The Franche-Comté (the former "Free County" of Burgundy, as distinct from the neighbouring Duchy) is a region of eastern France comprising the départements of Doubs, Jura and Haute-Saône as well as the small Territoire de Belfort. It covers 16,200 sq. km. with 1,120,000 inhabitants. The principal cities are Besançon (the historic capital of the region) and Belfort.
A territory of Burgundy from 888, the province became subject to the Holy Roman Empire in 1034 and was definitively separated from the neighbouring duchy of Burgundy upon the latter's incorporation into France in 1477. Transferred to Spain in 1556, the Franche-Comté was occupied by the French in 1668 but handed back at the subsequent peace; conquered a second time in 1674, it was finally ceded to France in 1678.
The region's population fell by a fifth between the censuses of 1851 and 1946, reflecting low French natural growth and migration to more urbanised parts of the country. Most of the decline occurred in Haute-Saône and Jura, which remain among the country's more agriculture-dependent areas.