France Early History

As a country that is a member of European Union defined by, France, home to the first Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, is a founding member of the UN and one of the five permanent members of its Security Council. It houses the headquarters of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, both in Strasbourg, and those of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development | Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and Unesco, in Paris. It is also one of the eight recognized nuclear powers and a member of NATO.

Former colonial power – a condition that has benefited it considerably in the economic order, to the detriment of its former colonies such as Haiti and Algeria -, its culture is spread by countries around the world, grouped in the organization of the Francophonie. The French language is one of the most widely used languages, traditionally used as the language of diplomacy, which, together with 77 other regional languages, forms the linguistic heritage of France, a member of the Latin Union.



Important Lower Paleolithic remains exist in the Somme River and the traditional Pyrenees (Neanderthal man), as well as at La Chapelle – aux – Saints, Le Moustier and La Ferrasie. From the Upper Paleolithic there are abundant traces of the Cro-Magnon, Grimaldi and Chancelade men, dated to about 25,000 years old, which are located in the Dordogne valley. Among the most famous cave paintings in the world are those of Lascaux and Font de Gaume, in the French Pyrenees.

Pre-Roman Gaul and Empire

The borders of modern France 1810 are roughly the same as those of Ancient Gaul, which was inhabited by the Celts (Gauls). Gaul was conquered by Rome and its leader Julius Caesar (who defeated the Gallic chief Vercingétorix) in the 1st century BC, and the Gauls adopted the Roman language (Latin, from which French evolved) and their culture. Christianity took root in the second and third centuries, and was firmly established during the fifth and sixth centuries, at that time Jerónimo de Estridón (Saint Jerome) wrote that Gaul was the only region free from heresy.

The Franks

In 451, Attila, the leader of the Huns invaded Gaul with the help of the Frankish and Visigoth peoples, and managed to establish themselves in the main part of Gaul. In the 4th century, the eastern border of Gaul along the Rhine was crossed by Germanic peoples, mainly the Franks, from which the old name Francie derives. The modern France owes its name to the feudal domain of the Capetian Kings of France around Paris.

The Franks were the first tribe among the Germanic conquerors of Europe, after the fall of the Roman Empire, to convert to Christianity following the baptism of King Clovis in 498 ; thus, France obtained the title of Eldest Daughter of the Church, and the country would adopt this as justification for calling itself the most Christian kingdom of France.

The Merovingian Dynasty ruled present-day France and part of Germany between the 5th and 8th centuries. The first king was Clovis I who conquered much of the Gallic territory between 486 and 507 ; and he converted to Orthodox Christianity in opposition to the Arian heresy, being baptized in Reims around 496, obtaining the support of the Gallo-Roman elites and establishing an important historical link between the French crown and the Catholic Church.

Existence as a separate entity began with the Treaty of Verdun, 843, with the division of Charlemagne’s Carolingian Empire into Eastern France, Central France, and Western France. Western France comprised roughly the area occupied by modern France, of which it was the forerunner.

The Carolingians ruled France until 987, when Hugo Capet was crowned King of France. Their descendants, the Capetian Dynasty, the House of Valois, and the House of Bourbon, progressively unified the country with a series of wars and dynastic inheritances. The monarchy reached its peak during the seventeenth century and the reign of Louis XIV. At this time France had the largest population in Europe and its politics, economy and culture influenced the entire continent. France also obtained many overseas possessions in America, Africa, and Asia.

French Revolution and First Empire

French Revolution French historiography has consecrated the revolutionary event of 1789 as the hinge that marks the turn of the historical process that brought the world –not only France– into a new stage that she herself baptized with the name of contemporaine. The storming of the Bastille marks the beginning of the French Revolution, a social and political process that took place between 1789 and 1799, whose main consequences were the abolition of the absolute monarchy and the proclamation of the Republic, eliminating the economic bases and of the old regime in France.

After a series of short-lived governmental schemes, Napoleon Bonaparte took control of the republic in 1799, becoming first consul and emperor of what is now known as the First French Empire (1804 – 1814). Apart from his military career, Napoleon is also known for the establishment of the Napoleonic Code, a civil code that would remain in force until the second half of the 20th century and would serve as a model for other countries, such as Spain.

He is also known for his talent for having surrounded himself with brilliant experts with a high sense of the State, who knew how to create the legal and administrative framework of contemporary France, but nevertheless he was a tyrannical dictator, whose wars caused the death of millions of people..

After leading the armies of the Revolution to victory in a war of defense of the national territory threatened by the armies of the European monarchies, his army, the Grande Armée, conquered most of continental Europe, although it was defeated in Russia and in Haiti ; in this last place he tried to reestablish the slavery that the Revolution had repealed. In the invaded territories, Napoleon appointed members of the Bonaparte family and some of his closest generals as monarchs of the territories. Today, the Swedish royal family is descended from the Bonapartist general Bernadotte.

France Early History