France Information | France Tourism | Paris France
Over the past 500 years, France has been a major power with strong cultural, economic, military and political influence in Europe and around the world. During the 17th and 18th centuries, France colonized great parts of North America and Southeast Asia; during the 19th and early 20th centuries, France built the second largest empire of the time, including large portions of North, West and Central Africa, Southeast Asia, and many Caribbean and Pacific Islands.
France is a founding member of the United Nations, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and a member of the Francophonie, the G8, G20, NATO, OECD, WTO, and the Latin Union. It is also a founding and leading member state of the European Union and the largest one by area. In 2010, France was listed 14th on the Human Development Index and 24th on the Corruption Perceptions Index.
Facts About France:
Capital of France:Paris is the capital of France
France Currency:The currency of France is Euro.
France Official Language:French
Area of France:674,843 km2
Population of France (2011 estimate):Total - 65,821,885
Metropolitan France - 63,136,180
Density - 116/km2
Time zone of France:CET (UTC+1)
Summer (DST) - CEST (UTC+2)
Calling code of France:+33
Flag of France:
Activities in Franch:
- Wine Regions / Vineyards
- Cooking Classes
- Wine Tasting Classes
- Boat Rentals
Geography of France:
While Metropolitan France is located in Western Europe, France also has a number of territories in North America, the Caribbean, South America, the southern Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and Antarctica. These territories have varying forms of government ranging from overseas department to overseas collectivity. France's overseas departments and collectivities share land borders with Brazil, and Suriname (bordering French Guiana), and the Netherlands Antilles (bordering Saint-Martin).
Metropolitan France covers 547,030 square kilometres (211,209 sq mi), having the largest area among European Union members. France possesses a wide variety of landscapes, from coastal plains in the north and west to mountain ranges of the Alps in the south-east, the Massif Central in the south-central and Pyrenees in the south-west.
At 4,810.45 metres (15,782 ft) above sea level, the highest point in Western Europe, Mont Blanc, is situated in the Alps on the border between France and Italy. Metropolitan France also has extensive river systems such as the Seine, the Loire, the Garonne, and the Rhone, which divides the Massif Central from the Alps and flows into the Mediterranean Sea at the Camargue. Corsica lies off the Mediterranean coast.
France's total land area, with its overseas departments and territories (excluding Adélie Land), is 674,843 km2 (260,558 sq mi), 0.45% of the total land area on Earth. However, France possesses the second-largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world, covering 11,035,000 km2 (4,260,637 sq mi), approximately 8% of the total surface of all the EEZs of the world, just behind the United States (11,351,000 km2/4,382,646 sq mi) and ahead of Australia (8,232,000 km2/3,178,393 sq mi). The north and northwest have a temperate climate, while a combination of maritime influences, latitude and altitude produce a varied climate in the rest of Metropolitan France.
In the south-east a Mediterranean climate prevails. In the west, the climate is predominantly oceanic with a high level of rainfall, mild winters and cool to warm summers. Inland the climate becomes more continental with hot, stormy summers, colder winters and less rain. The climate of the Alps and other mountainous regions is mainly alpine, with the number of days with temperatures below freezing over 150 per year and snow cover lasting for up to six months.
France Climates and Landscapes:
Paris France Weather:
French wine is produced in several regions throughout France, in quantities between 50 and 60 million hectolitres per year, or 7–8 billion bottles. France has the world's second-largest total vineyard area, behind Spain, and is in the position of being the world's largest wine producer losing it once (in 2008) to Italy. You can know more about French Wine at http://franceinformation1.blogspot.com/p/french-wine-wines-of-france.html
Transport in France:
Transportation in France relies on one of the densest networks in the world with 146 km of road and 6.2 km of rail lines per 100 km2. It is built as a web with Paris at its center.
Rail transport in France:
Trains, unlike road traffic, drive on the left (except in Alsace-Moselle). Metro and tramway services are not thought of as trains and usually follow road traffic in driving on the right (except the Lyon Metro).
Trams in France:
Light rail and tram systems are under construction in Angers, Dijon.
Systems are planned in Brest, Le Havre, Reims, Tours, Besançon and Fort-de-France.
The revival of tram networks in France has brought about a number of technical developments both in the traction systems and in the styling of the cars:
APS third rail:
The ground-level power supply system known as APS or Alimentation par le sol uses a third rail placed between the running rails, divided electrically into eight-metre segments with three metre neutral sections between. Each tram has two power collection skates, next to which are antennas that send radio signals to energise the power rail segments as the tram passes over them. At any one time no more than two consecutive segments under the tram should actually be live. Alstrom developed the system primarily to avoid intrusive power supply cables in sensitive area of the old city of Bordeaux.
The Eurotram, used in Strasbourg has a modern design that makes it look almost as much like a train as a tram, and has large windows along its entire length.
