The third largest country in Europe in terms of area and population is located in the west of the continent. Basin landscapes and low mountain ranges make the landscape extremely diverse. The central region is the fertile, highly industrialized Paris basin, in which the capital Paris is located. In the south-east and south-west, the western Alps and the Pyrenees are high mountains on the national borders. The island of Corsica in the Mediterranean also belongs to France.
The majority of the population is French. The country’s highly specialized agriculture with important viticulture plays a leading role in Europe. However, industry and the traditionally strong service sector play an even greater role in the economy as a whole. France is also a classic tourist destination. The well-developed transport network is geared towards Paris. There has been a direct connection with Great Britain via the Eurotunnel since 1994. France is considered a pioneer of the European Union and belongs to the euro zone.
Abbreviated as FR by ABBREVIATIONFINDER, France is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the English Channel to the northwest. The neighboring countries are Belgium and Luxembourg in the north-east, Germany, Switzerland and Italy in the east. Finally, in the south, France borders the Mediterranean, Spain and Andorra (Fig. 1).
France is administratively divided into 96 departments, which are located in 22 regions. The country also has numerous overseas territories. These are the remains of the French colonial empire, which included parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America and Oceania until the middle of the 20th century. Some of these areas, such as Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion or French Guiana, are so-called overseas departments and have the same rights as the departments located directly in the metropolitan area.
The core of France is the Paris Basin. This is a tier level country. It stretches between the old massifs of the Ardennes and Vosges in the east, the Massif Central with its volcanic peaks in the south and the Brittany peninsula in the west.
The Paris Basin is connected to the Aquitaine Basin around Bordeaux via the low threshold of Poitou, which extends in southwest France to the Bay of Biscay.
In the southwest and southeast, high mountains determine the landscape: the Pyrenees on the Spanish border and the French western Alps. The highest peak in Europe, the 4807 m high Mont Blanc, is located in the Western Alps.
The very narrow Mittelmeersaum with its picturesque cliffs of the Côte d`Azur can from the north on the Rhône-Saône-furrow, to achieve a valley between the Massif Central and Western Alps. This trench zone, which is traversed by the Rhône and connected to the Upper Rhine Plain by the Burgundian Gate, forms an excellent traffic axis that was used in prehistoric times.
From the largest rivers in France, the Seine flows into the English Channel, the Loire and Garonne into the Atlantic and the Rhône into the Mediterranean. The largest naturally formed lakes in France are beach lakes (étangs) on the Aquitaine coast south of the Gironde or on the Mediterranean coast between Perpignan and Marseille. France also has a stake in Lake Geneva.
With the exception of the rocky coast of Brittany, the consistently flat coastal regions make France very open to Atlantic air masses. As a result, they can penetrate very far to the east. Correspondingly, the Atlantic maritime climate with precipitation in all seasons characterizes large parts of the country, especially the coastal regions (Fig. 4). Violent storms can occur in the northwest of the country and the Bay of Biscay.
As a more continental climate province, the Paris Basin has significantly less rainfall, milder summers, but also colder winters.
The Midi, the south and southeast of the country, on the other hand, belongs to the Mediterranean climate zone with hot, rather dry summers and mild winters with high levels of rainfall.
Local winds like that Mistral, a cold dry fall wind, can penetrate far north in the Rhône valley.
The Western Alps again form their own climate province with great differences due to the relief. The Pyrenees, the Massif Central and the Vosges have similar conditions.
The natural vegetation is hardly to be found in France due to the long cultural landscape overprint. In the coastal areas in the west, especially in Brittany, there are still Atlantic heaths and moors. The species-rich deciduous forests that once covered large parts of the country have largely been cut down and given way to agricultural use.
In the Mediterranean region, the evergreen scrub forest of hard-leaved plants, the maquis, or its degraded form, has displaced the garrigue, the holm oak, pine or cedar stands.
The Mediterranean island of Corsica is a heavily fragmented, wild mountainous country with some fertile coastal plains in the east and a richly indented west coast. Large parts are covered by maquis or forest. The most important economic sectors are agriculture with sheep and goat breeding, tourism and fishing. Vines, citrus fruits, olive trees and cork oaks thrive in the coastal zones, while chestnut and fruit trees thrive in higher areas. The Corsicans speak an Italian dialect, but French is the official and educational language.
Genoa sold the island to France in 1768. Since the 60’s of the last century, the drive for autonomy on the island increased, partly connected with terrorist attacks. In 1982 Corsica was given a Statute of Autonomy, which was renewed and extended in 1992 and is currently being renegotiated in France. Corsica’s most famous son is NAPOLEON BONAPARTE.
Important data about the country
|Population density:||111 residents / km²|
|Growth of population:||about 0.5% / year|
(men / women)
|Form of government:||republic|
|Languages:||French as the official language|
|Religions:||Catholics 78%, 4.5% Muslims (predominantly of North African origin)|
|Climate:||in large parts oceanic temperate climate, in the south and southeast a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild, humid winters|
|Land use:||Arable land 36%, pasture land 19%, forest 28%|
(share of GDP, 2003)
|Agriculture 3%, industry 24%, services 73%|
|Export goods:||Machines and devices, motor vehicles, chemical products, food and beverages, iron and steel|
|Gross domestic product:||$ 1,757,613 million (2003)|
|Gross National Product:||US $ 24,730 / residents (2003)|
Despite the free, non-denominational elementary school that has existed since 1882, a good 17% of French students attend one of the many private, often church schools that enjoy a good reputation. The system of elite schools, which dates back to the reforms of the French Revolution and was further expanded by NAPOLEON, plays an important role in the French education system. The path to leading positions in business and politics is unthinkable without graduating from these schools. Universities are located in Bordeaux and of course in Paris, among others.
