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Map of Metropolitan France.
For information on French colonies and imperialism, see our page on the French colonial empire.
The creation of Modern France through expansion goes back to the establishment of a small kingdom in the area around Paris in the late tenth century and was not completed until the incorporation of Nice and Savoy in 1860. The existing "hexagon" was the result of a long series of wars and conquests involving the triumph of French language and culture over what once were autonomous and culturally distinctive communities. The assimilation of Gascons, Savoyards, Occitans, Basques, and others helped to sustain the myth that French overseas expansionism in the nineteenth century, especially to North and West Africa, was a continuation of the same assimilationist project.
—George M. Fredrickson, Standford University.[1]

France, officially known as the (Fifth) French Republic, is a country in western Europe known for its rich culinary and artistic heritage, its peoples fondness for protesting in the streets,[2] and for its long and bloody history. Seriously, French food is damn good, even the weird shit like snails. Alongside the primary area of France in Europe, known as "Metropolitan France", there are a scattering of overseas territories, most notably French Guiana and French Polynesia.[3] These are the remnants of the old French colonial empire, which at various times spanned much of the globe. Today, France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial center. In terms of religion, France has a long tradition of secularism, and these principles are enshrined in its constitution. Its religious landscape is resultingly diverse, with 40% of French holding the traditional faith of Roman Catholicism, while 40% are irreligious, 5% are Muslim, and 1% are Jewish.[4]

During the Iron Age, France was populated by a number of Celtic tribes collectively known as the Gauls, who eventually fell victim to the expansionism of the Roman Empire in 51 BCE. The merging of the two cultures laid the foundation of the French language. In 476 CE, the Germanic tribe known as the Franks arrived, and their king Clovis I formed the great Frankish Empire. Clovis' Merovingian dynasty eventually died out, though, and Charlemagne took the throne in 800, being crowned by the pope as part of a political and religious scheme to see religious authority be centered around Catholicism in the west.

Charlemagne's heirs eventually split the empire in their civil wars with each other, and West Francia eventually became the Kingdom of France in 987. Although decentralized due to feudalism and nobility schemes, France became a major player in Europe. Its kings participated heavily in the Crusades, and marriage pacts with England eventually resulted in the English trying to claim the French throne in the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453) throughout the Fourteenth century. After that absolute clusterfuck, France plunged into more wars against Spain. The Protestant Reformation spread like wildfire throughout southern France, leading to the French Wars of Religion which began in 1562 and lasted until 1598. Like religious wars tend to do, the French wars featured numerous massacres, betrayals, and horrific atrocities as the dominant Catholics tried to suppress the Huguenots, who were French Calvinists. This violent process saw the monarchy's power grow significantly through the use of force, leading to an absolute monarchy centered around the Palace of Versailles.

Under Louis XIV, the "Sun King", France became the dominant power in Europe thanks to its large population, centralized government, and growing colonial empire in the Americas. After pushing everybody else around for a while, France eventually met its temporary downfall in the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), a colonial struggle against Great Britain in which it lost much of its American territory. As revenge, France spent itself heavily into debt in order to support the American Revolution, causing its economy to go into the toilet and thus setting the stage for the French Revolution in 1789. This caused the downfall of the monarchy and the rise of secular and democratic principles, a process which got more and more extreme to the point where heads started rolling and calendars got fucked with. This chaos allowed the military leader Napoleon Bonaparte to rise to power, first as dictator and then as emperor. The brilliant general led France into dominating Europe until he bit off more than he could chew and eventually met his downfall in 1815.

The demolition of France's continental empire and the subsequent restoration of the old monarchy led to much grumbling and political instability, culminating with the 1830 July Revolution and then the February Revolution in 1848. In 1852, the president of the French Republic, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, Napoleon I's nephew, declared himself the leader of the Second Empire, beginning with it the second era of French imperialism. France attacked Mexico in 1861 and began expansionist maneuvers against Cambodia and Vietnam. He eventually met his downfall against the Kingdom of Prussia in 1870, leading to the formation of the German Empire, which was declared in Versailles as an extra "fuck you".

That defeat and the downfall of the Second Empire caused even more chaos, allowing socialists to temporarily seize control of Paris in 1871. The Third Republic formed based on democratic principles, but that didn't stop it from violently crushing the Paris commune or leading the exploitative colonial empire, or leading France into World War I in the hopes of regaining lost land. After horrific suffering and millions dead, France lost its appetite for war while the political left ascended and pushed for social reforms. France's reluctance to engage in war led to a policy of appeasement against Adolf Hitler, which bit them in the ass when Nazi Germany got big enough to conquer and occupy them in 1940. Vichy France, a fascist collaborationist regime, began the right-wing reaction against the values of the Revolution, featuring persecutions of leftists and enthusiastic participation in the Holocaust.

