Departments of France

The 102 departments of France

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Administrative divisions of France

(incl. overseas regions)

(incl. overseas departments)

Urban communities
Agglomeration communities
Commune communities
Syndicates of New Agglomeration

Associated communes
Municipal arrondissements

Others in Overseas France

Overseas collectivities
Sui generis collectivity
Overseas country
Overseas territory
Clipperton Island

In the administrative divisions of France, the department ( French: département, pronounced:  [depaʁt(ə)mɑ̃]) is one of the three levels of government below the national level (" territorial collectivities"), between the administrative regions and the commune. There are 97 departments in metropolitan France, and 5 overseas departments, which are also classified as regions. Departments are further subdivided into 334 arrondissements, themselves divided into cantons; the last two have no autonomy, and are used for the organisation of police, fire departments, and sometimes, elections.

Each department is administered by an elected body called a departmental council (conseil départemental (sing.), conseils départementaux (plur.)). From 1800 to April 2015, they were called general councils (conseil général (sing.), conseils généraux (plur.)). [1] Each council has a president. Their main areas of responsibility include the management of a number of social and welfare allowances, of junior high school (collège) buildings and technical staff, and 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.

The departments were created in 1790 as a rational replacement of Ancien Régime provinces with a view to strengthen national unity; the title "department" is used to mean a part of a larger whole. Almost all of them were named after physical geographical features (rivers, mountains, or coasts), rather than after historical or cultural territories which could have their own loyalties. The division of France into departments was a project particularly identified with the French revolutionary leader the Abbé Sieyès, although it had already been frequently discussed and written about by many politicians and thinkers. The earliest known suggestion of it is from 1764 in the writings of d'Argenson. They have inspired similar divisions in many countries, some of them former French colonies.

Most French departments are assigned a two-digit number, the "Official Geographical Code", allocated by the Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques. Some overseas departments have a three-digit number. The number is used, for example, in the postal code, and was until recently used for all vehicle registration plates. While it is common for residents to use the numbers to refer to their own department or a neighbouring one, more distant departments are generally referred to by their names, as few people know the numbers of all the departments. For example, inhabitants of Loiret might refer to their department as "the 45".

In 2014, President François Hollande proposed to abolish departmental councils by 2020, which would have maintained the departments as administrative divisions, and to transfer their powers to other levels of governance. This reform project has since been abandoned.

History

Geometrical proposition rejected
The former provinces (colours) and the departements (limits in black)

The first French territorial departments were proposed in 1665 by Marc-René d'Argenson to serve as administrative areas purely for the Ponts et Chaussées (Bridges and Highways) 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 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 every 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,[ citation needed] during which the government had lost control of many rural areas far from any centre of government.
Departments at the maximum extent of the First French Empire (1812)

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 department of Bas-Rhin and parts of Meurthe, Moselle, Vosges and 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 remained French, however, and became known as the Territoire de Belfort, and the remaining parts of Meurthe and Moselle were merged into a new Meurthe-et-Moselle department. When France regained the ceded departments after World War I, the Territoire de Belfort was not re-integrated into Haut-Rhin. In 1922, it became France's 90th department. Likewise, the Lorraine departments were not changed back to their original boundaries, and a new Moselle department was created in the regained territory, with slightly different boundaries from the pre-war department of the same name.

The re-organisation of Île-de-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. In 2015, the Urban Community of Lyon split from Rhône and form the Metropolitan Lyon as the 1st metropolitan department, 97th department in Metropolitan France, and 102nd department in the Republic.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Département
Alemannisch: Département
العربية: أقاليم فرنسا
Bân-lâm-gú: Département
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Дэпартамэнты Францыі
brezhoneg: Departamant gall
Cebuano: Departamento
Deutsch: Département
Gàidhlig: Département
한국어: 프랑스의 주
Bahasa Melayu: Jabatan di Perancis
Simple English: Departments of France
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Departmani Francuske
Tiếng Việt: Tỉnh (Pháp)
中文: 省 (法国)