France

France

Overview
The French Republic (commonly known as France ( or ˈ ; fʁɑ̃s), is a unitary
Unitary state
A unitary state is a state governed as one single unit in which the central government is supreme and any administrative divisions exercise only powers that their central government chooses to delegate...

 semi-presidential
Semi-presidential system
The semi-presidential system is a system of government in which a president and a prime minister are both active participants in the day-to-day administration of the state...

 republic in Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 with several overseas territories and islands
Overseas departments and territories of France
The French Overseas Departments and Territories consist broadly of French-administered territories outside of the European continent. These territories have varying legal status and different levels of autonomy, although all have representation in the Parliament of France , and consequently the...

 located on other continent
Continent
A continent is one of several very large landmasses on Earth. They are generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, with seven regions commonly regarded as continents—they are : Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.Plate tectonics is...

s and in the Indian
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

, Pacific, and Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 oceans. Metropolitan France
Metropolitan France
Metropolitan France is the part of France located in Europe. It can also be described as mainland France or as the French mainland and the island of Corsica...

 extends from the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 to the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 and the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

, 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.
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Timeline

303   On a voyage preaching the gospel, Saint Fermin of Pamplona is beheaded in Amiens, France.

451   The Battle of Châlons takes place in North Eastern France. Flavius Aetius's victory over Attila the Hun in a day of combat, is considered to be the largest battle in the ancient world.

732   Battle of Tours: Near Poitiers, France, the leader of the Franks, Charles Martel and his men, defeat a large army of Moors, stopping the Muslims from spreading into Western Europe. The governor of Cordoba, Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, is killed during the battle.

987   Hugh Capet is crowned King of France, the first of the Capetian dynasty that would rule France till the French Revolution in 1792.

1140   French scholar Peter Abelard is found guilty of heresy.

1180   Philip Augustus becomes king of France.

1199   Richard I is wounded by a crossbow bolt while fighting France, leading to his death on April 6.

1214   Battle of Bouvines: in France, Philip II of France defeats John of England.

1259   Kings Louis IX of France and Henry III of England agree to the Treaty of Paris, in which Henry renounces his claims to French-controlled territory on continental Europe (including Normandy) in exchange for Louis withdrawing his support for English rebels.

1274   In France, the Second Council of Lyons opens to regulate the election of the Pope.

 
Encyclopedia
The French Republic (commonly known as France ( or ˈ ; fʁɑ̃s), is a unitary
Unitary state
A unitary state is a state governed as one single unit in which the central government is supreme and any administrative divisions exercise only powers that their central government chooses to delegate...

 semi-presidential
Semi-presidential system
The semi-presidential system is a system of government in which a president and a prime minister are both active participants in the day-to-day administration of the state...

 republic in Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 with several overseas territories and islands
Overseas departments and territories of France
The French Overseas Departments and Territories consist broadly of French-administered territories outside of the European continent. These territories have varying legal status and different levels of autonomy, although all have representation in the Parliament of France , and consequently the...

 located on other continent
Continent
A continent is one of several very large landmasses on Earth. They are generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, with seven regions commonly regarded as continents—they are : Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.Plate tectonics is...

s and in the Indian
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

, Pacific, and Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 oceans. Metropolitan France
Metropolitan France
Metropolitan France is the part of France located in Europe. It can also be described as mainland France or as the French mainland and the island of Corsica...

 extends from the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 to the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 and the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

, 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
Exclusive Economic Zone
Under the law of the sea, an exclusive economic zone is a seazone over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, including production of energy from water and wind. It stretches from the seaward edge of the state's territorial sea out to 200 nautical...

 in the world, covering 11,035,000 km2 (4,260,000 sq mi), just behind that of the United States (11,351,000 km2 / 4,383,000 sq mi).

Over the past 500 years, France has been a major power with strong cultural
Culture of France
The culture of France and of the French people has been shaped by geography, by profound historical events, and by foreign and internal forces and groups. France, and in particular Paris, has played an important role as a center of high culture and of decorative arts since the seventeenth...

, economic
Economy of France
France is the world's fifth largest economy by nominal figures and the ninth largest economy by PPP figures. It is the second largest economy in Europe in nominal figures and third largest economy in Europe in PPP figures...

, military and political
Foreign relations of France
A charter member of the United Nations, France holds one of the permanent seats in the Security Council and is a member of most of its specialized and related agencies.-Nicolas Sarkozy:...

 influence in Europe and around the world. During the 17th and 18th centuries, France colonised great parts of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 and Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

; during the 19th and early 20th centuries, France built the second largest colonial empire
French colonial empire
The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

 of the time, including large portions of North
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

, West
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

 and Central Africa
Central Africa
Central Africa is a core region of the African continent which includes Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda....

, Southeast Asia, and many Caribbean and Pacific Islands
Pacific Islands
The Pacific Islands comprise 20,000 to 30,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean. The islands are also sometimes collectively called Oceania, although Oceania is sometimes defined as also including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago....

.

France has its main ideals expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is a fundamental document of the French Revolution, defining the individual and collective rights of all the estates of the realm as universal. Influenced by the doctrine of "natural right", the rights of man are held to be universal: valid...

. The French Republic is defined as indivisible, secular, democratic and social by its constitution. France is one of the world's most developed countries
Developed country
A developed country is a country that has a high level of development according to some criteria. Which criteria, and which countries are classified as being developed, is a contentious issue...

, 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
Standard of living
Standard of living is generally measured by standards such as real income per person and poverty rate. Other measures such as access and quality of health care, income growth inequality and educational standards are also used. Examples are access to certain goods , or measures of health such as...

 as well as a high public education level
Education Index
This article contains information based on the pre-2010 Human Development Reports. The HDI and its education component have changed in 2010.The United Nations publishes a Human Development Index every year, which consists of the Education index, GDP Index and Life Expectancy Index...

, 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
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. Established on 7 April 1948, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health...

. 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 (second only to that of the United States).

France is a founding member of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and a member of the Francophonie, the G8
G8
The Group of Eight is a forum, created by France in 1975, for the governments of seven major economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1997, the group added Russia, thus becoming the G8...

, G20
G-20 major economies
The Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors is a group of finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 major economies: 19 countries plus the European Union, which is represented by the President of the European Council and by the European Central Bank...

, NATO, OECD, WTO, and the Latin Union
Latin Union
The Latin Union is an international organization of nations that use Romance languages, with the aim of protecting, projecting, and promoting the common cultural heritage and unifying identities of the Latin, and Latin-influenced, world. It was created in 1954 in Madrid, Spain, and has existed as a...

. It is also a founding and leading member state of the European Union
Member State of the European Union
A member state of the European Union is a state that is party to treaties of the European Union and has thereby undertaken the privileges and obligations that EU membership entails. Unlike membership of an international organisation, being an EU member state places a country under binding laws in...

 and the largest one by area. In 2011, France was listed 20th on the Human Development Index
Human Development Index
The Human Development Index is a composite statistic used to rank countries by level of "human development" and separate "very high human development", "high human development", "medium human development", and "low human development" countries...

 and 24th on the Corruption Perceptions Index
Corruption Perceptions Index
Since 1995, Transparency International publishes the Corruption Perceptions Index annually ranking countries "by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys." The CPI generally defines corruption as "the misuse of public power for private...

 (2010).

Etymology


The name "France" comes from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 Francia, which means "country of the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

". There are various theories as to the origin of the name of the Franks. One is that it is derived from the Proto-Germanic
Proto-Germanic language
Proto-Germanic , or Common Germanic, as it is sometimes known, is the unattested, reconstructed proto-language of all the Germanic languages, such as modern English, Frisian, Dutch, Afrikaans, German, Luxembourgish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, and Swedish.The Proto-Germanic language is...

 word frankon which translates as javelin or lance as the throwing axe of the Franks was known as a francisca
Francisca
The francisca is a throwing axe used as a weapon during the Early Middle Ages by the Franks, among whom it was a characteristic national weapon at the time of the Merovingians from about 500 to 750 AD and is known to have been used during the reign of Charlemagne .Although generally associated...

. Another proposed etymology is that in an ancient Germanic language
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

, Frank means free as opposed to slave
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

.

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 nomad
Nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

ic life of hunters-gatherers
Hunter-gatherer
A hunter-gatherer or forage society is one in which most or all food is obtained from wild plants and animals, in contrast to agricultural societies which rely mainly on domesticated species. Hunting and gathering was the ancestral subsistence mode of Homo, and all modern humans were...

. France counts a large number of decorated caves from the upper Paleolithic
Upper Paleolithic
The Upper Paleolithic is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. Very broadly it dates to between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, roughly coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity and before the advent of...

 era, including one of the most famous and best preserved: Lascaux
Lascaux
Lascaux is the setting of a complex of caves in southwestern France famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings. The original caves are located near the village of Montignac, in the department of Dordogne. They contain some of the best-known Upper Paleolithic art. These paintings are estimated to be...

 (Dordogne
Dordogne
Dordogne is a départment in south-west France. The départment is located in the region of Aquitaine, between the Loire valley and the High Pyrénées named after the great river Dordogne that runs through it...

, 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
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 era and its inhabitants became sedentary
Sedentary lifestyle
Sedentary lifestyle is a medical term used to denote a type of lifestyle with no or irregular physical activity. A person who lives a sedentary lifestyle may colloquially be known as a couch potato. It is commonly found in both the developed and developing world...

. 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 megalith
Megalith
A megalith is a large stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. Megalithic describes structures made of such large stones, utilizing an interlocking system without the use of mortar or cement.The word 'megalith' comes from the Ancient...

ic sites from the Neolithic period, including the exceptionally dense Carnac stones
Carnac stones
The Carnac stones are an exceptionally dense collection of megalithic sites around the French village of Carnac, in Brittany, consisting of alignments, dolmens, tumuli and single menhirs. The more than 3,000 prehistoric standing stones were hewn from local rock and erected by the pre-Celtic people...

 site in Brittany
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

 (c. 3,300 BC).

In 600 BC, Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

n Greeks
Greeks in pre-Roman Gaul
The Greeks in pre-Roman Gaul have a significant history of settlement, trade, cultural influence, and armed conflict in the Celtic territory of Gaul , starting from the 6th century BCE during the Greek Archaic period...

, originating from Phocaea
Phocaea
Phocaea, or Phokaia, was an ancient Ionian Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia. Greek colonists from Phocaea founded the colony of Massalia in 600 BC, Emporion in 575 BC and Elea in 540 BC.-Geography:Phocaea was the northernmost...

, founded the colony of Massalia (present-day Marseille
Marseille
Marseille , known in antiquity as Massalia , is the second largest city in France, after Paris, with a population of 852,395 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Marseille extends beyond the city limits with a population of over 1,420,000 on an area of...

), on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

, 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
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 emerged at that time; it corresponds to the territories of Celtic settlement ranging between the Rhine, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

 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
Tribal chief
A tribal chief is the leader of a tribal society or chiefdom. Tribal societies with social stratification under a single leader emerged in the Neolithic period out of earlier tribal structures with little stratification, and they remained prevalent throughout the Iron Age.In the case of ...

 Brennus
Brennus (4th century BC)
Brennus was a chieftain of the Senones, a Gallic tribe originating from the modern areas of France known as Seine-et-Marne, Loiret, and Yonne, but which had expanded to occupy northern Italy....

 and his troops made their way to Italy through the Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

, defeated the Romans in the Battle of the Allia
Battle of the Allia
The Battle of the Allia was a battle of the first Gallic invasion of Rome. The battle was fought near the Allia river: the defeat of the Roman army opened the route for the Gauls to sack Rome. It was fought in 390/387 BC.-Background:...

, and besieged and ransom
Ransom
Ransom is the practice of holding a prisoner or item to extort money or property to secure their release, or it can refer to the sum of money involved.In an early German law, a similar concept was called bad influence...

ed 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
Provence
Provence ; Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm) is a region of south eastern France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. It is part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur...

 in French. Brennus' siege of Rome was still remembered by Romans, when Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 conquered the remainder of Gaul and overcame a revolt carried out by the Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix
Vercingetorix
Vercingetorix was the chieftain of the Arverni tribe, who united the Gauls in an ultimately unsuccessful revolt against Roman forces during the last phase of Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars....

 in 52 BC.

Gaul was divided by Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 into Roman provinces, the principal ones being Gallia Narbonensis
Gallia Narbonensis
Gallia Narbonensis was a Roman province located in what is now Languedoc and Provence, in southern France. It was also known as Gallia Transalpina , which was originally a designation for that part of Gaul lying across the Alps from Italia and it contained a western region known as Septimania...

 in the south, Gallia Aquitania
Gallia Aquitania
Gallia Aquitania was a province of the Roman Empire, bordered by the provinces of Gallia Lugdunensis, Gallia Narbonensis, and Hispania Tarraconensis...

 in the south-west, Gallia Lugdunensis
Gallia Lugdunensis
Gallia Lugdunensis was a province of the Roman Empire in what is now the modern country of France, part of the Celtic territory of Gaul. It is named after its capital Lugdunum , possibly Roman Europe's major city west of Italy, and a major imperial mint...

 in the center and Gallia Belgica
Gallia Belgica
Gallia Belgica was a Roman province located in what is now the southern part of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, northeastern France, and western Germany. The indigenous population of Gallia Belgica, the Belgae, consisted of a mixture of Celtic and Germanic tribes...

 in the north. Many cities were founded during the Gallo-Roman period
Roman Gaul
Roman Gaul consisted of an area of provincial rule in the Roman Empire, in modern day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and western Germany. Roman control of the area lasted for less than 500 years....

, including Lugdunum (present-day Lyon
Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

), which is considered to be the capital of the Gauls. These cities were built in the traditional Roman style, with a forum
Roman Forum
The Roman Forum is a rectangular forum surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space, originally a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum...

, a theatre, a circus
Circus
A circus is commonly a travelling company of performers that may include clowns, acrobats, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, hoopers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, unicyclists and other stunt-oriented artists...

, an amphitheatre
Amphitheatre
An amphitheatre is an open-air venue used for entertainment and performances.There are two similar, but distinct, types of structure for which the word "amphitheatre" is used: Ancient Roman amphitheatres were large central performance spaces surrounded by ascending seating, and were commonly used...

 and thermal bath
Thermal bath
A thermal bath is a warm body of water. It is often referred to as a spa, which is traditionally used to mean a place where the water is believed to have special health-giving properties, though note that many spas offer cold water or mineral water treatments.A thermal bath may be part of a...

s. The Gauls mixed with Roman settlers and eventually adopted Roman
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

 speech (Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, from which the French language evolved) and Roman culture. The Roman polytheism
Religion in ancient Rome
Religion in ancient Rome encompassed the religious beliefs and cult practices regarded by the Romans as indigenous and central to their identity as a people, as well as the various and many cults imported from other peoples brought under Roman rule. Romans thus offered cult to innumerable deities...

 merged with the Gallic paganism
Celtic polytheism
Celtic polytheism, commonly known as Celtic paganism, refers to the religious beliefs and practices adhered to by the Iron Age peoples of Western Europe now known as the Celts, roughly between 500 BCE and 500 CE, spanning the La Tène period and the Roman era, and in the case of the Insular Celts...

 into the same syncretism
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

.

Around the 3rd century AD, Roman Gaul underwent a serious crisis with its "limes
Limes
A limes was a border defense or delimiting system of Ancient Rome. It marked the boundaries of the Roman Empire.The Latin noun limes had a number of different meanings: a path or balk delimiting fields, a boundary line or marker, any road or path, any channel, such as a stream channel, or any...

" (fortified borders protecting the Empire) crossed on several occasions by Barbarian
Barbarian
Barbarian and savage are terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage...

s. The weakness of the central imperial power
Crisis of the Third Century
The Crisis of the Third Century was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression...

, at this time, led Gallo-Roman leaders to proclaim the independence of the short-lived Gallic Empire
Gallic Empire
The Gallic Empire is the modern name for a breakaway realm that existed from 260 to 274. It originated during the Roman Empire's Crisis of the Third Century....

, 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
Migration Period
The Migration Period, also called the Barbarian Invasions , was a period of intensified human migration in Europe that occurred from c. 400 to 800 CE. This period marked the transition from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages...

 started again, and Germanic tribes
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

, such as the Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

, Suebi
Suebi
The Suebi or Suevi were a group of Germanic peoples who were first mentioned by Julius Caesar in connection with Ariovistus' campaign, c...

 and Alans
Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

 crossed the Rhine and settled in Gaul, Spain and other parts of the collapsing Roman Empire
Decline of the Roman Empire
The decline of the Roman Empire refers to the gradual societal collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Many theories of causality prevail, but most concern the disintegration of political, economic, military, and other social institutions, in tandem with foreign invasions and usurpers from within the...

.

At the end of the Antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

 period, ancient Gaul was divided into several Germanic kingdoms (Early Francia (North), Alamannia
Alamannia
Alamannia or Alemannia was the territory inhabited by the Germanic Alamanni after they broke through the Roman limes in 213.The Alamanni expanded from the Main basin during the 3rd century, raiding the Roman provinces and settling on the left bank of the Rhine from the 4th century.Ruled by...

 (North-East), Burgundia
Burgundians
The Burgundians were an East Germanic tribe which may have emigrated from mainland Scandinavia to the island of Bornholm, whose old form in Old Norse still was Burgundarholmr , and from there to mainland Europe...

 (East), Septimania
Septimania
Septimania was the western region of the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis that passed under the control of the Visigoths in 462, when Septimania was ceded to their king, Theodoric II. Under the Visigoths it was known as simply Gallia or Narbonensis. It corresponded roughly with the modern...

 (South), Visigothic Aquitania
Visigothic Kingdom
The Visigothic Kingdom was a kingdom which occupied southwestern France and the Iberian Peninsula from the 5th to 8th century AD. One of the Germanic successor states to the Western Roman Empire, it was originally created by the settlement of the Visigoths under King Wallia in the province of...

 (South East)) and a remaining Gallo-Roman territory, known as the Kingdom of Syagrius
Domain of Soissons
The Domain of Soissons, by later writers called the Kingdom of Soissons, Kingdom of Aegidius or the Kingdom of Syagrius, was a rump state of the Western Roman Empire in northern Gaul for some 25 years during Late Antiquity....

 (West). Simultaneously, Celtic Britons
Britons (historical)
The Britons were the Celtic people culturally dominating Great Britain from the Iron Age through the Early Middle Ages. They spoke the Insular Celtic language known as British or Brythonic...

, fleeing the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britannia
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

, settled the western part of Armorica
Armorica
Armorica or Aremorica is the name given in ancient times to the part of Gaul that includes the Brittany peninsula and the territory between the Seine and Loire rivers, extending inland to an indeterminate point and down the Atlantic coast...

 (far West of Gaul). As a result, the Armorican peninsula was renamed Brittany
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

, Celtic culture was revived and independent petty kingdom
Petty kingdom
A petty kingdom is one of a number of small kingdoms, described as minor or "petty" by contrast to an empire or unified kingdom that either preceded or succeeded it...

s arose in this region.

Middle Age to Revolution



The pagan Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

, from whom the ancient name of “Francie” was derived, originally settled the northeastern part of Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

, but under Clovis I
Clovis I
Clovis Leuthwig was the first King of the Franks to unite all the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the leadership from a group of royal chieftains, to rule by kings, ensuring that the kingship was held by his heirs. He was also the first Catholic King to rule over Gaul . He was the son...

 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
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

; 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” (Rex Christianissimus).

The Franks embraced the Christian Gallo-Roman heritage
Gallo-Roman culture
The term Gallo-Roman describes the Romanized culture of Gaul under the rule of the Roman Empire. This was characterized by the Gaulish adoption or adaptation of Roman mores and way of life in a uniquely Gaulish context...

 and ancient Gaul was eventually renamed Francia ("Land of the Franks"). The Germanic Franks adopted Romanic languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

, except in northern Gaul where Roman settlements were less dense and where Germanic languages
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

 emerged. Clovis made Paris his capital and established the Merovingian dynasty
Merovingian dynasty
The Merovingians were a Salian Frankish dynasty that came to rule the Franks in a region largely corresponding to ancient Gaul from the middle of the 5th century. Their politics involved frequent civil warfare among branches of the family...

, 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 Clocis's: Paris, Orléans
Orléans
-Prehistory and Roman:Cenabum was a Gallic stronghold, one of the principal towns of the Carnutes tribe where the Druids held their annual assembly. It was conquered and destroyed by Julius Caesar in 52 BC, then rebuilt under the Roman Empire...

, Soissons
Soissons
Soissons is a commune in the Aisne department in Picardy in northern France, located on the Aisne River, about northeast of Paris. It is one of the most ancient towns of France, and is probably the ancient capital of the Suessiones...

, and Rheims
Reims
Reims , a city in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, lies east-northeast of Paris. Founded by the Gauls, it became a major city during the period of the Roman Empire....

. The last Merovingian kings, sometimes referred as Rois fainéants
Roi fainéant
Roi fainéant, literally "lazy king", is a French term primarily used to refer to the later kings of the Merovingian dynasty, after they seemed to have lost their initial energy...

("lazy kings"), effectively lost power
Power behind the throne
The phrase power behind the throne refers to a person or group that informally exercises the real power of an office. In politics, it most commonly refers to a spouse, aide, or advisor of a political leader who serves as de facto leader, setting policy through influence or manipulation.The...

 to their mayors of the palace
Mayor of the Palace
Mayor of the Palace was an early medieval title and office, also called majordomo, from the Latin title maior domus , used most notably in the Frankish kingdoms in the 7th and 8th centuries....

. One mayor of the palace, Charles Martel
Charles Martel
Charles Martel , also known as Charles the Hammer, was a Frankish military and political leader, who served as Mayor of the Palace under the Merovingian kings and ruled de facto during an interregnum at the end of his life, using the title Duke and Prince of the Franks. In 739 he was offered the...

, defeated a Muslim invasion force from Hispania
Umayyad conquest of Hispania
The Umayyad conquest of Hispania is the initial Islamic Ummayad Caliphate's conquest, between 711 and 718, of the Christian Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania, centered in the Iberian Peninsula, which was known to them under the Arabic name al-Andalus....

 at the Battle of Tours
Battle of Tours
The Battle of Tours , also called the Battle of Poitiers and in Battle of the Court of the Martyrs, was fought in an area between the cities of Poitiers and Tours, located in north-central France, near the village of Moussais-la-Bataille, about northeast of Poitiers...

 (732) 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
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

, reunited the Frankish kingdoms and built a vast empire across Western
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 and Central Europe.

Proclaimed Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 by Pope Leo III
Pope Leo III
Pope Saint Leo III was Pope from 795 to his death in 816. Protected by Charlemagne from his enemies in Rome, he subsequently strengthened Charlemagne's position by crowning him as Roman Emperor....

, Charlemagne tried to revive the Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

 and its cultural grandeur, from his Palace of Aachen
Palace of Aachen
The Palace of Aachen was a group of buildings with residential, political and religious purposes chosen by Charlemagne to be the centre of power of the Carolingian Empire. The palace was located at the north of the current city of Aachen, today in the German Land of North Rhine-Westphalia...

. The efficient administration of this immense empire was ensured by high-level civil servants, carrying the still non-hereditary titles of count
Count
A count or countess is an aristocratic nobleman in European countries. The word count came into English from the French comte, itself from Latin comes—in its accusative comitem—meaning "companion", and later "companion of the emperor, delegate of the emperor". The adjective form of the word is...

s (in charge of a County), marquis
Marquess
A marquess or marquis is a nobleman of hereditary rank in various European peerages and in those of some of their former colonies. The term is also used to translate equivalent oriental styles, as in imperial China, Japan, and Vietnam...

 (in charge of a March), duke
Duke
A duke or duchess is a member of the nobility, historically of highest rank below the monarch, and historically controlling a duchy...

s (military commanders), etc.

Charlemagne's son, Louis I
Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious , also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of Aquitaine from 781. He was also King of the Franks and co-Emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813...

 (emperor 814–840), kept the empire united; however, this Carolingian Empire would not survive his death. In 843, under the Treaty of Verdun
Treaty of Verdun
The Treaty of Verdun was a treaty between the three surviving sons of Louis the Pious, the son and successor of Charlemagne, which divided the Carolingian Empire into three kingdoms...

, the empire was divided between Louis' three sons, with East Francia going to Louis the German
Louis the German
Louis the German , also known as Louis II or Louis the Bavarian, was a grandson of Charlemagne and the third son of the succeeding Frankish Emperor Louis the Pious and his first wife, Ermengarde of Hesbaye.He received the appellation 'Germanicus' shortly after his death in recognition of the fact...

, Middle Francia
Middle Francia
Middle Francia was an ephemeral Frankish kingdom created by the Treaty of Verdun in 843, which divided the Carolingian Empire among the sons of Louis the Pious...

 to Lothair I
Lothair I
Lothair I or Lothar I was the Emperor of the Romans , co-ruling with his father until 840, and the King of Bavaria , Italy and Middle Francia...

, and West Francia to Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald , Holy Roman Emperor and King of West Francia , was the youngest son of the Emperor Louis the Pious by his second wife Judith.-Struggle against his brothers:He was born on 13 June 823 in Frankfurt, when his elder...

. 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
Viking expansion
The Vikings sailed most of the North Atlantic, reaching south to North Africa and east to Russia, Constantinople and the Middle East, as looters, traders, colonists, and mercenaries...

, 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
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 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
Battle of Hastings
The Battle of Hastings occurred on 14 October 1066 during the Norman conquest of England, between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and the English army under King Harold II...

 in 1066, the Duke of Normandy added "King of England" to his titles, becoming both the vassal to (as Duke of Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

) and the equal of (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
House of Capet
The House of Capet, or The Direct Capetian Dynasty, , also called The House of France , or simply the Capets, which ruled the Kingdom of France from 987 to 1328, was the most senior line of the Capetian dynasty – itself a derivative dynasty from the Robertians. As rulers of France, the dynasty...

, the House of Valois and the House of Bourbon
House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is a European royal house, a branch of the Capetian dynasty . Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Bourbon dynasty also held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma...

, progressively unified the country through a series of wars, such as the Saintonge War
Saintonge War
The Saintonge War was a feudal dynastic encounter that occurred in 1242 between forces of Louis IX of France and those of Henry III of England. Saintonge is the region around Saintes in the center-west of France. The conflict arose because some vassals of Louis were displeased with accession of his...

, and dynastic inheritance into the Kingdom of France. French knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

s took an active part in many of the Crusades
Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

 that were fought between 1095 and 1291 to restore Christian control over the Holy Land
Holy Land
The Holy Land is a term which in Judaism refers to the Kingdom of Israel as defined in the Tanakh. For Jews, the Land's identifiction of being Holy is defined in Judaism by its differentiation from other lands by virtue of the practice of Judaism often possible only in the Land of Israel...

. Crusaders were so predominately French that the word "crusader" in the Arabic language
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 is simply known as Al-Franj or "The Franks" and Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 became the lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 of the Kingdom of Jerusalem
Kingdom of Jerusalem
The Kingdom of Jerusalem was a Catholic kingdom established in the Levant in 1099 after the First Crusade. The kingdom lasted nearly two hundred years, from 1099 until 1291 when the last remaining possession, Acre, was destroyed by the Mamluks, but its history is divided into two distinct periods....

.

The Albigensian Crusade
Albigensian Crusade
The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade was a 20-year military campaign initiated by the Catholic Church to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc...

 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
Counts of Toulouse
The first Counts of Toulouse were the administrators of the city and its environs under the Merovingians. No succession of such royal appointees is known, though a few names survive to the present...

 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
Estates of the realm
The Estates of the realm were the broad social orders of the hierarchically conceived society, recognized in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period in Christian Europe; they are sometimes distinguished as the three estates: the clergy, the nobility, and commoners, and are often referred to by...

 distinguishing nobility
French nobility
The French nobility was the privileged order of France in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern periods.In the political system of the Estates General, the nobility made up the Second Estate...

, clergy, and commoners.

Charles IV (The Fair)
Charles IV of France
Charles IV, known as the Fair , was the King of France and of Navarre and Count of Champagne from 1322 to his death: he was the last French king of the senior Capetian lineage....

 died without an heir in 1328. Under the rules of the Salic law
Salic law
Salic law was a body of traditional law codified for governing the Salian Franks in the early Middle Ages during the reign of King Clovis I in the 6th century...

 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
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

. During the reign of Philip of Valois
Philip IV of France
Philip the Fair was, as Philip IV, King of France from 1285 until his death. He was the husband of Joan I of Navarre, by virtue of which he was, as Philip I, King of Navarre and Count of Champagne from 1284 to 1305.-Youth:A member of the House of Capet, Philip was born at the Palace of...

, 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
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

, 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
Joan of Arc
Saint Joan of Arc, nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans" , is a national heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in eastern France who claimed divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, which paved the way for the...

 and La Hire
La Hire
Étienne de Vignolles, called La Hire, was a French military commander during the Hundred Years' War. His nickname of La Hire would be that the English had nicknamed "the Hire-God" . He fought alongside Joan of Arc in the campaigns of 1429...

, strong French counterattacks won back all English continental territories, except Calais
Calais
Calais is a town in Northern France in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's capital is its third-largest city of Arras....

, which was captured in 1558
Siege of Calais (1558)
The Siege of Calais was fought in early 1558 during the Habsburg-Valois Wars. A French force commanded by the Duke of Guise captured the city of Calais from the English, who had ruled it since 1347.-See also:*Siege of Calais...

 by the French. Like the rest of Europe, France was struck by the Black Death
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

. Around 1340, France had a population of approximately 17 million, which by the end of the pandemic
Pandemic
A pandemic is an epidemic of infectious disease that is spreading through human populations across a large region; for instance multiple continents, or even worldwide. A widespread endemic disease that is stable in terms of how many people are getting sick from it is not a pandemic...

 had declined by about one-half.

