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Europe

The European continent was named after beautiful Phoenician woman called Europa.

Europe

When Zeus have seen Agenor's daughter Europa gathering flowers he immediately fell in love with her.

Welcome to France

France, officially the French Republic is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. France is divided into 22 regions that are further subdivided into 95 metropolitan and 5 overseas departments. Total area of French Republic, including all the overseas departments and territories is 674,843 km2 where the metropolitan France in Europe has the surface of 551 695 km². France is the largest western European country and it possesses the second-largest exclusive economic zone in the world, covering 11,035,000 km2, just 3% behind that of the United States.

Geographical Map of France

France has its main ideals expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The French Republic is defined as indivisible, secular, democratic and social by its constitution. France is one of the world's most developed countries; it possesses the world's fifth largest economy measured by GDP, the ninth-largest economy measured by purchasing power parity and is Europe's second largest economy by nominal GDP. 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 and EU's largest army. France also possesses the third largest nuclear weapons stockpile in the world, with around 300 active warheads as of 25 May 2010, and the world's second largest diplomatic corps after the United States. France is a founding member of the United Nations, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and a member of the G8, G20, NATO, OECD and WTO. It is also a founding and leading member state of the European Union and the largest country by area in the EU.

The ancient history of the Gaul territory

The territory of Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is often referred to as The Hexagon because of the geometric shape of its territory.

The oldest traces of human life in what is today the France date from approximately 1,800,000 years ago. Men were then confronted by a hard and variable climate, marked by several glacial eras which modified their framework of life and led them to a nomadic life of hunters-gatherers. Today, one can find a large number of decorated caves from the upper Paleolithic era, including one of the most famous and best preserved in Lascaux, Dordogne, from approximately 18,000 BC.

Painting from Lascaux caves 1 Painting from Lascaux caves 2

About 10,000 BC, at the end of the Last glacial period, the climate softened and from approximately 7,000 BC, this part of Western Europe entered the Neolithic era and its inhabitants became sedentary. After a strong demographic and agricultural development between the 4th and 3rd millennia, metallurgy appeared at the end of the 3rd millennium, initially with the work of gold, copper and bronze, and later with iron. French Hexagon counts numerous megalithic sites from the Neolithic period, including the exceptionally dense Carnac stones site in Brittany from about 3,300 BC.

Carnac Stones 1 Carnac Stones 2

The concept of Gaul emerged at that time; it corresponds to the territories of Celtic settlement ranging between the Rhine, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea. The borders of the French Hexagon are approximately the same as those of ancient Gaul, which was inhabited by Celts. Gaul was then a prosperous country, of which the southernmost part was heavily subject to Greek and Roman influences. However, around 390 BC, the Gallic chieftain Brennus and his troops made their way to Italy through the Alps, defeated the Romans in the Battle of the Allia, and besieged and ransomed Rome. The Gallic invasion left Rome weakened and encouraged several subdued Italian tribes to rebel. The Celts continued to harass the region until 345 BC, when they entered into a formal peace treaty with Rome. But the Romans and the Celts would maintain an adversarial relationship for the next several centuries and the Celts would remain a threat in Italia.

Gaul 100 BC

Around 125 BC, the south of Gaul was conquered by the Romans, who called this region Provincia Romana, which over time evolved into the name Provence in French. Brennus' siege of Rome was still remembered by Romans, when Julius Caesar conquered the remainder of Gaul and overcame a revolt carried out by the Celtic chieftain Vercingetorix in 52 BC.

Subsequently, Gaul was divided by Augustus into Roman provinces, the principal ones being Gallia Narbonensis in the south, Gallia Aquitania in the south-west, Gallia Lugdunensis in the center and Gallia Belgica in the north.

Many cities were founded during the Gallo-Roman period, including Lyon, which is considered to be the capital of the Celts at that time. These cities were built in the traditional Roman style, with a forum, a theatre, a circus, an amphitheatre and thermal baths.

