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The history of France is rich and diverse. It has been known as one of the earliest organized states in the world. Although not much is known of the first inhabitants of France, cave painting in the south of the country have revealed the existence of creative and sophisticated people by 15,000 BC. Among the first immigrants to France were the Celts. The Celts began immigrating into France in the 8th century. Later, France was incorporated in the Roman Empire, a position that lasted from 100 BC to 500 AD. After Rome had fallen, a series of dynasties ruled the French (Duruy, 2008).
Dynastic rule lasted until the middle Ages. The middle Ages saw the beginning of feudalism, a scenario that resulted into the distribution of authority amongst the local rulers. Between the 14th and the 18th century, the influence of the kings and the ministers increased. They, consequently, focused on a centralized bureaucratic administration as well as in building the army. By the time the French revolution succeeded in toppling the monarch, the empire had a huge army. The chaos culminated into decades of political instability in the new republic. The state of turmoil persisted until Napoleon Bonaparte came to power. The authoritarian ruler succeeded in establishing effective organs of the state (Duruy, 2008).
The 19th and the 20th Centuries
The 19th and the 20th centuries saw France’s prosperity and power increase. In fact, France rivaled the United Kingdom in terms of influence and the size of the empire. The state was able to build a global colonial empire stretching from Asia to Africa and to the Latin America. However, the onset of the First World War posed a challenge to the French prosperity. In fact, much of the conflict was concentrated in France. This resulted into great losses to France as a nation and to its citizens. Before the nation had recovered, Germany’s expansionism prompted the start of the Second World War. France was occupied by Germany with the later establishing a collaborationist administration at Vichy in the central part of France. When the war ended, France focused on rebuilding the shattered economy, a situation which facilitated its re-emergence as an industrial power. Later, France joined with other global powers to form the G-7, a group of seven the most industrialized nations in the world. Nevertheless, resistance towards the French rulers in the colonies heightened. The decolonization that followed deprived the French most of their possessions abroad.
The most dramatic of the decolonization dramas was that of Algeria. The 1958 uprising in Algeria nearly resulted into a civil war in France. To calm the situation, the French government resolved to surrender dictatorial powers to a resistance leader named Charles de Gaulle. Consequently, de Gaulle organized a referendum on a new constitution that strengthened the presidential powers. Following the success of the referendum, de Gaulle became the first president of the New France. Charles de Gaulle was instrumental in uplifting France standing on the international stage. He helped to boost France’s influence in the world. In the recent times, France has, together with Germany, been playing an important role in stabilizing the economy of the European Union.
The French economy is large and diverse. It is among the most developed countries in the world. Diversification of the economy has made France a leading manufacturer of goods such as electronic gadgets, automobiles, chemicals and machine tools. In terms of agriculture, France has become an important supplier of wine, cereals and cheese to the rest of the world. In the recent times, the economy has been dominated by service industries such as the retail and wholesale enterprises, healthcare, communications and tourism (Cameron, 2000).
France has been an attractive tourist destination in the 21st century. The country appeals for its varied and attractive landscape, rich cultural resources and captivating collection of wines and food stuffs. Since the beginning of this century, the country has been receiving over 70 million visitors a year, a figure that is the highest in the world. Such a scenario has made tourism among the biggest industries in France. In fact, the French are known for touring their country. In France, there is an annual 5-week vacation for the workers, a leisure getaway that is fully paid for by the employer.
Among the leading tourist attractions of the country is the city of Paris. The city is one of the most visited locations in the world. The city is well known for its sidewalk cafes, colorful neighborhoods, and cuisine. Additionally, Paris is known for its esteemed cultural institutions as well as its beautiful architecture. The most outstanding landmarks in the city include the Louvre museum, the Arc de Triomphe, the Georges Pompidou Center, the Eiffel Tower and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Other French attractions include the Mediterranean Riviera and the French Alps. The Alps facilitate sporting activities such as snowboarding and skiing (Cameron, 2000).
France is a highly urbanized nation. More than three-quarters of its population is composed of urban dwellers. Ten million of these live in and around Paris. Successive administrations in France have laid a lot of emphasis on the wellbeing of the citizens. The nation is among the best-educated, the wealthiest and the healthiest societies in the world. Authorities have instituted a comprehensive welfare system in an endeavor to guarantee the citizens a better living standard. A majority of the citizens are Roman Catholics who speak French (Hollier, 1994).
The nation’s culture, art and literature are greatly influenced by those of the Western world. This has made Paris to be identified as a city with great intellectual capacity, a scenario which began in the middle Ages. French culture led to the emergence of great figures that included writers, philosophers, painters, composers, sculptors and playwrights. In fact, the French artistic and literary contributions during the Age of Enlightenment and the Renaissance had great influence on the development of the Western culture. For instance, movements such as impressionism, Dada, existentialism and surrealism originated with the French. Additionally, the French cuisine and fashion styles have become so prominent that many societies in the world keep on imitating them (Hollier, 1994).
The French Revolution
The French Revolution represented a major transformation in French social and political systems. In the years between 1789 and 1799, the French transformed their country from a monarchy to a republic. The people loathed the manner in which the kings monopolized power and economy, a situation which prompted the uprising that demanded freedom and equality amongst the citizens. The revolution served as an inspiration to individuals and societies in France and beyond. In fact, the French revolution has been ranked among the most transforming events of the modern world (Waller, 2002).