After France's liberation in 1944, the Fourth Republic had to deal with the crises resulting from France's colonial possessions deciding that they didn't want to be French anymore. Catastrophic and atrocity-laden wars in Vietnam and Algeria brought the downfall of the Fourth Republic as well as the French colonial empire. Under the Fifth Republic, France became a nuclear weapons state, abandoned much of its old social conservatism, and eventually joined the forefront of the push to create the European Union. Today, France is busy with problems related to immigration, with marginalization of Muslims contributing to extremism and terrorism, fueling a right-wing resurgence and backlash in turn.

Regions of France[edit]

The regions of France.
Flag of Région Occitanie (symbol only).svg
Flag of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.svg
Côte d'Azur
Flag of the region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.svg
Flag of Nouvelle-Aquitaine.svg
Flag of the region Bourgogne-Franche-Comté.svg
Flag of Centre-Val de Loire.svg
de Loire
Unofficial flag of Pays-de-la-Loire.svg
Pays de la Loire
Flag of Brittany (Gwenn ha du).svg
Flag of Normandie.svg
IDF flag.svg
Flag of Picardie.svg
Grand Est Logo vectoriel.svg
Great East
Flag of Corsica.svg
United Kingdom
Jersey (UK)
Guernsey (UK)
Sardinia (IT)
Bay of Biscay
English Channel
Mediterranean Sea
Gulf of
Metropolitan regions of France
State Capital
Flag of the region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.svg Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Lyon
Flag of Brittany (Gwenn ha du).svg Brittany (Breton: Breizh) Rennes
Flag of the region Bourgogne-Franche-Comté.svg Bourgogne-Franche-Comté Dijon (prefecture), Besançon (regional council)
Flag of Centre-Val de Loire.svg Centre-Val de Loire (Center Loire Valley) Orléans
Flag of Corsica.svg Corse (Corsica) Ajaccio
Grand Est Logo vectoriel.svg Grand Est Strasbourg
Flag of Picardie.svg Hauts-de-France (Heights of France) Lille
IDF flag.svg Île-de-France Paris
Flag of Normandie.svg Normandie (Normandy) Rouen
Flag of Nouvelle-Aquitaine.svg Nouvelle-Aquitaine (New Aquitaine) Bordeaux
Flag of Région Occitanie (symbol only).svg Occitanie Toulouse
Unofficial flag of Pays-de-la-Loire.svg Pays de la Loire (Loire Countries) Nantes
Flag of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.svg Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Marseille

France at war[edit]

French victory at the Battle of Lens during the Thirty Years War.

Before the mid-18th century[edit]

Nothing of interest occurred in the first millennium or so after Charlemagne. Apart from the Crusades, the Hundred Years' War, the Thirty Years War, the Black Plague, the development of universities, etc. The French in the 1500s had begun their colonization efforts of North America, but the road they took would later prove to be quite different from the other colonial empires. In general, the French didn't subjugate the indigenous peoples of North America so much as they worked with them, since the Fur TradeWikipedia was a very profitable endeavor, and the French were far more courteous and respectful of their Native American allies than the other colonial powers of the time. It's telling that PontiacWikipedia revolted in the first place not to kick the Europeans out of North America entirely, but to bring the French back as a colonial power after the French and Indian WarWikipedia. Pontiac even flew a French flag in his village on the eve of revolt, and there is some evidence that Pontiac's War was begun as an effort by the Native Americans to stir up the French into returning and helping their long time allies again, and it is known for a fact that some of the French did support the war, and even provided aid, although it should be stressed that the war was initiated and conducted almost entirely by Native Americans without French backing.[5]

Seven Years' War and American Revolution[edit]

French and British ships duke it out at the Battle of Chesapeake.

The Seven Years War, also called The French and Indian War in the United States, actually lasted nine years. It began in 1754 as British and French colonists, along with Indian allies on both sides, began fighting in what's now western Pennsylvania. Then it escalated as the British began attacking French colonies in Quebec and Nova Scotia. However, the war officially began in 1756 when Austria and Prussia (a small but important German kingdom largely spanning what is now eastern Germany and northern Poland) renewed a previous war over a slab of land called Silesia, in what's now Poland. At this point it exploded into what is sometimes considered the "first world war" as it was fought all over the globe. In the war, the British, relying heavily on their powerful navy, successfully seized French colonies in North America and India while bankrolling Frederick the Great of Prussia as he fought against an alliance of Austria, France, Russia, and Sweden- all at the same time. In the end, Britain and Prussia won.

Arguably, France made two huge mistakes. The first was picking the wrong Indians to fight alongside; they allied with Hurons and Algonquins against the region's mohawk wearing badasses, the Iroquois. The Iroquois then allied with Britain and fought well against both France and America for a century or so; of course this did not prevent the British from shafting the Iroquois later. The second major mistake France made was they largely abandoned their colonists in North America in order to focus on fighting in Europe. The issue here was the the King of Great Britain (George II for most of the war) also happened to be the ruler of Hanover, a fairly important state in northern Germany. The French hoped that if they could capture Hanover, they would be in a better position when the treaty ending the war was being negotiated[note 1]. While French forces were initially successful and occupied a large portion of Hanover[note 2], Hanover subsequently hired a competent generalWikipedia from Prussia to lead their army, and he successfully pushed out the French forces until all countries involved were broke and exhausted. The French showed up to the treaty negotiations with practically nothing to offer.

