occupied by the Franks in the 5th century and in the feudal period it encompassed the six countships of Boulogne, Montreuil, Ponthieu, Amiénois, Vermandois, and Laonnois.
During the Middle Ages, the name applied to a much larger area than that thought of now as Picardy. This 'Picardy' referred to France north of Paris plus Dutch-speaking Flanders. This area corresponds to all the territories from Paris to the Netherlands. In the Latin Quarter of Paris, people identified a "Picard Nation" (Nation Picarde) of students at Sorbonne University, most of whom actually came from Flanders.
In a narrower sense, Picardy refers to the area covered by the gouvernement (military region) of Picardy as created in the 16th century. This area is the Somme département, the northern half of the Aisne département, and a small fringe in the north of the Oise département. This is what most people think of as Picardy today. The older definition survives in the name of the Picard language, which applies not only to the dialects of Picardy proper, but also to the Romance dialects spoken in the Nord-Pas de Calais région, north of Picardy proper.
Picardy proper now lies inside the administrative region of Picardy, making up half of this region. Before the French Revolution, the coastal areas of Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais were considered part of Picardy, but are now part of the Nord-Pas de Calais région. However, anciently these areas belonged to the province of Artois, and had been detached from Artois in the 15th century.
The region of Picardy has a strong and proud cultural identity. The Picard (the local inhabitant and traditionally Picard language speakers) cultural heritage includes some of the most extraordinary Gothic churches (Amiens and Beauvais cathedrals or Saint-Quentin basilica), distinctive local cuisine (including ficelle picarde, flamiche aux poireaux, tarte au maroilles), beer (including from Péronne's de Clercq brewery) and traditional games and sports, such as the longue paume (ancestor of tennis), as well as danses picardes and its own bagpipes, called the pipasso.
Northern Picardy is a vast plain with open fields, famed for the gruesome Battle of the Somme. The region stretches from the long sand beaches of the Somme estuary in the west to the vast forests and pastures of the Thiérache in the east and down to the chateaux of Chantilly or Pierrefonds near the Paris Area and vineyards of the border with Champagne (Champagne picarde) to the south.
The main crops of Picardy are wheat, sugar beet, and fodder. Sugar beet was introduced by Napoleon I during the Napoleonic Wars in order to counter the United Kingdom which had seized the sugar islands possessed by France in the Caribbean. The sugar industry made the fortune of Picardy in the 19th century.
Villages of Picardy have a distinct character, with their houses made of red bricks, often graced with a "lace" of white bricks. A minority of people still speak the Picard language, one of the languages of France, which is also spoken in Artois (Nord-Pas de Calais région). "P'tit quinquin", a Picard song, is a symbol of the local culture (and of that of Artois).
In 2009, the Regional Committee for local government reform proposed to reduce the number of French regions and cancel out additions of new regions in the near future. Picardy impacted by the reform would have disappeared and each department would have joined a nearby region. The Oise would have been incorporated in the Île-de-France, the Somme would have been incorporated in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Aisne would have been incorporated in the Champagne-Ardenne. The vast majority of Picards were opposed to this proposal and it was scrapped in 2010 (see newspaper: "Courrier Picard").