MAINE-ET-LOIRE, a department of western France, formed in 1790 for the most part out of the southern portion of the former province of Anjou, and bounded N. by the departments of Mayenne and Sarthe, E. by Indre-et-Loire, S.E. by Vienne, S. by Dcux-Sevres and Vendee, W. by Loire-Inferieure, and N.W. by Ille-et-Vilaine. Area, 2786 sq. m. Pop. (1906), 513,490. Maine-et-Loire is made up of two distinct regions, the line of demarcation running roughly from north to south along the valley of the Sarthe, then turning south-west and passing Brissac and Dou6; that to the west consists of granites, felspars, and -a continuation of the geological formations of Brittany and Vendee; to the east, schists, limestone and chalk prevail. The department is traversed from east to west by the majestic valley of the Loire, with its rich orchards, nurseries and marketgardens. The highest altitudes are found in the south-west, where north-east of Cholet one eminence reaches 689 ft. Elsewhere the surface is low and undulating in character. The department belongs entirely to the basin of the Loire, the bed of which is wide but shallow, and full of islands, the depth of the water in summer being at some places little more than 2 ft. Floods are sudden and destructive. The chief affluent of the Loire within the department is the Maine, formed a little above Angers by the junction of the Mayenne and the Sarthe, the latter having previously received the waters of the Loire. All three are navigable. Other tributaries of the Loire aretheThouet (with its tributary the Dive), the Layon, the Evre, and the Divatte on the left, and the Authion on the right. The Mayenne is joined on the right by the Oudon, which can be navigated below Segre 1 . The Erdre, which joins the Loire at Nantes, and the Moine, a tributary of the Sevre-Nantaise, both rise within this department. The climate is very mild. The mean annual temperature of Angers is about 53, slightly exceeding that of Paris; the rainfall (between 23 and 24 in. annually) is distinctly lower than that of the rest of France. Notwithstanding this deficiency, the frequent fogs, combined with the peculiar nature of the soil in the south-east of the department, produce a degree of moisture which is highly favourable to meadow growths. The winter colds are never severe, and readily permit the cultivation of certain trees which cannot be reared in the adjoining departments.
The agriculture of the department is very prosperous. The produce of cereals, chiefly wheat, oats and barley, is in excess of its needs, and potatoes and mangels also give good returns. Extensive areas in the valley of the Loire are under hemp, and the vegetables, melons and other fruits of that region are of the finest quality.' Good wine is produced at Serrant and other places near Angers, and on the right bank of the Layon and near .Saumur, the sparkling white wine of which is a rival of the cheaper brands of champagne. Cider is also produced, and the cultivation of fruit is general. Forests and woodland in which oak and beech are the chief trees cover large tracts. The fattening of cattle is an important industry round Cholet, and horses much used for light cavalry are reared. Several thousand workmen are employed in the slate quarries in the vicinity of Angers, tufa is worked in the river valleys, and freestone and other stone, mispickel, iron and coal are also found. Cholet, the chief industrial town, and its district manufacture pocket-handkerchiefs, as well as linen cloths, flannels, cotton goods, and hempen and other coarse fabrics, and similar industries are carried on at Angers, which also manufactures liqueurs, rope, boots and shoes and parasols. Saumur, besides its production of wine, makes beads and enamels. The commerce of Maine-et-Loire comprises the exportation of live stock and of the various products of its soil and industries, and the importation of hemp, cotton, and other raw materials. The department is served by the railways of the state and the Orleans and Western companies. The Mayenne, the Sarthe and the Loir, together with some of the lesser rivers, provide about 130 m. of navigable waterway. In the south-east the canal of the Dive covers some 10 m. in the department.
There are five arrondissements Angers, Bauge, Cholet, Saumur and Segre, with 34 cantons and 381 communes. Maineet-Loire belongs to the academic (educational division) of Rennes, to the region of the VIII. army corps, and to the ecclesiastical province of Tours. Angers (q.v.), the capital, is the seat of a bishopric and of a court of appeal. Other principal places are Cholet, Saumur, and Fontevrault, which receive separate treatment. For architectural interest there may also be mentioned the chateaux of Brissac (iyth century), Serrant (isth and 16th centuries), Montreuil-Bellay (14th and i5th centuries), and Ecuille (isth century), and the churches of Puy-Notre-Dame (13th century) and St Florent-le-Vieil (i3th, I7th, and 19th centuries), the last containing the fine monument to Charles Bonchamps, the Vendean leader, by David d'Angers. Gennes has remains of a theatre and other ruins of the Roman period, as well as two churches dating in part from the 10th century. Ponts-de-Ce, an interesting old town built partly on islands in the Loire, is historically important, because till the Revolution its bridges formed the only way across the Loire between Saumur and Nantes.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)