Maine (mĕn) [key], region and former province, NW France, S of Normandy and E of Brittany. It now comprises the departments of Mayenne and Sarthe and parts of Loire-et-Cher, Eure-et-Loir, and Orne. Le Mans, the historic capital, is an important industrial and commercial center. Other towns in the region are Laval, Mayenne, and Vendôme. Maine is primarily agricultural, with important stock raising in the hilly Perche; it is well irrigated by the Mayenne, Loire, and Sarthe rivers. Important during Roman times, Maine was Christianized between the 4th and 6th cent. Made a county in the 10th cent., it passed (1126) to Anjou and was held for long periods by England. It frequently reverted to the French crown, or to members of the royal family, until it was finally united with the crown in 1584 upon the death of the Duke of Alençon.
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