The Archives nationales were founded in Paris in 1790.
"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 364 km. (226 miles) 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 A.D. 625 to today."
"Due to the massive volume of documents and records kept by the Archives nationales, these have been divided among four archives centres complemented by a microform centre serving as a back-up in case original documents are destroyed. The main centre is the CHAN (see below) located in Le Marais in the heart of Paris, but a new centre is being built in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, in the northern suburbs of Paris, and will become the main centre of the Archives nationales from 2010 on, the CHAN keeping only pre-French Revolution records.
"The Centre historique des Archives nationales (CHAN), French for "Historical Centre of the National Archives", has been located since 1808 in a group of buildings comprising the Hôtel de Soubise and the Hôtel de Rohan in the district of Le Marais in Paris. This centre stores all the documents and records from before 1958 (except the documents and records concerning former French colonies) as well as the archives of the French heads of state. Since 1867 it has also housed the Musée de l'Histoire de France.
"The CHAN keeps 98.3 km. (61 miles) of documents (as of 2004): 15 km. are pre-French Revolution archives; 52 km. are archives of the French central state from 1790 to 1958; 20 km. are the so-called Minutier central, i.e. the archives of all the Parisian notaries extending from the 15th century to the beginning of the 20th century; 5.8 km. are private archives, notably the archives of the aristocratic families seized at the time of the French Revolution; 4.5 km. are books; and finally 1 km. are ancient maps and plans.
"It should be noted that due to the events of the French Revolution, the pre-French Revolution archives kept by the Archives nationales are not just the archives of the central state, but also the many local archives of the Paris region, such as all the archives of the abbeys surrounding Paris (e.g. the Abbey of Saint-Denis), the archives of the churches of Paris, and the archives of the medieval Paris city hall. Thus, the Archives nationales serve as the archives of the French central state for records from 1790 onwards, but for records before 1790 they serve as both the archives of the central state and the local archives of Paris and its region. The Archives nationales, however, do not keep the church records of Paris (baptisms, marriages and burials). These were entirely destroyed by fires set by extremists at the end of the Paris Commune in 1871.
"The oldest document kept at the CHAN is a papyrus dated A.D. 625 coming from the archives of the Abbey of Saint-Denis seized at the time of the French Revolution. This papyrus is the confirmation of a grant of land in the city of Paris to the Abbey of Saint-Denis issued by King Chlothar II. This document is the oldest original one kept by the Archives nationales, although the Archives nationales possess medieval copies of earlier records going as far back as A.D. 528 (but not the originals).
"In total the Archives nationales possess 47 original documents from the Merovingian period (ended in 751). They also possess 5 original documents from the reign of Pepin the Short (751-768), 31 from the reign of Charlemagne (768-814), 28 from the reign of Louis the Pious (814-840), 69 from the reign of Charles the Bald (840-877), 1 from the reign of Hugh Capet (987-996), 21 from the reign of Robert the Pious (996-1031), and then a rapidly increasing number of original documents after Robert the Pious, with for example more than 1,000 original documents from the reign of Philip Augustus (1180-1223) and several thousand original documents from the reign of Saint Louis (1226-1270)" (Wikipedia article on Archives nationales [France], accessed 07-11-2009).