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●France , officially French Republic, republic (2005 est. pop. 60,656,000), 211,207 sq mi (547,026 sq km), W Europe. France is bordered by the English Channel (N), the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Biscay (W), Spain and Andorra (SW), the Mediterranean Sea (S), Switzerland and Italy (SE), and Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium (NE). The natural land frontiers are the Pyrenees, along the border with Spain; the Jura Mts. and the Alps, along the border with Switzerland and Italy; and the Rhine River, which is part of the border with Germany. France's capital and largest city is Paris .LandAlthough France's old historic provinces were abolished by the Revolution, they remain the country's basic geographic, cultural, and economic divisions. These provinces mirror France's natural geographic regions and, despite modern administrative centralization, retain their striking diversity. The heart of France N of the Loire River is the province of ?le-de-France, which occupies the greater part of the Paris basin, a fertile depression drained by the Seine and Marne rivers. The basin is surrounded by the provinces of Champagne and Lorraine in the east; Artois , Picardy, French Flanders (see Nord dept.), and Normandy in the northeast and north; Brittany, Maine , and Anjou in the west; and Touraine , Orléanais , Nivernais , and Burgundy in the south. Further south are Berry and Bourbonnais . Further east, between the Vosges Mts. and the Rhine, is Alsace; S of Alsace, along the Jura, is Franche-Comté.South-central France is occupied by the rugged mountains of the Massif Central, one of the country's major natural features. It comprises the provinces of Marche , Limousin, Auvergne, and Lyonnais . To the E of the Rh?ne River, which divides the Massif Central from the Alps, are Savoy , Dauphiné , and Provence . The French Alps have some of the highest peaks in Europe, including Mont Blanc. The Rh?ne valley widens into a plain near its delta on the Mediterranean; part of the coast of Provence forms the celebrated French Riviera . Languedoc extends from the Cevennes Mts. to the Mediterranean coast W of the Rh?ne. Corsica lies off the Mediterranean coast. The southwestern part of France comprises the small Pyrenean provinces of Roussillon , Foix , Béarn , and French Navarre and the vast provinces of Gascony and Guienne . The last two constitute the great Aquitanian plain, drained by the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, which flow into the Bay of Biscay. The central section of the west coast, between the Gironde estuary and the Loire, is occupied by the provinces of Saintonge , Angoumois , Aunis , and Poitou .Since 1972 France has been administratively divided into 22 regions, many of which correspond to the nation's historical provinces. These regions are: Alsace , Aquitane, Auvergne , Basse-Normandie, Bourgogne ( Burgundy ), Bretagne ( Brittany ), Centre, Champagne-Ardenne, Corse ( Corsica ), Franche-Comté , Haute-Normandie, ?le-de-France , Languedoc-Roussillon, Limousin , Lorraine , Midi-Pyrenees, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire, Picardie ( Picardy ), Poitou-Charentes, Provence-Alpes-C?te d'Azur, and Rhone-Alpes.France also has a number of overseas departments, territories, and countries which, legally, are part of the French Republic. The overseas departments are Martinique , Guadeloupe , Réunion , and French Guiana . The overseas countries and territories are New Caledonia , French Polynesia , Wallis and Futuna Islands , and the French Southern and Antarctic Territories. Mayotte is a departmental collectivity, and St. Pierre and Miquelon is a territorial collectivity.PeopleAbout 75% of the population live in urban areas. Until the end of World War II the population increase in France was perhaps the lowest in Europe, but in postwar decades the rate has increased. The mingling of peoples over the centuries as well as immigration in the 20th cent. has given France great ethnic diversity. A large influx of predominantly North African immigrants has had a great effect on the cities, especially Paris and Marseille.French is the nation's language. There are also a number of regional dialects, which are largely declining in usage. Alsatian, a German dialect, is spoken in Alsace and in parts of Lorraine. A small number speak Flemish, a Dutch dialect, in French Flanders. In Celtic Brittany, Breton is still spoken, as is Basque in the Bayonne region, Proven?al in Provence, Catalan at the eastern end of the Pyrenees, and Corsican on the island of Corsica.Roman Catholicism is by far the largest religion in France, nominally professed by about 85% of the population, although only an estimated 5% are churchgoers. With growing immigration from Asia, Turkey, and North Africa, France also has a large Muslim population, estimated at 3 to 5 million. There are smaller numbers of Protestants and Jews. Separation of church and state was made final by law in 1905.EconomyFrance is one of the world's major economic powers. Agriculture plays a larger role than in the economies of most other industrial countries. A large proportion of the value of total agricultural output derives from livestock (especially cattle, hogs, poultry, and sheep). The mountain areas