What Is France

France . Member country of the European Union ; its capital is Paris . It extends over a total area of ​​550,000 km² and has a population of 64.3 million inhabitants. Its form of government is organized as a semi-presidential Republic with the official name of the French Republic and the currency Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality and Fraternity), born from the French Revolution .

France is a highly developed country, with a high international diffusion of its culture and influential on the geopolitical plane. It is the fifth world economy in terms of GDP , a member of the G8 , the Euro Zone and the Schengen Area , and is home to many of the most important multinationals, leaders in various segments of industry and the primary sector, in addition to being the first world tourist destination, with more than 75 million foreign visitors a year.

France, home to the first Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen , is a founding member of the UN and one of the five permanent members of its Security Council . It houses the headquarters of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament , both in Strasbourg , and those of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development | Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and Unesco , in Paris. It is also one of the eight recognized nuclear powers and a member of NATO .

Former colonial power – a condition that has benefited it considerably in the economic order, to the detriment of its former colonies such as Haiti and Algeria -, its culture is spread by countries around the world, grouped in the organization of La Francophonie . The French language is one of the most widely used languages, traditionally used as a language of diplomacy, which together with 77 other regional languages, make up the linguistic heritage of France, a member of the Latin Union .


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  • 1 History
    • 1 Prehistory
    • 2 Pre-Roman Gaul and Empire
    • 3 The Franks
    • 4 French Revolution and First Empire
    • 5 After Napoleon
    • 6 World War II
    • 7 Second half of the 20th century
    • 8 XXI century
      • 8.1 Attack on Libya
      • 8.2 Hollande Government
    • 2 French colonialism
      • 1 The first French colonial empire
      • 2 Colonization of Africa
        • 2.1 Terrorist attacks
          • 2.1.1 Charlie Hebdo (2015)
          • 2.1.2 Paris (2015)
          • 2.1.3 Nice (2016)
          • 2.1.4 Saint Etienne du Rouvray Church (2016)
        • 3 Geography
        • 4 Economy
          • 1 Tourism
        • 5 Demography
        • 6 Culture
          • 1 Science, technology and education
          • 2 Literature
          • 3 Fine arts
          • 4 Architecture
          • 5 Music
          • 6 Language
        • 7 References
        • 8 Sources



Rock paintings of Lascaux

There are important remains of the Lower Paleolithic in the Somme River and the traditional Pyrenees ( Neanderthal Man ), as well as in La Chapelle – aux – Saints , Le Moustier and La Ferrasie . From the Upper Palaeolithic there are abundant vestiges of the men of Cro – Magnon , Grimaldi and Chancelade , dated to about 25,000 years old, which are located in the Dordogne Valley . Among the most famous cave paintings in the world are those of Lascaux and Font de Gaume , in theFrench Pyrenees .

Pre-Roman Gaul and Empire

The borders of modern France 1810 are approximately the same as those of Ancient Gaul , which was inhabited by the Celts (Gauls). Gaul was conquered by Rome and its leader Julius Caesar (who defeated the Gallic chief Vercingétorix ) in the 1st century BC, and the Gauls adopted the Roman language (Latin, from which French evolved) and its culture. Christianity took root in the 2nd and 3rd centuries , and firmly established itself in the 5th and 6th centuries , at that time Jerome of Estridon ( Saint Jerome ) wrote that Gaul was the only regionfree of heresy .

The Franks

In 451 , Attila , the leader of the Huns invaded Gaul with the help of the Frankish and Visigoth peoples , and managed to settle in the main part of Gaul. In the 4th century , the eastern border of Gaul along the Rhine was crossed by Germanic peoples , mainly the Franks , from which the ancient name of Francie derives . The modern France owes its name to 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 Christianity following the baptism of King Clovis in 498 ; Thus, France obtained the title of eldest daughter of the church, and the country would adopt this as justification for calling itself the most Christian kingdom in France.

The Merovingian Dynasty ruled present-day France and part of Germany between the 5th and 8th centuries . The first king was Clodoveo I who conquered much of the Gallic territory between 486 and 507 ; and he converted to Orthodox Christianity in opposition to the Arian heresy , being baptized in Reims around 496, obtaining the support of the Gallo-Roman elites and establishing an important historical link between the French crown and the Catholic Church .

