- Departments of France
This article is part of the series on
Administrative divisions of France
(incl. overseas regions)Departments
(incl. overseas departments)Others in Overseas France
The departments of France (French: département, pronounced: [depaʁtəmɑ̃]) are French administrative divisions. The 101 departments form one of the three levels of local government, together with the 22 metropolitan and 5 overseas regions above them and more than 36 000 communes beneath them. They are further subdivided into 342 arrondissements, themselves divided into cantons; both these levels have no autonomy and are used for the organisation of public services or elections. In the overseas territories, some of the communes play a role at departmental level. Paris, the country’s capital city, is a commune as well as a department.
Departments are administered by elected General Councils (conseil général) and their Presidents, whose main areas of responsibility include the management of a number of social and welfare allowances, of junior high school (collège) buildings and technical staff, of local roads and school and rural buses, and a contribution to municipal infrastructures. Local services of the State administration are traditionally organised at departmental level, where the Prefect represents the Government; however, regions have gained importance in this regard since the 2000s, with some department-level services merged into region-level services.
Departments were created in 1790 as a rational replacement of Ancien Régime provinces in view of strengthening national unity; almost all of them are therefore named after rivers, mountains or coasts rather than after historical or cultural territories, unlike regions, and some of them are commonly referred to by their two-digit postal code number, which was until recently used for all vehicle registration plates. They have inspired similar divisions in many of France’s former colonies.
- 1 History
- 2 General characteristics
- 3 Future
- 4 Maps and tables
- 5 References
- 6 See also
The first French "departments", in the sense of territory, were proposed in 1665 by Marc-René d'Argenson, and served as administrative areas purely for the Ponts et Chaussées ("Bridges and Highways", the infrastructure administration).
Before the French Revolution, France gained territory gradually through the annexation of a mosaic of independent entities. By the close of the Ancien Régime, it was organised into provinces. During the period of the Revolution, these were dissolved, partly in order to weaken old loyalties.
The modern departments, as all-purpose units of the government, were created on 4 March 1790 by the National Constituent Assembly to replace the provinces with what the Assembly deemed a more rational structure. Their boundaries served two purposes:
- Boundaries were deliberately chosen to break up France's historical regions in an attempt to erase cultural differences and build a more homogeneous nation.
- Boundaries were set so that any settlement in the country was within a day's ride of the capital of the department. This was a security measure, intended to keep the entire national territory under close control. This measure was directly inspired by the Great Terror, during which the government had lost control of many rural areas far from any centre of government.
The old nomenclature was carefully avoided in naming the new departments. Most were named after an area's principal river or other physical features. Even Paris was in the department of Seine.
The number of departments, initially 83, was increased to 130 by 1809 with the territorial gains of the Republic and of the First French Empire (see Provinces of the Netherlands for the annexed Dutch departments). Following Napoleon's defeats in 1814-1815, the Congress of Vienna returned France to its pre-war size; the number of departments was reduced to 86, as three of the original departments had been split. In 1860, France acquired the County of Nice and Savoy, which led to the creation of three new departments. Two were added from the new Savoyard territory, while the department of Alpes-Maritimes was created from Nice and a portion of the Var department. The 89 departments were given numbers based on their alphabetical order.
The departments of Moselle, Bas-Rhin, and most of Haut-Rhin were ceded to the German Empire in 1871, following France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. A small part of Haut-Rhin however remained French, and became known as the Territoire de Belfort. When France regained the ceded departments after World War I, the Territoire de Belfort was not reintegrated into Haut-Rhin. In 1922, it became France's 90th department.
The reorganisation of lower France (1968) and the division of Corsica (1975) added six more departments, raising the total to 96. Counting the five overseas departments (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion and Mayotte) the total comes to 101 departments. In 2011, the overseas collectivity of Mayotte became the 101st department.
The departmental seat of government is called the prefecture (préfecture) or chef-lieu de department and is generally a city of some importance roughly at the geographical centre of the department. This was determined according to the time taken to travel on horseback from the periphery of the department. The goal was for the prefecture to be accessible by horseback from any town in the department within 24 hours. The prefecture is not necessarily the largest city in the department; for instance, in Saône-et-Loire department the capital is Mâcon, but the largest city is Chalon-sur-Saône. Departments are divided into one or more arrondissements. The capital of an arrondissement is called a subprefecture (sous-préfecture) or chef-lieu d'arrondissement.
