Archives Nationales (France)

Archives Nationales (France)

The Archives nationales (French for "National Archives") preserve the national archives of the French state, apart from the archives of the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as these two ministries have their own archive services, the Service historique de la défense and the Archives diplomatiques respectively. The Archives nationales have one of the largest and most important archival collections in the world, a testimony to the very ancient nature of the French state which has been in existence for more than twelve centuries already.

The Archives nationales were created at the time of the French Revolution in 1790, but it was a state decree of 1794 that made it mandatory to centralize all the pre-French Revolution private and public archives seized by the revolutionaries, completed by a law passed in 1796 which created departmental archives (archives départementales) in the départements of France to alleviate the burden on the Archives nationales in Paris, thus creating the collections of the Archives nationales as we know them today. In 1800 the Archives nationales became an autonomous body of the French state. Today, they contain about 406 km. (252miles) of documents (the total length of occupied shelves put next to each other), an enormous mass of documents growing every year. The original documents stored by the Archives nationales range from AD 625 to today.

The Archives nationales are under the authority of the French Archives Administration (Service interministériel des Archives de France) in the Ministry of Culture. The Archives of France also manage the 100 departmental archives located in the préfectures of each of the 100 départements of France, as well as various other local archives. These departmental and local archives contain all the archives from the decentralized branches of the French state, as well as all the archives of the pre-French Revolution provincial and local institutions seized by the revolutionaries (parlements, chartered cities, abbeys, churches, etc.). Thus, in addition to the 252 miles (406 km) of documents kept by the Archives nationales, at least 1,753 miles (2,821 km) of documents are kept in the departmental and local archives, in particular the church records and notarial records used by genealogists.

Read more about Archives Nationales (France):  The Five Centres of The Archives Nationales, Future Archives Centre At Pierrefitte-sur-Seine

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