The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War referred to in France as the War of 1870, was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Third French Republic, the German states of the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia. Lasting from 19 July 1870 to 28 January 1871, the conflict was caused by Prussian ambitions to extend German unification and French fears of the shift in the European balance of power that would result if the Prussians succeeded; some historians argue that the Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck deliberately provoked the French into declaring war on Prussia in order to draw the independent southern German states—Baden, Württemberg and Hesse-Darmstadt—into an alliance with the North German Confederation dominated by Prussia, while others contend that Bismarck did not plan anything and exploited the circumstances as they unfolded. None, dispute the fact that Bismarck must have recognized the potential for new German alliances, given the situation as a whole.
On 16 July 1870, the French parliament voted to declare war on Prussia and hostilities began three days when French forces invaded German territory. The German coalition mobilised its troops much more than the French and invaded northeastern France; the German forces were superior in numbers, had better training and leadership and made more effective use of modern technology railroads and artillery. A series of swift Prussian and German victories in eastern France, culminating in the Siege of Metz and the Battle of Sedan, saw French Emperor Napoleon III captured and the army of the Second Empire decisively defeated. A Government of National Defence declared the Third French Republic in Paris on 4 September and continued the war for another five months. Following the Siege of Paris, the capital fell on 28 January 1871, a revolutionary uprising called the Paris Commune seized power in the city and held it for two months, until it was bloodily suppressed by the regular French army at the end of May 1871.
The German states proclaimed their union as the German Empire under the Prussian king Wilhelm I uniting Germany as a nation-state. The Treaty of Frankfurt of 10 May 1871 gave Germany most of Alsace and some parts of Lorraine, which became the Imperial territory of Alsace-Lorraine; the German conquest of France and the unification of Germany upset the European balance of power that had existed since the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Otto von Bismarck maintained great authority in international affairs for two decades. French determination to regain Alsace-Lorraine and fear of another Franco-German war, along with British apprehension about the balance of power, became factors in the causes of World War I; the causes of the Franco-Prussian War are rooted in the events surrounding the unification of Germany. In the aftermath of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Prussia had annexed numerous territories and formed the North German Confederation; this new power destabilized the European balance of power established by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars.
Napoleon III the emperor of France, demanded compensations in Belgium and on the left bank of the Rhine to secure France's strategic position, which the Prussian chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, flatly refused. Prussia turned its attention towards the south of Germany, where it sought to incorporate the southern German kingdoms, Bavaria, Württemberg and Hesse-Darmstadt, into a unified Prussia-dominated Germany. France was opposed to any further alliance of German states, which would have strengthened the Prussian military. In Prussia, some officials considered a war against France both inevitable and necessary to arouse German nationalism in those states that would allow the unification of a great German empire; this aim was epitomized by Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck's statement: "I did not doubt that a Franco-German war must take place before the construction of a United Germany could be realised." Bismarck knew that France should be the aggressor in the conflict to bring the southern German states to side with Prussia, hence giving Germans numerical superiority.
He was convinced that France would not find any allies in her war against Germany for the simple reason that "France, the victor, would be a danger to everybody – Prussia to nobody," and he added, "That is our strong point." Many Germans viewed the French as the traditional destabilizer of Europe, sought to weaken France to prevent further breaches of the peace. The immediate cause of the war resided in the candidacy of Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a Prussian prince, to the throne of Spain. France feared encirclement by an alliance between Spain; the Hohenzollern prince's candidacy was withdrawn under French diplomatic pressure, but Otto von Bismarck goaded the French into declaring war by releasing an altered summary of the Ems Dispatch, a telegram sent by William I rejecting French demands that Prussia never again support a Hohenzollern candidacy. Bismarck's summary, as mistranslated by the French press Havas, made it sound as if the king had treated the French envoy in a demeaning fashion, which inflamed public opinion in France.
