Annonay is built on the hill overlooking the meeting of the deep gorges of the Deûme and the Cance, the waters of which supply power to the factories of the town. By means of a dam across the Ternay, an affluent of the Deûme, to the north-west of the town, a reservoir is provided, in which an additional supply of water, for both industrial and domestic purposes, is stored.
The town's name may be of Roman origin.
By the Middle Ages, the town was already thriving and was the home to several powerful families. Pilgrims stopped in the town on the way from the Rhône valley to the shrine of the Virgin Mary at Puy-en-Velay. The town was plundered several times by invading armies and armed bands, and suffered during the Hundred Years' War, despite the wall that were built around the town.
In the first half of the 16th century, the town was influenced by Luthean and Calvinist ideas and there were several skirmishes between protestants and catholics, with several "heretics" being burnt alive. The population had reached 3,500 by the start of the religious wars in 1562. The wars were used as a pretext to deprive the town of its prosperity. The nearby castle of Pugneux was badly damaged on two occasions. 1585 to 1586 were especially disastrous, with not only war, but famine and the plague. Calm and prosperity retunded after the 1598 Edict of Nantes.
On June 4, 1783, Annonay was the location of the Montgolfier brothers first public unmanned hot air balloon flight. The event is celebrated annually each June, on the site of the flight in the place des Cordeliers. The Montgolfier brothers were natives of the town, and there is an obelisk in honour of them.
The multinational paper company Arjo Wiggins' subsidiary Papeteries Canson et Montgolfier SA, which dates back to 1557 (and is linked to the Montgolfier brothers?), owns three of the several paper factories in the town.
There are a number of vineyards near the town.
The average salary in the area is 23,300 euro.
A tribunal of commerce, a board of trade-arbitrators, a branch of the Bank of France, and chambers of commerce and of arts and manufactures are among the public institutions.
Annonay was the birthplace of: