French History 101 - The Roman Conquest, The Hundred Years War, The French Revolution, World War I and II

The social, political, and cultural history of France is a long, and complicated one. The country has gone through countless wars, revolutions (both political and cultural), and changes. It is these changes that have given way to the artistic and philosophical legacy that France has left the western world. Because giving you all of French history would take entire books, we give you four of the most important events in French history:

1. The Roman Conquest

Before the Romans came to conquer France, there were several groups inhabiting the territory. The largest one of these groups were the Gauls, who were a Celtic culture that has left a powerful legacy. At first controlling the southern part of the Gaul territory, the Roman Empire annexed the rest of Gaul under Julius Caesar. The Roman Empire's reign lasted until around the 5th century AD, and left a mark which is still seen in the architecture, language, and culture of the country.

2. The Hundred Years War

Starting in 1337, this war actually lasted 116 years and was the result of a conflict of succession between France and England. The most famous story of this war is that of the campaigns led by Joan of Arc against the English. The French peasant girl famous for leading the French into victory, and being burned at the stake in what is now Rouen, is still considered one of France's most important women, and a national heroine. The French victory ended in the expansion of the French empire, and the establishment of the absolute monarchy that is known as the Ancien Regime.

3. The French Revolution

Regarded as one of the most important events in world history, the French Revolution- which started in 1789 and lasted ten years- changed France forever. Though the political history of the country after the revolution is extremely complicated, it was the revolution that shaped the French Republic as it is now. Furthermore, the French Revolution's ideals of freedom, equality, and sovereignty have been echoed in revolutions all around the world.

4. World War I and II

As an active participant in both wars, France was one of the countries that suffered the most from these conflicts. During World War I, Trench Warfare between France and Germany was so devastating, remains of corpses are still being unearthed in these zones. France was the country with the highest casualty rate, losing 10% of its male population to the War that changed Europe forever. World War II was equally devastating for the country, especially since the Northern part of it was occupied by the Germans, and the Southern part was controlled by the Vichy government, which collaborated with the Nazi Regime. A large part of the Jewish population was turned over to the Nazis, and concentration camps were built inside occupied France. Because of air raids, and the battles that took place in French territory, including the famed D-Day landings, several cities in France were completely destroyed, and remains of the war can still be seen and felt throughout the country.