Portal:France

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

France (French:  [fʁɑ̃s] Listen), officially the French Republic (French: République française), is a country primarily located in Western Europe, consisting of metropolitan France and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea. The 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. The country's eighteen integral regions (five of which are situated overseas) span a combined area of 643,801 km2 (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.413 million (). 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. France, including its overseas territories, has the most time zones of any country, with a total of twelve.

During the Iron Age, what is now metropolitan France was inhabited by the Gauls. The area was annexed by Rome in 51 BC, developing 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 highly decentralized feudal kingdom in which the authority of the king was barely felt. King Philip Augustus achieved remarkable success in the strengthening of royal power and the expansion of his realm, doubling its size and defeating his rivals. By the end of his reign, France had emerged as the most powerful state in Europe. In the mid-14th century, French monarchs were embroiled in a series of dynastic conflicts with their English counterparts, collectively known as the Hundred Years' War, from which they ultimately emerged victorious. Disputes with Spain and the Holy Roman Empire soon followed during the Renaissance. Meanwhile, French culture flourished and a global colonial empire was established, 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 Protestants ( Huguenots), which 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. Despite the wealth of the nation, an inadequate financial model and inequitable taxation system coupled with endless and costly wars meant that the kingdom was left in a precarious economic situation by the end of the 18th century. Especially costly were the Seven Years' War and American War of Independence. The French Revolution in 1789 saw the fall of the absolute monarchy that characterized the Ancien Régime and from its ashes, rose one of modern history's earliest republics, which drafted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The declaration expresses the nation's ideals to this day.

Following the revolution, 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. After the collapse of the empire and a relative decline, France endured a tumultuous succession of governments culminating in the establishment of the French Third Republic in 1870 in the midst of the Franco-Prussian War. France was one of the prominent participants of World War I, from which it emerged victorious, and was one of the Allied powers in World War II, but came under occupation by the Axis in 1940. Following liberation in 1944, a Fourth Republic was established and later dissolved in the course of the Algerian War. The Fifth Republic, led by Charles de Gaulle, was formed in 1958 and remains to this day. Algeria and nearly all other French colonies became independent in the 1960s, with most retaining close economic and military connections with France. ( Full article...)

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Young Boulonnais stallion

The Boulonnais, also known as the "White Marble Horse", is a draft horse breed. It is known for its large but elegant appearance and is usually gray, although chestnut and black are also allowed by the French breed registry. Originally there were several sub-types, but they were crossbred until only one is seen today. The breed's origins trace to a period before the Crusades and, during the 17th century, Spanish Barb, Arabian, and Andalusian blood were added to create the modern type.

During the early 1900s, the Boulonnais were imported in large numbers to the United States and were quite popular in France; however, the European population suffered severe decreases during 20th-century wars. The breed nearly became extinct following World War II, but rebounded in France in the 1970s as a popular breed for horse meat. Breed numbers remain low; it is estimated that fewer than 1,000 horses remain in Europe, mostly in France, with a few in other nations. Studies as early as 1983 indicated a danger of inbreeding within the Boulonnais population, and a 2009 report suggested that the breed should be a priority for conservation within France. The smallest type of Boulonnais was originally used to pull carts full of fresh fish from Boulogne to Paris, while the larger varieties performed heavy draft work, both on farms and in the cities. The Boulonnais was also crossbred to create and refine several other draft breeds. ( 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 traditional bouillabaisse from Marseille, with the fish served separately after the soup

Bouillabaisse (French pronunciation: ​ [bu.ja.bɛːs]; Occitan: bolhabaissa, bullabessa [ˌbuʎaˈβajsɔ / ˌbujaˈbajsɔ]) is a traditional Provençal fish stew originating from the port city of Marseille. The French and English form bouillabaisse comes from the Provençal Occitan word bolhabaissa, a compound that consists of the two verbs bolhir (to boil) and abaissar (to reduce heat, i.e., simmer).

Bouillabaisse was originally a stew made by Marseille fishermen, using the bony rockfish which they were unable to sell to restaurants or markets. There are at least three kinds of fish in a traditional bouillabaisse, typically red rascasse ( Scorpaena scrofa); sea robin; and European conger. It can also include gilt-head bream, turbot, monkfish, mullet, or European hake. It usually also includes shellfish and other seafood such as sea urchins, mussels, velvet crabs, spider crab or octopus. More expensive versions may add langoustine (Norway lobster), though this was not part of the traditional dish made by Marseille fishermen. Vegetables such as leeks, onions, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes are simmered together with the broth and served with the fish. The broth is traditionally served with a rouille, a mayonnaise made of olive oil, garlic, saffron, and cayenne pepper on grilled slices of bread. ( Full article...)

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Le Terrible on her sea trials, 10 May 1935

Le Terrible ("The terrible one") was one of six Le Fantasque-class large destroyers (contre-torpilleur, "Torpedo-boat destroyer") built for the Marine Nationale (French Navy) during the 1930s. The ship entered service in 1936 and participated in the Second World War. When war was declared in September 1939, all of the Le Fantasques were assigned to the Force de Raid which was tasked to hunt down German commerce raiders and blockade runners. Le Terrible and two of her sister ships were based in Dakar, French West Africa, to patrol the Central Atlantic for several months in late 1939. They returned to Metropolitan France before the end of the year and were transferred to French Algeria in late April 1940 in case Italy decided to enter the war. She screened French cruisers once as they unsuccessfully hunted for Italian ships after Italy declared war in June.

Le Terrible was present when the British attacked French ships in July, but was not damaged. She was sent to Dakar at the beginning of 1941 and was there when French West Africa joined the Allies in late 1942. The ship was sent to the United States for repairs and to be modernized in early 1943. Le Terrible was sent to the Mediterranean at the beginning of 1944 where she spent the rest of the year searching for Axis shipping with two of her sisters. In between raids, the ship provided naval gunfire support during Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France, in mid-1944. She was badly damaged in a collision in December and spent the next year under repair. ( Full article...)
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Detail from The Coronation of Alexander.

  • ...that the illuminated French 13th-century Histoire ancienne (detail of illustration pictured) told the history of the world in prose with moralizing verse?
  • ...that Lycée Pierre-Corneille was founded in 1593 to educate children "in accordance with the purest doctrinal principles of Roman Catholicism"?
  • ...that the monastery of Champmol was founded in 1383 as the dynastic burial-place of the Valois Dukes of Burgundy, but only ever contained two monumental tombs?

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