National holiday: National Day, July 14.
Nature and climate: A vast plateau covers more than half the nation in the north and west. The greater part of the Atlantic coast have wide sand beaches, except in Brittany and Normandy, where the chalkcliffs often are up to 100 metres high. In the middle of France is the Central Massif, a mountainous plateau that reaches 2000 m.a.s.l. In the east the Alps with the highest peak in Europe, Mont Blanc, reaching 4810 m.a.s.l. In the east also the mountain chains Jura and the Vosges and in the north the Ardennes. In the south the Pyrennes forms the border to Spain and Andorra.
Several big rivers: Loire, Rhône, Seine, Mause, Saône and Garonne.
27% of the nation is forested, mainly by deciduous forest.
Average temperature in January +8°C by the Mediterranean coast, +6°C by the Atlantic coast and close to 0°C in the mountains. In July 22°C by the Mediterranean coast and between 17 and 20°C in the rest of the country.
Percipitation between 600 and 1000 mm.
People: To the greatest part a homogeneous mixture of Celtic, Germanic and Norman tribes. The biggest minority is two million Germans in Elsass-Lothringen. Also some Italians in Provence, some Flemings by the Belgian border, Basques and Catalonians by the Spanish border and Bretons in Brittany.
About 6% of the population are repatriates from the former colonies around the world, mainly from North Africa, and immigrated labour from the Mediterranean neighbours.
Economy: The leading agricultural nation in Western europe. Close to 60% of the area is cultivated. Agriculture occupies 9% of the population.
Grain, dairy products, wine, sugar and meat are exported and accounts for 17% of the export value.
Europe's biggest producer of meat and the worlds biggest producer of wine. France is also known for its cheese production.
Fishing is of fairly small importance, but there are big cultivations of oysters, also sold on export.
France have coal and iron, though not enough for domestic demands, zink, tungsten, uranium, lead, copper, rock salts, oil and natural gas. Oil and natural gas not enough for domestic consumption.
Extensive heavy and mechanical manufacturing on a high technical level occupies, along with trade 45%, of the population.
Most important industry is car manufacturing with several big companies and extensive export. The worlds largest car exporter next to Japan.
Extensive electric and electronic manufacturing.
Second biggest in the world in manufacturing of airplanes.
France is the worlds third manufacturer of weapons.
Extensive chemical industry. Europe's leading manufacturer of textiles.
Tourism is very important. France is every year visited by close to 40 million tourists.
History: France was populated very early. It have the worlds oldest collection of cave paintings, painted 20000 to 12000 BC.
The first peasants settled about 5000 BC.
During the younger Iron Age 500 BC to AD the area was dominated by Celtic tribes and the nation was called Gaul, though it was not a united nation, rather several tribal nations.
About 100 BC Provence was annexed to the Roman Empire and during the years 58 BC to 51 AD the Romans conquered the rest of Gaul.
From about 200 AD German tribes invaded from the north and when the Roman Empire disbanded at the 5th century three Germanic nations were created: the Westgothic, Burgundy and the Frankish.
The Frankish king Klodvig, dead 511, was Christianized and united the realm. About 600 it was divided in two parts, Neustria and Austrasia, and 687, Pippin, the leading official of Austrasia succeeded to unite the two realms again. His son Charles Martell 733 defeated the Moors who barged in from the south and 751 the throne was made a hereditary kingdom.
800 Charles Magnes was crowned German-Roman emperor and the Frankish realm became a European superpower. By his death 843 the realm was divided in three parts, so that his son Charles the Bold inherited an area approximately corresponding to todays France.
During the 9th century the nation was threatened by Vikings and to neutralize them one of their leaders, Rollo, was given Normandy as enfeoffment. The power of the county leaders increased and when the Viking descendent Vilhelm of Normandy conquered England 1066 the English kings gained substantial power over France. This led to the Century War between France and England in 1337.
In the peace 1453 England lost all its French dependencies except Calais, the powers of the king and the parliament was strengthened. The national state was also strengthened by extensive reforms, the administration concentrated and 1491 France was united under one king.
During the 16th century the royal power was strengthened and the realm expanded by different wars against the Habsburg Empire.
There were severe antagonism between catholics and protestants which led to the Huguenot war 1562 to 1598. This war ended when the Huguenot leader Henrik of Navarra ascended the throne. By converting to catholicism he succeeded to settle the conflict. He then said: "Paris ought to be worth a mass".
During the 17th and 18th centuries France strengthened its position as a great power, partly through wars and partly through an active colonization policy throughout the world. But when the freedom of religion for the Huguenotes were withdrawn 1685 it started a mass emigration which was fatal to the economy. By the mid 18th century France lost most if its colonies in North America and India to England. To solve these severe economic problems the first parliament for 175 years was called in 1789. This parliament had three estates: the clergy, the noblesse and the third estate. The third estate had as many delegates as the two other estates together, but the estates only had one vote each.
The third estate demanded one vote for each delegate and when this request was rejected, the third estate constituted itself as a national assembly and swore on the 20th of June not to depart until the nation had a new constitution.
In Paris violencies occurred and on July 14th a crowd stormed the prison of the Bastille, which was the signal for a nationwide upraisal. In August the privileges were repealed and a declaration of the human and civil rights was accepted. 1791 king Ludvig XVI signed the new constitution which shared power between king and a legislative assembly.
1792 the king and the royal family was executed, this led to a contra revolution and a reign of terror with summary proceedings and endless executions in the guillotines.
The general Napoleon Bonaparte seized power in 1799 and ended the revolution. In 1804 he proclaimed himself emperor. Through several wars he and France seized power over most of the European continent and started a blockade against England. 1812 he attacked Russia, but lost most of his army. Then the rest of Europe united against France and 1813 to 1814 marched into France and Napoleon was forced to abdicate and was forced into exile on Elba.
Ludvig XVIII was elected king.
1815 Napoleon returned, Ludvig fled and Napoleon was made emperor again. At Waterloo his army lost against England and Preussia. He was once again dethroned and this time deported to St Helena and Ludvig XVIII reinstalled as king.
1848 saw a new revolution. The king was dethroned and Napoleons nephew, Ludvig Napoleon, was elected president. He extended suffrage and improved the conditions for the working class and after a referendum 1852 he proclaimed himself emperor.
In his reign industry and trade prospered. France was once again a great power.
But the war against Germany 1870 to 1871 was a crushing defeat. A new revolution in Paris proclaimed republic, leading to a bloody civil war.
Somehow the nation recovered very quick economically. The power was now concentrated to the national assembly and the public officials. A number of reforms were passed as compulsory school, freedom of the press, the right for trade unions and municipal selfgoverning.
During this period France built up a new colonies in North and Central Africa and in the Far East.
After World War I Germany refused to pay the war indemnity to France. 1923 France occupied the Ruhr-area, which led to an attempt to reconciliation between France and Germany. In 1939 France, as well as Great Britain, promised to support Poland in case of a German attack.
1940 Germany attacked France and occupied 3/5th of the nation including Paris. One government settled in Vichy and another government was formed by the resistance leader general Charles de Gualle in London.
By liberation 1944 there was an extensive purge against those who had collaborated with the Germans.
After the war French policy have been characterized be the breakdown of the colonial empire and the French aim to form an European Super Power to balance the two Super Powers USA and the Sovjetunion.
Since the war the French government have rigorously controlled the development of industry and trade. This have led to substantial development and in many fields a leading position in the world.