Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Provinces of France
The Kingdom of France was organized into provinces until March 4, 1790, when the establishment of the département system superseded provinces. The change was an attempt to eradicate local loyalties based on feudal ownership of land and focus all loyalty on the central government in Paris.
The names of the former provinces are still used by geographers to designate natural regions, and several French administrative regions carry their names.
The meaning of "province"
French départments, their names, and their borders were chosen by the central government. In contrast, the existence of provinces came from the droit coutumier ("customary law") and was merely certified by the state. A province, also called a pays ("country"), was characterized by the laws that belonged to it. A province itself could encompass several other provinces. For example, Burgundy was a province but Bresse — another province — was nevertheless a part of Burgundy.
There is therefore no official list of provinces. The list of généralités, administrative subdivisions of the kingdom, is often presented when one wants to establish the list of provinces on the eve of the French Revolution. The list below is much larger, encompassing provinces throughout French history.
List of former provinces of France
|Pre-Republican provinces of France, with provincial capitals marked. Listed as English name (capital).|
Parts of France in 1789
- Pays de Gex
- Brie champenoise
- Flandre maritime
- Flandre wallonne
- Pays de Foix
- Principality of Orange
- Landau (Imperial Free City occupied in 1680, restored to Bavaria in 1815)
- Plat pays de Lyonnais
- Pays chartrain
- Gâtinais orléanais
Provinces not part of France in 1789
- Comtat Venaissin
- Comté de Nice
- Imperial Free City of Mulhouse
- Savoie propre
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