The history of the Banque de France
The Banque de France is an intrinsic part of our shared heritage. As both an actor in and witness to history, it has constantly adapted to continue serving the state and the people of France.
The Banque de France is founded on 18 January 1800 by a group of bankers at the instigation of the First Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte. As a private company but also a "public bank", its mission is to issue notes payable to bearer on demand in exchange for the discounting of commercial bills. In 1803, it obtains the privilege of issue for Paris: this is the first step towards monopoly of issue and the creation of the first franc germinal banknote. After a financial crisis in 1805, its statutes are changed: the Banque de France is henceforth headed by a Governor and two Deputy Governors appointed by the Head of State.
In the first half of the 19th century, the Banque de France gradually expands its network by opening offices in the provinces. It has to deal with the political upheavals of the revolutions in 1830 and 1848. In 1848, it obtains a monopoly on banknote issuance throughout France: the departmental banks are absorbed and become branches. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, it plays an important role by providing assistance to the Treasury and substantial support to banks and businesses.
The 1870 war and then the Paris Commune disrupt the life of the Banque de France, which nevertheless manages to safeguard its funds. In the years that follow, the Bank's activities become more clearly defined, and it works increasingly closely with the Treasury: centralisation of state revenues, transportation of coins, observation of the economic situation, etc. Before the First World War, the Banque de France builds up substantial gold reserves to prepare for the conflict.
During the Great War, there is close cooperation between the government and the Banque de France: the Banque de France provides assistance in the issuance of successive national defence bonds. Through its branch network, the Banque de France plays an active role in the government's campaign to collect gold hoarded by private individuals. These actions enhance the Banque de France's image and cement its status as a central bank.
In 1936, the Banque de France is given new statutes that place its General Council under the control of the state. On the eve of the war, the gold held by the Banque de France, both in Paris and in its branches, is sent overseas. When the Germans enter the capital, the Banque de France is occupied and has to handle the state’s “occupation payments” to Germany.
After the Liberation, the Banque de France is nationalised by the act of 2 December 1945. It plays an active role in the reconstruction programme and cooperates with other central banks. In the years that follow, it also plays a major role in efforts to create a European monetary union.
As a key player in the modernisation of France and Europe's economic structures, the Banque de France is granted independence under the Law of 4 August 1993 in defining and implementing monetary policy. In 1998 it becomes a member of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) and one of the main shareholders of the European Central Bank (ECB). It subsequently joins the Eurosystem with the creation of the euro on 1 January 1999. It thus participates in the management of the single currency of more than 300 million Europeans.
As the French pillar of the Eurosystem, the Banque de France is the guardian of monetary strategy and financial stability, while also providing essential services to the economy and society. Drawing on more than 200 years of history, the Banque de France stays abreast of current challenges, while all the time keeping an eye turned to the future