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- The first human settlements in the area that is now France date back to the Paleolithic era.
- The Celtic Gauls inhabited France before it was conquered by the Roman Empire in the 1st century BC.
- France became known as Gaul during Roman rule and was one of the empire's most prosperous provinces.
The Middle Ages
- In the 5th century AD, the Franks, a Germanic tribe, conquered Gaul and established the Merovingian dynasty.
- Charlemagne, a Frankish king, expanded the Frankish Empire to include much of Western Europe in the 8th and 9th centuries.
- After Charlemagne's death, the Frankish Empire was split into several smaller kingdoms, including France.
- The Capetian dynasty, founded by Hugh Capet, ruled France from 987 to 1328.
- The Hundred Years' War, which began in 1337, saw conflict between England and France over territorial disputes and the English crown's claim to the French throne. The war saw a number of significant battles, including the Battle of Crécy in 1346 and the Battle of Poitiers in 1356.
- The reign of King Philip VI, who ruled from 1328 to 1350, saw the beginning of the Hundred Years' War and the French defeat at the Battle of Crécy.
- The reign of King John II, who ruled from 1350 to 1364, saw the French defeat at the Battle of Poitiers and the capture of the king by the English.
- The 14th century in France was also marked by significant religious and social upheaval, including the emergence of the Avignon Papacy, in which the papacy moved from Rome to Avignon, France, and the emergence of the Black Death, which killed an estimated one-third of the population of Europe.
- The Black Death, which arrived in France in 1348, had significant social and economic impacts, including labor shortages and the breakdown of traditional social structures.
- The 14th century in France also saw significant cultural and artistic developments, including the emergence of Gothic architecture and the works of notable French writers such as Christine de Pizan.
- The 14th century in France came to a close with the coronation of Charles V in 1364, who began to restore order and stability to the kingdom after the tumultuous reign of his father, King John II.
- The reign of Charles VII, who ruled from 1422 to 1461, saw significant military successes against the English, including the famous victory at the Battle of Orleans in 1429.
- The Hundred Years' War was finally ended in 1453, with the French emerging victorious and regaining control of most of their territories.
- The reign of Louis XI, who ruled from 1461 to 1483, was marked by significant centralisation of power, including the establishment of a standing army and the suppression of regional nobles.
- The 15th century in France also saw significant cultural and intellectual developments, including the emergence of the Renaissance, which saw the revival of classical learning and artistic expression.
- The French court became a center of artistic patronage, with notable figures such as King Charles VII's mistress, Agnès Sorel, and King Louis XI's sister, Anne of France, supporting the arts and commissioning works of art.
- The emergence of the printing press in the 15th century also helped to spread knowledge and ideas, leading to the development of a more literate and educated population in France.
- The 15th century in France came to a close with the death of King Charles VIII in 1498, paving the way for the emergence of the powerful and influential Valois dynasty in the following century.
- The 16th century in France was marked by significant political, social, and religious changes, including the reigns of three monarchs - Francis I, Henry II, and Henry III.
- Francis I, who ruled from 1515 to 1547, pursued territorial expansion and patronised the arts and sciences, but also faced significant military setbacks, including defeats in Italy and the loss of territories to the Holy Roman Empire.
- The reign of Henry II (1547-1559) was marked by significant religious conflict, as Protestantism began to gain support in France, leading to the outbreak of the Wars of Religion.
- The Wars of Religion, which lasted from 1562 to 1598, saw conflict between Catholics and Protestants, and led to significant social and political upheaval, including the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572, which saw thousands of Protestants killed in Paris.
- Henry III, who ruled from 1574 to 1589, faced significant opposition from both Catholics and Protestants, and was assassinated by a Catholic monk in 1589.
- The reign of Henry IV, who succeeded Henry III, was marked by the Edict of Nantes in 1598, which granted religious toleration to Protestants and helped to end the Wars of Religion.
- The 16th century in France also saw significant cultural and intellectual developments, including the growth of humanism and the Renaissance, and the emergence of notable figures such as Michel de Montaigne and Pierre de Ronsard.
- France also pursued territorial expansion in the 16th century, including the colonisation of North America and the establishment of trading posts in India.
- The 16th century in France came to a close with the death of Henry IV in 1610, paving the way for the Bourbon dynasty to take power in the following century.
17th Century, the Age of Louis XIV
- The 17th century in France is known as the Age of Louis XIV, due to the long and influential reign of King Louis XIV, which lasted from 1643 until his death in 1715.