France lost virtually every colony they had in North America. Quebec and Cape Breton Island were permanently given over to Britain. France then handed over the rights to the Louisiana Territory (now present-day state of Lousiana and several other American states) to Spain, an ally of the French, as compensation for Spain trading Florida to Britain for Cuba and a player to be named later. France then supported the American Revolution on the side of the United States. Unfortunately, this nearly bankrupted the country and was one of the major factors contributing to the subsequent French Revolution. It didn't help that the Americans abandoned their allies during the peace talks, meaning France got almost nothing[note 3] for saving the Continentals' asses and supplying most of their war materiel....

Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars[edit]

Napoleon with his troops at the eve of the Battle of Austerlitz.

After helping the Americans win their independence, France faced its own revolution. The cost of the previous few wars had left the French government practically bankrupt, and the king's economic ministers were unable to fix the problem. French society was split into three groups- the wealthy aristocracy, the wealthy Catholic priests, and then everyone else. The poor "Third Estate" as it was called, fed up with being the only ones shouldering the tax burden as wealthy elites continued to mismanage the economy while cavorting in their fancy wigs, finally copied their former American friends and rebelled. And ho boy, did it not go well. Radicals quickly wound up taking control and just started killing anyoneWikipedia who even looked like they might be considering possibly thinking about not supporting the revolution- including the king and most of the nobles who didn't flee the country fast enough. With other countries seeing the chaos and not wanting their own people to get any crazy ideas, France's neighbors started declaring war against her.

And this is where France started to regain a bit of a reputation for being a military powerhouse after the humiliating loss in the Seven Years War. The new French Revolutionary Army had a rough start[note 4], but eventually did surprisingly well in the wars, thanks to a combination of factors, such as that officers started gaining higher ranks based more on merit than on having the right parents; mass conscription leading to ever larger armies than before; and the occasional dose of ineptitude from enemy commanders. The Republic even managed to spread their revolution to the Netherlands and Switzerland. The radical politicians started killing each otherWikipedia, leaving somewhat level-headed politicians in chargeWikipedia. However, the unstable republic[note 5][6] was not to last, as a brilliant military officer named Napoleon Bonaparte rose quickly through the ranks, gathered support in the government, and had himself made First Consul (basically a military dictator), and then Emperor of the newly christened French Empire.

The wars continued, but Napoleon happened to be much smarter, at least militarily, than the crusty old kings and emperors and dukes who opposed him. He defeated five of the seven Coalitions, and expanded French borders down through Spain and up to the edge of Russia (with a German bit in the middle that didn't become a vassal, or did but only briefly and unenthusiastically). Napoleon managed something that had been unknown prior to his time - he got Prussia, Austria, England, Russia, and Spain to all agree on something: namely, trying to stop him. However, he made two critical mistakes- first, he betrayed and occupied his ally Spain, which caused a nasty guerrilla war[note 6] that cost Napoleon dearly- it became known informally as his "Spanish Ulcer". Second, he made the classic blunder of fighting a land war in Asia- specifically, Russia[note 7]. After a trade dispute didn't go his way, he invaded Russia with one of the largest armies in human history. After the Russians lost a few battles, they chose to simply not fight, burn their farms to prevent Napoleon from using them, and let starvation, disease, and the harsh winter take their tolls on Napoleon's army- which actually worked. When Napoleon was forced to limp home with his shattered army having suffered about 90% casualties, everyone else jumped at the opportunity to finally beat him. And they did.

Colonialism during the Victorian age[edit]

The second French colonial empire at its peak in 1920.

After Napoleon was finally ousted, the old French royal family was brought back[note 8]. But they still sucked, and the people more or less split into three loose groups- the reactionaries who supported the absolutist monarchy; those who missed the "good old days" of Napoleon and his particular style of constitutional monarchy; and those who wanted a republic. The third group, sometimes with support from the second, would occasionally revolt against the kings during the 1830s, including a revolt in 1830Wikipedia which successfully caused the reigning ultra-conservative kingWikipedia to abdicate (his slightly better cousinWikipedia became the new king), and that failed revoltWikipedia from the end of Les Miserables. In 1848 there was a much larger revolt during the so-called "Spring of NationsWikipedia" where revolutions happened all over Europe, and the old monarchy was finally overthrown for good. The new Second Republic had as its president a guy named Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of that other Napoleon guy. In 1851 he engineered the transformation of the republic into a Second Empire, with himself as Emperor Napoleon III[note 9].

