The name "France" comes from the Latin word Francia, which means "land of the Franks” or "Frankland".
In the 4th century AD, the Germanic tribes, mainly the Franks invaded the Gauls. This is how the name Francia appeared. The modern name "France" comes from the name of the Capetian Kings of France around Paris. The Franks were the first tribe of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire to convert to Christianity rather than Arianism. The French called themselves "the most Christian Kingdom of France".
The Treaty of Verdun (843), divided Charlemagne’s Empire into three parts. The biggest area was Western Francia. It is similar to modern France. France emerged from the fragmentation of the larger Carolingian empire, when Hugh Capet became King of West “Francia” in 987. Early wars were fought on land with English monarchs, including the Hundred Years War, then against the Habsburgs, when they inherited Spain and tried to surround France. At one point France was closely associated with the Avignon Papacy, and experienced religious wars after the Reformation between a twisting combination of Catholic and Protestant. French royal power reached its peak with the reign of Louis XIV (1642 – 1715), known as the Sun King, and French culture dominated Europe.
Royal power collapsed fairly quickly after Louis XIV and within a century France experienced the French Revolution, which began in 1789, overthrew Louis XVI and established a Republic. France now found itself fighting wars and exporting its world-changing events across Europe.
The French Revolution was soon usurped by a general called Napoleon. The Napoleonic Wars led France to dominate Europe, but later on France was defeated. The monarchy was restored, but instability followed and a second Republic, second empire and third Republic followed in the 19th century. The early 20th century was marked by two German invasions, in 1914 and 1940, and a return to a democratic republic after liberation. France is currently in its Fifth Republic, established in 1959 during upheavals in society.
Key People from the History of France
King Louis XIV (1638 - 1715): he succeeded the French throne in 1642, when he was still a minor, and ruled until 1715; for many contemporaries, he was the only monarch they ever knew. Louis XIV represents the apogee of French absolutism, being called ‘The Sun King’. He was criticized for letting other European nations to grow strong.
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821): A Corsican by birth, was trained in the French army and success gained him a reputation, enabling him to get close to the political leaders of late-revolutionary France. Napoleon’s reputation and fame enabled him to seize power and transform the country into an Empire with himself at its head. He was initially successful in European wars, but was beaten and twice forced into exile by a coalition of European nations.
Charles de Gaulle (1890 - 1970): A military commander who became the leader of the Free French forces during the Second World War and then Prime Minister of the liberated country. After retiring he came back to politics in the late 50s to found the French Fifth Republic and create its constitution. He was in power until 1969.
France is situated in the extreme west of Europe. Covers an area of 550,000 Sq. Km. It has a hexagonal shape.
The country possesses several sea coasts (3200 Km.) along the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Sea, the Channel and the North Sea.
Large mountain ranges (Pyrenees, Alps, Jura, Vosges) form natural frontiers with Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Germany.
Two thirds of the land are covered by vast plains. Four big rivers (Seine, Rhone, Loire and Garonne along with their tributaries) flow through the country.
The entire country enjoys a temperate climate with some variations depending on the geographical location. The north eastern region has a continental climate with temperatures around zero in winter. The Atlantic regions receive more rain, but the temperature is rarely lower than 6 or 7°C. The Mediterranean area is the sunniest with strong and heavy rains in spring and autumn seasons. A cold very icy wind called the “Mistral” may blow in the Rhone valley and in Provence.
Some of the large cities or urban centres, viz. Paris (the capital), Lyon, Marseilles, Lille, Toulouse, constitute the main economic, industrial, educational and cultural centres of the country.
The population of France 65,48 million. About one-fifth of the population lives in the “Ile de France” region comprising Paris and the surrounding 7 departments, viz. Hauts de Seine, Val de Marne, Val d’Oise, Yvelines, Essonne, Seine Saint Denis and Seine & Marne.
Through the French Revolution 1789, France has been the initiator of the human rights and the founder of the Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme - Declaration of Human Rights.
France was a founding member of the European Union.
The United States Constitution and Constitution of France are two of the oldest set of laws based on human rights.
The metric system was invented by French scientists during the French revolution.
Many famous French novels were written in the 19th century by authors such as Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and Jules Verne. They wrote popular novels like The Three Musketeers, the Count of Monte-Cristo, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Les Misérables. Several famous novels were written during the 20th century by Marcel Proust, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre.
France is a founding member of the United Nations. It is also a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and has veto rights.
It hosts the headquarters of the OECD, UNESCO and INTERPOL.
France retains strong political and economic influence over its former African colonies.
France has an important aerospace (design of aircraft and spacecraft) industry led by Airbus. It can also launch rockets from French Guyana.
French cuisine has influenced the style of cooking throughout Europe, and its chefs work in restaurants throughout the world. In November 2010, French gastronomy was added by UNESCO to its lists of the world's 'intangible cultural heritage'
France is the number one tourist destination in the world before Spain and the United States which occupy the second and the third position.
In France, it is polite to say “bonjour” or “bonsoir” (good morning/good evening) when meeting someone, even if it is a stranger.For example, when entering a doctor’s office, it is customary to greet those in the waiting room with a brief “bonjour”. You should also do this when entering a small boutique, shop or café.
It is customary in France to greet one another by shaking hands. It is very common for women to embrace each other once they have developed friendly relations. This custom exists also among gents. One should not be surprised.
While leaving a building or a shop, one should hold the door open for the person coming behind.
When looking for the WC, one should ask for the “Toilettes”.
When you receive French friends who offer you a gift, it is customary to open it in front of them. If flowers are offered, they should be prominently placed in a vase in the house.
Always reply to invitations, announcements, (birth, marriage, promotions…) and send word of excuse for a child absent from school.
Invitation for dinner:
When invited for dinner, it is normal to bring some flowers: but avoid flowers with strong odour, carnations and especially chrysanthemums (reserved for cemeteries in France). Instead of flowers, one may bring desserts like cakes, sweets etc.
Do not begin eating until everyone has been served. Often eating commences once the host says, “bon appetite” (have a good meal/enjoy your meal). If in doubt about when to begin eating, observe your host.
Order of dishes:
1. Hot or cold starter; 2. Meat or fish dish with vegetables; 3. Variety of cheese; 4. Dessert.
- Wines from France’s well-known vineyards are served along with the food. At the end of the meal, one generally goes to the living room to have a coffee. Sometimes, after dinner, drinks (spirits) are offered. One is free to accept or politely refuse by saying “non, merci”.
While greeting, generally avoid saying the family name.
Normal practice is to say “vous”, but if you know the person personally then you can use “tu”.
You can discuss almost any subject with a French person, but it would be safer to avoid political, economical and religious matters.
France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social republic.
France provides “Equality” before the law to all its citizens, regardless of origin, race or religion. It respects all their beliefs. Its principle is Government of the people, by the people and for the people.
The motto of the Republic is “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”.