The French Renaissance
French Renaissance
French Renaissance is a recent term used to describe a cultural and artistic movement in France from the late 15th century to the early 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance that many cultural historians believe originated in northern Italy in the fourteenth century...

 saw a long set of wars, known as the Italian Wars
Italian Wars
The Italian Wars, often referred to as the Great Italian Wars or the Great Wars of Italy and sometimes as the Habsburg–Valois Wars, were a series of conflicts from 1494 to 1559 that involved, at various times, most of the city-states of Italy, the Papal States, most of the major states of Western...

, between the Kingdom of France and the powerful Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

. 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
Jacques Cartier
Jacques Cartier was a French explorer of Breton origin who claimed what is now Canada for France. He was the first European to describe and map the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the shores of the Saint Lawrence River, which he named "The Country of Canadas", after the Iroquois names for the two big...

 or Samuel de Champlain
Samuel de Champlain
Samuel de Champlain , "The Father of New France", was a French navigator, cartographer, draughtsman, soldier, explorer, geographer, ethnologist, diplomat, and chronicler. He founded New France and Quebec City on July 3, 1608....

, 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 Huguenot
Huguenot
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

s were murdered in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572. The Wars of Religion were ended by Henry IV
Henry IV of France
Henry IV , Henri-Quatre, was King of France from 1589 to 1610 and King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610. He was the first monarch of the Bourbon branch of the Capetian dynasty in France....

's Edict of Nantes
Edict of Nantes
The Edict of Nantes, issued on 13 April 1598, by Henry IV of France, granted the Calvinist Protestants of France substantial rights in a nation still considered essentially Catholic. In the Edict, Henry aimed primarily to promote civil unity...

, which granted some freedom of religion to the Huguenot
Huguenot
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

s. Henry IV was later murdered by a Catholic fanatic
François Ravaillac
François Ravaillac was a French factotum in the courts of Angoulême and a regicide. A sometime tutor and Catholic zealot, he murdered King Henry IV of France in 1610.-Early life and education:...

 and Huguenot rebellions
Huguenot rebellions
The Huguenot rebellions, sometimes called the Rohan Wars after the Huguenot leader Henri de Rohan, refers to events of the 1620s in which French Protestants , mainly located in southwestern France, revolted against royal authority...

 persisted until the 18th century.

Under Louis XIII
Louis XIII of France
Louis XIII was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 1610 to 1643.Louis was only eight years old when he succeeded his father. His mother, Marie de Medici, acted as regent during Louis' minority...

, 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
Anne of Austria
Anne of Austria was Queen consort of France and Navarre, regent for her son, Louis XIV of France, and a Spanish Infanta by birth...

 and Cardinal Mazarin, a period of trouble known as the Fronde
Fronde
The Fronde was a civil war in France, occurring in the midst of the Franco-Spanish War, which had begun in 1635. The word fronde means sling, which Parisian mobs used to smash the windows of supporters of Cardinal Mazarin....

 occurred in France, which was at that time at war with Spain
Franco-Spanish War
Franco–Spanish War may refer to any war between France and Spain, including:* Franco-Spanish War , part of the Italian Wars* Franco-Spanish War , part of the Italian Wars* Franco-Spanish War , part of the Italian Wars...

. This rebellion was driven by the great feudal lords and sovereign court
Sovereign court
Sovereign court , also known as superior court from 1661, referred to any prerogative court of last resort in monarchical France. Among them included the King's Council, the Court of Accounts, the Cour des aides, the Cour des monnaies, and the Parlements....

s as a reaction to the rise of royal power
Absolutism
The term Absolutism may refer to:* Absolute idealism, an ontologically monistic philosophy attributed to G.W.F. Hegel. It is Hegel's account of how being is ultimately comprehensible as an all-inclusive whole...

 in France.

The monarchy reached its peak during the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV. By turning powerful feudal lords into courtier
Courtier
A courtier is a person who is often in attendance at the court of a king or other royal personage. Historically the court was the centre of government as well as the residence of the monarch, and social and political life were often completely mixed together...

s at the Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles , or simply Versailles, is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France. In French it is the Château de 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 (see Demographics of France
Demographics of France
This article is about the demographic features of the population of France, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects....

) 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
Edict of Fontainebleau
The Edict of Fontainebleau was an edict issued by Louis XIV of France, also known as the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The Edict of Nantes of 1598, had granted the Huguenots the right to practice their religion without persecution from the state...

, forcing thousands of Huguenot
Huguenot
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

s to exile.

Under Louis XV
Louis XV of France
Louis XV was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 1 September 1715 until his death. He succeeded his great-grandfather at the age of five, his first cousin Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, served as Regent of the kingdom until Louis's majority in 1723...

, France lost New France
New France
New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period beginning with the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Spain and Great Britain in 1763...

 and most of its Indian possessions
French India
French India is a general name for the former French possessions in India These included Pondichéry , Karikal and Yanaon on the Coromandel Coast, Mahé on the Malabar Coast, and Chandannagar in Bengal...

 after its defeat in the Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War
The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines...

, which ended in 1763. Its continental territory
Metropolitan France
Metropolitan France is the part of France located in Europe. It can also be described as mainland France or as the French mainland and the island of Corsica...

 kept growing, however, with notable acquisitions such as Lorraine
Lorraine (région)
Lorraine is one of the 27 régions of France. The administrative region has two cities of equal importance, Metz and Nancy. Metz is considered to be the official capital since that is where the regional parliament is situated...

 (1766) and Corsica
Corsica
Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located west of Italy, southeast of the French mainland, and north of the island of Sardinia....

 (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 XVI of France
Louis XVI was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792, before being executed in 1793....

, Louis XV's grandson, actively supported the Americans
France in the American Revolutionary War
France entered the American Revolutionary War in 1778, and assisted in the victory of the Americans seeking independence from Britain ....

, who were seeking their independence from Great Britain
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 (realized in the 1783 Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1783)
The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain on the one hand and the United States of America and its allies on the other. The other combatant nations, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had separate agreements; for details of...

). The example of the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 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
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 occurred in French intellectual circles, and major scientific breakthroughs and inventions, such as the discovery of oxygen
Antoine Lavoisier
Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier , the "father of modern chemistry", was a French nobleman prominent in the histories of chemistry and biology...

 (1778) and the first hot air balloon carrying passengers
Montgolfier brothers
Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier were the inventors of the montgolfière-style hot air balloon, globe aérostatique. The brothers succeeded in launching the first manned ascent, carrying Étienne into the sky...

 (1783), were achieved by French scientists in the 18th century. Famous French explorers, such as Bougainville
Louis Antoine de Bougainville
Louis-Antoine, Comte de Bougainville was a French admiral and explorer. A contemporary of James Cook, he took part in the French and Indian War and the unsuccessful French attempt to defend Canada from Britain...

 and Lapérouse, took part in the European and American voyages of scientific exploration
European and American voyages of scientific exploration
The era of European and American voyages of scientific exploration followed the Age of Discovery and were inspired by a new confidence in science and reason that arose in the Age of Enlightenment...

 through maritime expeditions around the globe. The Enlightenment philosophy, in which reason
Rationalism
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

 was advocated as the primary source for legitimacy and authority
Authority
The word Authority is derived mainly from the Latin word auctoritas, meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. In English, the word 'authority' can be used to mean power given by the state or by academic knowledge of an area .-Authority in Philosophy:In...

, 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
Storming of the Bastille
The storming of the Bastille occurred in Paris on the morning of 14 July 1789. The medieval fortress and prison in Paris known as the Bastille represented royal authority in the centre of Paris. While the prison only contained seven inmates at the time of its storming, its fall was the flashpoint...

 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
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is a fundamental document of the French Revolution, defining the individual and collective rights of all the estates of the realm as universal. Influenced by the doctrine of "natural right", the rights of man are held to be universal: valid...

, 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
Flight to Varennes
The Flight to Varennes was a significant episode in the French Revolution during which King Louis XVI of France, his wife Marie Antoinette, and their immediate family attempted unsuccessfully to escape from Paris in order to initiate a counter-revolution...

 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
Abolished monarchy
Throughout history, monarchies have been abolished, either through revolutions, legislative reforms, coups d'état, or wars. The twentieth century saw a major acceleration of this process, with many monarchies violently overthrown by revolution or war, or else abolished as part of the process of...

 and the establishment of a republic became an ever increasing possibility.

As European monarchies gathered
Declaration of Pillnitz
The Declaration of Pillnitz was a statement issued on 27 August 1791 at Pillnitz Castle near Dresden by the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II and Frederick William II of Prussia...

 against the new régime, to restore the French absolute monarchy, the Duke of Brunswick, commanding general of the Austro–Prussian Army, issued a Manifesto
Brunswick Manifesto (1792)
The Brunswick Manifesto was a proclamation issued by Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, commander of the Allied Army , on July 25, 1792 to the population of Paris, France during the French Revolutionary Wars. The Brunswick Manifesto threatened that if the French royal family were harmed,...

, 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 violence
Riot
A riot is a form of civil disorder characterized often by what is thought of as disorganized groups lashing out in a sudden and intense rash of violence against authority, property or people. While individuals may attempt to lead or control a riot, riots are thought to be typically chaotic and...

s occurred during the insurrection of the 10 August 1792 and the following month
September Massacres
The September Massacres were a wave of mob violence which overtook Paris in late summer 1792, during the French Revolution. By the time it had subsided, half the prison population of Paris had been executed: some 1,200 trapped prisoners, including many women and young boys...

. As a result of the spike in public violence and the political instability of the constitutional monarchy, the Republic was proclaimed
French First Republic
The French First Republic was founded on 22 September 1792, by the newly established National Convention. The First Republic lasted until the declaration of the First French Empire in 1804 under Napoleon I...

 on 22 September 1792.

Louis XVI
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792, before being executed in 1793....

 (and later his wife Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette ; 2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793) was an Archduchess of Austria and the Queen of France and of Navarre. She was the fifteenth and penultimate child of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I....

) was convicted
Trial of Louis XVI
The trial of Louis XVI was a key event of the French Revolution. It involved the trial of the former French king Louis XVI before the National Convention and led to his execution.- 10–11 December 1792 :The trial began on Camel 10 December...

 of treason
Treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

 and guillotined
Execution of Louis XVI
The execution of Louis XVI by means of the guillotine took place on 21 January 1793 at the Place de la Révolution in Paris. It was a major event of the French Revolution...

 in 1793. Facing increasing pressures from European monarchies, internal guerrilla wars and counterrevolutions (like the War in the Vendée or the Chouannerie
Chouannerie
The Chouannerie was a royalist uprising in twelve of the western departements of France, particularly in the provinces of Brittany and Maine, against the French Revolution, the First French Republic, and even, with its headquarters in London rather than France, for a time, under the Empire...

), the young Republic
National Convention
During the French Revolution, the National Convention or Convention, in France, comprised the constitutional and legislative assembly which sat from 20 September 1792 to 26 October 1795 . It held executive power in France during the first years of the French First Republic...

 fell into the Reign of Terror
Reign of Terror
The Reign of Terror , also known simply as The Terror , was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of...

. 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
French client republic
During its occupation of neighboring parts of Europe during the French Revolutionary Wars, France established republican regimes in these territories...

" in the surrounding countries. As the threat of a foreign invasion receded and that France became mostly pacified, the Thermidorian Reaction
Thermidorian Reaction
The Thermidorian Reaction was a revolt in the French Revolution against the excesses of the Reign of Terror. It was triggered by a vote of the Committee of Public Safety to execute Maximilien Robespierre, Antoine Louis Léon de Saint-Just de Richebourg and several other leading members of the Terror...

 put an end to the Terror and to Robespierre
Maximilien Robespierre
Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre is one of the best-known and most influential figures of the French Revolution. He largely dominated the Committee of Public Safety and was instrumental in the period of the Revolution commonly known as the Reign of Terror, which ended with his...

's dictature. The abolition of slavery
Abolitionism
Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery.In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first...

 and the male universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

, enacted during this radical phase of the revolution, were cancelled by subsequent governments.

After a short-lived governmental scheme
French Directory
The Directory was a body of five Directors that held executive power in France following the Convention and preceding the Consulate...

, Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the Republic
18 Brumaire
The coup of 18 Brumaire was the coup d'état by which General Napoleon Bonaparte overthrew the French Directory, replacing it with the French Consulate...

 in 1799 and was appointed First Consul
French Consulate
The Consulate was the government of France between the fall of the Directory in the coup of 18 Brumaire in 1799 until the start of the Napoleonic Empire in 1804...

 and later Emperor
Constitution of the Year XII
The Constitution of the Year XII was a national constitution of France adopted during the Year XII of the French Revolutionary Calendar ....

 of the French Empire
First French Empire
The First French Empire , also known as the Greater French Empire or Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I of France...

 (1804–1814/1815). As a continuation of the wars
French Revolutionary Wars
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, from 1792 until 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states...

 sparked by the European monarchies against the French Republic, changing sets of European Coalitions
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

 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
Metric system
The metric system is an international decimalised system of measurement. France was first to adopt a metric system, in 1799, and a metric system is now the official system of measurement, used in almost every country in the world...

, the Napoleonic Code
Napoleonic code
The Napoleonic Code — or Code Napoléon — is the French civil code, established under Napoléon I in 1804. The code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs go to the most qualified...

 or the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. After the catastrophic Russian campaign
French invasion of Russia
The French invasion of Russia of 1812 was a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars. It reduced the French and allied invasion forces to a tiny fraction of their initial strength and triggered a major shift in European politics as it dramatically weakened French hegemony in Europe...

, Napoleon was finally defeated
War of the Sixth Coalition
In the War of the Sixth Coalition , a coalition of Austria, Prussia, Russia, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and a number of German States finally defeated France and drove Napoleon Bonaparte into exile on Elba. After Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia, the continental powers...

 and the Bourbon monarchy restored. About a million Frenchmen died during the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

.

After his brief return
Hundred Days
The Hundred Days, sometimes known as the Hundred Days of Napoleon or Napoleon's Hundred Days for specificity, marked the period between Emperor Napoleon I of France's return from exile on Elba to Paris on 20 March 1815 and the second restoration of King Louis XVIII on 8 July 1815...

 from exile, Napoleon was finally defeated in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

, the monarchy was re-established (1815–1830), with new constitutional limitations. The discredited Bourbon dynasty was overthrown by the civil uprising of 1830
July Revolution
The French Revolution of 1830, also known as the July Revolution or in French, saw the overthrow of King Charles X of France, the French Bourbon monarch, and the ascent of his cousin Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, who himself, after 18 precarious years on the throne, would in turn be overthrown...

, which established the constitutional July Monarchy
July Monarchy
The July Monarchy , officially the Kingdom of France , was a period of liberal constitutional monarchy in France under King Louis-Philippe starting with the July Revolution of 1830 and ending with the Revolution of 1848...

, which lasted until 1848, when the French Second Republic
French Second Republic
The French Second Republic was the republican government of France between the 1848 Revolution and the coup by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte which initiated the Second Empire. It officially adopted the motto Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité...

 was proclaimed, in the wake of the 1848 European revolutions
Revolutions of 1848
The European Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Spring of Nations, Springtime of the Peoples or the Year of Revolution, were a series of political upheavals throughout Europe in 1848. It was the first Europe-wide collapse of traditional authority, but within a year reactionary...

. The abolition of slavery
Abolitionism
Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery.In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first...

 and the male universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

, 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
Second French Empire
The Second French Empire or French Empire was the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.-Rule of Napoleon III:...

, as Napoleon III. He multiplied French interventions abroad, especially in Crimea
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

, in Mexico
French intervention in Mexico
The French intervention in Mexico , also known as The Maximilian Affair, War of the French Intervention, and The Franco-Mexican War, was an invasion of Mexico by an expeditionary force sent by the Second French Empire, supported in the beginning by the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Spain...

 and Italy
Second Italian War of Independence
The Second War of Italian Independence, Franco-Austrian War, Austro-Sardinian War, or Austro-Piedmontese War , was fought by Napoleon III of France and the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia against the Austrian Empire in 1859...

, which resulted in the annexation of Savoy
Savoy
Savoy is a region of France. It comprises roughly the territory of the Western Alps situated between Lake Geneva in the north and Monaco and the Mediterranean coast in the south....

 and Nice
County of Nice
The County of Nice or Niçard Country is a historical region of France, located in the south-eastern part, around the city of Nice.-History:Its territory lies between the Mediterranean Sea , Var River and the southernmost crest of the...

. Napoleon III was eventually unseated following defeat in the Franco-Prussian war
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

 of 1870 and his regime was replaced by the Third Republic
French Third Republic
The French Third Republic was the republican government of France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed due to the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, to 1940, when France was overrun by Nazi Germany during World War II, resulting in the German and Italian occupations of France...

.

France had colonial possessions
French colonial empire
The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

, 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
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

. 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
Metropolitan France
Metropolitan France is the part of France located in Europe. It can also be described as mainland France or as the French mainland and the island of Corsica...

, the total area of land under French sovereignty
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 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
Triple Entente
The Triple Entente was the name given to the alliance among Britain, France and Russia after the signing of the Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907....

 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
Central Powers
The Central Powers were one of the two warring factions in World War I , composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria...

, 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
Events preceding World War II in Europe
The events preceding World War II in Europe are closely tied to the rise of fascism, especially in Nazi Germany.-Aftermath of World War I:World War II is generally viewed as having its roots in the aftermath of the First World War...

 an a variety of social reforms introduced by the Popular Front government
Popular Front (France)
The Popular Front was an alliance of left-wing movements, including the French Communist Party , the French Section of the Workers' International and the Radical and Socialist Party, during the interwar period...

 (Annual leave
Annual leave
Annual leave is paid time off work granted by employers to employees to be used for whatever the employee wishes. Depending on the employer's policies, differing number of days may be offered, and the employee may be required to give a certain amount of advance notice, may have to coordinate with...

, working time reduction
Eight-hour day
The eight-hour day movement or 40-hour week movement, also known as the short-time movement, had its origins in the Industrial Revolution in Britain, where industrial production in large factories transformed working life and imposed long hours and poor working conditions. With working conditions...

, women in Government...). Following the German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 Blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

campaign in World War II, metropolitan France was divided in an occupation zone in the north and Vichy France
Vichy France
Vichy France, Vichy Regime, or Vichy Government, are common terms used to describe the government of France that collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944. This government succeeded the Third Republic and preceded the Provisional Government of the French Republic...

, a newly established authoritarian regime collaborating with Germany, in the south. The Allies
Allies
In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them...

 and the French Resistance
French Resistance
The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

 eventually emerged victorious from the Axis powers
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 and French sovereignty was restored.

The Fourth Republic
French Fourth Republic
The French Fourth Republic was the republican government of France between 1946 and 1958, governed by the fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic, which was in place before World War II, and suffered many of the same problems...

 was established after World War II and saw spectacular economic growth (les Trente Glorieuses
Trente Glorieuses
Les Trente Glorieuses refers to the thirty years from 1945-1975 following the end of the Second World War in France. The name was first used by the French demographer Jean Fourastié...

). The universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

 was extended to women in 1944. France was one of the founding members of the NATO (1949), which was the Western counterpart of the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 system of collective defence. France attempted to regain control of French Indochina
First Indochina War
The First Indochina War was fought in French Indochina from December 19, 1946, until August 1, 1954, between the French Union's French Far East...

 but was defeated by the Viet Minh
Viet Minh
Việt Minh was a national independence coalition formed at Pac Bo on May 19, 1941. The Việt Minh initially formed to seek independence for Vietnam from the French Empire. When the Japanese occupation began, the Việt Minh opposed Japan with support from the United States and the Republic of China...

 at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu
Battle of Dien Bien Phu
The Battle of Dien Bien Phu was the climactic confrontation of the First Indochina War between the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps and Viet Minh communist revolutionaries. The battle occurred between March and May 1954 and culminated in a comprehensive French defeat that...

 in 1954. Only months later, France faced a new conflict in Algeria. The debate over whether or not to keep control of Algeria
French Algeria
French Algeria lasted from 1830 to 1962, under a variety of governmental systems. From 1848 until independence, the whole Mediterranean region of Algeria was administered as an integral part of France, much like Corsica and Réunion are to this day. The vast arid interior of Algeria, like the rest...

, then home to over one million European settlers
Pied-noir
Pied-Noir , plural Pieds-Noirs, pronounced , is a term referring to French citizens of various origins who lived in French Algeria before independence....

, wracked the country and nearly led to civil war. In 1958, the weak and unstable Fourth Republic gave way to the Fifth Republic
French Fifth Republic
The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, introduced on 4 October 1958. The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the French Fourth Republic, replacing the prior parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system...

, 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
Évian Accords
The Évian Accords comprise a treaty which was signed in 1962 in Évian-les-Bains, France by France and the F.L.N. . The Accords put an end to the Algerian War with a formal cease-fire proclaimed for March 19, and formalized the idea of cooperative exchange between the two countries...

 in 1962 that led to Algerian independence. France granted independence progressively to its colonies, the last one being Vanuatu
Vanuatu
Vanuatu , officially the Republic of Vanuatu , is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some east of northern Australia, northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.Vanuatu was...

 in 1980. A vestige of the colonial empire are the French overseas departments and territories
Overseas departments and territories of France
The French Overseas Departments and Territories consist broadly of French-administered territories outside of the European continent. These territories have varying legal status and different levels of autonomy, although all have representation in the Parliament of France , and consequently the...

 that include French Guiana
French Guiana
French Guiana is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department located on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. It has borders with two nations, Brazil to the east and south, and Suriname to the west...

, Martinique and French Polynesia
French Polynesia
French Polynesia is an overseas country of the French Republic . It is made up of several groups of Polynesian islands, the most famous island being Tahiti in the Society Islands group, which is also the most populous island and the seat of the capital of the territory...

.

In the wake of a worldwide series of protests
Protests of 1968
The protests of 1968 consisted of a worldwide series of protests, largely participated in by students and workers.-Background:Background speculations of overall causality vary about the political protests centering on the year 1968. Some argue that protests could be attributed to the social changes...

, 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.

Geography





Metropolitan France is situated mostly between latitudes 41°
41st parallel north
The 41st parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 41 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean....

 and 51° N
51st parallel north
The 51st parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 51 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Europe, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean....

 (Dunkirk is just north of 51°), and longitudes 6° W
6th meridian west
The meridian 6° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, Europe, Africa, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 and 10° E
10th meridian east
The meridian 10° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Europe, Africa, the Atlantic Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

, on the western edge of Europe, and thus lies within the northern temperate zone

While Metropolitan France
Metropolitan France
Metropolitan France is the part of France located in Europe. It can also be described as mainland France or as the French mainland and the island of Corsica...

 is located in Western Europe, France also has a number of territories
Overseas departments and territories of France
The French Overseas Departments and Territories consist broadly of French-administered territories outside of the European continent. These territories have varying legal status and different levels of autonomy, although all have representation in the Parliament of France , and consequently the...

 in North America, the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

, 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
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, and Suriname
Suriname
Suriname , officially the Republic of Suriname , is a country in northern South America. It borders French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, Brazil to the south, and on the north by the Atlantic Ocean. Suriname was a former colony of the British and of the Dutch, and was previously known as...

 (bordering French Guiana
French Guiana
French Guiana is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department located on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. It has borders with two nations, Brazil to the east and south, and Suriname to the west...

), and Sint Maarten (bordering Saint-Martin).

Metropolitan France covers 547030 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
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

 in the south-east, the Massif Central
Massif Central
The Massif Central is an elevated region in south-central France, consisting of mountains and plateaux....

 in the south-central and Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

 in the south-west.

At 4810.45 metres (15,782 ft) above sea level, the highest point in Western Europe, Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc or Monte Bianco , meaning "White Mountain", is the highest mountain in the Alps, Western Europe and the European Union. It rises above sea level and is ranked 11th in the world in topographic prominence...

, is situated in the Alps on the border between France and Italy. Metropolitan France also has extensive river systems such as the Seine
Seine
The Seine is a -long river and an important commercial waterway within the Paris Basin in the north of France. It rises at Saint-Seine near Dijon in northeastern France in the Langres plateau, flowing through Paris and into the English Channel at Le Havre . It is navigable by ocean-going vessels...

, the Loire
Loire (river)
The Loire is the longest river in France. With a length of , it drains an area of , which represents more than a fifth of France's land area. It is the 170th longest river in the world...

, the Garonne
Garonne
The Garonne is a river in southwest France and northern Spain, with a length of .-Source:The Garonne's headwaters are to be found in the Aran Valley in the Pyrenees, though three different locations have been proposed as the true source: the Uelh deth Garona at Plan de Beret , the Ratera-Saboredo...

, and the Rhone
Rhône
Rhone can refer to:* Rhone, one of the major rivers of Europe, running through Switzerland and France* Rhône Glacier, the source of the Rhone River and one of the primary contributors to Lake Geneva in the far eastern end of the canton of Valais in Switzerland...

, which divides the Massif Central from the Alps and flows into the Mediterranean Sea at the Camargue
Camargue
The Camargue is the region located south of Arles, France, between the Mediterranean Sea and the two arms of the Rhône River delta. The eastern arm is called the Grand Rhône; the western one is the Petit Rhône....

. Corsica lies off the Mediterranean coast.

France's total land area, with its overseas departments and territories (excluding Adélie Land
Adélie Land
Adélie Land is the portion of the Antarctic coast between 136° E and 142° E , with a shore length of 350 km and with its hinterland extending as a sector about 2,600 km toward the South Pole. It is claimed by France as one of five districts of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, although not...

), is 674843 km² (260,558 sq mi), 0.45% of the total land area on Earth. However, France possesses the second-largest Exclusive Economic Zone
Exclusive Economic Zone
Under the law of the sea, an exclusive economic zone is a seazone over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, including production of energy from water and wind. It stretches from the seaward edge of the state's territorial sea out to 200 nautical...

 (EEZ) in the world, covering 11035000 km² (4,260,637 sq mi), approximately 8% of the total surface of all the EEZs of the world, just behind the United States (11351000 km² (4,382,646 sq mi)) and ahead of Australia (8232000 km² (3,178,393 sq mi)).
The north and northwest have a temperate climate, while a combination of maritime influences, latitude
Latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

 and altitude produce a varied climate in the rest of Metropolitan France.

In the south-east a Mediterranean climate
Mediterranean climate
A Mediterranean climate is the climate typical of most of the lands in the Mediterranean Basin, and is a particular variety of subtropical climate...

 prevails. In the west, the climate is predominantly oceanic
Oceanic climate
An oceanic climate, also called marine west coast climate, maritime climate, Cascadian climate and British climate for Köppen climate classification Cfb and subtropical highland for Köppen Cfb or Cwb, is a type of climate typically found along the west coasts at the middle latitudes of some of the...

 with a high level of rainfall, mild winters and cool to warm summers. Inland the climate becomes more continental
Continental climate
Continental climate is a climate characterized by important annual variation in temperature due to the lack of significant bodies of water nearby...

 with hot, stormy summers, colder winters and less rain. The climate of the Alps
Climate of the Alps
The climate of the Alps is the climate, or average weather conditions over a long time, of the exact middle Alpine region of Europe. As air rises from sea level to the upper regions of the atmosphere the temperature decreases...

 and other mountainous regions is mainly alpine
Alpine climate
Alpine climate is the average weather for a region above the tree line. This climate is also referred to as mountain climate or highland climate....

, with the number of days with temperatures below freezing over 150 per year and snow cover lasting for up to six months.

Environment


France was one of the first countries to create a Ministry of the Environment, in 1971. Although France is one of the most industrialised and developed countries, it is ranked only seventeenth by carbon dioxide emissions, behind such less populous nations as Canada, Saudi Arabia or Australia. This situation results from the French government's decision to invest in nuclear power
Nuclear power
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity...

 in 1974 (after the 1973 oil crisis
1973 oil crisis
The 1973 oil crisis started in October 1973, when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries or the OAPEC proclaimed an oil embargo. This was "in response to the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military" during the Yom Kippur war. It lasted until March 1974. With the...

), which now accounts for 78% of France's electricity production and explains why France pollutes less than comparable countries.

Like all European Union members, France agreed to cut carbon emissions by at least 20% of 1990 levels by the year 2020, in comparison the USA agreed to a fall of 4% of its emissions whereas China stated it wanted to "reduce its carbon intensity by 40–45% by the year 2020" (compared with 2005 levels), which means with a GDP growth of 8% yearly an augmentation of 80% to 250% of the Chinese carbon emissions by 2020.

In 2009, the French carbon dioxide emissions per capita level is lower than the Chinese one.

France was even set to impose a carbon tax
Carbon tax
A carbon tax is an environmental tax levied on the carbon content of fuels. It is a form of carbon pricing. Carbon is present in every hydrocarbon fuel and is released as carbon dioxide when they are burnt. In contrast, non-combustion energy sources—wind, sunlight, hydropower, and nuclear—do not...

 in 2009 at 17 Euros per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted. The carbon tax would have brought in 4.3 billion Euros of revenue per year. However, 6 months later, the plan for a carbon tax was abandoned for various reasons, one being that French companies would have a more difficult time competing with companies in neighboring countries who would not have to pay such steep taxes on carbon dioxide emissions. Instituting a carbon tax was also an unpopular political move for President Sarkozy.

In 2010, a study at Yale and Columbia
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 universities ranked France the most environmentally conscious nation of the G20
G-20 major economies
The Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors is a group of finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 major economies: 19 countries plus the European Union, which is represented by the President of the European Council and by the European Central Bank...

.

Forests account for 28,27% of the land area of France. France is the second most wooded country of the EU. French forests are also some of the most diversified of Europe, with more than 140 differents varieties of trees. There are 9 national park
National park
A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or...

s and 46 natural park
Protected area
Protected areas are locations which receive protection because of their recognised natural, ecological and/or cultural values. There are several kinds of protected areas, which vary by level of protection depending on the enabling laws of each country or the regulations of the international...

s in France. France wants to convert 20% of its Exclusive Economic Zone
Exclusive Economic Zone
Under the law of the sea, an exclusive economic zone is a seazone over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, including production of energy from water and wind. It stretches from the seaward edge of the state's territorial sea out to 200 nautical...

 in a Marine Protected Area
Marine Protected Area
Marine Protected Areas, like any protected area, are regions in which human activity has been placed under some restrictions in the interest of conserving the natural environment, it's surrounding waters and the occupant ecosystems, and any cultural or historical resources that may require...

 by 2020.