While Napoleon III was, like his uncle, pretty warlike, he was smart enough not to piss off everyone in Europe at the same time. He kick-started France's drive to colonize huge chunks of Africa and Asia. France began invading Algeria in the 1830s but under Napoleon III, the French colonial empire in Africa really got underway, as did the initial efforts to colonize Indochina[note 10] and other parts of the Asia and the Pacific. He also was instrumental in starting the Crimean WarWikipedia, which was basically dress rehearsal for the hideously gory wars of the next few decades. He even invaded and occupied Mexico while the US was busy fighting itself, installing the Austrian emperor's younger brother as a puppet emperor under his control[note 11]. However, the "good times" were not to last, and as the French economy started to stagnate and his popularity (and health) started to sink, in 1870 he rashly let himself get sucked into a war[note 12] with what was about to become Germany- and lost spectacularly. Napoleon III personally led his army (even though he did not share his uncle's talent for such), and in the climactic battle of the Franco-Prussian WarWikipedia at SedanWikipedia, he was personally captured along with some of his top generals and practically the entire French army. The un-captured part of his government was quick to announce that he wasn't emperor anymore but also refused to end the war, and in the resulting chaos (and partial German occupation), Paris briefly became a semi-Communist city-state called the "Paris CommuneWikipedia"[note 13]. France ultimately did surrender and became a republic again- and this "Third RepublicWikipedia" would last until World War II.

World War I[edit]

Ruins of Verdun in 1916.

For France, World War I was essentially a reboot of the Franco-Prussian War, but bigger. The Germans were at war with France and Russia at the same time; knowing that Russia would take longer to get most of their armies ready to fight, the Germans intended to quickly invade France through Belgium (as the Franco-German border had been heavily fortified- on both sides- after the Franco-Prussian War) and knock the French out of the war before Russia could intervene. The German invasion was very successful until the French scored a surprise victory at the miracle of the MarneWikipedia, not only stopping the Germans in their tracks but causing them to retreat briefly. The Western Front- which was essentially northeastern France- famously bogged down into the horrors of trench warfare. Fun new inventions like machine guns, airplanes, poison gas, and barbed wire made the war shockingly lethal- in some battles, tens of thousands of soldiers would die daily, as they made senseless frontal assaults to claim tiny slivers of land. French morale sank as casualties steadily rose from the seemingly pointless slaughter until by the end of 1917, some French soldiers began refusing to participate in the assaults- these mutinies were not widespread and were swiftly dealt with by French commanders, but it was clear that things needed to change. However, things were not going well for the Germans either- despite Russia going through some stuff and then some more stuff in 1917, effectively knocking them out of the war. In early 1918, with the arrival of large numbers of fresh American soldiers, the final major German offensive was stopped and the Allies were able to go on the offensive. By November 1918, with their armies almost totally pushed out of France (but still technically in France, which would lead to the stab-in-the-back legend), and with a revolution breaking out back home, the Germans finally surrendered, ending the "war to end all wars".

There's something to be said about a war from which what was up to that point the most consistently martial country in the history of Europe (possibly in the world) came out more pacifist. During the Battle of Belleau Wood, the Americans had to fight through the retreating French to get to the Germans. As the Marines were fighting their way through the retreating French, one of the French commanders asked Marine Captain Lloyd Williams why he wasn't retreating. In response, the Marine replied, "Retreat, Hell! We just got here!"[7][8][9] [note 14]

Interwar period[edit]

After war's end, the French government gave in to a feeling of revanchismWikipedia- a desire for revenge for both their loss in the prior Franco-Prussian War, and for the horrific war that had just concluded. Together with allied Britain, the victors sought to severely punish Germany for the war and neutralize it as a future threat. The result was the punitive Treaty of Versailles. Among other things, it imposed heavy reparations payments on Germany and stripped her of all overseas colonies, which, unsurprisingly, harmed the German economy[note 15]. The Germans quickly fell behind on the payments so in the early 1920's, France (and Belgium) invaded and occupied the heavily industrialized Ruhr ValleyWikipedia in western Germany, choosing to simply seize goods right out of the factories in lieu of payments. Although the payment plan was renegotiated under the Dawes PlanWikipedia, the Ruhr occupation subsequently ended, and the German economy began improving, the damage was done. Far right political parties, one in particular, tapped into populist, nationalist anger over the treaty and the occupation to increase their popularity. Additionally, the German economy became closely linked with the American economy, especially due to extensive loans from the United States, and when the American economic system famously crashed at the end of the 1920s, the German economy quickly followed suit. France would face no negative consequences from all of this...

World War II[edit]

Hitler on a Paris sightseeing tour.

With the horrors of World War I still fairly fresh in mind, the French were not overly eager to get into yet another war with Germany. World War II officially began in September 1939 but France did not really begin fighting until May 1940- because Germany invaded. The French expected a rehash of World War I- Germany invading through Belgium and trying to capture Paris. So they continued fortifying the border with Germany, and set up their best armies to guard the border with Belgium (despite Belgium not being particularly happy with being France's meat shield). The French did not believe that German tanks would be able to drive through the Ardennes, a large forest straddling the border between Belgium and France. They were wrong. The Germans pushed through Belgium much faster than they had in World War I, achieved air superiority, and completely encircled and destroyed those French armies guarding the Belgian border. Despite losing most of their high quality military forces so quickly, the French persisted and desperately tried to engineer another Marne-style victory to blunt the German advance, but none materialized. The French government fled Paris as the Germans invaded it, and then surrendered soon after. Just before the French surrender, Mussolini's Italy courageously invaded southern France, in the hopes that they'd get a seat at the table when negotiations began.