French historians François Roth and Pierre Milza argue that Napoleon III was pressured by a bellicose press and public opinion and thus sought war in response to France's diplomatic failures to obtain any territorial gains following the Austro-Prussian War. Napoleon III believed. Many in his court, such as Empress Eugénie wanted a
The Vosges are a range of low mountains in eastern France, near its border with Germany. Together with the Palatine Forest to the north on the German side of the border, they form a single geomorphological unit and low mountain range of around 8,000 km2 in area, it runs in a north-northeast direction from the Burgundian Gate to the Börrstadt Basin, forms the western boundary of the Upper Rhine Plain. The Grand Ballon is the highest peak at 1,424 m, followed by the Storkenkopf, the Hohneck. Geographically, the Vosges Mountains are wholly in France, far above the Col de Saverne separating them from the Palatinate Forest in Germany; the latter area logically continues the same Vosges geologic structure but traditionally receives this different name for historical and political reasons. From 1871 to 1918 the Vosges marked for the most part the border between Germany and France, due to the Franco-Prussian War; the elongated massif is divided south to north into three sections: The Higher Vosges or High Vosges, extending in the southern part of the range from Belfort to the river valley of the Bruche.
The rounded summits of the Hautes Vosges are called ballons in French "balloons". The sandstone Vosges or Middle Vosges, between the Permian Basin of Saint-Die including the Devonian-Dinantian volcanic massif of Schirmeck-Moyenmoutier and the Col de Saverne The Lower Vosges or Low Vosges, a sandstone plateau ranging from 1,000 feet to 1,850 feet high, between the Col de Saverne and the source of the Lauter. In addition, the term "Central Vosges" is used to designate the various lines of summits those above 1,000 m in elevation; the French department of Vosges is named after the range. From a geological point of view, a graben at the beginning of the Paleogene period caused the formation of Alsace and the uplift of the plates of the Vosges, in eastern France, those in the Black Forest, in Germany. From a scientific view, the Vosges Mountains are not mountains as such, but rather the western edge of the unfinished Alsatian graben, stretching continuously as part of the larger Tertiary formations.
Erosive glacial action was the primary catalyst for development of the representative highland massif feature. The Vosges in their southern and central parts are called the Hautes Vosges; these consist of a large Carboniferous mountain eroded just before the Permian Period with gneiss, porphyritic masses or other volcanic intrusions. In the north and west, there are places less eroded by glaciers, here Vosges Triassic and Permian red sandstone remains are found in large beds; the grès vosgien are embedded sometimes up to more than 500 m in thickness. The Lower Vosges in the north are dislocated plates of various sandstones, ranging from 300 to 600 m high; the Vosges is similar to the corresponding range of the Black Forest on the other side of the Rhine: both lie within the same degrees of latitude, have similar geological formations, are characterized by forests on their lower slopes, above which are open pastures and rounded summits of a rather uniform altitude. Both areas exhibit steeper slopes towards the Rhine River and a more gradual descent on the other side.
This occurs because both the Vosges and the Black Forest were formed by isostatic uplift, in a response to the opening of the Rhine Graben. The Rhine Graben is a major extensional basin; when such basins form, the thinning of the crust causes uplift adjacent to the basin. The amount of uplift decreases with distance from the basin, causing the highest range of peaks to be adjacent to the basin, the lower mountains to stretch away from the basin; the highest points are in the Hautes Vosges: the Grand Ballon, in ancient times called Ballon de Guebwiller or Ballon de Murbach, rises to 1,424 m. The Col de Saales, between the Higher and Central Vosges, reaches nearly 579 m, both lower and narrower than the Higher Vosges, with Mont Donon at 1,008 m being the highest point of this Nordic section; the highest mountains and peaks of the Vosges are: Grand Ballon 1,424 m Storkenkopf 1,366 m Hohneck 1,363 m Kastelberg 1,350 m Klintzkopf 1,330 m Rothenbachkopf 1,316 m Lauchenkopf 1,314 m Batteriekopf 1,311 m Haut de Falimont 1,306 m Gazon du Faing 1,306 m Rainkopf 1,305 m Gazon du Faîte 1,303 m Ringbuhl 1,302 m Soultzereneck 1,302 m Le Tanet 1,292 m Petit Ballon 1,272 m Ballon d'Alsace 1,247 m Brézouard 1,229 m Ballon de Servance 1,216 m Drumont 1,200 m Planche des Belles Filles 1,148 m Molkenrain 1,123 m Champ du Feu 1,099 m Baerenkopf 1,074 m Rocher de Mutzig 1,010 m Donon 1,009 m Taennchel 992 m Climont 965 m Hartmannswillerkopf 956 m Chatte Pendue 902 m Ungersberg 901 m Tête du Coq
Communes of France
The commune is a level of administrative division in the French Republic. French communes are analogous to civil townships and incorporated municipalities in the United States and Canada, Gemeinden in Germany, comuni in Italy or ayuntamiento in Spain; the United Kingdom has no exact equivalent, as communes resemble districts in urban areas, but are closer to parishes in rural areas where districts are much larger. Communes are based on historical geographic communities or villages and are vested with significant powers to manage the populations and land of the geographic area covered; the communes are the fourth-level administrative divisions of France. Communes vary in size and area, from large sprawling cities with millions of inhabitants like Paris, to small hamlets with only a handful of inhabitants. Communes are based on pre-existing villages and facilitate local governance. All communes have names, but not all named geographic areas or groups of people residing together are communes, the difference residing in the lack of administrative powers.
