France

Useful informations
LocationWestern Europe
NeighborhoodSpain, Andorra, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium
Area643,801 km2
Density116 persons/km2
CapitalParis
CurrencyEuro (EUR; €)

France’s national anthem is called “La Marseillaise”, which was written and composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, and the motto is “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité”, which translates to “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. France is organized as a unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic and is divided into 18 administrative regions, including 13 metropolitan regions and 5 overseas regions (French Guyana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion). France’s total population is about 66.689.000 people. Other important persons of french heritage living outsideFrance can be found in Canada (about 11.900.000 persons), United States of America ( some 11.800.000 people), Belgium (6.200.000), Argentina (6.000.000) or Great Britain (3.000.000). The official currency in France is the Euro (EUR).

French citizens enjoy a high standard of living, and the country performs well in international rankings of education, healthcare, lifeexpectancy, civilliberties, and human development.France is a founding member of the United Nations, where it serves as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. It is a member of the Group of 7, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and La Francophonie. France is a founding and leading member state of the European Union (EU).

The origins of France’s history can be traced back at the time when the Franks imposed their domination of Roman Gaul, during the 5th century.

In this new framework, France tried to secure a hegemonic position in Europe through a policy of expansion in the direction of the Italian peninsula, at that time deeply fragmented into rival state units.

It was right about this time that a seventeenyear-old woman came along by the name of Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc). In 1429, she persuaded FrenchlegitimistCharles VII that she had a divinemission from God to expel the English from France and usher in Charles as King. Joan of Arc was convicted of performing witchcraft and heresy by a tribunal of French church officials and subsequently sold to the English in 1430, where she was burned at the stake.Charles VII did finally return to Paris in 1437, however, it was not until 1453 that the English were ultimately driven from French territory. In 1491, at the Château de Langeais, Charles VIII wed Anne de Bretagne, signaling the unification of France with independent Brittany.

Edward III, King of England and Duke of Aquitaine, grandson of Philip IV the Fair, proclaimed its right to the French crown in 1336, assumed the title of King of France in 1337 and began the hostilities by laying siege to Cambrai in 1339.

It was the French Revolution, which began in 1789, that put an end to absolutism and the privileges of the nobility, in a word, the old regime. Together with the French Revolution, it began a new phase of history, not only of the French but also of the European continent and the world itself. The Revolution led to the creation of a type of constitutional monarchy, then in 1792 of a republic, which then led to the dictatorship of the Jacobin Terror, and finally the establishment of a moderate Republican regime. Shortly after, Napoleon Bonaparte assumed the title of Emperor in 1804.

Napoleon, who established his dictatorship over the country, exercised a dual function, respecting the development of the revolution: on one hand, he was one of the main architects of settling the country in a moderate way; on the other hand, through his military campaigns, he exported outside the country some of the essential legal and social gains of the revolution, radically redrawing the geopolitical map of the continent. Napoleon was finally defeated, between 1814 and 1815, by a broad international coalition that opened the process of restoring the monarchies, which he dispossessed.

During the 19th century,the French history continued to be marked by deep political and institutional discontinuity, in the context of significant economic and social modernization processes.

From 1870 to present day, France has remained a republican state, but has experienced profound changes in its form of government. The Third Republic had in fact successors, respectively, in 1945 and in 1958, a fourth and a fifth republic with a very different structure regarding the political and institutional level.

During the war, GermanydividedFrance into a zone under direct German occupation (in the north and along the western coast) and a puppet state led by aging WWI heroGeneral Petain in the spa town of Vichy, the demarcationline between the two areas ran through Château de Cheniceau in the Loire Valley.

Allied troops, most of them American, stormed the beaches at Normandyand Brittany, liberatingboth. Marching on, they also liberated Paris on 25August with the help of Free French units, sent in ahead of the Americans, so that the French would have the honour of liberating their own country.

After World War II, France had to accept the dissolution of its colonial empire in Indochina andAlgeria, the latter going through a dramatic and violent resistance.

 

The highest mountains of France are of tertiary origin, which strongly formed during the Quaternary glaciation: the Alps form a diaphragm into the Po Valley, with Europe’s highest peaks (including FrenchChamonix-Mont-Blanc and Italian Courmayeur, the Mont Blanc massif with the highest point at 4.807 m); the Pyrenees form an equal aperture to the Iberian Peninsula but less higher (Mount Maladeta at 3.404 m). The French side of the Pyrenees is very steep, less than that of the western Alps. Having a little more alpine relief, but still at a high altitude, are the Franco-Swiss Jura chains.

In the northern region the waters come together in three major river basins: the Rhine, which collects nearly all the descendants waters from the Vosges; that of the Seine (with its confluents: Marne, Oise, Eure, Aube, Yonne, Loing), where the waters of the Morvan and the Plateau de Langres are coming at a confluence; and that of the Meuse, corresponding to Lorraine, where the lack of tributaries is caused by catches (some in historical times) operated to its disadvantage from the neighboring basins.