Existence as a separate entity began with the Treaty of Verdun , 843 , with the division of Charlemagne’s Carolingian Empire into Eastern France, Central France , and Western France . Western France roughly comprised the area occupied by modern France , of which it was the forerunner.

The Carolingians ruled France until 987 , when Hugo Capeto was crowned king of France. His descendants, the Capetos Dynasty , the House of Valois , and the House of Bourbon , progressively unified the country with a series of wars and dynastic inheritances. The monarchy reached its peak during the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV . At this time France had the largest population in Europe, and its politics, economy, and culture influenced the entire continent. France also obtained many overseas possessions in America , Africa, and Asia .

French Revolution and First Empire

French Revolution

For more information see also : French Revolution French
historiography has consecrated the revolutionary event of 1789 as the hinge that marks the turn of the historical process that brought the world – not just France – into a new stage that she herself baptized with the name of contemporaine. The Taking of the Bastille marks the beginning of the French Revolution, a social and political process that developed between 1789 and 1799 , the main consequences of which were the abolition of absolute monarchy and the proclamation of the Republic, eliminating the economic bases and

Napoleon Bonaparte

social of the old regime in France.

After a series of short-lived government schemes, Napoleon Bonaparte took control of the republic in 1799, becoming first consul and emperor of what is now known as the First French Empire ( 1804 – 1814 ). Apart from his military career, Napoleon is also known for the establishment of the Napoleonic Code , a civil code that would remain in force until the second half of the 20th century and would serve as a model for other countries, such as Spain .

He is also known for his talent for having surrounded himself with brilliant experts with a high sense of the State, who knew how to create the legal and administrative framework of contemporary France, but was nevertheless a tyrannical dictator, whose wars caused the death of millions of people. .

After leading the armies of the Revolution to victory in a war of defense of the national territory threatened by the armies of European monarchies, his army, the Grande Armée, conquered most of continental Europe, although he was defeated in Russia and in Haiti ; in this last place he tried to reestablish the slavery that the Revolution had abolished. In the invaded territories, Napoleon appointed members of the Bonaparte family and some of his closest generals as monarchs of the territories. Today, the Swedish royal family is descended from the Bonapartist general Bernadotte .

After Napoleon

After Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo and as a consequence of the Congress of Vienna , the French monarchy was reinstated, but with new constitutional limitations.

Although the political organization of France oscillated between republic, empire and monarchy for 75 years after the First Republic fell after the coup d’état of Napoleon Bonaparte , the truth is that the revolution marked the definitive end of absolutism and gave birth to a new regime where the bourgeoisie hegemonized the struggle of the popular masses and became the dominant political force in the country.

In 1830 , the July constitutional monarchy was restored, which lasted until 1848 . The short-lived Second French Republic ended in 1852 when Napoleon III proclaimed the Second French Empire.

During this new empire there is a considerable development of the means of transportation, as well as an economic boom. The banking network was increased and a free trade agreement was signed with England in 1860 that promoted international trade. However, foreign policy had a series of important failures such as the second French intervention in Mexico and especially the resounding defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 in which Napoleon III was completely defeated and his regime was replaced by the Third Republic French .


Although ultimately the victor in World War I , France suffered enormous human and material losses that weakened it in the decades to come. The 1930s were marked by a variety of social reforms introduced by the Popular Front government. France and UK declared war on Germany Nazi the 3 of September of 1939 under a treaty signed with Poland , whose territory had been invaded by the Wehrmacht , the German army. At the beginning of World War II , France carried out a series of unsuccessful rescue campaigns in Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands between 1939 and 1940 . After the blitzkrieg of Nazi Germany between May and June 1940 and its ally, the Italian fascist political leadership of France signed the Armistice of the 22 June 1940. The Germans established an authoritarian regime under the tutelage of Marshal Philippe Petain known as Vichy France , which pursued a policy of collaboration with Nazi Germany . Opponents of the regime formed the state of Free FranceOutside of France, they supported the French resistance and added more and more colonial territories to their cause. Continental France was liberated with the common effort of the Allies, Free France, and the French resistance in 1944 .

Second half of the 20th century

General Charles de Gaulle

The debate to maintain control of Algeria , then home to a million European settlers, weakened the country and almost led to civil war. In 1958 , the weak and unstable Fourth Republic led to the French Fifth Republic , which supported a strong executive power. Charles de Gaulle held the country together while taking the road to the end of the war.