and NW France are the livestock regions. The country's leading crops are wheat, sugar beets, corn, barley, and potatoes, with the most intensive cultivation N of the Loire; the soil in the Central Massif is less fertile. Fruit growing is important in the south. France is among the foremost producers of wine in the world. The best-known vineyards are in Burgundy, Champagne, the Rh?ne and Loire valleys, and the Bordeaux region. The centers of the wine trade are Bordeaux, Reims , épernay , Dijon , and Cognac .France's leading industries produce machinery, chemicals, automobiles, metals, aircraft, electronics equipment, textiles, and foods (especially cheeses). Advanced technology industries are also important. Coal, iron ore, bauxite, and other minerals are mined. Tourism is an important industry, and Paris is famous for its luxury goods. Nuclear energy furnishes 75% of all electricity produced in France. In addition to the Paris area, important industrial cities are, in the northeast, Metz , Strasbourg , Roubaix , and Lille ; in the southeast, Lyons , Saint-étienne , Clermont-Ferrand , and Grenoble ; in the south, Marseilles , Toulouse , Nice , and N?mes ; and in the west, Bordeaux and Nantes . Other important cities are Orléans , Tours , Troyes , and Arles .France has an extensive railway system, the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Fran?ais (SNCF). The first of a number of high-speed rail lines (TGVs) was completed in 1983, linking Paris and Lyons. Subsequent lines connected Paris to several other French cities, as well as Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and, via the Channel Tunnel , Great Britain.The government previously had majority ownership in many commercial banks, some key industries, and various utilities, including the telephone system. There has been recent movement toward privatization, with the government reducing its holdings in many companies, although it still controls energy production, public transportation, and defense industries.Leading exports are machinery and transportation equipment, aircraft, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, iron and steel, and beverages. Leading imports are machinery and equipment, vehicles, crude oil, aircraft, plastics, and chemicals. Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Great Britain, and the United States are the main trading partners. The chief ports are Rouen , Le Havre , Cherbourg , Brest , Saint-Nazaire , Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulon , Dunkirk , and Marseilles.GovernmentSince the Revolution of 1789, France has had an extremely uniform and centralized administration, although constitutional changes in 2003 now permit greater autonomy to the nation's regions and departments. The country is governed under the 1958 constitution (as amended), which established the Fifth French Republic and reflected the views of Charles de Gaulle . It provides for a strong president, directly elected for a five-year term (changes in 2000 and 2008 reduced the term from seven years and limited a person to two terms as president). A premier and cabinet, appointed by the president, are responsible to the National Assembly, but they are subordinate to the president. The bicameral legislature consists of the National Assembly and the Senate. Deputies to the 577-seat National Assembly are elected for five-year terms from single-member districts. The 331 Senators are elected for nine-year terms from each department by an electoral college composed of the deputies, district council members, and municipal council members from the department.France's 22 administrative regions (see above under Land ) each have a directly elected regional council, primarily responsible for stimulating economic and social activity. The regions are further divided into 96 departments (not including the four overseas departments), which are governed by a locally elected general council, with one councilor per canton. Further subdivisions are districts ( arrondisements ), cantons, and communes. The districts and cantons have little power. The communes, however, are more powerful because they are responsible for municipal services and are represented in the national government by the mayor.HistoryAncient Gaul to FeudalismSome of the earliest anthropological and archaeological remains in Europe have been found in France, yet little is known of France before the Roman conquest (1st cent. BC). The country was known to the Romans as Gaul . It was inhabited largely by Celts , or Gauls, who had mingled with still older populations, and by Basques in what became the region of Gascony. Some of the Gallic tribes undoubtedly were Germanic. Settlements on the Mediterranean coast, notably Marseilles, were established by Greek and Phoenician traders (c.600 BC), and Provence was colonized by Rome in the 2d cent. BC The conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar (58-51 BC; see Gallic Wars ) became final with the defeat of Vercingetorix . Early in the course of the following five centuries of Roman rule Gaul accepted Latin speech and Roman law, developed a distinct Gallo-Roman civilization, and produced many large and prosperous cities. Lugdunum (Lyons) was the Roman capital.Christianity, introduced in the 1st cent. AD, spread rapidly. From the 3d