- Louis XIV was a centralising monarch who sought to strengthen the power of the French state, leading to the growth of an absolute monarchy and the centralisation of political power in the king's hands.
- France experienced a series of wars in the 17th century, including the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), which saw France supporting Protestant states against Catholic Habsburgs, and the Franco-Dutch War (1672-1678), which was fought against the Dutch Republic.
- France also expanded its overseas territories in the 17th century, establishing colonies in North America, the Caribbean, and India.
- France saw significant cultural and intellectual development in the 17th century, with the rise of the French Academy, the establishment of the Académie française, and the growth of the arts, including the Baroque and Rococo styles.
- The reign of Louis XIV was marked by significant social and economic changes, including the development of a court culture centered on Versailles, the expansion of trade and commerce, and the growth of industry.
- However, Louis XIV's reign was also marked by social and economic inequality, including the continued existence of feudal privileges and the exploitation of the poor.
- The end of the 17th century saw France facing significant political, social, and economic challenges, including the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which led to the persecution of Protestants, and the emergence of financial crises, which contributed to the decline of the French state in the 18th century.
- The 18th century in France was marked by significant social, economic, and political changes, as well as the rise of the Enlightenment movement and the French Revolution.
- The reign of Louis XV (1715-1774) saw significant economic development, including the growth of trade and commerce, as well as social changes, such as the spread of literacy and the emergence of a public sphere.
- The Enlightenment movement, which emphasised reason, science, and individual rights, gained significant influence in France in the 18th century, with notable figures including Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Montesquieu.
- The French Revolution, which began in 1789, was a major turning point in French and European history, leading to the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy, the establishment of a republic, and significant social and political changes, including the adoption of a new legal code and the end of feudalism.
- The French Revolution was marked by significant violence, including the Reign of Terror, which saw thousands of people executed by the revolutionary government.
- Napoleon Bonaparte emerged as a prominent figure during the French Revolution and later established himself as the emperor of France, expanding French territories and implementing significant reforms in law, education, and administration.
- Napoleon's rule came to an end with his defeat in the Napoleonic Wars, which led to the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1814, but also saw the spread of revolutionary and nationalist ideas throughout Europe.
- In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, France underwent a period of political instability, including the July Revolution of 1830, which led to the establishment of a constitutional monarchy under King Louis-Philippe.
- The mid-19th century in France was marked by significant social and economic changes, including the rise of industrialisation and the emergence of socialism as a political force.
- The late 19th century in France saw a resurgence of nationalism and imperialist expansion, including the colonisation of territories in Africa and Asia.
- World War I, which began in 1914, saw France engage in conflict with Germany and the Central Powers. The war had significant impacts on France, including the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and significant economic and social disruptions.
- In the aftermath of World War I, France played a leading role in the establishment of the League of Nations, a precursor to the United Nations.
- World War II, which began in 1939, saw France once again engage in conflict with Germany, culminating in the occupation of France by German forces from 1940 to 1944.
- The post-World War II period in France was marked by significant economic and social changes, including the reconstruction of the country and the establishment of the welfare state.
- France played a leading role in the establishment of the European Union in the aftermath of World War II and remains an influential member of the organisation.
- François Mitterrand was elected president in 1981, marking the first socialist president in France's Fifth Republic.
- Mitterrand pursued social and economic reforms, including the implementation of the 35-hour work week and the nationalisation of certain industries.
- The 1990s saw the rise of the far-right National Front party under the leadership of Jean-Marie Le Pen, which gained significant support in some regions of France.
- In the early 2000s, France experienced a period of economic stagnation, high unemployment, and social unrest, particularly among young people in marginalised communities.
- In 2002, Le Pen made it to the second round of the presidential election, but was soundly defeated by Jacques Chirac.
- In 2005, France rejected a proposed European Union constitution in a referendum, which was seen as a rebuke to the political establishment and the beginning of a rise in Euroscepticism.
- Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president in 2007, promising economic and social reforms, but his presidency was marked by controversy and protests, particularly over his immigration policies.
- In 2012, François Hollande was elected president, promising to address France's economic problems and reduce inequality, but his presidency was marked by low approval ratings and criticism over his handling of security issues.
- In recent years, France has experienced a rise in populism and right wing sentiment, particularly in response to immigration and terrorism.
- The presidency of Emmanuel Macron, who was elected in 2017, has been marked by attempts to reform the economy and labor market, as well as protests and opposition from various groups, including the Yellow Vest movement.
Are you an expat living in France?
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