Administrative divisions



France is divided into 27 administrative regions
Régions of France
France is divided into 27 administrative regions , 22 of which are in Metropolitan France, and five of which are overseas. Corsica is a territorial collectivity , but is considered a region in mainstream usage, and is even shown as such on the INSEE website...

. 22 are in metropolitan France
Metropolitan France
Metropolitan France is the part of France located in Europe. It can also be described as mainland France or as the French mainland and the island of Corsica...

 (21 are on the continental part of metropolitan France; one is the territorial collectivity of Corsica
Corsica
Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located west of Italy, southeast of the French mainland, and north of the island of Sardinia....

), and five are overseas regions. The regions are further subdivided into 101 departments which are numbered (mainly alphabetically). This number is used in postal codes and vehicle number plates amongst others.

The 101 departments are subdivided into 341 arrondissements
Arrondissements of France
The 101 French departments are divided into 342 arrondissements, which may be translated into English as districts.The capital of an arrondissement/district is called a subprefecture...

 which are, in turn, subdivided into 4,051 cantons
Cantons of France
The cantons of France are territorial subdivisions of the French Republic's 342 arrondissements and 101 departments.Apart from their role as organizational units in certain aspects of the administration of public services and justice, the chief purpose of the cantons today is to serve as...

. These cantons are then divided into 36,697 communes
Communes of France
The commune is the lowest level of administrative division in the French Republic. French communes are roughly equivalent to incorporated municipalities or villages in the United States or Gemeinden in Germany...

, 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
Municipal arrondissements of France
The municipal arrondissement is a subdivision of the commune, used in the three largest cities: Paris, Lyon and Marseille. It functions as an even lower administrative division, with its own mayor...

.

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
Vichy France
Vichy France, Vichy Regime, or Vichy Government, are common terms used to describe the government of France that collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944. This government succeeded the Third Republic and preceded the Provisional Government of the French Republic...

 and definitely abolished by the Fourth Republic
French Fourth Republic
The French Fourth Republic was the republican government of France between 1946 and 1958, governed by the fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic, which was in place before World War II, and suffered many of the same problems...

 in 1946. Historically, the cantons were also territorial collectivities with their elected assemblies.

Region Departments Capital
 Alsace Bas-Rhin
Bas-Rhin
Bas-Rhin is a department of France. The name means "Lower Rhine". It is the more populous and densely populated of the two departments of the Alsace region, with 1,079,013 inhabitants in 2006.- History :...

, Haut-Rhin
Haut-Rhin
Haut-Rhin is a département of the Alsace region of France, named after the Rhine river. Its name means Upper Rhine. Haut-Rhin is the smaller and less populated of the two departements of Alsace, although is still densely populated compared to the rest of France.-Subdivisions:The department...

Strasbourg
Strasbourg
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking,...

 Aquitaine Dordogne
Dordogne
Dordogne is a départment in south-west France. The départment is located in the region of Aquitaine, between the Loire valley and the High Pyrénées named after the great river Dordogne that runs through it...

, Gironde
Gironde
For the Revolutionary party, see Girondists.Gironde is a common name for the Gironde estuary, where the mouths of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers merge, and for a department in the Aquitaine region situated in southwest France.-History:...

, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne
Lot-et-Garonne
Lot-et-Garonne is a department in the southwest of France named after the Lot and Garonne rivers.-History:Lot-et-Garonne is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

, Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Pyrénées-Atlantiques is a department in the southwest of France which takes its name from the Pyrenees mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.- History :...

Bordeaux
Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...

 Auvergne (région) Allier
Allier
Allier is a department in central France named after the river Allier.- History :Allier is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Auvergne and Bourbonnais.In 1940, the government of Marshal...

, Cantal
Cantal
Cantal is a department in south-central France. It is named after the Cantal mountain range, a group of extinct, eroded volcanic peaks, which covers much of the department. Residents are known as Cantaliens or Cantalous....

, Haute-Loire
Haute-Loire
Haute-Loire is a department in south-central France named after the Loire River.-History:Haute-Loire is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790...

, Puy-de-Dôme
Puy-de-Dôme
Puy-de-Dôme is a department in the centre of France named after the famous dormant volcano, the Puy-de-Dôme.Inhabitants were called Puydedomois until December 2005...

Clermont-Ferrand
Clermont-Ferrand
Clermont-Ferrand is a city and commune of France, in the Auvergne region, with a population of 140,700 . Its metropolitan area had 409,558 inhabitants at the 1999 census. It is the prefecture of the Puy-de-Dôme department...

Calvados
Calvados
The French department of Calvados is part of the region of Basse-Normandie in Normandy. It takes its name from a cluster of rocks off the English Channel coast...

, Manche
Manche
Manche is a French department in Normandy named after La Manche , which is the French name for the English Channel.- History :Manche is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

, Orne
Orne
Orne is a department in the northwest of France, named after the river Orne.- History :Orne is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution, on March 4, 1790. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Normandy and Perche.- Geography :Orne is in the region of...

Caen
Caen
Caen is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. It is located inland from the English Channel....

Côte-d'Or
Côte-d'Or
Côte-d'Or is a department in the eastern part of France.- History :Côte-d'Or is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was formed from part of the former province of Burgundy.- Geography :...

, Nièvre
Nièvre
Nièvre is a department in the centre of France named after the Nièvre River.-History:Nièvre is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

, Saône-et-Loire
Saône-et-Loire
Saône-et-Loire is a French department, named after the Saône and the Loire rivers between which it lies.-History:When it was formed during the French Revolution, as of March 4, 1790 in fulfillment of the law of December 22, 1789, the new department combined parts of the provinces of southern...

, Yonne
Yonne
Yonne is a French department named after the Yonne River. It is one of the four constituent departments of Burgundy in eastern France and its prefecture is Auxerre. Its official number is 89....

Dijon
Dijon
Dijon is a city in eastern France, the capital of the Côte-d'Or département and of the Burgundy region.Dijon is the historical capital of the region of Burgundy. Population : 151,576 within the city limits; 250,516 for the greater Dijon area....

 Bretagne Côtes-d'Armor
Côtes-d'Armor
Côtes-d'Armor is a department in the north of Brittany, in northwestern France.-History:Côtes-du-Nord was one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was created from part of the former province of Brittany. Its name was changed in 1990 to...

, Finistère
Finistère
Finistère is a département of France, in the extreme west of Brittany.-History:The name Finistère derives from the Latin Finis Terræ, meaning end of the earth, and may be compared with Land's End on the opposite side of the English Channel...

, Ille-et-Vilaine
Ille-et-Vilaine
Ille-et-Vilaine is a department of France, located in the region of Brittany in the northwest of the country.- History :Ille-et-Vilaine is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

, Morbihan
Morbihan
Morbihan is a department in Brittany, situated in the northwest of France. It is named after the Morbihan , the enclosed sea that is the principal feature of the coastline.-History:...

Rennes
Rennes
Rennes is a city in the east of Brittany in northwestern France. Rennes is the capital of the region of Brittany, as well as the Ille-et-Vilaine department.-History:...

 Centre (France) Cher, Eure-et-Loir
Eure-et-Loir
Eure-et-Loir is a French department, named after the Eure and Loir rivers.-History:Eure-et-Loir is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790 pursuant to the Act of December 22, 1789...

, Indre
Indre
Indre is a department in the center of France named after the river Indre. The inhabitants of the department are called Indriens.-History:Indre is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

, Indre-et-Loire
Indre-et-Loire
Indre-et-Loire is a department in west-central France named after the Indre and the Loire rivers.-History:Indre-et-Loire is one of the original 83 départements created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790...

, Loiret
Loiret
Loiret is a department in north-central FranceThe department is named after the river Loiret, a tributary of the Loire. The Loiret is located wholly within the department.- History :...

, Loir-et-Cher
Loir-et-Cher
Loir-et-Cher is a département in north-central France named after the rivers Loir and Cher.-History:Loir-et-Cher is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Orléanais and...

Orléans
Orléans
-Prehistory and Roman:Cenabum was a Gallic stronghold, one of the principal towns of the Carnutes tribe where the Druids held their annual assembly. It was conquered and destroyed by Julius Caesar in 52 BC, then rebuilt under the Roman Empire...

 Champagne-Ardenne Ardennes, Aube
Aube
Aube is a department in the northeastern part of France named after the Aube River. In 1995, its population was 293,100 inhabitants.- History :Aube is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790...

, Haute-Marne
Haute-Marne
Haute-Marne is a department in the northeast of France named after the Marne River.-History:Haute-Marne is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

, Marne
Marne
Marne is a department in north-eastern France named after the river Marne which flows through the department. The prefecture of Marne is Châlons-en-Champagne...

Châlons-en-Champagne
Châlons-en-Champagne
Châlons-en-Champagne is a city in France. It is the capital of both the department of Marne and the region of Champagne-Ardenne, despite being only a quarter the size of the city of Reims....

 Corsica (Corse) Corse-du-Sud
Corse-du-Sud
Corse-du-Sud is a French département composed of the southern part of the island of Corsica.- History :The department was formed on 15 September 1975, when the Corse department was divided into Haute-Corse and Corse-du-Sud...

, Haute-Corse
Haute-Corse
Haute-Corse is a French department. It constitutes the northern part of the island of Corsica.- History :The department was formed on 15 September 1975, when the department of Corse was divided into Haute-Corse and Corse-du-Sud...

Ajaccio
Ajaccio
Ajaccio , is a commune on the island of Corsica in France. It is the capital and largest city of the region of Corsica and the prefecture of the department of Corse-du-Sud....

 Franche-Comté Doubs
Doubs
Doubs is a department the Franche-Comté region of eastern France named after the Doubs River.-History:As early as the 13th century, inhabitants of the northern two-thirds of Doubs spoke the Franc-Comtois language, a dialect of Langue d'Oïl. Residents of the southern third of Doubs spoke a dialect...

, Haute-Saône
Haute-Saône
Haute-Saône is a French department of the Franche-Comté région, named after the Saône River.- History :The department was created in the early years of the French Revolution through the application of a law dated 22 December 1789, from part of the former province of Franche-Comté...

, Jura, Territoire de Belfort
Territoire de Belfort
The Territoire de Belfort is a department in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France.-Administration:Its departmental code is 90, and its prefecture is Belfort...

Besançon
Besançon
Besançon , is the capital and principal city of the Franche-Comté region in eastern France. It had a population of about 237,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area in 2008...

Eure
Eure
Eure is a department in the north of France named after the river Eure.- History :Eure is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790...

, Seine-Maritime
Seine-Maritime
Seine-Maritime is a French department in the Haute-Normandie region in northern France. It is situated on the northern coast of France, at the mouth of the Seine, and includes the cities of Rouen and Le Havre...

Rouen
Rouen
Rouen , in northern France on the River Seine, is the capital of the Haute-Normandie region and the historic capital city of Normandy. Once one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe , it was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy in the Middle Ages...

 Île-de-France (région) Essonne
Essonne
Essonne is a French department in the region of Île-de-France. It is named after the Essonne River.It was formed on 1 January 1968 when Seine-et-Oise was split into smaller departments.- History :...

, Hauts-de-Seine
Hauts-de-Seine
Hauts-de-Seine is designated number 92 of the 101 départements in France. It is part of the Île-de-France region, and covers the western inner suburbs of Paris...

, Paris
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...

, Seine-et-Marne
Seine-et-Marne
Seine-et-Marne is a French department, named after the Seine and Marne rivers, and located in the Île-de-France region.- History:Seine-et-Marne is one of the original 83 departments, created on March 4, 1790 during the French Revolution in application of the law of December 22, 1789...

, Seine-Saint-Denis
Seine-Saint-Denis
- Culture :A number of hip hop artists come from the Seine-Saint-Denis, including one of the first major hip-hop groups in France, NTM, as well as Lord Kossity, or more recent acts such as Tandem or Sefyu.- Miscellaneous topics :...

, Val-de-Marne
Val-de-Marne
Val-de-Marne is a French department, named after the Marne River, located in the Île-de-France region. The department is situated to the southeast of the city of Paris.- Geography :...

, Val-d'Oise
Val-d'Oise
Val-d'Oise is a French department, created in 1968 after the split of the Seine-et-Oise department and located in the Île-de-France region. In local slang, it is known as "quatre-vingt quinze" or "neuf cinq"...

, Yvelines
Yvelines
Yvelines is a French department in the region of Île-de-France.-History:Yvelines was created from the western part of the defunct department of Seine-et-Oise on 1 January 1968 in accordance with a law passed on 10 January 1964 and a décret d'application from 26 February 1965.It gained the...

Paris
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...

 Languedoc-Roussillon Aude
Aude
Aude is a department in south-central France named after the river Aude. The local council also calls the department "Cathar Country".Aude is also a frequent feminine French given name in Francophone countries, deriving initially from Aude or Oda, a wife of Bertrand, Duke of Aquitaine, and mother...

, Gard
Gard
Gard is a département located in southern France in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.The department is named after the River Gard, although the formerly Occitan name of the River Gard, Gardon, has been replacing the traditional French name in recent decades, even among French speakers.- History...

, Hérault
Hérault
Hérault is a department in the south of France named after the Hérault river.-History:Hérault is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790...

, Lozère
Lozère
Lozère , is a department in southeast France near the Massif Central, named after Mont Lozère.- History :Lozère is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

, Pyrénées-Orientales
Pyrénées-Orientales
Pyrénées-Orientales is a department of southern France adjacent to the northern Spanish frontier and the Mediterranean Sea. It also surrounds the tiny Spanish enclave of Llívia, and thus has two distinct borders with Spain.- History :...

Montpellier
Montpellier
-Neighbourhoods:Since 2001, Montpellier has been divided into seven official neighbourhoods, themselves divided into sub-neighbourhoods. Each of them possesses a neighbourhood council....

 Limousin (région) Corrèze
Corrèze
Corrèze is a department in south central France, named after the Corrèze River.The inhabitants of the department are called Corréziens or Corréziennes according to gender.-History:...

, Creuse
Creuse
Creuse is a department in central France named after the Creuse River.-History:Creuse is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was created from the former province of La Marche....

, Haute-Vienne
Haute-Vienne
Haute-Vienne is a French department named after the Vienne River. It is one of three departments that together constitute the French region of Limousin.The chief and largest city is Limoges...

Limoges
Limoges
Limoges |Limousin]] dialect of Occitan) is a city and commune, the capital of the Haute-Vienne department and the administrative capital of the Limousin région in west-central France....

 Lorraine (région) Meurthe-et-Moselle
Meurthe-et-Moselle
Meurthe-et-Moselle is a department in the Lorraine region of France, named after the Meurthe and Moselle rivers.- History :Meurthe-et-Moselle was created in 1871 at the end of the Franco-Prussian War from the parts of the former departments of Moselle and Meurthe which remained French...

, Meuse
Meuse
Meuse is a department in northeast France, named after the River Meuse.-History:Meuse is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

, Moselle
Moselle
Moselle is a department in the east of France named after the river Moselle.- History :Moselle is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

, Vosges
Vosges
Vosges is a French department, named after the local mountain range. It contains the hometown of Joan of Arc, Domrémy.-History:The Vosges department is one of the original 83 departments of France, created on February 9, 1790 during the French Revolution. It was made of territories that had been...

Metz
Metz
Metz is a city in the northeast of France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers.Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region and prefecture of the Moselle department. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, Metz forms a central place...

 Midi-Pyrénées Ariège
Ariège
Ariège is a department in southwestern France named after the Ariège River.- History :Ariège is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was created from the counties of Foix and Couserans....

, Aveyron
Aveyron
Aveyron is a département in southern France named after the Aveyron River.- History :Aveyron is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790....

, Gers
Gers
The Gers is a department in the Midi-Pyrénées region in the southwest of France named after the Gers River.Inhabitants are called les Gersois or Gersoises.-History:...

, Haute-Garonne
Haute-Garonne
Haute-Garonne is a department in the southwest of France named after the Garonne river. Its main city is Toulouse.-History:Haute-Garonne is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. It was created from part of the former province of Languedoc.The...

, Hautes-Pyrénées
Hautes-Pyrénées
Hautes-Pyrénées is a department in southwestern France. It is part of the Midi-Pyrénées region.-History:...

, Lot, Tarn, Tarn-et-Garonne
Tarn-et-Garonne
Tarn-et-Garonne is a French department in the southwest of France. It is traversed by the Rivers Tarn and Garonne, from which it takes its name.-History:...

Toulouse
Toulouse
Toulouse is a city in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern FranceIt lies on the banks of the River Garonne, 590 km away from Paris and half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea...

 Nord-Pas de Calais Nord, Pas-de-Calais Lille
Lille
Lille is a city in northern France . It is the principal city of the Lille Métropole, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country behind those of Paris, Lyon and Marseille. Lille is situated on the Deûle River, near France's border with Belgium...

 Pays de la Loire Loire-Atlantique
Loire-Atlantique
Loire-Atlantique is a department on the west coast of France named after the Loire River and the Atlantic Ocean.-History:...

, Maine-et-Loire
Maine-et-Loire
Maine-et-Loire is a department in west-central France, in the Pays de la Loire region.- History :Maine-et-Loire is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. Originally it was called Mayenne-et-Loire, but its name was changed to Maine-et-Loire in 1791....

, Mayenne
Mayenne
Mayenne is a department in northwest France named after the Mayenne River.-History:Mayenne is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. The northern two thirds correspond to the western part of the former province of Maine...

, Sarthe
Sarthe
Sarthe is a French department, named after the Sarthe River.- History :The department was created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790, pursuant to the law of December 22, 1789, starting from a part of the province of Maine which was divided into two departments, Sarthe to the east and...

, Vendée
Vendée
The Vendée is a department in the Pays-de-la-Loire region in west central France, on the Atlantic Ocean. The name Vendée is taken from the Vendée river which runs through the south-eastern part of the department.-History:...

Nantes
Nantes
Nantes is a city in western France, located on the Loire River, from the Atlantic coast. The city is the 6th largest in France, while its metropolitan area ranks 8th with over 800,000 inhabitants....

Aisne
Aisne
Aisne is a department in the northern part of France named after the Aisne River.- History :Aisne is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Île-de-France, Picardie, and Champagne.Most of the old...

, Oise
Oise
Oise is a department in the north of France. It is named after the river Oise.-History:Oise is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

, Somme
Somme
Somme is a department of France, located in the north of the country and named after the Somme river. It is part of the Picardy region of France....

Amiens
Amiens
Amiens is a city and commune in northern France, north of Paris and south-west of Lille. It is the capital of the Somme department in Picardy...

 Poitou-Charentes Charente
Charente
Charente is a department in southwestern France, in the Poitou-Charentes region, named after the Charente River, the most important river in the department, and also the river beside which the department's two largest towns, Angoulême and Cognac, are sited.-History:Charente is one of the original...

, Charente-Maritime
Charente-Maritime
Charente-Maritime is a department on the west coast of France named after the Charente River.- History :Previously a part of Saintonge, Charente-Inférieure was one of the 83 original departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790...

, Deux-Sèvres
Deux-Sèvres
Deux-Sèvres is a French département. Deux-Sèvres literally means "two Sèvres": the Sèvre Nantaise and the Sèvre Niortaise are two rivers which have their sources in the department.-History:...

, Vienne
Vienne
Vienne is the northernmost département of the Poitou-Charentes region of France, named after the river Vienne.- Viennese history :Vienne is one of the original 83 departments, established on March 4, 1790 during the French Revolution. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Poitou,...

Poitiers
Poitiers
Poitiers is a city on the Clain river in west central France. It is a commune and the capital of the Vienne department and of the Poitou-Charentes region. The centre is picturesque and its streets are interesting for predominant remains of historical architecture, especially from the Romanesque...

 Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
Alpes-de-Haute-Provence is a French department in the south of France, it was formerly part of the province of Provence.- History :Nord-de-Provence was one of the 83 original departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790...

, Alpes-Maritimes
Alpes-Maritimes
Alpes-Maritimes is a department in the extreme southeast corner of France.- History : was created by Octavian as a Roman military district in 14 BC, and became a full Roman province in the middle of the 1st century with its capital first at Cemenelum and subsequently at Embrun...

, Bouches-du-Rhône
Bouches-du-Rhône
Bouches-du-Rhône is a department in the south of France named after the mouth of the Rhône River. It is the most populous department of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. Its INSEE and postal code is 13.-History of the department:...

, Hautes-Alpes
Hautes-Alpes
Hautes-Alpes is a department in southeastern France named after the Alps mountain range.- History :Hautes-Alpes is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790...

, Var, Vaucluse
Vaucluse
The Vaucluse is a department in the southeast of France, named after the famous spring, the Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.- History :Vaucluse was created on 12 August 1793 out of parts of the departments of Bouches-du-Rhône, Drôme, and Basses-Alpes...

Marseille
Marseille
Marseille , known in antiquity as Massalia , is the second largest city in France, after Paris, with a population of 852,395 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Marseille extends beyond the city limits with a population of over 1,420,000 on an area of...

 Rhône-Alpes Ain
Ain
Ain is a department named after the Ain River on the eastern edge of France. Being part of the region Rhône-Alpes and bordered by the rivers Saône and Rhône, the department of Ain enjoys a privileged geographic situation...

, Ardèche
Ardèche
Ardèche is a department in south-central France named after the Ardèche River.- History :The area has been inhabited by humans at least since the Upper Paleolithic, as attested by the famous cave paintings at Chauvet Pont d'Arc. The plateau of the Ardeche River has extensive standing stones ,...

, Drôme
Drôme
Drôme , a department in southeastern France, takes its name from the Drôme River.-History:The French National Constituent Assembly set up Drôme as one of the original 83 departments of France on March 4, 1790, during the French Revolution...

, Haute-Savoie
Haute-Savoie
Haute-Savoie is a French department in the Rhône-Alpes region of eastern France. It borders both Switzerland and Italy. The capital is Annecy. To the north is Lake Geneva and Switzerland; to the south and southeast are the Mont Blanc and Aravis mountain ranges and the French entrance to the Mont...

, Isère
Isère
Isère is a department in the Rhône-Alpes region in the east of France named after the river Isère.- History :Isère is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. It was created from part of the former province of Dauphiné...

, Loire
Loire
Loire is an administrative department in the east-central part of France occupying the River Loire's upper reaches.-History:Loire was created in 1793 when after just 3½ years the young Rhône-et-Loire department was split into two. This was a response to counter-Revolutionary activities in Lyon...

, Rhône, Savoie
Savoie
Savoie is a French department located in the Rhône-Alpes region in the French Alps.Together with the Haute-Savoie, Savoie is one of the two departments of the historic region of Savoy that was annexed by France on June 14, 1860, following the signature of the Treaty of Turin on March 24, 1860...

Lyon
Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....


Overseas regions and territories


Among the 101 departments of France, five (French Guiana
French Guiana
French Guiana is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department located on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. It has borders with two nations, Brazil to the east and south, and Suriname to the west...

, Guadeloupe, Martinique
Martinique
Martinique is an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of . Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. To the northwest lies Dominica, to the south St Lucia, and to the southeast Barbados...

, Mayotte
Mayotte
Mayotte is an overseas department and region of France consisting of a main island, Grande-Terre , a smaller island, Petite-Terre , and several islets around these two. The archipelago is located in the northern Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean, namely between northwestern Madagascar and...

, and Réunion
Réunion
Réunion is a French island with a population of about 800,000 located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, about south west of Mauritius, the nearest island.Administratively, Réunion is one of the overseas departments of France...

) are in overseas regions (ROMs) that are also simultaneously overseas departments (DOMs) and are an integral part of France (and the European Union) and thus enjoy a status similar to metropolitan departments.

In addition to the 27 regions and 101 departments, the French Republic also has five overseas collectivities (French Polynesia
French Polynesia
French Polynesia is an overseas country of the French Republic . It is made up of several groups of Polynesian islands, the most famous island being Tahiti in the Society Islands group, which is also the most populous island and the seat of the capital of the territory...

, Saint Barthélemy
Saint Barthélemy
Saint Barthélemy , officially the Territorial collectivity of Saint Barthélemy , is an overseas collectivity of France. Often abbreviated to Saint-Barth in French, or St. Barts in English, the indigenous people called the island Ouanalao...

, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna
Wallis and Futuna
Wallis and Futuna, officially the Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands , is a Polynesian French island territory in the South Pacific between Tuvalu to the northwest, Rotuma of Fiji to the west, the main part of Fiji to the southwest, Tonga to the southeast,...

), one sui generis
Sui generis
Sui generis is a Latin expression, literally meaning of its own kind/genus or unique in its characteristics. The expression is often used in analytic philosophy to indicate an idea, an entity, or a reality which cannot be included in a wider concept....

collectivity (New Caledonia
New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, east of Australia and about from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of...

), one overseas territory (French Southern and Antarctic Lands), and one island possession in the Pacific Ocean (Clipperton Island
Clipperton Island
Clipperton Island is an uninhabited nine-square-kilometre coral atoll in the eastern Pacific Ocean, southwest of Mexico and west of Central America, at...

).

Name Constitutional status Capital
 Clipperton Island State private property under the direct authority of the French government Minister of Overseas France
Minister of Overseas France
The Minister of Overseas France is a cabinet member in the Government of France responsible for overseeing French overseas departments and territories .The position is currently held by Brice Hortefeux, who is also the Minister of the Interior...

 French Guiana Overseas region (régions d'outre-mer) and simultaneously overseas department (département d'outre-mer or DOM) Cayenne
Cayenne
Cayenne is the capital of French Guiana, an overseas region and department of France located in South America. The city stands on a former island at the mouth of the Cayenne River on the Atlantic coast. The city's motto is "Ferit Aurum Industria" which means "Work brings wealth"...

 French Polynesia Designated as an overseas land (pays d'outre-mer or POM), the status is the same as an overseas collectivity. Papeete
Papeete
-Sights:* Interactive Google map of Papeete, to discover the 30 major tourist attractions in Papeete downtown.*The waterfront esplanade*Bougainville Park -Sights:* Interactive Google map of Papeete, to discover the 30 major tourist attractions in Papeete downtown.*The waterfront...

 French Southern Territories overseas territory (territoire d'outre-mer or TOM) Port-aux-Français
Port-aux-Français
Port-aux-Français is the capital settlement of the Kerguelen Islands, French territory in the south Indian Ocean. The port station is located on the Gulf of Morbihan, at . It has about 60 winter inhabitants, which can rise to more than 120 in summer....

 Guadeloupe Overseas region and department (DOM) Basse-Terre
Basse-Terre
Basse-Terre is the prefecture of Guadeloupe, an overseas region and department of France located in the Lesser Antilles...

 Martinique Overseas region and department (DOM) Fort-de-France
Fort-de-France
Fort-de-France is the capital of France's Caribbean overseas department of Martinique. It is also one of the major cities in the Caribbean. Exports include sugar, rum, tinned fruit, and cacao.-Geography:...

 Mayotte Overseas region and department (DOM) Mamoudzou
Mamoudzou
Mamoudzou is the capital of the French overseas region and department of Mayotte, in the Indian Ocean. Mamoudzou, known as Momoju in the local Shimaore language, is the most populated commune of Mayotte. It is located on Grande-Terre , the main island of Mayotte...

 New Caledonia Sui generis
Sui generis
Sui generis is a Latin expression, literally meaning of its own kind/genus or unique in its characteristics. The expression is often used in analytic philosophy to indicate an idea, an entity, or a reality which cannot be included in a wider concept....

collectivity
Nouméa
Nouméa
Nouméa is the capital city of the French territory of New Caledonia. It is situated on a peninsula in the south of New Caledonia's main island, Grande Terre, and is home to the majority of the island's European, Polynesian , Indonesian, and Vietnamese populations, as well as many Melanesians,...

Overseas region and department (DOM) Saint-Denis
Saint-Denis, Réunion
Saint-Denis is the préfecture of the French overseas region and department of Réunion, in the Indian Ocean. It is located at the island's northernmost point, close to the mouth of the Rivière Saint-Denis....

 Saint Barthélemy Overseas collectivity (collectivité d'outre-mer or COM) Gustavia
Overseas collectivity (collectivité d'outre-mer or COM) Marigot
Marigot, Saint Martin
Marigot is the main town and capital on the French side of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin.-History and features:Originally a fishing village on a swamp for which it was named, Marigot was made capital during the reign of King Louis XVI, who built Fort St. Louis on a hill near Marigot Bay...

 Saint-Pierre and Miquelon Overseas collectivity (collectivité d'outre-mer or COM). Still referred to as a collectivité territoriale. Saint-Pierre
 Wallis and Futuna Overseas collectivity (collectivité d'outre-mer or COM). Still referred to as a territoire. Mata-Utu
Mata-Utu
Mata-Utu is the capital of the Wallis and Futuna Territory. It is located on the island of Wallis , in the district of Hahake, of which it is also the capital. Its population is 1,191 ....



Overseas collectivities and territories form part of the French Republic, but do not form part of the European Union or its fiscal area (with the exception of St. Bartelemy, which seceded from Guadeloupe in 2007). The Pacific Collectivities (COMs) of French Polynesia, Wallis and Fortuna, and New Caledonia continue to use the CFP franc
CFP franc
The CFP franc is the currency used in the French overseas collectivities of French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna. The initials CFP originally stood for Colonies Françaises du Pacifique...

 whose value is linked to that of the euro. In contrast, the five overseas regions used the French franc and now use the euro.

