Originally applied to the whole Frankish Empire, the name "France" comes from the LatinFrancia, or "country of the Franks". Modern France is still named today Francia in Italian and Spanish, Frankreich in German andFrankrijk in Dutch, all of which have the same historical meaning.
There are various theories as to the origin of the name Frank. Following the precedents of Edward Gibbon andJacob Grimm, the name of the Franks has been linked with the word frank (free) in English. It has been suggested that the meaning of "free" was adopted because, after the conquest of Gaul, only Franks were free of taxation. Another theory is that it is derived from the Proto-Germanic word frankon, which translates asjavelin or lance as the throwing axe of the Franks was known as a francisca. However, it has been determined that these weapons were named because of their use by the Franks, not the other way around.
The oldest traces of human life in what is now France date from approximately 1.8 million years ago. Humanswere then confronted by a harsh and variable climate, marked by several glacial eras. Early homonids led anomadichunter-gatherer life. France has a large number of decorated caves from the upper Paleolithic era, including one of the most famous and best preserved: Lascaux (approximately 18,000 BC).
At the end of the last glacial period (10,000 BC), the climate became milder; from approximately 7,000 BC, this part of Western Europe entered the Neolithic era and its inhabitants became sedentary. After strong demographic and agricultural development between the 4th and 3rd millennia, metallurgy appeared at the end of the 3rd millennium, initially working gold, copper and bronze, and later iron. France has numerousmegalithic sites from the Neolithic period, including the exceptionally dense Carnac stones site (approximately 3,300 BC).
In 600 BC, IonianGreeks, originating from Phocaea, founded the colony of Massalia (present-day Marseille), on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. This makes it France's oldest city. At the same time, some Gallic Celtic tribes penetrated parts of the current territory of France, and this occupation spread to the rest of France between the 5th and 3rd century BC.
The concept of Gaul emerged at that time; it corresponds to the territories of Celtic settlement ranging between the Rhine, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean. The borders of modern France are roughly the same as those of ancient Gaul, which was inhabited by Celtic Gauls. Gaul was then a prosperous country, of which the southernmost part was heavily subject to Greek and Roman influences.
Around 390 BC the Gallic chieftainBrennus and his troops made their way to Italy through the Alps, defeated the Romans in the Battle of the Allia, and besieged and ransomed Rome. The Gallic invasion left Rome weakened, and the Gauls continued to harass the region until 345 BC when they entered into a formal peace treaty with Rome. But the Romans and the Gauls would remain adversaries for the next several centuries, and the Gauls would continue to be a threat in Italia.
From the 250s to the 280s AD, Roman Gaul suffered a serious crisis with its fortified borders being attacked on several occasions by barbarians. Nevertheless, the situation improved in the first half of the 4th century, which was a period of revival and prosperity for Roman Gaul. In 312, the emperor Constantin I converted to Christianity. Subsequently, Christians, who had been persecuted until then, increased rapidly across the entire Roman Empire. But, from the beginning of the 5th century, the Barbarian Invasions resumed, andGermanic tribes, such as the Vandals, Suebi and Alans crossed the Rhine and settled in Gaul, Spain and other parts of the collapsing Roman Empire.
The pagan Franks, from whom the ancient name of "Francie" was derived, originally settled the north part of Gaul, but under Clovis I conquered most of the other kingdoms in northern and central Gaul. In 498, Clovis I was the first Germanic conqueror after the fall of the Roman Empire to convert to Catholic Christianity, rather than Arianism; thus France was given the title "Eldest daughter of the Church" (French:La fille aînée de l’Église) by the papacy, and French kings would be called "the Most Christian Kings of France" (Rex Christianissimus).
During the 9th and 10th centuries, continually threatened by Viking invasions, France became a very decentralised state: the nobility's titles and lands became hereditary, and the authority of the king became more religious than secular and thus was less effective and constantly challenged by powerful noblemen. Thus was established feudalism in France. Over time, some of the king's vassals would grow so powerful that they often posed a threat to the king. For example, after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror added "King of England" to his titles, becoming both the vassal to (as Duke of Normandy) and the equal of (as king of England) the king of France, creating recurring tensions.
The Carolingian dynasty ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of the Franks. His descendants – the Capetians, the House of Valois, and the House of Bourbon – progressively unified the country through wars and dynastic inheritance into the Kingdom of France, which was fully declared in 1190 by Philip II Augustus. The French kings played a prominent role in most Crusades in order to restore Christian access to the Holy Land. French knights made up the bulk of the steady flow of reinforcements throughout the two-hundred-year span of the Crusades, in such a fashion, that the Arabs uniformly referred to the crusaders as Franj caring little whether they really came from France. The French Crusaders also imported French language in the Levant making French the base of the lingua franca ("Frankish language") of the Crusader states. French knights also comprised the majority in both the Hospital and the Temple orders. The later, in particular, held numerous properties throughout France and by the 13th century was the principal bankers for the French crown, until Philip IVannihilated the order in 1307. The Albigensian Crusade was launched in 1209 to eliminate the hereticalCathars in the south-western area of modern-day France. In the end, the Cathars were exterminated and the autonomous County of Toulouse was annexed into the kingdom of France. Later Kings expanded their domain to cover over half of modern continental France, including most of the North, Centre and West of France. Meanwhile, the royal authority became more and more assertive, centred on ahierarchically conceived society distinguishing nobility, clergy, and commoners.
Charles IV the Fair died without an heir in 1328. Under the rules of the Salic law the crown of France could not pass to a woman nor could the line of kingship pass through the female line. Accordingly, the crown passed to Philip of Valois, a cousin of Charles, rather than through the female line to Charles' nephew, Edward, who would soon become Edward III of England. During the reign of Philip of Valois, the French monarchy reached the height of its medieval power. Philip's seat on the throne was contested by Edward III of England and in 1337, on the eve of the first wave of the Black Death, England and France went to war in what would become known as the Hundred Years' War. The exact boundaries changed greatly with time, but French landholdings of the English Kings remained extensive for decades. With charismatic leaders, such as Joan of Arc and La Hire, strong French counterattacks won back English continental territories. Like the rest of Europe, France was struck by the Black Death; half of the 17 million population of France died.
