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  • Französische Republik
  • French Republic
  • República Francesa

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République française

France

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  Summary  

The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is often referred to as l’Hexagone ("The Hexagon") because of the geometric shape of its territory. It is the largest western European country and it possesses the second-largest exclusive economic zone in the world, covering 11,035,000 km2 , just behind that of the United States .

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 colonised great parts of North America and Southeast Asia; during the 19th and early 20th centuries, France built the second largest colonial empire of the time, including large portions of North, West and Central Africa, Southeast Asia, and many Caribbean and Pacific Islands.

France has its main ideals expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The French Republic is defined as indivisible, secular, democratic and social by its constitution. France is one of the world's most developed countries, it possesses the world's fifth largest economy measured by GDP, the ninth-largest economy measured by purchasing power parity and is Europe's second largest economy by nominal GDP. France is the wealthiest European (and the world's 4th) nation in aggregate household wealth. France enjoys a high standard of living as well as a high public education level, and has also one of the world's highest life expectancies. France has been listed as the world's "best overall health care" provider by the World Health Organization. It is the most visited country in the world, receiving 82 million foreign tourists annually.

France has the world's third largest nominal military budget, the third largest military in NATO and EU's largest army. France also possesses the third largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world – with around 300 active warheads – and the world's second largest diplomatic corps .

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 2011, France was listed 20th on the Human Development Index and 24th on the Corruption Perceptions Index .

  History  

  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 .

At the end of the Last glacial period , 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 .

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.


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 and his troops made their way to Italy 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. The Gauls continued to harass the region until 345 BC, when they entered into a formal peace treaty with Rome. But the Romans and the 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 over time 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.

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 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" 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, 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, 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 , Alamannia (North-East), Burgundia , Septimania , Visigothic Aquitania ) and a remaining Gallo-Roman territory, known as the Kingdom of Syagrius . Simultaneously, Celtic Britons, fleeing the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britannia, settled the western part of Armorica . As a result, the Armorican peninsula was renamed Brittany, Celtic culture was revived and independent petty kingdoms arose in this region.

  Middle Ages to revolution

The pagan Franks, from whom the ancient name of “Francie” was derived, originally settled the northern part of Gaul, but under Clovis I conquered most of the other kingdoms in northern and central Gaul. In 498, Clovis I was the first Germanic conqueror after the fall of the Roman Empire to convert to Catholic Christianity, rather than Arianism; thus France was given the title “Eldest daughter of the Church” (La fille aînée de l’Église) by the papacy, and the French kings would be called “the Most Christian Kings of France” .

The Franks embraced the Christian Gallo-Roman heritage and ancient Gaul was eventually 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 from Clovis's: Paris, Orléans, Soissons, and Rheims. The last Merovingian kings, sometimes referred as Rois fainéants ("lazy kings"), effectively lost power to their mayors of the palace. One mayor of the palace, Charles Martel, defeated a Muslim invasion force from Hispania at the Battle of Tours and earned respect and power within the Frankish kingdoms. His son, Pepin the Short, eventually seized the crown of Francia from the weakened Merovingians and founded the Carolingian dynasty. Pippin's son, Charlemagne, reunited the Frankish kingdoms and built a vast empire across Western and Central Europe.

Proclaimed Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III and thus establishing in earnest the French government's longtime historical association with the Roman Catholic Church, Charlemagne tried to revive the Western Roman Empire and its cultural grandeur, from his Palace of Aachen. The efficient administration of this immense empire was ensured by high-level civil servants, carrying the, then non-hereditary, titles of counts , marquis , dukes , etc.

Charlemagne's son, Louis I (emperor 814–840), kept the empire united; however, this Carolingian Empire would not survive his death. In 843, under the Treaty of Verdun, the empire was divided between Louis' three sons, with East Francia going to Louis the German, Middle Francia to Lothair I, and West Francia to Charles the Bald. Western Francia approximated the area occupied by, and was the precursor, to modern France.

During the course of the 9th and 10th centuries, continually threatened by Viking invasions, France became a very decentralised state: the nobility's titles and lands became hereditary, and the authority of the king became more religious than secular and thus was less effective and constantly challenged by powerful noblemen. Thus was established feudalism in France. Over time, some of the king's vassals would grow so powerful that they often posed a threat to the king. For example, after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the Duke of Normandy added "King of England" to his titles, becoming both the vassal to and the equal of 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 the Kingdom of France. French knights took an active part in many of the Crusades that were fought between 1095 and 1291 to restore Christian control over the Holy Land. Crusaders were so predominately 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 into the kingdom of France. 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.

Charles IV 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 Philip of Valois, a cousin of Charles, rather than through the female line to Charles' nephew, Edward, who would soon become Edward III of England. During 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 approximately 17 million, which by the end of the pandemic had declined by about one-half.

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 also saw 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 by Henry IV's Edict of Nantes, which granted some freedom of religion to the Huguenots. Henry IV was later 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, which was at that time at war with Spain. This rebellion was driven by the great feudal lords and sovereign courts as a reaction to the rise of royal power in France.

The monarchy reached its peak during the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV. By turning powerful feudal lords into courtiers at the Palace of Versailles, Louis XIV's personal power became unchallenged. Remembered for his numerous wars, he made France the leading European power of the time. At this time, France possessed the largest population in Europe and had tremendous influence over European politics, economy, and culture. French became the most-used language in diplomacy, science, literature and international affairs, and remained so until the 20th century. In addition, France obtained many overseas possessions in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Louis XIV also 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 in the Seven Years' War, which ended in 1763. Its continental territory kept growing, however, with notable acquisitions such as Lorraine and Corsica . 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, who were seeking their independence from Great Britain . The example of the American Revolution and the financial crisis which followed France's involvement in the war were two 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 and the first hot air balloon carrying passengers , were achieved by French scientists in the 18th century. Famous French explorers, such as Bougainville and Lapérouse, took part in the European and American voyages of scientific exploration through maritime expeditions around the globe. The Enlightenment philosophy, in which reason is advocated as the primary source for legitimacy and authority, undermined the power of and support for the monarchy and helped pave the way for 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.

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 gathered against 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 and war was declared against Austria the 20 April 1792. 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 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. The abolition of slavery and the male universal suffrage, enacted during this radical phase of the revolution, were cancelled by subsequent governments.

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 French 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), 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. The abolition of slavery and the male universal suffrage, both briefly enacted during the French Revolution were finally re-enacted in 1848. In 1852, the president of the French Republic Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, Napoleon I’s nephew, 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 of land. Including metropolitan France, the total area of land under French sovereignty reached 12,898,000 square kilometres 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 . 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 . The universal suffrage was extended to women in 1944. France was one of the founding members of the NATO , 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 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.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Francia", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.