• Vatican City!

    Vatican City: Vatican Museums. Go Now!

    Vatican City
    The smallest country in the world offers the heart of Catholicism and among the world's finest art collections, including the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms (ceiling pictured). Go to Vatican City!

  • Macedonia!

    Macedonia: Traditional architecture. Go Now!

    Macedonia is a country still finding its unique identity, but its architecture is already one of a kind. Explore Macedonia!

  • Netherlands!

    Netherlands: Wooden shoes. Go Now!

    This low country might be small, but it maintains a unique place in history and culture. Explore the Netherlands!

  • Austria!

    Austria: Belvedere Palace. Go Now!

    Belvedere Palace (pictured) is just one of many palaces found in Vienna. The capital is a good start to Austria, which also features the Alps, the Lakes District, and incredible history & food. Go Now!

  • Ukraine!

    Ukraine: Traditional Village. Go Now!

    Ukrainian culture is based on village life, particularly that found in the Carpathian Mountains (pictured). Begin Your Journey!

  • Latvia!

    Latvia: Art Nouveau in Riga. Go Now!

    Latvia is small, but has a diverse history, foods, and architecture (shown), which includes aspects from both Eastern and Western Europe. Begin Your Journey!

History of France

French history dates back millennia and boasts some of the world's best early hieroglyphs (cave paintings), but their modern history begins in about 1000 BC (give or take 500 years) when the region was occupied by the Gauls. Communication expanded over the next few hundred years as trade was established with the Greeks on the Mediterranean coast and the Roman armies inched closer to the region.

In 52 BC Julius Caesar conquered the Gauls and Roman influence swept into the region, creating better communication and infrastructural networks. It also altered the people's ethnicity and language, bringing a romance language to the region from Rome's Latin.

As the Roman Empire shrunk and collapsed, modern-day France was ruled by a number of smaller ruling families, most notably the Frankish rulers, from whom the name France derives and who claims Charlemagne their greatest ruler. Charlemagne greatly extended the borders of the empire and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800.

In 1066 William the Conqueror of Normandy invaded the British Isles, successfully taking England at the Battle of Hastings. This led to battles between the territories of England, Normandy, and mainland France, which led to a long standing rivalry between England and France. The battles between England and France are best exemplified in The Hundred Years' War, which began in 1337 and the Seven Year's War, which began in 1756.

In the early 1500s the Renaissance swept into France and became home to artists like Leonardo da Vinci, and locals such as John Calvin rose to fame. It also brought religious arguments and resistance to the monarchy, leading to political instability until 1799 when Napoleon was democratically elected to rule France. Napoleon was a military master and by 1812 had swept through most of Europe, even taking Moscow. However not all went his way and in 1815 he was sent into exile, where he eventually died. The country again fell into chaos until 1848 when the French Revolution broke out, which created more chaos that didn't completely end until after World War I (WWI).

In 1914 WWI broke out between the Prussians (Germans) and Austrian-Hungarians against the French and English, among others. Much of the fighting took place in France as the French tried to retake their former lands of Alsace and Lorraine. Although France and their allies eventually won the war, it devastated the country and the peace treaty forced Germany to pay France for their wartime losses. This hostility destroyed both countries and created bitterness between the two, one of numerous causes of World War II.

France declared war on Germany in 1939, but by the end of 1940 France had fallen. On June 6, 1944 (D-Day), an allied invasion took the beaches of Normandy and the following year Nazi Germany had surrendered. The war led to the fall of nearly all French colonies and a rebuilding process. This rebuilding began with the Marshall Plan, which greatly contributed to the formation of the European Union (EU).

In recent history France has made amends with its neighbors, including old rivals in Germany and England. It has also become the world's most popular tourist destination, creating a more diverse country, particularly due to immigrants from former colonies in Africa and Asia.

This page was last updated: March, 2013