Except for the municipal arrondissements of its largest cities, the communes are the lowest level of administrative division in France and are governed by elected officials with extensive autonomous powers to implement national policy. A commune is city, or other municipality. "Commune" in English has a historical bias, implies an association with socialist political movements or philosophies, collectivist lifestyles, or particular history. There is nothing intrinsically different between commune in French; the French word commune appeared in the 12th century, from Medieval Latin communia, for a large gathering of people sharing a common life. As of January 2015, there were 36,681 communes in France, 36,552 of them in metropolitan France and 129 of them overseas; this is a higher total than that of any other European country, because French communes still reflect the division of France into villages or parishes at the time of the French Revolution. The whole territory of the French Republic is divided into communes.
This is unlike some other countries, such as the United States, where unincorporated areas directly governed by a county or a higher authority can be found. There are only a few exceptions: COM of Saint-Martin, it was a commune inside the Guadeloupe région. The commune structure was abolished when Saint-Martin became an overseas collectivity on 22 February 2007. COM of Wallis and Futuna, which still is divided according to the three traditional chiefdoms. COM of Saint Barthélemy, it was a commune inside the Guadeloupe region. The commune structure was abolished when Saint-Barthélemy became an overseas collectivity on 22 February 2007. Furthermore, two regions without permanent habitation have no communes: TOM of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands Clipperton Island in the Pacific Ocean In metropolitan France, the average area of a commune in 2004 was 14.88 square kilometres. The median area of metropolitan France's communes at the 1999 census was smaller, at 10.73 square kilometres. The median area is a better measure of the area of a typical French commune.
This median area is smaller than that of most European countries. In Italy, the median area of communes is 22 km2. Switzerland and the Länder of Rhineland-Palatinate, Schleswig-Holstein, Thuringia in Germany were the only places in Europe where the communes had a smaller median area than in France; the communes of France's overseas départements such as Réunion and French Guiana are large by French standards. They group into the same commune several villages or towns with sizeable distances among them. In Réunion, demographic expansion and sprawling urbanization have resulted in the administrative splitting of some communes; the median population of metropolitan France's communes at the 1999 census was 380 inhabitants. Again this is a small number, here France stands apart in Europe, with the lowest communes' median population of all the European countries; this small median population of French communes can be compared with Italy, where the median population of communes in 2001 was 2,343 inhabitants, Belgium, or Spain.
The median population given here should not hide the fact that there are pronounced differences in size between French communes. As mentioned in the introduction, a commune can be a city of 2 million inhabitants such as Paris, a town of 10,000 inhabitants, or just a hamlet of 10 inhabitants. What the median population tells us is that the vast majority of the French communes only have a few hundred inhabitants. In metropolitan France just over 50 percent of the 36,683 communes have fewer than 500 inhabitants a
World War II
World War II known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries; the major participants threw their entire economic and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China, it included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, the only use of nuclear weapons in war. Japan, which aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific, was at war with China by 1937, though neither side had declared war on the other. World War II is said to have begun on 1 September 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom.
