France is an important and influential country, lying on the western edge of the continent of Europe. It has an almost hexagonal shape, covering 543,965 square km, and is bordered by Spain and Andorra on the south, England across the English Channel to the north, Belgium and Luxembourg to the northeast, and Germany, Switzerland, and Italy to the east. The island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea is also part of the country.
The capital of France is Paris, and its major towns include Bordeaux, Marseille, Lyon, and Nantes.
France's history stretches back as far as the 5th century BC, when the country, then called Gaul, was invaded by the Celts. Charlemagne made France the centre of the Holy Roman Empire during his reign from 768 to 814 AD. The French Revolution in 1789-1799 would see the monarchy overthrown, and lead to the rise of Napoleon.
France was a major battleground in both World War I and World War II. It became a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and was an important member of the EEC, and is still a strong player in the EEC's new form, the European Union.
Culturally, France is home to both Gothic and Baroque architecture. Renaissance philosphies of the 16th century led to the Enlightenment in the 18th century, both of which had a major influence on western Europe. French Impressionism also had a profound effect on modern painting styles.
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French Art and Literature
Food and drink
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc, 1994-2000
The Hutchinson Encyclopedia, 1997 ed., Helicon Publishing Ltd, 1996