The French Republic or France (French: République française or France) is a country whose metropolitan territory is located in western Europe, and which is further made up of a collection of overseas islands and territories located in other continents.
France is a democracy organised as a unitary semi-presidential republic. It is a developed nation with the fifth-largest economy in the world in 2003. Its main values are expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
France is one of the founding members of the European Union, and has the largest land area of all members.. France is also a founding member of the United Nations. It is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council wielding veto power, and it is also one of only seven acknowledged nuclear powers in existence.
The borders of modern France closely align with those of the ancient territory of Gaul, inhabited by the Gauls, a Celtic people. Gaul was conquered by the Romans in the first century BC, and the Gauls eventually adopted Romance speech and culture. Christianity also took root in the second and third centuries AD. Gaul's eastern frontiers along the Rhine were overrun by Germanic tribes in the fourth century AD, principally the Franks, from which the ancient name of "Francie" derived. The modern name "France" derives from the name of the feudal domain of the Capetian Kings of France around Paris. Existence as a separate entity begins with the division, in 843, of Charlemagne's Frankish empire into eastern, central and western parts. The eastern part (which would soon unite with the central portion as the Holy Roman Empire) can be regarded the beginnings of what is now Germany, the western part that of France.
Charlemagne's descendants ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of France. His descendants (which formed the Capetian, Valois and Bourbon dynasties) ruled France until 1792, when the French Revolution established a Republic, in a period of increasingly radical change that began in 1789.
Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the republic in 1799, making himself First Consul. His armies engaged in several wars across Europe, conquered many countries and established new kingdoms with Napoleon's family members at the helm. Following his defeat in 1815, the French monarchy was re-established, which was then legislatively abolished and followed by a Second Republic in 1848. The Second Republic ended when the late Emperor's nephew, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was elected President and proclaimed a Second Empire in 1852. Less ambitious than his uncle, the second Napoleon was also ultimately unseated, and republican rule returned for a third time in the Third Republic (1870).
Although ultimately a victor in World Wars I and II, France - much like Britain - suffered extensive losses in its empire, comparative economic status, working population, and status as a dominant nation-state. After World War II, the Fourth Republic was established. In 1958, it devised a semi-presidential democracy (known as the Fifth Republic) that has not succumbed to the instabilities experienced in earlier, more parliamentary regimes. In recent decades, France's reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the political and economic integration of Europe, including the introduction of the Euro in January 1999.
France has been at the forefront of European states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to advance the creation of a more unified and capable European political, defence and security apparatus. However its population voted against ratification of the European Constitutional Treaty in May 2005. It is also one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and holds nuclear weapons.