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divisions of France
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. Ninety-five departments are in metropolitan France, and five are 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.
The administrative divisions of France are concerned with the institutional and territorial organization of French territory. These territories are located in many parts of the world. There are many administrative divisions, which may have political, electoral (districts), or administrative objectives. All the inhabited territories are represented in the National Assembly, Senate and Economic and Social Council and their citizens have French citizenship.
French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.
A territorial collectivity is a chartered subdivision of France, with recognized governing authority. It is the generic name for any subdivision with an elective form of local government and local regulatory authority. The nature of a French territorial collectivity is set forth in Article 72 of the French constitution of 1958, which provides for local autonomy within limits prescribed by law.
Each department is administered by an elected body called a departmental council (conseil départemental [sing.], conseils départementaux [plur.]). From 1800 to April 2015, these were called general councils (conseil général [sing.], conseils généraux [plur.]).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 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.
A prefect in France is the state's representative in a department or region. Sub-prefects are responsible for the subdivisions of departments, arrondissements. Office of a prefect is known as a prefecture and that of a sub-prefect as a subprefecture.
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.
The Ancien Régime was the political and social system of the Kingdom of France from the Late Middle Ages until 1789, when hereditary monarchy and the feudal system of French nobility were abolished by the French Revolution. The Ancien Régime was ruled by the late Valois and Bourbon dynasties. The term is occasionally used to refer to the similar feudal systems of the time elsewhere in Europe. The administrative and social structures of the Ancien Régime were the result of years of state-building, legislative acts, internal conflicts, and civil wars, but they remained and the Valois Dynasty's attempts at re-establishing control over the scattered political centres of the country were hindered by the Huguenot Wars. Much of the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIII and the early years of Louis XIV were focused on administrative centralization. Despite, however, the notion of "absolute monarchy" and the efforts by the kings to create a centralized state, the Kingdom of France retained its irregularities: authority regularly overlapped and nobles struggled to retain autonomy.
France was organized into provinces until March 4, 1790, when the establishment of the department system superseded provinces. The provinces of France were roughly equivalent to the historic counties of England. They came into their final form over the course of many hundreds of years, as many dozens of semi-independent fiefs and former independent countries came to be incorporated into the French royal domain. Because of the haphazard manner in which the provinces evolved, each had its own sets of feudal traditions, laws, taxation systems, courts, etc., and the system represented an impediment to effective administration of the entire country from Paris. During the early years of the French Revolution, in an attempt to centralize the administration of the whole country, and to remove the influence of the French nobility over the country, the entirety of the province system was abolished and replaced by the system of departments in use today.
René-Louis de Voyer de Paulmy, Marquis d'Argenson was a politician and friend of Voltaire, who served as Minister for Foreign Affairs from November 1744 to January 1747. His younger brother, Marc-Pierre, Comte d'Argenson (1696-1764), was Minister of War from 1743 to 1747.
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 . 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 residents commonly 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".
The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, abbreviated INSEE, is the national statistics bureau of France. It collects and publishes information about the French economy and people and carries out the periodic national census. Headquartered in Paris, it is the French branch of Eurostat. The INSEE was created in 1946 as a successor to the Vichy regime's National Statistics Service (SNS). It works in close cooperation with the Institut national d'études démographiques (INED).
Postal codes were introduced in France in 1964, when La Poste introduced automated sorting. They were updated to use the current 5 digit system in 1972.
Vehicle registration plates are mandatory number plates used to display the registration mark of a vehicle registered in France. They have existed in the country since 1901. It is compulsory for most motor vehicles used on public roads to display them.
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.
François Gérard Georges Nicolas Hollande is a French politician who served as President of France and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra from 2012 to 2017. He was previously the First Secretary of the Socialist Party from 1997 to 2008, Mayor of Tulle from 2001 to 2008, and President of the Corrèze General Council from 2008 to 2012. Hollande also served in the National Assembly of France twice for the department of Corrèze's 1st constituency from 1988 to 1993, and again from 1997 to 2012.
