Alsace is a cultural and historical region in eastern France, on the west bank of the upper Rhine next to Germany and Switzerland. From 1982 to 2016, Alsace was the smallest administrative région in metropolitan France, consisting of the Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin departments. Territorial reform passed by the French legislature in 2014 resulted in the merger of the Alsace administrative region with Champagne-Ardenne and Lorraine to form Grand Est. Alsatian is an Alemannic dialect related to Swabian and Swiss German, although since World War II most Alsatians speak French. Internal and international migration since 1945 has changed the ethnolinguistic composition of Alsace. For more than 300 years, from the Thirty Years' War to World War II, the political status of Alsace was contested between France and various German states in wars and diplomatic conferences; the economic and cultural capital of Alsace, as well as its largest city, is Strasbourg. The city is the seat of bodies; the name "Alsace" can be traced to the Old High German Ali-saz or Elisaz, meaning "foreign domain".
An alternative explanation is from a Germanic Ell-sass, meaning "seated on the Ill", a river in Alsace. In prehistoric times, Alsace was inhabited by nomadic hunters. By 1500 BC, Celts began to settle in Alsace and cultivating the land, it should be noted that Alsace is a plain surrounded by the Vosges mountains and the Black Forest mountains. It creates Foehn winds which, along with natural irrigation, contributes to the fertility of the soil. In a world of agriculture, Alsace has always been a rich region which explains why it suffered so many invasions and annexations in its history. By 58 BC, the Romans had established Alsace as a center of viticulture. To protect this valued industry, the Romans built fortifications and military camps that evolved into various communities which have been inhabited continuously to the present day. While part of the Roman Empire, Alsace was part of Germania Superior. With the decline of the Roman Empire, Alsace became the territory of the Germanic Alemanni; the Alemanni were agricultural people, their Germanic language formed the basis of modern-day dialects spoken along the Upper Rhine.
Clovis and the Franks defeated the Alemanni during the 5th century AD, culminating with the Battle of Tolbiac, Alsace became part of the Kingdom of Austrasia. Under Clovis' Merovingian successors the inhabitants were Christianized. Alsace remained under Frankish control until the Frankish realm, following the Oaths of Strasbourg of 842, was formally dissolved in 843 at the Treaty of Verdun. Alsace formed part of the Middle Francia, ruled by the eldest grandson Lothar I. Lothar died early in 855 and his realm was divided into three parts; the part known as Lotharingia, or Lorraine, was given to Lothar's son. The rest was shared between Louis the German; the Kingdom of Lotharingia was short-lived, becoming the stem duchy of Lorraine in Eastern Francia after the Treaty of Ribemont in 880. Alsace was united with the other Alemanni east of the Rhine into the stem duchy of Swabia. At about this time, the surrounding areas experienced recurring fragmentation and reincorporations among a number of feudal secular and ecclesiastical lordships, a common process in the Holy Roman Empire.
Alsace experienced great prosperity during the 13th centuries under Hohenstaufen emperors. Frederick I set up Alsace as a province to be ruled by ministeriales, a non-noble class of civil servants; the idea was that such men would be more tractable and less to alienate the fief from the crown out of their own greed. The province had a central administration with its seat at Hagenau. Frederick II designated the Bishop of Strasbourg to administer Alsace, but the authority of the bishop was challenged by Count Rudolf of Habsburg, who received his rights from Frederick II's son Conrad IV. Strasbourg began to grow to become the commercially important town in the region. In 1262, after a long struggle with the ruling bishops, its citizens gained the status of free imperial city. A stop on the Paris-Vienna-Orient trade route, as well as a port on the Rhine route linking southern Germany and Switzerland to the Netherlands and Scandinavia, it became the political and economic center of the region. Cities such as Colmar and Hagenau began to grow in economic importance and gained a kind of autonomy within the "Décapole", a federation of ten free towns.
As in much of Europe, the prosperity of Alsace came to an end in the 14th century by a series of harsh winters, bad harvests, the Black Death. These hardships were blamed on Jews, leading to the pogroms of 1336 and 1339. In 1349, Jews of Alsace were accused of poisoning the wells with plague, leading to the massacre of thousands of Jews during the Strasbourg pogrom. Jews were subsequently forbidden to settle in the town. An additional natural disaster was the Rhine rift earthquake of 1356, one of Europe's worst which made ruins of Basel. Prosperity returned to Alsace under Habsburg administration during the Renaissance. Holy Roman Empire central power had begun to decline following years of imperial adventures in Italian lands ceding hegemony in Western Europe to France, which had long since centralized power. France began an aggressive policy of expanding eastward, first to the riv
French Foreign Legion
The French Foreign Legion is a military service branch of the French Army established in 1831. Legionnaires are trained infantry soldiers and the Legion is unique in that it was, continues to be, open to foreign recruits willing to serve in the French Armed Forces; when it was founded, the French Foreign Legion was not unique. Commanded by French officers, it is open to French citizens, who amounted to 24% of the recruits in 2007; the Foreign Legion is today known as a unit whose training focuses on traditional military skills and on its strong esprit de corps, as its men come from different countries with different cultures. This is a way to strengthen them enough to work as a team. Training is described as not only physically challenging, but very stressful psychologically. French citizenship may be applied for after three years' service; the Legion is the only part of the French military that does not swear allegiance to France, but to the Foreign Legion itself. Any soldier who becomes injured during a battle for France can apply to be a French citizen under a provision known as "Français par le sang versé".
