France had a Program of 1906 that called for the construction of 16 dreadnoughts by 1919.
In October 1907 the Counseil Supérieur de la Marine had come up with the specifications for the ships to be constructed from 1909 -1910. They were to be of 21,000 tons, have four 12" guns, and be able to go 20 knots. In July of 1908 two designs were submitted by M. Lyasse, one that was similar to the specifications and the other had twelve 12" guns.
The Courbet and Jean Bart were ordered on August 11, 1910 and Paris and France ordered in 1911.
The 12" L/45 (30.5 cm) M1906-10 guns could fire an 852 lb armor piercing shell out to 13,660 yards at 2,569'/sec. The maximum elevation was 12°.
The secondary armament were 5.45" L/55 (13.86 cm) M1910 guns that could fire an 87 lb shell out to 17,600 yards at a maximum elevation of 25°.
There were also four 47 mm M1902 guns on either side of the bridge.
There were four 17.7" M1909 torpedo tubes below the waterline.