PRIVAS, a town of south-eastern France, capital of the department of Ardèche, 95 m. S. by W. of Lyons on a branch line of the railway from that city to Nimes. Pop. (1906), town, 3495; commune, 7000. Privas is situated near the Ouvèze, here joined by the Mezayon and Chazalon. The town is the seat of a prefecture, a court of assizes and a tribunal of first instance. Other institutions are training colleges for both sexes, a communal college and a lunatic asylum for the departments of Ardèche and Drôme. Silk-milling is carried on. The rearing of silkworms and the cultivation of the mulberry are widespread industries. There are mines of iron ore in the vicinity. Trade is in silk, tanned leather, game, chestnuts and fruit preserves.
Privas is first heard of in the 12th century, as a possession of the counts of Valentinois, and subsequently became the seat of a separate barony. One of the strongholds of the Reformed Faith, it suffered terribly during the Wars of Religion. Ineffectually besieged by the royal troops in 1574, it passed in 1619, by the marriage of the heiress of the barony, Paule de Chambaud, into the possession of the vicomte de Lestrange, a Roman Catholic noble. A general rising followed, and in 1629 it was besieged and taken by Louis XIII. It was reduced to ruins, and the king decreed that it should not be again inhabited; but in 1632, some of the townspeople having fought against Lestrange, who had joined Montmorency's rebellion, the inhabitants were allowed to return. Some ancient houses, which escaped the general destruction, are still standing.