In 1893 Compagnie Française Thomson-Houston (CFTH) was set up as a partner to GE. It is from this company that the modern Thomson companies would evolve.
In 1966 CFTH merged with Hotchkiss-Brandt to form Thomson-Houston-Hotchkiss-Brandt (soon renamed Thomson-Brandt). In 1968 the electronics business of Thomson-Brandt merged with Compagnie Générale de Télégraphie Sans Fil (General Wireless Telegraphy Company, CSF) to form Thomson-CSF. Thomson Brandt maintained a significant shareholding in this company (approximately 40%).
In 1982 both Thomson-Brandt and Thomson-CSF were nationalized by François Mitterrand. Thomson-Brandt was renamed Thomson SA (Société Anonyme) and merged with Thomson-CSF.
From 1983 to 1987 a major reorganisation of Thomson-CSF was undertaken, with divestitures to refocus the group on its core activities (electronics and defence). Thomson-CSF Téléphone and the medical division were sold to Alcatel and GE respectively. The semiconductor businesses of Thomson-CSF was merged with Finmeccanica. Thomson acquired General Electric's RCA and GE consumer electronics business in 1987, and philips' Hollandse Signaalapparaten B.V. in 1990.
In 1988 Thomson Consumer Electronics was formed, renamed Thomson Multimedia in 1995. The French government split the consumer electronics and defence businesses prior to privatisation in 1999, those companies being Thomson Multimedia (today Technicolor SA) and Thomson-CSF (today Thales Group). The picture shown is a "Cyrano II " fitted on Mirage III E
Following the privatisation of the Thomson Group Thomson-CSF explored the possibility of merging with Marconi Electronic Systems, however British Aerospace was successful in that aim, forming BAE Systems.
In 2000 Thomson-CSF went through a series of transactions, including with Marconi plc. The major acquisition at this time was the £1.3 billion purchase of the British defence electronics firm, Racal. This made Thomson-CSF the second largest participant in the UK defence industry after BAE. Racal was renamed Thomson-CSF Racal plc.
On 6 December 2000 the group was renamed Thales.