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France (French: ), officially the French Republic is a unitary sovereign state comprising territory in western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean; France covers and has a population of 66.6 million. It is a semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the nation's largest city and the main cultural and commercial center. The Constitution of France establishes the country as secular and democratic, with its sovereignty derived from the people.
During the Iron Age, what is now France was inhabited by the Gauls, a Celtic people. The Gauls were conquered by the Roman Empire in 51 BC, which held Gaul until 486. The Gallo-Romans faced raids and migration from the Germanic Franks, who dominated the region for hundreds of years, eventually creating the medieval Kingdom of France. France has been a major power in Europe since the Late Middle Ages, with its victory in the Hundred Years' War (1337 to 1453) strengthening French state-building and paving the way for a future centralized absolute monarchy. During the Renaissance, France experienced a vast cultural development and established the first steps of a worldwide colonial empire. The 16th century was dominated by Religious Civil Wars between Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots).
Louis XIV made France the dominant cultural, political and military power in Europe, but by the late 18th century, the monarchy was overthrown in the French Revolution. One legacy of the revolution was the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, one of the world's earliest documents on human rights, which expresses the nation's ideals to this day. France was governed as one of history's earliest Republics until the Empire was declared by Napoleon, who dominated European affairs and had a long-lasting impact on Western culture. Following his defeat, France endured a tumultuous succession of governments: an absolute monarchy was restored, replaced in 1830 by a constitutional monarchy, then briefly by a Second Republic, and then by a Second Empire, until a more lasting French Third Republic was established in 1870.
France's colonial empire reached the height of global prominence during the 19th and early 20th centuries, when it possessed the second-largest colonial empire in the world. In World War I, France was one of the main winners as part of the Triple Entente powers fighting against Germany and the Central Powers. France was also one of the Allied Powers in World War II, but it was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1940. Following liberation in 1944, a Fourth Republic was established and later dissolved in the course of the Algerian War. The Fifth Republic, led by Charles de Gaulle, came into being in 1958 and continues to operate today. In the era of decolonization, most of the French colonial empire became independent after the Second World War.
Throughout its long history, France has produced many influential artists, thinkers, and scientists, and remains a prominent global center of culture. It hosts the world's fourth-largest number of cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites and receives around 83 million foreign tourists annually – the most of any country in the world. France remains a great power with significant cultural, economic, military, and political influence in Europe and around the world. It is a developed country with the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and eighth-largest by purchasing power parity. In terms of total household wealth, France is the wealthiest nation in Europe and fourth in the world. It also possesses the world's second largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ), covering .
French citizens enjoy a high standard of living, and the country performs well in international rankings of education, health care, life expectancy, civil liberties, and human development. France is a founding member of the United Nations, where it serves as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. It is a member of numerous international institutions, including the Group of 7, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and La Francophonie. France is a founding and leading member state of the EU.