The monarchy reached its peak during the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV. By turning powerful feudal lords into courtiers at the Palace of Versailles, Louis XIV's personal power became unchallenged. Remembered for his numerous wars, he made France the leading European power. France became themost populous country in Europe and had tremendous influence over European politics, economy, and culture. French became the most-used language in diplomacy, science, literature and international affairs, and remained so until the 20th century. France obtained many overseas possessions in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Louis XIV also revoked the Edict of Nantes, forcing thousands of Huguenots into exile.
Under Louis XV, Louis XIV's grandson, France lost New France and most of its Indian possessions after its defeat in the Seven Years' War, which ended in 1763. Its European territory kept growing, however, with notable acquisitions such as Lorraine (1766) and Corsica (1770). An unpopular king, Louis XV's weak rule, his ill-advised financial, political and military decisions – as well as the debauchery of his court– discredited the monarchy and arguably led to the French Revolution 15 years after his death.
The absolute monarchy was subsequently replaced by a constitutional monarchy. Through the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, France established fundamental rights for men. The Declaration affirms "the natural and imprescriptible rights of man" to "liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression". Freedom of speech and press were declared, and arbitrary arrests outlawed. It called for the destruction of aristocratic privileges and proclaimed freedom and equal rights for all men, as well as access to public office based on talent rather than birth. While Louis XVI, as a constitutional king, enjoyed popularity among the population, his disastrous flight to Varennes seemed to justify rumours he had tied his hopes of political salvation to the prospects of foreign invasion. His credibility was so deeply undermined that the abolition of the monarchy and establishment of a republic became an increasing possibility.
Louis XVI was convicted of treason and guillotined in 1793. Facing increasing pressure from European monarchies, internal guerrilla wars and counterrevolutions (such as the War in the Vendée or theChouannerie), the young Republic fell into the Reign of Terror. Between 1793 and 1794, between 16,000 and 40,000 people were executed. In Western France, the civil war between the Bleus ("Blues", supporters of the Revolution) and the Blancs ("Whites", supporters of the Monarchy) lasted from 1793 to 1796 and led to the loss of between 200,000 and 450,000 lives. Both foreign armies and French counter-revolutionaries were crushed and the French Republic survived. Furthermore, it extended greatly its boundaries and established "Sister Republics" in the surrounding countries. As the threat of a foreign invasion receded and France became mostly pacified, the Thermidorian Reaction put an end toRobespierre's rule and to the Terror. The abolition of slavery and male universal suffrage, enacted during this radical phase of the revolution, were cancelled by subsequent governments.
In 1958, the weak and unstable Fourth Republic gave way to the Fifth Republic, which included a strengthened Presidency. In the latter role, Charles de Gaulle managed to keep the country together while taking steps to end the war. The Algerian War was concluded with the Évian Accords in 1962 that led to Algerian independence. A vestige of the colonial empire are the French overseas departments and territories.
In the post-Gaullist era, France remained one of the most developed economies in the World, but faced several economic crises that resulted in high unemployment rates and increasing public debt. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries France has been at the forefront of the development of a supranationalEuropean Union, notably by signing the Maastricht Treaty (which created the European Union) in 1992, establishing the Eurozone in 1999, and signing the Lisbon Treaty in 2007. France has also gradually but fully reintegrated into NATO and has since participated in most NATO sponsored wars.
Since the 19th century France has received many immigrants to support its economic growth. These have been mostly male foreign workers from European Catholic countries who generally returned home when not employed. During the 1970s France faced economic crisis and allowed new immigrants (mostly from the Muslim World) to permanently settle in France with their families and to acquire French citizenship. It resulted in hundreds of thousands of Muslims (especially in the larger cities) living in subsidized public housing and suffering from very high unemployment rates. Simultaneously France renounced the assimilation of immigrants, where they were expected to adhere to French traditional values and cultural norms. They were encouraged to retain their distinctive cultures and traditions and required merely tointegrate. The 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris provoked the largest public rallies in French history, gathering 4.4 million people.
The European territory of France covers 547,030 square kilometres (211,209 sq mi), the largest amongEuropean Union members. France's total land area, with its overseas departments and territories (excluding Adélie Land), is 674,843 km2 (260,558 sq mi), 0.45% of the total land area on Earth. France possesses a wide variety of landscapes, from coastal plains in the north and west to mountain ranges of theAlps in the southeast, the Massif Central in the south central and Pyrenees in the southwest.
Due to its numerous overseas departments and territories scattered on all oceans of the planet, France possesses the second-largest Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the world, covering 11,035,000 km2 (4,260,000 mi2), just behind the EEZ of the United States (11,351,000 km2 / 4,383,000 mi2), but ahead of the EEZ of Australia (8,148,250 km2 / 4,111,312 mi2). Its EEZ covers approximately 8% of the total surface of all the EEZs of the world.
At 4,810.45 metres (15,782 ft) above sea level, the highest point in Western Europe, Mont Blanc, is situated in the Alps on the border between France and Italy. France also has extensive river systems such as the Seine, the Loire, the Garonne, and the Rhone, which divides the Massif Central from the Alps and flows into the Mediterranean Sea at the Camargue. Corsica lies off the Mediterranean coast.
France was one of the first countries to create an environment ministry, in 1971. Although it is one of the most industrialised countries in the world, France is ranked only 17th by carbon dioxide emissions, behind less populous nations such as Canada or Australia. This is due to France's decision to invest in nuclear power following the 1973 oil crisis, which now accounts for 75% of its electricity production and results in less pollution.
