The establishment of the first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown in 1607 was immediately followed by the planting of the first permanent French colony in North America at Quebec in 1608. As colonists from both nations arrived in the New World, they brought with them the rivalries of the old, where their respective mother countries were emerging great powers in Europe whose interests more often collided with one another than coincided. Beginning with the War of the League of Augsburg (King William's War) from 1689 to 1697 and continuing through the Seven Years' War (French and Indian War) from 1756 to 1763, a series of massive conflicts between France and Britain raged, dominating the affairs of Europe. They also directly impacted the lives of their colonists in North America, who found themselves swept up into these wars. The Spanish were a major factor in North America as well, but their power declined steadily throughout this period and, after the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) placed a Bourbon prince on the Spanish throne, the French and Spanish were allied in their conflicts against Britain, with the French serving as the dominant player in the coalition.
american perceptions of france
In this Age of Reason, religious differences were becoming less of a factor in European politics, yet religion still exercised a heavy influence in defining cultural and political identity. Nowhere was this more true than in the North American colonies. The rivalry between Catholic and Protestant remained alive and well in North America, and much of the anti-French rhetoric that came from the British colonies was laced with anti-Catholicism. The colonists tended to equate Catholicism with despotism and viewed the French, with their powerful monarchical system of rule, as the very epitome of autocracy and the complete antithesis of the British with regard to individual rights and liberty and parliamentary government.
The feelings of animosity of most British colonists toward the French during this long period of warfare went far beyond traditional patriotism or religious belief, but rather were born from the
unique situation and circumstances confronting the colonists in the New World. The French were the commercial rivals of the British colonists in the booming economic trade of the North American continent, and in particular in the lucrative fur trade over which the French exercised a powerful hold. French explorers were among the first to penetrate into the interior of North America, and while their settlements were small and scattered, they nevertheless established a claim to the land west of the Alleghenies, which effectively hemmed the British colonists into the Eastern seaboard and prevented their westward expansion. In the agrarian economy of the frontier, land represented money, power, and status to the colonists, and the French hold on the continent's vast interior was deeply resented.
Another major factor in colonial animosity toward France was the close relationship that the French established with Native Americans. Indeed, of all the European powers to establish colonies in the Americas, none was more able to win the affection and loyalty of the indigenous peoples as the French was. The French worked to introduce Catholicism to the Indians, but their priests did so through peaceful persuasion rather than with the sword, in contrast to their Spanish coreligionists. Unlike their British rivals, the French were respectful of native culture, treated the tribes as sovereign nations, and established meaningful alliances with them. Frenchmen routinely married Indian women at a time when the Church of England heavily frowned upon interracial marriage. Whereas British colonists generally practiced a policy of exclusion toward the Indians, the French established ethnically diverse settlements in the midst of the various tribes they called their friends, and virtually every French town in North America included a sizable population of Native Americans living peaceably in and around the area.
The British colonists viewed such behavior as not only morally abhorrent but threatening. Besides France, the great enemy the colonists faced in North America was the Indians, and throughout the long struggle for possession of North America, most of the major Indian tribes were allied with France. Indian war parties—armed, organized, and sometimes led by the French—terrorized the frontier during the colonial wars.
The Treaty of Paris in 1763, which ended the final Anglo-French colonial war in North America, resulted in the eviction of France from the continent and a sudden removal of the French as a menace to the American colonists. Ironically, the British government quickly replaced the French as a target of American ire, as it was now Parliament that restricted the colonists' westward expansion and even courted favor with the Indian tribes, who were still viewed with hostility and suspicion by Americans on the frontier. As relations between Britain and its American colonies deteriorated sharply during the decade from 1765 to 1775, the image of France as an enemy sharply receded in the minds of many colonists, who now viewed the enemy as residing in London rather than Paris.
a franco-american alliance
The outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775 found the Continental Congress facing a full-scale war against Great Britain but lacking the most basic essentials for waging such a conflict. The Americans had no means of producing cannon or gunpowder and only a limited ability to manufacture small arms. The colonial militias had relied upon the mother country for these necessities, and with that source gone, a new means of procuring the implements of war had to be found quickly. In addition, the Continental Congress faced a chronic shortage of funds with which to procure weapons, uniforms, shoes, food, and other essential supplies for George Washington's Continental Army. Thus, the Americans were forced to look overseas for military and economic support from Britain's European enemies and France, with its vast treasury and massive armaments industry, was the natural choice. In 1776 the Continental Congress dispatched a diplomatic mission to Paris headed by Silas Deane (later to be joined by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams) to solicit French support for the American cause.
The French viewed the outbreak of the American Revolution with a certain pleasure as they saw the mastery of North America by their archenemy, Britain, threatened by its very own subjects. The news of American victories at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, as well as the heavy casualties suffered by the British at Bunker (Breed's) Hill in June 1775 had been greeted with wild jubilation in the streets of Paris. Thus, Deane was warmly received the following year at the court of the young King Louis XVI, and in particular by the king's influential foreign minister Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes. The cunningly ambitious Vergennes believed that the American Revolution offered France many possibilities to avenge its humiliating defeat in the Seven Years' War, acquire valuable colonies in the West Indies and severely harm the power and prestige of its main rival, Britain.
In short order, Vergennes and Deane concluded an agreement by which the United States could purchase arms and munitions from France; in addition, Vergennes threw open French ports to American privateers. The materiel thus acquired from the French in 1776 and 1777 was indispensable to the American war effort and enabled the Continental Army to continue to remain an active force despite the best efforts of the British to destroy it. Even more importantly, the French government granted the Americans the diplomatic status of a belligerent nation, as opposed to viewing them as British rebels, which was an important first step toward establishing a formal relationship and, eventually, a military alliance between the two nations.
France initially avoided a direct confrontation with Great Britain while taking all steps short of war to provide aid to the Americans. The actions of the French government won wide approval throughout the kingdom, receiving the support of the nobility as well as the common people. The reasons for such widespread French backing for the American cause were deeply rooted in traditional Anglo-French hostility. While few believed in the opening stages of the conflict that the United States could actually win, many French hoped that a long and debilitating war would significantly weaken Britain, regardless of its final outcome. In addition to geopolitical and nationalistic reasons for supporting the United States, many French saw in the infant Republic the first real attempt to place the ideas of Voltaire and Rousseau into actual practice and thus believed for ideological reasons that the Americans should be supported in their rebellion.
French army officers were soon clamoring to serve in the American cause, an action encouraged by Vergennes to provide the Continental Army with badly needed professional officers as well as to increase French influence and control over the American war effort. Among the numerous French officers seeking a commission in the Continental Army was an idealistically romantic nineteen-year-old nobleman, the Marquis de Lafayette. Though he spoke little English and had virtually no military experience, the young man was politically well-connected at the court of Louis XVI, and the American representatives in Paris were impressed by this as well as his idealism and zeal for the American cause.
Lafayette arrived in America in June 1777 and soon attached himself to the staff of General George Washington. The dour and irascible Washington was besieged by foreign officers of all stripes seeking commands in his army, and consequently he was initially dismissive of the young marquis. But Lafayette's boyish enthusiasm for the cause and eagerness for battle against the British impressed Washington, and soon a close bond developed between the two men. Indeed, as time went by, Lafayette became like a son to Washington, and the former eagerly returned this paternal affection with a deep devotion and fierce loyalty to the American leader. Lafayette served with distinction at the Battles of Brandywine (11 September 1777) and Germantown (4 October 1777) and endured the privations of Valley Forge in the winter of 1777–1778. His services were rewarded with command of a division, making him one of the principal field commanders of the Continental Army and one of the very few foreign officers with whom Washington entrusted American troops.