Modular design: The Citadis tram, flagship of the French manufacturer Alstom, enjoys an innovative design combining lighter bogies with a modular concept for carriages providing more choices in the types of windows and the number of cars and doors. The recent Citadis-Dualis, intended to run at up to 100 km/h, is suitable for stop spacings ranging from 500 m to 5 km. Dualis is a strictly modular partial low-floor car, with all doors in the low-floor sections.
France currently counts 30,500 km of major trunk roads or routes nationales and state-owned motorways. By way of comparison, the routes départementales cover a total distance of 365,000 km. The main trunk road network reflects the centralising tradition of France: the majority of them leave the gates of Paris. Indeed, trunk roads begin on the parvis of Notre-Dame of Paris at Kilometre Zero. To ensure an effective road network, new roads not serving Paris were created.
France is believed to be the most car dependent country in Europe. In 2005, 937 billion vehicle kilometres were travelled in France (85% by car)
Approximately 20% of the network is suitable for commercial boats of over 1000 tonnes and the VNF has an ongoing programme of maintenance and modernisation to increase depth of waterways, widths of locks and headroom under bridges to support France's stategy of encouraging freight onto water.
French companies operate over 1,400 ships of which 700 are registered in France. France's 110 shipping firms employ 12,500 personnel at sea and 15,500 on shore. Each year, 305 million tonnes of goods and 15 million passengers are transported by sea. Marine transport is responsible for 72% of France's imports and exports.
France also boasts a number of seaports and harbours, including Bayonne, Bordeaux, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Brest, Calais, Cherbourg-Octeville, Dunkerque, Fos-sur-Mer, La Pallice, Le Havre, Lorient, Marseille, Nantes, Nice, Paris, Port-la-Nouvelle, Port-Vendres, Roscoff, Rouen, Saint-Nazaire, Saint-Malo, Sète, Strasbourg and Toulon.
Among the airspace governance authorities active in France, one is Aéroports de Paris, which has authority over the Paris region, managing 14 airports including the two busiest in France, Charles de Gaulle Airport and Orly Airport. The former, located in Roissy near Paris, is the fifth busiest airport in the world with 60 million passenger movements in 2008, and France's primary international airport, serving over 100 airlines.
The national carrier of France is Air France, a full service global airline which flies to 20 domestic destinations and 150 international destinations in 83 countries (including Overseas departments and territories of France) across all 6 major continents.
France features cities of high cultural interest (Paris being the foremost, but also Toulouse, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Lyon...), beaches and seaside resorts, ski resorts, and rural regions that many enjoy for their beauty and tranquillity (green tourism). Small and picturesque French villages of quality heritage (such as Collonges-la-Rouge or Locronan) are promoted through the association Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (litt. "The Most Beautiful Villages of France"). The "Remarkable Gardens" label is a list of the over two hundred gardens classified by the French Ministry of Culture. This label is intended to protect and promote remarkable gardens and parks. France also attracts many religious pilgrims on their way to St. James, or to Lourdes, a town in the Hautes-Pyrénées that hosts a few million visitors a year.
France, and especially Paris, have some of the world's largest and renowned museums, including the Louvre, which is the most visited art museum in the world, but also the Musée d'Orsay, mostly devoted to impressionism, and Beaubourg, dedicated to Contemporary art.
Disneyland Paris is France's and indeed Europe's most popular theme park, with 15,405,000 combined visitors to the resort's Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park in 2009. The historical theme park Puy du Fou in Vendée is the second most visited park of France. Other popular theme parks are the Futuroscope of Poitiers and the Parc Astérix.
With more than 10 millions tourists a year, the French Riviera (or Côte d'Azur), in south-eastern France, is the second leading tourist destination in the country, after the Parisian region. According to the Côte d'Azur Economic Development Agency, it benefits from 300 days of sunshine per year, 115 kilometres (71 mi) of coastline and beaches, 18 golf courses, 14 ski resorts and 3,000 restaurants. Each year the Côte d'Azur hosts 50% of the world's superyacht fleet, with 90% of all superyachts visiting the region's coast at least once in their lifetime.
The most popular tourist sites include: (according to a 2003 ranking visitors per year): Eiffel Tower (6.2 million), Louvre Museum (5.7 million), Palace of Versailles (2.8 million), Musée d'Orsay (2.1 million), Arc de Triomphe (1.2 million), Centre Pompidou (1.2 million), Mont-Saint-Michel (1 million), Château de Chambord (711,000), Sainte-Chapelle (683,000), Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg (549,000), Puy de Dôme (500,000), Musée Picasso (441,000), Carcassonne (362,000).
National Parks in France:
Vanoise National Park:
The park is bordered by several large French ski resorts (Les Trois Vallées, Tignes, Val-d'Isère, Les Arcs, La Plagne). On the Italian side of the border, the park is continued by the Gran Paradiso National Park. Together, these two parks cover over 1250 km².
