France has 65 million people. During World War One (1914 to 1918), the ‘Triple Entente’ powers of ‘France, Russia and the United Kingdom’ were opposed to the Central powers of ‘Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman (Turkey) empire and Bulgaria’. Due to Germany’s aggression in the war, France suffered greatly – ¼ of French men aged between 18 and 27 were killed (1.3 million men) and 4 million were wounded. Germany lost the war, and France retrieved their territories of Alsace and Lorraine. But during World War Two (1939 to 1945), France who was one of the Allied Powers, was conquered by Nazi Germany in 1940. Within France, the ‘Third Republic’ was dismantled and the north and west (being 2/3) of France became directly controlled by Germany, while the south of France (1/3) was controlled by the collaborationist Vishy Government (under French Marshall Phillipe Petain, who chose to side with Nazi Germany). Living conditions were harsh and as much as 25% to 33% of French production was taken away by Germany. In 1945, the Allied Powers and the French Resistance (under General Charles de Gaulle) won the war against Germany. More than 550,000 Frenchmen died in World War Two. France slowly recovered economically and even enjoyed a baby boom. But in the next two decades, its long wars in Indochina and Algeria (their colonies) drained French resources. There were 24 changes of governments during this period of the ‘Fourth Republic’ (1946 to 1958). No government was strong, or stayed long enough to put in place needed economic and social changes in France. During the Algerian crisis, President Charles de Gaulle in 1959 set up the French ‘Fifth Republic’ (a stronger system of government, which has stayed in place till today). Decolonization in the 1950s and 1960s saw most of the French colonial empire become independent. Since World War Two, France has been a member of the United Nations and has veto power (one of five). It is part of the European Union. France has stood among the strongest supporters of NATO and EU policy. In the Balkans, France helped to prevent genocide in Yugoslavia. France has also been actively involved against international terrorism. Despite low economic growth in recent years, France remains a strong economic, cultural, and military power in the world.

