France is mainly rural and its cities small. Consequently, the influence of the city, if judged by the amount of brick and mortar, is not very extensive -- with the exceptions of Paris, Marseille, Lyon, and Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing. Very large areas are far removed from the dominant influence of any great urban complex so that the small historic city plays a correspondingly important role as a focus of human activities. For this reason it is not possible to define regions clearly on the basis of service areas of a few large cities. Thus, while many schemes for new regions of government and, most important of all, that of Vidal de la Blache, include from twelve to seventeen large regions, there is bound to be an arbitrary factor in the definition of such large units. New economic regions, as Brunhes has argued, cannot be resolved simply by the compass or by railway time-tables and bus services, that is, on the basis of accessibility of the suggested capital city. Moreover, there are many other regional factors to be taken into account, such as types of farming and industry, and regional needs and interests. In order to meet these needs, Brunhes maintains that effective human units must be smaller in size, and, still adhering to the basic idea of the city as the focal point of the region, he suggests about twenty-five to thirty regions, each with a historic and modern "regional metropolis" as its focus.
These regions in groups of two or three would form in some cases the major regions. The following is his selection of centres: Rouen and Caen are capitals for eastern and western Normandy respectively; Orleans, Tours, Angers, and Bourges are capitals and serve the middle Loire lands -- and to these we would add Poitiers; Rennes and Nantes serve the west, the first for Brittany, the second for that portion of the province of Brittany and the lower Loire lands which is centred on Nantes and its outport of Saint-Nazaire; Bordeaux is the capital for the south-west, and La Rochelle for the lands between Poitiers and the Garonne, and Limoges and the west coast; Limoges serves the west of the Central Plateau, with its nucleus in Limousin, and Clermont Ferrand the heart of the Central Plateau, with its nucleus in the lowland of the river Loire and the province of Auvergne; Toulouse and Montpellier are pre-eminent historical and cultural centres in the south, with, to name but one trait, Universities dating back to the thirteenth century; Lyon, Marseille and Grenoble are the capitals of the south-east, for the Rhone lands and the Alps. Lyon, the capital of the silk textile industries, is an admirable example of an economic metropolis in the fullest sense of the term, with a regional role as great as that of Paris itself.