The Algerian War and the civil war that erupted in Algeria between supporters of abandoning the colony and settlers who clung to maintaining the French presence, concluded in 1962 , with Evian’s declaration that they included the holding of a self-determination referendum. The liberation war of the Algerian people was fought by the French army with methods that included torture and murder on a massive scale.

General de Gaulle also had to face another tough test in May 1968 with the student insurrection that came to paralyze the country with the support of the unions. De Gaulle triumphed in the early elections called in June of the same year.

In 1981 , François Mitterrand is elected President of France, and he governed from 1981 to 1995 . Later, Jacques Chirac would be elected President of France, ruling between 1995 and 2007 . In that year Nicolas Sarkozy is elected president. France supported the United States in the first Gulf War in 1990 , as well as in the military intervention in Afghanistan .

XXI century

Dominique de Villepin , at the head of French diplomacy, led the block of countries that opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 , threatening to use its veto in the Security Council, leading the way to a cooling of relations with the George W. Bush administration .

The candidate of the conservative right, Nicolas Sarkozy won the elections of the 6 of maypole of 2007 to the presidency of the French Republic, succeeding Jacques Chirac and reconciling France with the United States increasing its presence in NATO .

France had withdrawn from NATO’s integrated military command in 1966 by decision of then-President Charles de Gaulle , who believed that it thereby ensured the country’s independence from the United States. However, France remained a political member of NATO, the Atlantic alliance that it helped found in 1949 , and participated in many of its military operations, including the one in Afghanistan.

Attack on Libya

According revelations Franco Bechis journalist, on 21 October of the 2010 , the French secret services prepared a revolt in the Libyan city of Benghazi, which began the civil war in that country. Nuri Mesmari , Gaddafi’s chief of protocol, offered his services to the foreign power and revealed many secrets of the Libyan defense.

In late February 2011, the political situation in Libya deteriorated rapidly. Numerous demonstrations against Colonel Gaddafi took place across the country, encouraged by Western governments.

In a decision that sparked angry protest from Libyan government authorities [1] and some criticism from its own NATO allies, France recognized the Transitional National Council on March 10 as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people [2] . The next day, the insurgents were forced to leave Ras Lanuf under artillery and forces loyal to Colonel Gadaffi [3] .

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy greets Mustafa Abdel Jalil , head of the CNT, at the Elysee Palace in Paris

On March 19, 2011 the United States , France and Great Britain launched a military offensive against Libya. At the end of June 2011, France decided to send arms to Libyan opponents, an action that according to NATO had been previously reported to it and that according to that organization, complies “strictly” with the UN mandate. [4]

The 20 of October 2011, Gadaffi, who left Sirte, after an offensive by the forces of the CNT supported by NATO, was wounded by a bombing of the Alliance to the motorcade in which moved [5] . Captured by the CNT rebels, he was killed and his body taken to Misrata, where he was publicly displayed in a refrigerated chamber, along with that of his son Mutassim Gaddafi and former chief of the armed forces Abu Bakr Younu Jabr ; to finally be buried in an anonymous grave in the desert.

The President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy , then declared that:

Gaddafi’s death is a new page for the people of Libya; it is the beginning of a process towards democracy. [6]

Hollande government

The 6 of maypole of 2012 , the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande defeated then – French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the second round of the presidential elections of that year. A week later, on Tuesday , 15 of maypole of 2012 , Hollande was sworn in as the second president of socialist after François Mitterand origin. In his first speech as president, the socialist declared:

I am sending the French a message of confidence. We are a great country that always knew how to overcome challenges (…) I measure the weight of the problems that we must face: massive debt, weak growth, high unemployment, degraded competitiveness, a Europe that suffers to get out of the crisis


French colonialism

France had colonial possessions, in various forms, from the early 17th century to the 1960s . At its highest point, between 1919 and 1939 , the second French colonial empire spanned more than 12,347,000 km² of land. Including the metropolis France, the total area of ​​land under French sovereignty reached 12,898,000 km² in the 1920s and 1930s, which is 8.6% of the world’s land area.

The remnants of this great empire are hundreds of islands and archipelagos located in the North Atlantic , the Caribbean , the Indian Ocean , the South Pacific , the North Pacific and the Antarctic Ocean , as well as a continental territory in South America , totaling together 123,150 km², which represents only 1% of the area of ​​the French colonial empire before 1939, with 2,543,000 people living in them in 2006.