Like all European Union members, France agreed to cut carbon emissions by at least 20% of 1990 levels by the year 2020, compared to the U.S. plan to reduce emissions by 4% of 1990 levels. As of 2009, French carbon dioxide emissions per capita were lower than that of China's. The country was set to impose acarbon tax in 2009 at 17 euros per tonne of carbon emitted, which would have raised 4 billion euros of revenue annually. However, the plan was abandoned due to fears of burdening French businesses.
Forests account for 28% of France's land area, and are some of the most diverse in Europe, comprising more than 140 species of trees. There are nine national parks and 46 natural parks in France, with the government planning to convert 20% of its Exclusive Economic Zone into a Marine Protected Area by 2020. A regional nature park (French: parc naturel régional or PNR) is a public establishment in France between local authorities and the French national government covering an inhabited rural area of outstanding beauty, in order toPROTECT the scenery and heritage as well as setting up sustainable economic development in the area. A PNR sets goals and guidelines for managed human habitation, sustainable economic development, andPROTECTION of the natural environment based on each park's unique landscape and heritage. The parks also foster ecological research programs and public education in the natural sciences. As of 2014 there are 49 PNRs in France.
The 22 regions and 96 departments of metropolitan France includes Corsica (Corse, lower right). Paris area is expanded (inset at left)
France is divided into 27 administrative regions: 22 regions in metropolitan France (including the territorial collectivity of Corsica), and five located overseas. In 2015 however the number of metropolitan regions is being reduced to 13, with various regions being amalgamated. The regions are further subdivided into 101 departments, which are numbered mainly alphabetically. This number is used in postal codes and was formerly used on vehicle number plates. Among the 101 departments of France, five (French Guiana,Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Réunion) are in overseas regions (ROMs) that are also simultaneously overseas departments (DOMs) and are an integral part of France (and the European Union) and thus enjoy exactly the same status as metropolitan departments.
The 101 departments are subdivided into 335 arrondissements, which are, in turn, subdivided into 2,054cantons. These cantons are then divided into 36,658 communes, which are municipalities with an elected municipal council. Three communes—Paris, Lyon and Marseille—are subdivided into 45 municipal arrondissements.
The regions, departments and communes are all known as territorial collectivities, meaning they possess local assemblies as well as an executive. Arrondissements and cantons are merely administrative divisions. However, this was not always the case. Until 1940, the arrondissements were territorial collectivities with an elected assembly, but these were suspended by the Vichy regime and definitely abolished by the Fourth Republic in 1946.
Overseas collectivities and territories form part of the French Republic, but do not form part of the European Union or its fiscal area (with the exception of St. Bartelemy, which seceded from Guadeloupe in 2007). The Pacific Collectivities (COMs) of French Polynesia, Wallis and Fortuna, and New Caledonia continue to use the CFP franc whose value is strictly linked to that of the euro. In contrast, the five overseas regions used the French franc and now use the euro.
The French parliament is a bicameral legislature comprising a National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) and a Senate. The National Assembly deputies represent local constituencies and are directly elected for 5-year terms. The Assembly has the power to dismiss the government, and thus the majority in the Assembly determines the choice of government. Senators are chosen by an electoral college for 6-year terms (originally 9-year terms), and one half of the seats are submitted to election every 3 years starting in September 2008.
The Senate's legislative powers are limited; in the event of disagreement between the two chambers, the National Assembly has the final say. The government has a strong influence in shaping the agenda of Parliament.
France uses a civil legal system; that is, law arises primarily from written statutes; judges are not to make law, but merely to interpret it (though the amount of judicial interpretation in certain areas makes it equivalent to case law). Basic principles of the rule of law were laid in the Napoleonic Code (which was, in turn, largely based on the royal law codified under Louis XIV). In agreement with the principles of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, law should only prohibit actions detrimental to society. As Guy Canivet, first president of the Court of Cassation, wrote about the management of prisons: Freedom is the rule, and its restriction is the exception; any restriction of Freedom must be provided for by Law and must follow the principles of necessity and proportionality. That is, Law should lay out prohibitions only if they are needed, and if the inconveniences caused by this restriction do not exceed the inconveniences that the prohibition is supposed to remedy.
French law is divided into two principal areas: private law and public law. Private law includes, in particular,civil law and criminal law. Public law includes, in particular, administrative law and constitutional law. However, in practical terms, French law comprises three principal areas of law: civil law, criminal law, and administrative law. Criminal laws can only address the future and not the past (criminal ex post facto laws are prohibited). While administrative law is often a subcategory of civil law in many countries, it is completely separated in France and each body of law is headed by a specific supreme court: ordinary courts (which handle criminal and civil litigation) are headed by the Court of Cassation and administrative courts are headed by the Council of State.
Postwar French foreign policy has been largely shaped by membership of the European Union, of which it was a founding member. Since the 1960s, France has developed close ties with reunified Germany to become the most influential driving force of the EU. In the 1960s, France sought to exclude the British from the European unification process, seeking to build its own standing in continental Europe. However, since 1904, France has maintained an "Entente cordiale" with the United Kingdom, and there has been a strengthening of links between the countries, especially militarily.
France is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), but under President de Gaulle, it excluded itself from the joint military command to protest the special relationship between the United States and Britain and to preserve the independence of French foreign and security policies. France vigorously opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, straining bilateral relations with the US and the UK. However, as a result of Nicolas Sarkozy's pro-American politics (much criticised in France by the leftists and by a part of the right), France rejoined the NATO joint military command on 4 April 2009.
In the early 1990s, the country drew considerable criticism from other nations for its underground nuclear tests in French Polynesia.
In 2009, France was the second largest (in absolute numbers) donor of development aid in the world, behind the US, and ahead of Germany, Japan and the UK. This represents 0.5% of its GDP, in this regard rating France as tenth largest donor on the list. The organisation managing the French help is theFrench Development Agency, which finances primarily humanitarian projects in sub-Saharan Africa. The main goals of this help are "developing infrastructure, access to health care and education, the implementation of appropriate economic policies and the consolidation of the rule of law and democracy".