  1. In about 2,000 words, I will describe major events that affected France from 1900 to the present.
  2. 1900 – Paris, France hosts the 2nd modern day Summer Olympics.
  3. 1904 – The Entente Cordiale (Cordial Agreement) was signed between France and the United Kingdom which saw a significant improvement in Anglo-French relations. It marked the end of almost 1,000 years of intermittent conflict between the two countries.
  4. 1905 – A French law was passed that separated the State from the Church – this ended the government funding of religious groups.
  5. 1907 – The Triple Entente (Cordial Agreement) was signed between France, the United Kingdom and Russia. It was done to check the power of Germany.
  6. 1914 – World War One. Germany declared war on France.
  7. 1916 – World War One. The Battle of Somme. It was a joint operation between the British and French forces intended to achieve a decisive victory over the Germans on the Western Front. More than 3 million men fought in the battle and 1 million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the deadliest battles in human history.
  8. 1918 – World War One. Massive casualties in trenches in north-east France – 1.3 million Frenchmen are killed and many more wounded.
  9. 1918 – World War One. Anglo-French offensive – backed by fresh American troops – forced Germany to an armistice on 11 November 1918 – signed between France and Germany.
  10. 1918 – (1919) Spanish Flu. The pandemic killed 2.6 million people in Europe.
  11. 1919 – Treaty of Versailles was signed in which Germany agrees to pay money reparations to many countries including France for the World War One carnage.
  12. 1934 – The police shot and killed 15 demonstrators of the far-right leagues; repressing a riot and a failed coup. This was a major political crisis of the Third Republic – a system of government adopted in France from 1870 (when the Second French Empire ended) until 1940 when France was defeated by Nazi Germany in World War Two, leading to the formation of the Vichy Government in France (Vichy is a holiday town in central France).
  13. 1939 – World War Two. France declared war on Germany.
  14. 1940 – World War Two. The Second Armistice was put into effect after the French and British armies were heavily defeated in the Battle of France by the Germans. Germany has conquered France. The north and west of France was occupied by German forces and the southern part was governed by the collaborationist Vichy Government led by Marshal Phillipe Petain. Petain established a regime with values followed in Nazi Germany (including sending thousands of French Jews to their death). General Charles de Gaulle, undersecretary of war, established a government-in-exile in London and later, in Algiers (capital of Algeria) – he led the French Resistance. The French Resistance became active in opposition to the Nazi occupiers. Acts of the French Resistance’s bravery boost national morale of those French people who felt that the Vichy Government was a sell-out.
  15. 1944 – World War Two. D-Day – Allied forces landed at Normandy, France, pushing back the German army. Paris was liberated from German occupation after 2½ months of fighting. The rest of France was liberated a few weeks later as the Allies advanced towards Germany. Charles De Gaulle sets up a provisional government.
  16. 1945 – World War Two in Europe ends with Germany surrendering unconditionally. The United Nations is established – France has a veto (one of five) on the Security Council.
  17. 1946 – (1958) France adopted the constitution of the Fourth Republic. The Fourth Republic is marked by economic reconstruction and the start of the process of independence for many of France’s colonies. Some attempts were made to strengthen the executive branch of government to prevent the unstable situation that had existed before World War Two, but the instability remained, and the Fourth Republic saw frequent changes in government – there were 24 governments (administrations) in its 12-year history.
  18. 1946 – War commences in Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos). Indochina has been a colony of France.
  19. 1950s – French culture underwent a resurgence. Paris becomes a centre of hip culture.
  20. 1954 – End of the 8-year long Indochina War. The French were defeated at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in north-west Vietnam. The Viet Minh captured 8,000 French and marched them 500 miles on foot to prison camps; less than half survived the march. The following Geneva Conference agreed to dividing Vietnam (north and south). France departed from Vietnam in a move that started worldwide decolonization of the French colonial empire.
  21. 1954 – Start of the Algerian insurrection. Algeria has been a French colony.
  22. 1956 – French colonial rule ends in Morocco and Tunisia.
  23. 1956 – The Suez Crisis. The Suez Canal was built by the French government. Britain bought the Egyptian share of the canal. The Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the canal despite the French and British opposition. France and Britain attacked Egypt and built an alliance with Israel against Nasser. The Suez crisis caused an outcry of indignation in the entire Arab world and Saudi Arabia set an embargo on oil on France and Britain. The USA President Dwight Eisenhower forced a ceasefire; Britain and Israel soon withdrew, leaving France alone in Egypt. Under strong international pressures, the French government ultimately evacuated its troops from Suez and largely disengaged from the Middle East.
  24. 1958 – Algerian crisis topples the French Fourth Republic.
  25. 1959 – Charles de Gaulle (who retired), was called to help France, and he became the first president of the French Fifth Republic (De Gaulle had been quiet after 1946 when he left for others to form the French government after World War Two). The Fifth Republic is a system of government which was drafted by President Charles de Gaulle and later approved by the French people in a referendum. The new constitution greatly increased the President’s powers (as opposed the Third and Fourth Republics, in which the office of President of the Republic was a largely ceremonial and powerless one). The Fifth Republic is still present today.