The first French colonial empire

In 1534 Francis I sent Jacques Cartier to explore the Newfoundland coast and the San Lorenzo River . In August 1541 , this group established a fortified colony, named Charlesbourg-Royal , on the site of the current Cap-Rouge district in Quebec City ; nevertheless, later, it will be decided to leave the place due to the diseases, the execrable climate and the presence of natives.

Thus, the first voyages of Giovanni da Verrazano and Jacques Cartier in the 16th century , together with the frequent trips of French fishermen to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland throughout that century, were the forerunners of the history of French colonial expansion.

But Spain’s jealous protection of its empire in America, and the ruptures caused in France itself by the Wars of Religion in the latter years of the sixteenth century , prevented any consistent effort by France to establish colonies.

French attempts to found colonies in Brazil , in 1555 in Rio de Janeiro (the proclaimed France Antarctique) and in 1612 in São Luís (the proclaimed France Équinoxiale), and in Florida were unsuccessful, due to Portuguese and Spanish surveillance and prevention. .

The history of the colonial empire of France really began the 27 of July of 1605 , with the founding of Port Royal , in the colony of Acadia in North America, in what is now Nova Scotia , Canada . A few years earlier, Samuel de Champlain had made his first trip to Canada on a fur trade mission. Although he did not have an official mandate regarding this trip, he draws up a letter and writes, on his return to France, an accounting entitled Des sauvage s (account of his stay in an Innu tribe near Tadoussac). Then, in 1608 , Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec, which would become the capital of the huge, but sparsely populated, fur trading colony of New France (also called Canada ).

Although through alliances with various Native American tribes, the French were able to exercise some control over much of the North American continent, French population areas were limited to the San Lorenzo River valley . Before the establishment of the Sovereign Council in 1663 , the territories of New France developed as merchant colonies.

It is only after the arrival of Mayor Jean Talon that France gave its American colonies the proper means to develop colonies of population comparable to that of the British. But there was relatively little interest in colonialism in France, which concentrated more on dominance within Europe, and for most of New France’s history, even Canada was far behind the British American colonies in population and in economic development. Acadia itself was ceded to the British in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 .

In 1699 , French land claims in North America expanded further, with the founding of Louisiana , in the Mississippi River basin . The extensive commercial network throughout the region connected Canada through the Great Lakes , and was maintained through a vast system of fortifications, many of them centered in the Illinois countryside and in present-day Arkansas .

As the French empire in North America expanded, the French also began to build a smaller but more profitable empire in the West Indies . The population along the South American coast in what is now French Guiana , began in 1624 and a colony was founded in San Cristóbal in 1627 (the island had to be shared with the English until the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 , when it was entirely assigned).

The Compagnie des Îles de l’Amérique founded colonies in Guadeloupe and Martinique in 1635 , and a colony was later founded in Saint Lucia in 1650 . The food-producing plantations of these colonies were built and sustained through slavery, with the supply of slaves dependent on the African slave trade. Colonialists always fiercely confronted the natives who still lived in their colonies, reaching total extermination as occurred in several of the Caribbean islands .

The most important Caribbean colonial possession did not arrive until 1664 , when the colony of Saint – Domingue (today Haiti ) was founded in the western half of the Spanish island of Hispaniola. France took advantage of Spain’s disinterest in the western part of the island and, through its buccaneers (from Isla de la Tortuga), gradually seized that western sector of Hispaniola until Spain finally ceded it to France in 1697 .

The French turned that western sector, which they called Saint Domingue, into one of the richest colonies in France thanks to its plantations worked by black slaves brought from Africa.

French colonial Haiti, in the last third of the 18th century and under a harsh slave system, had a population of just 20,000 white people, 30,000 free mulattoes and almost 800,000 slaves who worked the sugar, tobacco, indigo, cotton, etc. plantations.

The wealth of Saint Domingue made the French name it, The Pearl of the Antilles as it produced 60% of the coffee and 40% of the sugar consumed throughout Europe .

French colonial expansion was not limited to the New World, however. In Senegal in West Africa, the French began establishing factories along the coast in 1624 .

