History of France

Travel Guide Europe France History of France

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Introduction

The history of France spans over thousands of years, from being a conquered land to being the conquerer, a change from monarchic rule to the modern republic, transitioning through periods of rebirth, enlightenment and industrial revolution to come out on top as major player of world politics and economy. Alongside power and financial growth, France also leads in the development of arts, architecture, culture and gastronomy. It is hard to imagine the world today without the influence of the French.

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Prehistoric France and Roman Gaul

Arles Ampitheater [1280x768]

Arles Ampitheater [1280x768]

© All Rights Reserved Dodgey

The early traces of human life in France dated back by tens of thousands of year, as evident through archaeological finds including the Lascaux cave paintings and the stone alignments of Carnac. Known as Gaul, it came under Roman power, initially annexed in the southern part of the country and eventually under the lead of Julius Caesar, Gaul fell into Roman hands. The Celtic culture was gradually displaced by Gallo-Roman culture. However, by the 3rd century AD, the Goths and later the Huns asserted their presence. As of 5th century, Roman Empire was on the verge of collapse, paving way for the Franks to move in and settle throughout Gaul.

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Frankish Kingdoms

The collapse of the Roman Empire marked the start of a period of instability and invasions in Gaul. Both the Frankish dynasties of the Merovingians (486-751) and the Carolingians (751-987) failed to bring more than short and periodical political calm. On the other hand, the monastic power rose, thanks to their role in providing an element of continuity. Soon, the monastic realm was dominating the country not only spiritually, but economically too.

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The Middle Ages and the Hundred Years' War

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral

© All Rights Reserved jennrob

Political power in France was very much regional at the turn of the 1st millenium, each with established courts that rivals one another. The king's authority at that point was more religious-centric but by 12th century, the monarchy was becoming increasingly dominant. Growing prosperity and intellects, flourishing fashion/style and model court etiquette, and the birth of Gothic architecture were all hallmarks of this period. When the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) broke between England and France, the country was devastated from war damages, frequent famines and ravaging plagues. It was Joan of Arc who finally evoked nationalism among her countrymen that within a generation, the English were driven out of France.

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Rebirth of France and the Grand Siècle

The renewal of power in France was soon followed with invasion of Italy, and in this period, the ideals of Italian Renaissance spread to France. This marked the beginning of early modern France. In the 16th century, French as a language was favoured as European aristocrats, and at becoming an international language, standardisation and regulation of the language began. In mid-16th century, France was embroiled in war once again, this time over religion. When the turmoil eventually subsided, the country entered a new period of exceptional power and influence. Absolute monarchy was in place, Baroque art thrived and Versailles was de rigueur du jour.

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Enlightenment and Revolution

Versailles, France

Versailles, France

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A period of stability enabled intellectual engagements in France, drawing it into the era of Enlightenment. Philosophers, through their ideas, challenged the aristocratic power that was increasingly unpopular for the excessive spending by the royals and decadent living in Versailles while the rest of the country struggled through financial hardship. It eventually triggered the French Revolution in 1789, culminating in the execution of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette. A new French republic was born.

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Napoleonic France

The period of transition and self-rule did not last long. In 1799, Napoleon staged a coup and declared himself Emperor Napoleon I. He extended his empire and at the height of his power, most of western Europe was under his rule. However a disastrous war against Russia saw him abdicating in 1814 and the French monarchy was restored. The restored monarchy was relatively short-lived as Napoleonic clan mounted their comeback in 1848 and Napoleon I's nephew, Louis Napoleon, became the President of the Second Republic. He subsequently made himself an emperor as Napoleon III. During his reign, the industrial transformation, urbanisation and economic growth of France began. However, his foreign policies were failure after failure, eventually brought the end of his rule.

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The Belle Époque

The Infamous Paris Metro Signs

The Infamous Paris Metro Signs

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The Third Republic was established by the legislature which lasted until 1940 upon World War II. In the decade before World War I, the Belle Époque (Beautiful Era) took place and pushed forward a new height in cultural innovations and artistic transformations. The movement of Art Nouveau reached its peak in this period. However, the politics remained fragile and the country was also divided in the face of money, class and religion. This era is still nostalgically reminisced.

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France and the World Wars

More periods of unrest ensued at the engagement of France in the two world wars. World War I eventually ended on what have come to be known Armistice Day - 11 November (1918) - but not before traumatising the nation was mass slaughter as well as crushing the optimism of the Belle Époque. During World War II, France was partly occupied by Germany and partly under the regime of Vichy France. France was finally liberated with help by allied forces in 1944, and a new Fourth Republic was established under the leadership of General Charles de Gaulle.

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Modern France

La Defense, Paris

La Defense, Paris

© All Rights Reserved Softy

Despite the wartime devastation, France manage to retain its reign as a centre for the avant-garde, attracting talents like Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso to establish their presence in France. A Fifth Republic (which is the current one) was established after the collapse of the Fourth Republic, which stemmed from the Algiers crisis. Today, France is a major political and economic players of the world. It was one of the founding members of European Economic Community (EEC) which eventually evolved into the European Union (EU). France is also a member of United Nations (UN), G8 and G20. Its current president is Mr François Hollande.

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This is version 2. Last edited at 15:33 on Apr 7, 14 by Alain13. 1 article links to this page.

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