France (French: [fʁɑ̃s]), officially the French Republic
(French: République française [ʁepyblik fʁɑ̃sɛz]), is a country
whose territory consists of metropolitan
France in western Europe, as
well as several overseas regions and territories.[XIII] The
metropolitan area of
France extends from the
Mediterranean Sea to the
English Channel and the North Sea, and from the
Rhine to the Atlantic
Ocean. The overseas territories include
French Guiana in South America
and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The
country's 18 integral regions (five of which are situated overseas)
span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres
(248,573 sq mi) which, as of October 2017, has a population
of 67.15 million people.
France is a unitary semi-presidential
republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and
main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban centres include
Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Nice,
Toulouse and Bordeaux.
Iron Age, what is now metropolitan
France was inhabited by
the Gauls, a Celtic people.
Rome annexed the area in 51 BC, and held
the region until 476, when the Germanic
Franks conquered the region
and formed the Kingdom of France.
France emerged as a major European
power in the
Late Middle Ages
Late Middle Ages following its victory in the Hundred
Years' War (1337 to 1453). During the Renaissance, French culture
flourished and a global colonial empire was established, which by the
20th century would be the second largest in the world. The 16th
century was dominated by religious civil wars between Catholics and
France became Europe's dominant cultural,
political, and military power under Louis XIV. In the late 18th
French Revolution overthrew the absolute monarchy,
established one of modern history's earliest republics, and saw the
drafting of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,
which expresses the nation's ideals to this day.
In the 19th century
Napoleon took power and established the First
French Empire. His subsequent
Napoleonic Wars shaped the course of
continental Europe. Following the collapse of the Empire, France
endured a tumultuous succession of governments culminating with the
establishment of the French Third
Republic in 1870.
France was a major
participant in World War I, from which it emerged victorious, and was
one of the Allied Powers in World War II, but came under occupation by
Axis powers in 1940. Following liberation in 1944, a Fourth
Republic was established and later dissolved in the course of the
Algerian War. The Fifth Republic, led by Charles de Gaulle, was formed
in 1958 and remains today.
Algeria and nearly all the other colonies
became independent in the 1960s and typically retained close economic
and military connections with France.
France has long been a global centre of art, science, and philosophy.
It hosts Europe's third-largest number of cultural
Heritage Sites and receives around 83 million foreign tourists
annually, the most of any country in the world.
France is a
developed country with the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal
GDP and ninth-largest by purchasing power parity. In terms of
aggregate household wealth, it ranks fourth in the world. France
performs well in international rankings of education, health care,
life expectancy, and human development.
France is globally
considered a great power in the world, being one of the five
permanent members of the
United Nations Security Council with the
power to veto and is an official nuclear-weapon state. It is a leading
member state of the
European Union and the Eurozone. It is also a
member of the Group of 7,
North Atlantic Treaty
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the
World Trade Organization
World Trade Organization (WTO), and La Francophonie.
2.1 Prehistory (before the 6th century BC)
2.2 Antiquity (6th century BC–5th century AD)
Middle Ages (5th century–10th century)
Late Middle Ages
Late Middle Ages (10th century–15th century)
2.5 Early modern period (15th century–1789)
Napoleon and 19th century (1799–1914)
2.8 Contemporary period (1914–present)
3.1 Location and borders
3.2 Geology, topography and hydrography
3.5 Administrative divisions
4.3 Foreign relations
4.5 Government finance
5.5 Science and technology
6.1 Ethnic groups
6.2 Major cities
6.3 Functional urban areas
8 See also
11 External links
Main article: Name of France
Originally applied to the whole Frankish Empire, the name "France"
comes from the
Latin Francia, or "country of the Franks". Modern
France is still named today
Francia in Italian and Spanish, Frankreich
in German and Frankrijk in Dutch, all of which have the same
There are various theories as to the origin of the name Frank.
Following the precedents of
Edward Gibbon and Jacob Grimm, the
name of the
Franks has been linked with the word frank (free) in
English. It has been suggested that the meaning of "free" was
adopted because, after the conquest of Gaul, only
Franks were free of
taxation. Another theory 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. However,
it has been determined that these weapons were named because of their
use by the Franks, not the other way around.
Main article: History of France
Prehistory (before the 6th century BC)
Main article: Prehistory of France
One of the
Lascaux paintings: a horse – Dordogne, approximately
The oldest traces of human life in what is now
France date from
approximately 1.8 million years ago. Humans were then confronted
by a harsh and variable climate, marked by several glacial eras. Early
homonids led a nomadic hunter-gatherer life.
France has a large
number of decorated caves from the upper Palaeolithic era, including
one of the most famous and best preserved: Lascaux (approximately
At the end of the last glacial period (10,000 BC), the climate became
milder; from approximately 7,000 BC, this part of Western Europe
Neolithic era and its inhabitants became sedentary. After
strong demographic and agricultural development between the 4th and
3rd millennia, metallurgy appeared at the end of the 3rd millennium,
initially working gold, copper and bronze, and later iron. France
has numerous megalithic sites from the
Neolithic period, including the
Carnac stones site (approximately 3,300 BC).
Antiquity (6th century BC–5th century AD)
Main articles: Gaul, Celts, and Roman Gaul
In 600 BC, Ionian Greeks, originating from Phocaea, founded the colony
of Massalia (present-day Marseille), on the shores of the
Mediterranean Sea. This makes it France's oldest city. At the
same time, some Gallic Celtic tribes penetrated parts of the current
territory of France, and this occupation spread to the rest of France
between the 5th and 3rd century BC.
Maison Carrée was a temple of the Gallo-Roman city of Nemausus
(present-day Nîmes) and is one of the best-preserved vestiges of the
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. The borders of
France are roughly 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
cultural and economic influences.
Around 390 BC the Gallic chieftain Brennus and his troops made their
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 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 remain adversaries for the next several
centuries, and the
Gauls would continue to be a threat in Italia.
Around 125 BC, the south of
Gaul was conquered by the Romans, who
called this region Provincia Nostra ("Our Province"), which over time
evolved into the name
Provence in French.
Julius Caesar conquered
the remainder of
Gaul and overcame a revolt carried out by the Gallic
Vercingetorix in 52 BC.
Gaul was divided by Augustus
into Roman provinces. Many cities were founded during the
Gallo-Roman period, including
Lugdunum (present-day Lyon), which is
considered the capital of the Gauls. These cities were built in
traditional Roman style, with a forum, a theatre, a circus, an
amphitheatre and thermal baths. The
Gauls mixed with Roman settlers
and eventually adopted Roman culture and Roman speech (Latin, from
French language evolved). The Roman polytheism merged with
the Gallic paganism into the same syncretism.
From the 250s to the 280s AD, Roman
Gaul suffered a serious crisis
with its fortified borders being attacked on several occasions by
barbarians. 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. Subsequently, Christians, who had been persecuted until
then, increased rapidly across the entire Roman Empire. But, from
the beginning of the 5th century, the
Barbarian Invasions resumed,
and Germanic tribes, such as the Vandals,
Alans crossed the
Rhine and settled in Gaul,
Spain and other parts of the collapsing
Middle Ages (5th century–10th century)
Main articles: Francia, Merovingian dynasty, and Carolingian dynasty
List of French monarchs
List of French monarchs and
France in the Middle Ages
Frankish expansion from 481 to 843/870.
At the end of the Antiquity period, ancient
Gaul was divided into
several Germanic kingdoms and a remaining Gallo-Roman territory, known
as the Kingdom of Syagrius. Simultaneously, Celtic Britons, fleeing
the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain, settled the western part of
Armorica. As a result, the Armorican peninsula was renamed Brittany,
Celtic culture was revived and independent petty kingdoms arose in
With Clovis's conversion to
Catholicism in 498, the Frankish monarchy,
elective and secular until then, became hereditary and of divine
The pagan Franks, from whom the ancient name of "Francie" was derived,
originally settled the north part of Gaul, but under Clovis I
conquered most of the other kingdoms in northern and central Gaul. In
Clovis I was the first Germanic conqueror after the fall of the
Roman Empire to convert to Catholic Christianity, rather than
France was given the title "Eldest daughter of the
Church" (French: La fille aînée de l'Église) by the papacy, and
French kings would be called "the Most
Christian Kings of France" (Rex
Franks embraced the
Gallo-Roman culture and ancient Gaul
was eventually renamed
Francia ("Land of the Franks"). The Germanic
Franks adopted Romanic languages, except in northern
Gaul where Roman
settlements were less dense and where
Germanic languages emerged.
Paris his capital and established the Merovingian dynasty,
but his kingdom would not survive his death. The
Franks treated land
purely as a private possession and divided it among their heirs, so
four kingdoms emerged from Clovis's: Paris, Orléans, Soissons, and
Rheims. The last Merovingian kings lost power to their mayors of the
palace (head of household). One mayor of the palace, Charles Martel,
defeated an Islamic invasion of
Gaul at the
Battle of Tours
Battle of Tours (732) and
earned respect and power within the Frankish kingdoms. His son, Pepin
the Short, seized the crown of
Francia from the weakened Merovingians
and founded the Carolingian dynasty. Pepin's son, Charlemagne,
reunited the Frankish kingdoms and built a vast empire across Western
and Central Europe.
Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor by
Pope Leo III and thus establishing in
earnest the French government's longtime historical association with
the Catholic Church,
Charlemagne tried to revive the Western Roman
Empire and its cultural grandeur. Charlemagne's son, Louis I (emperor
814–840), kept the empire united; however, this Carolingian Empire
would not survive his death. In 843, under the Treaty of Verdun, the
empire was divided between Louis' three sons, with East
to Louis the German, Middle
Francia to Lothair I, and West
Charles the Bald. West
Francia approximated the area occupied by, and
was the precursor, to modern France.
During the 9th and 10th centuries, continually threatened by Viking
France became a very decentralised state: the nobility's
titles and lands became hereditary, and the authority of the king
became more religious than secular and thus was less effective and
constantly challenged by powerful noblemen. Thus was established
feudalism in France. Over time, some of the king's vassals would grow
so powerful that they often posed a threat to the king. For example,
Battle of Hastings
Battle of Hastings in 1066,
William the Conqueror
William the Conqueror added
"King of England" to his titles, becoming both the vassal to (as Duke
of Normandy) and the equal of (as king of England) the king of France,
creating recurring tensions.
Late Middle Ages
Late Middle Ages (10th century–15th century)
Main articles: Kingdom of France, Capetian dynasty, Valois dynasty,
and Bourbon dynasty
List of French monarchs
List of French monarchs and
France in the Middle Ages
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc led the French army to several important victories during
the Hundred Years' War, which paved the way for the final victory.
French territorial evolution from 985 to 1947.
Carolingian dynasty ruled
France until 987, when Hugh Capet, Duke
France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of the Franks. His
descendants—the Capetians, the House of Valois, and the House of
Bourbon—progressively unified the country through wars and dynastic
inheritance into the Kingdom of France, which was fully declared in
1190 by Philip II Augustus. The
French nobility played a prominent
role in most
Crusades in order to restore
Christian access to the Holy
Land. French knights made up the bulk of the steady flow of
reinforcements throughout the two-hundred-year span of the Crusades,
in such a fashion that the Arabs uniformly referred to the crusaders
as Franj caring little whether they really came from France. The
French Crusaders also imported the
French language into the Levant,
making French the base of the lingua franca (litt. "Frankish
language") of the Crusader states. French knights also made up the
majority in both the Hospital and the Temple orders. The latter, in
particular, held numerous properties throughout
France and by the 13th
century were the principal bankers for the French crown, until Philip
IV annihilated the order in 1307. The
Albigensian Crusade was launched
in 1209 to eliminate the heretical Cathars in the southwestern area of
modern-day France. In the end, the Cathars were exterminated and the
autonomous County of
Toulouse was annexed into the crown lands of
France. Later kings expanded their domain 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 on a hierarchically conceived society
distinguishing nobility, clergy, and commoners.
Charles IV the Fair died without an heir in 1328. Under the rules
Salic law 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. Philip's seat on the throne was contested by
Edward III of England
Edward III of England and in 1337, on the eve of the first wave of the
Black Death, England and
France went to war in what would become
known as the Hundred Years' War. The exact boundaries changed
greatly with time, but French landholdings of the English Kings
remained extensive for decades. With charismatic leaders, such as Joan
of Arc and La Hire, strong French counterattacks won back English
continental territories. Like the rest of Europe,
France was struck by
the Black Death; half of the 17 million population of France
Early modern period (15th century–1789)
French Renaissance (c. 1400–c. 1650), Early modern
French Wars of Religion
French Wars of Religion (1562–1598) and Ancien
Régime (c. 1400–1792)
St. Bartholomew's Day massacre
St. Bartholomew's Day massacre (1572) was the climax of the French
Wars of Religion, which were brought to an end by the Edict of Nantes
French Renaissance saw a spectacular cultural development and the
first standardisation of the French language, which would become the
official language of
France and the language of Europe's aristocracy.
