The Département de la Charente-Maritime (17) is in western France, on the Bay of Biscay, and was called Charente-Inférieure until 1941.
The Charente flows northwestwards to its estuary on the Bay of Biscay through the centre of the department, which is bordered on the southwest by the Gironde.
It was in the occupied zone of France from 1940. In 1941 the Vichy government placed it under the Regional Prefect at Poitiers for police and economic matters.
Since 1960 Charente-Maritime has been part of the Poitou-Charentes region.
Its first capital was Saintes, but it was replaced by La Rochelle, until then a sub-prefecture, in 1810. Saintes remains one of the sub-prefectures; the others are Jonzac (in the south), Rochefort (northnorthwest) and St Jean d’Angély (in the northeast, but with an interruption, 1926-43). Marennes (west) served as a sub-prefecture, 1800-1926. Saintes, an ancient diocese in the province of Bordeaux, was the Bishopric for the department from 1790, but was displaced by La Rochelle, which had been a Bishopric 1648-1790, in 1802.