The Celts mixed with Roman settlers and eventually adopted Roman speech and Roman culture. The whole territory and their inhabitants were named as Gallo-Roman.

The early political system of Gaul was complex, if ultimately fatal to the society as a whole. The fundamental unit of Gallic politics was the tribe, which itself consisted of one or more of what Caesar called later the “pagi”. The French word pays, "region", comes from the term pagus (singular of pagi). Each tribe had a council of elders, and initially a king, later an executive, that was annually-elected. Among a tribe of Gaul, the executive held the title of Vergobret, a position much like a king, but his powers were held in check by rules laid down by the council. The tribal groups or pagi were organized into larger super-tribal groups which the Romans called civitates. These civitates would also be the basis of France's eventual division into ecclesiastical bishoprics and dioceses, which would remain in place with slight changes until the French Revolution.

Reconstruction of Gallic Farm Inside the Gallic house

Although the tribes were moderately stable political entities, Gaul as a whole tended to be politically divided, with virtually no unity among the various tribes. Only during particularly trying times, such as the invasion of Caesar, could the Celts unite under a single leader like Vercingetorix. Even then, however, the fraction lines were clear.

Around the 3rd century AD, Roman Gaul underwent a serious crisis with its fortified borders protecting the Empire being crossed on several occasions by Barbarians. The weakness of the central imperial power, at this time, led Gallo-Roman leaders to proclaim the independence of the short-lived Gallic Empire, which ended with the Battle of Châlons in 274. The Gaul was reincorporated back into the Roman Empire.

Stone Gallic house Gallic stone constructions

Nevertheless, the situation improved in the first half of the 4th century, which was a period of revival and prosperity for Roman Gaul. In 312, the emperor Constantin I converted to Christianity. Christians, persecuted until then, multiplied across the entire Roman Empire including Roman Gaul. Regretfully, from the second half of the 4th century, the Barbarian Invasions started again, and Germanic tribes, such as the Vandals, Suebi and Alans crossed the Rhine and settled in Gaul, Spain and other parts of the collapsing Roman Empire.

Gallic coins Silver Gallic coin

At the end of the Antiquity period, the Roman Gaul was divided into several Germanic kingdoms; Early Francia in the north, Alamannia in the north-east, Burgundia in the east, Septimania in the south, Visigothic Aquitania in south-west and a remaining Gallo-Roman territory, known as the Kingdom of Syagrius in the nord-west and the center. Simultaneously, Celtic Britons, fleeing the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britannia, settled the western part of Armorica in far west of Gaul). As a result, the Armorican peninsula was renamed Brittany, the Celtic culture was revived and independent petty kingdoms arose in this region.

At that time the territory of Early Francia was the area north and east of the Rhine, roughly in the triangle between Utrecht, Bielefeld and Bonn thus, today’s territory of Germany and Netherlands. With the time the notion of the word Francia expanded as the territory of Francia expanded to other regions of the Gaul. Some of the Frankish kings, such as Bauto and Arbogastes, were committed to the cause of the Romans, but other Frankish rulers, such as Mallobaudes, were active on Roman soil for other reasons. After the fall of Arbogastes, his son Arigius succeeded in establishing a hereditary countship at Trier and after the fall of the usurper Constantine III some Franks supported the usurper Jovinus. Although Jovinus was dead by 413, the Romans could no longer manage the Franks within their borders.

Gaul in 5th century Gaul at the begining of 6th century

Around 428 the Salian king Chlodio, whose kingdom included Toxandria and the civitatus Tungrorum what is today’s Tongeren in Belgium, launched an attack on Roman territory and extended his realm as far as Cambrai and the Somme. Although Sidonius Apollinaris fought the Franks and temporarily drove them back in 431, this period marks the beginning of a situation that would endure for many centuries: the Germanic Franks ruled over an increasing number of Gallo-Roman subjects.