Shortly after his arrival in America, Lafayette had begun to bombard the French government with letters praising the Americans and their cause and appealing for King Louis XVI to enter the war at their side. Lafayette's reports added traction to the American diplomatic mission in Paris, which was now headed by the charismatic Benjamin Franklin. Already famous in France for his scientific discoveries and writings, Franklin had become an instant celebrity after his arrival at the French court, and his dalliances with the ladies of Paris soon became legendary. Yet he was also a forceful speaker and relentless diplomat who sought to turn French covert assistance for the American cause into an actual military alliance between the two nations.
Vergennes was eager for Franklin's proposals, but King Louis XVI still waited for some tangible sign that the American cause was worth supporting. That sign came in the autumn of 1777, when word arrived in Paris that the British army under General John Burgoyne had been defeated and forced to surrender in the field at Saratoga, New York, on 17 October 1777. The American victory sent shock waves throughout Europe. It was the worst defeat suffered by the British army in decades, and it had come at the hands of the "backward" and "ill-trained" Americans. King Louis XVI reasoned that if the Americans could pull off such a feat on their own, they could do far more with a real ally in the field alongside of them. With visions of restoring the lost prestige of France and wreaking a terrible vengeance on France's ancient enemy, Louis XVI informed Franklin that the French government would enter into a formal economic, political, and military alliance with the United States with the express aim of securing American independence from Great Britain. These agreements being signed, on 17 June 1778 France formally went to war against Britain and entered the American Revolution as a full ally of the infant United States.
French military support. The French immediately extended badly needed financial and military aid to their embattled ally and also dispatched an expeditionary force and powerful naval squadron under the command of Admiral Jean Baptiste d'Estaing to North America. The French entry into the conflict forced Britain to reconsider its grand strategy, withdraw its forces from Philadelphia and other exposed outposts, and essentially go on the defensive for the rest of the war—except in the southern colonies, which they still believed could be retained under British rule.
Joint military operations between the Continental Army and French expeditionary forces were at first problematic. A Franco-American attack on Newport, Rhode Island, in August 1778 was initially successful but ultimately failed due to bad weather and poor cooperation between the Americans and French. In September 1779 d'Estaing's forces linked up with American troops under General Benjamin Lincoln for a joint attack on Savannah, Georgia. After a month-long siege failed to bring about results, d'Estaing ordered a full-scale assault; it was bloodily repulsed, with the French and Americans compelled to withdraw in defeat. Although the formal military forces sent by France failed to achieve initial successes, other French were proving their worth to the American cause. In 1779 Colonel George Rogers Clark began a desperate campaign to win control of the future Northwest Territory. Clark was ably assisted in this endeavor by the support of the French population of the region. The French were by far the most numerous nonnative population in the area, and their support for Clark and the American cause proved vital to the eventual American victory in this critical theater of the war.
By 1781 the French expeditionary forces in America had been reinforced and reorganized. A French army numbering approximately seventy-five-hundred men was under the command of the Comte de Rochambeau, while a powerful fleet under the Comte de Grasse, including twenty-eight ships of the line, was deployed to the West Indies. In the summer and autumn of 1781 Washington, Rochambeau, and de Grasse masterfully coordinated their allied forces in a campaign designed to isolate and destroy the British forces under Lord Cornwallis in Virginia. Admiral de Grasse defeated the British at the Battle of the Virginia Capes in September. Then Washington, with ninety-five-hundred Americans, and Rochambeau (who had placed himself under Washington's orders), with seventy-eight-hundred elite French troops, rapidly marched south from New York, trapping Cornwallis's army at Yorktown, Virginia. After a brief siege, Cornwallis surrendered his entire force on 19 October 1781. The British cause in America had been dealt a death blow. Negotiations began shortly afterward, and the Treaty of Paris was ratified by Congress in 1783, bringing peace and independence to the United States.
the french revolution
Just six years after the conclusion of the American Revolution, the French Revolution erupted with the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789. Initial American reactions to the Revolution were almost universally positive, with many Americans embracing it as a natural outgrowth of their own revolt. Lafayette became a significant leader in the new French government and sent his mentor, President Washington, the key to the Bastille as a symbol of unity between the two revolutions. That unity was severely challenged, however, when the French Revolution entered upon a more radical phase under the leadership of the Girondins, replaced in June 1793 by the still more radical Jacobins. Attacks upon the nobility and clergy increased dramatically, and King Louis XVI was tried for treason and executed in January 1793. This action set off a wave of imprisonments and executions by the new French republic during the time known as the Terror, which would last into 1794. Lafayette himself, who was a member of the nobility, was accused by the Jacobin rulers of France of being an enemy of the republic and was forced to flee for his life.
As France became convulsed by internal turmoil, it was also invaded by the other great powers of Europe, who were intent on destroying the revolution in its cradle while simultaneously taking advantage of perceived French weakness to seize territory and enhance their own power and position. Faced with war against virtually all of Europe, the French republic invoked the terms of the Franco-American alliance and called upon the United States to wage war at its side as a sister republic. While no one in France believed the infinitesimal American military could wage war in Europe, it was hoped that the Americans could attack British and Spanish possessions in North America and thus pin down and distract the military forces of those nations. While substantial numbers of Americans, including Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, favored supporting France in its war on ideological grounds, cooler heads prevailed. President Washington refused to honor the alliance, claiming that it was no longer valid as it had been concluded with the government of King Louis XVI, not the French republic. Washington's decision was certainly in the best interest of the United States, which had little to gain and much to lose by launching into a major war so soon after independence, but the failure of the United States to honor the alliance was seen by the French as a betrayal of their friendship.
Deteriorating relations. In an effort to secure American cooperation, the French Girondin government in 1793 dispatched a diplomatic mission headed by Edmond Genet to press Washington into some form of support for France in its hour of need, but Washington remained intransigent on the matter. Sensing quite correctly that, in spite of Washington's avowed policy, large numbers of Americans supported France, Genet took his cause directly to the American people. He helped stir up pro-French feelings as Democratic Republican clubs throughout the United States held demonstrations supporting and celebrating the triumphs of the French Revolution. Genet also issued letters of marque to American privateers, urging them to attack British merchant shipping while simultaneously attempting to organize a mercenary army of Americans to attack Spanish Louisiana, an idea that originated with American Revolutionary War hero George Rogers Clark. Genet's activities brought a formal protest from Washington and a demand that the French government recall him immediately. Before this could happen, however, the Jacobins overthrew the Girondins. Fearing for his life, Genet sought political asylum in the United States, which Washington granted.
Support for or opposition to the French Revolution increasingly became a major issue in the emerging rival political ideologies of the early Republic. Democratic Republicans favored the French while the Federalists were adamantly anti-French and desirous of better relations with Great Britain. Jay's Treaty of 1794 brought about a rapprochement between the United States and Great Britain, and this was followed by the ascension of the staunchly anti-French John Adams to the American presidency in 1797. The Directory, which had come to power in France during 1795, viewed the warming relations between its erstwhile ally America and its current enemy Britain with deep hostility and suspicion, and French privateers were given license to attack American ships. President Adams sent a delegation to negotiate an end to these attacks and a formal renunciation of the Franco-American alliance. The American diplomats were treated disrespectfully by the French foreign minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, who demanded a personal bribe under the table and a large loan for the French government before he would even begin negotiations. These demands were presented to the Americans by a group of agents known as X, Y, and Z. The American mission refused to pay the bribes and returned home without an agreement, as American newspapers roared with indignation over the XYZ Affair and Franco-American relations reached their nadir.