Government



The French Republic is a unitary
Unitary state
A unitary state is a state governed as one single unit in which the central government is supreme and any administrative divisions exercise only powers that their central government chooses to delegate...

 semi-presidential
Semi-presidential system
The semi-presidential system is a system of government in which a president and a prime minister are both active participants in the day-to-day administration of the state...

 republic with strong democratic traditions. The constitution
Constitution of France
The current Constitution of France was adopted on 4 October 1958. It is typically called the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, and replaced that of the Fourth Republic dating from 1946. Charles de Gaulle was the main driving force in introducing the new constitution and inaugurating the Fifth...

 of the Fifth Republic was approved by referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 on 28 September 1958. It greatly strengthened the authority of the executive in relation to parliament. The executive branch itself has two leaders: the President of the Republic, currently Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy
Nicolas Sarkozy is the 23rd and current President of the French Republic and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra. He assumed the office on 16 May 2007 after defeating the Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal 10 days earlier....

, who is head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 and is elected directly by universal adult suffrage for a 5-year term (formerly 7 years), and the Government, led by the president-appointed Prime Minister
Prime Minister of France
The Prime Minister of France in the Fifth Republic is the head of government and of the Council of Ministers of France. The head of state is the President of the French Republic...

, currently François Fillon
François Fillon
François Charles Armand Fillon is the Prime Minister of France. He was appointed to that office by President Nicolas Sarkozy on 17 May 2007. He served initially until 13 November 2010 when he resigned from being prime minister before a planned cabinet reshuffle.On 14 November 2010, Sarkozy...

.

The French parliament
Parliament of France
The French Parliament is the bicameral legislature of the French Republic, consisting of the Senate and the National Assembly . Each assembly conducts legislative sessions at a separate location in Paris: the Palais du Luxembourg for the Senate, the Palais Bourbon for the National Assembly.Each...

 is a bicameral
Bicameralism
In the government, bicameralism is the practice of having two legislative or parliamentary chambers. Thus, a bicameral parliament or bicameral legislature is a legislature which consists of two chambers or houses....

 legislature comprising a National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) and a Senate. The National Assembly deputies represent local constituencies and are directly elected for 5-year terms. The Assembly has the power to dismiss the cabinet, and thus the majority in the Assembly determines the choice of government. Senators are chosen by an electoral college for 6-year terms (originally 9-year terms), and one half of the seats are submitted to election every 3 years starting in September 2008.

The Senate's legislative powers are limited; in the event of disagreement between the two chambers, the National Assembly has the final say. The government has a strong influence in shaping the agenda of Parliament.

French politics are characterised by two politically opposed groupings: one left-wing, centred around the French Socialist Party
Socialist Party (France)
The Socialist Party is a social-democratic political party in France and the largest party of the French centre-left. It is one of the two major contemporary political parties in France, along with the center-right Union for a Popular Movement...

, and the other right-wing, centred previously around the Rassemblement pour la République (RPR)
Rally for the Republic
The Rally for the Republic , was a French right-wing political party. Originating from the Union of Democrats for the Republic , it was founded by Jacques Chirac in 1976 and presented itself as the heir of Gaullism...

 and now its successor the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP)
Union for a Popular Movement
The Union for a Popular Movement is a centre-right political party in France, and one of the two major contemporary political parties in the country along with the center-left Socialist Party...

. The executive branch is currently composed mostly of the UMP.

Law



France uses a civil legal
Civil law (legal system)
Civil law is a legal system inspired by Roman law and whose primary feature is that laws are codified into collections, as compared to common law systems that gives great precedential weight to common law on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different...

 system; that is, law arises primarily from written statutes; judges are not to make law, but merely to interpret it (though the amount of judicial interpretation in certain areas makes it equivalent to case law
Case law
In law, case law is the set of reported judicial decisions of selected appellate courts and other courts of first instance which make new interpretations of the law and, therefore, can be cited as precedents in a process known as stare decisis...

). Basic principles of the rule of law
Rule of law
The rule of law, sometimes called supremacy of law, is a legal maxim that says that governmental decisions should be made by applying known principles or laws with minimal discretion in their application...

 were laid in the Napoleonic Code
Napoleonic code
The Napoleonic Code — or Code Napoléon — is the French civil code, established under Napoléon I in 1804. The code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs go to the most qualified...

 (which was, in turn, largely based on the royal law codified under Louis XIV
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

). In agreement with the principles of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen law should only prohibit actions detrimental to society. As Guy Canivet
Guy Canivet
Guy Canivet is a French judge., he is president of the Court of Cassation and as such is the highest judge in France....

, first president of the Court of Cassation
Court of Cassation (France)
The French Supreme Court of Judicature is France's court of last resort having jurisdiction over all matters triable in the judicial stream but only scope of review to determine a miscarriage of justice or certify a question of law based solely on points of law...

, wrote about the management of prisons: :Freedom is the rule, and its restriction is the exception; any restriction of Freedom must be provided for by Law and must follow the principles of necessity and proportionality.
That is, Law should lay out prohibitions only if they are needed, and if the inconveniences caused by this restriction do not exceed the inconveniences that the prohibition is supposed to remedy.

French law is divided into two principal areas: private law
Private law
Private law is that part of a civil law legal system which is part of the jus commune that involves relationships between individuals, such as the law of contracts or torts, as it is called in the common law, and the law of obligations as it is called in civilian legal systems...

 and public law
Public law
Public law is a theory of law governing the relationship between individuals and the state. Under this theory, constitutional law, administrative law and criminal law are sub-divisions of public law...

. Private law includes, in particular, civil law and criminal law
Criminal law
Criminal law, is the body of law that relates to crime. It might be defined as the body of rules that defines conduct that is not allowed because it is held to threaten, harm or endanger the safety and welfare of people, and that sets out the punishment to be imposed on people who do not obey...

. Public law includes, in particular, administrative law
Administrative law
Administrative law is the body of law that governs the activities of administrative agencies of government. Government agency action can include rulemaking, adjudication, or the enforcement of a specific regulatory agenda. Administrative law is considered a branch of public law...

 and constitutional law
Constitutional law
Constitutional law is the body of law which defines the relationship of different entities within a state, namely, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary....

. However, in practical terms, French law comprises three principal areas of law: civil law, criminal law and administrative law.

France does not recognize religious law
Religious law
In some religions, law can be thought of as the ordering principle of reality; knowledge as revealed by a God defining and governing all human affairs. Law, in the religious sense, also includes codes of ethics and morality which are upheld and required by the God...

, nor does it recognize religious beliefs or morality as a motivation for the enactment of prohibitions. As a consequence, France has long had neither blasphemy
Blasphemy
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy...

 laws nor sodomy law
Sodomy law
A sodomy law is a law that defines certain sexual acts as crimes. The precise sexual acts meant by the term sodomy are rarely spelled out in the law, but are typically understood by courts to include any sexual act deemed unnatural. It also has a range of similar euphemisms...

s (the latter being abolished in 1791). However, "offenses against public decency
Decency
Decency is the quality or state of conforming to social or moral standards of taste and propriety.-See also:*Taste *Communications Decency Act*Public indecency*Indecent exposure*Sodomy law*Norm *Grotesque body...

" (contraires aux bonnes mœurs) or disturbing public order
Breach of the peace
Breach of the peace is a legal term used in constitutional law in English-speaking countries, and in a wider public order sense in Britain.-Constitutional law:...

 (trouble à l'ordre public) have been used to repress public expressions of homosexuality or street prostitution.

Criminal laws can only address the future and not the past (criminal ex post facto
Ex post facto law
An ex post facto law or retroactive law is a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences of actions committed or relationships that existed prior to the enactment of the law...

laws are prohibited) ; and to be applicable, laws must be officially published in the Journal Officiel de la République Française
Journal Officiel de la République Française
The Journal Officiel de la République Française is the official gazette of the French Republic. It publishes the major legal official information from the national Government of France.-Publications:...

.

France is tolerant of the LGBT community
Gay community
The gay community, or LGBT community, is a loosely defined grouping of LGBT and LGBT-supportive people, organizations and subcultures, united by a common culture and civil rights movements. These communities generally celebrate pride, diversity, individuality, and sexuality...

. Since 1999, civil unions
Pacte civil de solidarité
In France, a pacte civil de solidarité commonly known as a PACS /paks/ , is a form of civil union between two adults for organising their joint life. It brings rights and responsibilities, but less so than marriage...

 for homosexual couples are permitted, although same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex or social gender. Supporters of legal recognition for same-sex marriage typically refer to such recognition as marriage equality....

 is illegal in France. Laws sentencing racism, sexism
Sexism
Sexism, also known as gender discrimination or sex discrimination, is the application of the belief or attitude that there are characteristics implicit to one's gender that indirectly affect one's abilities in unrelated areas...

 or antisemitism are old and important, for instance, laws prohibiting discriminatory speech in the press are as old as 1881.

Foreign relations


France is a member of the United Nations and serves as one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

 with veto rights. It is also a member of the G8
G8
The Group of Eight is a forum, created by France in 1975, for the governments of seven major economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1997, the group added Russia, thus becoming the G8...

, World Trade Organization
World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization is an organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade. The organization officially commenced on January 1, 1995 under the Marrakech Agreement, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade , which commenced in 1948...

 (WTO), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community
Secretariat of the Pacific Community
The Secretariat of the Pacific Community, or SPC , is a regional intergovernmental organisation whose membership includes both nations and territories...

 (SPC) and the Indian Ocean Commission
Indian Ocean Commission
The Indian Ocean Commission , known as the Commission de l'Océan Indien in French, is an intergovernmental organization that joins Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, France , and the Seychelles together to encourage cooperation. It was started in January 1984 under the General Victoria Agreement...

 (COI). It is an associate member of the Association of Caribbean States
Association of Caribbean States
The Association of Caribbean States was formed with the aim of promoting consultation, cooperation, and concerted action among all the countries of the Caribbean. It comprises twenty-five member states and four associate members...

 (ACS) and a leading member of the International Francophone Organisation (OIF) of fifty-one fully or partly French-speaking countries. It hosts the headquarters of the OECD
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is an international economic organisation of 34 countries founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade...

, UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

, Interpol
Interpol
Interpol, whose full name is the International Criminal Police Organization – INTERPOL, is an organization facilitating international police cooperation...

, Alliance Base
Alliance Base
Alliance Base was the cover name for a secret Western Counterterrorist Intelligence Center that existed between 2002 and 2009 in Paris. The existence of CTICs were first revealed by Dana Priest in a November 17, 2005 Washington Post article, while she referred to the Alliance Base in a July 2,...

 and the International Bureau for Weights and Measures
International Bureau of Weights and Measures
The International Bureau of Weights and Measures , is an international standards organisation, one of three such organisations established to maintain the International System of Units under the terms of the Metre Convention...

. In 1953, France received a request from the United Nations to pick a coat of arms
Coat of arms
A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on a shield or escutcheon or on a surcoat or tabard used to cover and protect armour and to identify the wearer. Thus the term is often stated as "coat-armour", because it was anciently displayed on the front of a coat of cloth...

 that would represent it internationally. Thus the French emblem was adopted and is currently used on passports.

French foreign policy has been largely shaped by membership of the European Union, of which it was a founding member
Inner Six
The Inner Six, or simply The Six, are the six founding member states of the European Communities. This was in contrast to the outer seven who formed the European Free Trade Association rather than be involved in supranational European integration .-History:The inner six are those who responded to...

. In the 1960s, France sought to exclude the British from the organisation, seeking to build its own standing in continental Europe. Since the 1960s
Élysée Treaty
Élysée Treaty also known as the Treaty of Friendship, was concluded by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer in 1963. It set the seal on reconciliation between the two countries...

, France has developed close ties with reunified Germany to become the most influential driving force of the EU.

Since 1904, France has maintained an "Entente cordiale
Entente Cordiale
The Entente Cordiale was a series of agreements signed on 8 April 1904 between the United Kingdom and the French Republic. Beyond the immediate concerns of colonial expansion addressed by the agreement, the signing of the Entente Cordiale marked the end of almost a millennium of intermittent...

" with the United Kingdom, and over the last few years, links between both countries have strenghthened- especially on a military level
Defence and Security Co-operation Treaty
The Defence and Security Co-operation Treaty between the French Republic and the United Kingdom was signed at 10 Downing Street on 2 November 2010 by President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister David Cameron...

.

France is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, but under President de Gaulle, it excluded itself from the joint military command to avoid the American domination of its foreign and security policies. However, as a result of Nicolas Sarkozy's (much criticised in France by the leftists and by a part of the right) pro-American politics, France rejoined the NATO joint military command on 4 April 2009. In the early 1990s, the country drew considerable criticism from other nations for its underground nuclear tests in French Polynesia
French Polynesia
French Polynesia is an overseas country of the French Republic . It is made up of several groups of Polynesian islands, the most famous island being Tahiti in the Society Islands group, which is also the most populous island and the seat of the capital of the territory...

. France vigorously opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

, straining bilateral relations with the US and the UK. France retains strong political and economic influence in its former African colonies (Françafrique
Françafrique
Françafrique is a term that refers to France's relationship with Africa. The term was first used in a positive sense by President Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Côte d'Ivoire, but it is now generally understood to denounce the neocolonial relationship France has with its African backyard...

) and has supplied economic aid and troops for peace-keeping missions in the Ivory Coast
Côte d'Ivoire
The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire or Ivory Coast is a country in West Africa. It has an area of , and borders the countries Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana; its southern boundary is along the Gulf of Guinea. The country's population was 15,366,672 in 1998 and was estimated to be...

 and Chad
Chad
Chad , officially known as the Republic of Chad, is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, Cameroon and Nigeria to the southwest, and Niger to the west...

.

France has the second largest network of diplomatic mission
Diplomatic mission
A diplomatic mission is a group of people from one state or an international inter-governmental organisation present in another state to represent the sending state/organisation in the receiving state...

s in the world, second only to the USA.

Development aid


In 2009, France is the second largest (in absolute numbers) donor of development aid
Development aid
Development aid or development cooperation is aid given by governments and other agencies to support the economic, environmental, social and political development of developing countries.It is distinguished...

 in the world, behind only the US, and ahead of Germany, Japan and the UK. This represents 0.5 % of its GDP, in this regard rating as more generous than most other developed countries ; however, it does not meet the International Aid Target of 0.7 %. The organism managing the French help is the French Development Agency
French Development Agency
French Development Agency is the French international development agency.The Agence Française de Développement is a public institution providing development financing...

, which finances primarily humanitarian projects in sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa as a geographical term refers to the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara. A political definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, instead, covers all African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara...

. The main goals of this help are "developing infrastructure, access to health care and education, the implementation of appropriate economic policies and the consolidation of the rule of law and democracy."

Military


France's armed forces (Armées françaises), comprising the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

 (Armée de Terre), French Navy
French Navy
The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching...

 (Marine Nationale), and the French Air Force
French Air Force
The French Air Force , literally Army of the Air) is the air force of the French Armed Forces. It was formed in 1909 as the Service Aéronautique, a service arm of the French Army, then was made an independent military arm in 1933...

 (Armée de l'Air), and the auxiliary paramilitary force, the National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie nationale) is the thirteenth largest in the world. Individually, the Navy employs 42,550 professional sailors and 15,000 part-time reservists and has a displacement 307,000 tons making it the world's sixth biggest navy. The Army employs 123,100 regulars and 118,350 part-time reservists making it the fourth largest in NATO. The Air Force is the oldest and first professional air force in the world and employs 57,400 regulars making it also the fourth largest in NATO. While administratively a part of the French armed forces, and therefore under the purview of the Ministry of Defence, the Gendarmerie is operationally attached to the Ministry of the Interior
Minister of the Interior (France)
The Minister of the Interior in France is one of the most important governmental cabinet positions, responsible for the following:* The general interior security of the country, with respect to criminal acts or natural catastrophes...

. The gendarmerie is a military police force which serves for the most part as a rural and general purpose police force. It encompasses the counter terrorist units of the Parachute Intervention Squadron of the National Gendarmerie (Escadron Parachutiste d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale) and the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale). One of the French intelligence units, the Directorate-General for External Security (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure) reports to the Ministry of Defence. The other, the Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence
Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur
The Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur is a French intelligence agency which reports directly to the Ministry of the Interior...

 (Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur), reports directly to the Ministry of the Interior. There has been no national conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 since 1997. The president is the supreme commander of the French Armed Forces. France is a permanent member of the Security Council of the UN, and a recognised nuclear state since 1960. France has signed and ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and acceeded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to...

. France's annual military expenditure in 2010 was US$61.3 billion, or 2.5 percent of its GDP, making it the third biggest military spender in the world after China and the United States of America.

The French deterrence, (formerly known as “Force de Frappe
Force de frappe
The Force de Frappe is the designation of what used to be a triad of air-, sea- and land-based nuclear weapons intended for dissuasion, and consequential deterrence...

”), relies on complete independence. The current French nuclear force consists of four Triomphant class submarines equipped with submarine-launched ballistic missile
Submarine-launched ballistic missile
A submarine-launched ballistic missile is a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead that can be launched from submarines. Modern variants usually deliver multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles each of which carries a warhead and allows a single launched missile to...

s. In addition to the submarine fleet, it is estimated that France has about 60 ASMP
Air-Sol Moyenne Portée
The Air-Sol Moyenne Portée is a French air-launched nuclear missile. Part of the Force de frappe, in French nuclear doctrine it is the last-resort "warning shot" prior to a full-scale employment of strategic nuclear weapons...

 medium-range air-to-ground missile
Air-to-surface missile
An air-to-surface missile is a missile designed to be launched from military aircraft and strike ground targets on land, at sea, or both...

s with nuclear warhead
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

s, of which ~50 are carried by the Mirage 2000N long-range multirole fighter and arm the Air Force and ~10 can be carried by the French Navy's Super Étendard Modernisé (SEM) attack planes which use the only non-American nuclear powered aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

 in the world, the Charles de Gaulle when at sea. The new Rafale F3
Dassault Rafale
The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine delta-wing multi-role jet fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Introduced in 2000, the Rafale is being produced both for land-based use with the French Air Force and for carrier-based operations with the French Navy...

 aircraft will gradually replace all Mirage 2000N and SEM in the nuclear strike role with the improved ASMP-A missile with a nuclear warhead.

France has major military industries that have produced the Rafale
Dassault Rafale
The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine delta-wing multi-role jet fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Introduced in 2000, the Rafale is being produced both for land-based use with the French Air Force and for carrier-based operations with the French Navy...

 fighter, the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, the Exocet
Exocet
The Exocet is a French-built anti-ship missile whose various versions can be launched from surface vessels, submarines, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Hundreds were fired in combat during the 1980s.-Etymology:...

 missile and the Leclerc tank amongst others. Some weaponry, like the E-2 Hawkeye or the E-3 Sentry was bought from the United States. Despite withdrawing from the Eurofighter
Eurofighter Typhoon
The Eurofighter Typhoon is a twin-engine, canard-delta wing, multirole combat aircraft, designed and built by a consortium of three companies: EADS, Alenia Aeronautica and BAE Systems; working through a holding company, Eurofighter GmbH, which was formed in 1986...

 project, France is actively investing in European joint projects such as the Eurocopter Tiger
Eurocopter Tiger
The Eurocopter Tiger is an attack helicopter manufactured by Eurocopter. In Germany it is known as the Tiger; in France and Spain it is called the Tigre.-Origins:...

, multipurpose frigates
FREMM multipurpose frigate
The FREMM Multipurpose Frigate is a ship designed by DCNS/Armaris and Fincantieri to operate in anti-air, anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare, and be capable of carrying out deep strikes against land targets.The French Navy plans to operate eleven FREMM frigates, and the Marina...

, the UCAV
Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle
An unmanned combat air vehicle or combat drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that is designed to deliver weapons without an onboard pilot. Currently operational UCAVs are under real-time human control, but future version may enable autonomous operation, for example with pre-programmed route and...

 demonstrator nEUROn
Dassault Neuron
The Dassault nEUROn is an experimental Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle being developed with international cooperation, led by the French company Dassault Aviation.-Description:...

 and the Airbus A400M
Airbus A400M
The Airbus A400M, also known as the Atlas, is a multi-national four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. It was designed by Airbus Military as a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities. The aircraft's maiden flight, originally planned for 2008, took place on 11 December 2009 in...

. France has the largest aerospace industry
Aerospace manufacturer
An aerospace manufacturer is a company or individual involved in the various aspects of designing, building, testing, selling, and maintaining aircraft, aircraft parts, missiles, rockets, and/or spacecraft....

 in Europe. France is a major arms seller, with most of its arsenal's designs available for the export market with the notable exception of nuclear-powered devices.

Economy


A member of the G8
G8
The Group of Eight is a forum, created by France in 1975, for the governments of seven major economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1997, the group added Russia, thus becoming the G8...

 group of leading industrialised countries, it is ranked as the world's fifth largest and Europe's second largest economy by nominal GDP; with 39 of the 500 biggest companies of the world in 2010, France ranks world's 4th and Europe's 1st in the Fortune Global 500
Fortune Global 500
The Fortune Global 500 is a ranking of the top 500 corporations worldwide as measured by revenue. The list is compiled and published annually by Fortune magazine....

 ahead of Germany and the UK. France joined 11 other EU members to launch the euro on 1 January 1999, with euro coins
Euro coins
There are eight euro coin denominations, ranging from one cent to two euros . The coins first came into use in 2002. They have a common reverse, portraying a map of Europe, but each country in the eurozone has its own design on the obverse, which means that each coin has a variety of different...

 and banknotes
Euro banknotes
Euro banknotes are the banknotes of the euro, the currency of the eurozone and have been in circulation since 2002. They are issued by the national central banks of the euro area or the European Central Bank...

 completely replacing the French franc
French franc
The franc was a currency of France. Along with the Spanish peseta, it was also a de facto currency used in Andorra . Between 1360 and 1641, it was the name of coins worth 1 livre tournois and it remained in common parlance as a term for this amount of money...

 (₣) in early 2002.

France has a mixed economy
Mixed economy
Mixed economy is an economic system in which both the state and private sector direct the economy, reflecting characteristics of both market economies and planned economies. Most mixed economies can be described as market economies with strong regulatory oversight, in addition to having a variety...

 which combines extensive private enterprise (nearly 2.5 million companies registered) with substantial (though declining) state enterprise and government intervention (see dirigisme
Dirigisme
Dirigisme is an economy in which the government exerts strong directive influence. While the term has occasionally been applied to centrally planned economies, where the state effectively controls both production and allocation of resources , it originally had neither of these meanings when...

). The government retains considerable influence over key segments of infrastructure sectors, with majority ownership of railway, electricity, aircraft, nuclear power and telecommunications. It has been gradually relaxing its control over these sectors since the early 1990s. The government is slowly corporatising
Corporatization
Corporatization refers to the transformation of state assets or agencies into state-owned corporations in order to introduce corporate management techniques to their administration...

 the state sector and selling off holdings in France Télécom
France Télécom
France Telecom S.A. is the main telecommunications company in France, the third-largest in Europe and one of the largest in the world. It currently employs about 180,000 people and has 192.7 million customers worldwide . In 2010 the group had revenue of €45.5 billion...

, Air France
Air France
Air France , stylised as AIRFRANCE, is the French flag carrier headquartered in Tremblay-en-France, , and is one of the world's largest airlines. It is a subsidiary of the Air France-KLM Group and a founding member of the SkyTeam global airline alliance...

, as well as the insurance, banking, and defence industries. France has an important aerospace industry led by the European consortium Airbus
Airbus
Airbus SAS is an aircraft manufacturing subsidiary of EADS, a European aerospace company. Based in Blagnac, France, surburb of Toulouse, and with significant activity across Europe, the company produces around half of the world's jet airliners....

, and has its own national spaceport
Spaceport
A spaceport or cosmodrome is a site for launching spacecraft, by analogy with seaport for ships or airport for aircraft. The word spaceport, and even more so cosmodrome, has traditionally been used for sites capable of launching spacecraft into orbit around Earth or on interplanetary trajectories...

, the Centre Spatial Guyanais
Centre Spatial Guyanais
The Guiana Space Centre or, more commonly, Centre Spatial Guyanais is a French spaceport near Kourou in French Guiana. Operational since 1968, it is particularly suitable as a location for a spaceport due to its proximity to the equator, and that launches are in a favourable direction over water...

.
According to the World Trade Organization
World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization is an organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade. The organization officially commenced on January 1, 1995 under the Marrakech Agreement, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade , which commenced in 1948...

 (WTO), in 2009 France was the world's sixth-largest exporter and the fourth-largest importer of manufactured goods. In 2008, France was the third-largest recipient of foreign direct investment
Foreign direct investment
Foreign direct investment or foreign investment refers to the net inflows of investment to acquire a lasting management interest in an enterprise operating in an economy other than that of the investor.. It is the sum of equity capital,other long-term capital, and short-term capital as shown in...

 among OECD countries at $117.9 billion
1000000000 (number)
1,000,000,000 is the natural number following 999,999,999 and preceding 1,000,000,001.In scientific notation, it is written as 109....

, ranking behind Luxembourg (where foreign direct investment was essentially monetary transfers to banks located in that country) and the United States ($316.1 billion), but above the United Kingdom ($96.9 billion), Germany ($24.9 billion), or Japan ($24.4 billion). In the same year, French companies invested $220 billion outside of France, ranking France as the second most important outward direct investor in the OECD, behind the United States ($311.8 billion), and ahead of the United Kingdom ($111.4 billion), Japan ($128 billion) and Germany ($156.5 billion). With 39 of the 500 biggest companies of the world in 2010, France ranks 4th in the Fortune Global 500
Fortune Global 500
The Fortune Global 500 is a ranking of the top 500 corporations worldwide as measured by revenue. The list is compiled and published annually by Fortune magazine....

, behind the USA, Japan and China, but ahead of Germany and the UK.

Financial services, banking and the insurance sector are an important part of France's economy.
The Paris stock exchange market is an ancient institution, as it was created by Louis XV
Louis XV of France
Louis XV was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 1 September 1715 until his death. He succeeded his great-grandfather at the age of five, his first cousin Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, served as Regent of the kingdom until Louis's majority in 1723...

 in 1724.
In 2000, the stock exchanges of Paris, Amsterdam and Bruxelles merged into Euronext
Euronext
Euronext N.V. is a pan-European stock exchange based in Amsterdam and with subsidiaries in Belgium, France, Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom. In addition to equities and derivatives markets, the Euronext group provides clearing and information services...

. In 2007, Euronext merged with the New York stock exchange
New York Stock Exchange
The New York Stock Exchange is a stock exchange located at 11 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan, New York City, USA. It is by far the world's largest stock exchange by market capitalization of its listed companies at 13.39 trillion as of Dec 2010...

 to form NYSE Euronext, the world's largest stock exchange.
Euronext Paris
Euronext Paris
Euronext Paris is France's securities market, formerly known as the Paris Bourse, which merged with the Amsterdam, Lisbon and Brussels exchanges in September 2000 to form Euronext NV, which is the second largest exchange in Europe behind the UK's London Stock Exchange...

, the French branch of the NYSE Euronext group is Europe's second largest stock exchange market, behind the London Stock Exchange
London Stock Exchange
The London Stock Exchange is a stock exchange located in the City of London within the United Kingdom. , the Exchange had a market capitalisation of US$3.7495 trillion, making it the fourth-largest stock exchange in the world by this measurement...

.

French companies have maintained key positions in the Insurance and Banking industries: AXA
AXA
AXA S.A. is a French global insurance group headquartered in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. AXA is a conglomerate of independently run businesses, operated according to the laws and regulations of many different countries. The AXA group of companies engage in life, health and other forms of...

 is the world's largest insurance company, and is ranked by Fortune
Fortune (magazine)
Fortune is a global business magazine published by Time Inc. Founded by Henry Luce in 1930, the publishing business, consisting of Time, Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated, grew to become Time Warner. In turn, AOL grew as it acquired Time Warner in 2000 when Time Warner was the world's largest...

 the ninth richest corporation by revenues.

The leading French banks are BNP Paribas
BNP Paribas
BNP Paribas S.A. is a global banking group, headquartered in Paris, with its second global headquarters in London. In October 2010 BNP Paribas was ranked by Bloomberg and Forbes as the largest bank and largest company in the world by assets with over $3.1 trillion. It was formed through the merger...

 and the Crédit Agricole
Crédit Agricole
Crédit Agricole S.A. is the largest retail banking group in France, second largest in Europe and the eighth largest in the world by Tier 1 capital according to The Banker magazine. It is also part of the CAC 40 stock market index....

, ranking as the world's 1st and 6th largest banks in 2010 (determined by the amount of assets), while the Société Générale group
Société Générale
Société Générale S.A. is a large European Bank and a major Financial Services company that has a substantial global presence. Its registered office is on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, while its head office is in the Tours Société Générale in the business district of La...

 was ranked the world's eight largest in 2008–2009.

France is the smallest emitter of carbon dioxide
Greenhouse gas
A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone...

 among the seven most industrialized countries in the world, due to its heavy investment in nuclear power
Nuclear power
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity...

. As a result of large investments in nuclear technology, most of the electricity produced in the country is generated by 59 nuclear power plants (78% in 2006, up from only 8% in 1973, 24% in 1980, and 75% in 1990). In this context, renewable energies (see the power cooperative Enercoop
Enercoop
Enercoop is a French electricity supplier. It is the only one in France in the form of a cooperative. Its founding members include Greenpeace and other leading actors of environmental protection and the ethical economy....

) are having difficulties taking off the ground.

Agriculture


France has historically been an important producer of agricultural products. Large tracts of fertile land, the application of modern technology, and EU subsidies
Common Agricultural Policy
The Common Agricultural Policy is a system of European Union agricultural subsidies and programmes. It represents 48% of the EU's budget, €49.8 billion in 2006 ....

 have combined to make France the leading agricultural producer and exporter in Europe (representing alone 20% of the EU's agricultural production) and the world's third biggest exporter of agricultural products.

