Prefecture building of the Bouches-du-Rhône department, in Marseille


Coat of arms

Location of Bouches-du-Rhône in France
Coordinates: 43°30′N 5°5′E / 43.500°N 5.083°E / 43.500; 5.083Coordinates: 43°30′N 5°5′E / 43.500°N 5.083°E / 43.500; 5.083
Country France
Region Provence-Alpes-
Côte d'Azur
Prefecture Marseille
Subprefectures Aix-en-Provence
  President of the General Council Martine Vassal (LR)
  Total 5,087 km2 (1,964 sq mi)
Population (2013)
  Total 1,993,177
  Rank 3rd
  Density 390/km2 (1,000/sq mi)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Department number 13
Arrondissements 4
Cantons 29
Communes 119
^1 French Land Register data, which exclude estuaries, and lakes, ponds, and glaciers larger than 1 km2

Bouches-du-Rhône (French pronunciation: [buʃ.dy.ʁon]; Occitan: Bocas de Ròse, lit. "Mouths of the Rhône") is a department in the south of France named after the mouth of the Rhône River. It is the most populous department of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. Its INSEE and postal code is 13.


History of the department

Bouches-du-Rhône is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was created from the western part of the former province of Provence and the principalities of Orange, Martigues, and Lambesc. It lost part of its territory in 1793, including Orange and Apt, when the Vaucluse department was created.

Following its creation, the department was immediately strongly and actively supportive of the French Revolution, containing 90 "Jacobin Clubs" by 1794.[1] It was also noteworthy that more than 50% of the priests in the department accepted the Civil Constitution of the Clergy which in effect subordinated the church to the government.[2] During the ascendancy of the Communist Party in the twentieth century election results indicated that support for left-wing politics remained relatively strong in the department, and especially in the northern suburbs of Marseille.

History of the area

The history of the area is closely linked to that of Provence. Marseille has been an important harbour since before Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul. The Roman presence left numerous monuments across the department. Notable people born in the area include Romantic painter Camille Roqueplan and his brother, journalist and theatre director Nestor Roqueplan.


Istres, fourth largest town of Bouches-du-Rhône (40,000 inhabitants)

The department is part of the current region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. It is surrounded by the departments of Gard on the west, Vaucluse on the north, and Var on the east, and by the Mediterranean Sea on the south. The Rhône River delta forms a vast swampy wetlands area called the Camargue in the southwestern part of the department. It is bordered by the Rhone to the west and the Durance to the north. The Rhone divides into the Grand Rhone and Petit Rhone south of Arles ; the area between forms the Camargue, a large wetland. The principal mountains of the department are the Sainte-Baume massif (1 042 metres), Mont Sainte-Victoire (1 011 metres), the Garlaban massif and Alpilles massif. The largest city in the department, Marseille, contains a major industrial harbour and serves as France's largest commercial port. Bouches-du-Rhône is largely urban, with 28 towns having a population of more than 10,000 as of 2008:

Zone II ("average seismic activity") townships Lambesc Peyrolles-en-Provence and Salon-de-Provence; area Ib ("low seismic activity"): the cantons of Aix-en-Provence, Trets Eyguières, Orgon, Berre-Pond, Istres Istres-North and South; Ia area ("very low seismic activity"): the other cantons in the District of Aix-en-Provence, Arles Canton East Châteaurenard, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Marignane, East Martigues Martigues West Roquevaire; Zone 0 ("negligible seismic activity"): the rest of the department.

Rivers include:

Lakes include:

Mountains include:


Since Bouches-Du-Rhone is one of the most populous and diverse departments, it has long been the scene of particularly fierce political battles. The development of the port of Marseille, the relationship maintained between France and its colonial empire, the industry around coal mining in Provence, and significant immigration, especially coming from Italy, from the end the nineteenth century and during the period between the two wars are all factors that led to the emergence of a large and militant working class. From the late nineteenth century, the socialist movement gained influence, such as by in 1881 by the election of the first socialist member of France, Clovis Hugues. Rural areas, and particularly in the region of Aix have tended to favor the influence of right-wing parties, including monarchists and Catholics at the beginning of the Third Republic. The interwar period and the time of the Popular Front marked the beginning of the dominance of the left in the department, first with the election of the SFIO. After the Second World War, the Marseillais right, linked to the underworld and who collaborated with the German occupation, was widely discredited. The left largely dominated the Liberation and Marseille even saw the election in 1945, of a Communist mayor, Jean Cristofol. In 1947 the SFIO led an alliance with right and centre parties against the Communists, resulting in the election of Deferre as mayor of Marseille. The dominance of socialism was, however, challenged by deindustrialization. The conservative success in 1995 by Jean-Claude Gaudin in Marseille is a symbol of widespread political shifts while even the communists bastions of La Ciotat and Port-Saint-Louis-du- Rhône voted for the right. The 1990s saw the rise of the National Front, including its victory in the municipal elections of Marignane and Vitrolles .The President of the General Council is Jean-Noël Guérini of the Socialist Party. Although the department leans to the right in national elections, it remains a stronghold of the left at the local level due to the very strong PS machine in the department led today by Guérini and in the past by Gaston Defferre.

Party seats
Socialist Party 33
Union for a Popular Movement 13
French Communist Party 6
Miscellaneous Right 5
Les cantons des Bouches-du-Rhône


The department has a Mediterranean climate, with contrasting temperatures within a range of 15 degrees. Precipitation is irregular, with only 65 days per year where rain falls in excess of 1 mm. However it falls in sudden downpours, with an average of 500–700 mm annually. This mainly happens in the spring and autumn; summer is very hot, winter mild. Violent winds are common, especially the famed mistral, which blows 100 days per year with a maximum of 100 km/hr. The coast is drier, especially along the Côte Bleue, the Calanques and the Bay of Ciotat, which include some of the driest areas in France, with only 450 mm of rain per year. Higher areas receive more precipitation and lower temperatures. The Arc valley in the interior is much colder than other areas, with heavy frosts in winter.


The department is well represented in French art. Paul Cézanne painted numerous representations of the Mont Sainte-Victoire. Vincent van Gogh spent much of his life in Arles, painting many scenes in the area.


See also


  1. Albert Ceccarelli, La Révolution à l’Isle sur la Sorgue et en Vaucluse, Éditions Scriba, 1989, 2-86736-018-8, p 27
  2. Albert Ceccarelli, La Révolution..., p 30
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