The French Armed Forces (Forces armées françaises) are the military and paramilitary forces of France, under the president as supreme commander. They consist of the French Army (Armée de Terre), French Navy (Marine Nationale, formerly called Armée de Mer), the French Air Force (Armée de l'Air), the French Strategic Nuclear Force (Force Nucléaire Stratégique, nicknamed Force de Frappe or "Strike Force") and the Military Police called National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie nationale), which also fulfils civil police duties in the rural areas of France. Together they and are among the largest armed forces in the world.
While the Gendarmerie is an integral part of the French armed forces (gendarmes are career soldiers !), and therefore under the purview of the Ministry of Defence, it is operationally attached to the Ministry of the Interior as far as its civil police duties are concerned.
When acting as general purpose police force, the Gendarmerie encompasses the counter terrorist units of the Parachute Intervention Squadron of the National Gendarmerie (Escadron Parachutiste d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale), the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (Groupe d'Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale), the Search Sections of the National Gendarmerie (Sections de Recherche de la Gendarmerie Nationale), responsible for criminal enquiries, and the Mobile Brigades of the National Gendarmerie (Brigades mobiles de la Gendarmerie Nationale, or in short Gendarmerie mobile) which have the task to maintain public order.
The following special units are also part of the Gendarmerie: The Republican Guard (Garde républicaine) which protects public buildings hosting major French institutions, the Maritime Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie maritime) serving as Coast Guard, the Provost Service (Prévôté), acting as the Military Police branch of the Gendarmerie.
As far as the French intelligence units are concerned, the Directorate-General for External Security (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure) is considered to be a component of the Armed Forces under the authority of the Ministry of Defence. The other, the Central Directorate for Interior Intelligence (Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur) is a division of the National Police Force (Direction générale de la Police Nationale), and therefore reports directly to the Ministry of the Interior. There has been no national conscription since 1997.
France has a very special military corps, the French Foreign Legion, founded in 1830, which consists of foreign nationals from over 140 countries who are willing to serve in the French Armed Forces and become French citizens after the end of their service period. The only other countries having similar units are Spain (the Spanish Foreign Legion, called Tercio, was founded in 1920) and Luxembourg (foreigners can serve in the National Army provided they speak Luxembourgish).
France has major military industries with one of the largest aerospace industries in the world. Its industries have produced such equipment as the Rafale fighter, the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, the Exocet missile and the Leclerc tank among others. Despite withdrawing from the Eurofighterproject, France is actively investing in European joint projects such as the Eurocopter Tiger, multipurpose frigates, the UCAV demonstrator nEUROn and theAirbus A400M. France is a major arms seller, with most of its arsenal's designs available for the export market with the notable exception of nuclear-powered devices.
The military parade held in Paris each 14 July for France's national day, called Bastille Day in English-speaking countries (but not in France), is the oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe.
In April and May 2012, France held a presidential election in which the winner, François Hollande, had opposed austerity measures, promising to eliminate France's budget deficit by 2017. The new government stated that it aimed to cancel recently enacted tax cuts and exemptions for the wealthy, raising the top tax bracket rate to 75% on incomes over a million euros, restoring the retirement age to 60 with a full pension for those who have worked 42 years, restoring 60,000 jobs recently cut from public education, regulating rent increases; and building additional public housing for the poor.
Under European Union rules, member states are supposed to limit their debt to 60% of output or be reducing the ratio structurally towards this ceiling, and run public deficits of no more than 3% of GDP. The French government has run a budget deficit each year since the early 1970s. In 2012, French government debt levels reached 1.8 trillion euros, the equivalent of 90% of French GDP.
France has a mixed economy that combines extensive private enterprise with substantial state enterprise and government intervention. The government retains considerable influence over key segments of infrastructure sectors, with majority ownership of railway, electricity, aircraft, nuclear power and telecommunications. It has been relaxing its control over these sectors since the early 1990s. The government is slowly corporatising the state sector and selling off holdings in France Télécom, Air France, as well as in the insurance, banking, and defence industries. France has an important aerospace industry led by the European consortium Airbus, and has its own national spaceport, the Centre Spatial Guyanais.
According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), in 2009 France was the world's sixth largest exporter and the fourth largest importer of manufactured goods. In 2008, France was the third largest recipient offoreign direct investment among OECD countries at $118 billion, ranking behind Luxembourg (where foreign direct investment was essentially monetary transfers to banks located there) and the US ($316 billion), but above the UK ($96.9 billion), Germany ($25 billion), or Japan ($24 billion).
In the same year, French companies invested $220 billion outside France, ranking France as the second largest outward direct investor in the OECD, behind the US ($311 billion), and ahead of the UK ($111 billion), Japan ($128 billion) and Germany ($157 billion).
Financial services, banking and the insurance sector are an important part of the economy. The Paris stock exchange (French: La Bourse de Paris) is an old institution, created by Louis XV in 1724. In 2000, the stock exchanges of Paris, Amsterdam and Bruxelles merged into Euronext. In 2007, Euronext merged with the New York stock exchange to form NYSE Euronext, the world's largest stock exchange.Euronext Paris, the French branch of the NYSE Euronext group is Europe's 2nd largest stock exchange market, behind the London Stock Exchange.
France is part of the European single market which represents more than 500 million consumers. Several domestic commercial policies are determined by agreements among European Union (EU) members and by EU legislation. France introduced the common European currency, the Euro in 2002. It is a member of the Eurozone which represents around 330 million citizens.
French companies have maintained key positions in the insurance and banking industries: AXA is the world's largest insurance company. The leading French banks are BNP Paribas and the Crédit Agricole, ranking as the world's first and sixth largest banks in 2010 (by assets), while the Société Générale group was ranked the world's eighth largest in 2009.