The kingdom of Chlodio changed the borders and the meaning of the word "Francia" permanently. Francia was no longer a kingdom of barbarians across the Rhine, but a landed political power on both sides of the river, deeply involved in Roman politics. Chlodio's family, the Merovingians, extended Francia even further south. Due to pressure from the Saxons, their northeastern neighbors, the inhabitants of Francia were pressed southwest so that most of the original Frankish people came to live roughly between the Somme and Münster in today’s territory of Belgium, Luxembourg and north-east France.

Rise of Frankisch Empire

The pagan Franks, from whom the ancient name of “Francie” was derived, originally settled the northern part of Gaul, but under Clovis I they 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 thus, France was given the title “Eldest daughter of the Church” by the papacy, and the French kings would be called “the Most Christian Kings of France”. The ancient Gaul was eventually renamed Francia and the Germanic Franks adopted Romanic languages, except the northern Gaul where Roman settlements were less dense and where Germanic languages emerged. Clovis made Paris his capital and established the Merovingian dynasty, but his kingdom would not survive his death. The Franks treated land purely as a private possession and divided it among their heirs, so four kingdoms emerged after Clovis death: Paris, Orléans, Soissons, and Rheims.

Charlemagne or Charles the Great

The last Merovingian kings sometimes referred as lazy kings, effectively lost power to their mayors of the palace. One mayor of the palace, Charles Martel, defeated a Muslim invasion force from Hispania at the Battle of Tours in 732 and earned great 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. The Pippin's son, Charlemagne, reunited the Frankish kingdoms and built a vast empire across Western and Central Europe.

Saracen Army outside Paris Battle of Tours

Battles of Charles Martel to stop Muslim invasion on Franks.

Charlemagne was born in 742 in Herstal near Liege of today’s Belgium. Natively he spoke Rhenish Franconian, the dialect of Old High German. Apart of his native language he also spoke Latin and according to his biographer he understands Greek better than he could speak. He was very tall for his époque and strongly built.

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

Charlemagne on coin Charlemagne in gold Charlemagne sarcofag

Charlemagne has spent his 47 years of reign on battles with all neighbors of the Francia kingdom. But his target was not to enslave the peoples but to extend his kingdom to a true empire. He was the creator of New Aquitania that fall under him, he conquered Lombardy which is today’s North Italy, he fought successfully with Saxons and also with Slavs between Oder and Elbe and he created at the beginning of 9th century the most powerful Franks Empire that ever existed. This Empire included Saxony and Thuringia in the east with the Slavs around the Elbe being subordinated to the Franks. Thus the influence of Charlemagne was extended as far as to today’s Polish border in the east. The northern border of the Franks Empire was the North Sea from Denmark peninsula to the today’s Brittany and the west border was Atlantic coast down to the Basque Country. On the south the border were the Pyrenees and Mediterranean Sea plus the Kingdom of Lombardy including Rome and Venice. The Croats along the Adriatic Sea were subordinated to Charlemagne.        

The dominance of Charlemagne's military was based on a "cavalry revolution" led by Charles Martel in 730s. However, the stirrup, which made the "shock cavalry" lance charge possible, was not introduced to the Frankish kingdom until the late eighth century. Instead, Charlemagne's success rested primarily on novel siege technologies and excellent logistics. Large numbers of horses were used by the Frankish military during the age of Charlemagne. This was because horses provided a quick, long-distance method of transporting troops, which was critical to building and maintaining such a large empire.

Franks expansion

In 799, Pope Leo III had been mistreated by the Romans, who tried to put out his eyes and tear out his tongue. Leo escaped and fled to Charlemagne at Paderborn, asking him to intervene in Rome and restore him. Charlemagne, advised by Alcuin of York, agreed to travel to Rome, doing so in November 800 and holding a council on 1 December. On 23 December Leo swore an oath of innocence. At Mass, on Christmas Day on 25 December, when Charlemagne knelt at the altar to pray, the Pope crowned him Imperator Emperor of the Romans in Saint Peter's Basilica. In so doing, the Pope was effectively nullifying the legitimacy of Empress Irene of Constantinople.