It also saw a long set of wars, known as the Italian Wars, between the
Kingdom of France
Kingdom of France and the powerful Holy Roman Empire. French
explorers, such as
Jacques Cartier or Samuel de Champlain, claimed
lands in the Americas for France, paving the way for the expansion of
the First French colonial empire. The rise of
Protestantism in Europe
France to a civil war known as the French Wars of Religion, where,
in the most notorious incident, thousands of
Huguenots were murdered
St. Bartholomew's Day massacre
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.
Under Louis XIII, the energetic
Cardinal Richelieu promoted the
centralisation of the state and reinforced the royal power by
disarming domestic power holders in the 1620s. He systematically
destroyed castles of defiant lords and denounced the use of private
violence (dueling, carrying weapons, and maintaining private army). By
the end of 1620s, Richelieu established "the royal monopoly of force"
as the doctrine. During Louis XIV's minority and the regency of
Queen Anne and Cardinal Mazarin, a period of trouble known as the
Fronde occurred in France, which was at that time at war with Spain.
This rebellion was driven by the great feudal lords and sovereign
courts as a reaction to the rise of royal absolute power in France.
Louis XIV, the "sun king" was the absolute monarch of
France and made
France the leading European power.
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
France became the most populous country in
Europe and had
tremendous influence over European politics, economy, and culture.
French became the most-used language in diplomacy, science, literature
and international affairs, and remained so until the 20th century.
France obtained many overseas possessions in the Americas,
Louis XIV also revoked the Edict of Nantes, forcing thousands of
Huguenots into exile.
Under Louis XV, Louis XIV's great-grandson,
New France and
most of its Indian possessions after its defeat in the Seven Years'
War, which ended in 1763. Its European territory kept growing,
however, with notable acquisitions such as Lorraine (1766) and Corsica
(1770). An unpopular king, Louis XV's weak rule, his ill-advised
financial, political and military decisions – as well as the
debauchery of his court– discredited the monarchy, which arguably
paved the way for the
French Revolution 15 years after his
Louis XVI, Louis XV's grandson, actively supported the Americans, who
were seeking their independence from Great Britain (realised in the
Paris (1783)). The financial crisis that followed France's
involvement in the
American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War was one of many
contributing factors to the French Revolution. Much of the
Enlightenment occurred in French intellectual circles, and major
scientific breakthroughs and inventions, such as the discovery of
oxygen (1778) and the first hot air balloon carrying passengers
(1783), were achieved by French scientists. French explorers, such as
Bougainville and Lapérouse, took part in the voyages of scientific
exploration through maritime expeditions around the globe. The
Enlightenment philosophy, in which reason is advocated as the primary
source for legitimacy and authority, undermined the power of and
support for the monarchy and helped pave the way for the French
History of France
History of France § Revolutionary France
(1789–1799), and French Revolution
Storming of the Bastille
Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789 was the most emblematic
event of the French Revolution.
Facing financial troubles, King Louis XVI summoned the Estates-General
(gathering the three Estates of the realm) in May 1789 to propose
solutions to his government. As it came to an impasse, the
representatives of the Third Estate formed into a National Assembly,
signalling the outbreak of the French Revolution. Fearing that the
king would suppress the newly created National Assembly, insurgents
stormed the Bastille on 14 July 1789, a date which would become
France's National Day.
In early August 1789, the National Constituent Assembly abolished the
privileges of the nobility such as personal serfdom and exclusive
hunting rights. Through the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of
the Citizen (27 August 1789)
France established fundamental rights for
men. The Declaration affirms "the natural and imprescriptible rights
of man" to "liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression".
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech and press were declared, and arbitrary arrests
outlawed. It called for the destruction of aristocratic privileges and
proclaimed freedom and equal rights for all men, as well as access to
public office based on talent rather than birth.
In November 1789, the Assembly decided to nationalize and sell all
property of the Roman
Catholic Church which had been the largest
landowner in the country. In July 1790, a Civil Constitution of the
Clergy reorganised the French Catholic Church, cancelling the
authority of the Church to levy taxes, et cetera. This fueled much
discontent in parts of France, which would contribute to the civil war
breaking out some years later. While King Louis XVI still enjoyed
popularity among the population, his disastrous flight to Varennes
(June 1791) seemed to justify rumours he had tied his hopes of
political salvation to the prospects of foreign invasion. His
credibility was so deeply undermined that the abolition of the
monarchy and establishment of a republic became an increasing
In August 1791, the Emperor of
Austria and the King of Prussia in the
Declaration of Pillnitz threatened revolutionary
France to intervene
by force of arms to restore the French absolute monarchy. In September
1791, the National Constituent Assembly forced King Louis XVI to
French Constitution of 1791, thus turning the French
absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. In the newly
established Legislative Assembly (October 1791), enmity developed and
deepened between a group, later called the 'Girondins', who favored
Austria and Prussia, and a group later called 'Montagnards'
or 'Jacobins', who opposed such a war. But a majority in the Assembly
in 1792 saw a war with
Austria and Prussia as a chance to boost the
popularity of the revolutionary government, and thought that France
would win a war against those gathered monarchies. On 20 April 1792,
therefore, they declared war on Austria.[XIV]
On 10 August 1792, an angry crowd threatened the palace of King Louis
XVI, who took refuge in the Legislative Assembly. A Prussian
France later in August 1792. In early September,
Parisians, infuriated by the Prussian army capturing Verdun and
counter-revolutionary uprisings in the west of France, murdered
between 1,000 and 1,500 prisoners by raiding the Parisian prisons. The
Assembly and the
Paris city council seemed unable to stop that
bloodshed. The National Convention, chosen in the first
elections under male universal suffrage, on 20 September 1792
succeeded the Legislative Assembly and on 21 September abolished the
monarchy by proclaiming the French First Republic. Ex-king Louis XVI
was convicted of treason and guillotined in January 1793.
declared war on England and the Dutch
Republic in November 1792 and
did the same on
Spain in March 1793; in the spring of 1793, Austria,
Great Britain and the Dutch
Republic invaded France; in March, France
created a "sister republic" in the "
Republic of Mainz".
Also in March 1793, the civil war of the Vendée against Paris
started, evoked by both the
Civil Constitution of the Clergy
Civil Constitution of the Clergy of 1790
and the nationwide army conscription early 1793; elsewhere in France
rebellion was brewing too. A factionalist feud in the National
Convention, smoldering ever since October 1791, came to a climax with
the group of the 'Girondins' on 2 June 1793 being forced to resign and
leave the Convention. The counter-revolution, begun in March 1793 in
the Vendée, by July had spread to Brittany, Normandy, Bordeaux,
Marseilles, Toulon, Lyon. Paris' Convention government between October
and December 1793 with brutal measures managed to subdue most internal
uprisings, at the cost of tens of thousands of lives. Some historians
consider the civil war to have lasted until 1796 with a toll of
possibly 450,000 lives.
France in February 1794 abolished
slavery in its American colonies, but would reintroduce it later.
Political disagreements and enmity in the
National Convention between
October 1793 and July 1794 reached unprecedented levels, leading to
dozens of Convention members being sentenced to death and guillotined.
Meanwhile, France's external wars in 1794 were going prosperous, for
example in Belgium. In 1795, the government seemed to return to
indifference towards the desires and needs of the lower classes
concerning freedom of (Catholic) religion and fair distribution of
food. Until 1799, politicians, apart from inventing a new
parliamentary system (the 'Directory'), busied themselves with
dissuading the people from
Catholicism and from royalism.
Napoleon and 19th century (1799–1914)
History of France
History of France § Napoleonic France
History of France
History of France § Long 19th century,
1815–1914; First French Empire; Second French Empire; and French
France in the 19th century
France in the 19th century and
France in the 20th century
Napoleon, Emperor of the French, and his
Grande Armée built a vast
Empire across Europe. His conquests spread the French revolutionary
ideals across much of Europe, such as popular sovereignty, legal
equality, republicanism, and administrative reorganization while his
legal reforms had a major impact worldwide. Nationalism, especially in
Germany, emerged in reaction against him.
Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the
Republic in 1799 becoming
First Consul and later
Emperor of the French
Emperor of the French Empire
(1804–1814/1815). As a continuation of the wars sparked by the
European monarchies against the French Republic, changing sets of
European Coalitions declared wars on Napoleon's Empire. His armies
conquered most of continental
Europe with swift victories such as the
battles of Jena-Auerstadt or Austerlitz. 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 and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. After the
catastrophic Russian campaign, and the ensuing uprising of European
monarchies against his rule,
Napoleon was defeated and the Bourbon
monarchy restored. About a million
Frenchmen died during the
After his brief return from exile,
Napoleon was finally defeated in
1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, the monarchy was re-established
(1815–1830), with new constitutional limitations. The discredited
Bourbon dynasty was overthrown by the
July Revolution of 1830, which
established the constitutional July Monarchy, which lasted until 1848,
when the French Second
Republic was proclaimed, in the wake of the
European Revolutions of 1848. The abolition of slavery and male
universal suffrage, both briefly enacted during the French Revolution
were re-enacted in 1848.
In 1852, the president of the French Republic, Louis-Napoléon
Napoleon I's nephew, was proclaimed emperor of the second
Napoleon III. He multiplied French interventions abroad,
especially in Crimea, in
Italy which resulted in the
annexation of the duchy of
Savoy and the county of Nice, then part of
the Kingdom of Sardinia.
Napoleon III was unseated following defeat in
Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and his regime was replaced by the
Animated map of the growth and decline of the French colonial empire.
France had colonial possessions, in various forms, since the beginning
of the 17th century, but in the 19th and 20th centuries, its global
overseas colonial empire extended greatly and became the second
largest in the world behind the British Empire. Including metropolitan
France, the total area of land under French sovereignty almost reached
13 million square kilometres in the 1920s and 1930s, 8.6% of the
world's land. Known as the Belle Époque, the turn of the century was
a period characterised by optimism, regional peace, economic
prosperity and technological, scientific and cultural innovations. In
1905, state secularism was officially established.
Contemporary period (1914–present)
France in the twentieth century
French poilus sustained the highest number of casualties among the
Allies in World War I.
France was a member of the
Triple Entente when
World War I
World War I broke out.
A small part of Northern
France was occupied, but
France and its
allies emerged victorious against the
Central Powers at a tremendous
human and material cost.
World War I
World War I left 1.4 million French
soldiers dead, 4% of its population. Between 27 and 30% of
soldiers conscripted from 1912–1915 were killed. The interbellum
years were marked by intense international tensions and a variety of
social reforms introduced by the Popular Front government (annual
leave, eight-hour workdays, women in government, etc...).
Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle took an active part in many major events of the 20th
century: a hero of World War I, leader of the Free French during World
War II, he then became President, where he facilitated decolonisation,
France as a major power and overcame the revolt of May
France was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany. Metropolitan
France was divided into a German occupation zone in the north and
Vichy France, a newly established authoritarian regime collaborating
with Germany, in the south, while Free France, the government-in-exile
led by Charles de Gaulle, was set up in London. From 1942 to 1944,
about 160,000 French citizens, including around 75,000
Jews, were deported to death camps and concentration camps
Germany and occupied Poland. On 6 June 1944 the Allies invaded
Normandy and in August they invaded Provence. Over the following year
the Allies and the
French Resistance emerged victorious over the Axis
powers and French sovereignty was restored with the establishment of
the Provisional Government of the French
Republic (GPRF). This interim
government, established by de Gaulle, aimed to continue to wage war
Germany and to purge collaborators from office. It also made
several important reforms (suffrage extended to women, creation of a
social security system).
The GPRF laid the groundwork for a new constitutional order that
resulted in the Fourth Republic, which saw spectacular economic growth
(les Trente Glorieuses).
France was one of the founding members of
France attempted to regain control of French Indochina
but was defeated by the
Viet Minh in 1954 at the climactic Battle of
Dien Bien Phu. Only months later,
France faced another
anti-colonialist conflict in Algeria.
Torture and illegal executions
were perpetrated by both sides and the debate over whether or not to
keep control of Algeria, then home to over one million European
settlers, wracked the country and nearly led to a coup and civil
In 1958, the weak and unstable Fourth
Republic gave way to the Fifth
Republic, which included a strengthened Presidency. In the latter
Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle managed to keep the country together while
taking steps to end the Algerian war. The war was concluded with the
Évian Accords in 1962 that led to Algerian independence. A vestige of
the colonial empire are the French overseas departments and
In the context of the Cold War, de Gaulle pursued a policy of
"national independence" towards the Western and Eastern blocs. To this
end, he withdrew from NATO's military integrated command, he launched
a nuclear development programme and made
France the fourth nuclear
power. He restored cordial
Franco-German relations in order to create
a European counterweight between the American and Soviet spheres of
influence. However, he opposed any development of a supranational
Europe, favouring a
Europe of sovereign Nations. In the wake of the
series of worldwide protests of 1968, the revolt of May 1968 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 (secularism, individualism, sexual revolution). Although
the revolt was a political failure (as the Gaullist party emerged even
stronger than before) it announced a split between the French people
and de Gaulle who resigned shortly after.
