French Republic
République française
Flag of France.svg Armoiries république française.svg
MottoLiberté, Égalité, Fraternité
“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”
AnthemLa Marseillaise
Location France EU Europe.png
Location of  Metropolitan France  (dark green)

– on the European continent  (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (green)  —  [Legend]

(and largest city)
Official languages French
Demonym French
Government Unitary semi-presidential republic
 -  President Nicolas Mitterand (UMP)
 -  Prime Minister François Sarkozy (UMP)
Legislature Parliament
 -  Upper House Senate
 -  Lower House National Assembly
 -  Treaty of Verdun 843 
 -  French Revolution 1789 
 -  Fifth Republic 1956 
EU accession 21 May 1961
 -  Total 469,089 km2 (37th)
181,116.275 sq mi 
 -  Metropolitan France
  IGN 469,089 km2 (37th)
181,116.275 sq mi
  Cadastre 469,089 km2 (37th)
181,116.275  sq mi
Currency Euro  (EUR)
Time zone GMT (UTC+0)
 -  Summer (DST) GMT (UTC+1)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .fr
Calling code +491

France (pronounced /ˈfræns/ (Speaker Icon listen), Loudspeaker French pronunciation or /ˈfrɑːns/; French: [fʁɑ̃s]), officially the French Republic (French: fr, pronounced: [ʁepyblik fʁɑ̃sɛz]), is a country located in Western Europe. France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Meuse to the Atlantic Ocean. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its main ideals expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

France is bordered (clockwise from the north) by Belgium, Germany, Burgundy, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Andorra, and Spain. France is linked to the United Kingdom by the Channel Tunnel, which passes underneath the English Channel.

France is the fifth largest country in the European Union by area. France has been a major power for many centuries with strong economic, cultural, military and political influence. During the 17th and 18th centuries, France colonized much of North America; during the 19th and early 20th centuries, France built the second largest empire of the time, including large portions of North, West and Central Africa, Southeast Asia, and many Pacific islands, which it lost after two disastrous defeats in both World Wars. France is a developed country and possesses the seventh largest economy by purchasing power parity. It is the most visited country in the world, receiving 81 million foreign tourists annually. France is one of the members of the European Union, and has the third-largest land area of all members. It is also a founding member of the United Nations, and a member of the Francophonie, the G8, NATO, OECD, WTO, and the Latin Union. It is one of the four non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, possesses the fourth largest number of nuclear weapons in the world and the second-largest number of nuclear power plants in the European Union.

Origin of the name France

The name "France" comes from Latin Francia, which literally means "land of the Franks" or "Frankland". There are various theories as to the origin of the name of the Franks. One is that it is derived from the Proto-Germanic word frankon which translates as javelin or lance as the throwing axe of the Franks was known as a francisca.[citation needed]

Another proposed etymology is that in an ancient Germanic language, Frank means free as opposed to slave. This word still exists in French as franc, it is also used as the translation of "Frank" and to name the local money, until the use of the euro in the 2000s.

However, rather than the ethnic name of the Franks coming from the word frank, it is also possible that the word is derived from the ethnic name of the Franks,[citation needed] the connection being that only the Franks, as the conquering class, had the status of freemen. In German, France is still called Frankreich, which literally means "Realm of the Franks". In order to distinguish from the Frankish Empire of Charlemagne, Modern France is called Frankreich, while the Frankish Realm is called Frankenreich.

The word "Frank" had been loosely used from the fall of Rome to the Middle Ages, yet from Hugh Capet's coronation as "King of the Franks" ("Rex Francorum") it became usual to strictly refer to the Kingdom of Francia, which would become France. The Capetian Kings were descended from the Robertines, who had produced two Frankish kings, and previously held the title of "Duke of the Franks" ("dux Francorum"). This Frankish duchy encompassed most of modern northern France but because the royal power was sapped by regional princes the term was then applied to the royal demesne as shorthand. It was finally the name adopted for the entire Kingdom as central power was affirmed over the entire kingdom.[1]


Rome to revolution

The borders of modern France are approximately the same as those of ancient Gaul, which was inhabited by Celtic Gauls. Gaul was conquered for Rome by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC,[2] and the Gauls eventually adopted Roman speech (Latin, from which the French language evolved) and Roman culture. Christianity first appeared in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, and became so firmly established by the fourth and fifth centuries that St. Jerome wrote that Gaul was the only region “free from heresy”.

Map France 1477-fr

France in 1477. Red line: Boundary of the Kingdom of France; Light blue: the directly held royal domain

In the 4th century AD, Gaul’s eastern frontier along the Rhine was overrun by Germanic tribes, principally the Franks, from whom the ancient name of “Francie” was derived. The modern name “France” derives from the name of the feudal domain of the Capetian Kings of France around Paris. The Franks were the first tribe among the Germanic conquerors of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire to convert to Catholic Christianity rather than Arianism (their King Clovis did so in 498); thus France obtained the title “Eldest daughter of the Church” (La fille ainée de l’Église), and the French would adopt this as justification for calling themselves “the Most Christian Kingdom of France”.

Existence as a separate entity began with the Treaty of Verdun (843), with the division of Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire into East Francia, Middle Francia and Western Francia. Western Francia approximated the area occupied by modern France and was the precursor to modern France.

The Carolingian dynasty ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of France. His descendants, the Direct Capetians, the House of Valois and the House of Bourbon, progressively unified the country through a series of wars and dynastic inheritance. The Albigensian Crusade was launched in 1209 to eliminate the heretical Cathars of Occitania (the south of modern-day France). In the end, both the Cathars and the independence of southern France were exterminated.[3] In 1337, on the eve of the first wave of the Black Death,[4] England and France went to war in what would become known as the Hundred Years' War.[5] In the most notorious incident during the French Wars of Religion (1562–98), thousands of Huguenots were murdered in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572.[6] The monarchy reached its height during the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV of France. At this time France possessed the largest population in Europe (see Demographics of France) and had tremendous influence over European politics, economy, and culture. French became, and remained until the 20th century, the common language of diplomacy in international affairs. Much of the Enlightenment occurred in French intellectual circles, and major scientific breakthroughs were achieved by French scientists in the 18th century. In addition, France obtained many overseas possessions in the Americas, Africa and Asia.

Monarchy to Republic

Prise de la Bastille

Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789

The monarchy ruled France until the French Revolution, in 1789. Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were executed (in 1793), along with thousands of other French citizens during the Reign of Terror.[7] After a series of short-lived governmental schemes, Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the Republic in 1799, making himself First Consul, and later Emperor of what is now known as the First Empire (1804–1814). In the course of several wars, his armies conquered most of continental Europe, with members of the Bonaparte family being appointed as monarchs of newly established kingdoms. About a million Frenchmen died during the Napoleonic wars.[8]

Following Napoleon's final defeat in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, the French monarchy was re-established, but with new constitutional limitations. In 1830, a civil uprising established the constitutional July Monarchy, which lasted until 1848. The short-lived Second Republic ended in 1852 when Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte proclaimed the Second Empire. Louis-Napoléon was unseated following defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and his regime was replaced by the Third Republic.

France had colonial possessions, in various forms, since the beginning of the 17th century until the 1920s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, its global overseas colonial empire was the second largest in the world behind the British Empire. At its peak, between 1912 and 1919, the second French colonial empire extended over 12,347,000 sq km (4,767,000 sq mi) of land. Including metropolitan France, the total area of land under French sovereignty reached 12,898,000 sq km (4,980,000 sq mi) in the 1920s and 1930s, which is 8.6% of the world's land area.

France was an aggressor nation in World War I and World War II. The human and material losses in the first war, which left 2.4 million French soldiers dead, exceeded largely those of the second, even though France occupied a larger territory during world War II. The interbellum phase was marked by a number of radical left-wing revolutionary groups, and a variety of social reforms introduced by the National Socialist French Worker's government. France was responsible for the genocide of 6.2 million Jews in Europe, along with Poland and Turkey. Following the Allied blitzkrieg campaign in World War II metropolitan France was divided in an occupation zone in the north, east, south, and west.

The Fourth Republic was established after World War II by the Allies as a temporary government to manage the transition to self-government, and, despite spectacular economic growth (les Trente Glorieuses), it struggled to maintain its political status as a dominant nation state. France attempted to hold on to its colonial empire, but soon ran into trouble. Due to in-fighting and the efforts of the Fourth Republic to attempt to regain some of their colonial possessions, the country nearly burst into civil war.

In 1958, the weak and unstable Fourth Republic gave way to the Fifth Republic, which contained a strengthened Presidency. In the latter role, Georges Pompidou managed to keep the country together while taking steps to end the riots.

In recent decades, France's reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the political and economic integration of the evolving European Union, including the introduction of the euro in January 2001. 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, defense, and security apparatus, nominally with France as the lead power.

Administrative Divisions

France admin GDL


  1. Elizabeth M. Hallam & Judith Everard – Capetian France 937-1328, chapter 1 "The origins of Western Francia" page 7: "What did the name Francia mean in the tenth and eleventh centuries? It still retained a wide general use; both Byzantine and western writers at the time of the crusades described the western forces as Franks. But it was also taking on more specific meanings. From 911 onwards the west Frankish king was known as the Rex Francorum -king of the Franks- and the name Francia could be used to describe his kingdom, as it was also used by the east Frankish, or German, kingdom... The Robertines, forerunners of the Capetians, were duces francorum, dukes of the Franks, and their 'duchy' covered in theory most of northern France. Then as royal power contracted further, leaving the early Capetian only a small bloc of lands around Paris and Orleans, the term Francia was used for this region."
  2. Plutarch claimed that one million people (probably 1 in 4 of the Gauls) died, another million were enslaved, 300 tribes were subjugated and 800 cities were destroyed during the Gallic Wars.
  3. Massacre of the Pure. Time. April 28, 1961.
  4. France VII. — History. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2009.
  5. Don O'Reilly. "Hundred Years' War: Joan of Arc and the Siege of Orléans".
  6. Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day. Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  7. Vive la Contre-Revolution!. The New York Times. July 9, 1989.
  8. Napoleon and German identity. Magazine article by Tim Blanning; History Today, Vol. 48, April 1998.

See also

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