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prefet

in France, a high government official, similar to the intendant before the French Revolution. The French prefectoral corps was created in 1800 by Napoleon Bonaparte, who endowed it with great prestige and influence. At that time the prefects were the administrators of the departements; they were responsible for public order and good government and for ensuring that the policy of the central government was effectively carried out throughout the country. Napoleon called them empereurs au petit pied ("miniature" or "small-scale emperors").

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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