Overseas regions of France

According to the French administrative division, the overseas regions of France consist of four regions, six collectivities, one territorial collectivity and one territory. The four overseas regions of France”Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, and Reunion”have departmental status, as do regions in Metropolitan France, and are generally represented with dual status of region and department. These four overseas departments are further subdivided into twelve arrondissements and these twelve arrondissements are classified into 153 cantons and these cantons finally divided into 112 communes.

Guadeloupe is located in the eastern part of the Caribbean Sea and is divided into two arrondissements: Basse-Terre and Pointe-a-Pitre. Basse-Terre has seventeen cantons and eighteen communes while Pointe-a-Pitre has twenty three cantons and fourteen communes. Martinique, another overseas region of France located in the eastern Caribbean, is divided into four arrondissements: Saint-Pierre, Fort-de-France, Le Marin and La Trinite. These are subdivided into five, sixteen, thirteen and eleven cantons, respectively. French Guiana is located near the northern part of Latin America and is subdivided into two arrondissements and nineteen cantons. Reunion is located in the Indian Ocean and is divided into two arrondissements and twenty four cantons and communes.

The following six collectivities are part of the overseas regions of France: Mayotte, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint-Martin, Saint-Pierre-Miquelon, French Polynesia and Wallis-Futuna.

The Mayotte collectivity has seventeen communes and nineteen cantons. Saint-Pierre- Miquelon is designated as a territorial collectivity, and so has only two communes. French Polynesia is maintained as an overseas collectivity with five subdivisions, which are further divided into 48 communes. The collectivities of Wallis and Futuna are the only overseas regions of France that are ruled by their individual kings. This collectivity is divided into three districts, each with its own ruler who controls the district and is acknowledged by the Republic of France. Out of all these collectivities of the overseas regions of France, only Wallis-Futuna, Saint-Barthelemy and Saint-Martin have settled permanent residents.

New Caledonia, which is regarded as one of the collectivities, still does not have an official status designated to it. It is one of the distinct overseas regions of France, and is divided into three provinces which are subdivided into thirty-three communes. Apart from all these locations, the French Southern and Antarctic Lands are also part of the overseas regions of France. These regions comprise five districts, which include four islands and a territory related to the Antarctic coast. These fives districts of this overseas region of France are: i) Kerguelen Islands, ii) Scattered Islands, iii) Amsterdam Island and Saint Paul Island, iv) Crozet Islands and v) Adelie Land.

French Guiana

French Guiana is the overseas region of France that has a dual status of being a region and a department. It has been a part of the Republic of France since 1946. French Guiana is a coastal region located very close to the northern part of Latin America. The areas near the coast of the North Atlantic Ocean are densely populated while the other part of French Guiana is covered by impenetrable forests. The area bordering Brazil and near the border has several mountain ranges that include but are not limited to Tumac-Humac, Mont Machalou, Mont Favard and Mont St Marcel.

French Guiana has an old history that dates back to the fifteenth century. In earlier times, French Guiana was occupied by the Latin American tribes until Christopher Columbus visited this part of the American continent. After this visit, several different European ethnicities settled in this region. The French attempted to control this region in the seventeenth century, but failed, as the Portuguese forced them to evacuate, citing an earlier treaty. The French in later part of the seventeenth century made consistent efforts to establish themselves in French Guiana, but had to evacuate for one reason or other. Finally, in the second half of the eighteenth century, the French gained a better hold on the region and were successful in settling their colonies. French control remained undisturbed for another few decades, until a minor stint in which it was again conquered by the Portuguese.

French Guiana was finally declared to be an overseas region of France in the year 1946, and still remains so with few minor differences over the border with Suriname. The other significant time in the history of French Guiana occurred in 1964, when the French government selected it as a location for launching French spacecraft. During the next four years, the Guiana Space Centre was finally established at Kourou. This location was selected mainly because of its prime geographical location of being close to the Earth’s equator.

French Guiana today is an important overseas region of France, and also a member of the European Union. Like in France, the currency in French Guiana is the Euro. It has a population of over 250,000, who are mainly Roman Catholics that speak either French or French Creole dialects. French Guiana is connected to Paris with daily flights. French Guiana has administration divisions which consist of two arrondissements which are subdivided into nineteen cantons and twenty two communes. The major business of French Guiana is gold mining, fishing and extraction of timber.


The islands of Grande-Terre, Basse-Terre, Les Saintes, Marie-Galante and La Desirade together form Guadeloupe, which is one of the overseas regions of France. Of these, the Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre are the islands with bigger land area as compared to the remaining three, which are comparatively very small in area. Guadeloupe is located in the eastern part of the Caribbean Sea. Nearly all islands of Guadeloupe are results of volcanic eruptions. This is the reason why only 4% of the land is suidiv for cultivation of crops.

The Guadeloupe overseas region of France has been inhabited for over two thousand years. The earlier tribes in Guadeloupe used to call this overseas region of France a group of islands with attractive beaches. Christopher Columbus named this region “Guadeloupe” in the fifteenth century, after a Spanish illustration of Mary that he had seen in a monastery. The region of Guadeloupe was taken over by the French in the seventeenth century, after which the islands were again inhabited by people. However, during the eighteenth century, the British were successful in winning control over the overseas region of Guadeloupe, and made several new developments in the region. After just a few years, the French managed to regain Guadeloupe by swapping their territories in Canada with the British. In following centuries, Guadeloupe saw several ups and downs, according to the local political situation in France, and it was only in 1946 when it was officially declared as an overseas region of France.

