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French speaking
Language French
Capital Paris
Other main cities Lyon, Marseille, Lille, Toulouse, Bordeaux
Area (km2) 551,500
Population 58,375,000
Currency Euro
History of France
The République Française comprises Metropolitan France (the famous hexagon) and Corsica, and 10 overseas territories including those in South America (French Guiana) the West Indies (Martinique) and other dependencies such as French Polynesia and New Caledonia.

France's strongly urban population remains mainly native-born with an increasing population of Algerian, Moroccan, Italian and Turkish origin. French remains the language of the majority though some regional variations do exist, Dutch is spoken in Flanders, dialects of German in Alsace & Lorraine and regional languages like Breton in Brittany and Basque and Catalan in the Pyrénées.

Archaeological evidence indicates that human beings have lived in what is now France for at least 100,000 years. After Greek, Celtic, Gaul and Roman domination, the Germanic Franks occupied in the 5th Century AD.

The dynasties established by Charlemagne and then Hugh Capet led to a long period of consolidation and expansion between the 8th and early 14th Centuries, ended by the 'Hundred Years' War (1337 to 1453), which saw the Black Death wipe out one third of France's population and Joan of Arc incite a French victory over the English. The French Renaissance flowered in the early 1500s, but was followed by poverty for much of the population.

Although the economy flourished under the reign of the Louis', internal strife and further external conflicts eventually brought crushing hardship to the peasantry and in 1789 the French Revolution broke out. Ten chaotic years later, Napoleon Bonaparte took control and the codification of French laws followed.

France then saw empire, monarchy and republic vying for power until in 1875, following further civil and foreign struggle, the Third Republic was established. The two World Wars (1914-1918 and 1939-1945) both inflicted devastating losses, and the latter saw brief control by a pro-German Vichy Government until Charles de Gaulle paved the way for the Fourth Republic at the end of 1946.

The social reform and economic development then begun and continued through to the restoration of de Gaulle in 1958 and the establishment of the Fifth Republic. Economic downswings, strikes and an Arab oil embargo during the 1960s finally forced France to move toward a free-market economy in 1975. In 1981, following a Socialist victory at the polls, François Mitterrand was elected president, followed by former Prime Minister Jacques Chirac in 1995.

About 76 percent of French residents are Roman Catholics, but Muslims, Protestants, and Jews are significant minority groups. France's presidential republic consists of a Parliament, split into the National Assembly and the Senate, and a president, elected for a seven-year term, who designates the Prime Minister and appoints cabinet ministers.

At the local level, France's metropolitan departments are divided into communes, which are governed by municipal councils.

Did you know?
There are no "primitive" languages. All languages have a system of sounds, words and sentences that can adequately communicate the content of culture.
French History
French Speaking
» France
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