In the course of four centuries, French colonial expansion has gone through two periods :

The first starts in 1534 under François I. It ends under Louis XV with the loss of almost all the territories, after the defeat of 1763.

The second, known as "imperialist" starts in 1830 under Charles X and culminates under the Third Republic in the thirties. It declines as soon as the second World War ends and ceases with the advent of the Fifth republic.

The present French overseas territories are the last remaining witnesses of this long colonial History.