Student Research Projects

“5+7= 12”...Doin' the Math of France's Dom-Tom (The Overseas Departments and Territories of France)

Student Brittany Muir
Breanna Muir
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Foreign Languages and Literature


The mid-20th century marked the end of France's and the world’s colonial empire. In the 1950’s and 1960’s France's government came to the agreement of dividing its acquired lands into departments and territories. As a consequence France now has five overseas departments and seven territories. Their departments include Réunion, Mayotte, French Guyana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and their territories include the French Polynesia (Tahiti), Saint Barthelémy, Saint Martin, Futuna & Wallis, New Caledonia, Saint Pierre & Miquelon and Northern and Southern Antarctic Territories. These territories, except for the French Polynesia, do not have the same legal status as the departments. The departments are regulated by French laws and must adjust to France’s civil and penal codes, social norms and administrative laws while territories have an autonomous status meaning they can make up their own laws under their government. Departments and territories both get to vote in all of France’s policies and elections and have their own elected officials that represent them in the European Parliament in Strasbourg and in the National Assembly of France. Today, in the 21st century, nearly seventy years later, these twelve territories and departments are still economically dependent upon France’s for their status and well-being. Ultimately, these lands exist in their current state “Dom-Tom” due to their past history with France’s colonization.