The park is well-known for its population of Alpine ibex (Capra ibex), bouquetins in French. Other than Alpine ibex there are Chamois, Alpine Marmot, Eurasian Lynx, Mountain Hare and Stoat. Birds include Bearded Vulture, Golden Eagle and Black Grouse.
Port-Cros National Park:
It was founded in 1963 after the island of Port-Cros was bequeathed to the state. The state is the sole land owner on the island, which is a natural protected area.
Pyrénées National Park:
Located along the border of France and Spain is a scenic and mountainous landscape offering a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, skiing, mountain climbing and observing wildlife.
According to the Pyrénées National Park website, the park, created in 1967, is a natural heritage without barriers or fences where animals are totally free.Devoted to preserving biodiversity and landscapes, studying wildlife and plant species, the park is home to 70 different species of animals.
The eastern portion of the national park forms part of the French section of the Pyrénées - Mont Perdu World Heritage Site that straddles the border between France and Spain.
Cévennes National Park:
Created in 1970, the park has its administrative seat in Florac at Florac Castle. It is located mainly in the départements of Lozère and Gard, and covers some parts of Ardèche and Aveyron. The Aven Armand cave is located in the park.
The park includes several mountains and plateaus, including: Mont Lozère, Mont Aigoual, Causse Méjean, France.
Points of interest:
* Arboretum de Cazebonne
* Aven Armand
Écrins National Park:
It rises up to 4,102 m (13,458 ft) at the Barre des Ecrins and covers 918 km² (354 mi²) of high mountain areas, with high peaks, glacier fields, glacier valleys, alpine pastures, subalpine woodlands and lakes.
Its borders mostly correspond to these of the Massif des Ecrins, delimited by the main valleys of rivers Drac, Romanche and Durance (with its Guisane dependency).
It attracts up to 800,000 tourists each year.
The park has been awarded the European Diploma of Protected Areas.
Mercantour National Park:
Flora and Fauna of Mercantour National Park:
In addition to the holm oak, the Mediterranean olive tree, rhododendrons, firs, spruces, swiss pines and above all larches, the Mercantour is also endowed with more than 2,000 species of flowering plants, 200 of which are very rare: edelweiss and martagon lily are the best known, but there is also saxifrage with multiple flowers, houseleek, moss campion and gentian offering a multi-coloured palette in the spring. The Mercantour is the site of a large-scale All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory and Monitoring programme to identify all its living species, organised by the European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy (EDIT).
Guiana Amazonian Park:
Guiana Amazonian Park is one of the nine national parks of France, aiming at protecting part of the amazonian forest located in French Guiana.
It cannot be accessed from the sea-shore or by any other means other than by airplane or pirogue.
The protected area covers some 20,300 square kilometres (7,840 sq mi) for the central area (where full protection is enforced) and 13,600 square kilometres (5,250 sq mi) for the secondary area. Thus, the overall protected area represents some 33,900 square kilometres (13,090 sq mi) of rain forest.
The park has been built upon territories belonging to the communes of Camopi, Maripasoula, Papaïchton, Saint-Élie and Saül.
Réunion National Park:
Guadeloupe National Park:
Tourist attractions at Guadeloupe National Park:
Among the interesting visitor sites in Guadeloupe National Park are:
* La Soufrière
* Carbet Falls
* the two Mamelles and the Traversée road
* Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin Nature Reserve
* numerous hiking trails throughout the park
World Heritage Sites in France:
Most of the French heritage sites are covered in more detail this guide, see the list and map below to see if there are any to visit near your planned destination in France.
- Decorated Grottoes of the Vézère Valley - 1979
- Vézelay, Church and Hill - 1979
- Palace and Park of Versailles - 1979
- Chartres Cathedral - 1979
- Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay - 1979
- Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay - 1981
- Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments - 1981
- Roman Theatre and its Surroundings and the "Triumphal Arch" of Orange - 1981
- Amiens Cathedral - 1981
- Palace and Park of Fontainebleau - 1981
- From the Great Saltworks of Salins-les-Bains to the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans, the production of open-pan salt - 1982
- Gulf of Porto: Calanche of Piana, Gulf of Girolata, Scandola Reserve - 1983
- Abbey Church of Saint-Savin sur Gartempe - 1983
- Place Stanislas, Place de la Carrière, and Place d'Alliance in Nancy - 1983
- Pont du Gard (Roman Aqueduct) - 1985
- Strasbourg-Grande Ile - 1988
- Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Former Abbey of Saint-Remi and Palace of Tau, Reims - 1991
- Paris, Banks of the Seine - 1991
- Bourges Cathedral - 1992
- Historic Centre of Avignon: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge - 1995
- Canal du Midi - 1996
- Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne - 1997
- Pyrénées - Mount Perdu - 1997
- Historic Site of Lyon - 1998
- Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France - 1998
- Belfries of Belgium and France - 1999
- Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion - 1999
- The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes - 2000
- Provins, Town of Medieval Fairs - 2001
- Le Havre, the city rebuilt by Auguste Perret - 2005
- Bordeaux, Port of the Moon - 2007
- The Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems - 2008
- Fortifications of Vauban - 2008
- Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island - 2010
- Episcopal City of Albi - 2010
- The Causses and the Cévennes, Mediterranean agro-pastoral Cultural Landscape - 2011
- Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps - 2011
Tentative list of France:
* Sites mégalithiques de Carnac, 1996
* Cathédrale de Saint-Denis, 1996
* Rouen : ensemble urbain à pans de bois, cathédrale, église Saint-Ouen, église Saint Maclou, 1996
* Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, 1996
* Les villes bastionnées des Pays-Bas du nord-ouest de l'Europe, 1996
* Le massif forestier de Fontainebleau, 1996
* Montagne Sainte-Victoire et sites cézaniens, 1996
* Ensemble de grottes à concrétions du Sud de la France, 2000
* Vanoise National Park, 2000
* Massif du Mont Blanc, 2000
* Le vignoble Champenois, 2002
* La Camargue, 2002
* Bouches de Bonifacio, 2002
* Mercantour / Alpi Marittime, 2002
* Parc national des Écrins, 2002
* Parc national de Port-Cros, 2002
* Marais salants de Guérande, 2002
* Vignoble des côtes de Côte de Nuits et de Côte de Beaune, 2002
* Le rivage méditerranéen des Pyrénées, 2002
* Bassin minier du Nord-Pas-de-Calais, 2002
* Rade de Marseille, 2002
* Les villes antiques de la Narbonnaise et leur territoire : Nîmes, Arles, Glanum, aqueducs, via Domitia, 2002
* Le chemin de fer de Cerdagne, 2002
* Office National d'Études et de Recherches Aérospatiales, Meudon, 2002
* Hangar Y, 2002
* Ancienne chocolaterie Menier à Noisiel, 2002
* Phare de Cordouan, 2002
* Centre ancien de Sarlat, 2002
* Arsenal de Rochefort et fortifications de l'estuaire de la Charente, 2002
* L’œuvre architecturale et urbaine de Le Corbusier, 2006
* La Grotte ornée Chauvet-Pont d'Arc, 2007
* Les Iles Marquises, 2010
* Le site sacré de Tapu-tapu-atea / Te Po, vallée de O-po-ä, 2010
Paris Tourism / Sightseeing in Paris:
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region (or Paris Region, French: Région parisienne). The city of Paris, within its administrative limits largely unchanged since 1860, has an estimated population of 2,211,297 (January 2008), but the Paris metropolitan area has a population of 11,899,544 (January 2008), and is one of the most populated metropolitan areas in Europe. Paris was the largest city in the Western world for about 1,000 years, prior to the 19th century, and the largest in the entire world between the 16th and 19th centuries. You can know much more about Paris Tourism, Sightseeing in Paris at http://franceinformation1.blogspot.com/p/paris-tourism-sightseeing-in-paris.html
Best Luxury Hotels in Paris:
- Castille Paris
- Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris
- Hilton Arc de Triomphe Paris
- Hotel Daniel Paris
- Hotel de Crillon
- Hotel du Louvre
- Hotel Fouquet's Barriere
- Hotel Francois 1er
- Hotel Keppler
- Hotel Lancaster
- Hotel Le Bristol Paris
- Hotel Le Meurice
- Hotel Lutetia
- Hotel Plaza Athenee
- Hotel Pont Royal
- Hotel Prince De Galles
- Hotel San Regis
- Hotel Scribe Paris
- Hyatt Regency Madeleine
- InterContinental Paris le Grand Hotel
- La Reserve Paris
- La Tremoille
- Le Burgundy Paris
- Le Pavillon des Lettres
- Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris
- Mandarin Oriental Paris
- Mon Hotel Paris
- Park Hyatt Paris Vendome
- Pavillon de la Reine
- Relais Christine
- Ritz Paris
- Saint James Paris
- Shangri-La Hotel Paris
- Sofitel Paris La Defense
- Sofitel Paris le Faubourg
- The Westin Paris
- Tiara Chateau Hotel Mont Royal
- Trianon Palace Versailles
- W Hotel Paris Opera
Cheap Hotels in Paris:
- Absolute Hotel Paris
- Ascot Opera
- Au Royal-Cardinal
- Delhy's Hotel
Paris Hotels:» Hotel Austerlitz
» Hotel Bastille
» Hotel Bercy
» Hotel Champs Elysées
» Hotel Clichy
» Hotel Concorde
» Hotel Eiffel Tower
» Hotel Etoile Monceau
» Hotel Eurodisney
» Hotel Eurostar
» Hotel Republique
» Hotel Vincennes
» Hotel Porte Versailles
» Hotel Gare de Lyon
» Hotel Gare du Nord
» Hotel La Defense
» Hotel Paris La Villette
» Hotel Paris Left Bank
» Hotel Paris Louvre
» Hotel Paris Montmartre
» Hotel Paris Montparnasse
» Hotel Paris Opera Lafayette
» Hotel Paris Opera Madeleine
» Hotel Paris Saint Germain
» Hotel Costes Paris
» Hotel de France
» Aparthotel Paris
Regions of France:
The 101 departments are subdivided into 341 arrondissements which are, in turn, subdivided into 4,051 cantons. These cantons are then divided into 36,697 communes, which are municipalities with an elected municipal council. There also exist 2,588 intercommunal entities grouping 33,414 of the 36,697 communes (i.e. 91.1% of all the communes). Three communes, Paris, Lyon and Marseille are also subdivided into 45 municipal arrondissements.