Unable to reach a diplomatic agreement, President Adams authorized the U.S. Navy to protect American shipping from French depredations, and so the Quasi-War with France commenced in 1798. The conflict resulted in a few dramatic victories for the infant American navy and the seizure of a number of French merchant vessels, but French privateers continued to prey on American shipping and relations between the two republics remained hostile. A full-scale war, however, never broke out.
napoleon and america
In November 1799 General Napoleon Bonaparte seized power in France, proclaiming himself first consul, supreme head of the republic. Unlike the government he toppled, Napoleon had warm feelings for the United States and believed the Americans were a natural ally against his enemy, Great Britain. He was also an ardent admirer of George Washington, keeping a bust of the American general in his office and presiding over a special memorial service when he received news of Washington's death in 1799. Napoleon was also an ardent expansionist, and among his dreams for empire was the notion of resurrecting a French presence in North America which, after a halt in hostilities with Britain in 1801, seemed a real possibility. Toward this end he bullied his new ally, Spain, into ceding the Louisiana Territory to him in 1800. Spain acquiesced to Napoleon's demand, but only on the condition that he never allow the territory to fall into the hands of the United States. Napoleon's ardor for a new French empire in North America quickly cooled in the wake of a failed campaign by French troops to control the island of Hispaniola and the threat of a new war with Britain. With Britain's mastery of the seas, it would be impossible to maintain control of any overseas possessions, and Britain would be able to swoop down from Canada and grab the Louisiana Territory with ease.
Louisiana Purchase. As Napoleon contemplated these issues in 1803 a delegation arrived from the United States seeking to purchase the port of New Orleans and West Florida for $10 million. He offered instead to sell the entire Louisiana Territory for $15 million, a deal eagerly accepted by the Jefferson administration and formally concluded on 30 April 1803. The Louisiana Purchase was a mutually beneficial bargain, for not only did it almost double the size of the United States and open up the Mississippi River to American commerce, but it also prevented the territory from falling into the hands of the British who, like the Spanish, sought to prevent America's westward expansion. Napoleon received badly needed funds for his wars of conquest from the sale of territory he would have probably lost anyway, while simultaneously enhancing the power and prestige of the nation that he believed would frustrate Britain's colonial ambitions more than any other in the Western Hemisphere. In later years Napoleon would take great pride in the part he played in the growth of the United States.
See alsoEuropean Influences: The French Revolution; French and Indian War, Battles and Diplomacy; Fur and Pelt Trade; Louisiana Purchase; Quasi-War with France; Revolution: Diplomacy; Revolution: European Participation; XYZ Affair .
Alsop, Susan Mary. Yankees at the Court: The First Americans in Paris. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982.
Ammon, Harry. The Genet Mission. New York: Norton, 1973.
Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766. New York: Knopf, 2000.
DeConde, Alexander. The Quasi-War: The Politics and Diplomacy of the Undeclared War with France, 1797–1801. New York: Scribners, 1966.
Englund, Steven. Napoleon: A Political Life. New York: Scribners, 2004.
Harrison, Lowell H. George Rogers Clark and the War in the West. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001.
Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003.
Kramer, Lloyd. Lafayette in Two Worlds: Public Cultures and Personal Identities in an Age of Revolutions. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
Kukla, Jon. A Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America. New York: Knopf, 2003.
Lefebvre, Georges. Napoleon, from 18 Brumaire to Tilsit, 1799–1807. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969.
Morris, Richard B. The Peacemakers: The Great Powers and American Independence. New York: Harper and Row, 1965.
Rice, Howard C., and Ann S. K. Brown, eds. and trans. American Campaigns of Rochambeau's Army: The Journals of Clermont-Crevecoeur, Verger, and Berthier. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972.
Scott, Samuel F. From Yorktown to Valmy: The Transformation of the French Army in an Age of Revolution. Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1998.
Stinchcombe, William C. The American Revolution and the French Alliance. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1969.
Unger, Harlow Giles. Lafayette. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2002.
Robert B. Bruce
POPULATION: About 60.8 million
LANGUAGE: French;also Breton,Flemish,Spanish,Catalan, Basque, Provençal, and English
RELIGION: Roman Catholic; Protestant; smaller numbers of Muslims and Jews
France, which has existed in its present form since the 15th century, is Europe's oldest nation. A leader in intellectual trends, the fine arts, fashion, and cuisine, it is also the world's sixth richest country, a major nuclear power, and Europe's leading agricultural producer.
Originally part of the Celtic region known as Gaul, France became part of the Roman Empire until it was overrun by a Germanic tribe—the Franks—from whom the country's present name is derived. Its greatest early ruler was Charlemagne in the 9th century ad. At the end of the 10th century, Hugh Capet founded the dynasty that was to rule over the French for the next 800 years. Other great figures in early French history include Joan of Arc, who inspired French national feeling during the Hundred Years War and was burned at the stake by the English in 1431, and Louis XIV, the so-called Sun King, who transformed France into an absolute monarchy in the 17th century.
The French Revolution in 1789 was followed by the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, who conquered much of Europe before his downfall in 1814. In the 20th century, France weathered two world wars and a worldwide economic depression in addition to its own political and social upheavals and the loss of a large colonial empire. However it has survived in the 21st century to become a major political and economic world power and a leader in the European Union (EU). However, in 2005 France's voters rejected the proposed EU constitution in a referendum, dooming the document. France nevertheless is looking to develop the EU's military capabilities to supplement progress toward an EU foreign policy.
LOCATION AND HOMELAND
The largest country in Western Europe (Ukraine is the largest country in Europe since the breakup of the Soviet Union), France is located on the extreme west coast of the continent. It is the only country except Spain to have both Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, as well as direct access to the North Sea. Lowlands make up about half of France's terrain; the other half consists of hills or mountains. The major geographic areas are the Northern Region, the Paris Basin, Normandy, Brittany, the Lower Loire, and the Southwestern Plains. France's principal mountain chains are the Pyrenees, which border Spain, and the Alps, bordering Italy and Switzerland. Its major rivers are the Rhône and the Seine.
France's native-born population has Celtic, Germanic, Latin, and Slavic origins. Its immigrant population of around five million lives primarily in the country's central, southern, and southeastern areas, and immigrants are especially numerous in Alsace. Those from the North African countries of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco are called Maghrébins. Other immigrants are from Portugal, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and immigrants from Russia and Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of communism in the 1990s.
French, a Romance language with Latin roots, is the national language not only of France's people but also of some 300 million others throughout the world. It is the first or second language of more than 20 African countries, 6 in Asia and the South Pacific, and 5 in Europe. The original Latin-derived language was modified by the addition of words from Celtic, German, and Greek. Within France itself, other spoken languages include Breton, Flemish, Spanish, Catalan, Basque, and Provençal. English is also spoken by many in France, especially for business purposes.
Native folklore varies from region to region. Witches and cave dwellers with supernatural powers traditionally populated Basque legends, and some elderly Basques still fear the evil eye. Ancient Celtic religious sites can still be found in northern Auvergne, together with vestiges of ancient beliefs. The Bretons have many superstitions and rituals accompanying death. Death itself is envisioned as a legendary figure called Ankou, pictured as a skeleton with a scythe, and it is believed that the creaking of the cart he rides in portends the death of a person in the neighborhood. When a person dies, the doors and windows of the house are traditionally left open so that the soul can depart, and mirrors are turned to face the wall.
About 83–88% of the French population is Roman Catholic, although less than one-fifth of Catholics attend church regularly. Protestants account for roughly 2%, mostly Calvinist or Lutheran. Anywhere from 5–10% of the population is Muslim, mostly immigrants from North Africa, and Jews make up 1% of the population.
Religious, historical, and patriotic holidays are observed throughout the year. New Year's Eve is celebrated with a festive dinner; at midnight family and friends wish each other a good year by kissing under mistletoe. For Epiphany on January 6 the custom is to bake a large round pastry with a bean hidden in it; the person who finds the bean becomes "ruler" for the evening. Mardi Gras, on Shrove Tuesday in February, is marked by parades featuring flowers, floats, and giant cardboard figures. Labor Day on May 1 is celebrated by workers' parades. May 8 marks the end of World War II, and France's national holiday (the equivalent of July Fourth in the United States) is Bastille Day on July 14, which commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789. It is accompanied by parades, fireworks, and dancing in the streets. The French observe Christmas by attending a midnight mass. France's different regions also celebrate their own holidays and festivals. Many occur at Christmas and Easter, such as Strasbourg's Christmas market.