The geographical situation of France causes a wide variety of climate types. It can be distinguished an oceanic climate zone, with weak temperature range (mild winter, late spring, relatively cool summer with average annual rainfall of 800-1.000 mm), limited to a narrow range, in south, along the Landes, which then broadens to include the northern parts of Brittany and the Cotentin peninsula and finally reaching Calais. In the east, in correspondence with the Paris basin, there is a second zone, where the temperature range is greater and the rainfall reduces to about 500-750 mm annually.

A little farther in the east, between the Morvan and the Argonne, to the Rhine, it gradually changes into a continental climate type with harsh winters and frequent snowfalls. Summers are hot and disturbed by storms, the rainfall is considerable, especially in the mountains (Argonne – 1.200 mm, Morvan – 1.500 mm, Vosges – 1.700 mm), while the depressions are indicating the minimum annual rainfall across the country (Colmar – 500 mm, the Limagne –  600 mm).

In France, 3% of the total land area is under protection. The flora of the country has a characteristic cross-section of the diversity of Europe. It ranges from alpine lichens and mosses to subtropical species such as olive trees and oranges. In the Mediterranean climate area,there can be found especially Aleppo pines, holm and cork oak, cypress and sycamore trees. Some forested areas on the Mediterranean coast have adapted to the dry conditions, as a result, sclerophyllous plants thrive (maquis). In the south of France there are cultivated lots of olives, almonds and wine. On the Atlantic coast, especially in the southern portion, pine forests are occupying large areas.

The fauna of France presents the richest and varied marine life in Europe: in the Mediterranean waters, there are tuna, sardines, anchovies, coral and sponges, while in the English Channel and the Atlantic, there are cod, sardines and herring. Numerous species are freshwater fishes: 46 out of 100 are European, some imported from the United States have adapted and extended to all regions, such as the bluegill and the catfish. The terrestrial fauna is relatively rich, owning more than a third of the Mammals of Europe.France only lacksfauna found in the absolutely southern Europeanlandforms, the ones typically adapted to northern climate and the species which can be found in the desert steppes of Eastern Europe.

French is the result of the linguistic contaminations through which Vulgar Latin underwent in Romanized Gaul, especially starting from the 5th century.

Do not confuse these variants of the French with those who are very often mistakenly called the “dialects” spoken in France. Exactly as in the case of Italian, in fact, the latter can not be considered simple variants of the French. There are in fact autonomous languages that have undergone a progressive socio-cultural decline against the advance of the idiom of Paris, until being relegated in a heavily minority dimension.

France is a secular country, and freedom of religion is a constitutional right. There is a strict separation of the church and state, while public life is kept completely secular. Catholicism is the predominant religion in France for over a millennium, even if today is not practiced as actively as before. Among the 47.000 religious buildings that can be found in France, 94% are Catholic. While in 1965, 81% of the French declared themselves as Catholic, in 2009, this proportion had fallen to 64%, although most of them are baptized. In addition, while 27% of the French in 1952 went to religious services at least once a week, this figure indicates that only 5% of the French people are still going to church in 2006.

In 2004, a law which prohibited the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols in public schools (Act No. 2004-228 of 15 March 2004) was enacted. In June 2009, the Communist Depute, Andre Gerin said, “the burqa is not welcome in France”. He then asked for and obtained in July 2009 with the help of a bipartisan support and the backing of President Nicolas Sarkozy, the creation of a parliamentary information mission on the wearing of the niqab. The parliamentary mission was composed of 32 representatives from different political groups: 17 UMP deputies, 11 socialists and radicals, 2 from the New Centre (NC) and two from GDR (Groups of Greens and Communists). The mission metfor a period of 6 months to investigate the specific facts and make a report on it. This mission came to an end on 11 October 2010 and vote a law which banned facial concealment in public spaces, without making any explicit reference to religion.

On UNESCO’s list there can be found 37 cultural objectives,3 natural objectives and 1 mixed objective in France:

Cultural Objectives

  • Abbey Church of Saint-Savin sur Gartempe
  • Amiens Cathedral
  • Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments
  • Belfries of Belgium and France
  • Bordeaux, Port of the Moon
  • Chauvet-Pont d’Arc, Ardèche
  • Episcopal City of Albi
  • Fortifications of Vauban
  • From the Great Saltworks of Salins-les-Bains to the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans, the Production of Open-pan Salt
  • Historic Centre of Avignon: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge
  • Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne
  • Historic Site of Lyons
  • Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion
  • Le Havre, the City Rebuilt by Auguste Perret
  • Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay
  • Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin
  • Palace and Park of Fontainebleau
  • Palace and Park of Versailles
  • The Causses and the Cévennes, Mediterranean agro-pastoral Cultural Landscape
  • The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes
  • Vézelay, Church and Hill
  • Etc.