Wheat, poultry, dairy, beef, and pork, as well as an internationally recognized processed foods are the primary French agricultural exports. Rosé wines
Rosé
A rosé is a type of wine that has some of the color typical of a red wine, but only enough to turn it pink. The pink color can range from a pale orange to a vivid near-purple, depending on the grapes and wine making techniques.- Production techniques :There are three major ways to produce rosé...

 are primarily consumed within the country, but champagne and Bordeaux wines are major exports, being known worldwide. EU agriculture subsidies to France have decreased for the last years, but still amounted to $8 billion in 2007. This same year, France sold 33.4 billion euros of transformed agricultural products.

Agriculture is thus an important sector of France's economy : 3.5% of the active population is employed in agriculture, whereas the total agri-food industry made up 4.2% of French GDP in 2005.

Labour market


The French GDP per capita is similar to the GDP per capita of other comparable European countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom. GDP per capita is determined by (i) productivity per hour worked, which in France is the highest of the G8
G8
The Group of Eight is a forum, created by France in 1975, for the governments of seven major economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1997, the group added Russia, thus becoming the G8...

 countries in 2005, according to the OECD, (ii) the number of hours worked, which is one the lowest of developed countries, and (iii) the employment rate. France has one of the lowest 15–64 years employment rates of the OECD countries: in 2004, only 69% of the French population aged 15–64 years were in employment, compared to 80% in Japan, 79% in the UK, 77% in the US, and 71% in Germany.

This gap is due to the very low employment rates at both age extremes: the employment rate of people aged 55–64 was 38.3% in 2007, compared to 46.6% in the EU15; for the 15–24 years old, the employment rate was 31.5% in 2007, compared to 37.2% in EU25. These low employment rates are explained by the high minimum wages which prevent low productivity workers – such as young people – from easily entering the labour market, ineffective university curricula that fail to prepare students adequately for the labour market, and, concerning the older workers, restrictive legislation on work and incentives for premature retirement.

The unemployment rate decreased from 9% in 2006 to 7% in 2008 but remains one of the highest in Europe. In June 2009, the unemployment rate for France was 9.4%.
Shorter working hours and the reluctance to reform the labour market are mentioned as weak spots of the French economy in the view of the right, when the left mentions the lack of government policies fostering social justice. Liberal economists have stressed repeatedly over the years that the main issue of the French economy is an issue of structural reforms, in order to increase the size of the working population in the overall population, reduce the taxes' level and the administrative burden.

Keynesian economists
Keynesian economics
Keynesian economics is a school of macroeconomic thought based on the ideas of 20th-century English economist John Maynard Keynes.Keynesian economics argues that private sector decisions sometimes lead to inefficient macroeconomic outcomes and, therefore, advocates active policy responses by the...

 have different answers to the unemployment issue, and their theories led to the 35-hour workweek
35-hour workweek
The 35-hour working week is a measure adopted first in France, in February 2000, under Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's Plural Left government; it was pushed by Minister of Labour Martine Aubry. The previous legal duration of the working week was 39 hours, which had been established by François...

 law in the early 2000s, which turned out to be a failure in reducing unemployment. Afterwards, between 2004 and 2008, the Government made some supply-oriented reforms to combat unemployment but met with fierce resistance, especially with the contrat nouvelle embauche
Contrat nouvelle embauche
Contrat nouvelle embauche is a French employment contract, proposed by prime minister Dominique de Villepin and that came into force by ordinance on August 2, 2005 Contrat nouvelle embauche (abbreviated to CNE, New Employment Contract aka New Recruitment Contract or sometimes New-job contract in...

and the contrat première embauche which both were eventually repealed. The current Government is experiencing the revenu de solidarité active
Revenu de solidarité active
The Revenu de solidarité active is a French form of social welfare. It is aimed at people working with low wages and provide them with a complement; its aim is to encourage activity. It was implemented on 1 June 2009 by the French government....

to redress the negative effect of the revenu minimum d'insertion
Revenu minimum d'insertion
The Revenu minimum d'insertion is a French form of social welfare. It is aimed at people without any income who are of working age but do not have any other rights to unemployment benefits...

on work incentive.

Tourism



With 81.9 million foreign tourists in 2007, France is ranked
World Tourism rankings
The World Tourism rankings are compiled by the United Nations World Tourism Organization as part of their World Tourism Barometer publication, which is released three times throughout the year...

 as the first tourist destination in the world, ahead of Spain (58.5 million in 2006) and the United States (51.1 million in 2006). This 81.9 million figure excludes people staying less than 24 hours in France, such as Northern Europeans crossing France on their way to Spain or Italy during the summer.
France has 37 sites inscribed in UNESCO's World Heritage List and features cities of high cultural interest (Paris being the foremost, but also Toulouse
Toulouse
Toulouse is a city in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern FranceIt lies on the banks of the River Garonne, 590 km away from Paris and half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea...

, Strasbourg
Strasbourg
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking,...

, Bordeaux
Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...

, Lyon
Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

...), beaches and seaside resorts, ski
Ski
A ski is a long, flat device worn on the foot, usually attached through a boot, designed to help the wearer slide smoothly over snow. Originally intended as an aid to travel in snowy regions, they are now mainly used for recreational and sporting purposes...

 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
Collonges-la-Rouge
Collonges-la-Rouge is a commune in the Corrèze department in the Limousin region of France.-History:The monks of Charroux Abbey founded a priory in the eighth century which attracted a population of peasants, craftsmen and tradesmen who lived and prospered around its fortified walls. The welcoming...

 or Locronan
Locronan
Locronan is a commune in the Finistère department of Brittany in north-western France.Locronan is a member of the [Les Plus Beaux Villages de France]] association.-The place name:...

) are promoted through the association Les Plus Beaux Villages de France
Les Plus Beaux Villages de France
Les Plus Beaux Villages de France is an independent association, created in 1982, which aims to promote assets of small and picturesque French villages of quality heritage...

(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
Way of St. James
The Way of St. James or St. James' Way is the pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle Saint James are buried....

, or to Lourdes
Lourdes
Lourdes is a commune in the Hautes-Pyrénées department in the Midi-Pyrénées region in south-western France.Lourdes is a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees, famous for the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes occurred in 1858 to Bernadette Soubirous...

, a town in the Hautes-Pyrénées
Hautes-Pyrénées
Hautes-Pyrénées is a department in southwestern France. It is part of the Midi-Pyrénées region.-History:...

 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
Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

, which is the most visited art museum in the world, but also the Musée d'Orsay
Musée d'Orsay
The Musée d'Orsay is a museum in Paris, France, on the left bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, an impressive Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture,...

, mostly devoted to impressionism
Impressionism
Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s...

, and Beaubourg, dedicated to Contemporary art
Contemporary art
Contemporary art can be defined variously as art produced at this present point in time or art produced since World War II. The definition of the word contemporary would support the first view, but museums of contemporary art commonly define their collections as consisting of art produced...

.

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
Disneyland Park (Paris)
Disneyland Park is a theme park at Disneyland Paris, a resort complex just outside of Paris, in the new town of Marne-la-Vallée, France. The first of two parks built at the resort, it opened as Euro Disneyland on 12 April, 1992...

 and Walt Disney Studios Park
Walt Disney Studios Park
Walt Disney Studios Park is the second theme park to open at Disneyland Paris, owned and operated by Euro Disney S.C.A.. It is located to the west of the hub, next door to Disneyland Park at the heart of the resort in Marne-la-Vallée....

 in 2009. The historical theme park Puy du Fou
Puy du Fou
Le Puy du Fou is a historical theme park in Les Epesses in the heart of the Vendée region of Western France...

 in Vendée is the second most visited park of France. Other popular theme parks are the Futuroscope
Futuroscope
Futuroscope, or Parc du Futuroscope is a French theme park based upon multimedia, cinematographic futuroscope and audio-visual techniques...

 of Poitiers
Poitiers
Poitiers is a city on the Clain river in west central France. It is a commune and the capital of the Vienne department and of the Poitou-Charentes region. The centre is picturesque and its streets are interesting for predominant remains of historical architecture, especially from the Romanesque...

 and the Parc Astérix
Parc Astérix
Parc Astérix is a theme amusement park in France, based on the stories of Asterix . Situated approximately north of Paris and from Disneyland Resort Paris, in Plailly in the département of Oise, it opened in 1989...

.

With more than 10 millions tourists a year, the French Riviera
French Riviera
The Côte d'Azur, pronounced , often known in English as the French Riviera , is the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France, also including the sovereign state of Monaco...

 (or Côte d'Azur), in south-eastern France, is the second leading tourist destination in the country, after the Parisian region
Île-de-France (région)
Île-de-France is the wealthiest and most populated of the twenty-two administrative regions of France, composed mostly of the Paris metropolitan area....

. According to the Côte d'Azur Economic Development Agency, it benefits from 300 days of sunshine per year, 115 kilometres (71.5 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
Luxury yacht
The term luxury yacht, “Superyacht” and "Large Yacht" refers to very expensive, privately owned yachts which are professionally crewed. Also known as a Super Yacht, a luxury yacht may be either a sailing or motor yacht.-History:...

 fleet, with 90% of all superyachts visiting the region's coast at least once in their lifetime.

An other major destination are the Châteaux of the Loire Valley, this World Heritage Site is noteworthy for the quality of its architectural heritage, in its historic towns such as Amboise
Amboise
Amboise is a commune in the Indre-et-Loire department in central France. It lies on the banks of the Loire River, east of Tours. Today a small market town, it was once home of the French royal court...

, Angers
Angers
Angers is the main city in the Maine-et-Loire department in western France about south-west of Paris. Angers is located in the French region known by its pre-revolutionary, provincial name, Anjou, and its inhabitants are called Angevins....

, Blois
Blois
Blois is the capital of Loir-et-Cher department in central France, situated on the banks of the lower river Loire between Orléans and Tours.-History:...

, Chinon
Chinon
Chinon is a commune in the Indre-et-Loire department in central France well known for Château de Chinon.In the Middle Ages, Chinon developed especially during the reign of Henry II . The castle was rebuilt and extended, becoming one of his favorite residences...

, Nantes
Nantes
Nantes is a city in western France, located on the Loire River, from the Atlantic coast. The city is the 6th largest in France, while its metropolitan area ranks 8th with over 800,000 inhabitants....

, Orléans
Orléans
-Prehistory and Roman:Cenabum was a Gallic stronghold, one of the principal towns of the Carnutes tribe where the Druids held their annual assembly. It was conquered and destroyed by Julius Caesar in 52 BC, then rebuilt under the Roman Empire...

, Saumur
Saumur
Saumur is a commune in the Maine-et-Loire department in western France.The historic town is located between the Loire and Thouet rivers, and is surrounded by the vineyards of Saumur itself, Chinon, Bourgueil, Coteaux du Layon, etc...

, and Tours
Tours
Tours is a city in central France, the capital of the Indre-et-Loire department.It is located on the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and the Atlantic coast. Touraine, the region around Tours, is known for its wines, the alleged perfection of its local spoken French, and for the...

, but in particular for its castles (châteaux), such as the Château
Château
A château is a manor house or residence of the lord of the manor or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally—and still most frequently—in French-speaking regions...

x d'Amboise
Château d'Amboise
The royal Château at Amboise is a château located in Amboise, in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France.-Origins and royal residence:...

, de Chambord, d'Ussé
Château d'Ussé
The Château d'Ussé is located in the commune of Rigny-Ussé in the Indre-et-Loire département, in France. The stronghold at the edge of the Chinon forest overlooking the Indre Valley was first fortified in the eleventh century by the Norman seigneur of Ussé, Gueldin de Saumur, who surrounded the...

, de Villandry
Château de Villandry
The Château de Villandry is a castle-palace located in Villandry, in the département of Indre-et-Loire, France.The lands where an ancient fortress once stood were known as Colombier until the 17th century...

 and Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau
The Château de Chenonceau is a manor house near the small village of Chenonceaux, in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France. It was built on the site of an old mill on the River Cher, sometime before its first mention in writing in the 11th century...

, which illustrate to an exceptional degree the ideals of the French Renaissance
French Renaissance
French Renaissance is a recent term used to describe a cultural and artistic movement in France from the late 15th century to the early 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance that many cultural historians believe originated in northern Italy in the fourteenth century...

.

The most popular tourist sites include: (according to a 2003 ranking visitors per year): Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is a puddle iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris. Built in 1889, it has become both a global icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world...

 (6.2 million), Louvre Museum (5.7 million), Palace of Versailles (2.8 million), Musée d'Orsay (2.1 million), Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
-The design:The astylar design is by Jean Chalgrin , in the Neoclassical version of ancient Roman architecture . Major academic sculptors of France are represented in the sculpture of the Arc de Triomphe: Jean-Pierre Cortot; François Rude; Antoine Étex; James Pradier and Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire...

 (1.2 million), Centre Pompidou
Centre Georges Pompidou
Centre Georges Pompidou is a complex in the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near Les Halles, rue Montorgueil and the Marais...

 (1.2 million), Mont-Saint-Michel (1 million), Château de Chambord (711,000), Sainte-Chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle
La Sainte-Chapelle is the only surviving building of the Capetian royal palace on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris, France. It was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion Relics, including the Crown of Thorns - one of the most important relics in medieval...

 (683,000), Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg
Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg
The château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg is located at Orschwiller, Alsace, France, in the Vosges mountains just west of Sélestat. The castle is nestled at a strategic location on a high hill overlooking the Alsatian plain; as a result it was used by successive powers from the Middle Ages until the Thirty...

 (549,000), Puy de Dôme
Puy-de-Dôme (mountain)
Puy de Dôme is a large lava dome and one of the youngest volcanoes in the Chaîne des Puys region of Massif Central in south-central France. This chain of volcanoes including numerous cinder cones, lava domes, and maars is located far from the edge of any tectonic plate. Puy de Dôme is located...

 (500,000), Musée Picasso
Musée Picasso
The Musée Picasso is an art gallery located in the Hôtel Salé in rue de Thorigny, in the Marais district of Paris dedicated to the work of the artist Pablo Picasso .-Building:...

 (441,000), Carcassonne
Carcassonne
Carcassonne is a fortified French town in the Aude department, of which it is the prefecture, in the former province of Languedoc.It is divided into the fortified Cité de Carcassonne and the more expansive lower city, the ville basse. Carcassone was founded by the Visigoths in the fifth century,...

 (362,000).

Transport




The railway network of France, which stretches 29473 kilometres (18,314 mi) is the second most extensive in Western Europe after the German one. It is operated by the SNCF
SNCF
The SNCF , is France's national state-owned railway company. SNCF operates the country's national rail services, including the TGV, France's high-speed rail network...

, and high-speed trains include the Thalys
Thalys
Thalys is an international high-speed train operator originally built around the high-speed line between Paris and Brussels. This track is shared with Eurostar trains that go from Paris or Brussels to London via Lille and the Channel Tunnel and with French domestic TGV trains. Thalys reaches...

, the Eurostar
Eurostar
Eurostar is a high-speed railway service connecting London with Paris and Brussels. All its trains traverse the Channel Tunnel between England and France, owned and operated separately by Eurotunnel....

 and TGV
TGV
The TGV is France's high-speed rail service, currently operated by SNCF Voyages, the long-distance rail branch of SNCF, the French national rail operator....

, which travels at 320 km/h (199 mph) in commercial use. The Eurostar, along with the Eurotunnel Shuttle
Eurotunnel Shuttle
Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is a shuttle service between Calais/Coquelles in France and Folkestone in Britain. It conveys road vehicles by rail through the Channel Tunnel...

, connects with the United Kingdom through the Channel Tunnel
Channel Tunnel
The Channel Tunnel is a undersea rail tunnel linking Folkestone, Kent in the United Kingdom with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais near Calais in northern France beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover. At its lowest point, it is deep...

. Rail connections exist to all other neighbouring countries in Europe, except Andorra
Andorra
Andorra , officially the Principality of Andorra , also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, , is a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of...

. Intra-urban connections are also well developed with both underground services
Rapid transit
A rapid transit, underground, subway, elevated railway, metro or metropolitan railway system is an electric passenger railway in an urban area with a high capacity and frequency, and grade separation from other traffic. Rapid transit systems are typically located either in underground tunnels or on...

 and tramway services complementing bus services.

There are approximately 1027183 kilometres (638,264 mi) of serviceable roadway in France, ranking it the most extensive network of the European continent. The Paris region is enveloped with the most dense network of roads and highways that connect it with virtually all parts of the country. French roads also handle substantial international traffic, connecting with cities in neighboring Belgium, Spain, Andorra, Monaco, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. There is no annual registration fee or road tax
Road tax
Road tax, known by various names around the world, is a tax which has to be paid on a motor vehicle before using it on a public road.-Australia:...

; however, motorway usage is through tolls except in the vicinity of large communes. The new car market is dominated by domestic brands such as Renault
Renault
Renault S.A. is a French automaker producing cars, vans, and in the past, autorail vehicles, trucks, tractors, vans and also buses/coaches. Its alliance with Nissan makes it the world's third largest automaker...

 (27% of cars sold in France in 2003), Peugeot
Peugeot
Peugeot is a major French car brand, part of PSA Peugeot Citroën, the second largest carmaker based in Europe.The family business that precedes the current Peugeot company was founded in 1810, and manufactured coffee mills and bicycles. On 20 November 1858, Emile Peugeot applied for the lion...

 (20.1%) and Citroën
Citroën
Citroën is a major French automobile manufacturer, part of the PSA Peugeot Citroën group.Founded in 1919 by French industrialist André-Gustave Citroën , Citroën was the first mass-production car company outside the USA and pioneered the modern concept of creating a sales and services network that...

 (13.5%). Over 70% of new cars sold in 2004 had diesel engine
Diesel engine
A diesel engine is an internal combustion engine that uses the heat of compression to initiate ignition to burn the fuel, which is injected into the combustion chamber...

s, far more than contained petrol or LPG
Liquified petroleum gas
Liquefied petroleum gas is a flammable mixture of hydrocarbon gases used as a fuel in heating appliances and vehicles. It is increasingly used as an aerosol propellant and a refrigerant, replacing chlorofluorocarbons in an effort to reduce damage to the ozone layer...

 engines. France possesses the Millau Viaduct
Millau Viaduct
The Millau Viaduct is a cable-stayed road-bridge that spans the valley of the river Tarn near Millau in southern France. Designed by the British architect Norman Foster and French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux, it is the tallest bridge in the world, with one mast's summit at . It is the...

, the world's tallest bridge, and has built many important bridges such as the Pont de Normandie.

There are 475 airports in France. Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport located in the vicinity of Paris is the largest and busiest airport in the country, handling the vast majority of popular and commercial traffic and connecting Paris with virtually all major cities across the world. Air France
Air France
Air France , stylised as AIRFRANCE, is the French flag carrier headquartered in Tremblay-en-France, , and is one of the world's largest airlines. It is a subsidiary of the Air France-KLM Group and a founding member of the SkyTeam global airline alliance...

 is the national carrier airline, although numerous private airline companies provide domestic and international travel services. There are ten major ports in France, the largest of which is in Marseille
Marseille
Marseille , known in antiquity as Massalia , is the second largest city in France, after Paris, with a population of 852,395 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Marseille extends beyond the city limits with a population of over 1,420,000 on an area of...

, which also is the largest bordering the Mediterranean Sea. 12261 kilometres (7,619 mi) of waterways traverse France including the Canal du Midi
Canal du Midi
The is a long canal in Southern France . The canal connects the Garonne River to the on the Mediterranean and along with the Canal de Garonne forms the Canal des Deux Mers joining the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. The canal runs from the city of Toulouse down to the Étang de Thau...

 which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean through the Garonne
Garonne
The Garonne is a river in southwest France and northern Spain, with a length of .-Source:The Garonne's headwaters are to be found in the Aran Valley in the Pyrenees, though three different locations have been proposed as the true source: the Uelh deth Garona at Plan de Beret , the Ratera-Saboredo...

 river.

Demographics



With an estimated population of 65.8 million people (as of 1 Jan. 2011), France is the 20th most populous country in the world.
In 2003, France's natural population growth (excluding immigration) was responsible for almost all natural population growth in the European Union. The natural growth (excess of births over deaths) rose to 302,432 in 2006, its highest since the end of the baby boom
Baby boom
A baby boom is any period marked by a greatly increased birth rate. This demographic phenomenon is usually ascribed within certain geographical bounds and when the number of annual births exceeds 2 per 100 women...

 in 1973. The total fertility rate
Total Fertility Rate
The total fertility rate of a population is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime if she were to experience the exact current age-specific fertility rates through her lifetime, and she...

 rose to 2.01 in 2010, from a nadir of 1.68 in 1994. In the five years between Jan. 2006 and Jan. 2011, population growth was on average +0.58% per year. In 2010, 27.3% of newborn in metropolitan France had at least one foreign-born parent and 23.9% had at least one parent born outside of Europe (parents born in overseas territories are considered as born in France).

As of 2008, the French national institute of statistics INSEE
INSEE
INSEE is the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies. It collects and publishes information on the French economy and society, carrying out the periodic national census. Located in Paris, it is the French branch of Eurostat, European Statistical System...

 estimated that 11.8 million foreign-born immigrants and their direct descendants (born in France) lived in France representing 19% of the country's population. More than 5 million are of European origin and about 4 million of Maghrebi origin. Immigrants aged 18–50 count for 2.7 millions (10% of population aged 18–50) and 5 millions for all ages (8% of population). 2nd Generation aged 18–50 make up 3.1 millions (12% of 18-50) and 6.5 millions for all ages (11% of population)

In 2004, a total of 140,033 people immigrated to France. Of them, 90,250 were from Africa and 13,710 from Europe. In 2008, France granted citizenship to 137,000 persons, mostly to people from Morocco, Algeria and Turkey.

Although it is illegal for the French state to collect data on ethnicity and race, a law with its origins in the 1789 revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 and reaffirmed in the constitution of 1958, some surveys, like the TeO ("Trajectories and origins") survey conducted jointly by INED and INSEE in 2008, are allowed to do it. Before this survey, it was estimated that between three million and six million people are of North African ancestry while an estimated 2.5 million people are of Black African ancestry. It is currently estimated that 40% of the French population is descended at least partially from the different waves of immigration the country has received. Between 1921 and 1935 about 1.1 million net immigrants came to France. An estimated 1.6 million European pieds noirs returned to France as the country's North African possessions gained independence.

France is the leading asylum
Refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

 destination in Western Europe with an estimated 50,000 applications in 2005 (a 15% decrease from 2004). The European Union allows free movement between the member states. While UK and Ireland did not impose restrictions, France put in place controls to curb Eastern European migration.

The largest cities in France, in terms of metropolitan area population, are Paris (11,836,970), Lyon
Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

 (1,757,180), Marseille
Marseille
Marseille , known in antiquity as Massalia , is the second largest city in France, after Paris, with a population of 852,395 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Marseille extends beyond the city limits with a population of over 1,420,000 on an area of...

 (1,618,369), Lille
Lille
Lille is a city in northern France . It is the principal city of the Lille Métropole, the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country behind those of Paris, Lyon and Marseille. Lille is situated on the Deûle River, near France's border with Belgium...

 (1,163,934), Toulouse
Toulouse
Toulouse is a city in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern FranceIt lies on the banks of the River Garonne, 590 km away from Paris and half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea...

 (1,118,472), Bordeaux
Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...

 (1,009,313), Nice
Nice
Nice is the fifth most populous city in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, with a population of 348,721 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of more than 955,000 on an area of...

 (999,678), Nantes
Nantes
Nantes is a city in western France, located on the Loire River, from the Atlantic coast. The city is the 6th largest in France, while its metropolitan area ranks 8th with over 800,000 inhabitants....

 (768,305) and Strasbourg
Strasbourg
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking,...

 (641,853).

A perennial political issue concerns rural depopulation. Over the period 1960–1999 fifteen rural départements experienced a decline in population. In the most extreme case, the population of Creuse
Creuse
Creuse is a department in central France named after the Creuse River.-History:Creuse is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was created from the former province of La Marche....

 fell by 24%.

Language



According to Article 2 of the Constitution, the official language of France is French, a Romance language derived from latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

. Since 1635, the Académie française
Académie française
L'Académie française , also called the French Academy, is the pre-eminent French learned body on matters pertaining to the French language. The Académie was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. Suppressed in 1793 during the French Revolution,...

 is France's official authority on the usages, vocabulary, and grammar of the French language, although its recommendations carry no legal power.

The French government does not regulate the choice of language in publications by individuals but the use of French is required by law in commercial and workplace communications. In addition to mandating the use of French in the territory of the Republic, the French government tries to promote French in the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 and globally through institutions such as La Francophonie
La Francophonie
Francophonie is an international organization of politics and governments with French as the mother or customary language, where a significant proportion of people are francophones , or where there is a notable affiliation with the French language or culture.Formally known as the Organisation...

. The perceived threat from anglicisation
Anglicisation
Anglicisation, or anglicization , is the process of converting verbal or written elements of any other language into a form that is more comprehensible to an English speaker, or, more generally, of altering something such that it becomes English in form or character.The term most often refers to...

 has prompted efforts to safeguard the position of the French language in France. Besides French, there exist 77 vernacular minority languages of France, 8 in the French metropolitan territory of continental Europe and 69 in the French overseas territories
Overseas departments and territories of France
The French Overseas Departments and Territories consist broadly of French-administered territories outside of the European continent. These territories have varying legal status and different levels of autonomy, although all have representation in the Parliament of France , and consequently the...

.

From the 17th century to the mid 20th century, French served as the pre-eminent international language of diplomacy and international affairs as well as a lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 among the educated classes of Europe. The dominant position of French language in international affairs has only been challenged recently by English, since the emergence of the USA as a major power.

As a result of France's extensive colonial ambitions
French colonial empire
The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

 between the 17th and 20th centuries, French was introduced to America, Africa, Polynesia, South-East Asia, and the Caribbean. French is the second most studied foreign language in the world after English, and is a lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 in some regions, notably in Africa. The legacy of French as a living language outside Europe is mixed: it is nearly extinct in some former French colonies (Southeast Asia), while creoles, and pidgins based on French have emerged in the French departments in the West Indies and the South Pacific (French Polynesia
French Polynesia
French Polynesia is an overseas country of the French Republic . It is made up of several groups of Polynesian islands, the most famous island being Tahiti in the Society Islands group, which is also the most populous island and the seat of the capital of the territory...

). On the other hand, many former French colonies have adopted French as an official language, and the total number of French speakers is increasing, especially in Africa.

It is estimated that between 300 million and 500 million people worldwide can speak French, either as a mother tongue or a second language
Second language
A second language or L2 is any language learned after the first language or mother tongue. Some languages, often called auxiliary languages, are used primarily as second languages or lingua francas ....

.

Religion


France is a secular country, and freedom of religion is a constitutional right. The French government does not keep statistics on religious adherence, nor on ethnicity or on political affiliation. However, some unofficial survey estimates exist.

Roman Catholicism has been the predominant religion in France for more than a millennium, though it is not as actively practiced today as it once was. A survey by the Catholic newspaper La Croix
La Croix
La Croix is a daily French general-interest Roman Catholic newspaper. It is published in Paris and distributed throughout the country, with a circulation of just under 110,000 as of 2009...

found that whilst in 1965, 81% of the French declared themselves to be Catholics, in 2009 this proportion was 64%. Moreover, whilst 27% of the French went to Mass once a week or more in 1952, only 4.5% did so in 2006; 15.2% attended Mass at least once a month. The same survey found that Protestants
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 accounted for 3% of the population, an increase from previous surveys, and 5% adhered to other religions, with the remaining 28% stating that they had no religion.
According to a January 2007 poll by the Catholic World News, only 5% of the French population attended church regularly (or 10% attend church services regularly among the respondents who did identify themselves as Catholics). The poll showed 51% identified as being Catholics, 31% identified as being agnostics or atheists
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 (another poll sets the proportion of atheists equal to 27%), 10% identified as being from other religions or being without opinion, 4% identified as Muslim, 3% identified as Protestant
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

, 1% identified as Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, 1% identified as Jewish. Meanwhile, an independent estimate by the politologist Pierre Bréchon in 2009 concluded that the proportion of Catholics had fallen to 42% while the number of atheists and agnostics had risen to 50%. According to the Pewforum "In France, proponents of a 2004 law banning the wearing of religious symbols in schools say it protects Muslim girls from being forced to wear a headscarf, but the law also restricts those who want to wear headscarves – or any other “conspicuous” religious symbol, including large Christian crosses and Sikh turbans – as an expression of their faith"

According to the most recent but in 2010 somewhat outdated Eurobarometer Poll
Eurobarometer
Eurobarometer is a series of surveys regularly performed on behalf of the European Commission since 1973. It produces reports of public opinion of certain issues relating to the European Union across the member states...

 2005, 34% of French citizens responded that “they believe there is a god”, whereas 27% answered that “they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force” and 33% that “they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god, or life force”. One other study shows 32% of people in France declaring themselves to be atheists, and another 32% declaring themselves “sceptical about the existence of God but not an atheist”.

Estimates of the number of Muslims in France
Islam in France
Islam is the second most widely practiced religion in France by number of worshippers, with an estimated total of 5 to 10 percent of the national population.-Statistics:...

 vary widely. According to the more than one decade old 1999 French census returns, there were 3.7 million people of “possible Muslim faith” in France (6.3% of the total population). In 2003, the French Ministry of the Interior estimated the total number of Muslims to be between five and six million (8–10%). The current Jewish community in France numbers around 600,000 according to the World Jewish Congress
World Jewish Congress
The World Jewish Congress was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in August 1936 as an international federation of Jewish communities and organizations...

 and is the largest in Europe. However, both the North American Jewish Data bank and the Vitual Jew Library put the estimates closer to 480,000 .

Since 1905 the French government has followed the principle of laïcité
Laïcité
French secularism, in French, laïcité is a concept denoting the absence of religious involvement in government affairs as well as absence of government involvement in religious affairs. French secularism has a long history but the current regime is based on the 1905 French law on the Separation of...