RITES OF PASSAGE
France is a modern, industrialized, Christian country. Hence, many of the rites of passage that young people undergo are religious rituals, such as baptism, first Communion, confirmation, and marriage. In addition, a student's progress through the education system is marked by many families with graduation parties.
The French have a formality and reserve that is often interpreted as rudeness by outsiders. In addition, their pride in their taste and culture, which reveres artists and philosophers, is sometimes seen as haughtiness. Money is generally considered something of a taboo topic, and it is considered especially rude to ask the size of someone's salary. When invited to another person's home, a French person will invariably bring along a gift of wine or flowers. Both men and women often greet each other by kissing on the cheek.
Long, white-walled, red-tiled farm houses are a typical sight in the French countryside. Most city dwellers live in rented apartments, often a short distance from where they work. While the French like modern homes, many have a taste for antique furniture. Today it is becoming increasingly popular for urbanites to maintain a second home in the country that they can escape to on weekends. Immigrants from North Africa often live in large suburban housing developments called cités, which are generally run down and overcrowded.
French life expectancy averages 80.8 years, with heart disease and cancer the major causes of death. France has a comprehensive national health care system that covers both private care and state-operated facilities. Pregnant women receive free prenatal medical care, and infants receive three free checkups during their first two years. Since the 1980s, the trend has been toward outpatient and home care.
France's modern, efficient transportation system is centered in the city of Paris, which can make direct travel between provincial locations difficult. The state-owned railways are punctual, with clean, modern trains. France is known especially for its high-speed train, the TGV (Train de Grand Vitesse)—the fastest train in the world. Placed into service in 1981, it travels at speeds averaging 250 km/hr (150 mi/hr) and connects with the Channel Tunnel ("Chunnel") to England, making it possible to travel from London to Paris in three hours by land. The Métro , the Parisian subway, carries 4.5 million passengers per day. The highway system ( autoroute ), which is continually being expanded, is known for its clearly marked expressways and secondary routes. France has many navigable rivers and connecting canals, and its national airline, Air France, operates regularly scheduled flights to all parts of the world.
Traditionally, French households were made up of extended families—grandparents, parents, and children. Today, however, a nuclear family with one or two children is the norm. However, family ties remain strong. College-age children usually attend local colleges and universities, and families get together on birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. France's divorce rate has doubled since the 1960s, and in 2002 38% of marriages ended in divorce.
Traditional costumes are still worn at festivals and celebrations in regions such as Alsace, where women may be seen in white lace-trimmed blouses, dark bodices, and aprons decorated with colorful flowers, black bonnets, and even wooden shoes. Women's costumes in Normandy include gauzy, white, flared bonnets and dresses with wide elbow-length sleeves and varied types of colorful designs.
For their day-to-day activities, the French, both in the countryside and the cities, wear modern Western-style clothing, for both casual and formal occasions. Perhaps the most typical item of clothing associated with the French is the black beret, which is still worn by some men, particularly in rural areas. French women have long been known for their style and elegance, and France is a leader in the fashion world. The first French couture , or fashion house, was founded in 1858, complete with models, fashion shows, salespeople, and designer labels. Today France is renowned for such designers as Coco Chanel, Yves Saint-Laurent, and Christian Dior, whose creations influence fashions around the world. Since the 1960s, French designers have branched out into more affordable ready-to-wear clothing lines, which have become very popular.
The French are renowned for their elaborate, well-prepared cuisine (a term that comes from the French word for "kitchen"). The diversity of France's terrain and climate and its proximity to both the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea provide a wide variety of produce and seafood on which French cooks can hone their culinary skills. Each region of the country has its own specialties. The choucroute of Alsace consists of cabbage in white wine with pork and sausages. Central France is famous for boeuf bourguignon, beef in red wine sauce. Saucis-sons (dried sausages) are a specialty in the Rhône Valley, and southern France has a typical Mediterranean cuisine that depends heavily on garlic, vegetables, and herbs. One of its characteristic dishes is a vegetable stew called ratatouille.
The French typically eat a modest breakfast ( petitdéjeuner ) of coffee with milk ( café au lait ) and croissants or bread and butter. In the country, this is often followed by a mid-morning snack of bread and sausages or paté. Lunch ( déjeuner ) is a substantial three- or four-course meal consisting of an appetizer, a main dish of meat, fish, or vegetables, a green salad, and a dessert of fruit or pastry. Dinner ( díner ) is a light meal of soup, cheeses, and sometimes salad or leftovers. The French are famous for their wines, and wine—which plays in important role in French life and culture—is commonly served at both lunch and dinner.
France's literacy rate is above 99%—one of the highest in the world. Education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. Public education is free, and the state also pays for textbooks used in private schools. The school day usually begins at 8:00 am. Between 12:00 and 2:00, the pupils take a long break to go home for lunch (the main meal of the day), and classes end at 4:00 pm. French students spend 936 hours per year in class, compared to an average of 800 in the rest of Europe. As of 2007 two-thirds of children at the primary level attended school on at least one in three Saturdays. However, in September of that year, the French government announced Saturday classes in primary schools would be discontinued in 2008 and that secondary schools could follow suit. After five years of primary school, students spend four years at a middle school called a collège for the first part of their secondary education. The next three years are spent either at a general lycée for those planning to go on to college or at a vocational lycée. After receiving their baccalauréat degrees, students may go on to a university or to a grand école, which offers preparation for careers in business or government service. France's oldest and most famous university is the Sorbonne, in Paris.
France has made significant contributions in all of the fine arts, beginning with the great medieval cathedrals at Chartres, Reims, and Amiens, and Notre Dame in Paris. Painting was the dominant French art of the 19th century, particularly that of the Impressionists, including Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, and Edouard Manet. The most famous French sculptor was Auguste Rodin. Postimpressionists Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, and Henri Matisse painted in new styles that influenced developments in 20th-century French art. France's great musicians include the 19th-century composer Hector Berlioz and the "Impressionistic" composers Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, whose new musical styles and harmonies provided a bridge between 19th- and 20th-century musical styles. Currently, Pierre Boulez is an internationally renowned composer and conductor. France is also known as an international center for ballet.
In a nation that places great value on its philosophers and writers, French literature has had a great influence on national opinion. The great 19th-century novelists Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, and Emile Zola wrote about the pressing social issues of their time. Marcel Proust is considered France's great-est 20th-century writer. France also has a rich heritage in film, beginning with the early directors Jean Renoir and Jean Cocteau and continuing through the "New Wave" of the 1950s and 1960s, with award-winning directors including François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and Éric Rohmer. Louis Malle and Luc Besson are also popular film directors. The prestigious Cannes film festival is held every year in May.
About 72% of the French labor force is employed in service sector jobs, 24% in industry, and 4% in agriculture. The French work week is a maximum 35 hours, a result of legislation passed in 2000 to deal with the problem of unemployment. There is a lengthy break for lunch, the main meal of the day. Day care is partly funded by the government, and workers receive five weeks of paid vacation per year.
The French are avid football (soccer) fans—there are nearly 8,000 organized soccer clubs in the country. The French national football team won the World Cup as the host nation in 1998 and placed second at the 2006 World Cup tournament. Other well-attended spectator sports include rugby, horse racing, and auto racing. France's most famous annual sporting event is probably the Tour de France bicycle race, held since 1903. Thousands gather at roadsides to watch the racers cover the grueling 2,000-mile course in three weeks every July. Popular participant sports include fishing, shooting, swimming, skiing, and mountain climbing. In addition, increasing numbers of people are participating in tennis, horseback riding, sailing, and windsurfing.
ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION
Many people enjoy going out to meet friends at one of France's numerous cafés, but many simply stay home on weeknight evenings and watch television or read. There is now more leisure time over the weekend than there was before the 1960s, when factories were open on Saturday mornings. Domestic activities such as gardening, home improvement, and cooking have become popular leisure-time pursuits: about one-third of the French people spend some of their time gardening. France has one of the world's highest rates of movie attendance. Vacation trips have always been popular among the French, and it has become increasingly common for them to divide their five weeks of paid vacation into several breaks rather than spending the traditional holiday month at the beach (although great numbers of French still flock there in August).
FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES
Folk arts are kept alive in the various regions of France. In Burgundy, artisans produce sabots (wooden shoes), vielles (stringed musical instruments), and other craft items. Many parts of France have rich traditions of folk music. The music of Brittany shows Celtic influences, with its popular wind instruments, the bagpipe-like biniou and the bombarde. Village festivals among the Basques feature performances on the drum and txistu (a type of flute), which are played simultaneously by a single performer. Traditional folk poets called bertsolariak improvise and sing rhymes on any subject. Folk dancing is also extremely popular among the Basques, with a dance troupe in almost every village, and similar groups in the Auvergne have revived the traditional dance of that region, called la bourrée.
Today's France is still a land of sharp class divisions and pronounced income disparity. France is affected by many of the major problems facing other European nations, such as unemployment, pollution, and inadequate housing. In addition, provisions must be made for immigrants and the elderly, whose numbers are increasing. In October and November 2005, France experienced its worst riots since May 1968, which were triggered by the accidental death of two teenagers, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, in Clichy-sous-Bois, a working-class commune in the eastern suburbs of Paris. The unrest spread to poor housing projects in various parts of France. The riots were fueled by the problems of youth unemployment and a lack of opportunities for France's poorest communities, but anti-immigrant and especially anti-Muslim sentiment also played a role. Islam is seen as the most serious challenge to the country's secular model in the last 100 years, and the growing numbers of African, North African, and other Arab immigrants has led to an increase in social and racial discrimination against those groups. In another indication of the growing immigrant popu-lation and the government's attempt to deal with it, in 2004 France banned the wearing of Muslim headscarves in schools.
Work stoppages by unions seeking higher pay still occur, and public-sector strikes and protests are a source of instability. Illicit drug use is a problem, and France is a transshipment point for South American cocaine, Southwest Asian heroin, and European synthetics.
The lot of French women has gradually improved since World War II. Although they were granted the vote in 1944, their husbands could still prevent them from having jobs as recently as 1965, and married women were also not allowed to have their own bank accounts. Although many French women today have reached the highest executive and managerial positions in the workforce, women still face open discrimination in their professional lives, both in advancement and in salary levels. Although more than 56% of women have received higher education, they make up less than 5% of senior managers in the largest 200 French companies, and earn on average 20% less than men.
Domestic violence remains a serious problem in France, as was highlighted by the 2003 death of actress Marie Trintignant at the hands of her lover. Studies show that approximately 1 in 10 women are beaten at home.
In a positive development for women, on 28 June 1999 articles 3 and 4 of the French Constitution were amended to promote equal access for men and women to elected positions; the law was adopted on 6 June 2000. Political parties now have to endorse an equal number of men and women candidates in municipal, legislative, and European elections. Parties failing to meet this requirement either have their lists declared ineligible or, for legislative elections, face financial sanctions. France is now able to boast one of the most feminized political leaderships in the world.
A majority of the French are relatively tolerant on the issue of homosexuality: as of 2001, 55% of the population thought homosexuality was an "acceptable lifestyle." There are large gay and lesbian communities in Paris and in other major cities. As of 2008, Paris had a gay mayor, Bertrand Delanoë. Any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment or service, public or private, has been prohibited since 1985. Gay and lesbian people are free to serve in the armed forces. In 2004 the National Assembly approved legislation which made homophobic or sexist comments illegal. Civil Solidarity Pacts (PACS), a form of registered domestic partnership, were enacted in 1999 for both same-sex and unmarried opposite-sex couples. Couples who enter into a PACS contract are afforded most of the legal protections and responsibilities of marriage.
Bussolin, Véronique. France. Country Fact Files. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1995.
Carroll, Raymonde. Cultural Misunderstandings: The French-American Experience. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.
Gall, Timothy, and Susan Gall, ed. Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations. Detroit: UXL, 1996.
Greggio, Simonetta. One Hundred and One Beautiful Towns in France: Food & Wine. New York: Random House, 2008.
Moss, Joyce, and George Wilson. Peoples of the World: Western Europeans. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993.
Moss, Peter, and Thelma Palmer. France. Enchantment of the World Series. Chicago: Children's Press, 1994.
Norbrook, Dominique. Passport to France. New York: Franklin Watts, 1994.
Provencher, Denis M. Queer French: Globalization, Language, and Sexual Citizenship in France. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2007.
Sookram, Brian. France. Places and Peoples of the World. New York: Chelsea House, 1990.
Williams, Nicola, et al. France. 7th ed. London: Lonely Planet, 2007.
—revised by J. Hobby
Origins and natureHistorically, the language is divided into Old, Middle, and Modern. Old French (OF) more or less coincides with OLD ENGLISH (OE) and early MIDDLE ENGLISH (ME). Middle French (MF) stretches from the 14c to c.1600. Geographically, French is traditionally divided into two areas: Northern French or the Langue d'Oil, and Southern French or the Langue d'Oc (also Occitan). Oil (from LATIN ille that) and oc (from Latin hoc this) are the words for yes in OF and Occitan. The northern tongue was influenced by Frankish, the Germanic language of the Franks, who gave their name to both France and French. The southern tongue is related to Catalan. Occitan (including Provençal) was a major medieval language, but declined after the annexation of the South by Paris and survives as a range of dialects. In medieval Europe, the northern language enjoyed great prestige, while in the 17-19c Modern French was a language of international standing, especially in diplomacy and culture. In 1637, the Académie française was founded with a view to fixing the standard language and keeping le bon français (‘good French’, based on court usage and ‘the best writers’) as pure as possible. See ACADEMY. The French Revolution in the late 18c promoted French as the language of national unity, the speaking of Basque, Breton, Alsatian, Flemish, and Corsican, etc., being considered unpatriotic. The Jacobin ideal of one standard national language was pursued by the founders of the modern educational system in the 19c, extended to French colonies around the world, and has continued into the 20c.
Protective laws, activities, and groups
1539In the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts, King Francis I ordered the replacement of Latin by French as the language of law.
1637The Académie française was founded: see ACADEMY.
1789The Revolution linked the language to national unity and patriotism.
1794The Abbé Grégoire presented a report to the National Convention on the need and means to extirpate the patois and make standard French universal.
1937The Office de la langue française was formed by such linguists as A. Dauzat and F. Brunot. It disappeared after the German invasion, but was partially restored in 1957 as the Office du vocabulaire français, especially under pressure from Canadian francophones.
1953The Défense de la langue française was formed under the auspices of the Académie française.
1964René Etiemble published Parlez-vous franglais? (Paris: Gallimard): see FRANGLAIS.
1966The Haut Comité pour la défense et l'expansion de la langue française was formed, directly responsible to the Prime Minister of the Republic.
1967The Association pour le bon usage du français dans l'administration was formed, to regulate government language.
1975The Bas-Lauriol law was passed on the use of French only in advertising and commerce.
1982A government circular extended constraints to foreign exporters of goods destined for France.
1977Loi 101/Bill 101 was passed in Quebec, Canada, making French the sole official language of the province, limiting access to English-medium schools, and banning public signs in other languages.
1983In France, a decree was passed requiring the use in teaching and research of terms made official by specialist committees.
