A brief history of France

Early humans lived in the region we call France 1.57 million years ago. Stone tools and animal bones as well as some of the earliest art in the world was found in the region. Modern man arrived around 40,000 years ago where three main groups dominated the land. These were the Celtic tribes of the Gaul’s, Aquitani and Belgae. In the first millennium BC the Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans established colonies on the Mediterranean coast and islands. The land was called Gaul by these early civilisations after the dominant culture of the Gallic tribes.

In 58 BC Julius Caesar led his Roman legions across the Alps and began his conquest of Gaul. A bloody conflict known as the Gallic Wars ended with Caesar victorious and Gaul being absorbed into the Roman Empire.

For four hundred years Gaul was a Roman province and adopted many aspects of Roman culture, being home to many Roman towns and cities. In the 5th century, Gaul and the Empire were overrun by Barbarian tribes from the East and Germany, leading to several years of instability and war as the Western Roman Empire collapsed. Eventually the Germanic tribe of the Franks emerged the strongest and under the Frankish King Clovis the first, Gaul became united. The Franks domination of the land reached its peak under Charlemagne’s Carolingian Empire. When his empire broke in two the Western half emerged as the Kingdom of France under the rule of the House of Capet.

In 1337 the last Capet King died leaving the French throne vacant for the first time in centuries. What followed was one of the longest conflicts in history, the Hundred Years war. The Kingdom of England lay claim to the French throne but was opposed by the French house of Valois. The war saw the famous English victories of Agincourt and Crecy as well as the emergence of the legendary French heroine of Joan of Arc. The war ended in 1453 with the French victorious and saw France become a super power of the medieval era.

In the 16th century France was the ruler of a huge global colonial empire and embraced the renaissance and experienced the Protestant reformation. Recurring wars and religious conflicts were common occurrences during the 17th century.

In the late 18th century the monarchy of France was overthrown in the French Revolution, an act that changed France and the world forever. The first republic ruled until Napoleon Bonaparte took control declaring him-self emperor of the French Empire. His wars brought glory to France and spread its empire to envelope a large portion of Europe. It wasn’t until the battle of Waterloo that Napoleon was defeated by the allied forces of Great Britain, Prussia, and the Netherlands.

Following Waterloo France saw a number of regime changes until the founding of the Third Republic in 1870. France was one of the leading nations of the Allied powers in World War One and saw many of the conflicts major battles fought on French soil. In World War Two the nation suffered its darkest period after being occupied by the Nazis. Eventually the Allies liberated France and went onto secure victory after which saw the founding of the Fourth Republic. In 1958 the fifth and current republic was founded and is the state in power today. The rest of the 20th century saw the end of Frances overseas empire and saw it become a leading member of the UN, EU and NATO. France is one of the most popular destinations for British expats.