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History of France

About the 6th century BC the lands now known as France were colonized by the Gauls.The Romans finally conquered Gaul in 58 BC and found a territory reaching from the Mediterranean to the North Sea, from the Pyrenees and the Atlantic to the Rhine and the Alps. The population of possibly 10 million possessed neither native roots nor unified rule.   .Several centuries earlier, the Celts had surged from their Danube region homeland into the valleys of the Rhine and Rhone and as far as today's Belgium, England, and Ireland. The newcomers mingled with the native Ligurians of the Alps, Iberians of the Pyrenees, and numerous folk elsewhere who were often of Phoenician, Greek, or Roman stock. During the 8th cent. A.D. the Franks, who had been converted to Christianity, became their great king, Charlemagne. Charlemagne waged innumerable wars and brought most of western Europe into his Empire, he gained all Europe from the Pyrenees to the Vistula river. His rule encompassed more than Gaul or the Frankish kingdom, but it left a strong imprint upon France nevertheless. It also foreshadowed the feudal system, which was already being born. After his death in 8i, it was broken up. Repeated invasions by the North men compelled France to give them Normandy. Through the growth of feudalisms a noble, Hugh Capet, was able to seize the throne in 987 from the Frankish kings.
The Capetian dynasty struggled for territory with the kings of England, and Philip Augustus (i i 8o-i 223) took from King John most of England's possessions in France. The death of Charles IV without an heir in 1328, and Edward III's claim to the French throne, began the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453). Weakened by poverty and dissent, France lost repeatedly to England, but, encouraged by the victories of Joan of Arc, later won back all the English conquests except Calais. France emerged from the war united by a new patriotism and a strong monarchy. The French kings then tried, unsuccessfully, to conquer parts of Italy. There they clashed with Spanish ambitions, and this rivalry was intensified when Charles, the Hapsburg King of Spain, became Holy Roman Emperor in 1519- it continued for 200 years. France was further troubled, in the 16th cent., by religious wars that resulted from the Reformation, but during the i 7th cent. she gained many colonial possessions, especially in North America.
The reign of Louis XIV (1643-17 I5) brought France to the height of her
power. The expense, however, of conducting wars and maintaining the King's prestige caused much suffering among the lower classes. After his death, France's power waned, and she was defeated in the Seven Years' War (1756-63), losing to England her possessions in Canada and India. In 1789 the people of France rebelled against the aristocracy. The Revolution destroyed feudalism, and France had no settled government until Napoleon Bonaparte appeared as her leader, becoming Emperor in 1804. He conquered nearly all Europe and began the reorganization of France.
After his retreat from Moscow, Napoleon abdicated in 1814, and the Monarchy was restored. Napoleon returned, but his downfall was made final in 18 15 by the Battle of Waterloo. The rule of the Monarchy, however, was not absolute. The Revolution of 1848 ended it, and in 1851 Louis Napoleon, a nephew of the first Bonaparte ruler, seized power, becoming Emperor Napoleon III in 1852. France's defeat by the Prussians in 187o brought his downfall, and France again became a republic, which she has ever since remained.
The late 19th cent. was a time of comparative peace and of colonial expansion, ending with the First World War and Germany's invasion of France. Between 1918 and 1939 France's progress was hampered by political and financial instability. During the Second World War, the Germans in 194o again invaded France, and they occupied the country until the end of ig, in spite of the Free French movement, organized by Charles de Gaulle, who later became President.
During the 50s, political insecurity and the Algerians' fight for independence drained France's energy. She is only now recovering from the consequences of three invasions by the Germans and twenty-two years of Plan.
Under the present constitution, the President is both Head of State and Chief Executive since 1962 he has been elected by popular vote. He and his Ministers are responsible to Parliament.

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