Every year, millions of visitors come to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre museum, the gardens, and many other sights in this beautiful city. But there is much more to France than just Paris.
France is the largest nation in western Europe, but it is still smaller than Texas. The hexagon-shaped country has vast wheat fields and vineyards, 2,000 miles of coastline, and tall mountains. Mont Blanc, in the French Alps, is the tallest mountain in western Europe at 15,771 feet. The island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea is also part of France, as are nine overseas dependencies.
More than 90 percent of France's land is fertile. Its climate is perfect for growing many crops. In most of France, summers are pleasantly warm and winters are cool with plenty of rain. This has helped France become one of the world's leading farming nations.
France has also been a fertile place for individual achievements. Frenchman Sieur de La Salle paddled down the Mississippi River and claimed it for France in the 1680s. Polish-born scientist Marie Curie and her husband, Pierre, discovered radium in a French lab, and she became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize. The paintings of the French artists known as the Impressionists are loved and appreciated by many people. France's cuisine is famous throughout the world, and the country produces 400 kinds of cheese alone!
France was under the control of the Romans for more than 500 years, starting in 58 B.C. By the Middle Ages, France was an important power, competing for influence among European countries such as the Netherlands, England, and Spain. France's royalty became famous for its glittering courts and rich way of life. But while the royalty lived extravagantly, many French people were poor and had few rights. In 1789, the people rebelled and started the French Revolution.
France did not immediately succeed in establishing a democracy, though.
Napoleon became emperor of France in 1799 and conquered much of Europe
before his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. The French eventually gained
rights as citizens, and today, people vote, have political parties, and
participate in France's democratic government.
58 B.C.: Gaul, as the land that is now France was known, is captured by Julius Caesar. The Romans rule Gaul for more than 500 years, until A.D. 486, when Clovis defeats them.
A.D. 800: Charlemagne, king of the Franks and ruler of the land that is now France, conquers much of Europe. He is crowned Roman emperor by the pope in Rome.
1431: Joan of Arc leads French forces in pushing back the English occupying northern France. She is captured by the English and burned at the stake. Still, she inspires the French, and by 1453, the English are gone.
1789: An angry mob of French citizens storms a prison called the Bastille, freeing many political prisoners. The French Revolution begins.
1792: The king of France, Louis XVI, is forced to give up his crown. France becomes a republic.
17991815: Napoleon Bonaparte becomes emperor of France and extends his control over most of Europe. He is eventually captured by the British and exiled to the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic.
18001900s: France conquers parts of Africa, Asia, and South America and turns them into French colonies.
1914: World War I is fought, mainly in Germany and France. France loses one tenth of its male citizens.
1940: In World War II, Germany invades France and occupies it until France is liberated and Germany is defeated.
1950s60s: French colonies in places such as Vietnam and
Algeria fight and win wars of independence. This signifies the end of
France's colonial era.
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Joan of Arc
The Caves of Lascaux