A BRIEF HISTORY OF FRANCE


The signs of the first known settlement in France was discovered in 1940, in the southwest region of France, inside the caves, in the form of wall paintings. They indicate the traces of a reasonably creative and expressive cave society who dominated the area during the Paleolithic ages.

There are also some remains from the Neolithic ages in the southern and western regions of France. They were initially hunters and during the following ages transformed into farmers.

The recent and the more known history of France started in 1000 B.C. when the Celtic tribes swept into the western France. Greek colonialists settled into the southern coastline of France during the following ages. They built cities in the region. Marseilles was one of them. The Greek civilization affected the social and political life of Celtic tribes. Soon they became a challenging power in the region, against Rome. At the same time, some Germanic tribes stormed into the region in waves. The first Roman colony was settled into the region in 120 B.C. This establishment created a reasonable stability in the area.

Roman ruins in Nimes The Romans called these Celtic people of the western France "the Gauls". The Gauls outnumbered the Roman invaders but the disunity among themselves had caused a number of defeats against Roman armies. In 52 B.C. Julius Caesar defeated Gallic commander Vercingtorix for the last time and took control of whole region.

After this victory, Rome controlled the destiny of Gallia for nearly 500 years. They brought an advanced legal system to this predominantly Celtic region. The roads and the urban centers were constructed. Celts learned wine making, Christianity and Latin language from Roman rulers.

Rome's rule over the region ended in 476 A.D. after a long wave of barbaric ( Visigoths, Franks and Vandals) invasions. The Franks who gave their name to the country invaded northern France in 486. After their leader Clovis converted to Catholicism, they got the political backing of the church in Rome. He increased his influence over the most of France. After his death, his successors could not cooperate and a big chaos dominated the country.

Between 768 and 814, the king of Franks, Charlemagne repelled the barbaric invaders from the country and united all of present-day France. Only Celts in Brittany did not join the united country.

The king Charlemagne was crowned by Pope Leo III as the Holy Roman Emperor, in 800. His most important service to the European culture was to introduce a strong governmental tradition and to revive the Latin culture.

His grandson carved the empire into three parts ; the western part which was later to be known as France, the eastern part which was known to be Germany soon and the third part in between these two was controlled by both, during the following periods.

Since 987, when Hugh Capet launched the Capetian dynasty, kings were crowned at Reims Cathedral. The first Frank king Clavis wasBibliotheque Nationale baptized here in 496. He lead the France into Christianity after that.

The war between England and France was erupted first in 1337 and continued until 1453, over the legitimacy of the Valois dynasty and also England's claim of control over Aquitaine and few other provinces. A young and inspired French peasant, Joan of Arc, rallied the French troops and led them to the victory over the English at Orleans in 1429. She also persuaded king Charles VII to claim his throne after a ceremony in Reims Cathedral. She marked the French victory over the British rule in France. But a year later she was caught by Burgundians and turned over to England, where she was burned as a witch.

The king Louis XIV captured or bought the land to establish France's borders as known today. This method created a significant strain on the treasury of France. When he died in 1715, the social tension in France was ready to create the pre-conditions of the well known French Revolution. The French Revolution came in 1789. This event marked also the end of Royal dynasty in France. Jean Jacques Rousseau was one of the most important leaders of the Revolution.

The revolutionary National Assembly, divided the country into 83 geographical provinces, instead of previous feudal regional structure.

In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte has seized the control of France after his successes in Italian front. He crowned himself in 1804 and started to conquer the Europe. After his defeat at Russian front he was exiled in Elba. He returned from the exile and went to war with England in Waterloo in 1815. He lost the war. This became his last move in the history of France.

1800s became the years of insurrection years for France. The after shocks of the revolution continued to affect the social and political life in France. Some of the colonies were already lost or sold. The working class and the middle class were about to emerge because of the ongoing industrial revolution. These two classes soon started to become strong and rebellious. This period was also marked as a chaotic time in the French history.

The region of Alsace-Lorraine was captured by Bismarck in 1870. This area was regained by France after the victory in World War I against Germany.

France had lost 10 percent of its men and nearly half of its industry during WW1.

World War 2 came soon after the first one. In 1940 after a short and unsuccessful defense, France surrendered to Germany. General Charles de Gaulle formed a French government in London while existing collaborationist government moved into Vichy. French resistance movement during the war, was largely operated by the communists and de Gaulle supporters.


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