The regions, departments and communes are all known as territorial collectivities, meaning they possess local assemblies as well as an executive. Arrondissements and cantons are merely administrative divisions. However, this was not always the case. Until 1940, the arrondissements were also territorial collectivities with an elected assembly, but these were suspended by the Vichy regime and definitely abolished by the Fourth Republic in 1946. Historically, the cantons were also territorial collectivities with their elected assemblies.
History of France:
Prehistory and antiquity:The oldest traces of human life, in what is now France, date from approximately 1,800,000 years ago. Men were then confronted by a hard and variable climate, marked by several glacial eras which modified their framework of life and led them to a nomadic life of hunters-gatherers. France counts a large number of decorated caves from the upper Paleolithic era, including one of the most famous and best preserved: Lascaux (Dordogne, approximately 18,000 BC).
At the end of the Last glacial period (10.000 BC), the climate softened and from approximately 7,000 BC, this part of Western Europe entered the Neolithic era and its inhabitants became sedentary. After a strong demographic and agricultural development between the 4th and 3rd millennia, metallurgy appeared at the end of the 3rd millennium, initially with the work of gold, copper and bronze, and later with iron. France counts numerous megalithic sites from the Neolithic period, including the exceptionally dense Carnac stones site in Brittany (c. 3,300 BC).
In 600 BC, Ionian Greeks, originating from Phocaea, founded the colony of Massalia (present-day Marseille), on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, making it the oldest city of France. At the same time, some Gallic Celtic tribes penetrated some parts of the current territory of France, but this occupation spread in the rest of France only between the 5th and 3rd century BC.
Gallic tribes before the Roman conquest (58 BC to 51 BC). Note that Southern Gaul was already under Roman control (yellow) in 59 BC.
The concept of Gaul emerged at that time; it corresponds to the territories of Celtic settlement ranging between the Rhine, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea. The borders of modern France are approximately the same as those of ancient Gaul, which was inhabited by Celtic Gauls. Gaul was then a prosperous country of which the southernmost part was heavily subject to Greek and Roman influences. However, around 390 BC, the Gallic chieftain Brennus made his own way through the Alps, defeated the Romans in the Battle of the Allia and besieged and ransomed Rome.
The Gallic invasion left Rome weakened and encouraged several subdued Italian tribes to rebel. One by one, over the course of the next 50 years, these tribes were defeated and brought back under Roman dominion. Meanwhile, the Gauls would continue to harass the region until 345 BC, when they entered into a formal treaty with Rome. But Romans and Gauls would maintain an adversarial relationship for the next several centuries and the Gauls would remain a threat in Italia.
Around 125 BC, the south of Gaul was conquered by the Romans who called this region Provincia Romana ("Roman Province"), which evolved into the name Provence in French. Brennus' siege of Rome was still remembered by Romans, when Julius Caesar conquered the remainder of Gaul, and overcame a revolt carried out by the Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix in 52 BC.
The Maison Carrée was a temple of the Gallo-Roman city of Nemausus (present-day Nîmes) and is one of the best preserved vestiges of the Roman Empire.
Gaul was divided by Augustus into Roman provinces, the principal ones being Gallia Narbonensis in the south, Gallia Aquitania in the south-west, Gallia Lugdunensis in the center and Gallia Belgica in the north. Many cities were founded during the Gallo-Roman period, including Lugdunum (present-day Lyon), which is considered to be the capital of the Gauls. These cities were built in the traditional Roman style, with a forum, a theatre, a circus, an amphitheatre and thermal baths. The Gauls mixed with Roman settlers and eventually adopted Roman speech (Latin, from which the French language evolved) and Roman culture. The Roman polytheism merged with the Gallic paganism into the same syncretism.
Around the 3rd century AD, Roman Gaul underwent a serious crisis with its "limes" (fortified borders protecting the Empire) crossed on several occasions by Barbarians. The weakness of the central imperial power, at this time, led Gallo-Roman leaders to proclaim the independence of the short-lived Gallic Empire, which ended with the Battle of Châlons in 274, which saw Gaul reincorporated in the Roman Empire.
