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France has a long history and, according to the U.S. Department of State, it was one of the earliest countries to develop an organized nation-state. As a result of the mid-1600s, France was one of the most powerful countries in Europe. By the 18th century, though, France began having financial problems due to the lavish spending of King Louis XIV and his successors. These and social problems eventually led to the French Revolution that lasted from 1789–1794. Following the revolution, France shifted its government between “absolute rule or constitutional monarchy four times” during the Empire of Napoleon, the reigns of King Louis XVII and then Louis-Philippe and finally the Second Empire of Napoleon III.

In 1870 France was involved in the Franco-Prussian War, which established the country’s Third Republic that lasted until 1940. France was hit hard during World War I and in 1920 it established the Maginot Line of border defenses to protect itself from the rising power of Germany. Despite these defenses, however,​ France was occupied by Germany early during World War II. In 1940 it was divided into two sections—one that was directly controlled by Germany and another that was controlled by France (known as the Vichy Government). By 1942 though, all of France was occupied by the Axis Powers. In 1944, the Allied Powers liberated France.


Metropolitan France is the part of France that is located in Western Europe to the southeast of the United Kingdom along the Mediterranean Sea, the Bay of Biscay, and the English Channel. The country also has several overseas territories: French Guiana in South Americ, the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean Sea, Mayotte in the Southern Indian Ocean, and Reunion in Southern Africa.

Metropolitan France has a varied topography that consists of flat plains and/or low rolling hills in the north and west, while the rest of the country is mountainous with the Pyrenees in the south and the Alps in the east. The highest point in France is Mont Blanc at 15,771 feet (4,807 m).

The climate of Metropolitan France varies by location, but most of the country has cool winters and mild summers, while the Mediterranean region has mild winters and hot summers. Paris, the capital and largest city of France, has an average January low temperature of 36 degrees (2.5 C) and an average July high of 77 degrees (25 C).


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