France has historically been a large producer of agricultural products. Extensive tracts of fertile land, the application of modern technology, and EU subsidies have combined to make France the leading agricultural producer and exporter in Europe (representing 20% of the EU's agricultural production) and the world's third biggest exporter of agricultural products.
Wheat, poultry, dairy, beef, and pork, as well as internationally recognized processed foods are the primary French agricultural exports. Rosé wines are primarily consumed within the country, but Champagne andBordeaux wines are major exports, being known worldwide. EU agriculture subsidies to France have decreased in recent years but still amounted to $8 billion in 2007. That same year, France sold 33.4 billion euros of transformed agricultural products.
Agriculture is an important sector of France's economy: 3.8% of the active population is employed in agriculture, whereas the total agri-food industry made up 4.2% of French GDP in 2005.
The Mona Lisa is the World's best known work of art, on permanent display at the Louvre, the World's most visited museum.
With 83 million foreign tourists in 2012, France is ranked as the first tourist destination in the world, ahead of the US (67 million) and China (58 million). This 83 million figure excludes people staying less than 24 hours, such as North Europeans crossing France on their way to Spain or Italy. It is third in income from tourism due to shorter duration of visits. France has 37 sites inscribed in UNESCO's World Heritage Listand features cities of high cultural interest, beaches and seaside resorts, ski resorts, and rural regions that many enjoy for their beauty and tranquillity (green tourism). Small and picturesque French villages are promoted through the association Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (litt. "The Most Beautiful Villages of France"). The "Remarkable Gardens" label is a list of the over 200 gardens classified by the French Ministry of Culture. This label is intended to protect and promote remarkable gardens and parks. France attracts many religious pilgrims on their way to St. James, or to Lourdes, a town in the Hautes-Pyrénées that hosts several million visitors a year.
With more than 10 millions tourists a year, the French Riviera (or Côte d'Azur), in south-east France, is the second leading tourist destination in the country, after the Paris region. It benefits from 300 days of sunshine per year, 115 kilometres (71 mi) of coastline and beaches, 18 golf courses, 14 ski resorts and 3,000 restaurants. Each year the Côte d'Azur hosts 50% of the world's superyacht fleet.
Électricité de France (EDF), the main electricity generation and distribution company in France, is also one of the world's largest producers of electricity. In 2003, it produced 22% of the European Union's electricity, primarily from nuclear power. France is the smallest emitter of carbon dioxide among the G8, due to its heavy investment in nuclear power. As a result of large investments in nuclear technology, most electricity produced by France is generated by 59 nuclear power plants (75% in 2012). In this context, renewable energies are having difficulty taking off. France also uses hydroelectric dams to produce electricity, such as the Eguzon dam, Étang de Soulcem, and Lac de Vouglans.
The railway network of France, which as of 2008 stretches 29,473 kilometres (18,314 mi) is the second most extensive in Western Europe after that of Germany. It is operated by the SNCF, and high-speed trains include the Thalys, the Eurostar and TGV, which travels at 320 km/h (199 mph) in commercial use.The Eurostar, along with the Eurotunnel Shuttle, connects with the United Kingdom through the Channel Tunnel. Rail connections exist to all other neighbouring countries in Europe, except Andorra. Intra-urban connections are also well developed with both underground services and tramway services complementing bus services.
A TGV Duplex, which can reach a maximum speed of 320 km/h (198.84 mph).
There are approximately 1,027,183 kilometres (638,262 mi) of serviceable roadway in France, ranking it the most extensive network of the European continent. The Paris region is enveloped with the most dense network of roads and highways that connect it with virtually all parts of the country. French roads also handle substantial international traffic, connecting with cities in neighbouring Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Andorra and Monaco. There is no annual registration fee or road tax; however, usage of the mostly privately owned motorways is through tolls except in the vicinity of large communes. The new car market is dominated by domestic brands such as Renault (27% of cars sold in France in 2003), Peugeot (20.1%) and Citroën (13.5%). Over 70% of new cars sold in 2004 had diesel engines, far more than contained petrol or LPG engines. France possesses the Millau Viaduct, the world's tallest bridge, and has built many important bridges such as the Pont de Normandie.
There are 475 airports in France. Charles de Gaulle Airport, located in the vicinity of Paris, is the largest and busiest airport in the country, handling the vast majority of popular and commercial traffic and connecting Paris with virtually all major cities across the world. Air France is the national carrier airline, although numerous private airline companies provide domestic and internationalTRAVEL SERVICES. There are ten major ports in France, the largest of which is in Marseille, which also is the largest bordering the Mediterranean Sea. 12,261 kilometres (7,619 mi) of waterways traverse France including the Canal du Midi, which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean through the Garonne river.
France is an outlier among developed countries in general, and European countries in particular, in having a fairly high rate of natural population growth: by birth rates alone, France was responsible for almost all natural population growth in the European Union in 2006, with the natural growth rate (excess of births over deaths) rising to 300,000. This was the highest rate since the end of the baby boom in 1973, and coincides with the rise of the total fertility rate from a nadir of 1.7 in 1994 to 2.0 in 2010.
From 2006 to 2011 population growth was on average +0.6% per year. Immigrants are also major contributors to this trend; in 2010, 27% of newborns in metropolitan France had at least one foreign-bornparent and 24% had at least one parent born outside of Europe (parents born in overseas territories are considered as born in France).
Large-scale immigration over the last century and a half has led to a more multicultural society. In 2004, the Institut Montaigne estimated that within Metropolitan France, 51 million people were White (85% of the population), 6 million were North African (10%), 2 million were Black (3.5%), and 1 million were Asian (1.5%).
It is currently estimated that 40% of the French population is descended at least partially from the different waves of immigration the country has received since the early 20th century; between 1921 and 1935 alone, about 1.1 million net immigrants came to France. The next largest wave came in the 1960s, when around 1.6 million pieds noirs returned to France following the independence of its North African possessions, Algeria and Morocco. They were joined by numerous former colonial subjects from North and West Africa, as well as numerous immigrants from Spain and Portugal.