Nevertheless, the situation improved in the first half of the 4th century AD, which was a period of revival and prosperity for Roman Gaul. In 312, the emperor Constantin I converted to Christianity. Christians, persecuted until then, multiplied across the entire Roman Empire. But, from the second half of the 4th century AD, the Barbarian Invasions started again, and Germanic tribes, such as the Vandals, Suebi and Alans crossed the Rhine and settled in Gaul, Spain and other parts of the collapsing Roman Empire.
At the end of the Antiquity period, ancient Gaul was divided into several Germanic kingdoms (Early Francia (North), Alamannia (North-East), Burgundia (East), Septimania (South), Visigothic Aquitania (South East)) and a remaining Gallo-Roman territory, known as the Kingdom of Syagrius (West). Simultaneously, Celtic Britons, fleeing the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britannia, settled the western part of Armorica (far West of Gaul). As a result, the Armorican peninsula was renamed Brittany, Celtic culture was revived and independent petty kingdoms arose in this region.
Middle Age to Revolution:
The pagan Franks, from whom the ancient name of “Francie” was derived, originally settled the North-East of Gaul but conquered most of the other Kingdoms in northern and central Gaul, under Clovis I. The Frankish King Clovis I was the first Germanic conqueror after the fall of the Roman Empire to convert, in 498, to Catholic Christianity, rather than Arianism; thus France obtained the title “Eldest daughter of the Church” (La fille aînée de l’Église) from the papacy, and the French kings would be called “the Most Christian Kings of France” (Rex Christianissimus).
The Franks embraced the Christian Gallo-Roman heritage, and ancient Gaul was progressively renamed Francia ("Land of the Franks"). The Germanic Franks adopted Romanic languages, except in northern Gaul where Roman settlements were less dense and where Germanic languages emerged. Clovis made Paris his capital and established the Merovingian dynasty but his kingdom would not survive his death. The Franks treated land purely as a private possession and divided it among their heirs, so four kingdoms emerged around Paris, Orléans, Soissons, and Rheims. The last Merovingian kings, sometimes referred as Rois fainéants ("lazy kings"), lost effective power to their mayors of the palace.
The mayor of the palace, Charles Martel, defeated a Muslim invasion from Hispania at the Battle of Tours (732) and earned respect and power within the Frankish Kingdoms. His son Pepin the Short eventually seized the crown of Francia from the discredited Merovingians and founded the Carolingian dynasty. Pippin's son, Charlemagne reunited the Frankish Kingdoms and built a vast empire across Western and Central Europe.
Joan of Arc led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War which paved the way for the final victory.
Proclaimed "Roman Emperor" by Pope Leo III, Charlemagne tried to revive the Western Roman Empire and its cultural grandeur, from its Palace of Aachen. The efficient administration of this immense empire was ensured by high civil servants, carrying the, still non-hereditary, titles of counts (in charge of a County), marquis (in charge of a March), dukes (military commanders), etc.
Charlemagne's son Louis I (emperor 814–840) kept the empire united; however, this Carolingian Empire would not survive Louis I's death. The Empire was divided between Louis' three sons, with the Treaty of Verdun (843), into East Francia to Louis the German, Middle Francia to Lothair I and West Francia to Charles the Bald. Western Francia approximated the area occupied by modern France and was the precursor to modern France.
Continually threatened by Viking invasions, France became a very decentralised state: the nobility's titles and lands became hereditary, the authority of the king became more religious than effective and constantly challenged by powerful noblemen. Thus was established feudalism in France. Some of the king's vassals would grow so powerful that they would become a threat to the king. By example, after the Battle of Hastings, in 1066, the Duke of Normandy added "King of England" to his titles, becoming vassal (as Duke of Normandy) and equal (as king of England) to the king of France.
The Carolingian dynasty ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of France. His descendants, the Direct Capetians, the House of Valois and the House of Bourbon, progressively unified the country through a series of wars, such as the Saintonge War, and dynastic inheritance into a Kingdom of France. Frankish knights took an active part in the various Crusades that were fought, between 1095 and 1291, to restore Christian control over the Holy Land. Crusaders were so predominantely French that the word "crusader" in the Arabic language is simply known as Al-Franj or "The Franks" and Old French became the lingua franca of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The Albigensian Crusade was launched in 1209 to eliminate the heretical Cathars in the south-western area of modern-day France. In the end, the Cathars were exterminated and the autonomous County of Toulouse was annexed. Later Kings expanded their territory to cover over half of modern continental France, including most of the North, Centre and West of France. Meanwhile, the royal authority became more and more assertive, centred around a hierarchically conceived society distinguishing nobility, clergy, and commoners.
The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre (1572) was the climax of the French Wars of Religion which were brought to an end by the Edict of Nantes (1598).
Charles IV (The Fair) died without an heir in 1328. Under the rules of the Salic law adopted in 1316, the crown of France could not pass to a woman, nor could the line of kinship pass through the female line. Accordingly, the crown passed to the cousin of Charles, Philip of Valois, rather than through the female line to Charles' nephew, Edward, who would soon become Edward III of England. In the reign of Philip of Valois, the French monarchy reached the height of its medieval power.