1984The French Haut Comité was replaced by the Commissariat général de la langue française, to assist private groups and members of the public in the pursuit of violations of the Bas-Lauriol law.
1994In France, the Loi Toubon (named for Jacques Toubon, Minister of Culture and Francophonie in the Balladur government) stipulates: (1) that all documents relating to goods and services (including contracts and media commercials) should be in French (or, in special cases, accompanied by explanations in French); (2) that the medium of education and of all documents of an educational nature is French.
Links with EnglishThe Chanson de Roland, an epic poem about the Emperor Charlemagne's army in Spain in the 8c, was the first major literary link between Britain and France. The poem was sung by the Normans at the Battle of Hastings (1066) and the oldest surviving copy was discovered in Oxford in 1834. The first grammar of French was written in England, John Palsgrave's Lesclarcissement de la Langue Françoyse (1530). Borrowing in both directions has been continuous from the earliest times: French bateau from OE bat, Modern English navy from OF navie. The two languages came into close association in the mid-11c, especially through the Norman Conquest, after which NORMAN FRENCH was the socially and politically dominant language of England and a considerable influence in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. By the time French died out as a British language, it had greatly altered and enriched English, and the fashion of BORROWING from it continues to this day. Numerous conflicts, from the 14c Hundred Years War to the 18–19c colonial and revolutionary wars, did not prevent a mutual social and intellectual interest, accounting for Gallomania in Britain and Anglomania in France.
Because of its geographical position and cultural prestige, France has exported many words to its neighbours; of these, English has absorbed the highest proportion. As a result, hundreds of words have the same spellings in both languages, which also share a battery of Latin affixes. Before the Renaissance, prolonged contact with French had prepared English for an increased Latinization, just as French was itself re-Latinized. There is therefore a common NEO-LATIN technical vocabulary: French homicide (12c) antedates English homicide (14c), but English suicide is recorded earlier (1651) than French suicide (1739), and insecticide is recorded as almost simultaneous in both (French 1859, English 1866). However, the Latinization has gone further in English than re-Latinization in French: pedestrian and tepid are closer to Latin than piéton and tiède, and such words as abduct, connubial, equanimity, fulcrum, impervious, odium, and victor do not occur in French. On the other hand, many words borrowed into French from other Romance languages (especially ITALIAN) have entered English in a more or less French form: artisan, caprice, frigate, orange, picturesque, stance, tirade.
French in EnglishMedieval loans from French have given English much of the look of a Romance language. The movement of French words into English was eased by cognates already present in OE. Thus, OE munt, nefa, prud, rice, warian paved the way for mount, nephew, proud, rich, beware from OF.
A hybrid vocabularyThe ancient closeness of the two languages has had peculiar effects: a young English hare is a French leveret, a young English swan a French cygnet, and a small English axe is a French hatchet. An OE stem can be use with a French suffix (eatable, hindrance) or vice versa (faithful, gentleness). The English stool, originally a chair (OE stol), gave way to the Norman French chair, and was demoted in size and usage. The animals tended by the Saxon peasantry retained English names like calf and sheep, while their meat when eaten in the Norman castles became French veal and mutton. Because of the long presence of the language in England, many French fossils survive in the strata of English: for example, an s lost by French is preserved in bastard, beast, cost, custom, escape, establish, (e)state, false, honest, hostage, interest, master, paste, priest, scout, tempest. In addition, because of the French connection, English is sometimes a twofold language in which people can answer or respond and begin or commence to seek freedom or liberty. Such pairs are near-synonyms, sometimes expressing stylistic differences like kingdom/realm, sight/vision, and snake/serpent. Others still are further apart in meaning, such as ask/demand, bit/morsel, heel/talon, and illegible/unreadable: see BISOCIATION, FAUX AMI.
Calques and doubletsFrench LOAN TRANSLATIONS often lie beneath English expressions, as in flea-market/marché aux puces, ivory tower/tour d'ivoire, and third world/tiers monde. Romance word structure is still noticeable in centre of gravity, chief of state, and point of view. The word order is French in such forms as Governor-General, poet laureate, and treasure trove. Some idiomatic calques go back to OF (to bear ill will to porter male volonté) while others are from Modern French, such as in the last analysis (en dernière analyse) and it goes without saying (ça va sans dire). English contains many DOUBLETS of French provenance: constraint/constriction, custom/costume, frail/fragile, loyal/legal, marvel/miracle, poison/potion, sever/separate, straight/strict. In some cases, one of the elements does not exist in French (here the second of each pair): allow/allocate, count; compute, croissant/crescent, esteem/estimate, poor/pauper, royal/regal, sure/secure. In other cases, the same word may have been borrowed more than once, with different meanings and forms: catch/chase, chieftain/captain, corpse/corps, forge/fabricate, hostel/hospital/hotel, pocket/poke/pouch, ticket/etiquette, vanguard/avant-garde.
English in FrenchBorrowing from English into French has been widespread for two centuries. However, when such borrowing takes place, special usages can develop. Thus, the role of a word may become specialized, a French meeting being political rather than general and an English reunion being for people who have not met for a long time (not general, like French réunion). Expressions may even swap roles, such as savoir-faire in English and know-how in French.
LoanwordsWaves of English words have been borrowed since the 18c, especially in: politics (congrès, majorité, meeting, politicien, sinécure, vote), horse-racing (derby, outsider, steeplechase, sweepstake, turf), sport (baseball, basketball, football, goal, tennis), railways (bogie, condenseur, terminus, trolley, viaduc, wagon), aviation (cockpit, crash, jet, steward), medicine (catgut, pace-maker, scanner), and social life (bestseller, gangster, hot dog, leader, sandwich, strip-tease, western). On occasion, English words can be Gallicized by adapting their forms and changing PRONUNCIATION and ORTHOGRAPHY: boulingrin bowling green, contredanse country dance, paquebot packet boat, and redingote riding-coat. Borrowing of additional senses for existing French words also occurs: environnement (in the ecological sense), ‘conviction viscérale’, ‘retourner une lettre’, ‘delivrer une carte d'identité’, ‘engagement naval’. Réaliser and ignorer are now often used with their English meanings. Canadian French is especially open to such influences: ‘la ligne est engagée’. Pseudo-Anglicisms have also arisen: recordman recordholder, shake-hand handshake, tennisman tennis player, and such forms in -ing as footing (recently replaced by jogging), and lifting (face-lift). French dancing, parking, smoking are reduced forms of dancing hall, parking place, smoking jacket, like cargo, steeple, surf (from cargo vessel, steeplechase, and surf-riding).
Loan translationsCALQUES conceal the English origin of certain French words: cessez-le-feu ceasefire, franc-maçon freemason, gratte-ciel skyscraper, lavage de cerveau brain-washing, libre-service self-service, lune de miel honeymoon, prêt-à-porter ready-to-wear, and soucoupe volante flying saucer. However, native coinages expressing resistance to Anglicisms include baladeur Walkman, cadreur cameraman, logiciel software, ordinateur computer, and rentrée comeback. French lift was replaced by ascenseur, but only after the production of liftier liftman. The spread of the -ing suffix, however, has prevented doping, kidnapping, and parking from replacement by dopage, kidnappage, and parcage, and only in Quebec has weekend been overshadowed by fin de semaine. Loan translations also involve whole idiomatic expressions (such as donner le feu vert give the green light), especially in Canadian French (such as manquer le bateau miss the boat). As such, they can affect syntax (infuriating purists), as when adjectives are placed before rather than after nouns (such as I'actuel gouvernement, les éventuels problèmes, les possibles objections), and the passive voice is used with an unexpected verb (such as Il est supposé savoir, ‘He is supposed to know’, rather than Il est censé savoir).
