The dÈpartements (or departments) are administrative units of France, roughly analogous to British counties and now grouped into 22 metropolitan and four overseas rÈgions. They are subdivided into 342 arrondissements.

Administrative role
Each dÈpartement is administered by a Conseil GÈnÈral elected for six years, and by a prÈfet appointed by the French government and assisted by one or more sous-prÈfets based in district centres outside the departmental capital. An administrative reform in 1982 transferred some of the prÈfet’s powers to the president of the Conseil GÈnÈral.

The capital city of a dÈpartement bears the title of prÈfecture. DÈpartements are divided into one to five arrondissements. The capital city of an arrondissement is called the sous-prÈfecture. The civil servant in charge is the sous-prÈfet.

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

Most of the dÈpartements have an area of around 4,000-8,000 km≤ and a population between 250,000 and a million. The largest in terms of area is Gironde (10,000 km≤) and the smallest the city of Paris (105 km≤ excluding the suburbs, now organised in adjacent dÈpartements). The most populous is Nord (2,550,000) and the least populous LozËre (74,000).

The dÈpartements are numbered: their two-digit numbers appear in postal codes and on car number-plates. Note that there is no number 20, but 2A and 2B instead. Note also that the two-digit code “98” is used by Monaco. Together with the ISO 3166-1 country code FR the numbers form the ISO 3166-2 country subdivision codes for the metropolitain departments. The overseas departments get two letters for the ISO 3166-2 code.
History
DÈpartements were created on January 15, 1790 by the Constituent Assembly to replace the country’s former provinces with a more rational structure. They were also designed to deliberately break up France’s historical regions in an attempt to erase cultural differences and build a more homogeneous nation. Most dÈpartements are named after the area’s principal river(s) or other physical features.

The number of dÈpartements 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. The numbering was estabished on the alphabetical order of those 89 dÈpartements.

Three were yielded to Germany in Alsace-Lorraine in 1871 (Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin and Moselle) re-joined France in 1919.

Reorganisations of the Paris region (1968) and the division of Corsica (1975) have added a further seven dÈpartements, raising the total to one hundred – including the four overseas dÈpartements d’outre-mer (DOM) of Guyane (French Guiana) in South America, Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean Sea, and RÈunion in the Indian Ocean.
Map and list of dÈpartements

French rÈgions and dÈpartements

Number

DÈpartement

PrÈfecture
01 Ain Bourg-en-Bresse

02 Aisne Laon

03 Allier Moulins

04 Alpes-de-Haute-Provence Digne

05 Hautes-Alpes Gap

06 Alpes-Maritimes Nice

07 ArdËche Privas

08 Ardennes Charleville-MÈziËres

09 AriËge Foix

10 Aube Troyes

11 Aude Carcassonne

12 Aveyron Rodez

13 Bouches-du-RhÙne Marseille

14 Calvados Caen

15 Cantal Aurillac

16 Charente AngoulÍme

17 Charente-Maritime La Rochelle

18 Cher Bourges

19 CorrËze Tulle

2A Corse-du-Sud Ajaccio

2B Haute-Corse Bastia

21 CÙte-d’Or Dijon

22 CÙtes-d’Armor Saint-Brieuc

23 Creuse GuÈret

24 Dordogne PÈrigueux

25 Doubs BesanÁon

26 DrÙme Valence

27 Eure Evreux

28 Eure-et-Loir Chartres

29 FinistËre Quimper

30 Gard NÓmes

31 Haute-Garonne Toulouse

32 Gers Auch

33 Gironde Bordeaux

34 HÈrault Montpellier

35 Ille-et-Vilaine Rennes

36 Indre Ch‚teauroux

37 Indre-et-Loire Tours

38 IsËre Grenoble

39 Jura Lons-le-Saunier

40 Landes Mont-de-Marsan

41 Loir-et-Cher Blois

42 Loire Saint-Etienne

43 Haute-Loire Le Puy

44 Loire-Atlantique Nantes

45 Loiret OrlÈans

46 Lot Cahors

47 Lot-et-Garonne Agen

48 LozËre Mende

49 Maine-et-Loire Angers

50 Manche Saint-LÙ

51 Marne Ch‚lons-en-Champagne

52 Haute-Marne Chaumont

53 Mayenne Laval

54 Meurthe-et-Moselle Nancy

55 Meuse Bar-le-Duc

56 Morbihan Vannes

57 Moselle Metz

58 NiËvre Nevers

59 Nord Lille

60 Oise Beauvais

61 Orne AlenÁon

62 Pas-de-Calais Arras

63 Puy-de-DÙme Clermont-Ferrand

64 PyrÈnÈes-Atlantiques Pau

65 Hautes-PyrÈnÈes Tarbes

66 PyrÈnÈes-Orientales Perpignan

67 Bas-Rhin Strasbourg

68 Haut-Rhin Colmar

69 RhÙne Lyon

70 Haute-SaÙne Vesoul

71 SaÙne-et-Loire M‚con

72 Sarthe Le Mans

73 Savoie ChambÈry

74 Haute-Savoie Annecy

75 Paris Paris

76 Seine-Maritime Rouen

77 Seine-et-Marne Melun

78 Yvelines Versailles

79 Deux-SËvres Niort

80 Somme Amiens

81 Tarn Albi

82 Tarn-et-Garonne Montauban

83 Var Toulon

84 Vaucluse Avignon

85 VendÈe La Roche-sur-Yon

86 Vienne Poitiers

87 Haute-Vienne Limoges

88 Vosges Epinal

89 Yonne Auxerre

90 Territoire-de-Belfort Belfort

91 Essonne Evry

92 Hauts-de-Seine Nanterre

93 Seine-Saint-Denis Bobigny

94 Val-de-Marne CrÈteil

95 Val-d’Oise Pontoise

971 Guadeloupe 1 Basse-Terre

972 Martinique 1 Fort-de-France

973 Guyane 1 Cayenne

974 La RÈunion 1 Saint-Denis

The following are not dÈpartments
(see notes):

986 Wallis and Futuna 2 Mata-Utu

987 French Polynesia2 Papeete

975 Saint Pierre and Miquelon3 Saint Pierre

976 Mayotte3 Mamoutzou

988 New Caledonia 3 Noumea

Notes:

The overseas departments are former colonies outside France that now enjoy a status similar to European or metropolitan France. They are part of France and of the EU. Each of them constitutes a rÈgion at the same time.
Beyond these there are also three “overseas territories” (French: territoires d’outre-mer, or TOM) that are part of France but not of the EU. They are: French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna and the French Southern and Antarctic Territories.
Furthermore there are three separate special status territories (French: collectivites territorialles), also part of France but not of the EU: 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 dÈpartements
(incomplete list)
Seine-et-Oise
French dÈpartements in the Netherlands
French dÈpartements in Algeria
91 Algiers
92 Oran
93 Constantine
The 130 dÈpartements of the Napoleonic Empire