From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories of their European neighbours, Finland and the Baltic states. Following the onset of campaigns in North Africa and East Africa, the fall of France in mid 1940, the war continued between the European Axis powers and the British Empire. War in the Balkans, the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the long Battle of the Atlantic followed. On 22 June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history; this Eastern Front trapped most crucially the German Wehrmacht, into a war of attrition. In December 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States as well as European colonies in the Pacific. Following an immediate U. S. declaration of war against Japan, supported by one from Great Britain, the European Axis powers declared war on the U.
S. in solidarity with their Japanese ally. Rapid Japanese conquests over much of the Western Pacific ensued, perceived by many in Asia as liberation from Western dominance and resulting in the support of several armies from defeated territories; the Axis advance in the Pacific halted in 1942. Key setbacks in 1943, which included a series of German defeats on the Eastern Front, the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy, Allied victories in the Pacific, cost the Axis its initiative and forced it into strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the Western Allies invaded German-occupied France, while the Soviet Union regained its territorial losses and turned toward Germany and its allies. During 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in mainland Asia in Central China, South China and Burma, while the Allies crippled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands; the war in Europe concluded with an invasion of Germany by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, culminating in the capture of Berlin by Soviet troops, the suicide of Adolf Hitler and the German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945.
Following the Potsdam Declaration by the Allies on 26 July 1945 and the refusal of Japan to surrender under its terms, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively. With an invasion of the Japanese archipelago imminent, the possibility of additional atomic bombings, the Soviet entry into the war against Japan and its invasion of Manchuria, Japan announced its intention to surrender on 15 August 1945, cementing total victory in Asia for the Allies. Tribunals were set up by fiat by the Allies and war crimes trials were conducted in the wake of the war both against the Germans and the Japanese. World War II changed the political social structure of the globe; the United Nations was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The Soviet Union and United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the nearly half-century long Cold War. In the wake of European devastation, the influence of its great powers waned, triggering the decolonisation of Africa and Asia.
Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic expansion. Political integration in Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities and create a common identity; the start of the war in Europe is held to be 1 September 1939, beginning with the German invasion of Poland. The dates for the beginning of war in the Pacific include the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, or the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on 19 September 1931. Others follow the British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who held that the Sino-Japanese War and war in Europe and its colonies occurred and the two wars merged in 1941; this article uses the conventional dating. Other starting dates sometimes used for World War II include the Italian invasion of Abyssinia on 3 October 1935; the British historian Antony Beevor views the beginning of World War II as the Battles of Khalkhin Gol fought between Japan and the fo
The Hundred Days marked the period between Napoleon's return from exile on the island of Elba to Paris on 20 March 1815 and the second restoration of King Louis XVIII on 8 July 1815. This period saw the War of the Seventh Coalition, includes the Waterloo Campaign, the Neapolitan War as well as several other minor campaigns; the phrase les Cent Jours was first used by the prefect of Paris, comte de Chabrol, in his speech welcoming the king back to Paris on 8 July. Napoleon returned. On 13 March, seven days before Napoleon reached Paris, the powers at the Congress of Vienna declared him an outlaw, on 25 March Austria, Prussia and the United Kingdom, members of the Seventh Coalition, bound themselves to put 150,000 men each into the field to end his rule; this set the stage for the last conflict in the Napoleonic Wars, the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, the second restoration of the French kingdom, the permanent exile of Napoleon to the distant island of Saint Helena, where he died in May 1821.
The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars pitted France against various coalitions of other European nations nearly continuously from 1792 onward. The overthrow and subsequent public execution of Louis XVI in France had disturbed other European leaders, who vowed to crush the French Republic. Rather than leading to France's defeat, the wars allowed the revolutionary regime to expand beyond its borders and create client republics; the success of the French forces made a hero out of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1799, Napoleon staged a successful coup d'état and became First Consul of the new French Consulate. Five years he crowned himself Emperor Napoleon I; the rise of Napoleon troubled the other European powers as much as the earlier revolutionary regime had. Despite the formation of new coalitions against him, Napoleon's forces continued to conquer much of Europe; the tide of war began to turn after a disastrous French invasion of Russia in 1812 that resulted in the loss of much of Napoleon's army.