, in which it is prohibited from recognising any specific right to a religious community (except for legacy statutes like that of military chaplains and the local law in Alsace-Moselle
Alsace-Moselle
The territory of the former Alsace-Lorraine, commonly known as Alsace-Moselle, is a region in the eastern part of France, bordering with Germany. Its principal cities are Metz and Strassburg. Alsace-Moselle was part of the German Empire from 1871 to 1918, and again from 1940 until its liberation by...

). Instead, it merely recognises religious organisations, according to formal legal criteria that do not address religious doctrine. Conversely, religious organizations should refrain from intervening in policy-making.

Certain bodies of beliefs such as Scientology
Scientology
Scientology is a body of beliefs and related practices created by science fiction and fantasy author L. Ron Hubbard , starting in 1952, as a successor to his earlier self-help system, Dianetics...

, Children of God, the Unification Church
Unification Church
The Unification Church is a new religious movement founded by Korean religious leader Sun Myung Moon. In 1954, the Unification Church was formally and legally established in Seoul, South Korea, as The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity . In 1994, Moon gave the church...

, or the Order of the Solar Temple
Order of the Solar Temple
The Order of the Solar Temple also known as Ordre du Temple Solaire in French, and the International Chivalric Organization of the Solar Tradition or simply as The Solar Temple was a secret society based upon the modern myth of the continuing existence of the Knights Templar...

 are considered cult
Cult
The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices...

s ("sectes" in French), and therefore do not have the same status as religions in France. Secte is considered a pejorative term in France.

Health


The French healthcare system was ranked first worldwide by the World Health Organization
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. Established on 7 April 1948, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health...

 in 1997 and then again in 2000. Care is generally free for people affected by chronic diseases (affections de longues durées) such as cancer, AIDS or Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is a recessive genetic disease affecting most critically the lungs, and also the pancreas, liver, and intestine...

. Average life expectancy at birth is 77 years for men and 84 years for women, one of the highest of the European Union. There are 3.22 physicians for every 1000 inhabitants in France, and average health care spending per capita was US$4,719 in 2008.
As of 2007, approximately 140,000 inhabitants (0.4%) of France are living with HIV/AIDS.

Even if the French have the reputation of being one of the thinnest peoples in developed countries,
France—like other rich countries—faces an increasing and recent epidemic of obesity
Obesity
Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems...

, due mostly to the replacement of traditional healthy French cuisine by junk food
Junk food
Junk food is an informal term applied to some foods that are perceived to have little or no nutritional value ; to products with nutritional value, but which also have ingredients considered unhealthy when regularly eaten; or to those considered unhealthy to consume at all...

 in French eating habits. Nevertheless, the French obesity rate is far below that of the USA (for instance, obesity rate in France is the same that the American once was in the 1970s), and is still the lowest of Europe, but it is now regarded by the authorities as one of the main public health issues and is fiercely fought; rates of childhood obesity are slowing in France, while continuing to grow in other countries.

Education


In 1802, Napoléon Bonaparte created the lycée. Nevertheless it is Jules Ferry
Jules Ferry
Jules François Camille Ferry was a French statesman and republican. He was a promoter of laicism and colonial expansion.- Early life :Born in Saint-Dié, in the Vosges département, France, he studied law, and was called to the bar at Paris in 1854, but soon went into politics, contributing to...

 who is considered to be the father of the French modern school, which is free, secular, and compulsory until the age of 13 since 1882 (school attendance in France is now compulsory until the age of 16).

Nowadays, the schooling system in France is centralized, and is composed of three stages, primary education, secondary education, and higher education. The Programme for International Student Assessment
Programme for International Student Assessment
The Programme for International Student Assessment is a worldwide evaluation in OECD member countries of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance, performed first in 2000 and repeated every three years...

, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks France's education as the 25th best in the world, being neither significantly higher nor lower than the OECD average. Primary and secondary education are predominantly public, run by the Ministry of National Education
Minister of National Education (France)
The Ministry of National Education, Youth, and Sport , or simply "Minister of National Education," as the title has changed no small number of times in the course of the Fifth Republic) is the French government cabinet member charged with running France's public educational system and with the...

.

Higher education in France is divided between public universities and the prestigious and selective Grandes écoles
Grandes écoles
The grandes écoles of France are higher education establishments outside the main framework of the French university system. The grandes écoles select students for admission based chiefly on national ranking in competitive written and oral exams...

, such as Science Po Paris for Political studies, HEC Paris for Economics, the École nationale supérieure des mines de Paris
École nationale supérieure des mines de Paris
The École Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris was created in 1783 by King Louis XVI in order to train intelligent directors of mines. It is one of the most prominent French engineering schoolsThe École Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris (also known as Mines ParisTech, École des Mines de...

 that produces high-profile engineers, or the École nationale d'administration
École nationale d'administration
The École Nationale d'Administration , one of the most prestigious of French graduate schools , was created in 1945 by Charles de Gaulle to democratise access to the senior civil service. It is now entrusted with the selection and initial training of senior French officials...

 for careers in the great corps of the State. The Grandes écoles have been criticised for alleged elitism
Elitism
Elitism is the belief or attitude that some individuals, who form an elite — a select group of people with intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are those whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most...

, nevertheless they have produced many if not most of France's high-ranking civil servants, CEO, or politicians.

Culture


France has been a center of cultural creation for centuries. Many French artists have been among the most renowned of their time, and France is still recognized in the world for its rich cultural tradition.

The successive political regimes have always promoted artistic creation, and the creation of the Ministry of Culture
Minister of Culture (France)
The Minister of Culture is, in the Government of France, the cabinet member in charge of national museums and monuments; promoting and protecting the arts in France and abroad; and managing the national archives and regional "maisons de culture"...

 in 1959 helped preserve the cultural heritage of the country and make it available to the public. The Ministry of Culture has been very active since its creation, granting subsidies to artists, promoting French culture in the world, supporting festivals and cultural events, protecting historical monuments
Monument historique
A monument historique is a National Heritage Site of France. It also refers to a state procedure in France by which national heritage protection is extended to a building or a specific part of a building, a collection of buildings, or gardens, bridges, and other structures, because of their...

. The French government also succeeded in maintaining a cultural exception
Cultural exception
Cultural exception is a concept introduced by France in General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiations in 1993...

 to defend audiovisual products made in the country.

France receives the highest number of tourists per year, largely thanks to the numerous cultural establishments and historical buildings implanted all over the territory. It counts 1,200 museums welcoming more than 50 million people annually. The most important cultural sites are run by the government, for instance through the public agency Centre des monuments nationaux
Centre des monuments nationaux
The Centre des monuments nationaux is a French government body which conserves, restores, and manages historic buildings and sites which are the property of the French state...

, which have around a hundred national historical monuments at charge.

The 43,180 buildings protected as historical monuments include mainly residences (many castles, or château
Château
A château is a manor house or residence of the lord of the manor or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally—and still most frequently—in French-speaking regions...

x
in French) and religious buildings (cathedrals, basilicas, churches, etc.), but also statutes, memorials and gardens. The UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 inscribed 37 sites in France on the World Heritage List.

Painting


The origins of French painting were very much influenced by Italian art. The two most famous French artists of the time of Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

, Nicolas Poussin
Nicolas Poussin
Nicolas Poussin was a French painter in the classical style. His work predominantly features clarity, logic, and order, and favors line over color. His work serves as an alternative to the dominant Baroque style of the 17th century...

 and Claude Lorrain
Claude Lorrain
Claude Lorrain, , traditionally just Claude in English Claude Lorrain, , traditionally just Claude in English (also Claude Gellée, his real name, or in French Claude Gellée, , dit le Lorrain) Claude Lorrain, , traditionally just Claude in English (also Claude Gellée, his real name, or in French...

, lived in Italy. Louis XIV's prime minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert
Jean-Baptiste Colbert
Jean-Baptiste Colbert was a French politician who served as the Minister of Finances of France from 1665 to 1683 under the rule of King Louis XIV. His relentless hard work and thrift made him an esteemed minister. He achieved a reputation for his work of improving the state of French manufacturing...

 founded in 1648 the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture to protect these artists, and in 1666 he created the still-in-activity French Academy in Rome
French Academy in Rome
The French Academy in Rome is an Academy located in the Villa Medici, within the Villa Borghese, on the Pincio in Rome, Italy.-History:...

 to have direct relations with Italian artists.

French painting also followed the evolution of Italian painters towards a rococo
Rococo
Rococo , also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an 18th-century style which developed as Baroque artists gave up their symmetry and became increasingly ornate, florid, and playful...

 style in the 18th century, as an imitation of old baroque style, the works of court-endorsed artists Antoine Watteau
Antoine Watteau
Jean-Antoine Watteau was a French painter whose brief career spurred the revival of interest in colour and movement...

, François Boucher
François Boucher
François Boucher was a French painter, a proponent of Rococo taste, known for his idyllic and voluptuous paintings on classical themes, decorative allegories representing the arts or pastoral occupations, intended as a sort of two-dimensional furniture...

 and Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Jean-Honoré Fragonard was a French painter and printmaker whose late Rococo manner was distinguished by remarkable facility, exuberance, and hedonism. One of the most prolific artists active in the last decades of the Ancien Régime, Fragonard produced more than 550 paintings , of which only five...

 being the most representative in the country. The French Revolution brought great changes, as Napoleon I
Napoleon I
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 favoured painters of neoclassic style
Neoclassicism
Neoclassicism is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome...

 as Jacques-Louis David
Jacques-Louis David
Jacques-Louis David was an influential French painter in the Neoclassical style, considered to be the preeminent painter of the era...

. The middle of the eighteen century was dominated by two successive movements, at first Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 with Théodore Géricault
Théodore Géricault
Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault was a profoundly influential French artist, painter and lithographer, known for The Raft of the Medusa and other paintings...

 and Eugène Delacroix
Eugène Delacroix
Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix was a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school...

, a more realistic painting with Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who led the Realist movement in 19th-century French painting. The Realist movement bridged the Romantic movement , with the Barbizon School and the Impressionists...

 and Jean-François Millet
Jean-François Millet
Jean-François Millet was a French painter and one of the founders of the Barbizon school in rural France...

.

In the second part of the 18th century, France became a center of artistic creation, developing a new style of painting and counting on the most famous impressionist painters of the period, among them Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro was a French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter born on the island of St Thomas . His importance resides in his contributions to both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, as he was the only artist to exhibit in both forms...

, Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet
Édouard Manet was a French painter. One of the first 19th-century artists to approach modern-life subjects, he was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism....

, Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas[p] , born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar De Gas, was a French artist famous for his work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and drawing. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist...

, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir. Second generation of impressionist-style painters Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne can be said to form the bridge between late 19th...

, Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin
Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin was a leading French Post-Impressionist artist. He was an important figure in the Symbolist movement as a painter, sculptor, print-maker, ceramist, and writer...

, Toulouse-Lautrec and Georges Seurat were also at the avant-guarde of artistic evolutions, as well as fauvist artists
Fauvism
Fauvism is the style of les Fauves , a short-lived and loose group of early twentieth-century Modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong colour over the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism...

 Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse was a French artist, known for his use of colour and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. He was a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor, but is known primarily as a painter...

, André Derain
André Derain
André Derain was a French artist, painter, sculptor and co-founder of Fauvism with Henri Matisse.-Early years:...

 and Maurice de Vlaminck
Maurice de Vlaminck
Maurice de Vlaminck was a French painter. Along with André Derain and Henri Matisse he is considered one of the principal figures in the Fauve movement, a group of modern artists who from 1904 to 1908 were united in their use of intense color.-Life:Maurice de Vlaminck was born in Paris to a family...

. At the beginning of 20th century, Cubism was developed by Georges Braque
Georges Braque
Georges Braque[p] was a major 20th century French painter and sculptor who, along with Pablo Picasso, developed the art style known as Cubism.-Early Life:...

 and Spanish painter Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the...

, living in Paris. Other foreign artists also settled and worked in or near Paris, like Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent Willem van Gogh , and used Brabant dialect in his writing; it is therefore likely that he himself pronounced his name with a Brabant accent: , with a voiced V and palatalized G and gh. In France, where much of his work was produced, it is...

, Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall Art critic Robert Hughes referred to Chagall as "the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century."According to art historian Michael J...

 and Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. He is credited with painting the first purely-abstract works. Born in Moscow, Kandinsky spent his childhood in Odessa. He enrolled at the University of Moscow, studying law and economics...

.

Many museums in France are entirely or partly devoted to painting works. A huge collection of old masterpieces created before or during the 18th century are displayed in the state-owned Musée du Louvre, such as Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa is a portrait by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. It is a painting in oil on a poplar panel, completed circa 1503–1519...

, also known as La Joconde. While the Louvre Palace has been for a long time a museum, the Musée d'Orsay was inaugurated in 1986 in the old railway station Gare d'Orsay
Gare d'Orsay
Gare d'Orsay is a former Paris railway station and hotel, built in 1900 to designs by Victor Laloux, Lucien Magne and Émile Bénard; it served as a terminus for the Chemin de Fer de Paris à Orléans . It was the first electrified urban rail terminal in the world, opened 28 May 1900, in time for the...

, in a major reorganization of national art collections, to gather French paintings from the second part of the 19th century (mainly Impressionism and Fauvism movements).

Modern works are presented in the Musée National d'Art Moderne
Musée National d'Art Moderne
The Musée National d'Art Moderne is the national museum for modern art of France. It is located in Paris and is housed in the Centre Pompidou in the 4th arrondissement of the city. Created in 1947, it was then housed in the Palais de Tokyo and moved to its current location in 1977...

, which moved in 1976 to the Centre Georges Pompidou
Centre Georges Pompidou
Centre Georges Pompidou is a complex in the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near Les Halles, rue Montorgueil and the Marais...

. These three state-owned museums welcome close to 17 million people a year. Other national museums hosting paintings include the Grand Palais
Grand Palais
This article contains material abridged and translated from the French and Spanish Wikipedia.The Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées, commonly known as the Grand Palais , is a large historic site, exhibition hall and museum complex located at the Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, France...

 (1,3 million visitors in 2008), but there are also many museums owned by cities, the most visited being the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art dedicated to the arts of the 20th/21st centuries. It is located at 11 Avenue du Président Wilson in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.-Description:...

 (0,8 million entries in 2008), which hosts contemporary works.

Architecture



Technically speaking, there is no standard type of "French" architecture, although that has not always been true. Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

's old name was French architecture (or Opus Francigenum). The term “Gothic” appeared later as a stylistic insult and was widely adopted. The Gothic architecture was the first French style of architecture to be copied in all Europe. Northern France is the home of some of the most important Gothic cathedrals and basilicas, the first of these being the Saint Denis Basilica
Saint Denis Basilica
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Denis is a large medieval abbey church in the commune of Saint-Denis, now a northern suburb of Paris. The abbey church was created a cathedral in 1966 and is the seat of the Bishop of Saint-Denis, Pascal Michel Ghislain Delannoy...

 (used as the royal necropolis); other important French Gothic cathedrals are Notre-Dame de Chartres
Cathedral of Chartres
The French medieval Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres is a Latin Rite Catholic cathedral located in Chartres, about southwest of Paris, is considered one of the finest examples of the French High Gothic style...

 and Notre-Dame d'Amiens
Amiens Cathedral
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Amiens , or simply Amiens Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral and seat of the Bishop of Amiens...

. The kings were crowned in another important Gothic church: Notre-Dame de Reims. Aside from churches, Gothic Architecture had been used for many religious palaces, the most important one being the Palais des Papes
Palais des Papes
The Palais des Papes is a historical palace in Avignon, southern France, one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe....

 in Avignon.

During the Middle Ages, fortified castle
Castle
A castle is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble...

s were built by feudal nobles to mark their powers against their rivals. When King Philip II
Philip II of France
Philip II Augustus was the King of France from 1180 until his death. A member of the House of Capet, Philip Augustus was born at Gonesse in the Val-d'Oise, the son of Louis VII and his third wife, Adela of Champagne...

 took Rouen
Rouen
Rouen , in northern France on the River Seine, is the capital of the Haute-Normandie region and the historic capital city of Normandy. Once one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe , it was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy in the Middle Ages...

 from King John
John of England
John , also known as John Lackland , was King of England from 6 April 1199 until his death...

, for example, he demolished the ducal castle to build a bigger one. Fortified cities were also common; most French castles did not survive the passage of time. This is why Richard the Lionheart's
Richard I of England
Richard I was King of England from 6 July 1189 until his death. He also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Count of Nantes, and Overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period...

 Château Gaillard was demolished, as well as the Château de Lusignan
Château de Lusignan
The Château de Lusignan was the seat of the Lusignan family, Poitevin Marcher Lords, who distinguished themselves in the First Crusade and held the crowns of two Crusader kingdoms, the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Cyprus, and even claimed the title King of Armenia.Lusignan was...

. Some French castles that survived are Chinon
Chinon (castle)
Chinon is a castle located on the bank of the Vienne river in Chinon, France.-History:The importance of Chinon derives from its position on the bank of the Vienne river in Chinon, France just before it joins the Loire...

, Château d'Angers
Château d'Angers
The Château d'Angers is a fortress style château located in the Loire Valley that is home of the Apocalypse Tapestry.- Building description :...

, the massive Château de Vincennes
Château de Vincennes
The Château de Vincennes is a massive 14th and 17th century French royal castle in the town of Vincennes, to the east of Paris, now a suburb of the metropolis.-History:...

 and the so called Cathar castles
Cathar castles
Cathar castles is a modern term used by the tourism industry to designate a series of fortresses built by the French king on the southern border of his lands at the end of the Albigensian Crusade...

.

Before the appearance of this architecture, France had been using Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of Medieval Europe characterised by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque architecture, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 10th century. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style,...

 like most of Western Europe (with the exception of the Iberian Peninsula, which now consists of Spain and Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

, which used Mooresque architecture). Some of the greatest examples of Romanesque churches in France are the Saint Sernin Basilica in Toulouse (largest romanesque church in Europe) and the remains of the Cluniac Abbey
Cluny Abbey
Cluny Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in Cluny, Saône-et-Loire, France. It was built in the Romanesque style, with three churches built in succession from the 10th to the early 12th centuries....

 (largely destroyed during the Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars).

The end of the Hundred Years' War marked an important stage in the evolution of French architecture. It was the time of the French Renaissance
French Renaissance
French Renaissance is a recent term used to describe a cultural and artistic movement in France from the late 15th century to the early 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance that many cultural historians believe originated in northern Italy in the fourteenth century...

 and several artists from Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and Spain were invited to the French court; many residential palaces, inspired by the Italians, were built, but mainly in the Loire Valley
Loire Valley
The Loire Valley , spanning , is located in the middle stretch of the Loire River in central France. Its area comprises approximately . It is referred to as the Cradle of the French Language, and the Garden of France due to the abundance of vineyards, fruit orchards, and artichoke, asparagus, and...

. Such residential castles were the Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord
The royal Château de Chambord at Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France is one of the most recognizable châteaux in the world because of its very distinct French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures.The building, which was never...

, the Château de Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau
The Château de Chenonceau is a manor house near the small village of Chenonceaux, in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France. It was built on the site of an old mill on the River Cher, sometime before its first mention in writing in the 11th century...

, or the Château d'Amboise
Château d'Amboise
The royal Château at Amboise is a château located in Amboise, in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France.-Origins and royal residence:...

. Following the renaissance and the end of the Middle Ages, Baroque Architecture
Baroque architecture
Baroque architecture is a term used to describe the building style of the Baroque era, begun in late sixteenth century Italy, that took the Roman vocabulary of Renaissance architecture and used it in a new rhetorical and theatrical fashion, often to express the triumph of the Catholic Church and...

 replaced the traditional Gothic style. However, in France, baroque architecture found a greater success in the secular domain than in a religious one.

In the secular domain, the Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles , or simply Versailles, is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France. In French it is the Château de Versailles....

 has many baroque features. Jules Hardouin Mansart
Jules Hardouin Mansart
Jules Hardouin-Mansart was a French architect whose work is generally considered to be the apex of French Baroque architecture, representing the power and grandeur of Louis XIV...

 was said to be the most influential French architect of the baroque era, with his famous dome, Les Invalides
Les Invalides
Les Invalides , officially known as L'Hôtel national des Invalides , is a complex of buildings in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, France, containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building's...

. Some of the most impressive provincial baroque architecture is found in places that were not yet French such as the Place Stanislas
Place Stanislas
The Place Stanislas, known colloquially as the place Stan, is a large pedestrianized square in Nancy, Lorraine, France. Since 1983, the architectural ensemble comprising the Place Stanislas and the extension of its axis, the Place de la Carrière and Place d'Alliance, has been on the list of UNESCO...

 in Nancy. On the military architectural side, Vauban
Vauban
Sébastien Le Prestre, Seigneur de Vauban and later Marquis de Vauban , commonly referred to as Vauban, was a Marshal of France and the foremost military engineer of his age, famed for his skill in both designing fortifications and breaking through them...

 designed some of the most efficient fortresses in Europe and became an influential military architect; as a result, imitations of his works can be found all over Europe, the Americas, Russia and Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

.

After the Revolution, the Republicans
Republicanism
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

 favoured Neoclassicism
Neoclassicism
Neoclassicism is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome...

 although neoclassicism was introduced in France prior to the revolution with such building as the Parisian Pantheon
Panthéon, Paris
The Panthéon is a building in the Latin Quarter in Paris. It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve and to house the reliquary châsse containing her relics but, after many changes, now functions as a secular mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens...

 or the Capitole de Toulouse
Capitole de Toulouse
The Capitole de Toulouse is the heart of the municipal administration of the French city of Toulouse.The Capitouls of the Toulouse embarked on the construction of the original building in 1190, to provide a seat for the government of a province growing in wealth and influence...

. Built during the French Empire the Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
-The design:The astylar design is by Jean Chalgrin , in the Neoclassical version of ancient Roman architecture . Major academic sculptors of France are represented in the sculpture of the Arc de Triomphe: Jean-Pierre Cortot; François Rude; Antoine Étex; James Pradier and Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire...

 and Sainte Marie-Madeleine
Église de la Madeleine
L'église de la Madeleine is a Roman Catholic church occupying a commanding position in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. It was designed in its present form as a temple to the glory of Napoleon's army...

 represent this trend the best.

Under Napoleon III, a new wave of urbanism
Urbanism
Broadly, urbanism is a focus on cities and urban areas, their geography, economies, politics, social characteristics, as well as the effects on, and caused by, the built environment.-Philosophy:...

 and architecture was given birth. If extravagant buildings such as the neo-baroque
Neo-baroque
The Baroque Revival or Neo-baroque was an architectural style of the late 19th century. The term is used to describe architecture which displays important aspects of Baroque style, but is not of the Baroque period proper—i.e., the 17th and 18th centuries.Some examples of Neo-baroque architecture:*...

 Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier, , is an elegant 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It was originally called the Salle des Capucines because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier...

 were built, the urban planning of the time was very organised and rigorous. For example, Baron Haussmann
Baron Haussmann
Georges-Eugène Haussmann, commonly known as Baron Haussmann , was a French civic planner whose name is associated with the rebuilding of Paris...

 rebuilt Paris
Haussmann's renovation of Paris
Haussmann's Renovation of Paris, or the Haussmann Plan, was a modernization program of Paris commissioned by Napoléon III and led by the Seine prefect, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, between 1853 and 1870...

. The architecture associated to this era is named Second Empire in English, the term being taken from the Second French Empire
Second French Empire
The Second French Empire or French Empire was the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.-Rule of Napoleon III:...

. At this time there was a strong Gothic resurgence across Europe and in France; the associated architect was Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc was a French architect and theorist, famous for his interpretive "restorations" of medieval buildings. Born in Paris, he was a major Gothic Revival architect.-Early years:...

. In the late 19th century, Gustave Eiffel
Gustave Eiffel
Alexandre Gustave Eiffel was a French structural engineer from the École Centrale Paris, an architect, an entrepreneur and a specialist of metallic structures...

 designed many bridges, such as Garabit viaduct
Garabit viaduct
The Garabit Viaduct is a railway arch bridge spanning the Truyère river near Ruynes-en-Margeride , Cantal, France, in the mountainous Massif Central region. The bridge was constructed between 1880 and 1884 by Gustave Eiffel, with structural engineering by Maurice Koechlin, and was opened in 1885...

, and remains one of the most influential bridge designers of his time, although he is best remembered for the iconic Eiffel Tower.

In the 20th century, Swiss Architect Le Corbusier
Le Corbusier
Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier , was a Swiss-born French architect, designer, urbanist, writer and painter, famous for being one of the pioneers of what now is called modern architecture. He was born in Switzerland and became a French citizen in 1930...

 designed several buildings in France. More recently, French architects have combined both modern and old architectural styles. The Louvre Pyramid
Louvre Pyramid
The Louvre Pyramid is a large glass and metal pyramid, surrounded by three smaller pyramids, in the main courtyard of the Louvre Palace in Paris. The large pyramid serves as the main entrance to the Louvre Museum...

 is an example of modern architecture added to an older building. The most difficult buildings to integrate within French cities are skyscrapers, as they are visible from afar. For instance, in Paris, since 1977, new buildings had to be under 37 meters, or 121 feet. France's largest financial district is La Defense
La Défense
La Défense is a major business district of the Paris aire urbaine. With a population of 20,000, it is centered in an orbital motorway straddling the Hauts-de-Seine département municipalities of Nanterre, Courbevoie and Puteaux...

, where a significant number of skyscrapers are located. Other massive buildings that are a challenge to integrate into their environment are large bridges; an example of the way this has been done is the Millau Viaduct
Millau Viaduct
The Millau Viaduct is a cable-stayed road-bridge that spans the valley of the river Tarn near Millau in southern France. Designed by the British architect Norman Foster and French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux, it is the tallest bridge in the world, with one mast's summit at . It is the...

. Some famous modern French architects include Jean Nouvel
Jean Nouvel
Jean Nouvel is a French architect. Nouvel studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and was a founding member of Mars 1976 and Syndicat de l'Architecture...

 or Paul Andreu
Paul Andreu
Paul Andreu is a renowned French architect. He is best known for having planned numerous airports worldwide, notably Ninoy Aquino International Airport , Soekarno-Hatta International Airport , Shanghai Pudong International Airport Abu Dhabi International Airport, Dubai International Airport,...

.

Literature


The earliest French literature dates from the Middle Age
Middle age
Middle age is the period of age beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age. Various attempts have been made to define this age, which is around the third quarter of the average life span of human beings....

s, when what is now known as modern France did not have a single, uniform language. There were several languages and dialects and each writer used his own spelling and grammar. The authors of French mediaeval texts are unknown, such as Tristan and Iseult
Tristan and Iseult
The legend of Tristan and Iseult is an influential romance and tragedy, retold in numerous sources with as many variations. The tragic story is of the adulterous love between the Cornish knight Tristan and the Irish princess Iseult...

 and Lancelot and the Holy Grail.

Much mediaeval French poetry and literature were inspired by the legends of the Matter of France
Matter of France
The Matter of France, also known as the Carolingian cycle, is a body of literature and legendary material associated with the history of France, in particular involving Charlemagne and his associates. The cycle springs from the Old French chansons de geste, and was later adapted into a variety of...

, such as The Song of Roland
The Song of Roland
The Song of Roland is the oldest surviving major work of French literature. It exists in various manuscript versions which testify to its enormous and enduring popularity in the 12th to 14th centuries...

 and the various Chansons de geste. The “Roman de Renart”, written in 1175 by Perrout de Saint Cloude tells the story of the mediaeval character Reynard
Reynard
Reynard is the subject of a literary cycle of allegorical French, Dutch, English, and German fables largely concerned with Reynard, an anthropomorphic red fox and trickster figure.-Etymology of the name:Theories about the origin of the name Reynard are:...

 ('the Fox') and is another example of early French writing. The names of some authors from this period are known, for example Chrétien de Troyes
Chrétien de Troyes
Chrétien de Troyes was a French poet and trouvère who flourished in the late 12th century. Perhaps he named himself Christian of Troyes in contrast to the illustrious Rashi, also of Troyes...

 and Duke William IX of Aquitaine
William IX of Aquitaine
William IX , called the Troubador, was the Duke of Aquitaine and Gascony and Count of Poitou between 1086 and his death. He was also one of the leaders of the Crusade of 1101...

, who wrote in Occitan.

An important 16th century writer was François Rabelais
François Rabelais
François Rabelais was a major French Renaissance writer, doctor, Renaissance humanist, monk and Greek scholar. He has historically been regarded as a writer of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, bawdy jokes and songs...

, whose novel La vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel, or Gargantua and Pantagruel
Gargantua and Pantagruel
The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel is a connected series of five novels written in the 16th century by François Rabelais. It is the story of two giants, a father and his son and their adventures, written in an amusing, extravagant, satirical vein...

in English, has remained famous and appreciated until now.
Michel de Montaigne
Michel de Montaigne
Lord Michel Eyquem de Montaigne , February 28, 1533 – September 13, 1592, was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance, known for popularising the essay as a literary genre and is popularly thought of as the father of Modern Skepticism...

 was the other major figure of the French literature during that century. His most famous work, Essais
Essays (Montaigne)
Essays is the title given to a collection of 107 essays written by Michel de Montaigne that was first published in 1580. Montaigne essentially invented the literary form of essay, a short subjective treatment of a given topic, of which the book contains a large number...

, created the literary genre of the essay.

French poetry
French poetry
French poetry is a category of French literature. It may include Francophone poetry composed outside France and poetry written in other languages of France.-French prosody and poetics:...

 during that century was embodied by Pierre de Ronsard
Pierre de Ronsard
Pierre de Ronsard was a French poet and "prince of poets" .-Early life:...

 and Joachim du Bellay
Joachim du Bellay
Joachim du Bellay was a French poet, critic, and a member of the Pléiade.-Biography:He was born at the Château of La Turmelière, not far from Liré, near Angers, being the son of Jean du Bellay, Lord of Gonnor, first cousin of the cardinal Jean du Bellay and of Guillaume du Bellay.Both his parents...

