France (French: "France"), officially the French Republic (French: "République française") is a country in Europe. Its capital city is Paris. France is a member of the European Union. France is known for its many monuments, structures, and places such as the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Giverny, Versailles, and Notre Dame. France is a country divided into "régions" and "départements".
France has been one of the world's biggest powers since the end of the 17th century. In the 18th and 19th centuries, France built a very big colonial empire. It is across West Africa and Southeast Asia. France is the most visited country in the world. 82 million foreign tourists visit it every year. France is a founding member of the European Union. It has the largest land area any of the members. France is also a founding member of the United Nations, and a member of the G8 and NATO. It is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. France is a nuclear power with active warheads and nuclear power plants.
There are many cities in France. Some of them are Nice, Marseille, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nantes and of course Paris.
France is in Western Europe. France has borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Andorra, and Spain. France has two mountain ranges near its borders: the Alps and the Pyrenees. In France there are a lot of rivers. Two of these rivers are the Seine and the Loire. In the north and west of France there are low hills and river valleys. In France there are many different climates. The Atlantic has a large effect on the weather in the north and west. This means the temperature is about the same most of the year. In the east winters are cold and clear. Summers are hot and stormy. In the south, summers are hot and dry. Winters are cool and wet.
The name "France" comes from Latin "Francia", which literally means "land of the Franks" or "Frankland".
The borders of modern France are about the same as those of ancient Gaul. Ancient Gaul was inhabited by Celtic "Gauls". Gaul was conquered for Rome by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC. Eventually, the Gauls adopted Roman speech (Latin, from which the French language evolved) and Roman culture. Christianity first appeared in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. It became firmly established by the fourth and fifth centuries.
In the 4th century AD, the Germanic tribes, principally the Franks invaded the gauls. This is how the name "Francie" 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 Catholic 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 was the precursor to modern France.
The "Carolingian" dynasty ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet became King of France. His descendants, the Direct Capetians, the House of Valois and the House of Bourbon, unified the country with many wars and dynastic inheritance. The monarchy was the most powerful during the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV of France. At that time France had the largest population in Europe (see Demographics of France). The country had a big influence over European politics, economy, and culture. French became the common language of diplomacy in international affairs. Much of the Enlightenment happened in France. Major scientific breakthroughs were achieved by French scientists in the 18th century. France also obtained many overseas possessions in the Americas, Africa and Asia.
France had a monarchy until the French Revolution in 1789. King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were executed in 1793. Thousands of other French citizens were also killed. Napoleon Bonaparte took control of the Republic in 1799. He later made himself Emperor of the First Empire (1804'1814). His armies conquered most of continental Europe.
After Napoleon's final defeat in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, the French monarchy was re-established. Later Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte created the Second Empire in 1852. Louis-Napoléon was removed after the defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. His regime was replaced by the Third Republic.
France built a large colonial empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. The empire included parts of West Africa and Southeast Asia. The culture and politics of these regions were influenced by France. Many ex-colonies officially speak the French language.
Administrative divisions.
Then France is divided into 100 departments. The departments are divided into 342 arrondissements. The "arrondissements" are re-divided into 4,032 cantons. The smallest subdivision is the commune. On January 1, 2008, INSEE counted 36,781 communes in France. 36,569 of them are in metropolitan France and 212 of them are in overseas France. This is more than in any other European country.
The government of France is a semi-presidential system determined by the French Constitution of the French fifth Republic. The nation declares itself to be "an indivisible, secular, democratic, and social Republic" in it. The constitution provides for a separation of powers. It proclaims France's "attachment to the Rights of Man defined by the Declaration of 1789."
There are about 359,000 military personnel in France. France spends 2.6% of its GDP on defence. This is the highest in the European Union. France and the UK spend 40% of the EU defence budget. About 10% of France's defence budget is for nuclear weapons force.
Foreign relations.
France is a member of the United Nations. It is permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and has veto rights. It is also a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It hosts the headquarters of the OECD, UNESCO and Interpol. In 1953, France was asked by the United Nations to choose a coat of arms to represent them internationally. The French emblem is now on their passports.