The following year, during the War of the Sixth Coalition, Coalition forces defeated the French in the Battle of Leipzig. Following its victory at Leipzig, the Coalition vowed to depose Napoleon. In the last week of February 1814, Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher advanced on Paris. After multiple attacks and reinforcements on both sides, Blücher won the Battle of Laon in early March 1814; the Battle of Reims went to Napoleon, but this victory was followed by successive defeats from overwhelming odds. Coalition forces entered Paris after the Battle of Montmartre on 30 March 1814. On 6 April 1814, Napoleon abdicated his throne, leading to the accession of Louis XVIII and the first Bourbon Restoration a month later; the defeated Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba off the coast of Tuscany, while the victorious Coalition sought to redraw the map of Europe at the Congress of Vienna. Napoleon spent only nine months and 21 days in uneasy retirement on Elba, watching events in France with great interest as the Congress of Vienna gathered.
He had been escorted to Elba by Sir Neil Campbell, who remained in residence there while performing other duties in Italy, but was not Napoleon's jailer. As he foresaw, the shrinkage of the great Empire into the realm of old France caused intense dissatisfaction among the French, a feeling fed by stories of the tactless way in which the Bourbon princes treated veterans of the Grande Armée and the returning royalist nobility treated the people at large. Threatening was the general situation in Europe, stressed and exhausted during the previous decades of near constant warfare; the conflicting demands of major powers were for a time so exorbitant as to bring the Powers at the Congress of Vienna to the verge of war with each other. Thus every scrap of news reaching remote Elba looked favourable to Napoleon to retake power as he reasoned the news of his return would cause a popular rising as he approached, he reasoned that the return of French prisoners from Russia, Germany and Spain would furnish him with a trained and patriotic army far larger than that which had won renown in the years before 1814.
So threatening were the symptoms that the royalists at Paris and the plenipotentiaries at Vienna talked of deporting him to the Azores or to Saint Helena, while others hinted at assassination. At the Congress of Vienna the various participating nations had different and conflicting goals. Tsar Alexander of Russia had expected to absorb much of Poland and to leave a Polish puppet state, the Duchy of Warsaw, as a buffer against further invasion from Europe; the renewed Prussian state demanded all of the Kingdom of Saxony. Austria wanted to allow neither of these things, while it expected to regain control of northern Italy. Castlereagh, of the United Kingdom, supported France and Austria and was at variance with his own Parliament; this caused a war to break out, when the Tsar pointed out to Castlereagh that Russia had 450,000 men near Poland and Saxony and he was welcome to try to remove them. Indeed, Alexander stated "I shall be the King of Poland and the King of Prussia will be the King of Saxony".
Castlereagh approached King Frederick William III of Prussia to offer him British and Austrian support for Prussia's annexation of Saxony in return for Prussia's support of an independent Poland. The Prussian king repeated this offer in public, offending Alexander so that he chal
Friedrich, Freiherr von Zoller
Friedrich Johann Daniel Alois, Freiherr von Zoller was a Bavarian lieutenant-general who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. Von Zoller was on born on 25 May 1762 in Baden-Baden, because his father was a colonel in the French Army, in command of battalion in the Royal Deux-Ponts Regiment commanded by Christian Graf von Forbach. On 8 April 1779 von Zoller was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the regiment, went with his regiment to North America where he participated in the Seven Years' War during which he was promoted to the First Lieutenant and Adjutant Major. Shortly after the outbreak of the French Revolution von Zoller left France and in the years 1793 and 1794 served on the staff of the Prussian general Frederick of Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen in the War of the First Coalition against France. In 1799 he joined the armed forces of Elector Maximilian; as a major in the Wrede battalion he fought against the French at the Battle of Möskirch on the night of 5/6 March 1800 he was badly wounded and lost an eye.
During the War of the Third Coalition, von Zoller saw action on the Tyrolean border as lieutenant colonel in a corps of mountain militia troops, for this service was awarded the Legion of Honour and the Military Order of Max Joseph. In the campaign of 1806/7, he commanded a light infantry regiment against Prussia. In 1809 in the war against Austria and in 1812 during the Russian Campaign he was a colonel of a regiment. During the Russian Campaign he was promoted to major brigadier. After the disastrous retreat from Russia, von Zoller was posted to Płock on the Vistula to take command of the 2nd Infantry Brigade. On 20 January 1814 took over the occupation of the city. After an honourable defence against the besieging Russians he surrendered the city on 18 April and returned to Bavaria; when Bavaria changed sides and joined the Coalition against France, von Zoller was with the Bavarian forces that fought against the French at the battle of Hanau. In the same month was promoted to lieutenant-general, given command of a division.