Republican march, Place de la République, Paris.
In the post-Gaullist era,
France remained one of the most developed
economies in the World, but faced several economic crises that
resulted in high unemployment rates and increasing public debt. In the
late 20th and early 21st centuries
France has been at the forefront of
the development of a supranational European Union, notably by signing
Maastricht Treaty (which created the European Union) in 1992,
Eurozone in 1999, and signing the
Lisbon Treaty in
France has also gradually but fully reintegrated into NATO
and has since participated in most
NATO sponsored wars.
Since the 19th century
France has received many immigrants. These have
been mostly male foreign workers from European Catholic countries who
generally returned home when not employed. During the 1970s France
faced economic crisis and allowed new immigrants (mostly from the
Maghreb) to permanently settle in
France with their families and
to acquire French citizenship. It resulted in hundreds of thousands of
Muslims (especially in the larger cities) living in subsidised public
housing and suffering from very high unemployment rates.
France renounced the assimilation of immigrants, where
they were expected to adhere to French traditional values and cultural
norms. They were encouraged to retain their distinctive cultures and
traditions and required merely to integrate.
Since the 1995
Paris Métro and RER bombings,
France has been
sporadically targeted by Islamist organisations, notably the Charlie
Hebdo attack in January 2015 which provoked the largest public rallies
in French history, gathering 4.4 million people, the November
Paris attacks which resulted in 130 deaths, the deadliest attack
on French soil since World War II, and the deadliest in the
European Union since the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the
Nice attack which caused 87 deaths during Bastille Day
Main article: Geography of France
Location and borders
A relief map of Metropolitan France, showing cities with over 100,000
The vast majority of France's territory and population is situated in
Europe and is called Metropolitan France, to distinguish it
from the country's various overseas polities. It is bordered by the
North Sea in the north, the
English Channel in the northwest, the
Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Mediterranean sea in the southeast.
It land borders consist of
Luxembourg in the northeast,
Switzerland in the east,
Monaco in the
Spain in the south and southwest. With the
exception of the northeast, most of France's land borders are roughly
delineated by natural boundaries and geographic features: to the south
and southeast, the
Pyrenees and the
Alps and the Jura, respectively,
and to the east, the
Rhine river. Due to its shape,
France is often
referred to as l'Hexagone ("The Hexagon"). Metropolitan France
includes various coastal islands, of which the largest is Corsica.
Metropolitan France is situated mostly between latitudes 41° and 51°
N, and longitudes 6° W and 10° E, on the western edge of Europe, and
thus lies within the northern temperate zone. Its continental part
covers about 1000 km from north to south and from east to west.
France has several overseas regions across the world, which are
organised along different :
In South America: French Guiana.
In the Atlantic Ocean:
Saint Pierre and Miquelon
Saint Pierre and Miquelon and, in the Antilles:
Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy.
In the Pacific Ocean: French Polynesia, the special collectivity of
Wallis and Futuna
Wallis and Futuna and Clipperton Island.
In the Indian Ocean:
Réunion island, Mayotte, Kerguelen Islands,
Crozet Islands, St. Paul and Amsterdam islands, and the Scattered
Islands in the Indian Ocean
In the Antarctic: Adélie Land.
France has land borders with
French Guiana and
Kingdom of the Netherlands
Kingdom of the Netherlands through the French portion of
Metropolitan France covers 551,500 square kilometres
(212,935 sq mi), the largest among European Union
members. France's total land area, with its overseas departments
and territories (excluding Adélie Land), is 643,801 km2
(248,573 sq mi), 0.45% of the total land area on Earth.
France possesses a wide variety of landscapes, from coastal plains in
the north and west to mountain ranges of the
Alps in the southeast,
Massif Central in the south central and
Pyrenees in the southwest.
Due to its numerous overseas departments and territories scattered
across the planet,
France possesses the second-largest Exclusive
economic zone (EEZ) in the world, covering 11,035,000 km2
(4,260,000 mi2), just behind the EEZ of the United States
(11,351,000 km2 / 4,383,000 mi2), but ahead of the EEZ of
Australia (8,148,250 km2 / 4,111,312 mi2). Its EEZ covers
approximately 8% of the total surface of all the EEZs of the world.
Geology, topography and hydrography
Mont Blanc (shared with Italy) is the highest summit in Western
The topography provides a major source of water and hydropower thanks
to the numerous dams throughout the mountain ranges (Mont-Cenis lake.)
Metropolitan France has a wide variety of topographical sets and
natural landscapes. Large parts of the current territory of France
were raised during several tectonic episodes like the Hercynian uplift
in the Paleozoic Era, during which the Armorican Massif, the Massif
Morvan massif, the
Ardennes ranges and the
Corsica were formed. These massifs delineate several
sedimentary basins such as the Aquitaine basin in the southwest and
Paris basin in the north, the latter including several areas of
particularly fertile ground such as the silt beds of Beauce and Brie.
Various routes of natural passage, such as the
Rhône valley, allow
easy communications. The Alpine, Pyrenean and Jura mountains are much
younger and have less eroded forms. At 4,810.45 metres
(15,782 ft) above sea level, Mont Blanc, located in the Alps
on the French and Italian border, is the highest point in Western
Europe. Although 60% of municipalities are classified as having
seismic risks, these risks remain moderate. The coastlines offer
contrasting landscapes: mountain ranges along the French Riviera,
coastal cliffs such as the Côte d'Albâtre, and wide sandy plains in
Corsica lies off the Mediterranean coast.
France has an
extensive river system consisting of the four major rivers Seine, the
Loire, the Garonne, the
Rhône and their tributaries, whose combined
catchment includes over 62% of the metropolitan territory. The Rhône
Massif Central from the
Alps and flows into the
Mediterranean Sea at the Camargue. Other water courses drain towards
the Meuse and
Rhine along the north-eastern borders.
11 million square kilometres (4.2×10^6 sq mi) of
marine waters within three oceans under its jurisdiction, of which 97%
Most of the low-lying areas of metropolitan
France are located in the
oceanic climate zone, Cfb and Cfc in the Köppen classification.
Corsica and a small part of the territory bordering the mediterranean
basin lies in the Csa and Csb zones. As the French metropolitan
territory is relatively large, the climate is not uniform, giving rise
to the following climate nuances:
The west of
France has strictly oceanic climate (Cfb) – it
extends from Flanders to the Basque
Country in a coastal strip several
tens of kilometres wide, narrower to the north and south but wider in
Brittany, which is almost entirely in this climate zone.
The climate of the Southwest is also oceanic but warmer.
The climate of the Northwest is oceanic but cooler and windier.
Away from the coast, the climate is oceanic throughout but its
characteristics change somewhat. The
Paris sedimentary basin and, more
so, the basins protected by mountain chains show a stronger seasonal
temperature variability and less rainfall during autumn and winter.
Therefore, most of the territory has a semi-oceanic climate and forms
a transition zone between strictly oceanic climate near the coasts and
other climate zones.
The semi-continental climate (Cfc) of the north and centre-east
(Alsace, plains of the Saône, the middle part of the Rhône,
Auvergne and Savoy).
The Mediterranean and the lower
Rhône valley experience a
Mediterranean climate (Csa and Csb) due to the effect of mountain
chains isolating them from the rest of the country and the resulting
The mountain (or alpine) climates (Dfc and ET) are confined to the
Pyrenees and the summits of the Massif Central, the Jura and
In the overseas regions, there are three broad types of climate:
A tropical climate (Am) in most overseas regions including eastern
French Guiana: high constant temperature throughout the year with a
dry and a wet season.
An equatorial climate (Af) in western French Guiana: high constant
temperature with even precipitation throughout the year.
A subpolar climate (Et) in
Saint Pierre and Miquelon
Saint Pierre and Miquelon and in most of
the French Southern and Antarctic Lands: short mild summers and long
very cold winters.
See also: Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy;
National parks of France; and Regional natural parks of France
Marine (blue), Regional (green) and National (red) natural parks in
France was one of the first countries to create an environment
ministry, in 1971. Although it is one of the most industrialised
countries in the world,
France is ranked only 17th by carbon dioxide
emissions, behind less populous nations such as
Canada or Australia.
This is because
France decided to invest in nuclear power following
the 1973 oil crisis, which now accounts for 75% of its electricity
production and results in less pollution.
European Union members,
France agreed to cut carbon emissions
by at least 20% of 1990 levels by the year 2020, compared to the
U.S. plan to reduce emissions by 4% of 1990 levels. As of
2009[update], French carbon dioxide emissions per capita were lower
than that of China's. The country was set to impose a carbon tax
in 2009 at 17 euros per tonne of carbon emitted, which would have
raised 4 billion euros of revenue annually. However, the plan
was abandoned due to fears of burdening French businesses.
Forests account for 28% of France's land area, and are some of
the most diverse in Europe, comprising more than 140 species of
trees. There are nine national parks and 46 natural parks in
France, with the government planning to convert 20% of its
Exclusive Economic Zone into a Marine Protected Area by 2020. A
regional nature park (French: parc naturel régional or PNR) is a
public establishment in
France between local authorities and the
French national government covering an inhabited rural area of
outstanding beauty, in order to protect the scenery and heritage as
well as setting up sustainable economic development in the area.
A PNR sets goals and guidelines for managed human habitation,
sustainable economic development, and protection of the natural
environment based on each park's unique landscape and heritage. The
parks foster ecological research programmes and public education in
the natural sciences. As of 2014[update] there are 49 PNRs in
According to the 2016
Environmental Performance Index conducted by
Yale and Columbia,
France was the tenth-most environmentally-conscious
country in the world.
Main article: Administrative divisions of France
The French republic is divided into 18 regions (located in
overseas), five overseas collectivities, one overseas territory, one
special collectivity –
New Caledonia and one uninhabited island
directly under the authority of the Minister of
Overseas France –
Val de Loire
France is mainly divided into 18 administrative regions: 13
regions in metropolitan
France (including the territorial collectivity
of Corsica), and five located overseas. The regions are
further subdivided into 101 departments, which are numbered
mainly alphabetically. This number is used in postal codes and was
formerly used on vehicle number plates. Among the 101 departments of
France, five (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and
Réunion) are in overseas regions (ROMs) that are also simultaneously
overseas departments (DOMs), enjoy exactly the same status as
metropolitan departments and are an integral part of the European
The 101 departments are subdivided into 335 arrondissements, which
are, in turn, subdivided into 2,054 cantons. These cantons are
then divided into 36,658 communes, which are municipalities with an
elected municipal council. Three communes—Paris,
Marseille—are subdivided into 45 municipal arrondissements.
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 territorial collectivities with an elected
assembly, but these were suspended by the Vichy regime and definitely
abolished by the Fourth
Republic in 1946.
Overseas territories and collectivities
In addition to the 18 regions and 101 departments, the French Republic
has five overseas collectivities (French Polynesia, Saint Barthélemy,
Saint Martin, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna), one
sui generis collectivity (New Caledonia), one overseas territory
(French Southern and Antarctic Lands), and one island possession in
Pacific Ocean (Clipperton Island).
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 Futuna, and
New Caledonia continue to use the
CFP franc whose value is strictly linked to that of the euro. In
contrast, the five overseas regions used the
French franc and now use
The lands making up the French Republic, shown at the same geographic
State private property under the direct authority of the French
Designated as an overseas land (pays d'outre-mer or POM), the status
is the same as an overseas collectivity.
French Southern and Antarctic Lands
Overseas territory (territoire d'outre-mer or TOM)
Sui generis collectivity
Overseas collectivity (collectivité d'outre-mer or COM)
Overseas collectivity (collectivité d'outre-mer or COM)
Saint Pierre and Miquelon
Overseas collectivity (collectivité d'outre-mer or COM). Still
referred to as a collectivité territoriale.
Wallis and Futuna
Overseas collectivity (collectivité d'outre-mer or COM). Still
referred to as a territoire.
Main article: Politics of France
Republic is a unitary semi-presidential representative
democratic republic with strong democratic traditions. The
constitution of the Fifth
Republic was approved by referendum 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 Emmanuel Macron,
who is head of state 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.
The French parliament is a bicameral 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 government, 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.
Until World War II, Radicals were a strong political force in France,
embodied by the
Republican, Radical and Radical-Socialist Party
Republican, Radical and Radical-Socialist Party which
was the most important party of the Third Republic. Since World War
II, they were marginalized while French politics became characterised
by two politically opposed groupings: one left-wing, centred on the
French Section of the Workers' International
French Section of the Workers' International and its successor the
Socialist Party (since 1969); and the other right-wing, centred on the
Gaullist Party, whose name changed over time: the Rally of the French
People (1947), the Union of Democrats for the
Republic (1958), the
Rally for the
Republic (1976), the
Union for a Popular Movement
Union for a Popular Movement (2007)
and The Republicans (since 2015). In the 2017 presidential and
legislative elections, radical centrist party
En Marche! became the
dominant force, overtaking both Socialists and Republicans.