Guadeloupe today has administrational subdivisions comprising two arrondissements: Basse-Terre and Pointe-a-Pitre. These arrondissements are further divided into forty cantons and thirty-two communes. The administration offices of Guadeloupe are located in Basse-Terre. The population of Guadeloupe has already crossed the 500,000 mark. The major population in Guadeloupe practices the Roman Catholicism with a few minorities who practice Hinduism and Protestantism. The language spoken by the people in Guadeloupe overseas region of France is French dialect. One can also find Creole dialects, which are generally spoken as secondary language.

Guadeloupe has given the world some very famous artists, poets and writers who have created world-renowned works in their respective fields. Renowned poet Saint-John Perse, who won the Noble Prize for literature in 1960 for his poetry, belongs to Guadeloupe. Secondly there are several famous football players, like Lilian Thuram, also have their origins in Guadeloupe.


Reunion is the only overseas region of France that is located quite far from other overseas regions, and has a different time zone than that of France. Reunion is located in the Indian Ocean, very close to countries like Mauritius and Madagascar. The island of Reunion was frequented by sailors from the Middle East, and was known to the Europeans only after the seventeenth century. The island was named Saint Apollonia by the Portuguese, and later, after the House of Bourbon, by the French in the same century. However, during the eighteenth century, the island was given a new name, “Reunion,” which denotes the coming together of revolutionaries from various parts of France.

During the following century, Napoleon Bonaparte became the Emperor of the French Empire and the island was again given a new name in context with the new Emperor. During the first half of the nineteenth century, the island had many different names, which were influenced mainly by the dynasties ruling it or by the political situations in France. Originally called, “Ile Bonaparte” it, was again re-christened, “Bourbon” and finally, renamed, “Reunion” during the Second Revolution in France. Reunion was already densely populated at the end of the nineteenth century, by French and other ethnicities like Indians, Chinese and Africans. Reunion was officially declared to be an overseas region of France in the year 1946.

Reunion has Saint Denis as it capital. Reunion has four arrondissements, twenty-four cantons and twenty-four communes. Reunion is located over hotspots and volcanoes, like Piton de la Fournaise, which have erupted even in recent days. These volcanoes are surrounded mainly by forests and there is a dense population in the coastal areas of the island. Other natural hazards in Reunion include heavy rains. Reunion is the only location in the world that has two records of having highest amount of rainfall, one for a period of twenty-four hours and the other for seventy-two hours. Considering these facts, the main revenue generation for this overseas region of France is agriculture and tourism. Tourism is seen as a potential revenue stream only from near past.

Regardless of the weather and the hotspots, the population of Reunion is quickly approaching the one million mark. Major segments of the population”more than eighty percent”practice Roman Catholicism, while others follow Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism. The different languages spoken in Reunion include French, Chinese, and Tamil, along with some regional Creole dialects.

Martinique An overseas region of France

Martinique Island is located quite far away from France, in the Caribbean Sea just above Trinidad. Martinique was given the status of being an overseas department of France in the year 1946. It is believed to have been occupied by tribes since the first century CE. History scholars claim that the Caribs and Arawak were the two earlier cultures that existed in Martinique. Some of these cultures had migrated from ancient American regions. Due to eruption of volcanoes in subsequent centuries, these tribes had shifted to other locations while some were wiped out by the volcano.

The Martinique Islands were exposed to Europeans in the fifteenth century, following the expedition of Christopher Columbus. The French settled in Martinique during the seventeenth century. Pierre Belain, who headed a group of French settlers, was the first one to settle in Martinique. It was under his control that the modern city of St. Pierre was established, which was initially named Fort Saint Pierre. In the following years, there were several agricultural activities introduced in this region. The agricultural produce attracted traders to the island, making it a significant location for trade. It was during this century that the first factory for making molasses was established on the island, as manufacturing sugar from sugarcane had become the primary industry in the region. The seventeenth century was an important one in the history of Martinique as there were several developments during this period. Martinique also faced several natural disasters periodically in the seventeenth century.

Martinique was always occupied by slaves who were either from India, China or other locations where the British rulers had control. Though the rulers changed from time to time, the slavery system in Martinique was not completely abolished until the end of the twentieth century. According to the history of Martinique, the two important developments during the same period were the creations of Pierre-Henry Picq, which was the Schoelcher Library, and the Saint-Louis Cathedral, both in the administrative headquarters of Martinique”namely, Fort-de- France.

Martinique has administrative sub divisions that include four arrondissements which are further sub divided into forty-five cantons and thirty-four communes. The recent population of Martinique was found to have exceeded 400,000 in number with less than 50% living in the urban areas. The official dialect of Martinique is French, although there are other Creole dialects spoken throughout the island. It is officially part of the European Union, like other overseas regions of France, and uses Euro as its currency.


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