France then spent the next few years effectively out of the war. Most of France was directly occupied by the German military; a large portion of southeastern France was run by a semi-independent pro-Nazi government officially called the "French State" but informally called "Vichy France", after its capital city of Vichy. In late 1942, with Allied forces pushing Italian and German forces out of North Africa, the Germans occupied Vichy France, ending its "independence" (the Vichy government still existed, but was virtually powerless). Anti-Nazi resistance continued throughout the war, however, as Free French forces commanded by Charles De Gaulle, and other movements like the MaquisWikipedia continued fighting a guerrilla war against both the occupation and the Vichy regime, and lent valuable assistance to the Allies during the liberation of France in the second half of 1944.

With the war's end, France was included as one of the victorious Allied Powers. France was one of the four countries that participated in the post-war division and occupation of Germany; the French, British, and American sectors would eventually merge to become West Germany, a western-style capitalist republic (the Soviet sector would go down a different path...). France also is a founding member of the United Nations, is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (meaning they have veto power over Security Council actions), and was one of the founding members of NATO (although France partially withdrew from NATO between 1966 and 2009).


Post WWII, France formed the French Fourth Republic, during which time France's African colonies decided they wanted to be treated as if they were actually humans, the ingrates. The inability of France to hold onto Algeria in particular led to the collapse of the fourth republic, and De Gaulle came out of retirement. In spite of this, France did see large amounts of economic growth and the addition of various public programs.


French convoy destroyed in an ambush in southern Vietnam.

This country was once part of French Indochina, which also included Laos and Cambodia. After two protracted and costly wars — the first was fought against French recolonization and the second was an internationalized civil war fought between the Communists and their opponents — it fell to the Red menace completely in 1975. Today, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has mended ties with her former foes. And returned all the prisoners of war, goddamn it! Stop feeding that ridiculous conspiracy theory.


Most modern forms of torture were developed by the French in Indo-China (Paola Condor) and Algeria (Philippeville), where their soldiers proved their mettle at fighting opponents tied to a chair, although faring less well against those running around shooting back.

Naval accomplishments[edit]

In 1985 French agents sank Greenpeace's ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland, New Zealand where it was waiting for other ships and boats prior to sailing to Mururoa Atoll in the Pacific to protest French nuclear tests. One man was killed.[10] One cannot say that the activist group did not deserve such a punishment. This naval victory represents more ships sunk by the French than at Trafalgar, the Nile, Quiberon Bay, Saint's Passage, Chesapeake Bay, Vigo, Glorious First of June, Finistère, Ushant (First and Second), La Hogue, and WWII - combined... unless you count French ships sunk by their own men during WWII.

Iraq war[edit]

To the disappointment of many Republicans, France strongly opposed Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq from the start. Like Germany, France did not send troops to Iraq.

Because of this snub, American right wing extremists didn't like France for a time and renamed french fries "freedom fries" on the Congressional cafeteria menu in retaliation (That'll teach 'em!). Many private establishments followed suit, some maintaining the charade until late 2008. In reality, the Congressional cafeteria was run by Restaurant Associates, a British company that likely was seizing the opportunity to attack its nation's long-time rival, but this ludicrous affair ended years later when a Republican led Congress replaced the Brits with a French contractor.

The most well-known and lasting instance was the curious hack demonstrated by entering "French military victories" into Google - it would then ask if you meant "French military defeats". Unlike other so-called Google Bombs such as "miserable failure", this has lasted, and can still work from most versions of Google.[note 16]

French language[edit]

France has laws to maintain the "purity of the French language", and indeed French is mandated by the French constitution as the nation's official language.[11][12] Moreover, a long-established Academy devotes itself to keeping the mother tongue free of such foreign invasions as: "Web," "CD," and "ROM." French people, however, use "Web", "CD" and "ROM" – and even "Coke" – with an attitude of "I fart in your general direction" to the Academy.

Many parts of France, however, originally had different native languages. These are not allowed to be spoken by teachers in French public schools (which is interesting considering the country prides itself on its freedom) and many of these tongues have died out or are dying out. Other native languages in France include:

  • BretonWikipedia - Most ironic, since the French are inordinately proud of their Celtic heritage and this is the only Celtic language still spoken in France
  • OccitanWikipedia - They just can't stand that a Latin language would aspirate the "h"
  • CatalanWikipedia - Probably jealous because it's spoken more in Spain than France
  • DutchWikipedia - Eww, a Germanic language!
  • GermanWikipedia - Double eww, a language even closer to High German!
  • CorsicanWikipedia - Come on, just because you're an island closer to Italy and with historic ties to Italy doesn't mean you aren't Frenchmen!
  • CreoleWikipedia - We no savvy pidgins and creoles. No can do.
  • BasqueWikipedia - It's hard to get away with calling an isolate a "dialect" of French.