Main article: Law of France
France uses a civil legal 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). Basic principles of the rule
of law were laid in the
Napoleonic Code (which was, in turn, largely
based on the royal law codified under Louis XIV). 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, first president of the Court of Cassation, 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.
The basic principles that the French
Republic must respect are found
in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
French law is divided into two principal areas: private law and public
Private law includes, in particular, civil law and criminal law.
Public law includes, in particular, administrative law and
constitutional law. However, in practical terms, French law comprises
three principal areas of law: civil law, criminal law, and
administrative law. Criminal laws can only address the future and not
the past (criminal ex post facto laws are prohibited). While
administrative law is often a subcategory of civil law in many
countries, it is completely separated in
France and each body of law
is headed by a specific supreme court: ordinary courts (which handle
criminal and civil litigation) are headed by the Court of Cassation
and administrative courts are headed by the Council of State.
To be applicable, every law must be officially published in the
Journal officiel de la République française.
France does not recognise religious law as a motivation for the
enactment of prohibitions.
France has long had neither blasphemy laws
nor sodomy laws (the latter being abolished in 1791). However,
"offences against public decency" (contraires aux bonnes mœurs) or
disturbing public order (trouble à l'ordre public) have been used to
repress public expressions of homosexuality or street prostitution.
Since 1999, civil unions for homosexual couples are permitted, and
since May 2013, same-sex marriage and
LGBT adoption are legal in
France. Laws prohibiting discriminatory speech in the press are
as old as 1881. Some consider however that hate speech laws in France
are too broad or severe and damage freedom of speech.
laws against racism and antisemitism. Since 1990, the Gayssot Act
prohibits Holocaust denial.
Freedom of religion
Freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed by the 1789
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The 1905 French
law on the Separation of the Churches and the State is the basis for
laïcité (state secularism): the state does not formally recognize
any religion, except in Alsace-Moselle. Nonetheless, it does recognize
religious associations. The Parliament has listed many religious
movements as dangerous cults since 1995, and has banned wearing
conspicuous religious symbols in schools since 2004. In 2010, it
banned the wearing of face-covering Islamic veils in public; human
rights groups such as
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch
described the law as discriminatory towards Muslims.
However, it is supported by most of the population.
Main article: Foreign relations of France
François Mitterrand and West German Chancellor
Helmut Kohl, in 1987.
France is a founding member of the
United Nations and serves as one of
the permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto
rights. In 2015,
France was described as being "the best
networked state in the world", because it is a country that "is member
of more multi-lateral organisations than any other country".
France is a member of the G8,
World Trade Organization
World Trade Organization (WTO), the
Secretariat of the Pacific Community
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Indian Ocean
Commission (COI). It is an associate member of the Association of
Caribbean States (ACS) and a leading member of the International
Francophone Organisation (OIF) of 84 fully or partly French-speaking
As a significant hub for international relations,
France hosts the
second largest assembly of diplomatic missions in the world and the
headquarters of international organisations including the OECD,
UNESCO, Interpol, the International Bureau of Weights and Measures,
and la Francophonie.
Postwar French foreign policy has been largely shaped by membership of
the European Union, of which it was a founding member. Since the
France has developed close ties with reunified
become the most influential driving force of the EU. In the
France sought to exclude the British from the European
unification process, seeking to build its own standing in
continental Europe. However, since 1904,
France has maintained an
"Entente cordiale" with the United Kingdom, and there has been a
strengthening of links between the countries, especially militarily.
European Parliament in Strasbourg, near the border with Germany.
France is a founding member of all EU institutions.
France is a member of the
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO),
but under President de Gaulle, it excluded itself from the joint
military command to protest the special relationship between the
United States and Britain and to preserve the independence of French
foreign and security policies. However, as a result of Nicolas
Sarkozy's pro-American politics (much criticised in
France by the
leftists and by a part of the right),
France rejoined the
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.
France vigorously opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq,
straining bilateral relations with the US and the
France retains strong political and economic influence in its former
African colonies (Françafrique) and has supplied economic aid
and troops for peace-keeping missions in
Ivory Coast and Chad.
Recently, after the unilateral declaration of independence of northern
Mali by the Tuareg MNLA and the subsequent regional Northern Mali
conflict with several Islamist groups including
Ansar Dine and MOJWA,
France and other African states intervened to help the Malian Army to
France was the fourth largest (in absolute terms) donor of
development aid in the world, behind the US, the UK and Germany. This
represents 0.36% of its GDP, in this regard rating
France as twelfth
largest donor on the list. The organisation managing the French
help is the French Development Agency, which finances primarily
humanitarian projects in sub-Saharan Africa. The main goals of
this support 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".
Main article: French Armed Forces
Examples of France's military. Clockwise from top left: Nuclear
aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle; A Rafale fighter aircraft; French
Chasseurs Alpins patrolling the valleys of Kapisa province in
Afghanistan; a Leclerc tank in
Paris for the 14 July Bastille Day
French Armed Forces
French Armed Forces (Forces armées françaises) are the military
and paramilitary forces of France, under the president as supreme
commander. They consist of the
French Army (Armée de Terre), French
Navy (Marine Nationale, formerly called Armée de Mer), the French Air
Force (Armée de l'Air), the French Strategic Nuclear Force (Force
Nucléaire Stratégique, nicknamed
Force de Frappe
Force de Frappe or "Strike Force")
and the Military Police called
National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie
nationale), which also fulfils civil police duties in the rural areas
of France. Together they are among the largest armed forces in the
world and the largest in the EU.
While the Gendarmerie is an integral part of the French armed forces
(gendarmes are career soldiers), and therefore under the purview of
the Ministry of Defence, it is operationally attached to the Ministry
of the Interior as far as its civil police duties are concerned.
When acting as general purpose police force, the Gendarmerie
encompasses the counter terrorist units of the Parachute Intervention
Squadron of the
National Gendarmerie (Escadron Parachutiste
d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale), the National Gendarmerie
Intervention Group (Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie
Nationale), the Search Sections of the
National Gendarmerie (Sections
de Recherche de la Gendarmerie Nationale), responsible for criminal
enquiries, and the Mobile Brigades of the National Gendarmerie
(Brigades mobiles de la Gendarmerie Nationale, or in short Gendarmerie
mobile) which have the task to maintain public order.
The following special units are also part of the Gendarmerie: The
Republican Guard (Garde républicaine) which protects public buildings
hosting major French institutions, the Maritime Gendarmerie
(Gendarmerie maritime) serving as Coast Guard, the Provost Service
(Prévôté), acting as the Military Police branch of the Gendarmerie.
As far as the French intelligence units are concerned, the
Directorate-General for External Security
Directorate-General for External Security (Direction générale de la
sécurité extérieure) is considered to be a component of the Armed
Forces under the authority of the Ministry of Defence. The other, the
Central Directorate for Interior Intelligence (Direction centrale du
renseignement intérieur) is a division of the National Police Force
(Direction générale de la Police Nationale), and therefore reports
directly to the Ministry of the Interior. There has been no national
conscription since 1997.
France has a special military corps, the French Foreign Legion,
founded in 1830, which consists of foreign nationals from over 140
countries who are willing to serve in the
French Armed Forces
French Armed Forces and
become French citizens after the end of their service period. The only
other countries having similar units are
Spain (the Spanish Foreign
Legion, called Tercio, was founded in 1920) and
can serve in the National Army provided they speak Luxembourgish).
France is a permanent member of the Security Council of the UN, and a
recognised nuclear state since 1960.
France has signed and ratified
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and acceded to
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. France's annual military
expenditure in 2011 was US$62.5 billion, or 2.3%, of its
GDP making it
the fifth biggest military spender in the world after the United
States, China, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
French nuclear deterrence, (formerly known as "Force de Frappe"),
relies on complete independence. The current French nuclear force
consists of four Triomphant class submarines equipped with
submarine-launched ballistic missiles. In addition to the submarine
fleet, it is estimated that
France has about 60 ASMP medium-range
air-to-ground missiles with nuclear warheads, of which around 50
are deployed by the Air Force using the Mirage 2000N long-range
nuclear strike aircraft, while around 10 are deployed by the French
Navy's Super Étendard Modernisé (SEM) attack aircraft, which operate
from the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. The new
Rafale F3 aircraft will gradually replace all Mirage 2000N and SEM in
the nuclear strike role with the improved ASMP-A missile with a
France has major military industries with one of the largest aerospace
industries in the world. Its industries have produced such
equipment as the Rafale fighter, the
Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle aircraft
Exocet missile and the Leclerc tank among others. Despite
withdrawing from the Eurofighter project,
France is actively investing
in European joint projects such as the Eurocopter Tiger, multipurpose
frigates, the UCAV demonstrator nEUROn and the
a major arms seller, with most of its arsenal's designs
available for the export market with the notable exception of
The military parade held in
Paris each 14 July for France's national
Bastille Day in English-speaking countries (but not in
France), is the oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe.
See also: Taxation in France
French government has run a budget deficit each year since the
early 1970s. As of 2016[update],
French government debt levels reached
2.2 trillion euros, the equivalent of 96.4% of French GDP.
In late 2012, credit rating agencies warned that growing French
government debt levels risked France's AAA credit rating, raising the
possibility of a future downgrade and subsequent higher borrowing
costs for the French government.
Main article: Economy of France
France is part of a monetary union, the
Eurozone (dark blue), and of
the European Single Market.
A member of the Group of 7 (formerly G8) leading industrialised
countries, as of 2014[update], it is ranked as the world's ninth
largest and the EU's second largest economy by purchasing power
parity. With 31 of the 500 biggest companies in the world in 2015,
France ranks fourth in the Fortune Global 500, ahead of
France joined 11 other EU members to launch the euro in
1999, with euro coins and banknotes completely replacing the French
franc (₣) in 2002.
France has a mixed economy that combines extensive private
enterprise with substantial state enterprise and government
intervention. The government retains considerable influence over key
segments of infrastructure sectors, with majority ownership of
railway, electricity, aircraft, nuclear power and
telecommunications.[not in citation given] It has been relaxing
its control over these sectors since the early 1990s.[not in
citation given] The government is slowly corporatising the state
sector and selling off holdings in
France Télécom, Air France, as
well as in the insurance, banking, and defence industries.[not in
France has an important aerospace industry led by the
European consortium Airbus, and has its own national spaceport, the
Centre Spatial Guyanais.
Composition of the French economy (GDP) in 2016 by expenditure type
As of 2009[update], the
World Trade Organization
World Trade Organization (WTO) reported France
was the world's sixth largest exporter and the fourth largest importer
of manufactured goods. As of 2016[update], the World Factbook
France seventh largest exporter. In 2008,
France was the
third largest recipient of foreign direct investment among OECD
countries at $118 billion, ranking behind
Luxembourg (where foreign
direct investment was essentially monetary transfers to banks located
there) and the US ($316 billion), but above the UK
Germany ($25 billion), or Japan
($24 billion). In the same year, French companies invested
$220 billion outside France, ranking
France as the second largest
outward direct investor in the OECD, behind the US
($311 billion), and ahead of the UK ($111 billion), Japan
($128 billion) and
Germany ($157 billion).
Financial services, banking and the insurance sector are an important
part of the economy. The
Paris stock exchange (French: La Bourse de
Paris) is an old institution, created by Louis XV in 1724. In
2000, the stock exchanges of Paris, Amsterdam and Bruxelles merged
into Euronext. In 2007,
Euronext merged with the New York stock
exchange to form NYSE Euronext, the world's largest stock
Euronext Paris, the French branch of the NYSE Euronext
group is Europe's 2nd largest stock exchange market, behind the London
France is a member of the
Eurozone (around 330 million consumers)
which is part of the
European Single Market
European Single Market (more than 500 million
consumers). Several domestic commercial policies are determined by
European Union (EU) members and by EU legislation.
France introduced the common European currency, the
French companies have maintained key positions in the insurance and
AXA is the world's largest insurance company. The
leading French banks are
BNP Paribas and the Crédit Agricole, ranking
as the world's first and sixth largest banks in 2010 (by assets),
Société Générale group was ranked the world's eighth
largest in 2009.
Champagne, widely regarded as a luxury good, originates from the
Champagne region in northeast France.
France has historically been a large producer of agricultural
products. Extensive tracts of fertile land, the application of
modern technology, and EU subsidies have combined to make
leading agricultural producer and exporter in Europe
(representing 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 internationally
recognised processed foods are the primary French agricultural
Rosé wines are primarily consumed within the country, but
Bordeaux wines are major exports, being known worldwide.
