|French Republic |
|Capital and largest city||Paris|
|- Upper house
- Lower house
|- Frankish Kingdom
260,000 sq. mi.|
675,000 sq. km.
242 / mi²; 93 / km²
2.5 trillion (9th)|
|Drives on the
The French Republic is a nation in Western Europe. It is a member of the United Nations and the European Union. It borders Belgium and Luxembourg to the north, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy to the east, and Spain, Andorra, and Monaco to the south.
Main article: History of France
The Franks took over northern France after the Romans. After reaching their height under Charlemagne, their territory was split into three parts. West Francia was the predecessor to modern France. The Kingdom of France was established by Hugh Capet in 987.
The medieval period of France was characterized by conflict with England. By the fourteenth century, England had control over much of Aquitaine, Brittany, and Normandy. In 1337, the Hundred Years' War broke out. At its end in 1453, France had reconquered nearly all of England's former territory.
In the 1500s, religious conflict broke out between Huguenots, French Protestants, and the Catholic majority. The French Wars of Religion lasted nearly a century, and were only ended by the Edict of Nantes.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, France began to form a nation-state and absolute monarchy. The War of the Spanish Succession and Seven Years' War checked French expansion, but the French army remained the most powerful in Europe.
In 1789, the Ancien Regime was overthrown and the French First Republic was established. The French Revolution quickly descended into the Reign of Terror, but the visionary leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte prevented the conquest of France by foreign powers.
After stability was restored in 1797, Napoleon embarked on a spectacular series of conquests. Northern Italy fell in 1797, Egypt in 1798, and Napoleon was crowned Emperor in 1805. By 1807, Germany was under the control of the French vassal state of the Confederation of the Rhine. In 1812, Napoleon launched an ill-fated invasion of Russia, and by 1814 he was deposed and sent to exile. He quickly escaped, but was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.
Throughout the eighteenth century, France alternated between monarchy and democracy. In 1870-1871, France was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War and forced to give up Alsace-Lorraine. France also gained overseas colonies in West Africa and Indochina.
World War I affected France particularly badly. Northern France was turned into a wasteland of trenches and artillery craters, and the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Verdun cost nearly a million men total. The German advance was finally pushed back in 1918, and the war ended on November 11, 1918.
France was quickly overrun in the Battle of France during World War II. Southern France became a Nazi client state called Vichy France. France was liberated by Allied forces in 1944, and participated in the final stages of the war in 1945.
In the 1950s, France fought hard in Algeria and Indochina to keep control of her colonies. However, she was unable to quell the nationalist spirits in these colonies, and by the mid-1960s most of the French colonial empire had gained independence.
France, while an ally of the United States, withdrew from NATO and developed an independent nuclear weapons program. Additionally, she refused to support the American-led War in Iraq in 2003. However, France remains an integral part of the European Union, as well as a member of the United Nations Security Council.
France is well known for its high culture, or haute mode. French food is considered some of the best in the world, as is French fashion. French literature and music are also well regarded.
Bread is the hallmark of French cuisine. Baguettes and croissants and popular, and usually baked and consumed French. France is also famous for its snails, known as escargot, and stuffed goose liver, known as foie gras. Breton cuisine incorporates seafood as well as the traditional French elements.
The French language is a Romance language spoken in France as well as Belgium, Switzerland, Quebec, and much of West Africa. It is regulated by the Academie francaise. The French government is legally required to communicate primarily in French, and foreign language radio stations and advertisements are restricted.
The French economy, one of the largest in Europe, is diverse and robust. The primar currency is the euro, which replaced the franc in 2002. France has large industrial and agricultural sectors. Much of the world's wine and cheese is produced in France.