. Both writers founded the La Pléiade
La Pléiade
The Pléiade is the name given to a group of 16th-century French Renaissance poets whose principal members were Pierre de Ronsard, Joachim du Bellay and Jean-Antoine de Baïf. The name was a reference to another literary group, the original Alexandrian Pleiad of seven Alexandrian poets and...

literary movement.

During the 17th century, Madame de La Fayette published anonymously La Princesse de Clèves
La Princesse de Clèves
La Princesse de Clèves is a French novel which was published anonymously in March 1678. It is regarded by many as the beginning of the modern tradition of the psychological novel, and as a great classic work. Its author is generally held to be Madame de La Fayette.The action takes place between...

, a novel that is considered to be one of the very first psychological novel
Psychological novel
A psychological novel, also called psychological realism, is a work of prose fiction which places more than the usual amount of emphasis on interior characterization, and on the motives, circumstances, and internal action which springs from, and develops, external action...

s of all times. Jean Racine
Jean Racine
Jean Racine , baptismal name Jean-Baptiste Racine , was a French dramatist, one of the "Big Three" of 17th-century France , and one of the most important literary figures in the Western tradition...

 (whose incredible mastery of the alexandrine
Alexandrine
An alexandrine is a line of poetic meter comprising 12 syllables. Alexandrines are common in the German literature of the Baroque period and in French poetry of the early modern and modern periods. Drama in English often used alexandrines before Marlowe and Shakespeare, by whom it was supplanted...

 and of the French language has been praised for centuries) created plays, such as Phèdre
Phèdre
Phèdre is a dramatic tragedy in five acts written in alexandrine verse by Jean Racine, first performed in 1677.-Composition and premiere:...

, or Britannicus
Britannicus
Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus was the son of the Roman emperor Claudius and his third wife Valeria Messalina. He became the heir-designate of the empire at his birth, less than a month into his father's reign. He was still a young boy at the time of his mother's downfall and Claudius'...

, that are still considered as the masterpieces of France's classical period. He is, along with Pierre Corneille
Pierre Corneille
Pierre Corneille was a French tragedian who was one of the three great seventeenth-century French dramatists, along with Molière and Racine...

 (Le Cid
Le Cid
Le Cid is a tragicomedy written by Pierre Corneille and published in 1636. It is based on the legend of El Cid.The play followed Corneille's first true tragedy, Médée, produced in 1635. An enormous popular success, Corneille's Le Cid was the subject of a heated polemic over the norms of dramatic...

), and Molière, considered as one of the "3 Great dramatists" of the France's golden age.
Molière, who is deemed to be one of the greatest masters of comedy of the Western literature
Western literature
Western literature refers to the literature written in the languages of Europe, including the ones belonging to the Indo-European language family as well as several geographically or historically related languages such as Basque, Hungarian, and so forth...

, wrote dozens of plays, the most famous being Le Misanthrope
Le Misanthrope
The Misanthrope is a 17th-century comedy of manners in verse written by Molière. It was first performed on 4 June 1666 at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, Paris by the King's Players....

, L'École des femmes, Tartuffe
Tartuffe
Tartuffe is a comedy by Molière. It is one of his most famous plays.-History:Molière wrote Tartuffe in 1664...

, L'Avare, Le Malade imaginaire
Le Malade imaginaire
The Imaginary Invalid is a three-act comédie-ballet by the French playwright Molière. It was first performed in 1673 and was the last work he wrote. In an ironic twist of fate, Molière collapsed during his fourth performance as Argan on 17 February and died soon after...

, and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme is a five-act comédie-ballet—a play intermingled with music, dance and singing—by Molière, first presented on 14 October 1670 before the court of Louis XIV at the Château of Chambord by Molière's troupe of actors...

. His plays have been so popular and famous around the world that French language is sometimes dubbed as "the language of Molière" (la langue de Molière), just like English is considered as "the language of Shakespeare".
Jean de La Fontaine
Jean de La Fontaine
Jean de La Fontaine was the most famous French fabulist and one of the most widely read French poets of the 17th century. He is known above all for his Fables, which provided a model for subsequent fabulists across Europe and numerous alternative versions in France, and in French regional...

 is one of the most famous fabulist of that time, as he wrote hundreds of fables, some being far more famous than others, such as The Ant and the Grasshopper
The Ant and the Grasshopper
The Ant and the Grasshopper, also known as The Grasshopper and the Ant , is one of Aesop's Fables, providing an ambivalent moral lesson about hard work and foresight. In the Perry Index it is number 373...

. Generations of French pupils had to learn his fables, that were seen as helping teaching wisdom
Wisdom
Wisdom is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgements and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one's emotional reactions so that universal principles, reason and...

 and common sense
Common sense
Common sense is defined by Merriam-Webster as, "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts." Thus, "common sense" equates to the knowledge and experience which most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have...

 to the young people. Some of his verses have entered the popular language to become proverbs.

French literature and poetry flourished even more in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Denis Diderot
Denis Diderot
Denis Diderot was a French philosopher, art critic, and writer. He was a prominent person during the Enlightenment and is best known for serving as co-founder and chief editor of and contributor to the Encyclopédie....

's best-known works are Jacques the Fatalist and Rameau's Nephew
Rameau's Nephew
Rameau's Nephew, or the Second Satire is an imaginary philosophical conversation written by Denis Diderot, probably between 1761 and 1772....

. He is however best known for being the main redactor of the Encyclopédie
Encyclopédie
Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers was a general encyclopedia published in France between 1751 and 1772, with later supplements, revised editions, and translations. It was edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert...

, whose aim was to sum up all the knowledge of his century (in fields such as arts, sciences, languages, philosophy ...) and to present them to the people, in order to fight ignorance and obscurantism
Obscurantism
Obscurantism is the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or the full details of some matter from becoming known. There are two, common, historical and intellectual, denotations: 1) restricting knowledge—opposition to the spread of knowledge, a policy of withholding knowledge from the...

.
During that same century, Charles Perrault
Charles Perrault
Charles Perrault was a French author who laid the foundations for a new literary genre, the fairy tale, with his works derived from pre-existing folk tales. The best known include Le Petit Chaperon rouge , Cendrillon , Le Chat Botté and La Barbe bleue...

 was a prolific writer of famous children's fairy tales including “Puss in Boots
Puss in Boots
'Puss' is a character in the fairy tale "The Master Cat, or Puss in Boots" by Charles Perrault. The tale was published in 1697 in his Histoires ou Contes du temps passé...

”, “Cinderella
Cinderella
"Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper" is a folk tale embodying a myth-element of unjust oppression/triumphant reward. Thousands of variants are known throughout the world. The title character is a young woman living in unfortunate circumstances that are suddenly changed to remarkable fortune...

”, “Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault or Little Briar Rose by the Brothers Grimm is a classic fairytale involving a beautiful princess, enchantment, and a handsome prince...

” and “Bluebeard
Bluebeard
"Bluebeard" is a French literary folktale written by Charles Perrault and is one of eight tales by the author first published by Barbin in Paris in January 1697 in Histoires ou Contes du temps passé. The tale tells the story of a violent nobleman in the habit of murdering his wives and the...

”.

At the turn of the 19th century symbolist poetry was an important movement in French literature, with poets such as Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine
Paul Verlaine
Paul-Marie Verlaine was a French poet associated with the Symbolist movement. He is considered one of the greatest representatives of the fin de siècle in international and French poetry.-Early life:...

 and Stéphane Mallarmé
Stéphane Mallarmé
Stéphane Mallarmé , whose real name was Étienne Mallarmé, was a French poet and critic. He was a major French symbolist poet, and his work anticipated and inspired several revolutionary artistic schools of the early 20th century, such as Dadaism, Surrealism, and Futurism.-Biography:Stéphane...

.

The 19th century saw the writings of many renowned French authors. Victor Hugo excelled in all literary genre
Literary genre
A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary technique, tone, content, or even length. Genre should not be confused with age category, by which literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, or children's. They also must not be confused...

s: novel (Les Misérables
Les Misérables
Les Misérables , translated variously from the French as The Miserable Ones, The Wretched, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims), is an 1862 French novel by author Victor Hugo and is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century...

, widely seen as one of the greatest novel ever written The Hunchback of Notre Dame, that has remained immensely popular throughout the centuries), Poetry (his verse have been compared to that of Shakespeare, Dante
DANTE
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

 and Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

) (Odes et Ballades
Odes et Ballades
Odes et Ballades, published in 1828, is the most complete version of a collection of poems by Victor Hugo written and published between 1822 and 1828. It includes five books of odes and one book of ballads....

, Les Contemplations, La Légende des siècles
La Légende des siècles
La Légende des siècles is a collection of poems by Victor Hugo, conceived as an immense depiction of the history and evolution of humanity....

, the last ones being considered as "poetic masterpieces"), Playwright (Cromwell
Cromwell (play)
Cromwell is a play by Victor Hugo written in 1827. It was a result of the creation of the literary circle around Hugo which identified itself as Romanticist, taking Shakespeare as their model dramatist rather than the Classicist models of Jean Racine and Pierre Corneille supported by the French...

, whose preface is considered to be the manifesto of the Romantic movement
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

), Essay ... Elected to the Académie française
Académie française
L'Académie française , also called the French Academy, is the pre-eminent French learned body on matters pertaining to the French language. The Académie was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. Suppressed in 1793 during the French Revolution,...

in 1841, he was also a policician and a human right activist; he took a stand against the death penalty with works such as The Last Day of a Condemned Man. For all those reasons, he is sometimes seen as "the greatest French writer of all times".

Other major authors of that century include Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers
The Three Musketeers
The Three Musketeers is a novel by Alexandre Dumas, first serialized in March–July 1844. Set in the 17th century, it recounts the adventures of a young man named d'Artagnan after he leaves home to travel to Paris, to join the Musketeers of the Guard...

and The Count of Monte-Cristo), Jules Verne
Jules Verne
Jules Gabriel Verne was a French author who pioneered the science fiction genre. He is best known for his novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea , A Journey to the Center of the Earth , and Around the World in Eighty Days...

 (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is a classic science fiction novel by French writer Jules Verne published in 1870. It tells the story of Captain Nemo and his submarine Nautilus as seen from the perspective of Professor Pierre Aronnax...

), Émile Zola
Émile Zola
Émile François Zola was a French writer, the most important exemplar of the literary school of naturalism and an important contributor to the development of theatrical naturalism...

 (Les Rougon-Macquart
Les Rougon-Macquart
Les Rougon-Macquart is the collective title given to a cycle of twenty novels by French writer Émile Zola. Subtitled Histoire naturelle et sociale d'une famille sous le Second Empire , it follows the life of a fictional family living during the Second French Empire and is an example of French...

), Honoré de Balzac
Honoré de Balzac
Honoré de Balzac was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon....

 (La Comédie humaine
La Comédie humaine
La Comédie humaine is the title of Honoré de Balzac's multi-volume collection of interlinked novels and stories depicting French society in the period of the Restoration and the July Monarchy .-Overview:...

), Guy de Maupassant
Guy de Maupassant
Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant was a popular 19th-century French writer, considered one of the fathers of the modern short story and one of the form's finest exponents....

, Théophile Gautier
Théophile Gautier
Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier was a French poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist, art critic and literary critic....

 and Stendhal
Stendhal
Marie-Henri Beyle , better known by his pen name Stendhal, was a 19th-century French writer. Known for his acute analysis of his characters' psychology, he is considered one of the earliest and foremost practitioners of realism in his two novels Le Rouge et le Noir and La Chartreuse de Parme...

(The Red and the Black
The Red and the Black
Le Rouge et le Noir , 1830, by Stendhal, is a historical psychological novel in two volumes, chronicling a provincial young man’s attempts to socially rise beyond his plebeian upbringing with a combination of talent and hard work, deception and hypocrisy — yet who ultimately allows his passions to...

, The Charterhouse of Parma
The Charterhouse of Parma
The Charterhouse of Parma is a novel published in 1839 by Stendhal.-Plot summary:The Charterhouse of Parma tells the story of the young Italian nobleman Fabrice del Dongo and his adventures from his birth in 1798 to his death...

), whose works are amongst the most well known in France and the world.
The Prix Goncourt
Prix Goncourt
The Prix Goncourt is a prize in French literature, given by the académie Goncourt to the author of "the best and most imaginative prose work of the year"...

 is a French literary prize first awarded in 1903. Important writers of the 20th century include Marcel Proust
Marcel Proust
Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental À la recherche du temps perdu...

, Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Louis-Ferdinand Céline was the pen name of French writer and physician Louis-Ferdinand Destouches . Céline was chosen after his grandmother's first name. He is considered one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, developing a new style of writing that modernized both French and...

, Albert Camus
Albert Camus
Albert Camus was a French author, journalist, and key philosopher of the 20th century. In 1949, Camus founded the Group for International Liaisons within the Revolutionary Union Movement, which was opposed to some tendencies of the Surrealist movement of André Breton.Camus was awarded the 1957...

, and Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy, particularly Marxism, and was one of the key figures in literary...

. Antoine de Saint Exupéry wrote Little Prince
The Little Prince
The Little Prince , first published in 1943, is a novella and the most famous work of the French aristocrat writer, poet and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ....

which has remained popular for decades with children and adults around the world.
As of 2010, French authors had more Literature Nobel Prizes than those of any other nation. Compare the Evolution of Nobel Prizes by country.

Philosophy


René Descartes
René Descartes
René Descartes ; was a French philosopher and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the 'Father of Modern Philosophy', and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day...

 was a polymath
Polymath
A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

 of the 16th century. A notable mathematician, he founded the Analytic geometry
Analytic geometry
Analytic geometry, or analytical geometry has two different meanings in mathematics. The modern and advanced meaning refers to the geometry of analytic varieties...

. He is however best known for being "the Father of Modern Philosophy", that is, he revitalised Western Philosophy
Western philosophy
Western philosophy is the philosophical thought and work of the Western or Occidental world, as distinct from Eastern or Oriental philosophies and the varieties of indigenous philosophies....

, that has been on the decline after the Greek and Roman eras. He founded the Cartesianist school
Cartesianism
Cartesian means of or relating to the French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes—from his name—Rene Des-Cartes. It may refer to:*Cartesian anxiety*Cartesian circle*Cartesian dualism...

, developed the Cartesian doubt
Cartesian doubt
Cartesian doubt is a form of methodological skepticism associated with the writings and methodology of René Descartes. Cartesian doubt is also known as Cartesian skepticism, methodic doubt, methodological skepticism, or hyperbolic doubt.Cartesian doubt is a systematic process of being skeptical...

, and was one of the major rationalist
Rationalism
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

 philosophers of that time. His most famous work is Meditations on First Philosophy
Meditations on First Philosophy
Meditations on First Philosophy is a philosophical treatise written by René Descartes and first published in 1641 . The French translation was published in 1647 as Méditations Metaphysiques...

, and his statement Cogito ergo sum
Cogito ergo sum
is a philosophical Latin statement proposed by . The simple meaning of the phrase is that someone wondering whether or not they exist is, in and of itself, proof that something, an "I", exists to do the thinking — However this "I" is not the more or less permanent person we call "I"...

has remained famous until now. A French university has been named after him.

At the same epoch, moral and philosophical books by Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal , was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen...

 deeply influenced the French aristocracy.

During the 18th century, Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

 wrote many plays, novels and letters that have remained famous. His novel Candide, ou l'optimisme
Candide
Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best ; Candide: or, The Optimist ; and Candide: or, Optimism...

is one of the most studied French novel outside France, and has been considered to be its magnum opus
Magnum opus
Magnum opus , from the Latin meaning "great work", refers to the largest, and perhaps the best, greatest, most popular, or most renowned achievement of a writer, artist, or composer.-Related terms:Sometimes the term magnum opus is used to refer to simply "a great work" rather than "the...

. This work is also seen as one of the most important philosophical fictions ever created.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

 was Voltaire's main philosophical opponent at that time. A renowned political philosopher
Political philosophy
Political philosophy is the study of such topics as liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of a legal code by authority: what they are, why they are needed, what, if anything, makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect and why, what form it...

, his main works are the Discourse on Inequality
Discourse on Inequality
Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men , also commonly known as the "Second Discourse", is a work by philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau...

, Les Confessions, Émile ou De l'éducation, and Du Contrat social. The latter is one of the most important works of the Age of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, as it was the very first writing that openly criticized the European divine right monarchies, and that strongly affirmed the principle of the sovereignty of the people. Du Contrat Social is believed to have been a crucial inspiration of the 1789 Revolution.

Music



Although the musical creation in France dates back to the Middle Ages, it knew its golden age in the 17th century thanks to Louis XIV, who employed several musicians and composers in the royal court. The most renowned composers of this period include Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Marc-Antoine Charpentier, , was a French composer of the Baroque era.Exceptionally prolific and versatile, he produced compositions of the highest quality in several genres...

, François Couperin
François Couperin
François Couperin was a French Baroque composer, organist and harpsichordist. He was known as Couperin le Grand to distinguish him from other members of the musically talented Couperin family.-Life:Couperin was born in Paris...

, Michel-Richard Delalande, Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste de Lully was an Italian-born French composer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He is considered the chief master of the French Baroque style. Lully disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period. He became a French subject in...

 and Marin Marais
Marin Marais
Marin Marais was a French composer and viol player. He studied composition with Jean-Baptiste Lully, often conducting his operas, and with master of the bass viol Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe for 6 months. He was hired as a musician in 1676 to the royal court of Versailles...

, all of them composers at the court. After the death of the "Roi Soleil", French musical creation lost dynamism, but in the next century the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau
Jean-Philippe Rameau
Jean-Philippe Rameau was one of the most important French composers and music theorists of the Baroque era. He replaced Jean-Baptiste Lully as the dominant composer of French opera and is also considered the leading French composer for the harpsichord of his time, alongside François...

 reached some prestige, and today he is still one of the most renowned French composers.

French classical music knew a revival in the 19th and 20th century, at the end of the romantic movement, at first with opera composers Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts . Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a...

, Georges Bizet
Georges Bizet
Georges Bizet formally Alexandre César Léopold Bizet, was a French composer, mainly of operas. In a career cut short by his early death, he achieved few successes before his final work, Carmen, became one of the most popular and frequently performed works in the entire opera repertory.During a...

, Gabriel Fauré
Gabriel Fauré
Gabriel Urbain Fauré was a French composer, organist, pianist and teacher. He was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th century composers...

, Charles Gounod
Charles Gounod
Charles-François Gounod was a French composer, known for his Ave Maria as well as his operas Faust and Roméo et Juliette.-Biography:...

, Jacques Offenbach
Jacques Offenbach
Jacques Offenbach was a Prussian-born French composer, cellist and impresario. He is remembered for his nearly 100 operettas of the 1850s–1870s and his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann. He was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss, Jr....

, Édouard Lalo
Édouard Lalo
Édouard-Victoire-Antoine Lalo was a French composer.-Biography:Lalo was born in Lille , in northernmost France. He attended that city's music conservatory in his youth. Then, beginning at age 16, Lalo studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Berlioz's old enemy François Antoine Habeneck...

, Jules Massenet
Jules Massenet
Jules Émile Frédéric Massenet was a French composer best known for his operas. His compositions were very popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and he ranks as one of the greatest melodists of his era. Soon after his death, Massenet's style went out of fashion, and many of his operas...

 and Camille Saint-Saëns
Camille Saint-Saëns
Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns was a French Late-Romantic composer, organist, conductor, and pianist. He is known especially for The Carnival of the Animals, Danse macabre, Samson and Delilah, Piano Concerto No. 2, Cello Concerto No. 1, Havanaise, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and his Symphony...

. This period was a golden age for operas, being popular in the country the opéra bouffon
Opéra bouffon
Opéra bouffon is the French term for the Italian genre of opera called opera buffa performed in 18th-century France, either in the original language or in French translation...

, the opera-ballet
Opéra-ballet
Opéra-ballet was a popular genre of French Baroque opera, "that grew out of the ballets à entrées of the early seventeeth century". It differed from the more elevated tragédie en musique as practised by Jean-Baptiste Lully in several ways...

 and the opéra comique
Opéra comique
Opéra comique is a genre of French opera that contains spoken dialogue and arias. It emerged out of the popular opéra comiques en vaudevilles of the Fair Theatres of St Germain and St Laurent , which combined existing popular tunes with spoken sections...

 genres. Later came precursors of modern classical music Érik Satie
Erik Satie
Éric Alfred Leslie Satie was a French composer and pianist. Satie was a colourful figure in the early 20th century Parisian avant-garde...

, Francis Poulenc
Francis Poulenc
Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc was a French composer and a member of the French group Les six. He composed solo piano music, chamber music, oratorio, choral music, opera, ballet music, and orchestral music...

, and above all Maurice Ravel
Maurice Ravel
Joseph-Maurice Ravel was a French composer known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects...

 and Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
Claude-Achille Debussy was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions...

, who invented new musical forms. More recently, at the middle of the 20th century, Maurice Ohana
Maurice Ohana
Maurice Ohana was an Anglo-French composer of Sephardic Jewish origin.Ohana was born in Casablanca, Morocco. He was a British citizen until 1976, as his father had been born in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. He originally studied architecture, but abandoned this in favour of a...

, Pierre Schaeffer
Pierre Schaeffer
Pierre Henri Marie Schaeffer was a French composer, writer, broadcaster, engineer, musicologist and acoustician of the 20th century. His innovative work in both the sciences —particularly communications and acoustics— and the various arts of music, literature and radio presentation after the end...

 and Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez is a French composer of contemporary classical music, a pianist, and a conductor.-Early years:Boulez was born in Montbrison, Loire, France. As a child he began piano lessons and demonstrated aptitude in both music and mathematics...

 contributed to the evolutions of contemporary classical music
Contemporary classical music
Contemporary classical music can be understood as belonging to the period that started in the mid-1970s with the retreat of modernism. However, the term may also be employed in a broader sense to refer to all post-1945 modern musical forms.-Categorization:...

.

French music then followed the rapid emergence of pop and rock music at the middle of the 20th century. Although English-speaking creations achieved popularity in the country, French pop music
French popular music
French popular music is a music of France belonging to any of a number of musical styles that are accessible to the general public and mostly distributed commercially. It stands in contrast to French classical music, which historically was the music of elites or the upper strata of society, and...

, known as chanson française, has also remained very popular. Among the most important French artists of the century are Edith Piaf
Édith Piaf
Édith Piaf , born Édith Giovanna Gassion, was a French singer and cultural icon who became widely regarded as France's greatest popular singer. Her singing reflected her life, with her specialty being ballads...

, Georges Brassens
Georges Brassens
Georges Brassens , 22 October 1921 – 29 October 1981), was a French singer-songwriter and poet.Brassens was born in Sète, a town in southern France near Montpellier...

, Léo Ferré
Léo Ferré
Léo Ferré was a Franco-Monegasque poet, composer, singer and musician.Born in Monaco, Ferré mixed love and melancholy with moral anarchy, lyricism with slang, rhyming verse with prose monologues...

, Charles Aznavour
Charles Aznavour
Charles Aznavour, OC is an Armenian-French singer, songwriter, actor, public activist and diplomat. Besides being one of France's most popular and enduring singers, he is also one of the best-known singers in the world...

 and Serge Gainsbourg
Serge Gainsbourg
Serge Gainsbourg, born Lucien Ginsburg was a French singer-songwriter, actor and director. Gainsbourg's extremely varied musical style and individuality make him difficult to categorize...

. Although there are very few rock bands in France compared to English-speaking countries, bands such as Noir Désir
Noir Désir
Noir Désir was a French rock band from Bordeaux. They were active during the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, and have had two albums certified double platinum in France and three certified gold. They have been an influence on numerous French musicians including Cali, Louise Attaque and Miossec...

, Mano Negra
Mano Negra
Mano Negra was a music band in France, during 1987–1995, fronted by Manu Chao.The band, founded in 1987 by Chao, his brother Antoine, and his cousin Santiago Casariego in Paris, France, was very influential in Europe during the early 1990s. Although it reached mainstream success in countries...

, Niagara
Niagara (band)
Niagara is the name of a French synthpop duo that achieved popularity both in France and Canada from 1986 to 1989. The band, whose was known under the name L'Ombre jaune from 1982 to 1984, was formed in Rennes, France, in 1984, by vocalist Muriel Laporte and keyboardist Daniel Chenevez...

, Rita Mitsouko and more recently Superbus
Superbus (band)
Superbus is a five-piece French pop/rock band formed in 1999.-History:After a trip to the United States to perfect her English in 1999, Jennifer Ayache went looking for musicians to make a group. She met Michel Giovannetti, a guitarist, and François Even, a bassist, who already knew each other from...

, Phoenix
Phoenix (band)
Phoenix is a Grammy Award winning French indie rock band from Versailles, founded by Thomas Mars, Deck d'Arcy, Christian Mazzalai and Laurent Brancowitz.-Formation and early years:...

 and Gojira
Gojira
Gojira is a heavy metal band formed in 1996 in Bayonne, France. The band was known as Godzilla until 2001. Gojira is composed of Joe Duplantier on vocals and guitar, his brother Mario Duplantier on drums, Christian Andreu on guitar and Jean-Michel Labadie on bass...

 have reached worldwide popularity.

Other French artists with international careers have been popular in several countries, for example female singers Mireille Mathieu
Mireille Mathieu
Mireille Mathieu is a French chanteuse, and pop singer. Hailed in the French press as the successor to Édith Piaf, she has achieved great commercial success, recording over 1200 songs in nine different languages, with more than 120 million records sold worldwide.-Childhood to early...

 and Mylène Farmer
Mylène Farmer
Mylène Farmer, , born Marie-Hélène Jeanne Gautier, , , is a French singer, songwriter, occasional actress and author....

, electronic music pioneers Jean-Michel Jarre, Laurent Garnier
Laurent Garnier
Laurent Garnier , is a French techno music producer and DJ. Garnier began DJ-ing in Manchester during the late 1980s. By the following decade, he had a broad stylistic range, able to span deep house, Detroit techno, trance and jazz...

 and Bob Sinclar
Bob Sinclar
Bob Sinclar, originally spelled "Sinclair" - , is a French record producer, House music DJ, remixer and owner of the label Yellow Productions.- Career history :...

, and later Martin Solveig
Martin Solveig
Martin Picandet, better known under his stage name Martin Solveig is a French electronic music DJ and producer from Paris. He also hosts a weekly radio show called "C'est La Vie" on stations worldwide including FG DJ Radio in his homeland...

 and David Guetta
David Guetta
Pierre David Guetta , known professionally as David Guetta , is a French house music producer and DJ. Originally a DJ at nightclubs during the 1980s and 1990s, he co-founded Gum Productions and released his first album, Just a Little More Love, in 2002. Later, he released Guetta Blaster and Pop Life...

. In the 1990s and 2000s, electronic duos Daft Punk, Justice
Justice (French band)
Justice is a French electronic music duo consisting of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay . The duo is one of the most successful groups on Ed Banger Records and is managed by the label's head, Pedro Winter...

 and Air also reached worldwide popularity and contributed to the reputation of modern electronic music in the world.

Among current musical events and institutions in France, many are dedicated to classical music and operas. The most prestigious institutions are the state-owned Paris National Opera (with its two sites Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier, , is an elegant 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It was originally called the Salle des Capucines because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier...

 and Opéra Bastille
Opéra Bastille
L'Opéra Bastille ' is a modern opera house in Paris, France. It is the home base of the Opéra national de Paris and was designed to replace the Palais Garnier, which is nowadays mainly used for ballet performances....

), the Opéra National de Lyon
Opéra National de Lyon
Opéra National de Lyon is an opera company in Lyon, France which performs in the Nouvel Opéra, a modernized version in 1993 of the original 1831 opera house.The inaugural performance of François-Adrien Boïeldieu's La Dame blanche was given on 1 July 1831...

, the Théâtre du Châtelet
Théâtre du Châtelet
The Théâtre du Châtelet is a theatre and opera house, located in the place du Châtelet in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, France.One of two theatres built on the site of a châtelet, a small castle or fortress, it was designed by Gabriel Davioud at the request of Baron Haussmann between 1860 and...

 in Paris, the Théâtre du Capitole
Théâtre du Capitole
The Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse is an opera house and ballet company located within the main administration buildings, the Capitole, of the city of Toulouse in south-west France....

 in Toulouse
Toulouse
Toulouse is a city in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern FranceIt lies on the banks of the River Garonne, 590 km away from Paris and half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea...

 and the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux
Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux
Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, is a Theatre in Bordeaux, France, first inaugurated on 17 April 1780. It was in this theatre that the ballet La Fille Mal Gardée premiered in 1789, and where a young Marius Petipa staged some of his first ballets....

. As for music festivals, there are several events organized, the most popular being the Eurockéennes
Eurockéennes
The Eurockéennes de Belfort is one of France's largest rock music festivals. The Eurockéennes, a play on words involving the words rock and européennes , is a festival based in a nature reserve in Malsaucy near Belfort...

 and Rock en Seine
Rock en Seine
The Rock en Seine festival is a two or three-day Rock 'n roll festival, held at Domaine National de Saint-Cloud, Château de Saint-Cloud's park West of Paris, inside the garden designed by Le Nôtre...

. The Fête de la Musique
Fête de la Musique
The Fête de la Musique, also known as World Music Day, is a music festival taking place on June 21.-History:The idea was first broached in 1976 by American musician Joel Cohen, then employed by the national French radio station France Musique. Cohen proposed an all-night music celebration at the...

, imitated by many foreign cities, was first launched by the French government in 1982. Major music halls and venues in France include Le Zénith sites present in many cities and other places in Paris (Paris Olympia
Paris Olympia
The Olympia is a music hall in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. Located at No. 28, Boulevard des Capucines, its closest métro/RER stations are Madeleine, Opéra, Havre – Caumartin and Auber....