EU agriculture subsidies to
France have decreased in recent years but
still amounted to $8 billion in 2007. That same year, France
sold 33.4 billion euros of transformed agricultural
France produces rum via sugar cane-based distilleries almost all of
which are located in overseas territories such as Martinique,
Guadeloupe, and La Réunion.
Agriculture is an important sector of France's economy: 3.8% of the
active population is employed in agriculture, whereas the total
agri-food industry made up 4.2% of French
GDP in 2005.
Main article: Tourism in France
Eiffel Tower is the world's most visited paid monument, an icon of
Paris and France.
With 83 million foreign tourists in 2012,
France is ranked as
the first tourist destination in the world, ahead of the US
(67 million) and
China (58 million). This 83 million
figure excludes people staying less than 24 hours, such as North
France on their way to
Spain or Italy. It is third
in income from tourism due to shorter duration of visits. The
most popular tourist sites (according to a 2003 ranking visitors
per year) include:
Eiffel Tower (6.2 million), Louvre Museum
Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles (2.8 million), Musée
d'Orsay (2.1 million),
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe (1.2 million), Centre
Pompidou (1.2 million),
Mont Saint-Michel (1 million),
Château de Chambord (711,000),
Puy de Dôme
Puy de Dôme (500,000), Musée Picasso
Mont Saint-Michel is one of France's most visited and recognisable
landmarks. It is one of the 39
World Heritage Sites
World Heritage Sites in France.
France has 37 sites inscribed in UNESCO's World Heritage List and
features cities of high cultural interest, beaches and seaside
resorts, ski resorts, and rural regions that many enjoy for their
beauty and tranquillity (green tourism). Small and picturesque French
villages are promoted through the association Les Plus Beaux Villages
France (litt. "The Most Beautiful Villages of France"). The
"Remarkable Gardens" label is a list of the over 200 gardens
classified by the French Ministry of Culture. This label is intended
to protect and promote remarkable gardens and parks.
many religious pilgrims on their way to St. James, or to Lourdes, a
town in the
Hautes-Pyrénées that hosts several million visitors a
year. Another major destination are the Châteaux of the
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site is noteworthy for its architectural heritage,
in its historic towns but in particular its castles (châteaux), such
as the Châteaux d'Amboise, de Chambord, d'Ussé, de Villandry and
France, especially Paris, has some of the world's largest and renowned
museums, including the Louvre, which is the most visited art museum in
the world, the Musée d'Orsay, mostly devoted to impressionism, and
Beaubourg, dedicated to Contemporary art. Disneyland
Paris is Europe's
most popular theme park, with 15 million combined visitors to the
Park and Walt Disney Studios
Park in 2009.
With more than 10 millions tourists a year, the
French Riviera (or
Côte d'Azur), in south-east France, is the second leading tourist
destination in the country, after the
Paris region. It benefits
from 300 days of sunshine per year, 115 kilometres (71 mi) of
coastline and beaches, 18 golf courses, 14 ski resorts and 3,000
restaurants.:31 Each year the Côte d'Azur hosts 50% of the
world's superyacht fleet.:66
Further information: Energy in France
France derives most of its electricity from nuclear power, the highest
percentage in the world. Photo of Cattenom Nuclear Power Plant.
Électricité de France
Électricité de France (EDF), the main electricity generation and
distribution company in France, is also one of the world's largest
producers of electricity. In 2003, it produced 22% of the European
Union's electricity, primarily from nuclear power.
France is the smallest emitter of carbon dioxide among the G8, due to
its heavy investment in nuclear power. As of 2016[update], 72% of
the electricity produced by
France is generated by 58 nuclear power
plants. In this context, renewable energies are having
difficulty taking off.
France also uses hydroelectric dams to produce
electricity, such as the Eguzon dam, Étang de Soulcem, and Lac de
Main article: Transport in France
TGV Duplex crossing the Cize–Bolozon viaduct. The train can reach
a maximum speed of 320 km/h (198.84 mph).
The railway network of France, which as of 2008[update] stretches
29,473 kilometres (18,314 mi) is the second most extensive
Europe after that of Germany. It is operated by the
SNCF, and high-speed trains include the Thalys, the
Eurostar and TGV,
which travels at 320 km/h (199 mph) in commercial use.
The Eurostar, along with the Eurotunnel Shuttle, connects with the
United Kingdom through the Channel Tunnel. Rail connections exist to
all other neighbouring countries in Europe, except Andorra.
Intra-urban connections are also well developed with both underground
services (Paris, Lyon, Lille, Marseille, Toulouse, Rennes) and tramway
services (Nantes, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Montpellier...)
complementing bus services.
There are approximately 1,027,183 kilometres (638,262 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
neighbouring Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain,
Andorra and Monaco. There is no annual registration fee or road tax;
however, usage of the mostly privately owned motorways is through
tolls except in the vicinity of large communes. The new car market is
dominated by domestic brands such as
Renault (27% of cars sold in
France in 2003),
Peugeot (20.1%) and
Citroën (13.5%). Over 70%
of new cars sold in 2004 had diesel engines, far more than contained
petrol or LPG engines.
France possesses the Millau Viaduct, the
world's tallest bridge, and has built many important bridges such
as the Pont de Normandie.
Air France is one of the biggest airlines in the world.
There are 464 airports in France.
Charles de Gaulle
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
Air France 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, which also is the largest bordering the
Mediterranean Sea. 12,261 kilometres (7,619 mi) of
France including the Canal du Midi, which connects
Mediterranean Sea to the
Atlantic Ocean through the Garonne
Science and technology
Main article: List of French inventions and discoveries
France is one of the biggest contributors to the European Space Agency
Ariane 4 launch pictured).
Since the Middle Ages,
France has been a major contributor to
scientific and technological achievement. Around the beginning of the
11th century, Pope Sylvester II, born Gerbert d'Aurillac, reintroduced
the abacus and armillary sphere, and introduced
Arabic numerals and
clocks to northern and western Europe. The University of Paris,
founded in the mid-12th century, is still one of the most important
universities in the Western world. In the 17th century,
René Descartes defined a method for the acquisition of
scientific knowledge, while
Blaise Pascal became famous for his work
on probability and fluid mechanics. They were both key figures of the
Scientific revolution, which blossomed in
Europe during this period.
The Academy of Sciences was founded by
Louis XIV to encourage and
protect the spirit of French scientific research. It was at the
forefront of scientific developments in
Europe in the 17th and 18th
centuries. It is one of the earliest academies of sciences.
Age of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment was marked by the work of biologist Buffon
and chemist Lavoisier, who discovered the role of oxygen in
combustion, while Diderot and D'Alembert published the Encyclopédie,
which aimed to give access to "useful knowledge" to the people, a
knowledge that they can apply to their everyday life. With the
Industrial Revolution, the 19th century saw spectacular scientific
France with scientists such as Augustin Fresnel,
founder of modern optics, Sadi Carnot who laid the foundations of
thermodynamics, and Louis Pasteur, a pioneer of microbiology. Other
eminent French scientists of the 19th century have their names
inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.
Famous French scientists of the 20th century include the mathematician
and physicist Henri Poincaré, physicists Henri Becquerel, Pierre and
Marie Curie, remained famous for their work on radioactivity, the
Paul Langevin and virologist Luc Montagnier, co-discoverer
of HIV AIDS.
Hand transplantation was developed on 23 September 1998
Lyon by a team assembled from different countries around the world
Jean-Michel Dubernard who, shortly thereafter, performed the
first successful double hand transplant. Telesurgery was
Jacques Marescaux and his team on 7 September 2001 across
Atlantic Ocean (New-York-Strasbourg, Lindbergh Operation). A
face transplant was first done on 27 November 2005 by Dr
European Synchrotron Radiation Facility
European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble.
France was the fourth country to achieve nuclear capability and
has the third largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world. It is
also a leader in civilian nuclear technology. France
was the third nation, after the former
USSR and the United States, to
launch its own space satellite and remains the biggest contributor to
European Space Agency
European Space Agency (ESA). The European Airbus,
formed from the French group
Aérospatiale along with DaimlerChrysler
Aerospace AG (DASA) and
Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA
Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA (CASA),
designs and develops civil and military aircraft as well as
communications systems, missiles, space rockets, helicopters,
satellites, and related systems.
France also hosts major international
research instruments such as the European Synchrotron Radiation
Facility or the
Institut Laue–Langevin and remains a major member of
CERN. It also owns Minatec, Europe's leading nanotechnology research
SNCF, the French national railroad company, has developed the TGV, a
high speed train which holds a series of world speed records. The TGV
has been the fastest wheeled train in commercial use since reaching a
speed of 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph) on 3 April 2007.
Europe is now serviced by a network of
As of 2016[update], 68
French people have been awarded a Nobel
Prize and 12 have received the Fields Medal.
Demographics of France
Demographics of France and French people
Population density in the French
Republic at the 1999 census.
With an estimated total population of 67.15 million people as of
October 2017, with 65 million in metropolitan France,
the 20th most populous country in the world and the third-most
populous in Europe.
France is also second most populous country in the
European Union after Germany.
France is an outlier among developed countries in general, and
European countries in particular, in having a fairly high rate of
natural population growth: by birth rates alone,
responsible for almost all natural population growth in the European
Union in 2006, with the natural growth rate (excess of births over
deaths) rising to 300,000 and with the immigration the population grew
with almost 400,000 people, although in the late 2010s it fell to
200,000. This was the highest rate since the end of the baby boom in
1973, and coincides with the rise of the total fertility rate from a
nadir of 1.7 in 1994 to 2.0 in 2010. As of January 2017[update] the
fertility rate was 1.93.
From 2006 to 2011 population growth was on average +0.6% per
year. Immigrants are also major contributors to this trend; in
2010, 27% of newborns in metropolitan
France had at least one
foreign-born parent and 24% had at least one parent born outside of
Europe (parents born in overseas territories are considered as born in
French government prohibited the census according to ethnic groups, so
it can not know the exact amount but by unofficial censuses, but it is
clear that this is the country with the largest population of Black
people in Europe. In the image retired football star Thierry Henry.
French people are of Celtic (Gauls) origin, with an admixture of
Latin (Romans) and Germanic (Franks) groups. Different regions
reflect this diverse heritage, with notable Breton elements in western
France, Aquitanian in the southwest, Scandinavian in the northwest,
Alemannic in the northeast and Ligurian influence in the southeast.
Large-scale immigration over the last century and a half has led to a
more multicultural society. In 2004, the
Institut Montaigne estimated
that within Metropolitan France, 51 million people were White (85% of
the population), 6 million were North African (10%), 2 million were
Black (3.3%), and 1 million were Asian (1.7%).
A law originating from the 1789 revolution and reaffirmed in the 1958
French Constitution makes it illegal for the French state to collect
data on ethnicity and ancestry. In 2008, the TeO ("Trajectories and
origins") poll conducted jointly by
INED and the French National
Institute of Statistics estimated that 5 million people
were of Italian ancestry (the largest immigrant community), followed
by 3 million to 6 million people of North African
ancestry, 2.5 million people of Sub-Saharan African origin, and
200,000 people of Turkish ancestry. There are over 500,000 ethnic
Armenians in France. There are also sizeable minorities of other
European ethnic groups, namely Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and
France has a significant Gypsy (Gitan) population, numbering between
20,000 and 400,000. Famous French Gypsies (Gitans) include Django
Gipsy Kings and Kendji Girac. Gypsies inspired the
French novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Many foreign Romani people
are expelled back to
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 since the early 20th century; between
1921 and 1935 alone, about 1.1 million net immigrants came to
France. The next largest wave came in the 1960s, when around
1.6 million pieds noirs returned to
France following the
independence of its North African possessions,
Morocco. They were joined by numerous former colonial
subjects from North and West Africa, as well as numerous immigrants
Spain and Portugal.
France remains a major destination for immigrants, accepting about
200,000 legal immigrants annually. It is also Western Europe's
leading recipient of asylum seekers, with an estimated 50,000
applications in 2005 (a 15% decrease from 2004). The European
Union allows free movement between the member states, although France
established controls to curb
Eastern European migration, and
immigration remains a contentious political issue.
In 2008, the
INSEE estimated that the total number of foreign-born
immigrants was around 5 million (8% of the population), while their
French-born descendants numbered 6.5 million, or 11% of the
population. Thus, nearly a fifth of the country's population were
either first or second-generation immigrants, of which more than 5
million were of European origin and 4 million of Maghrebi
ancestry. In 2008,
France granted citizenship to
137,000 persons, mostly to people from Morocco,
In 2014 The National Institute of Statistics (INSEE, for its acronym
in French) published a study which reported doubling of the number of
Spanish immigrants, Portuguese and
Italians in France
Italians in France between 2009 and
2012. According to the French Institute, this increase resulting from
the financial crisis that hit several European countries in that
period, has pushed up the number of
Europeans installed in
France. Statistics on Spanish immigrants in
France show a growth
of 107 percent between 2009 and 2012, i.e. in this period went from
5300 to 11,000 people. Of the total of 229,000 foreigners who
France in 2012, nearly 8% were Portuguese, 5% British, 5%
Spanish, 4% Italians, 4% Germans, 3% Romanians, and 3% Belgians.