However, Philip's seat on the throne was contested by Edward III of England and in 1337, on the eve of the first wave of the Black Death, England and France went to war in what would become known as the Hundred Years' War. The exact boundaries changed greatly with time, but French landholdings of the English Kings remained extensive for decades.
With charismatic leaders, such as Joan of Arc and La Hire, strong French counterattacks won back all English continental territories, except Calais which was captured in 1558 by the French. Like the rest of Europe, France was struck by the Black Death. Around 1340, France had a population of about 17 million, which by the end of the pandemic had declined by about one-half.
Louis XIV of France, the "sun king" was the absolute monarch of France and made France the leading European power.
The French Renaissance saw a long set of wars, known as the Italian Wars, between the Kingdom of France and the powerful Holy Roman Empire. It saw also the first standardization of the French language, which would become the official language of France and the language of Europe's aristocracy. French explorers, such as Jacques Cartier or Samuel de Champlain, claimed lands in the Americas for France, paving the way for the expansion of the First French colonial empire.
The rise of Protestantism in Europe led France to a civil war known as the French Wars of Religion, where, in the most notorious incident, thousands of Huguenots were murdered in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572. The wars of Religion were ended in France by Henry IV's Edict of Nantes which granted some freedom of religion to the Huguenots. Henry IV was eventually murdered by a Catholic fanatic and Huguenot rebellions persisted until the 18th century.
Under Louis XIII, the energetic actions of Cardinal Richelieu reinforced the centralization of the state, the royal power and French dominance in Europe, foreshadowing the reign of Louis XIV. During Louis XIV's minority and the regency of Queen Anne and Cardinal Mazarin, a period of trouble known as the Fronde occurred in France, then at war with Spain. This rebellion was driven by the great feudal lords and sovereign courts in reaction to the rise of royal power in France.
The monarchy reached its height during the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV. By turning powerful feudal lords into courtiers in Versailles, Louis XIV's personal power became unchallenged. Remembered for his numerous wars, he made France the leading European power. At this time, France possessed the largest population in Europe (see Demographics of France) and had tremendous influence over European politics, economy, and culture. French became the most used language in diplomacy, science, literature and international affairs, until the 20th century. In addition, France obtained many overseas possessions in the Americas, Africa and Asia. However Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, forcing thousands of Huguenots to exile.
Under Louis XV, France lost New France and most of its Indian possessions after its defeat during the Seven Years' War, which ended in 1763. However its continental territory kept growing, with notable acquisitions such as Lorraine (1766) and Corsica (1770). An unpopular king, Louis XV's weak rule, his ill-advised financial, political and military decisions and his debauchery discredited the monarchy and arguably led to the French Revolution, 15 years after his death.
Louis XVI, Louis XV's grandson, actively supported the Americans seeking independence from Great Britain (realized in the 1783 Treaty of Paris). The example of the American Revolution and the financial crisis which followed France's involvement in the war were some of the many contributing factors to the French Revolution.
Much of the Enlightenment occurred in French intellectual circles, and major scientific breakthroughs and inventions, such as the discovery of oxygen (1778) and the first hot air balloon carrying passengers (1783), were achieved by French scientists in the 18th century. Famous French explorers, such as Bougainville and Lapérouse took part in the discovering of the world through maritime expeditions around the globe. The Enlightenment philosophy, in which reason was advocated as the primary source for legitimacy and authority, undermined the absolute monarchy and prepared the French Revolution.
Monarchy to republic:
After the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, the absolute monarchy was abolished and France became a constitutional monarchy. Through the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, France established fundamental rights for French citizens and all men without exception. The Declaration affirms "the natural and imprescriptible rights of man" to "liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression". It called for the destruction of aristocratic privileges by proclaiming an end to exemptions from taxation, freedom and equal rights for all men, and access to public office based on talent rather than birth. The monarchy was restricted, and all citizens were to have the right to take part in the legislative process. Freedom of speech and press were declared, and arbitrary arrests outlawed. The Declaration also asserted the principles of popular sovereignty, in contrast to the divine right of kings that characterized the French monarchy, and social equality among citizens, eliminating the privileges of the nobility and clergy.
Napoleon I, Empereur des Français, built a Great Empire across Europe. He helped to spread the French revolutionary ideals and his legal reforms had a major influence worldwide.
While Louis XVI, as a constitutional king, enjoyed broad popularity among the population, his disastrous flight to Varennes seemed to justify the rumors that the king tied his hopes of political salvation to the dubious prospects of foreign invasion. The credibility of the king was deeply undermined and the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic became an ever increasing possibility.
As European monarchies attacked the new régime, to restore the French absolute monarchy, the Duke of Brunswick, commanding general of the Austro–Prussian Army, issued a Manifesto, in which he threatened the destruction of Paris if any harm should come to the king or his family. The foreign threat exacerbated France's political turmoil and deepened the passion and sense of urgency among the various factions. Mob violences occurred during the insurrection of the 10 August 1792 and the following month. As a result of the spike in public violence and the political instability of the constitutional monarchy, the Republic was proclaimed on 22 September 1792.
