France has the most complicated human history in Europe.
The excavated archaeological relics are up to 100,000 years old, indicating that settlement has been in place since the Paleolithic Age in France. Around 1200 BC, Celtic Gauls began to migrate south and west from the Rhine basin toward what is now northern France and Italy. Around 600 BC, Ionic Greeks built a commercial colony in Masilia. The most famous of the centuries-old Ionian settlements in what is now southern France has developed into Marseilles.
Beginning in 121 BC, the Roman conquest of Gaul ended in 58–50 BC with the conquest of Julius Caesar. Gaul was thoroughly Romanized during Roman rule.
As Rome declined, Gaul was invaded by Germanic tribes. By the end of the 5th century, the Frankish Salisians had occupied the northern Loire River, the Western Goths had occupied Aquitaine and Provence, and the Burgundes had occupied the Lon River basin. The Salis took control of most of Gaul in the 6th century under the leadership of the Merovingian dynasty.
By the 8th century, the Merovingian dynasty had been transferred to the Carolingian dynasty, whose greatest king, Charlemagne, extended his empire to much of Western Europe in the early 9th century. His death caused the division of the empire. After the Treaty of Verdun in 843, the westernmost territory of the Charlemagne Empire became known as the Francia Ocidentalis. When the last king of the Carolingian dynasty died in 987, Wig Café was elected king of the Francia Okidentalis.
The Café dynasty was weak at first, but lasted until 1328, accounting for most of modern France except for Flanders, Brittany, Burgundy, and Akiten. In 1328, the throne of France was handed over to Philip VI of the Balois family, which triggered the struggle against England, known as the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453).
This war firmly established the Balois family as a French royal family, and England lost all of its territory in France, except Calais. By the end of the 15th century, Burgundy and Brittany had come under the control of the Balois family, and the territory of France was almost the same as it is today.
In the 16th century, the Protestant movement spread throughout France, leading to a series of religious wars and civil wars. The war between Protestants and Roman Catholics culminated in the slaughter of about 3,000 Huguenots in Paris on the eve of Saint Bartholomeo’s Day in 1572.
In the ensuing turmoil, Henry de Navar (Henri IV), a Protestant of the Bourbon family, ascended the throne, but he eventually converted to Catholicism to secure peace. He promulgated the Edict of Nantes (1598), allowing the Huguenots considerable freedom of faith. In the 17th century, outstanding politicians such as Cardinal Richelieu and Mazarain helped to make France the strongest nation in Europe. The later kings of the Bourbon family, especially Louis XIV, took France’s absolute kingship to a new level by decorating a luxurious palace in Versailles and claiming to be the sun king.
However, as a result of a series of costly overseas expeditions in the 18th century, France lost several overseas territories and almost went bankrupt.
The revolution in 1789 drove out the king, issued the Declaration of Human Rights, and overthrew the old regime. The French Revolution ended with a five-member weak government after bloodshed. The regime was soon transferred to Napoleon, who ruled France from 1799 to 1814, first as president and later as emperor.
Napoleon’s massive military expedition ended with his downfall in 1815. The limitedly restored monarchy lasted until 1871, with the exception of a short period of republic (1848–52) and ended with the Third Republic following the defeat of the French-Prussian War (1870–71). France lost the Alsace-Lauren region to Germany in 1871, but regained it at the end of World War I.
After Nazi Germany invaded France in 1940, a pro-German regime was established under Philippe Petain of Vichy France (World War II). Under the leadership of General Charles de Gaulle, who defected to England, the “Free France” was formed, and a resistance movement took place in Korea. France was liberated by the Allies and the Free French in 1944, followed by the restoration of parliamentary democracy under the Fourth Republic.
The Fourth Republic could not afford the costly war against nationalist guerrillas in Indochina in the 1950s and the nationalist movement that emerged in French colonies, including Algeria. De Gaulle, who returned to public service in 1958, was the president of the Fifth Republic and led the way in making most of France’s overseas colonies independent. Fran 사회ois Mitterrand was the first Socialist elected president in 1981, re-elected in 1988 and resigned in 1995 (→ French history).
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