In ten years, the French managed to transform their nation’s social and political systems into ones that enabled the citizens to have a sense of entitlement. The Old Regime was dismantled before being replaced with a series of governments. Although most of the governments were short-lived, the initiatives they took are credited with the transformation of the political system into its current situation. The initiatives comprised of the drafting of constitutions and bills of rights, the institution of a representative democracy and the formulation of legal equality amongst the citizens. Others included the reconstruction of administrative organs, the formulation of the law code and integration of the church and state.
The changes brought by the Revolution were adopted in many jurisdictions in Europe. In some instances, the change was a matter of choice. For example, the United Kingdom sampled the elements of change that suited the interest of its people before embarking on any implementation. In other instances, change was imposed on the locals by the French military. This scenario was prevalent during in the period between 1792 and 1797, a period that was dominated by the French Revolutionary Warfare.
The Revolutionary Warfare reached its climax during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte. Indeed, the years between 1799 and 1815 represented among the most debated periods in the history of Europe. They represented the period that has been marked by intense Napoleonic Wars that revolutionized Europe in an unprecedented way (Waller, 2002). The French Revolution remained to be a model way of instituting change in Europe until 1917. Revolutions became unpopular following the 1917’s success of the communists in Russia. Communism was seen as a threat to the free world, a fact that most of the world, especially the Western Europe and America, loathed.
The French Republic has a remarkable human rights record. A significant portion of the global human rights were either adapted from or in France. French attachment to rights can be traced back to the 1700’s, the period commonly referred to as the Age of Enlightenment. In fact, France was among the nations that drafted a declaration which proclaimed human rights. The August 26, 1789 proclamation was termed as Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizens. Moreover, in the 1948 Paris hosted the United Nations General Assembly for a discussion that culminated with a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. René Cassin, a Nobel Laureate, was a principle architect of the declaration (Miller et al, 2009). In the later years, Cassin became the Chairperson of the UN Commission on Human Rights as well as the European Court of Human Rights. As such, France has been a respected nation with regard to human rights.
Since the 1940’s France has been a leader in the formulation of international instruments and doctrines relating to human rights. The nation has held the belief that protection and promotion of human rights is a legitimate course for everyone in the international community. This philosophy prompted France to take a leading role at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights that was held in the Austrian capital, Vienna. France is a leader in the promotion of political, social-economic, cultural and civil rights (Miller et al, 2009).
France has been instrumental in protecting the victims of abuse in Europe and the rest of the world. Successive governments have endeavored in encouraging progress through various means. The choice of method is dependant of the situation at hand. In some instances, France encourages the use of sanctions in an endeavor to compel the aggressor into considering retreat. When a situation becomes dire, the government opts for blockades and other forms of military actions. With regard to democracy and human rights, France has been on the forefront in the protection of civilians in the conflict nations of Libya and Ivory Coast. The current president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been credited for facilitating successful translation of leadership in Tunisia and Egypt.
France has been attaching a lot of importance to the normative activities of the United Nations. The nation is a party to nearly every treaty that seeks to protect and promote Human Rights. In fact, France has been calling for a universal ratification of all Human Rights that have been drafted by the United Nations. France is known for encouraging dialogue between nations and expert committees that are entrusted with ascertaining compliance with the international instruments of human rights. In an endeavor to reinforce a normative structure, France has been taking an active role in the development of rules aimed at enhancing victims’ protection (Knapp & Wright, 2006). In this regard, it has presided over a series of negotiations that aim at protecting individuals against disappearances.
France has been keen with advancing the implementation of the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. France has, together with Germany, prompted the United Nations to draft a convention that bans the reproductive cloning associated with humans. At one time, the government prompted UNESCO to adopt and enforce a declaration touching on matters of bioethics (Knapp & Wright, 2006). The declaration was hoped to be a part of the foundations of theme-based protocols that would then be drafted and developed based on the medical techniques associated with individual cases.
France is among the most important and influential nations in the world. The nation has been a beacon of human rights and democracy as well as cultural and financial activities. The legacy of French involvement in the world affairs has been of significant influence in facilitating the integrity of the international community. France has strong bilateral relationships with nations from all regions of the world. These relationships facilitate business and tourism between France and its friends, a situation which facilitates progress in the world economy.
The French have been instrumental in formulating a number of resolutions focusing on security and human rights. On many occasions the leaders of France have been taking the leading roles in enhancing defense cooperation on a number of fronts including the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia. For instance there have been a number of defense relationships with nations such as Israel, Australia and the United States. In East Timor France has been heeding to the Australian call for peace keeping and training missions (Knapp & Wright, 2006). The two nations have been cooperating in varied activities, including the provision of emergency relief to the victims of environmental disasters.
France has established dynamic cultural relationships with a number of nations. The French artists have been focusing on exploiting the enthusiasm of the vibrant younger generations at the international level. Such initiatives have been productive in a number of countries. For instance, the close relationship between France and Australia has prompted the latter’s embassy officials to administer the Australia-France Foundation on culture. The French cultural relationships are diverse and its museums house some of the most remarkable cultural pieces in the world including the Mona Lisa painting.
The administration of Nicolas Sarkozy has heightened the French influence in the world. The president has been instrumental in enforcing various international resolutions in Asia, Africa and Europe. President Sarkozy has dominated the European policy making in the recent past. The most remarkable areas of its influence include the strategy of economic stabilization policies. As such, France is an important member of the international community and nation that has been credited with a number of successes in the world diplomacy.