, Théâtre Mogador
Théâtre Mogador
Théâtre Mogador founded in 1913 and designed by Bertie Crewe, is a Parisian music hall theatre located at 25, rue de Mogador in the 9th district. It seats 1,800 people on three tiers.In 1913 financier Sir Alfred Butt rented an area in Paris...

, Élysée Montmartre
Elysée Montmartre
Open in 1807, the Élysée Montmartre is a music venue, at 72 Boulevard de Rochechouart, in Paris, France. It has a capacity of 1,200 patrons. The nearest métro station is Anvers.In 1900, the venue was damaged by fire, and was re-decorated...

, etc.).

Cinema



France has historical and strong links with cinema
Filmmaking
Filmmaking is the process of making a film, from an initial story, idea, or commission, through scriptwriting, casting, shooting, directing, editing, and screening the finished product before an audience that may result in a theatrical release or television program...

. It is two Frenchmen, Auguste and Louis Lumière (known as the Lumiere Brothers) who created the cinema in 1895. More recently, in 2006, France produced more films than any other European country. Cannes Festival is one of the most important and famous film festivals in the world.

Although the French film market is dominated by Hollywood, it is however the Western country (out of the United States) where the share of the American films in the total film revenues is the smallest, at 50.1%, to compare with 77.3% of Germany and 69.4% of Japan. Thus, French films account for 34.8% of the total film revenues of France, which is the highest percentage of national films revenues in developed countries (the U.S. not included), to compare with 13.7% in Spain and 8.3% in the UK.

France was for centuries, and not so long ago, the cultural center of the world. But France's dominant position has been overthrown by American culture, and thus France tries to protect its culture. France has been a strong advocate of the cultural exception
Cultural exception
Cultural exception is a concept introduced by France in General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiations in 1993...

. France therefore succeeded in convincing all the EU members to refuse to include culture and audiovisuals in the list of liberalized sectors of the WTO in 1993.

Moreover, this decision was confirmed in a voting in the UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 in 2005, and the principle of "cultural exception" won an overwhelming victory: 198 countries voted for it, only 2 countries, the U.S and Israel, voted against it.

Fashion



Fashion has been an important industry and cultural export of France since the 17th century, and modern "haute couture" originated in Paris in the 1860s. Today, Paris, along with London, Milan, and New York City, is considered one of the world's fashion capitals, and the city is home or headquarters to many of the premier fashion houses. The expression Haute couture
Haute couture
Haute couture refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing. Haute couture is made to order for a specific customer, and it is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable seamstresses,...

 is, in France, a legally protected name, guaranteeing certain quality standards.

The association of France with fashion and style dates largely to the reign of Louis XIV
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

 when the luxury goods industries in France came increasingly under royal control and the French royal court became, arguably, the arbiter of taste and style in Europe. But France renewed its dominance of the high fashion industry in the years 1860–1960 through the establishing of the great couturier
Couturier
A couturier is an establishment or person involved in the clothing fashion industry who makes original garments to order for private clients. A couturier may make what is known as haute couture. Such a person usually hires patternmakers and machinists for garment production, and is either employed...

 houses such as Chanel, Dior, and Givenchy
Givenchy
Givenchy is a French brand of clothing, accessories, perfumes and cosmetics with Parfums Givenchy.The house of Givenchy was founded in 1952 by designer Hubert de Givenchy and is a member of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture et du Pret-a-Porter...

.

In the 1960s, the elitist "Haute couture" came under criticism from France's youth culture. In 1966, the designer Yves Saint Laurent broke with established Haute Couture norms by launching a prêt-à-porter ("ready to wear") line and expanding French fashion into mass manufacturing. With a greater focus on marketing and manufacturing, new trends were established by Sonia Rykiel
Sonia Rykiel
Sonia Rykiel née Flis is a French fashion designer.Ethnically a Polish-Romanian Jew, Sonia Rykiel was born in Neuilly a commune in the western suburbs of Paris, France, the eldest of five daughters of a Polish mother and a Romanian father. At the age of 17, she was employed to dress the window...

, Thierry Mugler
Thierry Mugler
Thierry Mugler is a French fashion designer and creator of several perfumes.-Childhood:Mugler was born in Strasbourg, France on 21 December 1948. His passion led him to focus more on drawing than on school and at the age of 9, he began to study classical dance...

, Claude Montana
Claude Montana
Claude Montana is a French fashion designer. His company, The House of Montana, founded in 1979, went bankrupt in 1997.Born in Paris in 1949 to a Catalonian father and German mother, Montana began his career by designing papier-mâché jewelry covered with rhinestones...

, Jean-Paul Gaultier
Jean-Paul Gaultier
Jean Paul Gaultier , born 24 April 1952 in Arcueil, Val-de-Marne, France) is a French haute couture fashion designer. Gaultier was the creative director of Hermès from 2003 to 2010. In the past, he has hosted the television series Eurotrash....

 and Christian Lacroix
Christian Lacroix
Christian Marie Marc Lacroix is a French fashion designer. The name may also refer to the company he founded.-Early life:Lacroix was born in Arles, Bouches-du-Rhône in southern France. At a young age he began sketching historical costumes and fashions. Lacroix graduated from high school in 1969...

 in the 1970s and 80s. The 1990s saw a conglomeration of many French couture houses under luxury giants and multinationals such as LVMH
LVMH
LVMH Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton S.A., better known as LVMH, is a French multinational luxury goods conglomerate headquartered in Paris, Île-de-France, France. The company was formed after the 1987 merger of fashion house Louis Vuitton with Moët Hennessy, a company formed after the 1971 merger...

.

Media


Compared to other developed countries, the French do not spend much time reading newspapers, due to the popularity of broadcast media. Best-selling daily national newspapers in France are Le Monde
Le Monde
Le Monde is a French daily evening newspaper owned by La Vie-Le Monde Group and edited in Paris. It is one of two French newspapers of record, and has generally been well respected since its first edition under founder Hubert Beuve-Méry on 19 December 1944...

and right-wing Le Figaro
Le Figaro
Le Figaro is a French daily newspaper founded in 1826 and published in Paris. It is one of three French newspapers of record, with Le Monde and Libération, and is the oldest newspaper in France. It is also the second-largest national newspaper in France after Le Parisien and before Le Monde, but...

, with around 300.000 copies sold daily, but also L'Équipe
L'Équipe
L'Équipe is a French nationwide daily newspaper devoted to sports, owned by Éditions Philippe Amaury. The paper is noted for coverage of football , rugby, motorsports and cycling...

, dedicated to sports coverage. In the past years, free dailies made a breakthrough, with Metro
Metro International
Metro International is a Swedish media company based in Luxembourg that publishes the Metro newspapers. Metro International's advertising sales have grown at a compound annual growth rate of 41% since launch of the first newspaper edition in 1995. It is a freesheet, meaning that distribution is...

, 20 Minutes
20 minutes (France)
20 minutes is a free, daily newspaper aimed at commuters in France. It is published by Schibsted and Ouest France Group. 20 minutos, the Spanish version, is distributed by Schibsted and Zeta in Spain...

and Direct Plus distributed at more than 650.000 copies respectively. However, the widest circulations are reached by regional daily Ouest France with more than 750.000 copies sold, and the 50 other regional papers have also high sales. The sector of weekly magazines is stronger and diversified with more than 400 specialized weekly magazines published in the country.

The most influential news magazine are left-wing Le Nouvel Observateur
Le Nouvel Observateur
Le Nouvel Observateur is a weekly French newsmagazine. Based in Paris, it is the most prominent French general information magazine in terms of audience and circulation ....

, centrist L'Express
L'Express (France)
L'Express is a French weekly news magazine. When founded in 1953 during the First Indochina War, it was modelled on the US magazine TIME.-History:...

and right-wing Le Point
Le Point
Le Point is a French weekly news magazine. It was founded in 1972 by a group of journalists who had, one year earlier, left the editorial team of L'Express, which was then owned by Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, a député of the Parti Radical...

(more than 400.000 copies), but the highest circulation for weeklies is reached by TV magazines and by women’s magazines, among them Marie Claire
Marie Claire
Marie Claire is a monthly women's magazine first published in France but also distributed in other countries with editions specific to them and in their languages. While each country shares its own special voice with its audience, the United States edition focuses on women around the world and...

and ELLE
Elle
Elle may refer to:*Elle, Central African Republic*Elle , a fashion publication*Ellé, a river in France*Elle , a female given name*Elle , a Sri Lankan game similar to baseball*Ælle of Sussex, a Saxon king...

, which have foreign versions. Influential weeklies also include investigative and satirical papers Le Canard Enchaîné
Le Canard enchaîné
Le Canard enchaîné is a satirical newspaper published weekly in France. Founded in 1915, it features investigative journalism and leaks from sources inside the French government, the French political world and the French business world, as well as many jokes and humorous cartoons.-Early...

and Charlie Hebdo
Charlie Hebdo
Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical weekly newspaper, featuring cartoons, reports, polemics and jokes. It appeared from 1969 to 1981, when it folded, and was resurrected in 1992. The current editor is cartoonist Charb. His predecessors are François Cavanna and Philippe Val...

, as well as Paris Match
Paris Match
Paris Match is a French weekly magazine. It covers major national and international news along with celebrity lifestyle features. It was founded in 1949 by the industrialist Jean Prouvost....

. Like in most industrialized nations, the print media have been affected by a severe crisis in the past decade. In 2008, the government have launched a major initiative to help the sector reform to be financially independent, but in 2009 it had to give 600.000 euros to help the print media cope with the economic crisis, in addition to existing subsidies.

In 1974, after years of centralized monopoly on radio and television, the governmental agency ORTF was split into several national institutions, but the three already-existing TV channels and four national radio stations remained under state-control. It was only in 1981 when the government allowed free broadcasting in the territory, ending state monopoly on radio. French television was partly liberalized in the next two decade with the creation of several commercial channels, mainly thanks to cable and satellite television. In 2005 the national service Télévision Numérique Terrestre
Télévision Numérique Terrestre
TNT is the national digital terrestrial service for France. It formally arrived on 31 March 2005 after a short testing period. Like Freeview in the United Kingdom it will support many new channels as well as the current terrestrial television stations...

 introduced digital television all over the territory, allowing the creation of other channels.

The four existing national channels are now owned by state-owned consortium France Télévisions
France Télévisions
France Télévisions is the French public national television broadcaster. It is a state-owned company formed from the bringing together of the public television channels France 2 and France 3 , later joined by the legally independent channels France 5 , France Ô , and France 4 France Télévisions ...

, while public broadcasting group Radio France
Radio France
Radio France is a French public service radio broadcaster.-Mission:Radio France's two principal missions are:* To create and expand the programming on all of their stations; and...

 run five national radio stations. Among these public media are Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale was created in 1975 as part of Radio France by the Government of France, and replaced the Poste Colonial , Paris Mondial , Radio Paris , RTF Radio Paris and ORTF Radio Paris...

, which broadcasts programs in French all over the world, and Franco-German TV channel TV5 Monde. In 2006, the government created global news channel France 24
France 24
France 24 is an international news and current affairs television channel. The service is aimed at the overseas market, similar to BBC World News, DW-TV, NHK World and RT, and broadcast through satellite and cable operators throughout the world. During 2010 the channel started broadcasting through...

. Long-established TV channels TF1
TF1
TF1 is a national French TV channel, controlled by TF1 Group, whose major share-holder is Bouygues. TF1's average market share of 24% makes it the most popular domestic network...

 (privatized in 1987), France 2
France 2
France 2 is a French public national television channel. It is part of the state-owned France Télévisions group, along with France 3, France 4, France 5 and France Ô...

 and France 3
France 3
France 3 is the second largest French public television channel and part of the France Télévisions group, which also includes France 2, France 4, France 5, and France Ô....

 have the highest shares, while radio stations RTL
RTL (French radio)
In France, RTL is a popular nation-wide commercial radio network owned by the RTL Group.In 1931, Radio Luxembourg, the public radio network from Luxembourg, was privatised. Beginning in 1946, it could be heard easily in France. Until the 1980s, only the French public radio networks could transmit...

, Europe 1
Europe 1
Europe 1, formerly known as Europe n° 1, is a privately owned radio network created in 1955. It is one of the leading French radio broadcasters and heard throughout France...

 and state-owned France Inter
France Inter
France Inter is a major French public radio channel and part of Radio France. It is a "generalist" station, aiming to provide a wide national audience with a full service of news and intelligent spoken-word programming, both serious and entertaining, liberally punctuated with an eclectic mix of...

 are the least listened to.

Society


According to a 2010 BBC poll based on 29,977 responses in 28 countries, France is globally seen as a positive influence in the world's affairs: 49 % have a positive view of the country's influence, whereas 19 % have a negative view. The Nation Brand Index of 2008 suggested that France has the second best international reputation, only behind Germany.

According to two Pew Research Center
Pew Research Center
The Pew Research Center is an American think tank organization based in Washington, D.C. that provides information on issues, attitudes and trends shaping the United States and the world. The Center and its projects receive funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts. In 1990, Donald S...

 polls in 2006 and 2011 based on around 14 000 responses in 15 countries, French were found to have the highest level of religious tolerance (when asked about their opinion about Muslims, Christians and Jews) and to be the country where the highest proportion of the population defines its identity primarily in term of nationality and not of religion.

In January 2010, the International Living
International Living
International Living is a publishing group founded in Baltimore, Maryland in 1979 as part of Agora Inc. headed by Bill Bonner. International Living monthly newsletter covers topics including retiring overseas, living abroad, international real estate, investment and travel, while a daily "IL...

 ranked France as "best country to live in", ahead of 193 other countries surveyed, for the fifth year running, according to a survey taking in account 9 criteria of quality of life: Cost of Living, Culture and Leisure, Economy, Environment, Freedom, Health, Infrastructure, Safety and Risk and Climate.

France has historical strong ties with Human Rights. Since the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is a fundamental document of the French Revolution, defining the individual and collective rights of all the estates of the realm as universal. Influenced by the doctrine of "natural right", the rights of man are held to be universal: valid...

 of 1789, France is often nicknamed as "the country of Human Rights". Furthermore, in 1948, a Frenchman, René Cassin
René Cassin
René Samuel Cassin was a French jurist, law professor and judge. A soldier in World War I, he later went on to form the Union Fédérale, a leftist, pacifist Veterans organisation...

, was one of the main redactors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

 which was adopted by the UN members in Paris.

National symbols strongly reflect the heritage of the Revolution. The four official symbols of the Republic, as stated by the Constitution, all commemorate events from the period. Bastille Day
Bastille Day
Bastille Day is the name given in English-speaking countries to the French National Day, which is celebrated on 14 July of each year. In France, it is formally called La Fête Nationale and commonly le quatorze juillet...

, the national holiday, commemorate the Fête de la Fédération
Fête de la Fédération
The Fête de la Fédération of the 14 July 1790 was a huge feast and official event to celebrate the establishment of the short-lived constitutional monarchy in France and what people of the time considered to be the happy conclusion of the French Revolution the outcome hoped for by the...

, held on 14 July 1790 to celebrate the storming of the Bastille
Storming of the Bastille
The storming of the Bastille occurred in Paris on the morning of 14 July 1789. The medieval fortress and prison in Paris known as the Bastille represented royal authority in the centre of Paris. While the prison only contained seven inmates at the time of its storming, its fall was the flashpoint...

. The origins of Tricolored flag
Flag of France
The national flag of France is a tricolour featuring three vertical bands coloured royal blue , white, and red...

 also date back to the Revolution, as the cockade
Cockade
A cockade is a knot of ribbons, or other circular- or oval-shaped symbol of distinctive colors which is usually worn on a hat.-Eighteenth century:...

 was the symbols adopted by the revolutionaries in 1789.

As for the national anthem La Marseillaise
La Marseillaise
"La Marseillaise" is the national anthem of France. The song, originally titled "Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin" was written and composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in 1792. The French National Convention adopted it as the Republic's anthem in 1795...

, it was written in 1792 as a war song for the French Army. The official motto of the French Republic, "Liberté, égalité, fraternité
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
Liberté, égalité, fraternité, French for "Liberty, equality, fraternity ", is the national motto of France, and is a typical example of a tripartite motto. Although it finds its origins in the French Revolution, it was then only one motto among others and was not institutionalized until the Third...

" (Liberty, equality, brotherhood) also appeared during the French Revolution. Marianne
Marianne
Marianne is a national emblem of France and an allegory of Liberty and Reason. She represents the state and values of France, differently from another French cultural symbol, the "Coq Gaulois" which represents France as a nation and its history, land, culture, and variety of sport disciplines in...

, unofficial symbol, is an allegorical figure of liberty and of the Republic and also appeared at the time of the Revolution.

A common and traditional symbol of the French people is the Gallic rooster
Gallic rooster
The Gallic rooster is an unofficial national symbol of France as a nation .-France:...

. Its origins date back to Antiquity, since the Latin word Gallus meant both "rooster" and "inhabitant of Gaul". Then this figure gradually became the most widely shared representation of the French, used by French monarchs, then by the Revolution and under the successive republican regimes as representation of the national identity, used for some stamps and coins. Although it is not an official symbol of the Republic, it is the most common image to symbolize France in the collective imagination and abroad.

Gastronomy



French cuisine is renowned for being one of the finest in the world. French cuisine is extremely diverse and has exerted a major influence on other western cuisines. According to the regions, traditional recipes are different, the North of the country prefers to use butter as the preferred fat for cooking, whereas olive oil
Olive oil
Olive oil is an oil obtained from the olive , a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps...

 is more commonly used in the South.

Moreover, each region of France has iconic traditional specialities : Cassoulet
Cassoulet
Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked bean stew or casserole originating in the south of France, containing meat , pork skin and white haricot beans....

 in the Southwest, Choucroute in Alsace, Quiche
Quiche
Quiche is a savory, open-faced pie of vegetables, cheese, or meat in custard, baked in a pastry crust.The quiche is sometimes regarded as the savoury equivalent ofegg custard tart.- Etymology:...

 in the Lorraine region
Lorraine (région)
Lorraine is one of the 27 régions of France. The administrative region has two cities of equal importance, Metz and Nancy. Metz is considered to be the official capital since that is where the regional parliament is situated...

, Beef bourguignon
Beef Bourguignon
Beef bourguignon or bœuf bourguignon , also called beef Burgundy, and Boeuf à la Bourguignonne, is a well known traditional French recipe....

 in the Bourgogne, provençal
Provence
Provence ; Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm) is a region of south eastern France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. It is part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur...

 Tapenade
Tapenade
Tapenade is a Provençal dish consisting of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil. Its name comes from the Provençal word for capers, tapenas . It is a popular food in the south of France, where it is generally eaten as an hors d’œuvre, spread on bread...

, etc. France's most renowned products are wines
French wine
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...

, including Champagne, Bordeaux
Bordeaux wine
A Bordeaux wine is any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of France. Average vintages produce over 700 million bottles of Bordeaux wine, ranging from large quantities of everyday table wine, to some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in the world...

, Bourgogne
Burgundy wine
Burgundy wine is wine made in the Burgundy region in eastern France, in the valleys and slopes west of the Saône River, a tributary of the Rhône. The most famous wines produced here - those commonly referred to as "Burgundies" - are red wines made from Pinot Noir grapes or white wines made from...

, and Beaujolais
Beaujolais (wine)
Beaujolais is a French Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée wine generally made of the Gamay grape which has a thin skin and is low in tannins. Like most AOC wines they are not labeled varietally. Whites from the region, which make up only 1% of its production, are made mostly with Chardonnay grapes...

 as well as a large variety of different cheeses, such as Camembert
Camembert
Camembert is a commune in the Orne department in north-western France.It is most famous as the place where camembert cheese originated.Camembert has been called "The largest small village in France." This is because the area of the commune itself is out of proportion to the center of the village...

, Roquefort
Roquefort (cheese)
Roquefort , sometimes spelled Rochefort in English, is a sheep milk blue cheese from the south of France, and together with Bleu d'Auvergne, Stilton and Gorgonzola is one of the world's best-known blue cheeses...

 and Brie. There are more than 400 different varieties.

French cuisine is also regarded as a key element of the quality of life
Quality of life
The term quality of life is used to evaluate the general well-being of individuals and societies. The term is used in a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, and politics. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of...

 and the attractiveness of France. A French publication, the Michelin guide
Michelin Guide
The Michelin Guide is a series of annual guide books published by Michelin for over a dozen countries. The term normally refers to the Michelin Red Guide, the oldest and best-known European hotel and restaurant guide, which awards the Michelin stars...

, had by 2006 awarded 620 stars to French restaurants, at that time more than any other country, although the guide also inspects more restaurants in France than in any other country (by 2010, Japan was awarded as many Michelin stars as France, despite having half the number of Michelin inspectors working there).

Sports



Popular sports played in France include football, judo
Judo
is a modern martial art and combat sport created in Japan in 1882 by Jigoro Kano. Its most prominent feature is its competitive element, where the object is to either throw or takedown one's opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue one's opponent with a grappling maneuver, or force an...

 and tennis. France has hosted events such as the 1938
1938 FIFA World Cup
The 1938 FIFA World Cup was the third staging of the World Cup, and was held in France from 4 June to 19 June. Italy retained the championship, beating Hungary 4–2 in the final.-Host selection:...

 and 1998 FIFA World Cup
1998 FIFA World Cup
The 1998 FIFA World Cup, the 16th FIFA World Cup, was held in France from 10 June to 12 July 1998. France was chosen as host nation by FIFA on 2 July 1992. The tournament was won by France, who beat Brazil 3-0 in the final...

s, and hosted the 2007 Rugby Union World Cup. Stade de France
Stade de France
The Stade de France is the national stadium of France, situated just north of Paris in the commune of Saint-Denis. It has an all-seater capacity of 80,000, making it the fifth largest stadium in Europe, and is used by both the France national football team and French rugby union team for...

 in Paris is the largest stadium in France and was the venue for the 1998 FIFA World Cup final, and hosted the 2007 Rugby World Cup final in October 2007. France also hosts the annual Tour de France, the most famous road bicycle race in the world. France is also famous for its 24 Hours of Le Mans
24 Hours of Le Mans
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world's oldest sports car race in endurance racing, held annually since near the town of Le Mans, France. Commonly known as the Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency, race teams have to balance speed against the cars' ability to run for 24 hours without sustaining...

 sports car
Sports car racing
Sports car racing is a form of circuit auto racing with automobiles that have two seats and enclosed wheels. They may be purpose-built or related to road-going sports cars....

 endurance race held in the Sarthe
Sarthe
Sarthe is a French department, named after the Sarthe River.- History :The department was created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790, pursuant to the law of December 22, 1789, starting from a part of the province of Maine which was divided into two departments, Sarthe to the east and...

 department. Several major tennis tournaments take place in France, including the Paris Masters
Paris Masters
The Paris Masters is an annual tennis tournament for male professional players held in Paris, France. It is played indoors at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy. The event is part of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 on the Association of Tennis Professionals Tour...

 and the French Open, one of the four Grand Slam
Grand Slam (tennis)
The four Major tennis tournaments, also called the Slams, are the most important tennis events of the year in terms of world tour ranking points, tradition, prize-money awarded, strength and size of player field, and public attention. They are the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and...

 tournaments.
France has a close association with the Modern Olympic Games; it was a French aristocrat, Baron Pierre de Coubertin
Pierre de Coubertin
Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin was a French educationalist and historian, founder of the International Olympic Committee, and is considered the father of the modern Olympic Games...

, who suggested the Games' revival, at the end of the 19th century. After Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 was awarded the first Games, in reference to the Greek origins of the ancient Olympics, Paris hosted the second Games in 1900
1900 Summer Olympics
The 1900 Summer Olympics, today officially known as the Games of the II Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in 1900 in Paris, France. No opening or closing ceremonies were held; competitions began on May 14 and ended on October 28. The Games were held as part of...

. Paris was also the first home of the International Olympic Committee
International Olympic Committee
The International Olympic Committee is an international corporation based in Lausanne, Switzerland, created by Pierre de Coubertin on 23 June 1894 with Demetrios Vikelas as its first president...

, before it moved to Lausanne
Lausanne
Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...

. Since that 1900 Games, France has hosted the Olympics on four further occasions: the 1924 Summer Olympics
1924 Summer Olympics
The 1924 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the VIII Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in 1924 in Paris, France...

, again in Paris and three Winter Games
Winter Olympic Games
The Winter Olympic Games is a sporting event, which occurs every four years. The first celebration of the Winter Olympics was held in Chamonix, France, in 1924. The original sports were alpine and cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping and speed skating...

 (1924
1924 Winter Olympics
The 1924 Winter Olympics, officially known as the I Olympic Winter Games, were a winter multi-sport event which was held in 1924 in Chamonix, France...

 in Chamonix
Chamonix
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc or, more commonly, Chamonix is a commune in the Haute-Savoie département in the Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France. It was the site of the 1924 Winter Olympics, the first Winter Olympics...

, 1968
1968 Winter Olympics
The 1968 Winter Olympics, officially known as the X Olympic Winter Games, were a winter multi-sport event which was celebrated in 1968 in Grenoble, France and opened on 6 February. Thirty-seven countries participated...

 in Grenoble
Grenoble
Grenoble is a city in southeastern France, at the foot of the French Alps where the river Drac joins the Isère. Located in the Rhône-Alpes region, Grenoble is the capital of the department of Isère...

 and 1992
1992 Winter Olympics
The 1992 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XVI Olympic Winter Games, were a winter multi-sport event celebrated from 8 to 23 February 1992 in Albertville, France. They were the last Winter Olympics to be held the same year as the Summer Olympics, and the first where the Winter Paralympics...

 in Albertville
Albertville
Albertville is a commune in the Savoie department in the Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France.The town is best known for hosting the 1992 Winter Olympics.-Geography:...

).

Both the national football team
France national football team
The France national football team represents the nation of France in international football. It is fielded by the French Football Federation , the governing body of football in France, and competes as a member of UEFA, which encompasses the countries of Europe...

 and the national rugby union team
France national rugby union team
The France national rugby union team represents France in rugby union. They compete annually against England, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in the Six Nations Championship. They have won the championship outright sixteen times, shared it a further eight times, and have completed nine grand slams...

 are nicknamed “Les Bleus” in reference to the team’s shirt color as well as the national French tricolor flag. The football team is among the most successful in the world, particularly at the turn of the 21st century, with one FIFA World Cup
FIFA World Cup
The FIFA World Cup, often simply the World Cup, is an international association football competition contested by the senior men's national teams of the members of Fédération Internationale de Football Association , the sport's global governing body...

 victory in 1998, one FIFA World Cup second place in 2006, and two European Championships
UEFA European Football Championship
The UEFA European Football Championship is the main football competition of the men's national football teams governed by UEFA . Held every four years since 1960, in the even-numbered year between World Cup tournaments, it was originally called the UEFA European Nations Cup, changing to the current...

 in 1984
1984 UEFA European Football Championship
The 1984 UEFA European Football Championship final tournament was held in France. West Germany also bid for the hosting of this event. It was the seventh European Football Championship, held every four years and endorsed by UEFA...

 and 2000
2000 UEFA European Football Championship
The 2000 UEFA European Football Championship, or Euro 2000, was the 11th UEFA European Football Championship, which is held every four years and organized by UEFA, association football's governing body in Europe....

. The top national football club competition is the Ligue 1
Ligue 1
Ligue 1 , is the French professional league for association football clubs. It is the country's primary football competition and serves as the top division of the French football league system. Ligue 1 is one of two divisions making up the Ligue de Football Professionnel, the other being Ligue 2....

. Rugby is also very popular, particularly in Paris and the southwest of France. The national rugby team has competed at every Rugby World Cup
Rugby World Cup
The Rugby World Cup is an international rugby union competition organised by the International Rugby Board and held every four years since 1987....

, and takes part in the annual Six Nations Championship
Six Nations Championship
The Six Nations Championship is an annual international rugby union competition involving six European sides: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales....

. Following from a strong domestic tournament the French rugby team has won sixteen Six Nations Championships, including eight grand slams; and have reached the semi-finals and final of the Rugby World Cup.

Rugby league in France
Rugby league in France
Rugby league has been played in France since 1934. As with rugby union, the heartland of the game is the south of the country.During the Second World War, in association with the French rugby union, the sport was banned by the Vichy government, an act which the sport has struggled to recover from...

 is a sport that is most popular in the south with cities such as Perpignan
Perpignan
-Sport:Perpignan is a rugby stronghold: their rugby union side, USA Perpignan, is a regular competitor in the Heineken Cup and seven times champion of the Top 14 , while their rugby league side plays in the engage Super League under the name Catalans Dragons.-Culture:Since 2004, every year in the...

 and Toulouse
Toulouse
Toulouse is a city in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern FranceIt lies on the banks of the River Garonne, 590 km away from Paris and half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea...

 having a strong presence in the game. The Catalans Dragons
Catalans Dragons
The Catalans Dragons are a French professional rugby league club based in Perpignan, Pyrénées-Orientales. They currently play in the Super League, and are the only team in the competition from outside of the United Kingdom...

 currently play in Super League
Super League
Super League is the top-level professional rugby league football club competition in Europe. As a result of sponsorship from engage Mutual Assurance the competition is currently officially known as the engage Super League. The League features fourteen teams: thirteen from England and one from...

 which is the top tier rugby league competition in Europe. Toulouse Olympique
Toulouse Olympique
Toulouse Olympique are a French professional rugby league team from Toulouse, in the southwest of France. They were founded on 22 October, in 1937 two years after the founding of the French Rugby League Federation. Between 1995 and 2002 the club were known as Spacers de Toulouse, due to links with...

 play in the Co-operative Championship which is the 2nd tier of European rugby league. The Elite One Championship
Elite One Championship
The Elite One Championship is the top tier French professional domestic rugby league competition....

 is the top tier of French rugby league.

External links





Economy

Government Élysée.fr – Official site of the French Presidency Official Site of the Government

Culture

Tourism
  • FranceGuide – Official website of the French Government Tourist Office