France is a highly urbanized country, with its largest cities (in
terms of metropolitan area population in 2013) being Paris
Marseille (1,734,277), Toulouse
Lille (1,175,828), Nice
Strasbourg (773,447) and Rennes
(700,675). (Note: There are significant differences between the
metropolitan population figures just cited and those in the following
table, which only include the core population).
Rural flight was a
perennial political issue throughout most of the 20th century.
Largest cities or towns in France
Pays de la Loire
Pays de la Loire
Functional urban areas
Urban area (France) and Urban unit
Map of the 25 largest urban units by population
Main articles: French language, Languages of France, and Organisation
internationale de la Francophonie
A map of the Francophone world
secondary or non-official language
According to Article 2 of the Constitution, the official language of
France is French, a
Romance language derived from Latin. Since
Académie française has been France's official authority on
the French language, although its recommendations carry no legal.
There are also regional languages spoken in France, such as Occitan,
Breton, Catalan, Flemish (Dutch dialect), Alsatian (German dialect),
Basque, and others. (see Languages of France)
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 and globally
through institutions such as La Francophonie. The perceived threat
from anglicisation has prompted efforts to safeguard the position of
French language in France. Besides French, there exist 77
vernacular minority languages of France, eight spoken in French
metropolitan territory and 69 in the French overseas territories.
From the 17th to the mid-20th century, French served as the
pre-eminent international language of diplomacy and international
affairs as well as a lingua franca among the educated classes of
Europe. The dominant position of
French language in international
affairs was overtaken by English, since the emergence of the US as a
For most of the time in which French served as an international lingua
franca, it was not the native language of most Frenchmen: a report in
1794 conducted by
Henri Grégoire found that of the country's 25
million people, only three million spoke French natively; the rest
spoke one of the country's many regional languages, such as Alsatian,
Breton or Occitan. Through the expansion of public education, in
which French was the sole language of instruction, as well as other
factors such as increased urbanisation and the rise of mass
communication, French gradually came to be adopted by virtually the
entire population, a process not completed until the 20th century.
As a result of France's extensive colonial ambitions between the 17th
and 20th centuries, French was introduced to the Americas, 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 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 (The Levant, South and
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). 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
Main article: Religion in France
Religion in France
Religion in France (2016)
No religion (39.6%)
Other religion (2.5%)
France is a secular country, and freedom of religion is a
constitutional right. French religious policy is based on the concept
of laïcité, a strict separation of church and state under which
public life is kept completely secular.
According to a survey held in 2016 by
Institut Montaigne and Institut
français d'opinion publique (IFOP), 51.1% of the total population of
Christian as of that year; at the same time 39.6% of the
population had no religion (atheism or agnosticism), 5.6% were
Muslims, 2.5% were followers of other faiths, and the remaining 0.4%
were undecided about their faith. Estimates of the number of
France vary widely. In 2003, the French Ministry of the
Interior estimated the total number of people of
Muslim background to
be between 5 and 6 million (8–10%). The current Jewish
France (as of 2016[update], about 0.8% of the population
are religious Jews) is the largest in
Europe and the third-largest
in the world, after those in
Israel and the United States.
Reims is the
Roman Catholic cathedral where the kings of
France were crowned until 1825.[XV]
Catholicism has been the predominant religion in
France for more than
a millennium, though it is not as actively practised today as it was.
Among the 47,000 religious buildings in France, 94% are Roman
Catholic. During the French Revolution, activists conducted a
brutal campaign of de-Christianisation, ending the
Catholic Church as
the state religion. In some cases clergy and churches were attacked,
with iconoclasm stripping the churches of statues and ornament. After
the back and forth of Catholic royal and secular republican
governments during the 19th century,
France established laïcité by
passage of the 1905 law on the Separation of the Churches and the
Since 1905 the
French government has followed the principle of
laïcité, in which it is prohibited from recognising any specific
right to a religious community (except for legacy statutes like those
of military chaplains and the local law in Alsace-Moselle). It
recognises religious organisations according to formal legal criteria
that do not address religious doctrine. Conversely, religious
organisations are expected to refrain from intervening in
policy-making. Certain groups, such as Scientology, Children of
God, the Unification Church, or the Order of the Solar Temple, are
considered cults ("sectes" in French), and therefore do not have
the same status as recognised religions in France. Secte is considered
a pejorative term in France.
Main article: Health in France
The Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, a teaching hospital in Paris, one
of Europe's largest hospitals.
The French health care system is one of universal health care largely
financed by government national health insurance. In its 2000
assessment of world health care systems, the World Health Organization
France provided the "close to best overall health care" in
the world. The French healthcare system was ranked first
worldwide by the
World Health Organization
World Health Organization in 1997. In 2011,
France spent 11.6% of
GDP on health care, or US$4,086 per capita,
a figure much higher than the average spent by countries in
less than in the US. Approximately 77% of health expenditures are
covered by government funded agencies.
Care is generally free for people affected by chronic diseases
(affections de longues durées) such as cancer, AIDS or cystic
fibrosis. Average life expectancy at birth is 78 years for men and 85
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[update], 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
people in developed countries,
France—like other rich countries—faces an increasing and recent
epidemic of obesity, due mostly to the replacement in French eating
habits of traditional healthy
French cuisine by junk
food. The French obesity rate is still far below that
of the USA (for instance, obesity rate in
France is the same as the US
had in the 1970s), and is still the lowest of Europe.
Authorities now regard obesity as one of the main public health
issues and fight it fiercely. Rates of childhood obesity are
slowing in France, while continuing to grow in other countries.
Main article: Education in France
The National and University Library on the campus of the University of
Napoleon created the lycée. Nevertheless, it is Jules
Ferry 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
Nowadays, the schooling system in
France is centralised, and is
composed of three stages, primary education, secondary education, and
higher education. The Programme for International Student Assessment,
coordinated by the OECD, ranked France's education as about the OECD
average in 2015. Primary and secondary education are
predominantly public, run by the Ministry of National Education. In
France, education is compulsory from six to sixteen years old, and the
public school is secular and free. While training and remuneration of
teachers and the curriculum are the responsibility of the state
centrally, the management of primary and secondary schools is overseen
by local authorities. Primary education comprises two phases, nursery
school (école maternelle) and elementary school (école
élémentaire). Nursery school aims to stimulate the minds of very
young children and promote their socialisation and development of a
basic grasp of language and number. Around the age of six, children
transfer to elementary school, whose primary objectives are learning
about writing, arithmetic and citizenship. Secondary education also
consists of two phases. The first is delivered through colleges
(collège) and leads to the national certificate (Diplôme national du
brevet (fr)). The second is offered in high schools (lycée) and
finishes in national exams leading to a baccalaureate (baccalauréat,
available in professional, technical or general flavours) or
certificate of professional competence (certificat d'aptitude
Higher education is divided between public universities and the
prestigious and selective Grandes écoles, such as Sciences Po Paris
for Political studies, HEC
Paris for Economics,
Polytechnique and the
École nationale supérieure des mines de
Paris that produce
high-profile engineers, or the
École nationale d'administration
École nationale d'administration for
careers in the Grands Corps of the state. The
Grandes écoles have
been criticised for alleged elitism; they have produced many if
not most of France's high-ranking civil servants, CEOs, and
Since higher education is funded by the state, the fees are very low;
tuition fees vary from €150 to €700 depending on the university
and the different levels of education (licence, master, doctorate).
One can therefore get a master's degree (in 5 years) for about
€750–3,500. The tuition fees in public engineering schools are
comparable to universities, albeit a little higher (around €700).
However they can reach €7000 a year for private engineering schools,
while business schools, which are all private or partially private,
charge up to €15000 a year. Health insurance for students is free
until the age of 20.
Main article: Culture of France
Château de Chenonceau in the
France has been a centre of Western cultural development for
centuries. Many French artists have been among the most renowned of
their time, and
France is still recognised in the world for its rich
The successive political regimes have always promoted artistic
creation, and the creation of the Ministry of 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. The
French government also succeeded in
maintaining a cultural exception 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, which is
responsible for approximately 85 national historical monuments.
The 43,180 buildings protected as historical monuments include mainly
residences (many castles, or châteaux in French) and religious
buildings (cathedrals, basilicas, churches, etc.), but also statutes,
memorials and gardens. The
UNESCO inscribed 41 sites in
France on the
World Heritage List.
Main article: French art
Claude Monet founded the
Impressionist movement (Femme avec un
parasol, 1886, Musée d'Orsay).
The origins of
French art were very much influenced by
Flemish art and
Italian art at the time of the Renaissance. Jean Fouquet, the most
famous medieval French painter, is said to have been the first to
Italy and experience the Early Renaissance at first hand.
The Renaissance painting
School of Fontainebleau
School of Fontainebleau was directly inspired
by Italian painters such as
Primaticcio and Rosso Fiorentino, who both
worked in France. Two of the most famous French artists of the time of
Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, lived in Italy.
The 17th century was the period when French painting became prominent
and individualised itself through classicism. Louis XIV's prime
Jean-Baptiste Colbert founded in 1648 the Royal Academy of
Painting and Sculpture to protect these artists, and in 1666 he
created the still-active French Academy in
Rome to have direct
relations with Italian artists.
Le Penseur by
Auguste Rodin (1902), Musée Rodin, Paris.
French artists developed the rococo style in the 18th century, as a
more intimate imitation of old baroque style, the works of the
court-endorsed artists Antoine Watteau,
François Boucher and
Jean-Honoré Fragonard being the most representative in the country.
French Revolution brought great changes, as
artists of neoclassic style such as
Jacques-Louis David and the highly
Académie des Beaux-Arts
Académie des Beaux-Arts defined the style known as
Academism. At this time
France had become a centre of artistic
creation, the first half of the 19th century being dominated by two
successive movements, at first
Romanticism with Théodore Géricault
and Eugène Delacroix, and Realism with Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet
and Jean-François Millet, a style that eventually evolved into
In the second part of the 19th century, France's influence over
painting became even more important, with the development of new
styles of painting such as
Impressionism and Symbolism. The most
famous impressionist painters of the period were Camille Pissarro,
Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas,
Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir. The
second generation of impressionist-style painters, Paul Cézanne, Paul
Toulouse-Lautrec and Georges Seurat, were also at the
avant-garde of artistic evolutions, as well as the fauvist
artists Henri Matisse,
André Derain and Maurice de
At the beginning of the 20th century, Cubism was developed by Georges
Braque and the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, living in Paris. Other
foreign artists also settled and worked in or near Paris, such as
Vincent van Gogh, Marc Chagall,
Amedeo Modigliani and Wassily
Many museums in
France are entirely or partly devoted to sculptures
and 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, also known as La Joconde. While
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, in a major reorganisation of national art collections, to
gather French paintings from the second part of the 19th century
Modern works are presented in the Musée National d'Art Moderne, which
moved in 1976 to the Centre Georges Pompidou. These three state-owned
museums welcome close to 17 million people a year. Other
national museums hosting paintings include the Grand Palais
(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
Paris (0.8 million entries in 2008), which hosts
Outside Paris, all the large cities have a Museum of Fine Arts with a
section dedicated to European and French painting. Some of the finest
collections are in Lyon, Lille, Rouen, Dijon,
Rennes and Grenoble.
Main article: French architecture
Sainte Chapelle represents the French impact on religious
During the Middle Ages, many fortified castles were built by feudal
nobles to mark their powers. Some French castles that survived are
Château d'Angers, the massive
Château de Vincennes and the
so-called Cathar castles. During this era,
France had been using
Romanesque architecture like most of Western Europe. Some of the
greatest examples of Romanesque churches in
France are the Saint
Sernin Basilica in Toulouse, the largest romanesque church in
Europe, and the remains of the Cluniac Abbey.
The Gothic architecture, originally named Opus Francigenum meaning
"French work", was born in
Île-de-France and 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 (used as
the royal necropolis); other important French Gothic cathedrals are
Notre-Dame de Chartres and Notre-Dame d'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 in Avignon.
The final victory in the
Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War marked an important stage
in the evolution of French architecture. It was the time of the French
Renaissance and several artists from
Italy were invited to the French
court; many residential palaces were built in the
Loire Valley. Such
residential castles were the
Château de Chambord, the
Chenonceau, or the
Place de la Bourse
Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux, an example of French baroque
Following the renaissance and the end of the Middle Ages, Baroque
architecture 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 has many baroque features. Jules Hardouin Mansart, who
designed the extensions to Versailles, was one of the most influential
French architect of the baroque era; he is famous for his dome at Les
Invalides. Some of the most impressive provincial baroque
architecture is found in places that were not yet French such as the
Place Stanislas in Nancy. On the military architectural side, Vauban
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,
Opéra Garnier, Paris, a symbol of the French Second Empire style
After the Revolution, the Republicans favoured
neoclassicism was introduced in
France prior to the revolution with
such building as the Parisian Pantheon or the Capitole de Toulouse.