As of 2008, members come from 140 countries. Since 1831, the Legion has suffered the loss of nearly 40,000 men on active service in France, Morocco, Madagascar, West Africa, Italy, the Crimea, Indo-China, Loyada, Chad, Zaïre, Central Africa, Kuwait, Djibouti, former Yugoslavia, Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Mali and others; the French Foreign Legion was used to protect and expand the French colonial empire during the 19th century. The Foreign Legion was stationed only in Algeria, where it took part in the pacification and development of the colony. Subsequently, the Foreign Legion was deployed in a number of conflicts, including the First Carlist War in 1835, the Crimean War in 1854, the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859, the French intervention in Mexico in 1863, the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the Tonkin Campaign and Sino-French War in 1883, supporting growth of the French colonial empire in Sub-Saharan Africa and pacifying Algeria, the Second Franco-Dahomean War in 1892, the Second Madagascar expedition in 1895, the Mandingo Wars in 1894.
In World War I, the Foreign Legion fought in many critical battles on the Western Front. It played a smaller role in World War II than in World War I, though having a part in the Norwegian and North African campaigns. During the First Indochina War, the Foreign Legion saw; the FFL lost a large number of men in the catastrophic Battle of Dien Bien Phu. During the Algerian War of Independence, the Foreign Legion came close to being disbanded after some officers and the decorated 1st Foreign Parachute Regiment took part in the Generals' putsch. Operations during this period included the Suez Crisis, the Battle of Algiers and various offensives launched by General Maurice Challe including Operations Oranie and Jumelles. In the 1960s and 1970s, Legion regiments had additional roles in sending units as a rapid deployment force to preserve French interests – in its former African colonies and in other nations as well; some notable operations include: the Chadian–Libyan conflict in 1969–1972, 1978–1979, 1983–1987.
In 1981, the 1st Foreign Regiment and Foreign Legion regiments partook to the Multinational Force in Lebanon. In 1990, Foreign Legion regiments were sent to the Persian Gulf and took part in Opération Daguet, part of Division Daguet. Following the Gulf War in the 1990s, the Foreign Legion helped with the evacuation of French citizens and foreigners in Rwanda and Zaire; the Foreign Legion was deployed in Cambodia, Sarajevo and Herzegovina. In the mid- to late-1990s, the Foreign Legion was deployed in the Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville and in Kosovo; the Foreign Legion took part in operations in Rwanda in 1990–1994. In the 2000s, the Foreign Legion was deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Licorne in Ivory Coast, the EUFOR Tchad/RCA in Chad, Operation Serval in the Northern Mali conflict. Other countries have tried to emulate the French Foreign Legion model; the contemporary French Foreign Legion relates the most to that of the Spanish Legion. The French Foreign Legion was created by Louis Philippe, the King of the French, on 10 March 1831 from the foreign regiments of the Kingdom of France.
Recruits included soldiers from the disbanded Swiss and German foreign regiments of the Bourbon monarchy. The Royal Ordinance for the establishment of the new regiment specified that the foreigners recruited could only serve outside France; the French expeditionary force that had occupied Algiers in 1830 was in need of reinforcements and the Legion was accordingly transferred by sea in detachments from Toulon to Algeria. The Foreign Legion was used, as part of the Armée d'Afrique, to protect and expand the French colonial empire during the 19th century, but it fought in all French wars including the Franco-Prussian War, World War I and World War II; the Foreign Legion has remained an important part of the French Army and sea transport protected by the French Navy, surviving three Republics, the Second F
Switzerland the Swiss Confederation, is a country situated in western and southern Europe. It consists of 26 cantons, the city of Bern is the seat of the federal authorities; the sovereign state is a federal republic bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning a total area of 41,285 km2. While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of 8.5 million people is concentrated on the plateau, where the largest cities are to be found: among them are the two global cities and economic centres Zürich and Geneva. The establishment of the Old Swiss Confederacy dates to the late medieval period, resulting from a series of military successes against Austria and Burgundy. Swiss independence from the Holy Roman Empire was formally recognized in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648; the country has a history of armed neutrality going back to the Reformation.