  26. 1962 – End of the Algerian War. Algeria obtained independence from France after almost 8 years of official strife. Many French settlers (around 1 million; some born there) in Algeria were unhappy with this result – these colonists returned mainly to the south of France.
  27. 1968 – Student revolt against government policies and lack of social reform escalates into national strike in Paris. The riots threaten to bring down the Charles de Gaulle government.
  28. 1969 – Charles de Gaulle leaves office (he dies in 1970). Georges Pompidou is elected president. Pompidou is best remembered for his interest in architecture. The Pompidou Centre in Paris is a leading arts complex.
  29. 1969 – The first flight of the Anglo-French built supersonic aircraft “Concorde” is conducted.
  30. 1973 – (1974) France is hit by the effects of the oil crisis. A period of 28 years of economic growth, matched by an explosion of French cultural and intellectual talent, came to an end.
  31. 1981 – Socialist candidate Francois Mitterrand is elected president. He is remembered for major public works that shaped 20th century French society, which transformed Paris skyline and boosted the country’s self-esteem. He forged a relationship with Germany’s Chancellor Helmut Kohl – they both dread war and share an enthusiasm for European integration.
  32. 1981 – France abolishes the Death penalty.
  33. 1986 – Centre-right victory in legislative elections leads to “co-habitation” between the left-wing president in Francois Mitterrand and a right-wing prime minister in Jacques Chirac.
  34. 1992 – The European Union is created.
  35. 1995 – Right-wing Jacques Chirac is elected president, ending 14 years of left-wing presidency of Francois Mitterrand. Chirac also had to endure his own “cohabitation” when a left-wing national assembly, under prime minister Lionel Jospin, is elected in 1997.
  36. 2000 – Prime Minister Lionel Jospin passed a controversial measure to limit the working week to 35 hours.
  37. 1998 – The Euro currency replaced the French franc which had been in use since 1306.
  38. 2004 – The French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols is implemented banning the wearing conspicuous religious symbols in French public (eg in schools) – the law is renowned to target the Islamic woman’s headscarf, but also forbids Christian and Jewish symbols.
  39. 2007 – Nicolas Sarkozy is elected president. He passed over 60 reforms in his first year but suffered from poor public image, due to his very public divorce from his wife and very public remarriage to a pop singer. He could not survive the 2008 financial crisis and lost the presidency in 2012.
  40. 2012 – Socialist Francois Hollande beat Nicolas Sarkozy at the polls and became president. Hollande secured a close Franco-German partnership with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. High unemployment in France made Hollande an unpopular president.
  41. 2011 – The former French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, becomes the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. She served in that role until 2019.
  42. 2010 – A law to ban face covering from public space is passed – the law is renowned to target the Islamic burqa and niqab.
  43. 2011 – France leads the NATO intervention of Libya to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi – the Libyan leader is eventually killed.
  44. 2012 – French Islamist shoots dead 7 people, including 3 Jewish schoolchildren, in Toulouse. The shooter is killed in a police siege of his flat.
  45. 2013 – Same-sex marriage becomes legal in France, the 13th country worldwide to allow it.
  46. 2014 – Francois Hollande officially announced his separation from his second wife Valérie Trierweilerafter the tabloid magazine Closer revealed his affair with actress Julie Gayet. In September 2014, Trierweiler published a book about her time with Hollande. The memoir claimed the president presented himself as disliking the rich, but in reality disliked the poor. The claim brought an angry reaction from Hollande, who said he had spent his life dedicated to the under-privileged. This made the president unpopular to the French people.
  47. 2015 – The Charlie Hebdo shooting. 17 people, including 3 police officers, are killed in two terrorist attacks by Muslim terrorists that targeted the Charlie Hebdo magazine which published cartoons of Mohammed.
  48. 2015 – ISIS (Islamic terrorists) sends 3 teams of suicide bombers to attack multiple targets in Paris including a soccer stadium, a concert, and several restaurants; over 120 people are killed.
  49. 2016 – Francois Hollande declares he is not going to run for a second term as president following low approval ratings.
  50. 2017 – At age 39, Emmanuel Macron (former banker and Minister of Economy) is elected as the youngest French president. He called parliamentary elections that brought him absolute majority of deputies (parliamentarians). He appointed a prime minister from the ‘centre right’, and ministers from both the ‘centre left’ and ‘centre right’. When he was 29, Macron married his high-school teacher who was 53 (24 years older). He has no biological children but has 7 step-grandchildren. Macron wrote a best seller book titled Revolution released in 2017 – it sets out his biography and what he believes is good for France. As president, he was very popular at first carrying out ambitious domestic reforms.
  51. 2016 – Nice truck attack. A 19-tonne cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice resulting in the deaths of 86 people and the injury of 458 others. The driver was a Muslim Tunisian living in France – in an exchange of gunfire, he was shot and killed by the police.
  52. 2018 – Support for President Emmanuel Macron waned as thousands of ‘yellow vested’ citizens protested against the government’s attempts to curb fossil fuel use.
  53. 2019 – The historic Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris catches fire and the church’s main spire and most of the roof collapsed.
  54. 2020 – Samuel Paty, a French middle-school teacher, was beheaded by an Islamist terrorist.
  55. 2020 – (to 2021) COVID-19 pandemic caused more than 110,000 deaths in France.
  56. 2021 – In July and August of 2024 (in 3 years’ time), Paris is to host the 33rd Summer Olympics.
  57. 2021 – France has 65 million people.