Corsicans are especially offended by mandatory French and insisted on Corsican road signs; which they got, but bilingual with the original native Corsican names in italics to emphasize their unofficialness.

French traits[edit]

French women (and to a large extent, men) have a terrific sense of fashion, which explains why many fashion houses have grown and prospered there.

Perfume is a very French thing. Any rumours that this is because they hate to immerse their bodies in water is a vile canard.


France denies that races exist. No reference to race ever takes places in the public debate and there's no definition of race in any law. When a politician speaks about black and Arabic French, he usually uses sentences like "those people" if he's an everyday racist. This world view is completely scientifically accurate but can cause a lot of cultural misunderstandings with some other countries where identity politics is the norm, as can be seen in a recent dispute between a South African comedian in the U.S., Trevor Noah, and the French Ambassador to that same country, Gérard Araud.[13]

The idea of having to put one's race on a census is totally alien to the French, and the government does not maintain any statistics regarding the racial or religious makeup of the population. Some events made them a bit reluctant to do so. This renders very difficult any try at affirmative action.

This doesn't prevent France, as stated above, from having pesky little skirmishes pop up in the banlieues.[note 17]


If their voters are this hawt...

French tend to be quite open-minded about their fellow countrymen's sexuality. François Mitterand served 14 years as a president, from 1981 to 1995, while sustaining two families (on state money), without the media ever finding the fact noteworthy. Nobody except the extreme Christian right much cared when the mayor of Paris turned out to be homosexual.[note 18] And the fuss about now-former president Nicolas Sarkozy divorcing and marrying a model was more due to the bride being incredibly hot famous. His successor, Francois Hollande, also divorced his wife while campaigning and quickly replaced his girlfriend with a mistress while in office to considerable ridicule in the American media but hardly a mention in the French press. Reportedly, French president Félix FaureWikipedia (1895-99) died while getting head from his lover, Marguerite Steinheil, in the Élysée Palace; instead of being vilified, he became the butt (no pun intended!) of countless jokes and puns.

A lot of the male politicians have been known for their womanizing ways, and the news were met with reactions ranging from polite ignorance (in the case of them requiring all inclusive accommodations) to pride and admiration (in the case of them being known seducers). Of course, when IMFWikipedia president Dominique Strauss-Kahn, known to be in the second category, was arrested for sexual assault in New York, that amounted to a kick in the collective unconscious groin of the French by the US. This may be just an honest cultural difference and is not that serious. In any case, he was not found guilty.

Despite this sexual openness, France still didn't act on gay marriage until Spring 2013, only allowing civil unions until then that lack sorely in terms of inheritance or protection of the surviving spouse. In May 2012, newly elected president François Hollande included the legalization of same-sex marriage in his list of legislative priorities.[14] This was passed the next year along with gay adoption, despite some of the biggest protests seen there in recent years (which is saying something).[15]

French exports and inventions[edit]

A French Navy Rafale landing on the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

France is the largest producer, consumer and exporter of wine in the world by volume and value. While some wine snobs claim that the only good wine is French, this is a less popular view today even within France. France is also known to make some mass-produced wine of such staggering mediocrity that even wine consumption by the French themselves has been falling in recent decades. Instead it is regularly distilled into industrial alcohol—so saying the saying that "This wine is only good for stripping paint" now has a certain truth behind it.

French revolutionaries also invented the Metric system, which was why the meter was originally defined as one ten-millionth of the distance between the north pole and the equator on a line running through Paris.

French fries are disputably invented in France or in Belgium.

Croissants weren't invented there (Austria), nor the French horn (Germany), nor French kissing. They also did not invent the largely defensive weapon of guillotine, although they were the last to use it in 1977.[16]

The first successful photography, the first commercial cinema, pencil sharpener, aspirin, stethoscope, canning, mayonnaise, hair dryer, Braille for the blind, Aqua-Lung, electric harpsichord, quadcopter, marine periscope, modern wingsuit, the first cameraphone were invented in France.

In service with the French Air Force and Navy, the Dassault Rafale delta-winged jet fighter is at present one of the most advanced and versatile warplanes ever designed. True to its designation as an "omnirole" aircraft, it is capable of air superiority, deep interdiction, bombing, close air support, anti-shipping, aerial reconnaissance, and nuclear deterrent missions. It has been exported to Qatar, Egypt, and India, but its formidable price limited the number of sales. Remarkably, France originally joined a multinational project involving the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain to develop the Eurofighter Typhoon, but dropped out over various disagreements and pursued the Rafale on its own instead.