France remains a major destination for immigrants, accepting about 200,000 legal immigrants annually. It is also Western Europe's leading recipient ofasylum seekers, with an estimated 50,000 applications in 2005 (a 15% decrease from 2004). The European Union allows free movement between the member states, although France established controls to curb Eastern European migration, and immigration remains a contentious political issue.
In 2008, the INSEE estimated that the total number of foreign-born immigrants was around 5 million (8% of the population), while their French-born descendants numbered 6.5 million, or 11% of the population. Thus, nearly a fifth of the country's population were either first or second-generation immigrants, of which more than 5 million where of European origin and 4 million of Maghrebi ancestry. In 2008, France granted citizenship to 137,000 persons, mostly to people from Morocco, Algeria and Turkey.
In 2014 The National Institute of Statistics (INSEE, for its acronym in French) published a study on Thursday, according to which has doubled the number of Spanish immigrants, Portuguese and Italians in France between 2009 and 2012. According to the French Institute, this increase resulting from the financial crisis that hit several European countries in that period, has pushed up the number of Europeans installed in France. Statistics on Spanish immigrants in France show a growth of 107 percent between 2009 and 2012, i.e. in this period went from 5300 to 11,000 people. Of the total of 229,000 foreigners were in France in 2012, nearly 8% were Portuguese, British 5%, Spanish 5%, Italians 4%, Germans 4% ; Romanians 3% , 3% Belgians.
France is a highly urbanized country, with its largest cities (in terms of metropolitan area population) in 2011 being Paris (12,292,900 inh.), Lyon (2,182,482),Marseille (1,721,031), Toulouse (1,250,251), Lille (1,159,547), Bordeaux (1,140,668), Nice (1,003,947), Nantes (884,275), and Strasbourg (763,739). (Note: There are significant differences between the metropolitan population figures just cited and those in the following table, which only include the core population).Rural flight was a perennial political issue throughout most of the 20th century.
A map of the Francophone world native language administrative language secondary or non-official language francophone minorities
According to Article 2 of the Constitution, the official language of France is French, a Romance languagederived from Latin. Since 1635, the Académie française has been France's official authority on the French language, although its recommendations carry no legal power.
The French government does not regulate the choice of language in publications by individuals but the use of French is required by law in commercial and workplace communications. In addition to mandating the use of French in the territory of the Republic, the French government tries to promote French in the European Union and globally through institutions such as La Francophonie. The perceived threat fromanglicisation has prompted efforts to safeguard the position of the French language in France. Besides French, there exist 77 vernacular minority languages of France, eight spoken in French metropolitan territory and 69 in the French overseas territories.
From the 17th to the mid-20th century, French served as the pre-eminent international language of diplomacy and international affairs as well as a lingua franca among the educated classes of Europe. The dominant position of French language in international affairs was overtaken by English, since the emergence of the US as a major power.
For most of the time in which French served as an international lingua franca, it was not the native language of most Frenchmen: a report in 1794 conducted by Henri Grégoire found that of the country's 25 million people, only three million spoke French natively; the rest spoke one of the country's many regional languages, such as Alsatian, Breton or Occitan. Through the expansion of public education, in which French was the sole language of instruction, as well as other factors such as increased urbanization and the rise of mass communication, French gradually came to be adopted by virtually the entire population, a process not completed until the 20th century.
As a result of France's extensive colonial ambitions between the 17th and 20th centuries, French was introduced to the Americas, Africa, Polynesia, South-East Asia, and the Caribbean. French is the second most studied foreign language in the world after English, and is a lingua franca in some regions, notably in Africa. The legacy of French as a living language outside Europe is mixed: it is nearly extinct in some former French colonies (The Levant, South and Southeast Asia), while creoles and pidgins based on French have emerged in the French departments in the West Indies and the South Pacific (French Polynesia). On the other hand, many former French colonies have adopted French as an official language, and the total number of French speakers is increasing, especially in Africa.
Catholicism has been the predominant religion in France for more than a millennium, though it is not as actively practised today as it was. Among the 47,000 religious buildings in France, 94% are Roman Catholic. While in 1965, 81% of the French declared themselves to be Catholics, in 2009 this proportion was 64%. Moreover, while 27% of the French went to Mass once a week or more in 1952, only 5% did so in 2006.The same survey found that Protestants accounted for 3% of the population, an increase from previous surveys, and 5% adhered to other religions, with the remaining 28% stating they had no religion.Evangelical Protestantism may be the fastest growing religion in France.
According to a poll in January 2007, only 5% of the French population attended church regularly (10% attend church services regularly among the respondents who did identify themselves as Catholics). The poll showed 51% identified as being Catholics, 31% identified as being agnostics or atheists(another poll sets the proportion of atheists equal to 27%), 10% identified as being from other religions or being without opinion, 4% identified as Muslim, 3% identified as Protestant, 1% identified as Buddhist, 1% identified as Jewish. Meanwhile, an independent estimate by the politologist Pierre Bréchon in 2009 concluded that the proportion of Catholics had fallen to 42% while the number of atheists and agnostics had risen to 50%.
Estimates of the number of Muslims in France vary widely. In 2003, the French Ministry of the Interior estimated the total number of people of Muslim background to be between 5 and 6 million (8–10%). According to the Pewforum, "In France, proponents of a 2004 law banning the wearing of religious symbols in schools say it protects Muslim girls from being forced to wear a headscarf, but the law also restricts those who want to wear headscarves – or any other "conspicuous" religious symbol, including large Christian crosses and Sikh turbans – as an expression of their faith"
Since 1905 the French government has followed the principle of laïcité, in which it is prohibited from recognising any specific right to a religious community (except for legacy statutes like that of military chaplains and the local law in Alsace-Moselle). Instead, it merely recognises religious organisations, according to formal legal criteria that do not address religious doctrine. Conversely, religious organizations should refrain from intervening in policy-making.Certain bodies of beliefs such as Scientology, Children of God, the Unification Church, or the Order of the Solar Temple are considered cults ("sectes" in French), and therefore do not have the same status as religions in France. Secte is considered a pejorative term in France.
