France after the revolutionary conquests

France after the revolutionary conquests

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Title: "Map of France divided into 98 departments ... by Belleyme engineer geographer. Year VI".

Creation date : 1798

Date shown: 1798

Dimensions: Height 51 - Width 73

Technique and other indications: "Map of France divided into 98 departments making up the French Republic: with part of the neighboring countries and states. By Belleyme, engineer geographer. Year VI".
NN 62/2 Engraving with color highlights

Storage place: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Picture reference: NN 62/2

"Map of France divided into 98 departments ... by Belleyme engineer geographer. Year VI".

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The limits of France in 1798

The date of this map, contained in a cartouche surrounded by oak leaves (symbolizing strength) and olive tree (peace), allows us to accurately point out the variations in the boundaries of France during the decade 1790-1800. The policy of the Directory aims to enlarge France by annexations transformed into departments and to surround it with sister republics, subject to its very authoritarian influence.

The first 83 departments of 1790 have become 98: we have both annexed neighboring or landlocked territories such as the Duchy of Bouillon attached to the Ardennes, Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin which form the nucleus of the department of Vaucluse, the republic of Mulhouse annexed to the Haut-Rhin in 1798, and many villages on the northern limits of Lorraine and Alsace, and created from scratch new departments to organize the first conquests: the Alpes-Maritimes and Mont-Blanc (currently both departments of Savoie and Haute-Savoie) conquered in 1792 from the king of Piedmont-Sardinia, Mont-Terrible, formed by the principality of Montbéliard and the country of Porrentruy (in the current canton of Swiss Jura) and enlarged after the treaty de Campo-Formio from the possessions of the Bishop of Basel in the present cantons of Basel and Bern,

finally the nine united departments of Belgium, comprising the present Belgian kingdom, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and, in the Netherlands, the province of Limburg to the east, with Maastricht, and the possessions of the United Provinces on the coast southern Scheldt. The Republic of Geneva was annexed in 1798 and, together with most of the future Haute-Savoie and the country of Gex, distracted from Mont-Blanc and Ain, formed the new department of Léman.

The countries of the left bank of the Rhine, in Germany, whose conquest in 1795 is confirmed by the Treaty of Campo-Formio, cannot be officially annexed to France, thus offering it the course of the Rhine as a natural border, only after general peace. Reconquered after the "Anglo-Corsican regime", Corsica experienced a first partition into two departments: Liamone in the south and Golo in the north (we thought for a moment to use these names when the Corse-du-Sud was created and current Haute-Corse).

The other countries conquered between 1795 and 1798 are organized in sister republics: Batavian, Cisalpine, Helvetic and Roman republics, on which constitutions modeled on those of the Directory are imposed and where the armies and French ambassadors are responsible for making "changes". ". Each coup in France under the Directory thus has systematic repercussions on the internal political regime of each republic.

But annexation or orbiting has a general effect: the annexed countries are constantly trying to revolt. We are still far from the 120 departments of the heyday of the Empire, which moreover lost almost all its conquests in 1814, but, in 1798, in Europe, foreigners were subjected to the payment of heavy indemnities and to a conscription of more and more restrictive.

Image Analysis

A model administrative mapping

This beautifully crafted, engraved and colored map (size 0.73 x 0.51 m), lined with canvas and bordered with a ribbon, nailed to two painted and gilded suspension woods, provided with a triple scale in leagues, fathoms, and very recent myriameters (1/2 645 000) carries the network of the main cities of the time, the very large roads, the rivers and streams, fanciful mountain ranges, and the boundaries of the departments. Those of the interior have the name (often geographical) and the form which they keep from February 26, 1790 until the law of 28 pluviôse year VIII (February 17, 1800). A few retouching of details will then be carried out before prefects and sub-prefects are installed in their respective constituencies.

On the left has been added a “Table of the division of the French Republic” in 8 columns, indicating the 98 departments, their name, their chief town, their former country or former province of attachment, the number of their cantons and communes , the number of their population, and the number of their deputies in the National Assembly. They are all treated equally or logically proportionately because the map reflects the illusion of fair administrative management. But reality shows that revolutionary France cannot be both the model nation, as it appears on this map, and the ever-conquering Great Nation.


Pierre de Belleyme [1], cartographer from the Ancien Régime to the Empire

Historically, cartographic representation has been primarily a brand image that testifies to the quality of cartographers and the importance of the powers that give them mission. This political and administrative map of France from 1798 is due to the geographer engineer Pierre de Belleyme, associated with the creation of the new divisions of France by the Constituent Assembly, then called to become the first guard or head of the Topography depot of the National Archives under the First Empire.

At the time that Belleyme was drawing his maps, Cassini's general map of France - like Ferraris's future Belgium map - was complete, on scientifically established measures, but history gave its ever-changing contours day after day. Since February 1793, Belleyme has also been responsible for producing the dictionary of municipalities (more than 40,000), with their old and revolutionary terms, and for collecting the statistical data necessary for the government.

From 1801, Pierre de Belleyme tackled the map and the specific statistics of each department, an entity more stable than the Republic, a sign that the grafting of this new division is not lacking in relevance ... within the limits of truly French territory.

  • administration
  • cards
  • Directory
  • revolutionary wars
  • Cisalpine Republic
  • annexation


Jean-Baptiste DUROSELLE Europe, the history of its peoples Paris, Perrin, 1990. Alan FORREST “Revolution and Europe” in François FURET and Mona OZOUF, Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution Paris, Flammarion, 1988, re-ed. "Champs", 1992.Jacques GODECHOT La Grande Nation, the revolutionary expansion of France in the world Paris, Aubier, 1983.


1. Pierre de Belleyme, born in Périgord in 1747, was appointed at the age of 19 for the production of a topographic map of Guyenne in 52 sheets ordered by the intendant of the province (carried out between 1766 and 1793). -

To cite this article

Cécile SOUCHON and Pierre-Dominique CHEYNET, "France after the revolutionary conquests"

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