Nuclear energy[edit]

France conducted its last nuclear weapon test in 1996.[17] France maintains her own nuclear weapons and a independent nuclear policy. France reserves the right to retaliate against an attack on French soil with nuclear strikes, but she has never actually used her nuclear arsenal in anger, primarily because the attitude of non works spectacularly poorly against the Evil Empire Soviet Union, an enemy with nuclear stockpiles ten times your size and a truly alarming number of disposable cities. However, France's peacetime use of nuclear power is extensive: a massive 75% of its electricity is nuclear in origin.[18] It also has the only nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Western Europe, the Charles de Gaulle. She will likely continue to hold this distinction for decades to come, since the United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth II-class aircraft carriers are running on diesel. Like the UK, however, France operates nuclear-powered attack (Rubis-class) and ballistic missile submarines (Triomphant-class).

French politics[edit]

The French National Assembly.

On the whole an average French politician may seem more liberal than their average American counterpart. Even if that's debatable, it's clear that some subjects are almost unheard-of in politics. For most French, seeing an American presidential candidate saying that he's anti-abortion or pandering overtly to a religious group is pure and simple madness. In the same bag, the French don't understand the discussion about creationism.[citation needed] French secularism dates to the third Republic (they are currently on their fifth) and has survived two world wars, one foreign occupation and several revolutions. Recently, they outlawed ostentatious religious signs in school, and banned face covering, which includes burqas, in public places.

There is a pretty strong sense of Islamophobia and antisemitism within French society, although many would argue they're not really secular as opposed to xenophobic. French Christians never have to deal with institutional discrimination, and a common catchphrase is that French Christians "wear the cross on the inside." Interestingly, their societal make-up — immigrants wanting a better life, but being mistreated frequently; a massive influx of refugees and a corresponding hatred of the refugees; religious, cultural, and racial minorities facing disenfranchisement despite being full-fledged citizens; and a political establishment that loves austerity — runs parallel to that of many of its European counterparts, including the United Kingdom.

The Fifth Republic has been dominated by Parti Socialiste and Les Républicains, though third parties have had a far greater role in the system than under first past the post. However, the party En Marche! has come to dominate French politics throughout 2017, being a centrist party, and arguably the most pro-European major party in France. In 2017, its first election, its founder ascended to the presidency, and the party took an absolute majority in the National Assembly[19].

France is also home to a variant of white nationalism known as Identitarianism which had its roots in the organization Bloc Identitaire/Les Identitaires (Bloc Identity/The Identitarians) which in turn came from the National Bolsheveik and Third Positionist Unite Radicale of which founders Fabrice Robert and Philippe Verdun were from that organization. The youth wing of Bloc Identitaire/Les Identitaires known as Generation Identity/Generation Identitaire (GI) would later go on to become its own organization establishing branches in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic/Czechia, Slovakia, Denmark and Switzerland. Subsequently the ideology would be exported to North America (i.e. the United States and Canada) where the alt-right adapted the ideology such as for example Identity Evropa/American Identity Movement (IE/AIM) and Generation Identity Canada/IDCanada and later on to Australia and New Zealand by Identity Australia and the Dominion Movement respectively. Identitarians are also strong believers in The Great Replacement conpiracy theory by writer Renaud Camus which claims that the white French Catholic population and by the White Christian population is being systemically replaced by Arab, Black, Berber and other non-white peoples basically the French version of the White genocide conspiracy theory. The Identitarian term was used by Canadian YouTuber Lauren Southern in a video and the manifesto of the same name by Australia-born perpetrator of the Christchurch terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand Brenton Harrison Tarrant who also donated money to the Austrian and French branches of Generation Identity/Identitarian movement.

Famous Frenchmen and Frenchwomen[edit]

François-Marie Arouet, more commonly known as Voltaire.
  • René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, André-Marie Ampère, August-Louis Cauchy, Joseph-Louis Lagrange, Pierre-Simon de Laplace, Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier, and Henri Poincare.
  • Astérix and Obélix
  • d'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis
  • Simone Beck
  • M. Bigot
  • Charles de Gaulle
  • Pierre Beaumarchais
  • Napoléon Bonaparte and his Mini-Me eventual successor Napoleon III
  • M. Chauvin
  • Maurice Chevalier (Sank 'eaven for leetle girrlss -- He had more luck with that than Polanski)
  • Anacharsis Cloots
  • Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau
  • Marie and Pierre Curie (Marie born in Poland)
  • Daft Punk (Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo)
  • Simone de Beauvoir
  • Brigitte Bardot
  • Gérard Depardieu
  • Georges-Auguste Escoffier
  • Michel Foucault
  • Victor Hugo
  • André the Giant
  • Christine Lagarde
  • Marcel Marceau
  • Louis Pasteur
  • Pepé Le Pew
  • Jean-Luc Picard
  • Jean-Luc Godard
  • François Hollande, and Ségolène Royal, Valérie Trierweiler, Julie Gayet
  • Ségolène Royal (rehabilitated April 2014)
  • Jean-Marie Le Pen
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Hélène Dumas, Brigitte Guillemette, Anne Sinclair, Myriam L'Aouffir and assorted hotel chambermaids
  • Zinedine Zidane
  • Donatien Alphonse Francoise, Marquis de Sade

Joan of Arc[edit]

Joan of Arc, or Jeanne D'Arc in French, is the French national symbol of resistance to foreign tyranny. She was killed by the English after the French Burgundians sold her to them[note 19] and the very king that she'd helped refused to ransom her, her real purpose in the war having been to become a symbol of resistance to foreign tyranny and thus popularise what had previously been seen by much of the peasantry as an abstract and unimportant political game between lords.

