This paper reviews the geodynamic evolution of the Belledonne, Grandes Rousses and Oisans massifs in the western Alps from Early Ordovician to Permian times. Three domains are distinguished. The eastern domain, which includes the NE Belledonne massif and the inner Oisans massif, records the subduction of the Central-European ocean along a NW dipping subduction zone. The western domain is marked by Cambro-Ordovician back-arc rifting (Chamrousse ophiolite) initiating the opening of the Rheic ocean. It was followed by Mid-Devonian obduction of the back-arc Chamrousse ophiolite, towards the NW in relation with the SE dipping subduction of the Saxo-Thuringian ocean. The central domain, including the SW part of the Belledonne massif, the Grandes Rousses massif and the outer Oisans massif, records the Devonian to Carboniferous orogenic activity that produced calc-alkaline magmatism, Mg-K granite intrusions and syn-collisional sedimentation related to Visean nappe stacking that we relate to the closure of the Saxo-Thuringian ocean. Based on tectonostratigraphic correlations we propose that these domains initially correspond to the northeastward extension of the Bohemian massif. During the late Carboniferous, the External Crystalline Massifs including Sardinia and Corsica were stretched towards the SW along the > 600 km long dextral External Crystalline Massifs shear zone. Offset of the Saxo-Thuringian and eo-Variscan suture zones from the Bohemian massif to the ECM suggests a possible dextral displacement of about 300 km along the ECM shear zone.