The Anglo-Latinization of FrenchFew speakers of French are aware that faisabilité and indésirable come from feasibility and undesirable because these words are felt to be the normal derivatives of faisable and désirable. Deforestation and reforestation look so French that few complain about their use instead of deboisement and reboisement. Sentimental was first used in French by the translator of Sterne's A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768). It sounded as French as international, coined in 1780 by Jeremy Bentham. ‘Societé permissive’ is easily associated by French-speakers with permission. Words coined in English from Latin in the 19c were absorbed into French (exhaustif, sélectif, sélection, viaduc) and the process continues. Thus, crédible, in competition with croyable as a recent LOANWORD (1965), easily crept in because of its closeness to crédibilité. Until c. 1950, French forum referred only to Rome, but now has the English meaning ‘meeting-place for discussion, especially on television’. In such ways, French, the Trojan horse through which Latin entered the citadel of English, is being Latinized in its turn through English.
See ANGLOPHONE,BEACH LA MAR,CAJUN,CANADIAN ENGLISH,CREOLE,DIALECT,DOUBLET,HISTORY OF ENGLISH,LAW FRENCH,NEW ORLEANS,PATOIS,PIDGIN.
POPULATION: About 57 million
LANGUAGE: French; also Breton, Flemish, Spanish, Catalan, Basque, Provençal, and English
1 • INTRODUCTION
France, which has existed in its present form since the fifteenth century, is Europe's oldest and largest nation. It is a leader in intellectual trends, the fine arts, fashion, and cuisine. France is also the world's fourth-richest country, and Europe's leading agricultural producer.
Originally part of the Celtic region known as Gaul, France became part of the Roman Empire until its was overrun by the Franks in the fifth century ad. At the end of the tenth century, Hugh Capet (c.938–96) founded the dynasty that was to rule over the French for the next 800 years.
The French Revolution in 1789 was followed by the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821), who conquered much of Europe before his downfall in 1814. In the twentieth century, France has weathered two world wars and a worldwide economic depression, in addition to its own political and social upheavals and the loss of a large colonial empire. However, it has survived to become a major political and economic world power.
2 • LOCATION
France is the largest country in Europe and is located on the extreme west coast of the continent. Lowlands make up about half of France's terrain. The other half consists of hills or mountains. The English Channel lies to the north and northwest. The Mediterranean Sea lies to the south and southeast. Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany are neighbors on the north and northeast. Switzerland and Italy are situated to the east. Spain is to the south.
3 • LANGUAGE
French, a Romance language with Latin roots, is the national language not only of France's people but also of some 300 million other people throughout the world. Within France itself, other spoken languages include Breton, Flemish, Spanish, Catalan, Basque, and Provençal
|one||un, une||UHn or OOn|
4 • FOLKLORE
Native folklore varies from region to region. Ancient Celtic religious sites can still be found in the north, along with remnants of ancient beliefs.
When a person dies, the doors and windows of the house are traditionally left open so that the soul can depart, and mirrors are turned to face the wall.
A folktale tells the story of a lily of the valley, a fragrant spring flower. According to legend, fairies of the forest held a dance. Each fairy used a tiny cup to gather dewdrops for the fairy queen's breakfast. The fairies hung their cups on blades of grass. On the day of a particular dance, the fairies were having so much fun that the sun rose before they knew it. (One of the laws of the fairy kingdom is that they must never be seen after the sun rises.) The sun turned the dewdrops to sparkling diamonds and dried them all away. When the fairies noticed the sunshine, they ran to gather their tiny cups. To their dismay, they found they were stuck to the blades of grass. The fairies began weeping, fearing that the queen would be angry. Just then, the fairy godmother appeared, waved her magic wand, and turned the blades of grass into stems and leaves to hide the cups from the angry queen. These stems and leaves became lilies of the valley.
5 • RELIGION
About 80 percent of the French population is Roman Catholic. However, fewer than one-fifth of Catholics attend church regularly. Protestants account for roughly 2 percent, mostly Calvinist or Lutheran. France also has 1.9 million Muslims (followers of Islam), mostly immigrants from northern Africa. The Jewish population in France is one of the largest in the world, estimated at 530,000 people.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS
New Year's Eve is celebrated with a festive dinner. At midnight, family and friends wish each other a good year by kissing under mistletoe. For Epiphany on January 6, a large round pastry is baked with a bean hidden in it. The person who finds the bean becomes "ruler" for the evening. Mardi Gras, on Shrove Tuesday (the last day before Lent) in February, is marked by parades featuring flowers, floats, and giant cardboard figures. Labor Day on May 1 is celebrated by workers' parades.
May 8 marks the end of World War II (1939–45). France's national holiday (the equivalent of Independence Day, July 4, in the United States) is Bastille Day on July 14, which commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789. It is accompanied by parades, fireworks, and dancing in the streets. The French observe Christmas by attending a midnight Mass.
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE
Many of the rites of passage that young people undergo are religious rituals, such as baptism, first communion, confirmation, and marriage. In addition, many families mark a student's progress through the education system with graduation parties.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS
The French have a formality and reserve that is often interpreted as rudeness by outsiders. Money is generally considered something of a forbidden topic. It is considered especially rude to ask the size of someone's salary. When invited to another person's home, a French person will always bring along a gift of wine or flowers. Both men and women often greet each other by kissing on the cheek.
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS
Long, white-walled, red-tiled farmhouses are a typical sight in the French countryside. Most city dwellers live in rented apartments, often a short distance from where they work. It is becoming increasingly popular for city dwellers to maintain a second home in the country, where they can go on weekends. Immigrants from northern Africa often live in large suburban housing developments called cités, which are generally run-down and overcrowded.
10 • FAMILY LIFE
Traditionally, French households were made up of extended families—grandparents, parents, and children. As of the late 1990s, however, a modest-sized nuclear family with two or three children is the norm. Nonetheless, family ties remain strong. College-age children usually attend school in town, and families get together on birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. However, France's divorce rate has doubled since the 1960s. Today, one in three marriages ends in divorce…
French women who work outside the home earn about one-third less than men. The percentage of women who participate in the labor force has been unchanged—39 percent—since the early 1900s.
11 • CLOTHING
For their day-to-day activities, the French, both in the countryside and the cities, wear modern Western-style clothing. Perhaps the most typical item of clothing associated with the French is the black beret. It is still worn by some men, particularly in rural areas. The French are renowned for fashion design. Coco Chanel, Yves Saint-Laurent, Christian Dior, and Jean-Paul Gautier are all French fashion design houses whose creations are worn by people around the world.
Traditional regional costumes are still worn at festivals and celebrations. In Alsace, women may be seen in white, lace-trimmed blouses and aprons decorated with colorful flowers. Women's costumes in Normandy include white, flared bonnets and dresses with wide, elbow-length sleeves.
12 • FOOD
The French are famous for their elaborate, well-prepared cuisine. Each region of the country has its own specialties. Central France is famous for boeuf bourguignon, beef in red wine sauce. Southern France has a typical Mediterranean cuisine that depends heavily on garlic, vegetables, and herbs. One of its typical dishes is a vegetable stew called ratatouille.
A recipe for the classic French dessert, Crêpes Suzette, follows. To make the crêpes (very thin pancakes), French cooks use a special crêpe pan. Any small frying pan will work, but one with sloping sides is best
The French typically eat a modest petit déjeuner (pe-TEE day-jhe-NAY), or breakfast, of café au lait (ka-FAY oh-LAY), which is coffee with milk, and croissants or bread and butter. Déjeuner (day-jhe-NAY), or lunch, is a three- or four-course meal consisting of a main dish plus appetizer, salad, and dessert. Díner (dee-NAY), or dinner, is a lighter meal. The French are famous for their wines, which are commonly served at both lunch and dinner.
