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The thread of time: important events in the history of France  

Who, When, How?

Vercingetorix, Clovis, Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, Saint Louis (Louis IX), François I, Louis XIV (the Sun King), Napoleon, Robespierre, Jules Ferry, General de Gaulle... but also cathedral builders, Medieval scholars, writers such as Descartes, Corneille, Voltaire, Victor Hugo, scientists such as Pasteur...., farmers and workers... each and every one of them has helped forge the identity of France.

Over the years they have all helped shape the country, its values and culture.

France, settled by the Celts, was called Gaul until the Romans occupied it, having defeated the Celtic chief, Vercingetorix. Later on Clovis, King of the Franks, drove the Romans out.

That’s why history books remind us that our ancestors were Celts, Gauls, Romans, Franks and then, in the 10th century, Vikings.

From the 15th century onwards, the “Age of Discovery” sparked a conquering spirit in the nations of Europe. France colonized parts of Africa, islands in the West Indies and Indian Ocean etc....

Jardin à la française - Photo : G. BrameLouis XIV, the all-powerful “Sun King” who built the palace of Versailles, dominated the 17th century. Gradually, scholars asserted new ideas of liberty, tolerance and justice. We call this period the “Age of Enlightenment”, when ideas began to be questioned and criticized.

In 1789, ordinary people took to the streets: it was the French Revolution.

During the First World War (1914-18), a number of foreigners either chose or were forced to fight alongside the French. Similarly after 1945, immigrants from Europe and French Africa were used to rebuild the country. They helped fill the labour shortage caused by so many workers being killed in World War II.

The historical links between France and French-speaking Africa and Asia made it easier for young men to come and work in France. Since the 1974 economic crisis, immigration of workers and their families has been strictly regulated because of high unemployment in France. A new law in July 2006 put severe limits on immigration. Nonetheless, international agreements provide grants to enable foreign students to come and continue their studies in France.

Panneau Rue de la liberté - rue Royale - Photo : G. Brame For 20 centuries France has had a turbulent history and different races have intermingled to form the mixed-race French nation of today.


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