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.
Marc-René de Voyer de Paulmy d'Argenson, seigneur d'Argenson et de Vueil-le-Mesnil, comte de Rouffiac, was a French knight, politician and diplomat.
The Conseil général des Ponts et Chaussées is one of the oldest institutions in France and the direct heir of the assembly of inspectors general of bridges and roads, which met regularly from 1747 under Daniel-Charles Trudaine. The Conseil was set up on 25 August 1804 by decree.
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:
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. Savoy became the department of Mont-Blanc.
The number of departments, initially 83, had been increased to 130 by 1809 with the territorial gains of the Republic and of the First French Empire.Following Napoleon's defeats in 1814–1815, the Congress of Vienna returned France to its pre-war size and the number of departments was reduced to 86 (three of the original departments having 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 the alphabetical order of their names.
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 however remained French and became known as the Territoire de Belfort; 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 in 1968 and the division of Corsica in 1975 added six more departments, raising the total in Metropolitan France to 96. By 2011, when the overseas collectivity of Mayotte became a department, joining the earlier overseas departments of the Republic (all created in 1946) – French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion – the total number of departments in the French Republic had become 101. In 2015, the Urban Community of Lyon was split from Rhône to form the Métropole de Lyon, a sui generis entity, with the powers of both an intercommunality and those of a department on its territory, formally classified as a "territorial collectivity with particular status" (French : collectivité territoriale à statut particulier) and as such not belonging to any department. As of 2019, Corse-du-Sud and Haute-Corse are still administrative departments, although they no longer have the status of departmental "territorial collectivities": region and department functions have been managed by a "single territorial collectivity" since 2018.
The departmental seat of government is known as the prefecture (préfecture) or chef-lieu de département and is generally a town 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 on 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 may be divided into arrondissements. The capital of an arrondissement is called a subprefecture (sous-préfecture) or chef-lieu d'arrondissement.
Each department is administered by a departmental council (conseil départemental), an assembly elected for six years by universal suffrage, with the President of the Departmental Council as executive of the department. Before 1982, the chief executive of the department was the prefect (préfet), who represents the Government of France in each department and is appointed by the President of the French Republic. The prefect is assisted by one or more sub-prefects (sous-préfet) based in the subprefectures of the department. Since 1982, the prefect retains only the powers that are not delegated to the department councils. In practice, his role has been largely limited to preventing local policy from conflicting with national policy.
The departments are further divided into communes, governed by municipal councils. As of 2013, there were 36,681 communes in France. In the overseas territories, some communes play a role at departmental level. Paris, the country's capital city, is a commune as well as a 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 the ceremonial counties of England and the preserved counties of 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 United States county, but less than two-thirds of the median population of a ceremonial county of England and 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. Alphanumeric codes 2A and 2B were used for Corsica while it was split but it has since reverted to 20. The two-digit code "98" 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 three digits.
Originally, the relationship between the departments and the central government was left somewhat ambiguous. While citizens in each department elected their own officials, the local governments were subordinated to the central government, becoming instruments of national integration. By 1793, however, the revolutionary government had turned the departments into transmission belts for policies enacted in Paris. With few exceptions, the departments had this role until the early 1960s.
These maps cannot be used as a useful resource of voter preferences, because Departmental Councils are elected on a two-round system, which drastically limits the chances of fringe parties, if they are not supported on one of the two rounds by a moderate party. After the 1992 election, the left had a majority in only 21 of the 100 departments; after the 2011 election, the left dominated 61 of the 100 departments. (Mayotte only became a department after the election.)
Key to the parties:
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 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 reducing the number of regions to 15.This committee advocates, on the contrary, the suppression of the cantons.