cent., however, the internal decline of the Roman Empire invited barbarian incursions. Among the Germanic tribes that descended upon fertile Gaul, the Visigoths , Franks , and Burgundii were the most important. Rome and its governors in Gaul sought, by alliances, to play the barbarians off against each other. Thus Aetius defeated (AD 451) the Huns under Attila with the help of the Franks. But in 486 (10 years after the traditional date for the fall of Rome) the Franks, under Clovis I , routed Syagrius, last Roman governor of Gaul. Clovis, who had made himself ruler of all the Franks, then defeated the Visigoths and, after accepting Christianity (496), conquered the Alemanni. He extinguished the Arian heresy (see Arianism ) and founded the dynasty of the Merovingians —but he failed to provide for the unity of Gaul when, as was customary, he divided his lands among his sons at his death.Throughout the 6th and 7th cent., Gaul was torn by fratricidal strife between the Merovingian kings of Neustria and of Austrasia , the two realms that ultimately emerged from Clovis's division and were united only for brief periods under a sole ruler. Especially after Dagobert I (d. 639), Merovingian rule sank into indolence, cruelty, and dissipation. Gaul was depopulated, the cities were left in ruins, commerce was destroyed, and the arts and sciences were ignored. In the 8th cent. the only remnant of Roman civilization, the church, was threatened by extinction when the Saracens invaded Gaul.In the meantime a more rigorous dynasty, the Carolingians , had come to rule Austrasia as mayors of the palace in the name of the decadent Merovingian kings, and had united (687) Austrasia with Neustria. In 732, the Carolingian Charles Martel decisively defeated the Saracens between Poitiers and Tours. His son, Pepin the Short , dethroned the last Merovingian in 751 and proclaimed himself king with the sanction of the pope. Pepin's son was Charlemagne .Crowned emperor of the West in 800, Charlemagne expanded his lands by conquest. He gave his subjects an efficient administration, created an admirable legal system, and labored for the rebirth of learning, piety, and the arts. But his son, Emperor Louis I , could not maintain the empire he inherited. At Louis's death (840), his three sons were fighting each other. In 843 the brothers, Charles II (Charles the Bald), king of the West Franks, Louis the German , and Emperor Lothair I , redivided their territories (see Verdun, Treaty of ). Charles was recognized as the ruler of the lands that are now France.The Carolingians had only superficially transcended the economic, social, and political fragmentation of the land. The weakness of central authority was a major reason for the development of feudalism and the manorial system . Raids by Norsemen , beginning in the late 8th cent., contributed to the decline of royal authority; in 885-86, the Norsemen even besieged Paris. The authority of the kings was increasingly usurped by feudal lords. Among the most powerful of these were the dukes of Aquitaine and of Burgundy and the counts of Flanders , of Toulouse, of Blois , and of Anjou. In 911 the Norse leader Rollo was recognized as duke of Normandy.The Birth of FranceWhen the Carolingian dynasty died out in France, the nobles chose (987) Hugh Capet as king. It is from this date that the history of France as a separate kingdom is generally reckoned (see table entitled Rulers of France since 987 for a listing of the kings of France and subsequent French leaders). The early Capetians were dukes of Francia, a small territory around Paris, and were without power in the rest of France. By unremitting effort they gradually extended their domain, razed the castles of robber barons, and held their own against the great feudatories. Louis VI (reigned 1108-37) brought this process into full force, and it was continued by Louis VII (1137-80).In the 11th cent. the towns had begun regaining population and wealth. Drawing together for their common defense (see commune ), the townspeople won increasingly advantageous charters from the king and from their feudal lords. Commerce revived, and the great fairs of Champagne made France a meeting place for European merchants. The Cluniac order and the revival of theological learning at Paris (which was to make the Sorbonne the fountainhead of scholasticism ) gave France tremendous prestige in Christendom. This rebirth reached its height in the 13th cent. and was aided by the leading role that France played in the Crusades . The crusaders established the French ideal of chivalry—personified in Louis IX (St. Louis)—in most of Europe. French courtly poetry and manners became European models.In England, French manners and culture also predominated among the nobles because of the Norman Conquest (1066). The fact that the Norman English kings were also French nobles, holding or claiming vast fiefs in France, brought the two nations into centuries of conflict. When Henry II , king of England and duke of Normandy, married (1152) Eleanor of Aquitaine , the divorced wife of Louis VII of France, Eleanor brought as her dowry extensive areas in France. Louis's successor, Philip II (Philip Augustus; 1180-1223), clashed repeatedly with Henry's sons, Richard I and John. Defeating John in 1204 and again, resoundingly, at Bouvines (1214), Philip soundly established the military prestige of France.During Philip's reign a greater France emerged. The crusade against the Albigenses (begun 1208) netted the crown the huge fiefs of the counts of Toulouse in S France, and the royal domain (directly subject to the king) now formed the larger part of the kingdom. Philip made the royal authority felt throughout the land. Paris was rebuilt. Louis IX (1226-70) organized an efficient and equitable civil and judicial system. Under Philip IV (1285-1314), the royal administration was improved even more. Philip failed to incorporate Flanders into his holdings, as the Flemish crushed the French at Courtrai (1302). To meet his revenue needs Philip taxed the clergy, summoning the first national States-General (1302) to support his policy. He also destroyed the wealthy Knights Templars . Papal objections to these moves led to the Babylonian Captivity (1309-77) of the popes (see papacy ).Philip's son, Louis X , ruled briefly (1314-16); he was succeeded by two brothers, Philip V (1317-22) and Charles IV (1322-28). Within a few years after the death of Charles IV, who was also without a male heir, progress toward national unification was halted, and for more than a century France was rent by warfare and internal upheaval.The Making of a NationIn 1328, Philip VI (1328-50), of the house of Valois , a younger branch of the Capetians, succeeded to the throne. The succession was contested by Philip's remote cousin, Edward III of England (grandson of Philip IV), who in 1337 proclaimed himself king of France. Thus began the dynastic struggle known as the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), actually a series of wars and truces. It was complicated by many secondary issues, notably civil troubles in Flanders and the War of the Breton Succession .The French defeats at Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356), the epidemic of the Black Death, the Parisian insurrection under étienne Marcel (1357-58), the Jacquerie (peasant revolt) of 1358, and the pillaging bands of écorcheurs plunged France into anarchy and forced John II (1350-64) to accept the humiliating Treaty of Brétigny (1360). Under Charles V (1364-80), however, Bertrand Du Guesclin recovered (1369-73) all lost territories except Calais and the Bordeaux region. Charles VI (1380-1422) became insane in 1392, although he had lucid intervals. Rivalry for power at court led to the terrible strife between Armagnacs and Burgundians . In 1415, Henry V of England revived the English claim, renewed the war, and crushed the French—unaided by the Burgundians—at Agincourt . In 1420, Charles VI made Henry V his heir, disinheriting his son, the dauphin, later Charles VII (see Troyes, Treaty of ). The dauphin nevertheless assumed the royal title in 1422, but his authority extended over only a small area.The English now held most of France, including Paris. Powerful Burgundy, under Philip the Good , was allied with England. In 1428 the English besieged the key city of Orléans. At this hour appeared Joan of Arc , who helped relieve Orléans, rallied the dauphin's followers, and in 1429 stood by the dauphin's side as he was crowned at Reims. In 1435, Burgundy, although exacting exorbitant concessions, allied itself with France (see Arras, Treaty of ). In 1453 the English lost their last hold on French soil outside Calais .It was left for Louis XI (1461-83) to destroy the power of the last great feudal lords and to incorporate into the royal domain almost all of present France. He was aided by the downfall (1477) of Charles the Bold of Burgundy and by the extinction of the Angevin dynasty. Brittany was united with France shortly afterward (see Anne of Brittany ), and the larger part of the fiefs held by the Bourbon family was confiscated in 1527.Under the reigns (1483-1560) of Charles VIII , Louis XII , Francis I , Henry II , and Francis II , France proved its amazing recuperative powers despite the heavy drain imposed on its resources by the Italian Wars (1494-1559). The superficially brilliant reign of Francis I (1515-47) was taken up with almost constant warfare against the Hapsburg Charles V; however, this period also saw the spread of the Italian Renaissance into France (see French art ; French literature ). The first phase of the struggle between France and the house of Hapsburg ended with the triumph of Hapsburg Spain in the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559).The Reformation and its AftermathBeginning in the reign of Francis I, the Reformation gained many adherents in France (see Huguenots ). In 1560 religious conflict flared up in the first of the ferocious civil wars (see Religion, Wars of ) that tore France asunder during the reigns (1560-89) of the last Valois kings, Charles IX and Henry III . The Catholics, led by the ambitious Guise family, eventually formed the Catholic League and obtained Spanish support against the Protestant Henry of Navarre, the legal heir of Henry III. Navarre was supported by some moderate Catholics as well as by the Protestants. He defeated the League but had to accept Catholicism before being allowed to enter (1594) Paris. Ruling as Henry IV , he became the first Bourbon king of France. With his great minister, Sully , he made France prosperous once again and encouraged French explorers