In the early 1500s the Renaissance swept into France and
became home to artists like Leonardo da Vinci, and locals such as John Calvin rose
to fame. It also brought religious arguments and resistance to the monarchy, leading
to political instability until 1799 when Napoleon was democratically elected to
rule France. Napoleon was a military master and by 1812 had swept through most of
Europe, even taking Moscow. However not all went his way
and in 1815 he was sent into exile, where he eventually died. The country again
fell into chaos until 1848 when the French Revolution broke out, which created more
chaos that didn't completely end until after World War I (WWI).
In 1914 WWI broke out between the Prussians (Germans) and
Austrian-Hungarians against the
French and English, among
others. Much of the fighting took place in France as the French tried to retake
their former lands of Alsace and Lorraine. Although France and their allies eventually
won the war, it devastated the country and the peace treaty forced Germany to pay
France for their wartime losses. This hostility destroyed both countries and created
bitterness between the two, one of numerous causes of World War II.
France declared war on Germany in
1939, but by the end of 1940 France had fallen. On June 6, 1944 (D-Day), an allied
invasion took the beaches of Normandy and the following year Nazi Germany had surrendered.
The war led to the fall of nearly all French colonies and a rebuilding process.
This rebuilding began with the Marshall Plan, which greatly contributed to the formation
of the European Union (EU).
In recent history France has made amends with its neighbors,
including old rivals in Germany and
England. It has also become the world's most popular tourist destination,
creating a more diverse country, particularly due to immigrants from former colonies
in Africa and Asia.