Care is generally free for people affected by chronic diseases (affections de longues durées) such as cancer, AIDS or Cystic Fibrosis. Average life expectancy at birth is 78 years for men and 85 years for women, one of the highest of the European Union. There are 3.22 physicians for every 1000 inhabitants in France,and average health care spending per capita was US$4,719 in 2008. As of 2007, approximately 140,000 inhabitants (0.4%) of France are living with HIV/AIDS.
Even if the French have the reputation of being one of the thinnest people in developed countries, France—like other rich countries—faces an increasing and recent epidemic of obesity, due mostly to the replacement of traditional healthy French cuisine by junk food in French eating habits. Nevertheless, the French obesity rate is far below that of the USA (for instance, obesity rate in France is the same that the American once was in the 1970s), and is still the lowest of Europe, but it is now regarded by the authorities as one of the main public health issues and is fiercely fought; rates of childhood obesity are slowing in France, while continuing to grow in other countries.
In 1802, Napoleon created the lycée. Nevertheless, it is Jules Ferry who is considered to be the father of the French modern school, which is free, secular, and compulsory until the age of 13 since 1882 (school attendance in France is now compulsory until the age of 16).
Nowadays, the schooling system in France is centralized, and is composed of three stages, primary education, secondary education, and higher education. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks France's education as the 25th best in the world, being neither significantly higher nor lower than the OECD average. Primary and secondary education are predominantly public, run by the Ministry of National Education.
Since higher education is funded by the state, the fees are very low; the tuition varies from €150 to €700 depending on the university and the different levels of education. (licence, master, doctorate). One can therefore get a master's degree (in 5 years) for about €750-3,500. The tuition in public engineering schools is comparable to universities, albeit a little higher (around €700). However it can reach €7000 a year for private engineering schools, and some business schools, which are all private or partially private, charge up to €15000 a year. Health insurance for students is free until the age of 20.
France has been a center of Western cultural development for centuries. Many French artists have been among the most renowned of their time, and France is still recognized in the world for its rich cultural tradition.
The successive political regimes have always promoted artistic creation, and the creation of the Ministry of Culture in 1959 helped preserve the cultural heritage of the country and make it available to the public. The Ministry of Culture has been very active since its creation, granting subsidies to artists, promoting French culture in the world, supporting festivals and cultural events, protecting historical monuments. The French government also succeeded in maintaining a cultural exception to defend audiovisual products made in the country.
France receives the highest number of tourists per year, largely thanks to the numerous cultural establishments and historical buildings implanted all over the territory. It counts 1,200 museumswelcoming more than 50 million people annually. The most important cultural sites are run by the government, for instance through the public agency Centre des monuments nationaux, which is responsible for approximately 85 national historical monuments.
Many museums in France are entirely or partly devoted to sculptures and painting works. A huge collection of old masterpieces created before or during the 18th century are displayed in the state-owned Musée du Louvre, such as Mona Lisa, also known as La Joconde. While the Louvre Palace has been for a long time a museum, the Musée d'Orsay was inaugurated in 1986 in the old railway station Gare d'Orsay, in a major reorganization of national art collections, to gather French paintings from the second part of the 19th century (mainly Impressionism and Fauvism movements).
Outside Paris, all the large cities have a Museum of Fine Arts with a section dedicated to European and French painting. Some of the finest collections are in Lyon, Lille, Rouen, Dijon, Rennes and Grenoble.
Following the renaissance and the end of the Middle Ages, Baroque architecture replaced the traditional Gothic style. However, in France, baroque architecture found a greater success in the secular domain than in a religious one. In the secular domain, the Palace of Versailles has many baroque features. Jules Hardouin Mansart, who designed the extensions to Versailles, was one of the most influential French architect of the baroque era; he is famous for his dome at Les Invalides. Some of the most impressive provincial baroque architecture is found in places that were not yet French such as the Place Stanislas inNancy. On the military architectural side, Vauban designed some of the most efficient fortresses in Europe and became an influential military architect; as a result, imitations of his works can be found all over Europe, the Americas, Russia and Turkey.
The world's most visited paid monument, the Eiffel Tower is an icon of both Paris and France.
In the 20th century, French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier designed several buildings in France. More recently, French architects have combined both modern and old architectural styles. The Louvre Pyramidis an example of modern architecture added to an older building. The most difficult buildings to integrate within French cities are skyscrapers, as they are visible from afar. For instance, in Paris, since 1977, new buildings had to be under 37 meters, or 121 feet. France's largest financial district is La Defense, where a significant number of skyscrapers are located. Other massive buildings that are a challenge to integrate into their environment are large bridges; an example of the way this has been done is the Millau Viaduct. Some famous modern French architects include Jean Nouvel, Dominique Perrault, Christian de Portzamparc or Paul Andreu.
Much mediaeval French poetry and literature were inspired by the legends of the Matter of France, such as The Song of Roland and the various chansons de geste. The Roman de Renart, written in 1175 by Perrout de SaintCLOUDE, tells the story of the mediaeval character Reynard ('the Fox') and is another example of early French writing.
19th-century French thought was targeted at responding to the social malaise following the French Revolution. Rationalist philosophers such as Victor Cousin and Auguste Comte, who called for a new social doctrine, were opposed by reactionary thinkers such as Joseph de Maistre, Louis de Bonald and Lamennais, who blamed the rationalist rejection of traditional order. De Maistre is considered, together with the Englishman Edmund Burke, one of the founders of European conservatism, while Comte is regarded as the founder of positivism and sociology.