Each department is administered by a general council (conseil général), an assembly elected for six years by universal suffrage, with the president of the council as executive of the department. Before 1982, the excutive of a department was the prefect (préfet) who represents the Government of France in each department and is appointed by the President of France. The prefect is assisted by one or more sub-prefects (sous-préfet) based in the subprefectures of the department.
In continental France (metropolitan France, excluding Corsica), the median land area of a department is 5,965 km2 (2,303 sq mi), which is two-and-a-half times the median land area of a ceremonial county of England & Wales and slightly more than three-and-half times the median land area of a county of the United States. At the 2001 census, the median population of a department in continental France was 511,012 inhabitants, which is 21 times the median population of a U.S. county, but less than two-thirds of the median population of a ceremonial county of England & Wales. Most of the departments have an area of between 4,000 and 8,000 km², and a population between 320,000 and 1 million. The largest in area is Gironde (10,000 km²), while the smallest is the city of Paris (105 km²). The most populous is Nord (2,550,000) and the least populous is Lozère (74,000).
The departments are numbered: their two-digit numbers appear in postal codes, in INSEE codes (including "social security numbers") and on vehicle number-plates. Initially, the numbers corresponded to the alphabetical order of the names of the departments, but several changed their names, so the correspondence became less exact. There is no number 20, but 2A and 2B instead, for Corsica. Corsican postal codes or addresses in both departments do still start with 20, though. The two-digit code "96" is used by Monaco. Together with the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code FR, the numbers form the ISO 3166-2 country subdivision codes for the metropolitan departments. The overseas departments get two letters for the ISO 3166-2 code, e.g. 971 for Guadeloupe (see table below).
Key to the parties:
- Divers Centre = Independents of the Centre or Democratic Movement (Mouvement démocrate)
- Divers Droite (DVD) = Independent conservatives
- Divers Gauche (DVG) = Independent left-wing politicians
- MPF = Movement for France (Mouvement pour la France) (right)
- Nouveau Centre = New Centre (centre or centre-right)
- PCF = French Communist Party (Parti Communiste Français)
- PRG = Radical Party of the Left (Parti Radical de Gauche)
- PS = Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste)
- UDF = Union for French Democracy (Union pour la Démocratie Française) succeeded by Democratic Movement
- UMP = Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire)
The removal of one or more levels of local government has been discussed for some years; in particular, the option of removing the departmental level. Frédéric Lefebvre, spokesman for the UMP, said in December 2008 that the fusion of the departments with the regions was a matter to be dealt with soon. This was soon refuted by Édouard Balladur and Gérard Longuet, members of the Committee for the reform of local authorities, known as the Balladur Committee.
In January 2008, the Commission for freeing French development, known as the Attali Commission, recommended that the departmental level of government should be eliminated within ten years.
Nevertheless, the Balladur Committee has not retained this proposition and does not advocate the disappearance of the departments, but simply "favors the voluntary grouping of departments," which it suggests also for the regions, with the aim of bringing the number of the latter down to fifteen. This committee advocates, on the contrary, the suppression of the cantons.
Maps and tables
All departments have an escutcheon with which they are commonly associated, but not all are officially recognized or used. In some departments they are used, but in others a more modern emblem is used. The national government itself has no heraldic coat of arms, as a rejection of the aristocratic origins of heraldry, and this is followed by many governments in the departments.
