A peninsula jutting into the Atlantic in northwest France, Brittany (Bretagne in French) is considered as one of the six Celtic nations (along with Cornwall, Wales, Manx, Scotland and Ireland). It has been known historically as Lesser or Little Britain (as opposed to Great Britain).
The modern region of Brittany, smaller than cultural and historical Brittany, occupies a territory 27,208 km2 (10,505 sq mi), slightly less than Belgium or the US state of Maryland. With 3.1 million inhabitants, it is the 7th most populous French region - as well in fact as the 7th largest and 10th richest based on the GDP per capita.
A rugged land with a dramatic coastline and a deep ancestral connection to the sea, Brittany has never felt really like the rest of France, nor truly French. Its culture and history is more tied to the British Isles or the northern coast of Spain.
The Breton language, although only spoken by some 200,000 people today, still plays a major role in the region's cultural identity. Breton is a Celtic language more closely related to Cornish and Welsh than either of them are to Irish or Scottish Gaelic. The reason is that Brittany was resettled in the 5th century by Britons from what is now England, escaping the Anglo-Saxon invasions.
Famous people from the present-day region of Brittany include (chronologically): the explorer Jacques Cartier, the writer François-René de Chateaubriand, and the Nobel Peace Prize-winning climatologist Jean Jouzel.
Ever since the Neolithic, Brittany has had close ties with the Atlantic fringe of Europe, from Ireland to Portugal. Brittany was one of the most important centres of the Megalithic culture, and the stone alignements at Carnac are the most extensive menhir collections on Earth.
The Bronze Age witnessed the arrival of the Indo-Europeans (the Proto-Celts) from Central Europe, who brought the old Megalithic culture to an end. Brittany's rich mineral deposists, notably of gold and tin ore, were highly valued by the new Celtic elite.
The region was known to the Romans as Armorica. Only after the British migrations of the 5th and 6th centuries did the peninsula acquire its modern name. A Kingdom of Brittany arose at the onset of the 7th century. Divided in three kingdoms (Vannes, Domnonée and Broërec), then reunited, Brittany becomes a vassal duchy of the Kingdom of France in 936. It would however remained de facto independent until the marriage of Anne of Brittany to Charles VIII of France in 1492, followed by the offcial Union of Brittany and France in 1532.