Located in the Mediterranean between France and Italy, Corsica has changed hands many times throughout history. The island once belonged to the people of Liguria, who lived in modern-day Italy. The Phoenicians of North Africa ruled over it for a while as well, followed the Phocaeans of what is now Greece, the Etruscans, Syracusans, Romans, Vandals, Saracens, Pisans and the Genoese. It was the Genoese who established the modern-day site for Ajaccio in 1492. Before then, the city had been located about two miles to the north.

For six years in the 1550s, the French had occupation of Corsica, but the island quickly passed back to the Genoese with the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559. The French invasion, however, resulted in devastation of the island.

Between 1729 and 1769, Corsica fought for separation from Genoa, a venture which was ultimately successful but involved many other European countries. In the 1768 Treaty of Versailles that ended the war, France was granted control of the island instead, to the dismay of many Corsicans. The Corsican army put up a struggle, but eventually lost and became integrated into France in May of 1769. Relations between Corsica and mainland France began very poorly, but Napoleon (who was a Corsican) and the two world wars (in which Corsica made significant contributions to the French side) have helped relieve much of the hostility.