Charlemagne on glas window Charlemgne portret Charlemagne and Pope Adrian

Charlemagne had an important role in determining the immediate economic future of Europe. Pursuing his father's reforms, Charlemagne abolished the monetary system based on the gold sou. There were strong pragmatic reasons for this abandonment of a gold standard, notably a shortage of gold itself. He established a new standard, the livre carolinienne which is the modern pound, based upon a pound of silver that was worth 20 sous. During this period, the livre and the sou were counting units but only the sou a coin of the realm.

Charlemagne instituted principles for accounting practice by means of the Capitulare de villis of 802, which laid down strict rules for the way in which incomes and expenses were to be recorded. The lending of money for interest was prohibited and then strengthened in 814, when Charlemagne introduced the Capitulary for the Jews, a draconian prohibition on Jews engaging in money-lending.

Charlemagne (742–814) receiving the submission of Widukind at Paderborn in 785

Charlemagne (742–814) receiving the submission of Widukind at Paderborn in 785

A part of Charlemagne's success as warrior and administrator can be traced to his admiration for learning. His reign and the era are often referred to as the Carolingian Renaissance because of the flowering of scholarship, literature, art, and architecture which characterize it. Charlemagne brought into contact with the culture and learning of other countries especially Visigothic Spain, Anglo-Saxon England, and Lombard Italy due to his vast conquests. Most of the presently surviving works of classical Latin were copied and preserved by Carolingian scholars.

Charlemagne kingdom

Charlemagne took a serious interest in scholarship, promoting the liberal arts at the court, ordering that his children and grandchildren be well-educated, and even studying himself in a time when even leaders who promoted education did not take time to learn themselves under the tutelage of Paul the Deacon, from whom he learned grammar; Alcuin, with whom he studied rhetoric, logic, and astronomy. He was particularly interested in the movements of the stars and Einhard has assisted him in his studies of arithmetic. 

Charlemagne krypy in Achen Cathedral Marmer statue of Charlemagne in Rome Tron of Charlemagne

Charlemagne died in 814 in Aachen and he was buried in the Aachen Cathedral. The city of Aachen has, since 1949, awarded an international prize called the Karlspreis der Stadt Aachen in honour of Charlemagne. It is awarded annually to "personages of merit who have promoted the idea of western unity by their political, economic and literary endeavours." Winners of the prize include Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, the founder of the pan-European movement, Alcide De Gasperi, and Winston Churchill as well as John Paul II, Bronislaw Gieremek, Angela Merkel and Donald Tusk.

Charlemagne (left) and Pippin the Hunchback. Charlemagne the most exact portret Charlemagne instructing Louis the Pious

Charlemagne and his sons, left with Pepin the Hunchback, right with Louis I de Pious

Charlemagne's son, Louis I was the emperor from 814 to 840 and kept the empire united; however, this Carolingian Empire did not survive his death. In 843, under the Treaty of Verdun, the empire was divided between Louis' three sons, with East Francia going to Louis the German, Middle Francia to Lothair I, and West Francia to Charles the Bald. Western Francia approximated the area occupied by today’s France and East Francia of today’s Germany. The Middle Francia were divided into today’s Nederland, Belgium, Switzerland as well as France and only a small part to Germany.

History of modern France

During the course of the 9th and 10th centuries, continually threatened by Viking invasions, West Francia with Paris as capitol became a much decentralized 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. The feudalism in France was established in that time. Some of the king's vassals would grow over time so powerful that they often posed a threat to the king. For example, after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the Duke of Normandy added "King of England" to his titles, becoming both the vassal to, as Duke of Normandy and the equal as King of England to the King of France.

Hugh Capet

The Carolingian dynasty ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of France.

His descendants, the Direct Capetians, the House of Valois and the House of Bourbon, progressively unified the country through a series of wars, such as the Saintonge War, and dynastic inheritance into the Kingdom of France.

French knights took an active part in many of the Crusades that were fought between 1095 and 1291 to restore Christian control over the Holy Land.

