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Département

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The départements (or departments) are administrative units of France, roughly analogous to British counties and now grouped into 22 metropolitan and four overseas régions. They were created on January 15, 1790 by the Constituent Assembly to replace the country's former provinces with a more rational structure. Most are named after the area's principal river(s) or other physical features.

Each département is administered by a Conseil Général[?] elected for six years, and by a préfet[?] appointed by the French government and assisted by one or more sous-préfets[?] based in district centres outside the departmental capital. An administrative reform in 1982 transferred some of the préfets powers to the president of the Conseil Général.

The capital city of a département bears the title of préfecture. Départements are divided into one to five arrondissements. The capital city of an arrondissement is called the sous-préfecture. The civil servant in charge is the sous-préfet.

The départements sub-divide into communes, governed by municipal councils. France (as of 1999) had 36,779 communes.

Most of the départements have an area of around 4000-8000 km² and a population between 250,000 and a million. The largest in terms of area is Gironde (10,000 km²) and the smallest the city of Paris (105 km² excluding the suburbs, now organised in adjacent départements). The most populous is Nord (2,550,000) and the least populous Lozère (74,000).

The number of départements rose from an initial 83 to 130 by 1810 with the territorial gains of the Republic and of the Empire (see Provinces of the Netherlands for the annexed Dutch departements), but they were reduced again to 86 with Napoleon I's defeat in 1814-1815. Three more were added with the acquisition of Nice and Savoy in 1860, while the three yielded to Germany in Alsace-Lorraine in 1871 (Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin and Moselle) re-joined France in 1919.

Reorganisations of the Paris region and the division of Corsica (1975) have added a further seven départements, raising the total to one hundred - including the four overseas départements d'outre-mer (DOM) of Guadeloupe, Martinique and Guyane (French Guiana) in the Caribbean Sea, and La Réunion in the Indian Ocean.

The départements are numbered: their two-digit numbers appear in postcodes and on car number-plates.

French régions and départements

  Département Préfecture
01AinBourg-en-Bresse[?]
02AisneLaon
03AllierMoulins[?]
04Alpes-de-Haute-ProvenceDigne[?]
05Hautes-AlpesGap[?]
06Alpes-MaritimesNice
07ArdèchePrivas[?]
08ArdennesCharleville-Mézières[?]
09AriègeFoix[?]
10AubeTroyes
11AudeCarcassonne
12AveyronRodez[?]
13Bouches-du-RhôneMarseille
14CalvadosCaen
15CantalAurillac[?]
16CharenteAngoulême
17Charente-MaritimeLa Rochelle
18CherBourges
19CorrèzeTulle[?]
2ACorse-du-SudAjaccio
2BHaute-CorseBastia
21Côte-d'OrDijon
22Côtes-d'ArmorSaint-Brieuc[?]
23CreuseGuéret[?]
24DordognePérigueux[?]
25DoubsBesançon
26DrômeValence
27EureEvreux[?]
28Eure-et-LoirChartres
29FinistèreQuimper[?]
30GardNîmes
31Haute-GaronneToulouse
32GersAuch[?]
33GirondeBordeaux
34HéraultMontpellier
35Ille-et-VilaineRennes
36IndreChâteauroux[?]
37Indre-et-LoireTours
38IsèreGrenoble
39JuraLons-le-Saunier[?]
40LandesMont-de-Marsan[?]
41Loir-et-CherBlois
42LoireSaint-Etienne[?]
43Haute-LoireLe Puy[?]
44Loire-AtlantiqueNantes
45LoiretOrléans
46LotCahors[?]
47Lot-et-GaronneAgen[?]
48LozèreMende[?]
49Maine-et-LoireAngers
50MancheSaint-Lô[?]
51MarneChâlons-en-Champagne
52Haute-MarneChaumont[?]
53MayenneLaval[?]
54Meurthe-et-MoselleNancy
55MeuseBar-le-Duc[?]
56MorbihanVannes[?]
57MoselleMetz
58NièvreNevers[?]
59NordLille
60OiseBeauvais[?]
61OrneAlençon[?]
62Pas-de-CalaisArras
63Puy-de-DômeClermont-Ferrand
64Pyrénées-AtlantiquesPau
65Hautes-PyrénéesTarbes[?]
66Pyrénées-OrientalesPerpignan
67Bas-RhinStrasbourg
68Haut-RhinColmar
69Rhône[?]Lyon
70Haute-SaôneVesoul[?]
71Saône-et-LoireMâcon[?]
72SartheLe Mans
73SavoieChambéry[?]
74Haute-SavoieAnnecy[?]
75ParisParis
76Seine-MaritimeRouen
77Seine-et-MarneMelun
78YvelinesVersailles
79Deux-SèvresNiort[?]
80SommeAmiens
81TarnAlbi
82Tarn-et-GaronneMontauban
83VarToulon
84VaucluseAvignon
85VendéeLa Roche-sur-Yon[?]
86ViennePoitiers
87Haute-VienneLimoges
88VosgesEpinal[?]
89YonneAuxerre[?]
90Territoire-de-BelfortBelfort[?]
91EssonneEvry[?]
92Hauts-de-SeineNanterre[?]
93Seine-Saint-DenisBobigny[?]
94Val-de-MarneCréteil[?]
95Val-d'OisePontoise[?]
971Guadeloupe 1Basse-Terre[?]
972Martinique 1Fort-de-France
973Guyane 1Cayenne[?]
974La Réunion 1Saint-Denis[?]
The following are not départments
(see notes):
986Wallis and Futuna 2Mata-Utu[?]
987French Polynesia2Papeete[?]
975Saint Pierre and Miquelon3Saint Pierre[?]
976Mayotte3Mamoutzou[?]
988New Caledonia 3Noumea[?]

Notes:

  1. The overseas departments are former colonies outside France that now enjoy a status similar to European or metropolitan France. They can be considered to be a part of France (and of the EU), rather than dependent territories and and each of them constitutes a région at the same time.
  2. Beyond these there are also three "overseas territories" (French: territoires d'outre-mer, or TOM) that do not have this status. They are: French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna and the French Southern and Antarctic Territories.
  3. Furthermore there are three separate territorial collectivities: Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Mayotte and New Caledonia. New Caledonia used to be a TOM.

Finally, France maintains control over a number of small islands in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.

Former départements include:



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