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4 March 2009

On this day in history: France reorganised into 83 départements, 1790

Prior to the revolution, the admininstration of France involved a confused overlapping patchwork of local authorities. In order to rationalise the administration of the country and to reduce regional loyalties based on aristocratic ownership of the land, in September 1789 Jacques-Guillaume Thouret presented a report by the Constitution Committee to the Constituent Assembly that proposed the division of France into smaller administrative regions. Three months later the Assembly adopted a plan to create 83 roughly rectangular départements of similar size, each named after geographical and other natural features.

On 4th March 1790 the new administrative structure came into effect. The electorate of each département would vote for 36 council members and a procureur-général-syndic, a legal officer, each serving for two years with half the council facing re-election each year. The council elected eight of their number to to deal with all aspects of local administration.