In 1664 , the French East India Company was established to compete for trade in the east. Colonies were established in India at Chandernagore , at Bengal ( 1673 ) and Pondicherry in the southeast ( 1674 ), and later at Yanaon ( 1723 ), Mahe ( 1725 ), and Karikal ( 1739 ). Colonies were also founded in the Indian Ocean , on the Île Bourbon (Reunion, 1664), Île de France (Mauritius, 1718), and the Seychelles (1756).

Colonization of Africa

See also : Algeria as a French Colony
The massive rebellion of young Arabs and Africans in late October and November 2005 represents a historic awakening. For the first time, immigrant communities spread across France’s urban centers have risen to the face of decades of racism, poverty and neglect.

The uprising was sparked when two North African teenagers , Ziad Benna and Bouna Traore, were electrocuted on October 27 after being chased by police. Their deaths sparked an outpouring of massive fury. Tens of thousands of young people took to the streets throughout France, burning cars and confronting the police. What started as a sporadic protest in Chichy-sous-Bois, a working-class suburb of Paris , soon turned into a rebellion on a national scale. In a few weeks, young Arabs and Muslims took to the streets in more than 300 cities and centers.

The situation facing African and Arab immigrants in France today is the direct result of French colonialism in North Africa, especially Algeria , which was the main French colony on the continent.

In early 1945 , after World War II , the French government responded to a lack of manpower, encouraging Algerian workers to immigrate to France. Successive French governments continued this policy by extending formal democratic rights to Algerian immigrants, being entirely French, and offering some social benefits. But Algerian immigration coincided with the Algerian liberation struggle that began in 1954. While the French army stalled in a brutal war of colonial pacification, Algerian neighborhoods became a bastion of support for liberation struggles within France. Efforts to pacify those internal colonies with economic concessions failed.

Algeria achieved independence in 1962 , but not before millions of Algerians were killed by the brutal French counterinsurgency campaign. The scars of French brutality are still felt today.

France’s interest in Algeria dates back to the Napoleonic era. French colonial policy had suffered a reversal in the last decades of the Bourbon reign as a result of the enlargement of the British Crown , since in the seven-year war it achieved an almost total victory. Napoleon had also thought about the colonies at the time of the European conquests, an example of this was the adventure in Egypt . Napoleon chose Algeria to punish the king for his wrong move between France and England . The plans for the conquest were carried out only in 1830by Carlos X. Algeria represented an ideal and strategic place for an empire like France, determined to found colonies in North Africa. After the restoration, France resumed a colonial expansion program, with a purely imperialist idea.

This is the list of African countries colonized by France:

  • Algeria
  • Tunisia
  • Morocco
  • French West Africa
    • Mauritania
    • Senegal
    • French Sudan (now Mali)
    • Guinea
    • Cameroon
    • Ivory Coast
    • Niger
    • Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso)
    • Dahomey (now Benin)
  • French Equatorial Africa
    • Gabon
    • Middle Congo (now the Republic of the Congo)
    • Ubangui – Chari (now the Central African Republic)
    • Chad
    • French Somaliland (now Djibouti)
    • Madagascar
    • Comoros

Terrorist attacks

Charlie Hebdo (2015)

Main article: Terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo .


The 7 of January of 2015 the premises of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo were the target of an armed attack by terrorists, presumably Islamic faith, motivated by the publication hereby offensive pictures of the Prophet Muhammad .In the shooting that occurred in the Twelve people were killed in the magazine’s facilities, including its director Stéphane Charbonnier and several of the main cartoonists [8] , as well as two policemen, one of them shot in the head at a short distance when he was wounded by a bullet on the sidewalk [9] .

A large security device was deployed in France to capture the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. On January 9, Said and Cherif Kouachi were surrounded some 30 kilometers north of Paris, in the rural area of Dammartin-en-Goële , after an exchange of fire with the police [10] [11] . Terrorists barricaded themselves in a building and took at least one hostage [12] . Shortly afterwards, the French police stormed the printing press where the terrorists had taken refuge and shot them down, releasing the hostage. In the assault one of the law enforcement officers was wounded [13] .

Paris (2015)

Main article: Terrorist attacks in Paris .


