France's History

Few countries have for so long been at the centre stage of history as France has and is. Rome's civilizing conquest in the 1st Century BC saw its province of Gaul become one the Roman Empire's most important. The collapse of Roman rule plunged France and Europe into the dark ages from which it did not emerge until the unifying rule of Charlemagne (768-814). France continued to strengthen, with St Joan of Arc expelling the English in the 1400's and France's power shining under the Sun King, Louis XIV from 1643-1715. Poverty and radical ideas proved a lethal mixture for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who lost their heads during the French Revolution which exploded in 1789. Napoleon Bonaparte restored order in 1799 crowning himself Emperor in 1804. He met his Waterloo in 1815 and France alternated between Kingdom, Republic, Empire back to Republic again until it stabilized in Charles De Galle's Fifth Republic in 1958.

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Since WWII French political power has waned on the world stage however it has managed its colonial retreat with great dignity and powerful cultural bridges remain linking its former colonies to Paris. France was a founding member of the European Community in 1958 and the Euro in 2002. France remains a cultural superpower, the undisputed capital of fashion, source of inspirational art and design, unrivalled cuisine, the world's favourite wine, champagne's and liquors and many giant corporations such as Airbus, Citroën, Renault and many financiers whose stability compares favourably with American and British firms. France’s rich culture, magnificent scenery and chic attractions fascinate millions annually.

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