Built during the first French Empire, the
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe and Sainte
Marie-Madeleine represent the best example of Empire style
Napoleon III, a new wave of urbanism and architecture was given
birth; extravagant buildings such as the neo-baroque Palais Garnier
were built. The urban planning of the time was very organised and
rigorous; for example, Haussmann's renovation of Paris. The
architecture associated to this era is named Second Empire in English,
the term being taken from the Second French Empire. At this time there
was a strong Gothic resurgence across
Europe and in France; the
associated architect was Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. In the late 19th
Gustave Eiffel designed many bridges, such as Garabit
viaduct, 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, French-Swiss architect
Le Corbusier designed
several buildings in France. More recently, French architects have
combined both modern and old architectural styles. The Louvre Pyramid
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 (121 feet).
France's largest financial district is La Defense, 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. Some
famous modern French architects include Jean Nouvel, Dominique
Christian de Portzamparc or Paul Andreu.
Main article: French literature
French literature dates from the Middle Ages, when what
is now known as modern
France did not have a single, uniform language.
There were several languages and dialects and writers used their own
spelling and grammar. Some authors of French mediaeval texts are
unknown, such as
Tristan and Iseult
Tristan and Iseult and Lancelot-Grail. Other authors
are known, for example
Chrétien de Troyes
Chrétien de Troyes and Duke William IX of
Aquitaine, who wrote in Occitan.
French poetry and literature were inspired by the
legends of the Matter of France, such as
The Song of Roland
The Song of Roland 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 ('the Fox') and is another example of early French writing.
An important 16th-century writer was François Rabelais, whose novel
Gargantua and Pantagruel
Gargantua and Pantagruel has remained famous and appreciated until
Michel de Montaigne
Michel de Montaigne was the other major figure of the French
literature during that century. His most famous work, Essais, created
the literary genre of the essay.
French poetry during that
century was embodied by
Pierre de Ronsard
Pierre de Ronsard and Joachim du Bellay. Both
writers founded the
La Pléiade literary movement.
During the 17th century,
Madame de La Fayette
Madame de La Fayette published anonymously La
Princesse de Clèves, a novel that is considered to be one of the very
first psychological novels of all times.
Jean de La Fontaine
Jean de La Fontaine 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. Generations of French pupils had to learn his fables,
that were seen as helping teaching wisdom and common sense to the
young people. Some of his verses have entered the popular language to
become proverbs, such as "À l'œuvre, on connaît l'artisan."[A
workman is known by his chips].
French literary figures. Clockwise from top left:
Molière is the most
played author in the Comédie-Française;
Victor Hugo is one of
the most important French novelists and poets; 19th-century poet,
writer, and translator Charles Baudelaire; 20th-century philosopher
and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre.
Jean Racine, whose incredible mastery of the alexandrine and of the
French language has been praised for centuries, created plays such as
Phèdre or Britannicus. He is, along with
Pierre Corneille (Le Cid)
and Molière, considered as one of the three 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, wrote dozens of
plays, including Le Misanthrope, L'Avare, Le Malade imaginaire, and Le
Bourgeois Gentilhomme. His plays have been so popular around the world
French language is sometimes dubbed as "the language of Molière"
(la langue de Molière), just like English is considered as "the
language of Shakespeare".
French literature and poetry flourished even more in the 18th and 19th
centuries. Denis Diderot's best-known works are Jacques the Fatalist
and Rameau's Nephew. He is however best known for being the main
redactor of the Encyclopédie, 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. During that same century, Charles Perrault
was a prolific writer of famous children's fairy tales including Puss
in Boots, Cinderella,
Sleeping Beauty and Bluebeard. At the start of
the 19th century, symbolist poetry was an important movement in French
literature, with poets such as Charles Baudelaire,
Paul Verlaine and
The 19th century saw the writings of many renowned French authors.
Victor Hugo is sometimes seen as "the greatest French writer of all
times" for excelling in all literary genres. The preface of his
play Cromwell is considered to be the manifesto of the Romantic
Les Contemplations and
La Légende des siècles
La Légende des siècles are
considered as "poetic masterpieces", Hugo's verse having been
compared to that of Shakespeare,
Dante and Homer. His novel Les
Misérables is widely seen as one of the greatest novel ever
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Hunchback of Notre Dame has remained immensely
Other major authors of that century include
Alexandre Dumas (The Three
Musketeers and The Count of Monte-Cristo),
Jules Verne (Twenty
Thousand Leagues Under the Sea),
Émile Zola (Les Rougon-Macquart),
Honoré de Balzac
Honoré de Balzac (La Comédie humaine), Guy de Maupassant, Théophile
Stendhal (The Red and the Black, The Charterhouse of
Parma), whose works are among the most well known in
France and the
Prix Goncourt is a French literary prize first awarded in
1903. Important writers of the 20th century include Marcel
Proust, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Albert Camus, and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Antoine de Saint Exupéry
Antoine de Saint Exupéry wrote Little Prince, which has remained
popular for decades with children and adults around the world. As
of 2014[update], French authors had more Literature Nobel Prizes than
those of any other nation. The first
Nobel Prize in Literature
was a French author, while France's latest Nobel prize in literature
is Patrick Modiano, who was awarded the prize in 2014. Jean-Paul
Sartre was also the first nominee in the committee's history to refuse
the prize in 1964.
Main article: French philosophy
Medieval philosophy was dominated by
Scholasticism until the emergence
of Humanism in the Renaissance.
Modern philosophy began in
the 17th century with the philosophy of René Descartes, Blaise
Pascal, and Nicolas Malebranche. Descartes revitalised Western
philosophy, which had been declined after the Greek and Roman
Meditations on First Philosophy
Meditations on First Philosophy changed the primary
object of philosophical thought and raised some of the most
fundamental problems for foreigners such as Spinoza, Leibniz, Hume,
Berkeley, and Kant.
René Descartes, founder of modern philosophy.
French philosophers produced some of the most important political
works of the Age of Enlightenment. In The Spirit of the Laws, Baron de
Montesquieu theorised the principle of separation of powers, which has
been implemented in all liberal democracies since it was first applied
in the United States.
Voltaire came to embody the Enlightenment with
his defence of civil liberties, such as the right to a free trial and
freedom of religion.
19th-century French thought was targeted at responding to the social
malaise following the French Revolution. Rationalist philosophers such
Victor Cousin and Auguste Comte, who called for a new social
doctrine, were opposed by reactionary thinkers such as Joseph de
Louis de Bonald
Louis de Bonald and Félicité Robert de Lamennais, who
blamed the rationalist rejection of traditional order. De Maistre is
considered, together with the Englishman Edmund Burke, one of the
founders of European conservatism, while Comte is regarded as the
founder of positivism, which
Émile Durkheim reformulated as a basis
for social research.
In the 20th century, partly as a reaction to the perceived excesses of
positivism, French spiritualism thrived with thinkers such as Henri
Bergson and it influenced American pragmatism and Whitehead's version
of process philosophy. Meanwhile, French epistemology became a
prominent school of thought with Jules Henri Poincaré, Gaston
Jean Cavaillès and Jules Vuillemin. Influenced by German
phenomenology and existentialism, the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre
gained a strong influence after World War II, and
France became the craddle of postmodern philosophy
with Jean-François Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard,
Jacques Derrida and
Main article: Music of France
France has a long and varied musical history. It experienced a golden
age in the 17th century thanks to Louis XIV, who employed a number of
talented musicians and composers in the royal court. The most renowned
composers of this period include Marc-Antoine Charpentier, François
Couperin, Michel-Richard Delalande,
Jean-Baptiste Lully and Marin
Marais, 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 reached some prestige, and
today he is still one of the most renowned French composers. Rameau
became the dominant composer of
French opera and the leading French
composer for the harpsichord.[full citation needed]
Hector Berlioz 1863
French composers played an important role during the music of the 19th
and early 20th century, which is considered to be the Romantic music
Romantic music emphasised a surrender to nature, a fascination
with the past and the supernatural, the exploration of unusual,
strange and surprising sounds, and a focus on national identity. This
period was also a golden age for operas. French composers from the
Romantic era included:
Hector Berlioz (best known for his Symphonie
Georges Bizet (best known for Carmen, which has become
one of the most popular and frequently performed operas), Gabriel
Fauré (best known for his Pavane, Requiem, and nocturnes), Charles
Gounod (best known for his Ave Maria and his opera Faust), Jacques
Offenbach (best known for his 100 operettas of the 1850s–1870s and
his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann),
Édouard Lalo (best
known for his
Symphonie espagnole for violin and orchestra and his
Cello Concerto in D minor),
Jules Massenet (best known for his operas,
of which he wrote more than thirty, the most frequently staged are
Manon (1884) and
Werther (1892)) and
Camille Saint-Saëns (he has many
frequently-performed works, including The Carnival of the Animals,
Danse macabre, Samson and Delilah (Opera), Introduction and Rondo
Capriccioso, and his Symphony No. 3 (Organ Symphony)).
Claude Debussy 1900
Later came precursors of modern classical music.
Érik Satie was a key
member of the early 20th century Parisian avant-garde, best known for
his Gymnopédies. Francis Poulenc's best known works are his piano
Trois mouvements perpétuels (1919), the ballet Les biches
Concert champêtre (1928) for harpsichord and orchestra,
Dialogues des Carmélites
Dialogues des Carmélites (1957), and the Gloria (1959) for
soprano, choir and orchestra.
Maurice Ravel and
Claude Debussy are the
most prominent figures associated with
Impressionist music. Debussy
was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early
20th centuries, and his use of non-traditional scales and chromaticism
influenced many composers who followed. Debussy's music is noted
for its sensory content and frequent usage of atonality. The two
composers invented new musical forms and new
sounds. Ravel's piano compositions, such as Jeux d'eau, Miroirs, Le
tombeau de Couperin and Gaspard de la nuit, demand considerable
virtuosity. His mastery of orchestration is evident in the Rapsodie
espagnole, Daphnis et Chloé, his arrangement of Modest Mussorgsky's
Pictures at an Exhibition
Pictures at an Exhibition and his orchestral work
Boléro (1928). More
recently, the middle of the 20th century, Maurice Ohana, Pierre
Pierre Boulez contributed to the evolutions of
contemporary classical music.
Serge Gainsbourg, one of the world's most influential popular
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, known as chanson
française, has also remained very popular. Among the most important
French artists of the century are Édith Piaf, Georges Brassens, Léo
Charles Aznavour and Serge Gainsbourg. Although there are very
few rock bands in
France compared to English-speaking countries,
bands such as Noir Désir, Mano Negra, Niagara,
Les Rita Mitsouko
Les Rita Mitsouko and
more recently Superbus, Phoenix and Gojira, or Shaka Ponk, have
reached worldwide popularity.
Daft Punk, pioneers of the French house.
Other French artists with international careers have been popular in
several countries, for example female singers Dalida, Mireille
Mathieu, Mylène Farmer and Nolwenn Leroy,[verification
needed] electronic music pioneers Jean-Michel Jarre, Laurent Garnier
and Bob Sinclar, and later
Martin Solveig and David Guetta. In the
1990s and 2000s (decade), electronic duos Daft Punk, Justice 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
Opera (with its two
Palais Garnier and Opéra Bastille), the Opéra National de
Théâtre du Châtelet
Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, the Théâtre du Capitole
Toulouse and the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux. As for music
festivals, there are several events organised, the most popular being
Eurockéennes (a word play which sounds in French as "European")
and Rock en Seine. The Fête de la Musique, imitated by many foreign
cities, was first launched by the
French government in 1982.
Major music halls and venues in
Le Zénith sites
present in many cities and other places in
Théâtre Mogador, Élysée Montmartre, etc.).
Main article: Cinema of France
Palme d'Or from the Cannes Film Festival, one of the "Big Three"
film festivals alongside the
Venice Film Festival
Venice Film Festival and Berlin
International Film Festival.
France has historical and strong links with cinema, with two
Auguste and Louis Lumière
Auguste and Louis Lumière (known as the Lumière Brothers)
having created cinema in 1895. Several important cinematic
movements, including the late 1950s and 1960s Nouvelle Vague, began in
the country. It is noted for having a strong film industry, due in
part to protections afforded by the French government.
a leader in filmmaking, as of 2015[update] producing more films than
any other European country. The nation also hosts the Cannes
Festival, one of the most important and famous film festivals in the
Apart from its strong and innovative film tradition,
France has also
been a gathering spot for artists from across
Europe and the world.