On November 13, 2015, a series of terrorist attacks occurred in Paris when the capital was shaken by six attacks coordinated by three commandos that included several explosions near the Stade de France, shootings in two restaurants, in a bar, in a shopping center and a hostage-taking in a concert hall. The terrorist attacks left more than 130 dead and around 350 wounded. The attacks are considered the worst suffered by France in its entire history and the second at a European level, after those that occurred on March 11, 2004 on the Madrid trains, which left 193 dead [14] [15] [16] .

Nice (2016)

Main article: Terrorist attack in Nice .


The 14 of July of 2016 , about 22:30 pm local time in Nice , Monaco and neighboring border near the city Italy , a truck rammed into the crowd on the French Riviera, on the Promenade des Anglais, the Coastal boulevard of this tourist town on the Mediterranean coast, when passers-by celebrated the national holiday to witness the usual fireworks of each anniversary of the French Revolution .

The 19-ton, 15-meter-long truck, a Renault Midlum, was driven by Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel , a Frenchman of Tunisian origin, who zig-zagged it to impact as many people as possible for two kilometers in between. of the crowd at an estimated speed of 80 km / h, overwhelming the tourists and citizens who were on the street in its path. The attack left a balance of 84 fatalities, as well as more than 300 wounded.

The driver, who had a pistol and shot multiple times while handling the wheel, was eventually shot dead by police.

Saint Etienne du Rouvray Church (2016)

Main article: Terrorist attack against Saint Etienne du Rouvray church .


The 26 of July of 2016 , shortly before ten o’clock, the terrorists arrived at the church of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray, residential neighborhood south of the industrial area of Rouen, Normandy , a distance of 130 kilometers from Paris , there the priest Jacques Hamel celebrated Mass with four faithful.

The attackers, Abdel Malik Nabil Petitjean and Adel Kermiche entered with bladed weapons and dressed in Muslim outfits through the back door during mass and then closed it. Once there, they held the parish priest, two nuns and two faithful for about an hour. A third nun managed to escape and notify the authorities.

The two jihadists forced the father to kneel down, he tried to defend himself but his throat was cut, while they filmed the scene and chanted an Arabic sermon around the altar.

The forces of the elite corps of the Investigation and Intervention Brigade and the military arrived at the place, which they closed off. They tried, unsuccessfully, to negotiate with the assailants who did not let them into the Church because they had forced three hostages to stand in front of the door.

A short time later, the detained people left the temple, followed by the jihadists, one of them holding a weapon. They both shouted Allah Akbar (Allah is great) and were quickly shot down by the police.


The French territory has an extension of 675,417 km², which represents 0.50% of the emerged land on the planet (ranked 40th in the world). Metropolitan, that is to say, European France, has 551,695 km² (data from the French National Geographic Institute), while overseas France has another 123,722 km² (without considering Adelie Land by the Antarctic Treaty in 1959 that suspended the recognition of all sovereignties in that region). Its largest islands are New Caledonia, Corsica, Guadalupe and Martinique.

The political demarcation of continental European France is based on its “natural borders”, being these (counterclockwise): the North Sea , the English Channel , the Atlantic Ocean ( Bay of Biscay ); the Pyrenees (border with Spain); the Mediterranean Sea (Gulf of León, French Riviera); the Alps ; the Montes Jura; the Rhine river. The Rhine is a border only in a part of its course, point from which and up to the North Sea, there are no geographical features that “naturally” delimit the border with Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. The most important French island in Europe is Corsica, located in the Mediterranean Sea. In metropolitan France the borders stretch for 2,889 km and the coastline for another 3,427 km. In Africa, Asia, Oceania, North America and the Caribbean, the French territory is insular. French Guiana is the only continental territory outside of Europe, bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean (378 km); to the west with Suriname (510 km), to the east with Brazil (673 km). San Martín Island has a southern border with the Netherlands Antilles (10.2 km).

France has part of the Pyrenees and the Alps, both to the south. Other mountain ranges are the Jura (on the Swiss border , the Ardennes, the Central Massif and the Vosges Mountains. Mont Blanc in the Alps at 4,808 meters high is the highest summit in Western Europe. The lowest point The country is in the Rhone River delta: –2 m The territory also has coastal plains to the north and west of the country.


France is the fifth largest economy in the world in nominal terms, and at European level it is behind Germany, with a GDP in dollars higher than that of the United Kingdom. In 2007 , the value of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 1 trillion 892 billion euros .

France is currently in the process of privatizing large companies and banks, including leading companies such as Air France , France Télécom , Renault , and Thales , although it still maintains a strong presence in some sectors, particularly energy, public transportation, defense and industry.

Its strengths are diverse: transportation, telecommunications, agro-food industries, pharmaceuticals, aeronautics, defense, technology, as well as the banking sector, insurance, tourism, and traditional luxury products (leather goods, ready-to-wear, perfumes, alcohols, etc.).

The growth of French GDP per capita is less than that of other countries -especially the least developed- during the last two decades, provoking debates on the reality of this gap and on the economic reforms that, according to some, could remedy the problem and according to others aggravate it.



With 82 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2007, France is the world’s leading tourist destination. Tourism is the second largest balance of payments surplus, with a surplus of more than 1,280 million euros in 2008 .

Among the most popular cultural sites are the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral , the Eiffel Tower , the Georges Pompidou Center , the Louvre Museum , the Sacré Cœur Basilica, Our Lady of Lourdes, and the Palace of Versailles .


It has 65,073,482 inhabitants (January 2009), of which 62,448,977 live in metropolitan France, with a density of 115 inhabitants / km², and 2,624,505 live in overseas France, including the community of some 2,000 scientists and leading researchers in Antarctica .

Around 75% of French people live in urban centers. Paris and its metropolitan area corresponding to the region known as “Ile de France” concentrates 11,769,433 inhabitants, making it one of the largest in the world, and the most populous in the European Union . Other metropolitan areas with more than a million inhabitants are Lyon and Marseille, each with more than 1.5 million inhabitants.

Life expectancy at birth is 83 years for women (the best in the world) and 76 years for men. The population is made up of descendants of various ethnic groups, mainly of Celtic origin (but also Ligure and Iberian), mainly Gauls fused with the preceding population, who gave their name to the region of Gaul, today France (which also included Belgium , Luxembourg and Switzerland ). Chronologically, other ethnic groups were added: in the historical formative process of current France, populations of Germanic origin (mainly Franco but also Burgundian), Greek, Roman, Basque, Viking (in Normandy ) and to a lesser extent Saracenic are also significant.

Since the 19th century , France has been a country of immigration. More than 90% of the population has been born within the country. Among the foreigners who are becoming integrated, the Maghrebi, Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, Poles, Sub-Saharan, Chinese (1,000,000 in 2007), Turks (400,000–500,000), Vietnamese (250,000) and Gypsies (200,000–300,000) predominate. The largest number of immigrants in recent years comes from the Maghreb . In total there are about four and a half million immigrants, of which approximately one and a half million were born in foreign land but have become naturalized acquiring French nationality, while another three million are still foreigners.

In 2008, France, in the biannual presidency of the European Union , presented a plan for a concerted offensive against illegal immigration that was expected to be approved, despite pending differences and allegations of xenophobia. South American leaders harshly criticized the new European Union rules that allow authorities to detain illegal immigrants for up to 18 months and ban them from reentering for up to five years. Argentine President Cristina Fernández said the law was reminiscent of times of xenophobia, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said that Europe had legalized barbarism.


Science, technology and education

Great inventors were born in France such as the Montgolfier Brothers (inventors of the hot air balloon), Nicéphore Niepce (chemist, lithographer and amateur scientist who invented, together with his brother, a boat engine and, together with Louis Daguerre , photography), Clément Ader (inventor of the airplane, a microphone and the first improvements of the telephone), the Lumière Brothers (inventors of the cinematographic projector), René Théophile Hyacinthe Laënnec (inventor of the stethoscope), Louis Pasteur (the technique known as pasteurization), Jacques Lacanconsidered by many theorists as the most important for psychoanalysis among others; whose contributions to science have been decisive in the history of humanity. In France education is free at all levels, for both French and foreign students.


Victor Hugo , the most prominent of the French romantic writers.

France is the country with the most Nobel Prizes for Literature (fourteen). Both French citizens and francographers from other countries (such as the Belgian Maurice Maeterlinck , the Senegalese Léopold Sédar Senghor or the Luxembourgish Daniel Herrendorf ), compose what is called French literature, which has had a deep relationship with the literature of important authors, countries and languages. Such is the case of the Cuban Alejo Carpentier or the so-called Latin American boom.

Fine arts

The first manifestations come from prehistoric art, in the Franco-Cantabrian style. The Carolingian era marks the birth of a school of illuminators that will continue throughout the Middle Ages , culminating in the illustrations in the book The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry.

The classic painters of the 17th century French are Poussin and Lorrain . Rococo predominates in the 18th century, with Watteau, Boucher and Fragonard. At the end of the century the classicism of a Jacques-Louis David begins . Romanticism is dominated by the figures of Géricault and Delacroix. The realistic landscape of the Barbizon School has its continuation in artists of a more testimonial realism about the social reality of their time, such as Millet and Courbet. At the end of the 19th century, Paris, which became the center of painting, saw Impressionism born, preceded by the work of Édouard Manet. These are followed by Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin and Cézanne. Already in the 20th century, fauvists around Matisse and cubism emerged from the hand of Georges Braque and the Spanish Picasso who works in Paris. Other artistic movements are happening in the interwar Paris, declining as a world pictorial center after the Second World War.

In France, sculpture has evolved from ancient times through various styles, standing out in all of them: prehistoric, Roman, Christian, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo, neoclassical ( Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi : Statue of Liberty ), romantic ( Auguste Rodin : The Thinker), and contemporaries.


Former palace, now the Louvre Museum

Eiffel Tower .

In terms of architecture, the Celts also left their mark on the erection of large monoliths or megaliths, and the Greek presence from the 6th century BC. C. is remembered today in the classic heritage of Massalia ( Marseille ).

The Roman style has examples in the Maison Carrée, a Roman temple built between 138–161 BC, or in the Pont du Gard built between the 40s and 60s AD. C., in Nimes and declared a universal heritage in 1985. In France the Gothic style was invented, embodied in cathedrals such as those of Chartres, Amiens, Notre Dame , Strasbourg or the Abbey of Santa Maria de Villelongue considered a historical monument.

The Renaissance emerged in Italy , has its architectural style masterfully represented in the Château de Blois or in the Palace of Fontainebleau among others.

Baroque art (also of Italian origin), and rococo (French invention) have extraordinary works in France. Such is the case of the Louvre Palace and the Pantheon in Paris among many others.

Modernism or modern art in architecture covers the entire 19th century and the middle of the 20th, and Gustave Eiffel revolutionized the architectural theory and practice of his time in the construction of gigantic bridges and in the use of materials such as steel. His most famous work is the so-called Eiffel Tower . Another great of the universal architecture is Le Corbusier , an innovator and functionalist especially celebrated for his urban contributions in the buildings of houses and housing complexes.


In French music since before the year 1000 the Gregorian Chant used in the liturgies stands out. Polyphony was created in France . In the so-called Ars Antiqua, Charlemagne is credited with the Scholae Cantorum. The Strasbourg Oaths is the most important French lyrical work of the Middle Ages, a period in which the Song of Songs such as the Song of Roldán were developed . France was the birthplace of troubadours in the 12th century , as well as the Ars Nova two centuries later. During Romanticism ParisIt becomes the musical center of the world and today France maintains a privileged place in musical creation thanks to new generations of composers. Among the exponents of French popular music, there are figures such as Edith Piaf , Dalida , Charles Aznavour , Gilbert Becaud and Serge Gainsbourg .


The official language is French, coming from French, a linguistic variant spoken on the Île-de-France that in the early Middle Ages and, over the centuries, has been imposed on the rest of the languages ​​and linguistic variants spoken in any part of the territory.

This imposition of French has often been the result of political decisions made throughout history, with the aim of creating a linguistically uniform state. In fact, article 2 of the 1958 French Constitution says verbatim that “La langue de la République est le français”.

This article served to disallow the official use in the cultured areas of use of the languages ​​spoken in France, until in 1999 the Cerquiglini Report established 75 regional and minority languages ​​spoken in metropolitan and overseas France. Since 2006, 13 of them have been taught as an optional second foreign language in public schools, such as Breton , Catalan , Corsican , Occitan , Basque , Alsace , Tahitian and 4 Melanesian languages.. Immigration from outside the country, as well as exclusively francophone regions, makes the percentage of speakers of these languages ​​increasingly lower.

It is one of the states that has not signed the European Charter for minority languages. In spite of everything, nowadays, some private institutions have tried to promote the use of these languages ​​by creating means of communication, cultural associations, primary and secondary schools to teach these languages ​​and to initiate actions in favor of an alternative linguistic policy.


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