Former departments of the current territory of France
Department Prefecture Dates in existence Rhône-et-Loire Lyon 1790–1793 Split into Rhône and Loire on 12 August 1793. Corse Bastia 1790–1793 Split into Golo and Liamone. Golo Bastia 1793–1811 Reunited with Liamone into Corse. Liamone Ajaccio 1793–1811 Reunited with Golo into Corse. Mont-Blanc Chambéry 1792–1815 Formed from part of the Duchy of Savoy, a territory of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia and was restored to Piedmont-Sardinia after Napoleon's defeat. The department corresponds approximately with the present French departments Savoie and Haute-Savoie. Léman Geneva 1798–1814 Formed when the Republic of Geneva was annexed into the First French Empire. Léman became the Swiss canton the Republic and Canton of Geneva. The department corresponds with the present Swiss canton and parts of the present French departments Ain and Haute-Savoie. Meurthe Nancy 1790–1871 Meurthe ceased to exist following the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by the German Empire in 1871 and was not recreated after the province was restored to France by the Treaty of Versailles. Seine Paris 1790–1967 On 1 January 1968, Seine was divided into four new departments: Paris, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, and Val-de-Marne (the last incorporating a small amount of territory from Seine-et-Oise as well). Seine-et-Oise Versailles 1790–1967 On 1 January 1968, Seine-et-Oise was divided into four new departments: Yvelines, Val-d'Oise, Essonne, Val-de-Marne (the last largely comprising territory from Seine). Corse Ajaccio 1811–1975 On 15 September 1975, Corse was divided in two, to form Corse-du-Sud and Haute-Corse. Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon Saint-Pierre 1976–1985 Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon was an overseas department from 1976 until it was converted to an overseas collectivity on 11 June 1985.
Departments of French Algeria
Unlike the rest of French-controlled Africa, Algeria was officially incorporated into France from 1848 until its independence in 1962.
Before 1957 № Department Prefecture Dates of existence 91 Alger Algiers (1848–1957) 92 Oran Oran (1848–1957) 93 Constantine Constantine (1848–1957) – Bône Annaba (1955–1957) 1957–1962 № Department Prefecture Dates of existence 8A Oasis Ouargla (1957–1962) 8B Saoura Bechar (1957–1962) 9A Alger Algiers (1957–1962) 9B Batna Batna (1957–1962) 9C Bône Annaba (1955–1962) 9D Constantine Constantine (1957–1962) 9E Médéa Medea (1957–1962) 9F Mostaganem Mostaganem (1957–1962) 9G Oran Oran (1957–1962) 9H Orléansville Chlef (1957–1962) 9J Sétif Setif (1957–1962) 9K Tiaret Tiaret (1957–1962) 9L Tizi-Ouzou Tizi Ouzou (1957–1962) 9M Tlemcen Tlemcen (1957–1962) 9N Aumale Sour el Ghozlane (1958–1959) 9P Bougie Bejaia (1958–1962) 9R Saïda Saïda (1958–1962)
Departments in former French colonies
Department Modern-day location Dates in existence Département du Sud Hispaniola
( Dominican Republic and Haiti)
1795–1800 Département de l'Inganne (Mostly in Dominican Republic with eastern part of Haiti) 1795–1800 Département du Nord 1795–1800 Département de l'Ouest 1795–1800 Département de Samana (In Dominican Republic) 1795–1800 Sainte-Lucie Saint Lucia, Tobago 1795–1800 Île de France Mauritius, _ Rodrigues,_ Rodrigues, Seychelles 1795–1800 Indes-Orientales Puducherry, Karikal, Yanaon, Mahé and Chandernagore 1795–1800
Departments of the Napoleonic Empire in Europe
Current location1 Contemporary location2 Dates in existence Mont-Terrible Porrentruy Switzerland Holy Roman Empire: 1793–1800 Corcyre Corfou Corfu Greece Republic of Venice4 1797–1799 Ithaque Argostoli 1797–1798 Mer-Égée Zante Zakynthos 1797–1798 Dyle Bruxelles Brussels Belgium Austrian Netherlands: 1795–1814 Escaut Gand Ghent Belgium
Austrian Netherlands: 1795–1814 Forêts Luxembourg Luxembourg
- Duchy of Bouillon
- Duchy of Luxembourg
1795–1814 Jemmape Mons Belgium Austrian Netherlands: 1795–1814 Lys Bruges Austrian Netherlands: 1795–1814 Meuse-Inférieure Maëstricht Maastricht Belgium