in Canada.Religious freedom and political security for Protestants were promulgated in the Edict of Nantes (1598; see Nantes, Edict of ), but after Henry's assassination (1610) by a Catholic fanatic the rights of the Huguenots were steadily reduced. Under his successor, Louis XIII (1610-43), and in the minority of Louis XIV, two great statesmen successively shaped the destiny of the kingdom—Cardinal Richelieu and Cardinal Mazarin . They led France to victory in the Thirty Years War (1618-48), which France entered openly in 1635, joining the Protestant allies against the Hapsburg powers, Austria and Spain. Austria was defeated in 1648 (see Westphalia, Peace of ), Spain in 1659 (see Pyrenees, Peace of the ). At home, Richelieu destroyed the political power of the Huguenots, and Mazarin overcame the nobles in the wars of the Fronde .Louis XIV (1643-1715), aided by the genius of Jean Baptiste Colbert (d. 1683) and Fran?ois Louvois , completed Richelieu's and Mazarin's work of centralization. Raising the position of the king to a dignity and prestige hitherto unknown in France, Louis XIV made France the first power in Europe and his court at Versailles the cynosure of Europe. But his many wars undermined French finances, and his persecution of the Huguenots (the Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685) caused serious harm to the economy as thousands of merchants and skilled workers left France. His successes in the War of Devolution (1667-68) against Spain and the Dutch War (see Dutch Wars ) of 1672-78 inspired all Europe with fear of French hegemony and resulted in the diplomatic isolation of France. The War of the Grand Alliance (1688-97) against Louis XIV began to turn the tide; the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14), although it did not end with a clear victory over France, marked the end of French expansion in Europe. The reign of Louis XIV saw the height of French power in America. France, at the end of Louis's reign, was exhausted from its attempt at primacy; yet its latent strength and wealth were so great that it recovered prosperity within a few years.The Ancien Régime and Attempts at ReformLouis XV (1715-74) inherited a unified France, but a France still burdened by the remnants of feudalism. The "absolute" power of the king was hedged in by a stupendous multitude of dusty charters and special privileges—often granted to remove the recipients from national politics—held by families, guilds, monopolies, communes, and provinces, and by the clergy and nobles. Taxes, although onerous, were raised inefficiently and inequitably, partly by the farmers general (see farming , in taxation), partly by the state. Commerce, based on mercantilism , was hampered by restrictive regulations, monopolies, and internal tariff barriers. Rural overpopulation outstripped the stagnant agricultural productivity. Colbert had reorganized the administration by curtailing the power of the provincial governors and by reestablishing the administrative units called intendancies, originated by Richelieu. The intendants were trusted civil servants who carried out the policies of the central government, but their capacity to break down local privilege was limited. In several provinces, notably Brittany, the local assemblies of the three estates retained the power to thwart reforms.A more significant stronghold of aristocratic privilege and vested interests was the parlement ; the parlements skillfully related their special interests to the still popular ideal of local liberty. The ever-expanding bourgeoisie as well as the large body of landowning farmers, however, were finding the remnants of feudal dues, services, and other customs increasingly intolerable. Economic reform became the rallying cry of the physiocrats and their disciples such as Turgot . Many philosophers of the Enlightenment , notably Voltaire , looked hopefully to the monarchy for administrative rationalization, but the crown's sporadic attempts at reform, particularly of finances, were hindered by the parlements. Operating under a system of outworn privilege, the wealthiest country in Europe was ruled by a government perennially on the verge of bankruptcy.The honest administration (1726-43) of Cardinal Fleury had barely extricated France from the disastrous failure of the Mississippi Scheme (1720), when Louis XV plunged into the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48) and the Seven Years War (1756-63). Not only was the treasury drained, but France lost its empire in India and North America. Turgot's reforms, instituted early in the reign of Louis XVI (1774-92), were cut short in 1776, when he was dismissed. Seeking to avenge its defeat by Britain in the Seven Years War, France supported the American Revolution (1775-83). Financially, however, the war was a disaster for France.The Revolution and Napoleon IIn 1788, after neither Calonne nor Loménie de Brienne could get the necessary financial measures enacted, Necker was called back to office to attempt to repair the irreparable, and the States-General were convoked for the first time since 1614. Thus began the upheaval that shook Europe from 1789 to 1815 (see French Revolution ; French Revolutionary Wars ; Directory ; Consulate ; Napoleon I ). The States-General were transformed into the National Assembly (1789); a constitutional monarchy was created (1791); war with much of Europe began, accompanied by violence and the growth of radical factions in France (1792); the king and queen were beheaded (1793); Robespierre presided over the Reign of Terror (1793-94) until his own execution.A reaction ushered in the Directory (1795-99), terminated by Napoleon Bonaparte's coup. Napoleon made himself emperor (1804) and led his armies as far as Moscow. After his defeat at Waterloo (1815) virtually nothing remained for France from the Napoleonic conquests except the basis for a powerful legend. But Napoleonic administration and law (see Code Napoléon ) left a permanent impact on France. From the ancien régime there reemerged the church (1801 Concordat with the Vatican) and an aristocracy less affluent and shorn of its feudal privileges but still influential.Royalism, Reform, and the Birth of Modern FranceThe French Revolution and Napoleon established a uniform, modern administrative system, gave land tenure to the peasants, and left to the bourgeoisie a political heritage that they quickly reclaimed. The Congress of Vienna (1814-15; see Vienna, Congress of ) restored the borders of 1790 and recognized Louis XVIII as France's legitimate sovereign. The king granted a moderately liberal charter but took France into the reactionary Holy Alliance . His successor, Charles X (1824-30), was the champion of the ultraroyalists.Charles's efforts to restore absolutism led to the July Revolution of 1830, which enthroned Louis Philippe . The July Monarchy was a frank plutocracy run by the upper bourgeoisie. Under the "citizen king," France conquered Algeria (1830-38). The regime became increasingly autocratic, disregarding the plight of the new urban proletariat. Brought low by the unpopularity of the ministry of Guizot and by economic depression (1846-47), it fell in the February Revolution of 1848. The revolution was at first distinctly radical, but the bourgeoisie triumphed in the June Days .In Dec., 1848, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon I, was elected president of the Second Republic. In 1852, by a coup, he extended his term and then proclaimed himself emperor as Napoleon III . He emulated his uncle's autocratic regime at home and carried on a confused foreign policy with unrewarding wars (in Russia, Italy, and Mexico). The Second Empire was, however, a period of colonial expansion (in Senegal and Indochina) and of material prosperity. In 1869, Napoleon instituted a more liberal regime with a parliamentary government. But the empire ended disastrously in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), in which Alsace and Lorraine were lost to Germany until 1918.The Third Republic (1870-1940) was proclaimed after Napoleon III was captured by the Prussians. After the bloody suppression of the Commune of Paris (1871) by the right-wing provisional government under Adolphe Thiers , Marshal MacMahon , a royalist sympathizer, was elected president (1873). But for the intransigence of Henri, comte de Chambord (the legitimist pretender), France might again have become a monarchy. A republican constitution was finally adopted in 1875. As the various parties combined, separated, and recombined into political blocs, new cabinets followed in quick succession.The 1880s witnessed the expansion of railroads and public education; the latter revived the age-old quarrel in France between church and state. In 1905, after other issues had been added to the dispute, church and state were separated by law. After the rapid rise and fall (1888-89) of General Boulanger , the stability of France was once more shaken by the Dreyfus Affair (begun 1894), which discredited monarchists and reactionaries and brought anticlerical, moderate leftists to power. Socialism, led by Guesde and Jaurès , was now a major political force but was weakened by internal dissensions. In foreign policy the years before 1914 were marked by continued colonial expansion in Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, West Africa, Madagascar) and Indochina, bringing conflict with Great Britain (see Fashoda Incident ) and with Germany (see Morocco ). Eventually, France, England, and Russia allied themselves to balance the German-Austrian-Italian combination (see Triple Alliance and Triple Entente ).The World WarsIn World War I, France bore the brunt of the ground fighting in the west. Clemenceau was France's outstanding leader. At the Paris Peace Conference (see Versailles, Treaty of ) France obtained heavy German reparations and the right to occupy the left bank of the Rhine for 15 years. When reparations payments were defaulted, France occupied the Ruhr (1923-25).Outstanding among French political figures of the 1920s were Poincaré , Herriot , and Briand . By the middle of the decade relations with Germany had improved (see Locarno Pact ). The depression of the 1930s was aggravated by the immobile economic policies of the government, and political complacency was rocked by the Stavisky Affair (1934). The Popular Front, a coalition led by Léon Blum , of Socialists, Radical Socialists, and Communists, won the elections of 1936; Popular Front governments (1936-38) enacted important social and labor reforms before being overturned by conser

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