Country Profile: France
547, 030 sq km
Population64, 094, 658, 0.5% growth rate, density per sq km: 100
Capital CityParis: 9, 854, 000
France has one of the largest economies in the world, as indicated by its GDP. It is a member of G8, the EU and OECD, and is a high globally ranking exporter and importer of goods. Because of its combination of extensive stretches of fertile land and modernised technology, France is a leading exporter of agricultural produce, and as well as this it produces significantly less CO2 than other countries because of its investment in nuclear power. Since the end of World War II, France and Germany have become politically and economically very close, and are considered to be the two core countries of the EU, who are pushing for greater integration between EU member states.
In the first century BC, Roman emperor Julius Caesar conquered the ancient country of Gaul, whose borders roughly correlate with France's. The Gauls adopted the Roman language of Latin, from which French later evolved, as well as its culture and religion - Christianity first appeared in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. In 4AD, Gaul's frontier along the Rhine was overrun by Germanic tribes (called the Franks, from which came Francie). In 843 Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire divided into Western Francia, East Francia and Middle Francia; Western Francia was the precursor to modern France. In 987 Hugh Capet was crowned King of France, and his descendants, from the House of Valois, House of Bourbon and direct Capetians, unified the country through a series of wars. The monarchy was at its height in the 17th century, under the reign of Louis XIV. At that time, the country had the largest population in Europe and had great importance and influence over European politics and culture. It was in France that the Englightenment housed many of its key intellectual thinkers, and in the 18th century great scientific discoveries were made by French scientists.
The Monarchy ruled until the French Revolution of 1789, in which Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette were executed, along with thousands of French citizens. In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte made himself First Consul and Emperor of the newly forged French Republic. During the First Empire, Bonaparte's armies conquered most of continental Europe, upto his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Bonaparte's descendants led after him, until 1870 in the Franco-Prussian war, when Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte was deafeated, and his regime replaced by the Third Empire.
France played a key role in the two World Wars of the 20th Century. After World War II, the Fourth Republic was established; however, France struggled to keep its status as important nation state, with struggles over territory in Algeria and the First Indochina War. In 1958, the unstable Fourth Republic gave way to form the Fifth Republic, with Charles de Gaulle as president. The Algerian War was ended in 1962 with peace negotiations which resulted in Algerian Indepedence.
In recent years, France's political cooperation with Germany has formed a stronghold of the European Union, leading to the foundation of the Euro in 1999, now adopted by many EU member states. The French Republic is now a semi-presidential republic with strong democratic ties, with parliament made up of the National Assembly and a Senate.
France is ranked as the number one tourist destination in the world, with 81.9 million foreign tourists in 2007. As well as the attractions in cities such as Paris (the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Mussee D'Orsay, Pompidou Centre, Jardins Tuileries, Montmartre), France boasts ski resorts, seaside locations as well as areas of natural beauty.
The French language is a Romance language spoken globally by 90 million as their first language, and 190 million as second language. Like Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Romanion, French is a descendant of the Latin of the Roman Empire. In France, there are a variety of dialects and regional languages. French is written using the 26 langugaes of the Latin alphabet, plus five diacritics (the circumflex accent, acute accent, grave accent, diaeresis and cedilla).
Written anonymously in 1678, La Princesse de Cleves is regarded by many as the first European novel. Before that, in the 16th Century, Rabelais was an important influence on vocabulary and metaphor. During the 17th century, Descartes, Racine and Moliere were important philosophers and playwriterts, but it was in the 18th and 19th century that French writing flourished under writers such as Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Stendhal and Flaubert, as well as the great naturalist writer Emile Zola, whose series of novels Les Rougon-Macquart chronicled cycles of violence, alcoholism and prostitution in two families in France's Second Empire. In the 20th century, France was home to the greatest existentalist writers of the time; such as Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Camus.
France has always produced great classical composers, especially in the Romantic period of the late 19th century. Bizet, Faure, Debussy, Satie and Ravel paved the way for 20th century composers, such as the radical Olivier Messiaen and Pierre Boulez.
France has a long-standing tradition of folk music, as well as a thriving popular music scene - specialising in dance and electronic music, for example bands such as Air, Daft Punk and DJ Laurent Garnier.
France has a tradition of fine art, from the neoclassicism in the 18th century and painters such as Poussin and Chardin, to the romantics at the turn of the 19th century. It is this Impressionistic movement which is most widely revered in French art - with Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Gauguin and Seurat reveolutionising the use of colour and form in painting, moving away from a purely representational idea of art to one which would lead to the Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s.
Popular sports in France include football, basketball and handballl. The Stade de France in Paris hosted the 1998 FIFA World Cup final and the 2007 Rugby World Cup Final. France hosts the Tour de France every summer, the most famous bicycle race in the world. Several important tennis tournaments take place in France, including the Roland Garros French Open grandslam and the Paris Masters. French tennis player Amelie Mauresmo won the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2006. Paris hosted the second Olympic Games in 1900, and since then, France has hosted the Games on a further four occasions.
French cuisine is world renowned, and was where haute cuisine was originated. In the Middle Ages, a unique style of cooking was formed, with various social and political movements as well as great chefs coming together to create it. In the 1790s, Careme worked as a patissiere under a chef who would later cook for Napoleon Bonaparte, but then went on to create many staples of French - and, later, global - cusine, including the sauces bechamel and espagnole. Breads and meat and vital to French cuisine, as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as fine pastries and wines.
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