For this reason, French cinema is sometimes intertwined with the
cinema of foreign nations. Directors from nations such as Poland
(Roman Polanski, Krzysztof Kieślowski, and Andrzej Żuławski),
Gaspar Noé and Edgardo Cozarinsky),
Alexeieff, Anatole Litvak),
Austria (Michael Haneke), and Georgia
(Géla Babluani, Otar Iosseliani) are prominent in the ranks of French
cinema. Conversely, French directors have had prolific and influential
careers in other countries, such as Luc Besson, Jacques Tourneur, or
Francis Veber in the United States.
Although the French film market is dominated by Hollywood,
the only nation in the world where American films make up the smallest
share of total film revenues, at 50%, compared with 77% in
69% in Japan. French films account for 35% of the total film
revenues of France, which is the highest percentage of national film
revenues in the developed world outside the United States, compared to
Spain and 8% in the UK.
France is in 2013 the 2nd exporter
of films in the world after the United States.
France had for centuries been the cultural center of
the world, although its dominant position has been surpassed by
the United States. Subsequently,
France takes steps in protecting and
promoting its culture, becoming a leading advocate of the cultural
exception. The nation succeeded in convincing all EU members to
refuse to include culture and audiovisuals in the list of liberalised
sectors of the WTO in 1993. Moreover, this decision was confirmed
in a voting in the
UNESCO 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.
Main article: French fashion
Chanel's headquarters on the Place Vendôme, Paris.
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
Haute couture is, in France, a legally protected name,
guaranteeing certain quality standards.
The association of
France with fashion and style (French: la mode)
dates largely to the reign of Louis XIV when the luxury goods
France came increasingly under royal control and the
French royal court became, arguably, the arbiter of taste and style in
France renewed its dominance of the high fashion (French:
couture or haute couture) industry in the years 1860–1960 through
the establishing of the great couturier houses such as Chanel, Dior,
and Givenchy. The French perfume industry is world leader in its
sector and is centered on the town of Grasse.
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, Thierry Mugler, Claude
Jean-Paul Gaultier and
Christian Lacroix in the 1970s and
1980s. The 1990s saw a conglomeration of many French couture houses
under luxury giants and multinationals such as LVMH.
Main article: Telecommunications in France
Le Figaro was founded in 1826; many of France's most prominent authors
have written in its columns over the decades, and it is still
considered a newspaper of record.
Best-selling daily national newspapers in
France are Le Parisien
France (with 460,000 sold daily),
Le Monde and Le
Figaro, with around 300,000 copies sold daily, but also L'Équipe,
dedicated to sports coverage. In the past years, free dailies
made a breakthrough, with Metro, 20 Minutes 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 specialised weekly
magazines published in the country.
The most influential news magazines are the left-wing Le Nouvel
Observateur, centrist L'Express and right-wing
Le Point (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 and ELLE, which have foreign versions. Influential weeklies
also include investigative and satirical papers Le Canard Enchaîné
and Charlie Hebdo, as well as
Paris Match. Like in most industrialised
nations, the print media have been affected by a severe crisis in the
past decade. In 2008, the government launched a major initiative to
help the sector reform and become 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 centralised 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 that the government allowed free broadcasting in the
territory, ending state monopoly on radio. French television was
partly liberalised 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
introduced digital television all over the territory, allowing the
creation of other channels.
The four existing national channels are now owned by state-owned
France Télévisions, while public broadcasting group Radio
France run five national radio stations. Among these public media are
Radio France Internationale, which broadcasts programmes in French all
over the world, and Franco-German TV channel TV5 Monde. In 2006, the
government created global news channel
France 24. Long-established TV
TF1 (privatised in 1987),
France 2 and
France 3 have the
highest shares, while radio stations RTL,
Europe 1 and state-owned
France Inter are the least listened to.
Gallic rooster on top of a war memorial in La Rochelle
According to a
BBC poll in 2010, based on 29,977 responses in 28
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. A global opinion poll for the
France ranked the fourth most positively viewed nation in the
world (behind Germany,
Canada and the UK) in 2014.
Marianne, in a painting by Eugène Delacroix, La Liberté guidant le
peuple (Liberty Leading the People) (1830)
According to a poll in 2011, the French were found to have the highest
level of religious tolerance and to be the country where the highest
proportion of the population defines its identity primarily in term of
nationality and not religion. As of 2011, 75% of French had a
favourable view of the US, making
France one of the most pro-American
countries in the world. As of 2017[update], the favourable view
of the US had dropped to 46%.
In January 2010, the magazine International Living ranked
"best country to live in", ahead of 193 other countries, for the fifth
French Revolution continues to permeate the country's collective
memory. The tricolour Flag of France, the anthem "La
Marseillaise", and the motto Liberté, egalité, fraternité, defined
in Title 1 of the Constitution as national symbols, all emerged during
the cultural ferment of the early revolution, along with Marianne, a
common national personification. In addition, Bastille Day, the
national holiday, commemorates the storming of the Bastille on 14 July
A common and traditional symbol of the
French people is the Gallic
rooster. Its origins date back to Antiquity, since the
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.
Main article: French cuisine
French wines are usually made to accompany French cuisine
French cuisine is renowned for being one of the finest in the
world. 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 is more commonly used in
the South. Moreover, each region of
France has iconic traditional
Cassoulet in the Southwest,
Choucroute in Alsace, Quiche
in the Lorraine region,
Beef bourguignon in the Bourgogne, provençal
Tapenade, etc. France's most renowned products are wines,
including Champagne, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, and
Beaujolais as well as a
large variety of different cheeses, such as Camembert, Roquefort and
Brie. There are more than 400 different varieties.
A meal often consists of three courses, hors d'œuvre or entrée
(introductory course, sometimes soup), plat principal (main course),
fromage (cheese course) and/or dessert, sometimes with a salad offered
before the cheese or dessert. Hors d'œuvres include terrine de saumon
au basilic, lobster bisque, foie gras,
French onion soup
French onion soup or a croque
monsieur. The plat principal could include a pot au feu or steak
frites. The dessert could be mille-feuille pastry, a macaron, an
éclair, crème brûlée, mousse au chocolat, crêpes, or Café
Some French cheeses with fruits
French cuisine is also regarded as a key element of the quality of
life and the attractiveness of France. A French publication, the
Michelin guide, awards Michelin stars for excellence to a select few
establishments. The acquisition or loss of a star can have
dramatic effects on the success of a restaurant. By 2006, the Michelin
Guide had awarded 620 stars to French restaurants, at that time more
than any other country, although the guide also inspects more
France than in any other country (by 2010,
awarded as many Michelin stars as France, despite having half the
number of Michelin inspectors working there).
In addition to its wine tradition,
France is also a major producer of
beer and rum. The three main French brewing regions are Alsace (60% of
national production), Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Lorraine. A meal often
consists of three courses, hors d'œuvre or entrée (introductory
course, sometimes soup), plat principal (main course), fromage (cheese
course) or dessert, sometimes with a salad offered before the cheese
France produces rum via distilleries located on
islands such as
Reunion Island in the southern Indian Ocean.
Main article: Sport in France
Starting in 1903, the
Tour de France
Tour de France is the oldest and most
prestigious of Grands Tours, and the world's most famous cycling
Popular sports played in
France include football, judo, tennis,
rugby and pétanque.
France has hosted events such as the 1938
and 1998 FIFA World Cups, and the 2007 Rugby World Cup. and
will host the 2023
Rugby World Cup
Rugby World Cup following the announcement on
Wednesday, 15 November 2017 at London at 13:00 ( GMT). The country
Euro 2016. The
Stade de France
Stade de France in Saint-Denis is
France's largest stadium and was the venue for the 1998 FIFA World Cup
2007 Rugby World Cup
2007 Rugby World Cup finals. Since 1903,
France hosts the annual
Tour de France, the most famous road bicycle race in the
France is famous for its
24 Hours of Le Mans
24 Hours of Le Mans sports
car endurance race. Several major tennis tournaments take place
in France, including the
Paris Masters and the French Open, one of the
four Grand Slam tournaments. French martial arts include
Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Olympic Games
France has a close association with the Modern Olympic Games; it was a
French aristocrat, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who suggested the Games'
revival, at the end of the 19th century. After
awarded the first Games, in reference to the Olympics' Greek origins,
Paris hosted the second Games in 1900.
Paris was the first home
of the International Olympic Committee, before it moved to
Lausanne. Since 1900,
France has hosted the Olympics on 4 further
occasions: the 1924 Summer Olympics, again in Paris and three
Winter Games (1924 in Chamonix, 1968 in
Grenoble and 1992 in
Zinedine Zidane was named the best European footballer of the past 50
years in a 2004
Both the national football team and the national rugby union team are
nicknamed "Les Bleus" in reference to the team's shirt colour as well
as the national French tricolour flag. Football is the most popular
sport in France, with over 1,800,000 registered players, and over
18,000 registered clubs. The football team is among the most
successful in the world, particularly at the start of the 21st
century, with one
FIFA World Cup
FIFA World Cup victory in 1998, one FIFA World
Cup second place in 2006, and two
UEFA European Championships in
1984 and 2000.
The top national football club competition is Ligue 1.
produced some of the greatest players in the world, including three
time FIFA World Player of the Year Zinedine Zidane, three time Ballon
d'Or recipient Michel Platini, record holder for most goals scored at
a World Cup Just Fontaine, first football player to receive the
Légion d'honneur Raymond Kopa, and the record goalscorer for the
French national team Thierry Henry.
Stade de France
Stade de France was built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, and is
listed as a
UEFA category four stadium.
The French Open, also called Roland-Garros, is a major tennis
tournament held over two weeks between late May and early June at the
Stade Roland-Garros in Paris. It is the premier clay court tennis
championship event in the world and the second of four annual Grand
Rugby union is popular, particularly in
Paris and the southwest of
France. The national rugby union team has competed at every Rugby
World Cup, and takes part in the annual Six Nations Championship.
Stemming from a strong domestic league, the French rugby team has won
16 Six Nations Championships, including 8 grand slams; and has reached
the semi-final of the
Rugby World Cup
Rugby World Cup 6 times and the final 3 times.
Rugby league in France
Rugby league in France is mostly played and followed in the South of
France, in cities such as
Perpignan and Toulouse. The Catalans Dragons
Toulouse Olympique are the most notable clubs currently playing in
Super League and the RFL Championship is the top-tier rugby league
competitions in Europe. The
Elite One Championship
Elite One Championship is the professional
competition for rugby league clubs in France.
In recent decades,
France has produced world-elite basketball players,
most notably Tony Parker. The French National Basketball Team won gold
at the FIBA EuroBasket 2013. The national team has won two Olympic
Silver Medals: in 2000 and 1948.
Outline of France
France in the 1920s
^ For information about regional languages see Languages of France.
^ Established the Kingdom of the West
Franks (the Kingdom of France)
Carolingian Empire of Francia.
European Union since 1993.
^ Established the Fifth Republic
^ French National Geographic Institute data, which includes bodies of
^ French Land Register data, which exclude lakes, ponds and glaciers
larger than 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) as
well as the estuaries of rivers.
^ Whole of the French
Republic except the overseas territories in the
^ French overseas territories in the
Pacific Ocean only.
^ Time zones across the French
Republic span from UTC-10 (French
Polynesia) to UTC+12 (Wallis and Futuna).
Daylight saving time
Daylight saving time is observed in metropolitan
France and Saint
Pierre and Miquelon only.
^ The overseas regions and collectivities form part of the French
telephone numbering plan, but have their own country calling codes:
French Guiana +594,
Saint Pierre and Miquelon
Saint Pierre and Miquelon +508. The overseas territories
are not part of the French telephone numbering plan; their country
calling codes are:
New Caledonia +687,
French Polynesia +689; Wallis
and Futuna +681.
^ In addition to .fr, several other Internet TLDs are used in French
overseas départements and territories: .re, .mq, .gp, .tf, .nc, .pf,
.gf and .yt.
France also uses .eu, shared with other members
of the European Union. The
.cat domain is used in Catalan-speaking
French Guiana is located in South America;
Guadeloupe and Martinique
are in the Caribbean Sea; and
Mayotte are in the Indian
Ocean, off the coast of Africa. All five are considered integral parts
of the republic.
France also comprises
Saint Pierre and Miquelon
Saint Pierre and Miquelon in
Saint Barthélemy and
Saint Martin in the Caribbean;
French Polynesia, New Caledonia,
Wallis and Futuna
Wallis and Futuna and Clipperton
Island in the Pacific Ocean; and finally the French Southern and
^ The present-day state of
Austria did not exist as such, its
territory was part of the
Habsburg Monarchy which also comprised the
present-day states of Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belgium,
Slovenia and Croatia: that
Habsburg Monarchy was usually called
^ The last sacre was that of Charles X, 29 May 1825.
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^ (in French) Observatoire de la Presse, Presse Magazine –
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Coordinates: 47°N 2°E / 47°N 2°E / 47; 2
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