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Map of FranceFrance is a country whose metropolitan territory is in western Europe. Besides, it owns a number of colonies in islands and other continents. Metropolitan France, on the southwest, borders upon Spain and Andorra; on the west, upon the Atlantic Ocean; on the north, upon the English Channel; on the northeast, upon Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Germany; on the east, upon Monaco and Italy; and on the southeast, upon the Mediterranean Sea. French people often refer to the metropolitan territory as “the hexagon”, due to its shape, much resembling this geometric figure.

France is a democracy organized into a semi-presidential unitary republic. Economically speaking, it is the sixth power in the world, which clearly shows its great economic development. In political terms, the ideals of French democracy are those included in the declaration of human and citizen rights. France is a charter member of the European Union and also of the United Nations, where it is a permanent member of the Security Council and has the right to vote.

75 million tourists a year confirm that France is a favorite tourist destination. It is historically considered the capital of love, romance, food and wine, as well as the cradle of western democracy.

French history has its origin in the Gaul, which was inhabited by Celtic tribes and received Greek contributions through its main port in the Mediterranean: Marseilles. Also the Romans dealt with the Gaul, but only because of its assimilation into the empire. After the fall of the western Roman Empire, the Gaul was occupied by the Franks, who were the founders of the Merovingian dynasty in the fifth century. This first dynasty was followed by the Carolingian dynasty, so called in honor of Charles Martel, who stopped the Arabs coming from Hispania. Charles Martel’s grandson was the very well-known Charlemagne, who turned the kingdom into the great Carolingian Empire. During his government, he conquered great part of Europe, and there was a significant cultural development known as the “Carolingian Renaissance.” However, during the ninth century, the Carolingian Empire was divided into three parts by his heirs: the western part, nowadays France; the eastern part, considered the origin of the present Germany; and the central part, which included the present territories of Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

France was the center of the feudal system, the crusades, the fairs, the universities and the Renaissance. With the coming of the Bourbons to power, and specially their most important exponent, Louis XIV, French hegemony all over Europe during the so-called “French Golden Age” was confirmed. After that, France was ruled by different dynasties until 1792, when the French Revolution established a republic. It was a period of constant radical changes that had begun in 1789. Seeing themselves threatened by the emergence of the Enlightenment and its great influence, the European powers allied to interfere with the affairs of France. Their goal was to stop the Revolution and, therefore, the so-called “French Revolutionary Wars” took place. However, thanks to the counteroffensive of Napoleon, this goal could not be reached.

Nineteenth century can be divided into four important periods: the government of Napoleon I (1804-15), who restored the Empire in territorial terms and progressively extended the French domains up to the Russian border, thus confronting the whole continent; the restoration of the monarchy (1815-48), after the revolutions of 1848; the Second Empire (1852-70), that is to say the period of Louis Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon I, during which the process of industrialization and colonization was accented; and the establishment of the Third Republic in 1871.

During the twentieth century, France went through two world wars. Consequently, it lost many of its colonial territories and its role as a leading world power diminished. When these wars were over, it took part in the foundation of the EU and the UN. Since 1958, metropolitan France has created a semi-presidential democracy which has resisted the instability of the first parliamentary regimes. France nowadays is considered a nuclear and spatial power.


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