   Natural Objectives

  • Gulf of Porto: Calanche of Piana, Gulf of Girolata, Scandola Reserve
  • Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems
  • Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island

Mixed Objectives

  • Pyrénées – Mont Perdu

 

Demography

France is the second most populated country of the European Union. The population, which at the beginning of the 18th century was about 20 million inhabitants, at the 1801 census, within the country’s current boundaries there were 28.300.000 inhabitants or about 16% of the European population.

The official language of the country is French, but there are important minorities such as Bretons, Basques, Catalans, minorities of German origin and Flemish

 

After a long period of stagnation manifested in the years before the First World War and partly connected with the limited population growth, the French economy, even amid ups and downs in the course of the 20th century, has made a radical process of renewal and improvement in the industrial field and in the agricultural one, which led the country to rank among the most economically advanced countries of Europe.

Among the wine districts, besides those intended for mass production (Languedoc), there are also a lot of them dedicated to high quality wines: Champagne (sparkling wines), the Middle and Lower Loire, the South-West (Bordeaux, Medoc), l’East (Burgundy).

The fruit and vegetable crops reach their maximum concentrations in Île-de-France, along the Loire, in Brittany, in the Rhône Valley and in the Mediterranean area. In the latter, fruits are very widespread, for which reason France occupies the third place in Europe, exporting lots of quantities mainly to Germany.

Fishing plays a secondary role, despite being widely practiced along the north-western coast, home to the largest fishing ports.

In the manufacturing sector, the gap between France’s North-East and South-West is clearly seen.

 

Transportation

There are a total of 9.501 km of railway in France, mostly operated by SNCF, the French national railway company.

The TGV has set many world speed records, the most recent on 3 April 2007, when a new version of the TGV dubbed the V150 with larger wheels than the usual TGV, and a stronger 25.000 hp (18,600 kW) engine, broke the world speed record for conventional rail trains, reaching 574.8 km/h.

The French natural and man-made waterways network is the largest in Europe extending to over 8.500 km, of which VNF(English: Navigable Waterways of France), the French navigation authority, manages the navigable sections.

There are approximately 950.000 km of roads in France. The French motorway network or auto-route system consists largely of toll roads, except for around large cities and in parts of the north.

France currently counts 30.500 km of major trunk roads or routes nationales and state-owned motorways. By means of comparison, the routes départementalesare covering a total distance of 365.000 km.

Six cities in France currently have metro service. Full metro systems are in operation in Paris (16 lines), Lyon (4 lines) and Marseille (2 lines). Light metro (VAL-type) systems are in use in Lille (2 lines), Toulouse (2 lines) and Rennes (1 line).

There are approximately 478 airports in France and by a 2005 estimate, there are three heliports. 288 of the airports have paved runways, with the remaining 199 are unpaved.

People

Discover some of the most popular persons who live / lived in France.

J J Rousseau

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Was a Francophone Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of the 18th century. His political philosophy influenced the Enlightenment in France and across Europe, as well as aspects of the French Revolution and the overall development of modern political and educational thought. Rousseau was born in Geneva, Switzerland in a small bourgeois family. Jean-Jacques father and […]

Louis Pasteur

Louis Pasteur

Was a French chemist and microbiologist renowned for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation and pasteurization. He is remembered for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and preventions of diseases, and his discoveries have saved countless lives ever since. He reduced mortality from puerperal fever, and created the first vaccines for rabies […]

Pascal

Blaise Pascal

He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen. Pascal’s earliest work was in the natural and applied sciences where he made important contributions to the study of fluids, and clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum by generalizing the work of Evangelista Torricelli. Pascal also wrote in […]

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Culinary

Discover some of the traditional receips from France.

Bordeaux Wine

Bordeaux Wine

A Bordeaux wine is any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of France, centred on the city of Bordeaux and covering the whole area of the Gironde department, with a total vineyard area of over 120,000 hectares. Average vintages produce over 700 million bottles of Bordeaux wine, ranging from large quantities of everyday table wine, […]

Moules marinière

Moules marinière

Ingredients: 1,75 – 2kg ofmussels 30g butter or margarine + extra (1 teaspoon) 2 shallots 15 cl dry white wine 1 teaspoon of flour Parsley Salt and Pepper   Steps: Scrape and wash well the mussels. Put them in a pan with 1 pat of butter, chopped shallots and white wine. Cook them openin a […]

Salade Lyonnaise

Salade Lyonnaise

Ingredients: 1 curly endive 120g thin slices of salted or smoked bacon chest 100 g of bread 4 eggs (extra fresh) 10g butter 1 garlic clove 1 shallot 3 tablespoons of peanut oil 1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar 1 dl of white vinegar (to poach eggs) Salt and Pepper   Steps: Wash the endive carefuly […]

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