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Bayard was founded shortly after the 1870 war (between France and Prussia) by the Augustins de l'Assomption. At the fall of the 19th century, Father Emmanuel d'Alzon (1810-1880), founder of the religious congregation, wanted to participate in a transformation of society. He believed that to help society develop and evolve, Man must affirm the rights of God in order to give meaning to Human Rights. From this come his three great projects : teaching, pilgrimage and press/publishing - the translation of the first two into modern society.

July 1873 : La Maison de la Bonne Presse - the first name of the Bayard group, a name held till 1969 - was created and the first issue of Pèlerin sold. Within the following two years, the magazine grows from 4,000 to 80,000 copies per issue.

1883 : La Maison de la Bonne Presse launches a daily newspaper, La Croix, catering the information and cultural needs of the French Catholic public.

Between the two World Wars, the group continues to develop : La Maison de la Bonne Presse is no longer just a news group but also a publisher, a printing press, and an important messaging service. The group's activity centres on religious and youth magazines.

In the 1960s, the company experiences a creative renewal linked to the social and cultural evolution of society : a renewal of communication methods with children, as well as the recognition on a social level of pensioners. In 1966, the group launches Pomme d'Api, and Notre Temps in 1968.

The 1970s witnessed the construction of Bayard's (as was the comany now named) youth product range : Les Belles Histoires, Astrapi, J'aime Lire, Okapi, etc.

The 1980s see the dawn of Bayard's ventures abroad. Between 1977, the year Bayard opened its subsidiary's office in Hong-Kong, and 1979, when Bayard Presse International was formally created, the group proceeded with a partnerships and acquisitions strategy across all five continents.

In the early 1990s, the group boasted subsidiaries partnerships and sublicences everywhere around the world : in Europe (UK, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Italy, etc.), Asia (Hong-Kong), South America and North America (United-States and Canada).

In 1992
, Bayard purchases SCPP, a parochial press publisher in Lille, Bayard lays the first building blocks in the development of its regional presence. Another focus in Bayard's development is the subsidiary Bayard Service Edition for the the co-ordination of advertising and outsourcing of publishing.

In 1993, Bayard helps create the Planète des Jeunes association, a publisher in French-speaking Africa with 2 magazines : Planète Jeunes and Planète Enfants. The association's goal is to develop reading and literacy on the continent through Children's and Youth press.

In the early 2000s, the Bayard Group makes its first inroads on the web. It comforts its position as a leader on the Youth, Senior and Religious markets, both in France and abroad. As early as 2001, Bayard created Bayardweb, a subsidiary whose purpose was the development of Internet based projects, in partnership with Suez and Médéric. Today, the group manages over 100 websites.

In 2004, Bayard acquired Milan (press and publishing), widening its product range on the French youth publications market. Combined, the group become the third largest youth and children's publisher in France.

On the Senior's market, with the success of Notre Temps, Bayard continues to expand launching various periodicals across Europe and takes leadership on the Senior's market with 14 magazines.
On the Religious publication's market, following the successful acquisition of Novalis in Canada (1999), Twenty-Third Publications (1999), Catholic Digest (2001) and Creative Communication for the Parish (2004) in the United States, the Bayard Group has become the leader in Religious publications in both Canada and the United States, as they already were in France.
Meanwhile, the Bayard Group has continued developing regionally across France with its Bayard Nature et Territoires (BNT) subsidiary in Savoy, (French Alps), but also through the growth of Bayard Service's (subsidiary and outsourced publications, both print and web) expansion in local sales networks and offices.

In 2008, Bayard purchases the Press activity of the German group Weltbild, in partnership with Roularta. Doing so, Bayard strenghtens its presence in Germany on the Youth (Sailer : 7 magazines), Senior (Lenz) and Familly & Lifestyles (Leben und Erziehen and Living & More) markets.

Having offices in 16 countries, the Bayard Group continues to develop : it has 36 million readers worldwide, 5 million subscribers, over 150 magazines, of which 72 in France, and over 8 million books sold a year.