The British electronic band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the D'Arc Dark also wrote three songs about her that were UK chart hits - you know, the waltzy one with the bagpipes and all the drums called "Maid Of Orleans (The Waltz Joan Of Arc)," and the uhm other one that they called "Joan Of Arc," and the other other one they called "La Femme Accident."

Other notable OMD songs include "Enola Gay Of Arc," "Joan of Architecture and Morality," and "Joanetic Engineering." As if we didn't have bad puns already.

External links[edit]

Icon fun.svg For those of you in the mood, RationalWiki has a fun article about France.


  1. In previous wars that century, the French had negotiated the return of captured colonies by capturing valuable British colonies elsewhere, such as in India, and then trading.
  2. To the point that King George even temporarily agreed to a documentWikipedia acknowledging France's occupation, and ending hostilities there.
  3. The French did gain a few minor concessions, such as some territory in western Africa and southern India, as well as fishing rights off the coast of Newfoundland.
  4. One of the first actions of the army was to invade the neighboring Netherlands, then under the rule of Austria. After losing a minor battle, the army declared their generalWikipedia to be a traitor and executed him.
  5. The republic was constantly at war with practically the entirety of Europe, while massive inflation and debt ravaged the French economy.
  6. It's pretty much where the term "guerrilla warfare" comes from.
  7. Technically he didn't make it into the Asian part of Russia, but... whatever, we wanted to make that reference.
  8. The last kingWikipedia and his younger brotherWikipedia each tried to flee as the Revolution took a bloody turn. The king was captured before reaching the border, but his brother managed to escape; he ultimately wound up living in England. When the king's young sonWikipedia was basically tortured to death by revolutionaries, the king's brother became the new claimant to the throne.
  9. After Napoleon I was defeated, he attempted to have his four year old son Napoleon II made emperor. Napoleon II "ruled" for about two weeks and nobody accepted his reign anyway. Napoleon I was forced to go into exile; Napoleon II went with his motherWikipedia to live with her family in Austria. He served for a while as an officer in the Austrian Army, but died of pneumonia when he was 21.
  10. Modern Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
  11. After the US Civil War ended and the US began lending support and supplies to anti-imperial rebels, Napoleon had to cut back support for the wildly unpopular puppet emperor, who was eventually captured by those rebels and executed.
  12. France and Prussia got into a dispute over who should be the new king of Spain. After Napoleon sent a diplomat to speak with the Prussian king about the matter, the crafty Prussian chancellor Otto von BismarckWikipedia edited the official reportWikipedia of the meeting to make it appear that the king was unusually rude to the the diplomat. Napoleon was furious and quickly declared war.
  13. Despite its brief existence (about 10 weeks), the Commune had a profound influence on contemporary leftists, notably Karl Marx, who wrote in support of it as a living example of a "dictatorship of the proletariat".
  14. Williams was promptly KIA, but on the plus side, got a posthumous promotion to Major and a building on the Virginia Tech campus named after him.
  15. The German economy was already in poor shape because when the war started, the Kaiser chose to pay for the effort by borrowing huge sums of money and then, when Germany inevitably won, they would simply loot the losing countries to make the payments. But Germany didn't win... and the bills still came due. And if that wasn't enough, to try to make the payments anyway, the new German government basically just kept printing money, causing incredible levels of hyperinflation- it was cheaper to burn large piles of money than to buy firewood.
  16. The relevant page still appears first in a Google Search for the phrase
  17. Also see the Front National
  18. (Insert "gay Paree" joke here)
  19. It's...complicated.


  1. Race, Ethnicity, and National Identity in France and the United States: A Comparative Historical Overview. Stanford University.
  2. Les Misérables: Why are the French, who seem to have much, so quick to protest? Los Angeles Times.
  3. See the Wikipedia article on Overseas France.
  4. See the Wikipedia article on Religion in France.
  5. Dowd, War under Heaven, 105–13, 160 (for French flag), 268; White, Middle Ground, 276–77; Calloway, Scratch of a Pen, 126. Peckham, like Parkman, argued that the Native Americans took up arms due to the "whispered assurances of the French" (p. 105), although both admitted that the evidence was sketchy.
  6. Fiat Money Inflation in France, Andrew Dickson White
  10. BBC report on Rainbow Warrior
  11. France - French Language Law
  12. Workplace language law
  14. Mariage homosexuel : Hollande suscite craintes et espoirs. Retrieved 2012/8/1.
  15. Same-sex marriage: French parliament approves new law. Retrieved 2016/11/15.
  17. France & The Bomb