France has a long and varied musical history. It experienced a golden age in the 17th century thanks to Louis XIV, who employed a number of talented musicians and composers in the royal court. The most renowned composers of this period include Marc-Antoine Charpentier, François Couperin, Michel-Richard Delalande, Jean-Baptiste Lully and Marin Marais, all of them composers at the court. After the death of the "Roi Soleil", French musical creation lost dynamism, but in the next century the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau reached some prestige, and today he is still one of the most renowned French composers. Rameau became the dominant composer of French opera and the leading French composer for the harpsichord.
France has historical and strong links with cinema, with two Frenchmen, Auguste and Louis Lumière (known as the Lumière Brothers) having created cinema in 1895. Several important cinematic movements, including the late 1950s and 1960s Nouvelle Vague, began in the country. It is noted for having a particularly strong film industry, due in part to protections afforded by the French government.[dated info]France remains a leader in filmmaking, as of 2006 producing more films than any other European country. The nation also hosts the Cannes Festival, one of the most important and famous film festivals in the world.
Although the French film market is dominated by Hollywood, France is the only nation in the world where American films make up the smallestSHARE of total film revenues, at 50%, compared with 77% in Germany and 69% in Japan. French films account for 35% of the total film revenues of France, which is the highest percentage of national film revenues in the developed world outside the United States, compared to 14% in Spain and 8% in the UK. France is in 2013 the 2nd exporter of films in the world after the United States.
Until recently, France had for centuries been the cultural center of the world, although its dominant position has been surpassed by the United States. Subsequently, France takes steps inPROTECTING and promoting its culture, becoming a leading advocate of the cultural exception. The nation succeeded in convincing all EU members to refuse to include culture and audiovisuals in the list of liberalized sectors of the WTO in 1993. Moreover, this decision was confirmed in a voting in the UNESCO in 2005, and the principle of "cultural exception" won an overwhelming victory: 198 countries voted for it, only 2 countries, the U.S and Israel, voted against it.
Fashion has been an important industry and cultural export of France since the 17th century, and modern "haute couture" originated in Paris in the 1860s. Today, Paris, along with London, Milan, and New York City, is considered one of the world's fashion capitals, and the city is home or headquarters to many of the premier fashion houses. The expression Haute couture is, in France, a legallyPROTECTED name, guaranteeing certain quality standards.
The association of France with fashion and style (French: la mode) dates largely to the reign of Louis XIVwhen the luxury goods industries in France came increasingly under royal control and the French royal court became, arguably, the arbiter of taste and style in Europe. But France renewed its dominance of the high fashion (French: couture or haute couture) industry in the years 1860–1960 through the establishing of the great couturier houses such as Chanel, Dior, and Givenchy. The French perfume industry is world leader in its sector and is centered on the town of Grasse.
Le Figaro was founded in 1826; many of France's most prominent authors have written in its columns over the decades, and it is still considered a newspaper of record.
Compared to other developed countries, the French do not spend much time reading newspapers, due to the popularity of broadcast media. Best-selling daily national newspapers in France are Le Parisien Aujourd’hui en France (with 460,000 sold daily), Le Monde and Le Figaro, with around 300,000 copies sold daily, but also L'Équipe, dedicated to sports coverage. In the past years, free dailies made a breakthrough, with Metro, 20 Minutes and DIRECTPlus distributed at more than 650,000 copies respectively. However, the widest circulations are reached by regional daily Ouest France with more than 750,000 copies sold, and the 50 other regional papers have also high sales. The sector of weekly magazines is stronger and diversified with more than 400 specialized weekly magazines published in the country.
The most influential news magazines are the left-wing Le Nouvel Observateur, centrist L'Express and right-wing Le Point (more than 400.000 copies), but the highest circulation for weeklies is reached by TV magazines and by women's magazines, among them Marie Claire and ELLE, which have foreign versions. Influential weeklies also include investigative and satirical papers Le Canard Enchaîné and Charlie Hebdo, as well as Paris Match. Like in most industrialized nations, the print media have been affected by a severe crisis in the past decade. In 2008, the government launched a major initiative to help the sector reform and become financially independent, but in 2009 it had to give 600,000 euros to help the print media cope with the economic crisis, in addition to existing subsidies.
In 1974, after years of centralized monopoly on radio and television, the governmental agency ORTF was split into several national institutions, but the three already-existing TV channels and four national radio stations remained under state-control. It was only in 1981 that the government allowed free broadcasting in the territory, ending state monopoly on radio. French television was partly liberalized in the next two decade with the creation of several commercial channels, mainly thanks to cable and satellite television. In 2005 the national service Télévision Numérique Terrestre introduced digital television all over the territory, allowing the creation of other channels.
According to a BBC poll in 2010, based on 29,977 responses in 28 countries, France is globally seen as a positive influence in the world's affairs: 49% have a positive view of the country's influence, whereas 19% have a negative view. The Nation Brand Index of 2008 suggested that France has the second best international reputation, only behind Germany.
According to a poll in 2011, the French were found to have the highest level of religious tolerance and to be the country where the highest proportion of the population defines its identity primarily in term of nationality and not religion. 69% of French have a favourable view of the US, making France one of the most pro-American countries in the world.
A common and traditional symbol of the French people is the Gallic rooster. Its origins date back to Antiquity, since the Latin word Gallus meant both "rooster" and "inhabitant of Gaul". Then this figure gradually became the most widely shared representation of the French, used by French monarchs, then by the Revolution and under the successive republican regimes as representation of the national identity, used for some stamps and coins.
French cuisine is also regarded as a key element of the quality of life and the attractiveness of France. A French publication, the Michelin guide, awards Michelin stars for excellence to a select few establishments. The acquisition or loss of a star can have dramatic effects on the success of a restaurant. By 2006, the Michelin Guide had awarded 620 stars to French restaurants, at that time more than any other country, although the guide also inspects more restaurants in France than in any other country (by 2010, Japan was awarded as many Michelin stars as France, despite having half the number of Michelin inspectors working there).