Austrian Netherlands: 1795–1814 Deux-Nèthes Anvers Antwerp Belgium Austrian Netherlands:
1795–1814 Ourthe Liège Belgium
Austrian Netherlands: 1795–1814 Sambre-et-Meuse Namur Belgium Austrian Netherlands: 1795–1814 Mont-Tonnerre Mayence Mainz Germany Holy Roman Empire: 1801–1814 Rhin-et-Moselle Coblence Koblenz Holy Roman Empire: 1801–1814 Roer Aix-la-Chapelle Aachen Germany
Holy Roman Empire: 1801–1814 Sarre Trèves Trier Belgium
Holy Roman Empire: 1801–1814 Doire Ivrée Ivrea Italy Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia 1802–1814 Marengo Alexandrie Alessandria 1802–1814 Pô Turin 1802–1814 Sésia Verceil Vercelli 1802–1814 Stura Coni Cuneo 1802–1814 Tanaro6 Asti 1802–1805 Apennins Chiavari Republic of Genoa7 1805–1814 Gênes Gênes Genoa 1805–1814 Montenotte Savone Savona 1805–1814 Arno Florence Grand Duchy of Tuscany8 1808–1814 Méditerranée Livourne Livorno 1808–1814 Ombrone Sienne Siena 1808–1814 Taro Parme Parma Holy Roman Empire: 1808–1814 Rome10 Rome Papal States 1809–1814 Trasimène Spolète Spoleto 1809–1814 Bouches-du-Rhin Bois-le-Duc 's-Hertogenbosch Netherlands Dutch Republic:11
(Brabant of the States)
- Dutch Guelders
1810–1814 Bouches-de-l'Escaut Middelbourg Middelburg Dutch Republic:11 1810–1814 Simplon Sion Switzerland République des Sept Dizains12 1810–1814 Bouches-de-la-Meuse La Haye The Hague Netherlands Dutch Republic:11 1811–1814 Bouches-de-l'Yssel Zwolle Dutch Republic:11 1811–1814 Ems-Occidental Groningue Groningen Netherlands
Dutch Republic:11 1811–1814 Ems-Oriental Aurich Germany Holy Roman Empire: 1811–1814 Frise Leuwarden Leeuwarden Netherlands Dutch Republic:11 1811–1814 Yssel-Supérieur Arnhem Dutch Republic:11 1811–1814 Zuyderzée Amsterdam Dutch Republic:11 1811–1814 Bouches-de-l'Elbe Hamburg Hamburg Germany Holy Roman Empire: 1811–1814 Bouches-du-Weser Brême Bremen Holy Roman Empire: 1811–1814 Ems-Supérieur Osnabrück Holy Roman Empire: 1811–1814 Lippe12 Munster Münster Holy Roman Empire:
- Bishopric of Münster
- Electoral Palatinate:
1811–1814 Bouches-de-l'Èbre Lérida Lleida Spain Kingdom of Spain: 1812–1813 Montserrat Barcelone Barcelona 1812–1813 Sègre Puigcerda Puigcerdà 1812–1813 Ter Gérone Girona 1812–1813 Bouches-de-l'Èbre-Montserrat Barcelone Barcelona Previously the departments of Bouches-de-l'Èbre and Montserrat 1813–1814 Sègre-Ter Gérone Girona Previously the departments of Sègre and Ter 1813–1814
Notes for Table 7:
- Where a Napoleonic department was composed of parts from more than one country, the nation-state containing the prefecture is listed. Please expand this table to list all countries containing significant parts of the department.
- Territories that were a part of Austrian Netherlands were also a part of Holy Roman Empire.
- The Bishopric of Basel was a German Prince-Bishopric, not to be confused with the adjacent Swiss Canton of Basel.
- The territories of the Republic of Venice were lost to France, becoming the Septinsular Republic, a nominal protectorate of the
Ottoman_Empire,_from_1800–07._After_reverting_to_France_as_the_ Illyrian_Provinces,_these_territories_then_became_a_ British_protectorate,_as_the_ Ottoman Empire, from 1800–07. After reverting to France as the Illyrian Provinces, these territories then became a British protectorate, as the United States of the Ionian Islands
- Maastricht was a condominium of the Dutch Republic and the Bishopric of Liège.
- On 6 June 1805, as a result of the annexation of the Ligurian Republic (the puppet successor state to the Republic of Genoa), Tanaro was abolished and its territory divided between the departments of Marengo, Montenotte and Stura.
- Before becoming the department of Apennins, the Republic of Genoa was converted to a puppet successor state, the Ligurian Republic.
- Before becoming the department of Arno, the _
Grand_Duchy_of_Tuscany_was_converted_to_a_ puppet_ successor_state,_the_ Grand Duchy of Tuscany was converted to a puppet successor state, the Kingdom of Etruria.
