This report is focused on two French multicenter cohorts of patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The first one is a community-based study which was started in 1993. It was mainly designed to identify prognostic factors of joint destruction, disability and remission in patients with early RA. The 3-year and 5-year results have been recently reported. Briefly, progression of joint damage was best predicted at baseline by radiographic scores, ESR, CRP, rheumatoid factor and DRB1*04 genes, and disability by disease activity including the HAQ score. Recently, the French Society of Rheumatology initiated a large national multicenter registry (800 patients), the "ESPOIR cohort study", that could serve as a database to allow investigations not only on diagnostic and prognostic markers, but also on etiologic, pathogenic and medico-economic factors among patients with early inflammatory arthritis who could later develop RA. The objectives, design and organization of this early arthritis registry are described.