Louis XVI (and later his wife Marie Antoinette) was convicted of treason and guillotined in 1793. Facing increasing pressures from European monarchies, internal guerrilla wars and counterrevolutions (like the War in the Vendée or the Chouannerie), the young Republic fell into the Reign of Terror. Between 1793 and 1794, 16,000 to 40,000 persons were executed. In Western France, the civil war between the Bleus (the "Blues", supporters of the Revolution) and the Blancs (the "Whites", supporters of the Monarchy) last from 1793 to 1796 and cost around 450,000 lives (200,000 Patriotes and 250,000 Vendéens). Both foreign armies and French counterrevolutionnaries were crushed and the French Republic survived. Furthermore, the French Republic extended greatly its boundaries and established "Sister Republics" in the surrounding countries. As the threat of a foreign invasion receded and that France became mostly pacified, the Thermidorian reaction put an end to the Terror and to Robespierre's dictature.
After a short-lived governmental scheme, Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the Republic in 1799 and was appointed First Consul and later Emperor of the First Empire (1804–1814/1815). As a continuation of the wars sparked by the European monarchies against the French Republic, changing sets of European Coalitions declared wars to Napoleon's French Empire. His armies conquered most of continental Europe, with members of the Bonaparte family being appointed as monarchs in some of the newly established kingdoms. These victories led to the worldwide expansion of French revolutionary ideals and reforms, such as the Metric system, the Napoleonic Code or the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. After the catastrophic Russian campaign, Napoleon was finally defeated and the Bourbon monarchy restored. About a million Frenchmen died during the Napoleonic Wars.
After his brief return from exile, Napoleon was finally defeated in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, the monarchy was re-established (1815–1830), but with new constitutional limitations. The discredited Bourbon dynasty was overthrown by the civil uprising of 1830, which established the constitutional July Monarchy, which lasted until 1848, when the French Second Republic was proclaimed, in the wake of the 1848 European revolutions. In 1852, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, Napoleon I’s nephew and president of the French Republic, was proclaimed emperor of the second Empire, as Napoleon III. He multiplied French interventions abroad, especially in Crimea, in Mexico and Italy, which resulted in the annexation of Savoy and Nice. Napoleon III was eventually unseated following defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and his regime was replaced by the Third Republic.
France had colonial possessions, in various forms, since the beginning of the 17th century to the 18th century. But in the 19th and 20th centuries, its global overseas colonial empire extended greatly and culminated as the second largest in the world behind the British Empire. At its peak, between 1919 and 1939, the second French colonial empire extended over 12,347,000 square kilometres (4,767,000 sq mi) of land. Including metropolitan France, the total area of land under French sovereignty reached 12,898,000 square kilometres (4,980,000 sq mi) in the 1920s and 1930s, which is 8.6% of the world's land area.
France was a member of the Triple Entente when World War I broke out. A small part of Northern France was occupied, but France and its allies eventually emerged victorious against the Central Powers, at a tremendous human and material cost: the first war left 1.4 million French soldiers dead. The interbellum phase was marked by intense international tensions an a variety of social reforms introduced by the Popular Front government (Annual leave, working time reduction, women in Government...). Following the German Blitzkrieg campaign in World War II, metropolitan France was divided in an occupation zone in the north and Vichy France, a newly established authoritarian regime collaborating with Germany, in the south. The Allies and the French Resistance eventually emerged victorious from the Axis powers and French sovereignty was restored.
The Fourth Republic was established after World War II and saw spectacular economic growth (les Trente Glorieuses). France was one of the founding members of the NATO (1949), which was the Western counterpart of the Warsaw Pact system of collective defence. France attempted to regain control of French Indochina but was defeated by the Viet Minh at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Only months later, France faced a new conflict in Algeria. The debate over whether or not to keep control of Algeria, then home to over one million European settlers, wracked the country and nearly led to civil war. In 1958, the weak and unstable Fourth Republic gave way to the Fifth Republic, which contained a strengthened Presidency. In the latter role, Charles de Gaulle managed to keep the country together while taking steps to end the war. The Algerian War was concluded with peace negotiations in 1962 that led to Algerian independence. France granted independence progressively to its colonies, the last one being Vanuatu in 1980. A vestige of the colonial empire are the French overseas departments and territories that include French Guiana, Martinique and French Polynesia.
In the wake of a worldwide series of protests, the May 1968 revolt, although a political failure for the protesters, had an enormous social impact. In France, it is considered to be the watershed moment when a conservative moral ideal (religion, patriotism, respect for authority) shifted towards a more liberal moral ideal.
France has been at the forefront of the European Union member states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to create a more unified and capable European Union political, defence, and security apparatus.