Portal:France
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Portal:France

Welcome to the France Portal!
Bienvenue sur le Portail France !

Flag France
Map of France in the world and position of its largest single land territory in continental Europe.

France (French: [fs] ), officially the French Republic (French: République française), is a transcontinental country spanning Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. Its metropolitan area extends from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea; overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. France borders Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland, Monaco and Italy to the east, Andorra and Spain to the south, as well as the Netherlands, Suriname, and Brazil in the Americas. Its eighteen integral regions (five of which are overseas) span a combined area of 643,801 km2 (248,573 sq mi) and over 67 million people . France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre; other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille, and Nice. Including its overseas territories, France has twelve time zones, the most of any country.

Inhabited since the Palaeolithic era, France was settled by Celtic tribes known as Gauls during the Iron Age. Rome annexed the area in 51 BC, leading to a distinct Gallo-Roman culture that laid the foundation of the French language. The Germanic Franks arrived in 476 and formed the Kingdom of Francia, which became the heartland of the Carolingian Empire. The Treaty of Verdun of 843 partitioned the empire, with West Francia becoming the Kingdom of France in 987.

In the High Middle Ages, France was a powerful but highly decentralized feudal kingdom in which the king's authority was barely felt. King Philip Augustus achieved remarkable success in the strengthening of royal power and the expansion of his realm, defeating his rivals and doubling its size. By the end of his reign, the kingdom had emerged as the most powerful state in Europe. From the mid-14th to the mid-15th century, France was plunged into a series of dynastic conflicts for the French throne, collectively known as the Hundred Years' War, and a distinct French identity emerged as a result. The French Renaissance saw art and culture flourish, various wars with rival powers, and the establishment of a global colonial empire, which by the 20th century would become the second largest in the world. The second half of the 16th century was dominated by religious civil wars between Catholics and Huguenots that severely weakened the country. But France once again emerged as Europe's dominant cultural, political, and military power in the 17th century under Louis XIV following the Thirty Years' War. Inadequate economic policies, an inequitable taxation system as well as endless wars (notably a defeat in the Seven Years' War and costly involvement in the American War of Independence), left the kingdom in a precarious economic situation by the end of the 18th century. This precipitated the French Revolution of 1789, which overthrew the absolute monarchy, replaced the Ancien Régime with one of history's first modern republics, and produced the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which expresses the nation's ideals to this day.

France reached its political and military zenith in the early 19th century under Napoleon Bonaparte, subjugating much of continental Europe and establishing the First French Empire. The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars shaped the course of European and world history. The collapse of the empire initiated a period of relative decline, in which France endured a tumultuous succession of governments until the founding of the French Third Republic during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Subsequent decades saw a period of optimism, cultural and scientific flourishing, and economic prosperity known as the Belle Époque. France was one of the major participants of World War I, from which it emerged victorious at great human and economic cost. It was among the Allied powers of the World War II, but was soon occupied by the Axis in 1940. Following liberation in 1944, the short-lived Fourth Republic was established and later dissolved in the course of the Algerian War. The current Fifth Republic was formed in 1958 by Charles de Gaulle. Algeria and most French colonies became independent in the 1960s, with the majority retaining close economic and military ties with France. (Full article...)

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A stormy scene under a threatening sky; to the right is a pillared temple screened by palm trees. Outside the temple a woman stands, dressed in white, her robes blown in the wind. To the left in the middle distance a group of men is visible, gathered by the sea shore.
Final scene of act 1 (La Scala, 1886)

Les pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers) is an opera in three acts by the French composer Georges Bizet, to a libretto by Eugène Cormon and Michel Carré. It was premiered on 30 September 1863 at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris, and was given 18 performances in its initial run. Set in ancient times on the island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the opera tells the story of how two men's vow of eternal friendship is threatened by their love for the same woman, whose own dilemma is the conflict between secular love and her sacred oath as a priestess. The friendship duet "Au fond du temple saint", generally known as "The Pearl Fishers Duet", is one of the best-known in Western opera.

At the time of the premiere, Bizet (born on 25 October 1838) was not yet 25 years old: he had yet to establish himself in the Parisian musical world. The commission to write Les pêcheurs arose from his standing as a former winner of the prestigious Prix de Rome. Despite a good reception by the public, press reactions to the work were generally hostile and dismissive, although other composers, notably Hector Berlioz, found considerable merit in the music. The opera was not revived in Bizet's lifetime, but from 1886 onwards it was performed with some regularity in Europe and North America, and from the mid-20th century has entered the repertory of opera houses worldwide. Because the autograph score was lost, post-1886 productions were based on amended versions of the score that contained significant departures from the original. Since the 1970s, efforts have been made to reconstruct the score in accordance with Bizet's intentions. (Full article...)

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Monteux during his conductorship of Les Ballets Russes, c. 1912
Pierre Benjamin Monteux (4 April 1875 – 1 July 1964) was a French (later American) conductor. After violin and viola studies, and a decade as an orchestral player and occasional conductor, he began to receive regular conducting engagements in 1907. He came to prominence when, for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes company between 1911 and 1914, he conducted the world premieres of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and other prominent works including Petrushka, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé, and Debussy's Jeux. Thereafter he directed orchestras around the world for more than half a century.

From 1917 to 1919 Monteux was the principal conductor of the French repertoire at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He led the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1919-24), Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra (1924-34), Orchestre Symphonique de Paris (1929-38) and San Francisco Symphony (1936-52). In 1961, aged eighty-six, he accepted the chief conductorship of the London Symphony Orchestra, a post which he held until his death three years later. Although known for his performances of the French repertoire, his chief love was the music of German composers, above all Brahms.

In 1932 he began a conducting class in Paris, which he developed into a summer school that was later moved to his summer home in Les Baux in the south of France. After moving permanently to the US in 1942, and taking American citizenship, he founded a school for conductors and orchestral musicians in Hancock, Maine.

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A croque monsieur
A croque monsieur (French pronunciation: ​[kk m?sjø]) is a hot sandwich made with ham and cheese. The dish originated in French cafés and bars as a quick snack. The name comes from the French words croque ("bite") and monsieur ("mister"). The first time this sandwich is known to have appeared on a Paris café menu was in 1910. (Full article...)

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Ouvrage La Ferté, also known as Ouvrage Villy-La Ferté, is a petit ouvrage of the Maginot Line, located in the Fortified Sector of Montmédy, facing Belgium. The ouvrage lies between the towns of Villy and La Ferté-sur-Chiers. It possesses two combat blocks linked by an underground gallery. The westernmost position in its sector, it was a comparatively weakly armed fortification in an exposed position that left it vulnerable to isolation and attack. After a sustained attack during the Battle of France the position was overwhelmed by German forces and was destroyed with its entire garrison killed. The fighting at La Ferté was the heaviest of any position in the Maginot Line. It is preserved as a war memorial. (Full article...)

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