France is one of the five leading economies in the world and, as a founding member of the EU, plays an important role in the European unification process. It is a highly developed industrial country with a high standard of living for the population (Fig. 6). Through its integration into the EU, France has developed great economic dynamism in the last few decades. The free movement of goods and capital and the free competition that goes with it in the European context has stimulated French companies and challenged them to modernize and make new investments. The country has close economic ties to its partners in the EU, with whom it conducts almost two thirds of its foreign trade.
Economy, politics and administration are very centralized in France. From this point of view, the outstanding economic center of France is the greater Paris area.
France has favorable natural conditions for productive agriculture. Around 60% of the area can be used for agriculture. The country therefore occupies a leading position in agricultural production in the EU area and generates around 20% of total EU production. After the USA, France is the world’s second largest food exporter.
The agricultural land is cultivated intensively and effectively. The number of farms has decreased in recent years and the remaining businesses have become larger and more efficient.
Many regions of France are famous for their specific agricultural and processing products:
Cattle farming and dairy farming dominate in Normandy, and cider and calvados are distilled from the apples in the numerous apple orchards.
The mild winter climate on the coast of Brittany enables intensive vegetable cultivation. Fish and seafood, especially the famous oysters, also come from this region.
The Paris Basin is the “granary” and “sugar parlor” of France. Mainly wheat, corn and sugar beet are produced here.
In the Massif Central and the Auvergne, agriculture naturally takes a back seat to cattle, sheep and goat husbandry. These regions therefore produce a large number of fine cheese specialties.
Poultry farming in the Bresse, truffle production in the Dordogne, rice cultivation in the Camargue and the flower and lavender cultures in Provence and on the Côte d’Azur also have special positions.
France is the largest wine producer in the world, ahead of Italy. Famous wine-growing regions include Champagne, Burgundy, Bordelais and the Languedoc region.
France has an extremely diverse industrial production.
The iron and steel industry, above all the extraction of iron and steel as well as aluminum, the chemical and cosmetic industries are among the traditional focuses of French industry.
Important sectors of the capital goods industry are mechanical engineering and vehicle construction, the electrotechnical and armaments industries.
The products of the textile and clothing industry in France and, last but not least, the highly specialized food and beverage industry play a leading role within Europe.
Today, some of the French cutting-edge technology sectors are also internationally recognized, including nuclear energy, high-speed train construction and the aerospace industry, which has its center in Toulouse.
In the overseas department of French Guiana, north-west of the capital Cayenne, there is the French space research center Kourou and a rocket launch base, from which the Ariane rockets of the European space program, among others, are launched.
French Guiana is located on the tropical northeast coast of South America between Suriname and Brazil. Almost the entire area is covered by tropical rainforest. Mangrove swamps are common along the coast. The population consists of Creoles, Blacks and Asians. The coastline was settled by the French from 1604. Since 1816, the area has belonged to France, which from 1852 to 1948 maintained notorious convict colonies on the offshore Devil’s Island and in Cayenne.
Service sector and transport
The service sector is also steadily increasing in importance in France. The banking and finance sectors as well as the tourism industry are traditionally important. With around 70 million visitors from abroad every year, France is the world’s most popular travel destination.
Destinations for tourists are Paris, the Mediterranean coast, the seaside resorts of Normandy, Brittany and the Atlantic coast, the Loire Valley with its famous castles, Burgundy, Provence and Alsace.
Modern winter sports centers have sprung up in the French Alps, including in the Grenoble region. The well-developed transport network in all areas is geared towards the greater Paris area. The state railway company SNCF operates, among other things, a state-of-the-art route network with the high-speed trains TGV. Important inland waterways are the Seine between Paris and Le Havre, the Rhône, especially below Lyon, and the Alsatian part of the Rhine-Rhône connection. Formerly important artificial waterways, such as the Canal du Midi, which was laid out in the 17th century and connects the Atlantic with the Mediterranean, are now only of tourist importance.
7/6 Century BC Chr.: Celts immigrate to what is now France.
51-58 BC Chr.: CAESAR subjugates Gaul.
482–511: CHLODWIG establishes the Frankish Empire in large parts of Gaul.
768–814: reign of CHARLES THE GREAT
843: After the division of the Franconian Empire in the Treaty of Verdun, the western part falls to KARL DEN KAHLEN.
1337: Beginning of the Hundred Years War against England
1429: JEANNE D`ARC freed the besieged by Englishmen Orléans.
1572: The climax of the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants with the murder of the Protestants gathered in Paris on St. Bartholomew’s Night
1661–1715: Peak of absolutism in France with the sole rule of the “Sun King” LUDWIG XIV
1789: Beginning of the French Revolution with the storming of the Bastille and declaration of human and civil rights
1792: beginning of the First Republic (until 1814)
1799: Beginning of the rule of NAPOLEON BONAPARTES
1814: NAPOLEON is forced to abdicate, the Bourbons return to the throne.
1848: February Revolution and proclamation of the Second Republic
1870/71: With the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War, the Second Empire under NAPOLEON III ends and the Third Republic begins.
1914–1918: France is one of the victorious powers in World War I.
1940: German troops occupy large parts of France during World War II.
1944: Allied landing in Normandy
1946: Beginning of the Fourth Republic with a new democratic constitution
1957: Foundation of the European Economic Community (EEC) with France as a founding member
1963: Agreement with the FRG on Franco-German cooperation
1992: The people of France approve the Maastricht Treaty.