Crusaders were so predominately French that the word "crusader" in the Arabic language is simply known as Al-Franj or "The Franks" and Old French became the lingua franca of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

On the left, the first Capetrian king Hugh Capet.

The Albigensian Crusade was launched in 1209 to eliminate the heretical Cathars in the south-western area of modern-day France. In the end, the Cathars were exterminated and the autonomous County of Toulouse was annexed into the kingdom of France. Later Kings expanded their territory to cover over half of modern continental France, including most of the North, Centre and West of France.

Charles IV the Fair died without an heir in 1328. Under the rules of the Salic law adopted in 1316, the crown of France could not pass to a woman nor could the line of kingship pass through the female line. Accordingly, the crown passed to Philip of Valois, a cousin of Charles, rather than through the female line to Charles' nephew, Edward, who would soon become Edward III of England. During the reign of Philip of Valois, the French monarchy reached the height of its medieval power.

Charles IV fair Philipe de Valois Philipe de Valois

On the left Charles IV the Fair, in the middle and on the right Philip Valois or Philipe VI of France

The 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 and England and France went to war in what would become known as the Hundred Years' War. The exact boundaries changed greatly with time, but French landholdings of the English Kings remained extensive for decades. With charismatic leaders, such as Joan of Arc and La Hire, strong French counterattacks won back all English continental territories, except Calais, which was captured in 1558 by the French. Like the rest of Europe, France was struck by the Black Death. Around 1340, France had a population of approximately 17 million, which by the end of the pandemic had declined by about one-half to about 9 million.

Lady in her Bath by François Clouet (1570) "Diane the Huntress" - School of Fontainebleau (1550-60) (Louvre). Coronation of Marie de' Medici in St. Denis (detail), by Peter Paul Rubens, 1622-1625.

Paintings from the French Reaissance, from the left; "Lady in her Bath" by François Clouet (1570), "Diane the Huntress" - School of Fontainebleau (1550-60) (Louvre), "Coronation of Marie de' Medici in St. Denis", detail, by Peter Paul Rubens, Antwerp, 1622-1625.

The 16th century was not only the time of Golden Age in Antwerp but it was also the French Renaissance. It began with long set of wars, known as the Italian Wars, between the Kingdom of France and the powerful Holy Roman Empire. It also saw the first standardization of the French language, which would become the official language of France and the language of Europe's aristocracy. French explorers, such as Jacques Cartier or Samuel de Champlain, claimed lands in the Americas for France, paving the way for the expansion of the First French colonial empire. Louis XIV of France, the "sun king" was the absolute monarch of France and made France the leading European power.

Depiction of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre by François Dubois.

St. Bartholomew's Day of Massacre by François Dubois

The rise of Protestantism in Europe led France to a civil war known as the French Wars of Religion, where, in the most notorious incident, thousands of Huguenots were murdered in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572. The Wars of Religion were ended by Henry IV's Edict of Nantes, which granted some freedom of religion to the Huguenots. Henry IV was later murdered by a Catholic fanatic and Huguenot rebellions persisted until the 18th century. Under Louis XIII, the energetic actions of Cardinal Richelieu reinforced the centralization of the state, the royal power and French dominance in Europe, foreshadowing the reign of Louis XIV.

The monarchy reached its peak during the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV. By turning powerful feudal lords into courtiers at the Palace of Versailles, Louis XIV's personal power became unchallenged. Remembered for his numerous wars, he made France the leading European power of the time. At this time, France possessed the largest population in Europe of more than 20 million people and had tremendous influence over European politics, economy, and culture. French became the most-used language in diplomacy, science, literature and international affairs, and remained so until the 20th century. In addition, France obtained many overseas possessions in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Louis XIV also revoked the Edict of Nantes, forcing thousands of Huguenots or Calvinists to exile.