He was ordered do take command at the siege of the fortress of Huningue. The siege lasted until the end of the war which ended with the recognition of Louis XVIII as the French monarch in 1814; the next year, during Napoleon's Hundred Days he again led an infantry division but it saw little action. In recognition of his service to Bavaria he was ennobled as baron von Zoller on 30 January 1816, he died on 25 February 1821 in Regensburg. Hueck, Walter von. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Adelslexikon, XVI, Limburg: C. A. Starke Verlag, p. 566, ISBN 3-7980-0837-XAttribution This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Bernhard von Poten, "Zoller, Friedrich Johann Daniel", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, 45, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, p. 410
Concours des villes et villages fleuris
The Concours des villes et villages fleuris is a contest organized annually in France which aims to encourage communes to adopt and implement policies that improve the quality of life of their inhabitants and enhance their attractiveness to visitors through the provision and maintenance of green spaces and the enhancement of their natural environments. Successful communes are awarded the right to display a badge on road signs and in other local promotional material; the competition was created in 1959 by the French state and it is administered by a distinct national committee since 1972. This committee is still linked to the Ministry of Tourism. All the French communes can take part and there are no application fees. There is not any limitation to the number of awarded communes, so they are not in competition between each other; the label has experienced a large success since its creation. The number of villages taking part in the contest has increased from 600 at its inception, to 5,300 in 1972, 10,000 in 1993, 12,000 in 2005.
The label comprises four awards: one, three or four flowers, according to the efforts of the municipality. Each award is given according to strict criteria; the "Fleur d'Or" is a special prize awarded to a small number of applicants. Labelled communes display their flowers on road signs at their entrances; as of 2015, there are some 12,000 awarded cities and villages. They represent a third of all the French communes. 226 of them have 4 flowers. The Concours des villes et villages fleuris originates in the various horticultural contests that appeared at the beginning of the 20th century; as tourism was growing, competitions were created for train stations and hotels for them to improve their visual quality. The French Touring Club created the first competition dedicated to villages during the 1920s. Called "Concours des villages coquets" it existed until 1939. After the Second World War, the Touring Club created an itinerary of flower-decked roads together with the Horticultural Association and the magazine Rustica.
The success of the itinerary led to the creation of the present Concours des villes et villages fleuris in 1959. The competition passed from the French state to a national committee in 1972. Since 1988, its organisation has been the responsibility of the general councils which are the elected assemblies of the departments; the national comity remains the coordinator on a national level. At the beginning, the competition was about the aesthetics of floral displays. Nowadays, it focuses more on general planning and how it improves the lives of local residents and the experience of visitors. Communes that apply for the label are first selected by their department which transmit the application to the regional council; the latter attributes the lowest awards. The best applications are submitted to the national committee who can attribute the 4 flowers and extra awards. Boards of examiners are formed on departmental and national levels, their members are municipal councilors, municipal clerks, gardeners, landscape architects, tourist office officials and representatives of various associations.
The Concours des villes et villages fleuris awards its labels according to strict criteria. They help examiners to evaluate the motivation of the local authorities, the development they expect through plants and green spaces, how they communicate to the public about it, how they respect the environment, so forth; the evaluation grid comprises a number of questions which can be answered by "non existent", "initiated", "realised" and "confronted". The answer to each question determines a level between four flowers. For instance, a question asks if the locality displays plants all year round; the average of all the answers moderated by the general impression of the examiners determine which label the locality is awarded. The Concours des villes et villages fleuris has initiated a European competition called Entente Florale Europe, it started in 1975 between Great Britain and France and has since expanded to include all members of the European Union and the EFTA. As of 2015, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are full members of the Entente.
During this annual competition, each country submits a candidate locality. The best one is awarded a prize. Britain in Bloom Tourism in France French towns and lands of Art and History Les Plus Beaux Villages de France Website of the competition