France, officially the French Republic, is a sovereign state comprising territory in western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The European part of France, called metropolitan France, extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. France spans 675,000 km2 (251,000 mi2) and has a total population of 67 million (data from 2017).
Due to its numerous Overseas departments and territories scattered on all oceans of the planet, France possesses the largest EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) in the world, covering 11,691,000 km2 (4,514,000 mi2) just before the EEZ of the United States as the second largest (11,351,000 km2 / 4,382,000 mi2).
It is a unitary semi-presidential republic with the capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban centres include Lyon, Marseille, Lille, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Nice, Nantes, Strasbourg, Montpellier.
The Constitution of France establishes the state as secular and democratic, with its sovereignty derived from the people.
During the Iron Age, what is now metropolitan France was inhabited by the Gauls, a Celtic people. The area was annexed in 51 BC by Rome, which held Gaul until 486, when the Germanic Franks conquered the region and formed the Kingdom of France. France emerged as a major European power in the Late Middle Ages, with its victory in the Hundred Years' War (1337 to 1453) strengthening state-building and political centralization.
During the Renaissance, French culture flourished and a global colonial empire was established, which by the 20th century would be the second largest in the world. The 16th century was dominated by religious civil wars between Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots). France became Europe's dominant cultural, political, and military power under Louis XIV.
In the late 18th century, the French Revolution overthrew the absolute monarchy, established one of modern history's earliest republics, and saw the drafting of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which expresses the nation's ideals to this day.
In the 19th century Napoleon took power and established the First French Empire, whose subsequent Napoleonic Wars shaped the course of continental Europe. Following the collapse of the Empire, France endured a tumultuous succession of governments culminating with the establishment of the French Third Republic in 1870.
France was a major participant in the First World War, from which it emerged victorious, and was one of the Allied Powers in the Second World War, but came under occupation by the Axis Powers in 1940. Following liberation in 1944, a Fourth Republic was established, when the Fifth Republic, led by Charles de Gaulle, was formed in 1958 and remains to this day.
France has long been a global centre of art, science, and philosophy. It hosts Europe's fourth-largest number of cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites and receives around 83 million foreign tourists annually, the most of any country in the world.
France is a developed country with the world's 5th largest economy by nominal GDP (2017). France performs well in international rankings of education, health care, life expectancy, and human development. France remains a great power in the world, being one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with the power to veto and an official nuclear-weapon state.
It's a leading member state of the European Union and the Euro zone. It is also a member of the Group of 7, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and La Francophonia (84 MSs).
The CEA, the French government-funded technological research organization, ranked 1st among the list of 25 publicly funded institutions doing the most to advance science and technology and France is ranked the Europe's most innovative nation and the 3rd in the world after a new study published, looked at the number of patents lodged in each country (Thompson-Reuters Ranking 2016).
French language is the official language of 29 countries and 57 countries and regions where French is the first ("mother") or customary language, and a total of 84 Member states of the International Organisation of La Francophonie. Approximately 274 million people are speaking the language. According to a demographic projection, total French speakers will number approximately 500 million people in 2025 and between 650 and 700 million people by 2050, 80% of whom will be in Africa.
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