France, formally the French Republic, is a unitary sovereign state with territory in Western Europe as well as numerous foreign areas and territories. France’s European, or metropolitan, region stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, as well as from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. French Guiana on the South American continent, as well as numerous island possessions in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, are part of France’s overseas territories. France has a total area of 643,801 square kilometers (248,573 square miles) and a population of 66.7 million people. It is a semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country’s biggest metropolis and primary cultural and economic center. Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Nice, Toulouse, and Bordeaux are among the other important cities.
The Gauls, a Celtic people, lived in what is now metropolitan France during the Iron Age. Rome acquired Gaul in 51 BC and ruled it until 486, when the Germanic Franks invaded it and established the Kingdom of France. In the Late Middle Ages, France emerged as a significant European power, with its victory in the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453) boosting state-building and political centralisation. During the Renaissance, French culture thrived, and a worldwide colonial empire was created, which would become the world’s second biggest by the twentieth century. Religious civil conflicts between Catholics and Protestants dominated the 16th century (Huguenots). Under Louis XIV, France became Europe’s preeminent cultural, political, and military force. The French Revolution, which occurred in the late 18th century, toppled the absolute monarchy, created one of modern history’s first democracies, and witnessed the writing of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which still reflects the nation’s values today.
Napoleon rose to power in the nineteenth century and created the First French Empire, whose following Napoleonic Wars altered the destiny of continental Europe. Following the Empire’s demise, France had a turbulent series of administrations, ending in the creation of the French Third Republic in 1870. France was a significant participant in the First World War, emerging triumphant, and was one of the Allied Powers in the Second World War, but fell under Axis control in 1940. Following independence in 1944, a Fourth Republic was formed, which was subsequently abolished during the Algerian War. The Fifth Republic, headed by Charles de Gaulle, was established in 1958 and still exists today. Algeria and almost all of the other colonies gained independence with little difficulty in the 1960s, and they usually maintained strong economic and military ties with France.
France has long been recognized as a worldwide center for art, science, and philosophy. It has the fourth-highest number of cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Europe and gets the most foreign visitors of any nation in the world each year, approximately 83 million. France is a developed nation with the world’s sixth-largest nominal GDP and ninth-largest purchasing power parity economy. It ranks fourth in the world in terms of aggregate household wealth. In worldwide rankings of education, health care, life expectancy, and human development, France ranks well. France is still a global power, having been a founding member of the United Nations and one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as a founder and leading member state of the European Union (EU). It is also a member of the Group of 7, NATO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and La Francophonie.