Europe after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648
1655 portrait of Louis, the Victor of the Fronde, portrayed as the god Jupiter Louis XIV, King of France, in 1661. Louis XIV in 1673

Portraits of Louis XIV from 1655, 1661 and 1673

Under Louis XV, France lost New France and most of its Indian possessions after its defeat in the Seven Years' War, which ended in 1763. Its continental territory kept growing, however, with notable acquisitions such as Lorraine in 1766 and Corsica in 1770. An unpopularity of the king Louis XV and his 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, the Louis XV's grandson, actively supported the Americans, who were seeking their independence from Great Britain realized in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. The example of the American Revolution and the financial crisis which followed France's involvement in the war were two of the many contributing factors to the French Revolution.

Louis XV as a child in coronation robes, portrait by Rigaud Queen Marie Leszczyńska with the dauphin Louis, by Alexis Simon Belle in 1730 Louis XV, by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1730 at Château de Versailles

King Louis XV in 1722, his wife Marie Leszczyńska with Louis Dauphin of France and Louis XV in 1730

Prise de la Bastille, by Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Houel Arrest of de Launay, by Jean-Baptiste Lallemand, 1790
Storming of the Bastille and aresting of de Launay in 1790

Bastille before the revolution

Bastille after the Revolution

After the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, the absolute monarchy was abolished and France became a constitutional monarchy. Through the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, France established fundamental rights for French citizens and all men without exception. While Louis XVI, as a constitutional king, enjoyed broad popularity among the population, his disastrous flight from Paris in 1791 seemed to justify the rumors that the king hoped to restore the absolute monarchy with the help of foreign invasion. The credibility of the king was deeply undermined and the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic became an ever increasing possibility.

Execution of Robespierre

Execution of Robespierre 28 July 1794

As a result of the spike in public violence and the political instability of the constitutional monarchy, the Republic was proclaimed on 22 September 1792. King Louis XVI was convicted of treason and guillotined in 1793. Facing increasing pressures from European monarchies the young Republic fell into the Reign of Terror. Between 1793 and 1794, 16,000 to 40,000 persons were executed. In Western France, the civil war between the "Blues" supporting Revolution and the "Whites", supporting Monarchy last from 1793 to 1796 and cost around 450,000 lives. All armies were crushed and the French Republic survived. Furthermore, the French Republic extended greatly its boundaries and established "Sister Republics" in the surrounding countries. As the threat of a foreign invasion receded the National Convention has voted in 1794 to execute Maximilien Robespierre and several other leading members of the Terror. This ended the most radical phase of the French Revolution.

Napoleon 1796 Napoleon crossing Alps 1800 Napoleon Premier Consul 1803

Napoleon in 1796, when crossing Alps in 1800 and as First Consul visiting Liege, Belgium, in 1803

After a short-lived governmental scheme, Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the Republic in 1799 and was appointed First Consul and later Emperor of the French Empire in 1804. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the European monarchies against the French Republic, changing sets of European Coalitions declared wars to Napoleon's French Empire. In revenge, Napoleon armies conquered most of continental Europe, while members of the Bonaparte family were appointed as monarchs in some of the newly established kingdoms. These victories led to the worldwide expansion of French revolutionary ideals and reforms, such as the Metric system, the Napoleonic Code or the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Regretfully, after the catastrophic Russian campaign, Napoleon lost almost all his army and was finally defeated on the fields of Waterloo in 1815. The Bourbon monarchy was restored but about a million Frenchmen died during the Napoleonic Wars.

Watereloo 1815

Battle of Waterloo, 1815 – painting by William Sadler

Barricade à Paris en février 1848 Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, président de la République Les voix des républicains démocrates-socialistes en mai 1849

From the left; Baricade in Paris in 1848, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte the nephew of Napoleon I as president of the Second Republic, votes for Social-Democrats during elections in 1849

After 15 years the discredited Bourbon dynasty was overthrown by the civil uprising of 1830, which established the constitutional July Monarchy, which lasted until 1848, when the French Second Republic was proclaimed, in the wake of the 1848 European revolutions. The abolition of slavery and the male universal suffrage, both briefly enacted during the French Revolution were finally re-enacted in 1848. In 1852, the president of the French Republic Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon I nephew, was proclaimed emperor of the second Empire, as Napoleon III. He multiplied French interventions abroad, especially in Crimea, in Mexico and Italy, which resulted in the annexation of Savoy and Nice. Napoleon III was eventually unseated following defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and his regime was replaced by the Third Republic.