13 • EDUCATION
Education is required between the ages of six and sixteen. Public education is free. After five years of primary school, students spend four years at a middle school called a collège (koh-LEJ). The next three years are spent either at a general lycée (lee-SAY) for those planning to go on to college, or at a vocational lycée. After receiving their baccalauréat (back-ah-lahr-RAY-ah) degrees, students may go on to a university or to a grand école (grah eh-COAL), which offers preparation for careers in business or government service.
- 1¼ cups skim milk
- ¾ cup flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- Vegetable oil spray
- For sauce
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
- ½–¾ cup fresh orange juice
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 cup fresh strawberries or raspberries (frozen berries may be substituted; thaw when ready to use)
- Combine milk, flour, eggs, sugar, and oil, and mix thoroughly.
- Spray a 6-inch skillet with vegetable oil spray. Heat the pan over medium heat.
- Pour 2 tablespoons of batter into the pan. Quickly tilt the pan to spread the batter to form a thin coating on the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 1½ minutes, until the surface of the crêpe looks cooked and the edges begin to pull away from the pan.
- Quickly turn the skillet upside down over a plate lined with a paper towel and allow the finished crêpe to fall onto the paper towel.
- Repeat, lightly respraying the pan with vegetable oil after every 2 or 3 crêpes.
- When all the batter has been used, take each crêpe and fold it in half and then in quarters to form a triangle.
- In a large skillet, combine butter, orange peel, orange juice, and sugar. Heat to boiling, and then reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.
- Carefully arrange folded crêpes in sauce. Sprinkle the berries over the cr ê pes. Heat for about 5 minutes. Serve warm.
14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE
France has made significant contributions in all of the fine arts. In the nineteenth century, France was famous for its Impressionist painters, including Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919), Claude Monet (1840–1926), and Edouard Manet (1832–83). The most famous French sculptor was Auguste Rodin (1840–1917). Post-impressionists Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), and Henri Matisse (1869–1954) had a great influence on twentieth-century painting.
France's great musicians include the nineteenth-century composers Hector Berlioz (1803–69), Claude Debussy (1862–1918), and Maurice Ravel (1875–1937). Pierre Boulez (1925–) is well-known worldwide as a composer and conductor. France is also an international center for ballet.
Nineteenth-century novelists Victor Hugo (1802–85), Honoré de Balzac (1799–1859), and Emile Zola (1840–1902) wrote about the social issues of their time. Marcel Proust (1871–1922) is considered France's greatest twentieth-century writer.
15 • EMPLOYMENT
About two-thirds (65 percent) of the French labor force is employed in service-related jobs, close to a third (30 percent) in industry, and only 5 percent in agriculture. The work week averages thirty-nine hours, and the work day can begin as early as 6:00 or 7:00 am. There is a two- to three-hour break for lunch, the main meal of the day, and the work day usually ends at about 7:00 pm. Most French workers get five weeks of paid vacation per year. Most people take the month of August for vacation.
16 • SPORTS
The French are avid soccer fans. Other spectator sports include rugby, horse racing, and auto racing. France's most famous annual sporting event is the Tour de France bicycle race, first held in 1903. Popular participation sports include fishing, shooting, swimming, skiing, and mountain climbing.
17 • RECREATION
Activities such as gardening, home improvement, and cooking are popular leisure-time pursuits. Television is also popular, and France has the world's fourth-highest rate of movie attendance. Vacation trips—especially to the beach in August—are favorite activities among the French.
French children enjoy playing a simple marble game. The game can be played near any wall with about three to six feet (one to two meters) of smooth surface in front of it. A line is drawn three feet (one meter) from the wall and parallel to it. Taking turns, each player rolls a marble toward the wall. The marble coming closest to the wall without touching is the winner. More rounds of the game can be played by drawing the line further away from the wall.
Adapted from Hamilton, Leslie. Child's Play Around the World. New York: Berkeley Publishing, 1996.
18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
Folk arts are kept alive throughout France's distinctive regions. In Burgundy, artisans produce sabots (wooden shoes), vielles (stringed musical instruments), and other craft items. Many parts of France have rich folk music traditions. Traditional Basque folk poets, called bertsolariak, improvise and sing rhymes on any subject. Folk dancing is also extremely popular among the Basques.
19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS
France is affected by many of the major problems facing other European nations, such as high unemployment, pollution, and inadequate housing. There are still sharp class divisions and great contrasts between the income of the rich and the poor. In addition, services are lacking for immigrants and the elderly, whose numbers are increasing.
20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY
American Heart Association, Around the World Cookbook. New York: Times Books, 1996.
Buckland, Simon. Guide to France. New York: Kingfisher Books, 1994.
Hamilton, Leslie. Child's Play Around the World. New York: Berkeley Publishing, 1996.
Norbrook, Dominique. Passport to France. New York: Franklin Watts, 1994.
Sookram, Brian. France, Major World Nations. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1997.
Embassy of France, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available http://www.info-france-usa.org/, 1998.
World Travel Guide. France. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/fr/gen.html, 1998.
French Republican Calendar a reformed calendar officially introduced by the French Republican government on 5 October 1793, and taken to have started on the equinox of 22 September 1792, the day of the proclamation of the Republic. It had twelve months of thirty days each (divided into three weeks of ten days), Vendemiaire, Brumaire, Frimaire, Nivose, Pluviose, Ventose, Germinal, Floréal, Prairial, Messidor, Thermidor, and Fructidor, and with five days of festivals at the year's end (six in leap years). It was abandoned under the Napoleonic regime and the Gregorian calendar was formally reinstated on 1 January 1806.
French Revolution the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy in France (1789–99). The Revolution began with the meeting of the legislative assembly (the States General) in May 1789, when the French government was already in crisis; the Bastille was stormed in July of the same year. The Revolution became steadily more radical and ruthless with power increasingly in the hands of the Jacobins and Robespierre. Louis XVI's execution in January 1793 was followed by Robespierre's Reign of Terror (September 1793–July 1794). The Directory, the last of several different forms of republican administration, was overthrown by Napoleon in 1799.
French Wars of Religion a series of religious and political conflicts in France (1562–98) involving the Protestant Huguenots on one side and Catholic groups on the other. The wars were complicated by interventions from Spain, Rome, England, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, and were not brought to an end until the defeat of the Holy League and the settlement of the Edict of Nantes.
The French are citizens of France (the French republic). Including the island of Corsica, France occupies 549,183 square kilometers and in 1990 had an estimated population of 56,184,000. About 10 percent of the population is composed of immigrants and workers from Italy, Spain, Portugal, and other European nations and refugees from former French colonies in Southeast Asia and Africa. French is the language of France and about 90 percent of the people are Roman Catholics, with a large Muslim population made up mainly of immigrants from northern Africa, especially Algeria. A strong Parisian-centered government and centralized authority began to emerge in the tenth century, and in the twentieth century mass communication has strengthened French nationalism at the expense of the regional cultures. Still, though, there are viable regional cultures and marked linguistic variations. Among the major regional cultures are the Alsatians in the east; the Corsicans on the Mediterranean island of Corsica; the Bretons in the northwest; the Burgundians, Auvergnats, and Aveyronnais in central France; and Aquitaine, Occitans, Provencal, and the Basques in the south.
See also Alsatians; Aquitaine; Auvergnats; Aveyronnais; Basques; Bretons; Burgundians; Jurassians; Occitans; Provencal; Walloons
Kurian, George T. (1990). Encyclopedia of the First World. 2 vols. New York: Facts on File.
Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations (1988). 7th ed. New York: Worldmark Press.
French1 / french/ • adj. of or relating to France or its people or language. • n. 1. the Romance language of France, also used in parts of Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada, in several countries of northern and western Africa and the Caribbean, and elsewhere. 2. Brit. short for French vermouth. 3. [as pl. n.] (the French) the people of France collectively. PHRASES: (if you'll) excuse (or pardon) my French inf. used to apologize for swearing.DERIVATIVES: French·ness n.