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Louvre, Paris


The French Republic or France (French: République française or France) is a country whose metropolitan territory is located in Western Europe, and which is further made up of a collection of overseas islands and territories located in other continents. Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and North Sea, and from the Rhine River to the Atlantic Ocean. Because of its shape, Metropolitan France is known by Frenchmen as "the Hexagon". It is bordered by the United Kingdom (land border inside the Channel Tunnel), Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Andorra, and Spain. The French Republic also shares land borders overseas with Brazil, Suriname, and the Netherlands Antilles.

France is a democracy organised as a unitary semi-presidential republic. It is a developed country with the fifth-largest economy in the world in 2004. Its main ideals are expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. France is one of the founding members of the European Union, and has the largest land area of all members. France is also a founding member of the United Nations. It is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council wielding veto power, and it is also one of only eight acknowledged nuclear powers.

The name France comes from the Franks, the Germanic tribe that occupied the region after the fall of the Roman Empire, and, more precisely the region around Paris called Île-de-France which was the centre of the French royal dominion.
Background Information
The borders of modern France roughly align with those of the ancient territory of Gaul, inhabited by Celts known also as Gauls. Gaul was conquered by the Romans in the first century BC, and the Gauls eventually adopted Roman speech and culture. Christianity also took root in the second and third centuries AD. Gaul's eastern frontiers along the Rhine were overrun by Germanic tribes in the fourth century AD, principally the Franks, from whom the ancient name of "Francie" derived. The modern name "France" derives from the name of the feudal domain of the Capetian Kings of France around Paris. Existence as a separate entity begins with the division, in 843, of Charlemagne's Carolingian empire into eastern, central and western parts. The eastern part (which would soon unite with the central portion as the Holy Roman Empire) can roughly be regarded as the beginnings of what is now Germany, the western part, that of France.

Charlemagne's descendants ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of France. His descendants, the Capetian, Valois and Bourbon dynasties unified progressively the country within the royal dominion after a sequence of wars and dynastic inheritance. The monarchy reached its height during the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV. At this time France had a tremendous influence over the European politics, economy and culture. France was then the most populous state in Europe and the third in the World after China and India (see Demographics of France). The monarchy ruled France until 1792, when the French Revolution established the French First Republic. Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the Republic in 1799, making himself First Consul. In the course of several wars, his armies conquered many countries and established new kingdoms, with Napoleon's family members being appointed as monarchs. Following his defeat in 1815, the French monarchy was re-established. In 1830, a civil uprising established the constitutional July Monarchy followed by the Second Republic in 1848. The short-lived Second Republic ended when the late Emperor's nephew, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, was elected President and proclaimed a Second Empire in 1852. Louis-Napoléon was ultimately unseated following the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. The Third Republic was then established.

Although ultimately a victor in both World War I and World War II, France suffered extensive losses in its empire, comparative economic status, population, and status as a dominant nation state. After World War II, the Fourth Republic was established. In 1958, the current semi-presidential Fifth Republic was established under the leadership of General de Gaulle.

In recent decades, France's reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the political and economic integration of Europe, including the introduction of the Euro in January 1999. France has been at the forefront of European states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to advance the creation of a more unified and capable European political, defence and security apparatus. However its population voted against ratification of the European Constitutional Treaty in May 2005.
The south of France has a warm Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. Strong winds, known as la Mistral, can occur in the Cote d'Azur, Provence and in the Rhone valley particularly over the winter and spring. Northern France, including Paris, has a temperate climate similar to southern England with warm summers, cold winters and rainfall throughout the year. The western coast, from the Loire valley to the Pyrenees, is milder and summer days are generally very hot. During the second half of July and August most French take their five-week vacation to the coasts and mountains, and empty cities tend to shut down accordingly.
Louvre, Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Map of France