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French History

France’s history really began after the disintegration of the Roman Empire in the 5th century. When this happened Gaul, as it was called was settled by Germanic people from the east. During the following centuries, the area became under control of French kings, which became more and more powerful. Among the most powerful of these were the Dukes of Normandy who had, by the mid-12th century, acquired England and western France. In 1328, however, after a death there was no direct line to the throne in France, thus Edward III of England tried to take control. This resulted in conflict, known as the Hundred Years’ War, which was not resolved until the final English defeat in 1453. After this defeat Louis XI (1460-83) of France took power and by the time of his death the area of France was much as it is today.

During the next couple centuries France was involved in more years between mainly Italy and Spain. When these ended France was a mainly Catholic nation under the long reign of the ‘Sun King’, Louis XIV (1643-1715) and in which this time the country had replaced Spain as the major European power.

During the 18th century during the reign of Louis XV (1715-74) was a time of great prosperity and colonial expansion for France, as it was expanding its territory in the New World (Canada). When this was happening France became involved in more conflicts with England, mainly because of both countries trying to expands it’s as well as there religious beliefs. In 1789, towards the end of the 18th century the gap between the rich and poor was becoming more evident and the government was seen as unstable. Thus, this was one of the main reasons for the French Revolution to overthrow Louis XVI.

In 1799 the government was overthrown by an army commander named Napoleon Bonaparte. Over the next few years Napoleon brought stability to the country and in 1804 declared himself Emperor. Over the next eight years Napoleon establish a French empire in Europe, which as far south as Spain and as far East as Austria and Poland. The defeat at Trafalgar in 1805 left England in command of the sea, which on land Napoleon was unchallenged and in complete control. Unfortunately, in 1812 after leading over 600,000 in a planned invasion of Russia that went horribly wrong, Napoleon was driven back and finally defeated. Napoléon was forced into excel only for him to return again to try and capture his crown, but again was defeated and finally sent back into excel never to return again. With the reign of Napoléon finally over France saw the monarchy restored once again.

Over the next 50 years France was becoming more and more powerful and now faced a new enemy in Prussia (Germany). The Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870, which only lasted one year with the French defeated and the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by the Germans. With treaties in place the two countries lived side by side, but it was an uneasy peace.

In 1914 with the assassination of Grand Duke Ferdinand in Sarajevo the treaty collapsed and this was the trigger for World War I. This war saw huge casualties on both sides and in the end with France eventually the victors they recovered Alsace-Lorraine as a result of the Treaty of Versailles.

After World War I France and Europe had enough of war and but was uneasy seeing the Nazi party come into power in Germany. France after World War I became an ally of Poland and in 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, France declared war once again on Germany. The French crumbled under the might of the German army and were forced into living under Nazi rule for the next four years.

After the defeat of Germany and World War II ending, France once again  became a huge player on the European and World seen. With the creation of the United Nations Security Council, France has a permanent seat on the council and thus has a say on International affairs. In recent years under the leadership of Jacques Chirac and now Nicolas Sarkozy, France has stamped itself as the main force when it comes to resolving International conflicts in Africa and in the Middle East and in Europe with the recent problems with the European Union.



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