© Comasters August 2021.

  • raymond Bos
    Posted at 15:09h, 08 August

    you wrote: France remains a strong economic, cultural, and military power in the world.
    But this is only the French perception.
    France is probably the weakest link in the European economy as 45% of the population works directly and indirectly for the government so they add no value to the economy.. The president and his “party” employ more and more non-value added people to local/departmental and federal) administration (so-called buying votes) which the real working people hate as taxes keep increasing while services are down creasing.
    Secondly, the president in place got in because of high absenteeism and not because he has/had a solid program to improve the overall conditions to the lower and the middle-class workers.
    Cultural (if we consider food, wines, yes they are good but in other areas like film making, they lost the quality they were known for.
    Military, they have become a non-inspiring nation except in their old African colonies. Every 2 years when Europe does joint their training exercises, French equipment fails,militairy people cannot complete the exercises and the ones strong nuclear [power has wained

    • comasters1
      Posted at 15:31h, 08 August

      Ray, I looked up more info on the French economy and found this: According to the IMF, in 2020, France was the world’s 20th country by GDP per capita with $39,257 per inhabitant. Louis Vutton seems to be doing well. Not many other countries can come up with such expensive branding. So, France would be doing some things right. I will keep what you said in mind and discuss with my French speaking friends. Maybe I will have more to say later. I will soon do a blog post on your former country, Netherlands. I might show it to you first for comment (positive or French negative type) before uploading it. Jeff

  • Jim Kable
    Posted at 01:35h, 12 August

    Interesting outlines Jeff – on all countries. What can I add here? In my day here in growing up in Australia – French language was THE International language of diplomacy, of passports/travel/the Post – it was the high culture language – studied by students at the those classes in schools perceived as “bright”/academically-headed. (This was my case – French for my five years of secondary schooling – studied not necessarily to speak – but for reading certainly – and who knew where else it might lead). French cuisine was the epitome of fine dining. I recall as a young chap attending restaurants where the menus were ONLY in français. The menu handed to men had the prices alongside – the one handed to women (“Ladies” was the term appropriate then in those long ago genderist times) had no prices! I could sing “Frère Jacques” and “Au Clair de la Lune” and “Sur le Pont, d’Avignon” – this last I did indeed sing on that famous bridge when there in January 12973 – as no doubt have millions of others. At Sydney U in my 1st Year I attended the film society showing of a film set in France – “Bonjour Tristesse” starry David Niven, Deborah Kerr and a young Jean Seberg – past and present – colour and B&W… I was 16, 17. I should throw in something about reading The Count of Monte Cristo and of films about The Three Musketeers – “All for One and One for All”. Okay I am moving back into historic times but its part of the cultural impulse into the 20th+ century cultural spirit. Then there are the singers – Edith Piaf, the Belgian Jacques Brel, the Armenian Charles Aznavour(ian) – Gilbert Bécaud… I want to mention Black Americans who found living in France so much more congenial than the racism they suffered in thir birthplace – the US – such as Josephine Baker, James Baldwin – the British (West Indies) E.M. Braithwaite and anyway all kinds of artistic and literary philosophical flowerings in France. I love it that the French so strongly separated the superstititions and other ugliness of religious controls from the state and can only wish we could follow thsat example here. I think of three PMS of the past two decades or so – John W Howard and his promotion to Governor General of Archbishop Hollingworth who treated appallingly a friend of mine and had to leave that office – of Tony Abbott and his close and sometimes secretive “friendship with alleged paedophile George Pell – a cardinal – and now Scott Morrison and his Pentecultist friendship with a paedophile protector pastor of the Hillsong Mega-church. And of all the ways in which Howard handed over vast swathes of welfare and carer delivery services to what he called “faith-based” religious organisations which have compromised their Jesus-as-model into abusive practices in many cases as brought to light in various recent Royal Commissions. And as far as law is concerned – our adversarial system answer only Yes or No nonsense could do with a lot of Code Napoléon makeover – the search for the truth. – not “cleverness” and brow-beating ugliness and slippery practices now being revealed re Charles Christian Porter/ Brittany Higgins and Bruce Lehrmann and so forth… My brother worked in the South of Frasnce building yachts – he married a fRench woman out of Paris – her father a pâtissier from Corsica. Her mother from Loir-et-Cher. One of my university students in Japan went on to work in France and in Japan for “L’Oréal”. A potter acquaintance in Japan – English with a Japanese wife – also a potter – set up a home/kiln in the Dordogne. A first cousin married a French fellow – they live just outside Toulouse. Other friends and family members have associations with France – out of Nouvelle-Calédonie, aussi – Tahiti…France has had its tragedies since 1900 – the Dreyfus Affair and émile Zola’s famous charge – “J’accuse…” … I am really only touching on some things in this response Jeff – my mention of the three PMs of the hard right here in Australia is because they really do upset my sense of fair play – not one of them a positive for this country…so if any French President falls short (de Gaulle excepted I reckon) then we only have to look here… Jim

    • comasters1
      Posted at 22:08h, 12 August

      Jim, Thanks for liking my blog posts. Me too, I have a high regard for the French language and it is an international language, apart from English. It sounds nice and is studied by many clever people around me. When I visited, I like the look of Paris and its outskirts. A family took me in a one night because I met a youngish Frenchman on a train trip. They were surprised to see a travelling Asian of 17 and I wanted to see what life is like in France. My friend took me cycling to Netherlands and back – the house was on the border. I could travel anywhere I want in Europe for one month – bearing a Eurail Youthpass. France had a different feel from England altogether. The French expensive branding continue to linger in everyone’s mind when shopping. Not their cars, though – can’t beat the German and the Japanese brands. Jeff