History Of France
Stone tools indicate that early man was present in France at least 1.57 million years ago. The first modern humans appeared in the area 40,000 years ago. The first written records for the History of France appear in the Iron Age. What is now France made up the bulk of the region known to the Romans as Gaul. Roman writers noted the presence of three main ethno-linguistic groups in the area: the Gauls, the Aquitani, and the Belgae. The Gauls, the largest and best attested group, were a Celtic people speaking what is known as the Gaulish language.
Over the course of the first millennium BC the Greeks, Romans, and Carthaginians established colonies on the Mediterranean coast and the offshore islands. The Roman Republic annexed southern Gaul as the province of Gallia Narbonensis in the late 2nd century BC, and Roman forces under Julius Caesar conquered the rest of Gaul in the Gallic Wars of 58–51 BC. Afterwards a Gallo-Roman culture emerged and Gaul was increasingly integrated into the Roman Empire.
In the later stages of the Roman Empire, Gaul was subject to barbarian raids and migration, most importantly by the Germanic Franks. The Frankish king Clovis I united most of Gaul under his rule in the late 5th century, setting the stage for Frankish dominance in the region for hundreds of years. Frankish power reached its fullest extent under Charlemagne. The medieval Kingdom of France emerged out of the western part of Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire, known as West Francia, and achieved increasing prominence under the rule of the House of Capet, founded by Hugh Capet in 987.
A succession crisis following the death of the last Capetian monarch in 1337 led to the series of conflicts known as the Hundred Years' War between the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet. The wars ended with a Valois victory in 1453, solidifying the power of the Ancien Régime as a highly centralized absolute monarchy. During the next centuries, France experienced the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation, as well as recurring religious conflicts and wars with other powers. A burgeoning worldwide colonial empire was established from the 16th century.
In the late 18th century the monarchy and associated institutions were overthrown in the French Revolution, which forever changed French and world history. The country was governed for a period as a Republic, until the French Empire was declared by Napoleon Bonaparte. Following Napoleon's defeat in the Napoleonic Wars France went through several further regime changes, being ruled as a monarchy, then briefly as a Second Republic, and then as a Second Empire, until a more lasting French Third Republic was established in 1870.
France was one of the Triple Entente powers in World War I, fighting alongside the United Kingdom, Russia, and their allies against the Central Powers.
France was one of the Allied Powers in World War II, but was conquered by Nazi Germany in 1940. The Third Republic was dismantled, and most of the country was controlled directly by the Axis Powers, while the south was controlled by the collaborationist Vichy government. Following liberation in 1944, a Fourth Republic was established.
This was succeeded in 1958 by the French Fifth Republic, the country's current government. After the war decolonization saw most of the French colonial empire become independent, while other parts were incorporated into the French state as overseas departments and collectivities. Since World War II France has been a leading member in the UN, the European Union and NATO, and remains a strong economic, cultural, military and political influence in the 21st century.
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