France was a founding member of the European Union. In the 1960s, France wanted to exclude the British from the organisation. It wanted to build its own power in continental Europe. Since the 1990s, France has got closer to Germany. This was to try to become the most influential country in the EU. It consequently created rivalry the UK and limited the influence of newly inducted East European nations. France is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. However, under President de Gaulle, it excluded itself from the joint military command. In the early 1990s, France was criticised for its underground nuclear tests in French Polynesia. France vigorously opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. France retains strong political and economic influence in its former African colonies. For instance it has supplied economic aid and troops for peace-keeping missions in the Ivory Coast and Chad.
France is a member of the G8 group of leading industrialised countries. France is ranked as the eighth largest economy in the world by Gross domestic product (GDP) adjusted for purchasing power parity which takes into account how much it costs to live in different countries and inflation rates. France and 11 other European Union members joined to launch the euro on 1 January 1999.
France's economy has nearly 2.9 million companies registered. The government has a considerable influence over railway, electricity, aircraft, and telecommunications firms. France has an important aerospace (design of aircrafts and spacecrafts) industry led by Airbus. It can also launch space shuttles from French Guiana.
France invested a lot in nuclear power. This made France the smallest producer of carbon dioxide among the seven most industrialized countries in the world. As a result, most of the electricity produced in the country is generated by 59 nuclear power plants (78% in 2006, up from only 8% in 1973, 24% in 1980, and 75% in 1990).
France is the leading agricultural producer and exporter in Europe. France exports: Wheat, poultry, dairy products, beef and pork. It is also famous for its wine industry. France received $10 billion euros in 2006 from the European Community as subsidies to its farmers.
French is the official language of France. It belongs to the Romance language group, which includes Italian and Spanish. Many regional dialects are used in France. Alsatian, a German dialect is spoken in Alsace and in parts of Lorraine in eastern France. French used to be the language of diplomacy and culture in Europe around 17th - 19th century.
Some people in France also speak Basque, Breton, Catalan, Corsican, German, Flemish, and Occitan.
France is a secular country and freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution. The population is about 51% Roman Catholic and 31% is agnostics or atheists. 4% is identified as Muslim, 3% identified as Protestant and 1% identified as Jewish. 10% is identified as being from other religions or being without opinion.
French literature began in the Middle Ages. French was divided into several dialects at the time. Each writer used his own spelling and grammar.
During the 17th century Pierre Corneille, Jean Racine and Molière's plays and Blaise Pascal and René Descartes's books influenced the aristocracy. They also influenced future authors.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, French literature and poetry reach its highest point. The 18th century saw the writings of such writers, essayists and moralists as Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
As for French children's literature in those times, Charles Perrault was probably the most famous writer. He wrote stories such as: “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Cinderella”, “Sleeping Beauty” and “Puss in Boots”.
Many famous French novels were written in the the 19th century by author 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, or The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Other 19th century fiction writers include Emile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, Théophile Gautier and Stendhal.
The Tour de France cycling race in July is one of the best-known sporting events. It is a 3 week (3,500 km) race that covers most of France and ends in the center of Paris. Football is another popular sport in France. The French team won the FIFA World Cup in 1998 and the UEFA European Football Championship in 1984 and 2000. France is also famous for its "24 Hours of Le Mans" car race. France also hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2007 and finished fourth.
France is closely associated with the Modern Olympic Games. At the end of the 19th century the Baron Pierre de Coubertin suggested to have Olympic Games again. France hosted the Summer Olympics twice. In 1900 and in 1924 in Paris. France also hosted the Winter Games three times. In 1924 in Chamonix, in 1968 in Grenoble and in 1992 in Albertville).
France is the first tourist destination in the world. In 2007, 81.9 million foreign tourists visited France. Spain comes second (58.5 million in 2006) and the United States come third (51.1 million in 2006).
Some of the most famous attractions in France are the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. They are in Paris, the capital of France. Another one is Mont Saint Michel.
A European Disneyland is located in a suburb east of Paris. The resort opened in 1992 and is a popular tourist destination in Europe.

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