ASSIMILATION

3: the process of adopting the language and culture of a dominant social group or nation, or the state of being socially integrated into the culture of the dominant group in a society.

Looking into French history can be quite daunting, but extremely fascinating at the same time. Assimilating to the French way of life is never complete without a basic understanding of French history.

There have been 5 republics in France. From the ashes of the revolution of 1789 arose the establishment of the First Republic of France, on the 22nd of September 1792. The French Second Republic was founded in February 1848 with the February Revolution. The end of the Franco-Prussian war led to the establishment of the French Third Republic from 4 September 1870 until 10 July 1940 with the Fall of France during WWII. The French Fourth Republic was established a few years after the war on 27 October 1946. Currently, the system of government in France is the Fifth Republic, which was established on the 4th of October 1958, by the national hero, Charles de Gaulle, leading to the constitution of the Fifth Republic.

France lies in Western Europe, bordered in the North by the English Channel, to the Northeast you will find Luxembourg and Belgium, to the East is Germany and Switzerland, Italy is to the Southeast, with the Mediterranean to the South, Andorra and Spain to the Southwest and from the West, you will find the Atlantic Ocean.

France originated through the fragmentation of the Carolingian empire when Hugh Capet was crowned King of West Francia in the year 987. The kingdom of West Francia consolidated its power and expanded its territory, eventually becoming known as France.

French and English monarchs clashed early on, all for control over land. This includes the Hundred Years War after which the France-Habsburgs rivalry ensued when the Habsburgs inherited Spain, effectively surrounding France. The Avignon Papacy clashed with the French crown resulting in multiple religious wars after the reformation between Catholics and Protestants.

The peak of French royalty would be during the reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV (1642-1715). The exuberant spending of Louis XIV, then Louis XV and finally Louis XVI inevitably led to the French Revolution, which began in 1789, and leads us back to the establishment of the First Republic of France.

France would soon find the events of the French Revolution eclipsed by the imperial ambitions of none other than Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) with the Napoleonic Wars that saw France’s first military dominate Europe, before their defeat. This saw the restoration of an unstable monarchy, then the French Second Republic, a second empire and the French Third Republic would follow in the nineteenth century.

The twentieth century would bring with it two German invasions, the first in 1914 and the second in 1940. With the liberation of France came the return of a democratic republic and the establishment of the French Fourth Republic. The French Fourth Republic would be built on the decimated foundations of the French Fourth Republic which would of course lead to upheavals in society.

It was the establishment of the French Fifth Republic that brought stability to the great nation, the same system that is currently leading France into the future.

So next let’s take a look at three historical figures of France.

  1. Joan of Arc (1412-1431)

One of France’s best-known historical figures. During the Hundred Years War, her contributions would directly assist in securing French victory over the English and leading to French lands being reclaimed.

She was uniquely motivated by her religious devotion with visions of St Michael and St Catherine reassuring her that she would become the saviour of France. Led several battles alongside the heir to the French throne.

Joan of Arc would eventually be captured in battle and sold to the English, who subsequently charged the heroine with witchcraft and heresy. She was burned at the stake at the age of 19.

2. Voltaire (1649-1778)

The Age of Enlightenment, the 1700s in Europe, saw the brilliant work of Voltaire. His work was representative of the philosophic and cultural movement that had taken hold of the continent.

A strong believer in the separation of church and state, his satirical works often criticised Christianity. Some of his other works, like La Henriade (1723), were a blatant attack on religion and government, which would see him spend time in prison. To avoid this from happening again he exiled himself to an English town on the French-Swiss border, now known as Ferney-Voltaire.

3. Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

The author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) and Les Misérables (1862) and other pieces of work form part of the Romantic era, an artistic period of time where artists were focused on nature as an inspiration.

Les Misérables was first published in 1862 and became an instant hit, subsequently translated into a number of different languages, resulting in worldwide success.

No French history article is complete, in my opinion, without seeing a few monuments.

  1. Mont Saint-Michel is currently my favourite. Here it is a few weeks ago when my mother and father were able to come to visit us.

2. Les Invalides. The breathtaking final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte.

3. The Eiffel Tower. I could never get sick of looking at this architectural wonder.

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