Evolution of French colonial empire

France had colonial possessions, in various forms, since the beginning of the 17th century to the 18th century. But in the 19th and 20th centuries, its global overseas colonial empire extended greatly and culminated as the second largest in the world behind the British Empire. At its peak, between 1919 and 1939, the second French colonial empire extended over 12,347,000 square kilometers of land. Including metropolitan France, the total area of land under French sovereignty reached 12,898,000 square kilometers in the 1920s and 1930s, which is 8.6% of the world's land area.

Mobilization in Paris French soldiers in trenches in 1916 Canadian soldiers in trenches in 1917
Franch territories most damaged during WWI Damaged French village
New countries after WWI Graveyard from WWI

France was a member of the Triple Entente when World War I broke out. A small part of Northern France was occupied, but France and its allies eventually emerged victorious against the Central Powers, at a tremendous human and material cost: the WWI left 1.4 million French soldiers dead.

The Interwar period from 1918 to 1939 was marked by intense international tensions and a variety of social reforms introduced by the Popular Front government. The annual leave for holidays, working time reduction, women in the Government … all this was very new and it is remembered until today as French Social achievements.

Free French and Polish destroyer Piorun US made tank in French Army Churchil and Degaul

Following the 1940 German Blitzkrieg campaign in World War II, metropolitan France was divided in an occupation zone in the north and Vichy France, a newly established authoritarian regime collaborating with Germany, in the south. The Allies and the French Resistance eventually emerged victorious from the Axis powers and French sovereignty was restored.

Colonies before the WWII France during WWII

Left, division of colonial posessions before WWII, rigth, division of France during WWII

The Fourth Republic was established after World War II and saw spectacular economic growth known as the Glorious Thirty, referring to the thirty years from 1945 to 1975 of continuous growth. The universal suffrage was extended to women in 1944. France was one of the founding members of the NATO in 1949, which was the Western counterpart of the Warsaw Pact system of collective defense. France attempted to regain control of French Indochina but was defeated in 1954. Only months later, France faced a new conflict in Algeria. During the debate over whether or not to keep control of Algeria, one million European settlers wracked the country and nearly led to civil war.

The Fourth Republic Governing the Fifth Republic

Left, Fourth Republic of France (1948 - 1958), rigth, organigram of institutions in Fifth French Republic that exists from 1958 till now

In 1958, the weak and unstable Fourth Republic gave a way to the Fifth Republic, which contained a strengthened Presidency. In the latter role, Charles de Gaulle managed to keep the country together while taking steps to end the war. The Algerian War was concluded with peace negotiations in 1962 that led to Algerian independence. France granted independence progressively to its colonies, the last one being Vanuatu in 1980. The vestiges of the colonial empire are the French overseas departments and territories that include French Guiana, Martinique and French Polynesia.

Mediterranean vegetation (lavender) in Provence. Sarkozy and Merkel Alpine climate in Savoie (note the Alpine Ibex on the left).
Mercantour National Park in France Black Périgord in Dordogne (Aquitaine).

France being the country of 1000 beautiful panoramas has been also at the forefront of the European Union member states. France wants to exploit the momentum of monetary union to create a more unified and capable European Union political, defense, and security apparatus. The ideas of Charles the Great or Charlemagne can be found today in the existence of EU although in details there is no agreement between the France and the Germany, both being descendants of the Charlemagne legacy. As Germans are more in favor of taking by the Union of certain national functions and responsibilities of the Member States the French do want to keep a maximum of their national independence. Do we need the next Charlemagne to solve this problem?