It succeeded the French Committee of National Liberation (CFLN), which had been the provisional government of France in the overseas territories and metropolitan parts of the country (Algeria and Corsica) that had been liberated by the Free French. As the wartime government of France in 1944–1945, its main purposes were to handle the aftermath of the occupation of France and continue to wage war against Germany as one of the major Allies.
Its principal mission beside the war was to prepare the ground for a new constitutional order that resulted in the Fourth Republic. It also made several important reforms and political decisions, such as granting women the right to vote, founding the École nationale d'administration, and laying the grounds of social security in France.
It was officially created by the CFLN on 3 June 1944, the day before Charles de Gaulle arrived in London from Algiers on Winston Churchill's invitation, and three days before D-Day. The CFLN itself had been created exactly one year earlier through the uniting of de Gaulle's (Comité national français, or CNF) and Henri Giraud's organisations. Among its most immediate concerns were to ensure that France did not come under allied military administration, preserving the sovereignty of France and freeing allied troops for fighting on the front.
After the liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944, it moved back to the capital, establishing a new "national unanimity" government on 9 September 1944, including Gaullists, nationalists, socialists, communists and anarchists, and uniting the politically divided French Resistance. Among its foreign policy goals was to secure a French occupation zone in Germany and a permanent UNSC seat. This was assured through a large military contribution on the western front.
The GPRF set about raising new troops to participate in the advance to the Rhine and the invasion of Germany, using the French Forces of the Interior as military cadres and manpower pools of experienced fighters to allow a very large and rapid expansion of the French Liberation Army (Armée française de la Libération). It was well equipped and well supplied despite the economic disruption brought by the occupation thanks to Lend-Lease, and grew from 500,000 men in the summer of 1944 to over 1,300,000 by V-E day, making it the fourth largest Allied army in Europe.