- Rome was known as the department du Tibre until 1810.
- Before becoming the departments of Bouches-du-Rhin, Bouches-de-l'Escaut, Bouches-de-la-Meuse, Bouches-de-l'Yssel, Ems-Occidental, Frise, Yssel-Supérieur and Zuyderzée, these territories of the Dutch Republic were converted to a puppet successor state, the Batavian Republic (1795–1806), then those territories that had not already been annexed (all except the first two departments here), along with the Prussian County of East Frisia, were converted to another puppet state, the Kingdom of Holland.
- Before becoming the department of Simplon, the République des Sept Dizains was converted to a revolutionary République du Valais (16 March 1798) which was swiftly incorporated (1 May 1798) into the puppet Helvetic Republic until 1802 when it became the independent Rhodanic Republic.
- In the months before Lippe was formed, the arrondissements of Rees and Münster were part of Yssel-Supérieur, the arrondissement of Steinfurt was part of Bouches-de-l'Yssel and the arrondissement of Neuenhaus was part of Ems-Occidental.
- ^ "Lexpress.fr". Lexpress.fr. http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/politique/la-fusion-departement-region-n-est-pas-a-l-ordre-du-jour_728648.html. Retrieved 2011-07-21.
- ^ This is stated in the title of the section dealing with "Decision 260" on page 197 of the Report of the Attali Commission (French)
- ^ a b "Les 20 propositions du Comité (20 propositions of the Committee)" (in French). Committee for the reform of local authorities. http://reformedescollectiviteslocales.fr/actualites/index.php?id=75. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
- 130 departments of the First French Empire
- ISO 3166-2:FR
Departments of France
01 Ain · 02 Aisne · 03 Allier · 04 Alpes-de-Haute-Provence · 05 Hautes-Alpes · 06 Alpes-Maritimes · 07 Ardèche · 08 Ardennes · 09 Ariège · 10 Aube · 11 Aude · 12 Aveyron · 13 Bouches-du-Rhône · 14 Calvados · 15 Cantal · 16 Charente · 17 Charente-Maritime · 18 Cher · 19 Corrèze · 2A Corse-du-Sud · 2B Haute-Corse · 21 Côte-d'Or · 22 Côtes-d'Armor · 23 Creuse · 24 Dordogne · 25 Doubs · 26 Drôme · 27 Eure · 28 Eure-et-Loir · 29 Finistère · 30 Gard · 31 Haute-Garonne · 32 Gers · 33 Gironde · 34 Hérault · 35 Ille-et-Vilaine · 36 Indre · 37 Indre-et-Loire · 38 Isère · 39 Jura · 40 Landes · 41 Loir-et-Cher · 42 Loire · 43 Haute-Loire · 44 Loire-Atlantique · 45 Loiret · 46 Lot · 47 Lot-et-Garonne · 48 Lozère · 49 Maine-et-Loire · 50 Manche · 51 Marne · 52 Haute-Marne · 53 Mayenne · 54 Meurthe-et-Moselle · 55 Meuse · 56 Morbihan · 57 Moselle · 58 Nièvre · 59 Nord · 60 Oise · 61 Orne · 62 Pas-de-Calais · 63 Puy-de-Dôme · 64 Pyrénées-Atlantiques · 65 Hautes-Pyrénées · 66 Pyrénées-Orientales · 67 Bas-Rhin · 68 Haut-Rhin · 69 Rhône · 70 Haute-Saône · 71 Saône-et-Loire · 72 Sarthe · 73 Savoie · 74 Haute-Savoie · 75 Paris · 76 Seine-Maritime · 77 Seine-et-Marne · 78 Yvelines · 79 Deux-Sèvres · 80 Somme · 81 Tarn · 82 Tarn-et-Garonne · 83 Var · 84 Vaucluse · 85 Vendée · 86 Vienne · 87 Haute-Vienne · 88 Vosges · 89 Yonne · 90 Territoire de Belfort · 91 Essonne · 92 Hauts-de-Seine · 93 Seine-Saint-Denis · 94 Val-de-Marne · 95 Val-d'Oise
Overseas departments: 971 Guadeloupe · 972 Martinique · 973 French Guiana · 974 Réunion · 976 Mayotte
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