Each department has a coat of arms with which it is commonly associated, though not all are officially recognised or used.
|Department||Prefecture||Dates in existence|
|Rhône-et-Loire||Lyon||1790–1793||Split into Rhône and Loire on 12 August 1793.|
|Corsica||Bastia||1790–1793||Split into Golo and Liamone.|
|Golo||Bastia||1793–1811||Reunited with Liamone into Corsica.|
|Liamone||Ajaccio||1793–1811||Reunited with Golo into Corsica.|
|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. Geneva was added to territory taken from several other departments to create Léman. 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). Was department number 75.|
|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). Was department number 78.|
|Corsica||Ajaccio||1811–1975||On 15 September 1975, Corsica was divided in two, to form Corse-du-Sud and Haute-Corse. Was department number 20.|
|Saint Pierre and 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. INSEE code 975.|
Unlike the rest of French-controlled Africa, Algeria was divided into overseas departments from 1848 until its independence in 1962. These departments were supposed to be "assimilated" or "integrated" to France sometime in the future.
|Department||Modern-day location||Dates in existence|
|Département du Sud|| Hispaniola |
(Haiti and the Dominican Republic)
|Département de l'Inganne (Mostly in the Dominican Republic with eastern part of Haiti)||1795–1800|
|Département du Nord||1795–1800|
|Département de l'Ouest||1795–1800|
|Département de Samana (In the Dominican Republic)||1795–1800|
|Sainte-Lucie||Saint Lucia, Tobago||1795–1800|
|Île de France||Mauritius, Rodrigues, Seychelles||1795–1800|
|Indes-Orientales||Pondichéry, Karikal, Yanaon, Mahé and Chandernagore||1795–1800|
There are a number of former departments in territories conquered by France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Empire that are now not part of France:
|Current location1||Contemporary location2||Dates in existence|
|Mont-Terrible||Porrentruy||Switzerland||Holy Roman Empire:||1793–1800|
|Deux-Nèthes||Anvers||Antwerp||Belgium|| Austrian Netherlands: ||1795–1814|
|Corcyre||Corfou||Corfu||Greece||Republic of Venice 4||1797–1799|
|Mont-Tonnerre||Mayence||Mainz||Germany||Holy Roman Empire:||1801–1814|
|Rhin-et-Moselle||Coblence||Koblenz||Holy Roman Empire:||1801–1814|
|Holy Roman Empire:||1801–1814|
|Holy Roman Empire:||1801–1814|
|Doire||Ivrée||Ivrea||Italy||Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia||1802–1814|
|Apennins||Chiavari||Republic of Genoa 7||1805–1814|
|Arno||Florence||Grand Duchy of Tuscany 8||1808–1814|
|Taro||Parme||Parma||Holy Roman Empire:||1808–1814|
|Rome 9||Rome||Papal States||1809–1814|
|Simplon||Sion||Switzerland||République des Sept-Dizains 11||1810–1814|
|Bouches-de-la-Meuse||La Haye||The Hague||Netherlands||Dutch Republic:10||1811–1814|
|Ems-Oriental||Aurich||Germany||Holy Roman Empire:||1811–1814|
|Bouches-de-l'Elbe||Hambourg||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|
|Lippe 12||Munster||Münster||Holy Roman Empire:||1811–1814|
|Bouches-de-l'Èbre||Lérida||Lleida||Spain||Kingdom of Spain:||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:
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France is divided into 18 administrative regions, of which 13 are located in metropolitan France, while the other five are overseas regions.
A prefecture is an administrative jurisdiction or subdivision in any of various countries and within some international church structures, and in antiquity a Roman district governed by an appointed prefect.
A prefecture in France may refer to:
An arrondissement is a level of administrative division in France generally corresponding to the territory overseen by a subprefect. As of 2019, the 101 French departments were divided into 332 arrondissements.
The cantons of France are territorial subdivisions of the French Republic's departments and arrondissements.
In France, a municipal arrondissement is a subdivision of the commune, and is used in the country's three largest cities: Paris, Lyon and Marseille. It functions as an even lower administrative division, with its own mayor. Although usually referred to simply as "arrondissements", they should not be confused with departmental arrondissements, which are groupings of communes within one département.
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