It pursues an active foreign policy and is involved in peace-building processes around the world. In addition to being the birthplace of the Red Cross, Switzerland is home to numerous international organisations, including the second largest UN office. On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association, but notably not part of the European Union, the European Economic Area or the Eurozone. However, it participates in the Schengen Area and the European Single Market through bilateral treaties. Spanning the intersection of Germanic and Romance Europe, Switzerland comprises four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French and Romansh. Although the majority of the population are German-speaking, Swiss national identity is rooted in a common historical background, shared values such as federalism and direct democracy, Alpine symbolism. Due to its linguistic diversity, Switzerland is known by a variety of native names: Schweiz. On coins and stamps, the Latin name – shortened to "Helvetia" – is used instead of the four national languages.
Switzerland is one of the most developed countries in the world, with the highest nominal wealth per adult and the eighth-highest per capita gross domestic product according to the IMF. Switzerland ranks at or near the top globally in several metrics of national performance, including government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic competitiveness and human development. Zürich and Basel have all three been ranked among the top ten cities in the world in terms of quality of life, with the first ranked second globally, according to Mercer in 2018; the English name Switzerland is a compound containing Switzer, an obsolete term for the Swiss, in use during the 16th to 19th centuries. The English adjective Swiss is a loan from French Suisse in use since the 16th century; the name Switzer is from the Alemannic Schwiizer, in origin an inhabitant of Schwyz and its associated territory, one of the Waldstätten cantons which formed the nucleus of the Old Swiss Confederacy. The Swiss began to adopt the name for themselves after the Swabian War of 1499, used alongside the term for "Confederates", used since the 14th century.
The data code for Switzerland, CH, is derived from Latin Confoederatio Helvetica. The toponym Schwyz itself was first attested in 972, as Old High German Suittes perhaps related to swedan ‘to burn’, referring to the area of forest, burned and cleared to build; the name was extended to the area dominated by the canton, after the Swabian War of 1499 came to be used for the entire Confederation. The Swiss German name of the country, Schwiiz, is homophonous to that of the canton and the settlement, but distinguished by the use of the definite article; the Latin name Confoederatio Helvetica was neologized and introduced after the formation of the federal state in 1848, harking back to the Napoleonic Helvetic Republic, appearing on coins from 1879, inscribed on the Federal Palace in 1902 and after 1948 used in the official seal.. Helvetica is derived from the Helvetii, a Gaulish tribe living on the Swiss plateau before the Roman era. Helvetia appears as a national personification of the Swiss confederacy in the 17th century with a 1672 play by Johann Caspar Weissenbach.
Switzerland has existed as a state in its present form since the adoption of the Swiss Federal Constitution in 1848. The precursors of Switzerland established a protective alliance at the end of the 13th century, forming a loose confederation of states which persisted for centuries; the oldest traces of hominid existence in Switzerland date back about 150,000 years. The oldest known farming settlements in Switzerland, which were found at Gächlingen, have been dated to around 5300 BC; the earliest known cultural tribes of the area were members of the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures, named after the archaeological site of La Tène on the north side of Lake Neuchâtel. La Tène culture developed and flourished during the late Iron Age from around 450 BC under some influence from the Gree
Free France and its Free French Forces were the government-in-exile led by Charles de Gaulle during the Second World War and its military forces, that continued to fight against the Axis powers as one of the Allies after the fall of France. Set up in London in June 1940, it supported the Resistance in occupied France. Charles de Gaulle, a French government minister who rejected the armistice concluded by Marshal Philippe Pétain and who had escaped to Britain, exhorted the French to resist in his BBC broadcast "Appeal of 18 June", which had a stirring effect on morale throughout France and its colonies, although relatively few French forces responded to de Gaulle's call for resistance. On 27 October 1940, the Empire Defense Council was constituted to organise the rule of the territories in central Africa and Oceania that had heeded the 18 June call, it was replaced on 24 September 1941 by the French National Committee. On 13 July 1942, "Free France" was renamed France combattante, to mark that the struggle against the Axis was conducted both externally by the FFF and internally by the French Forces of the Interior.
After the reconquest of North Africa, this was in turn formally merged with de Gaulle's rival general Henri Giraud's command in Algiers to form the French Committee of National Liberation. Exile ended with the liberation of Paris by the 2nd Armoured Free French Division and Resistance forces on 25 August 1944, ushering in the Provisional Government of the French Republic, it ruled France until the end of the war and afterwards to 1946, when the Fourth Republic was established, thus ending the series of interim regimes that had succeeded the Third Republic after its fall in 1940. The Free French fought Axis and Vichy regime troops and served on battlefronts everywhere from the Middle East to Indochina and North Africa; the Free French Navy operated as an auxiliary force to the Royal Navy and, in the North Atlantic, to the Royal Canadian Navy. Free French units served in the Royal Air Force, Soviet Air Force, British SAS, before larger commands were established directly under the control of the government-in-exile.
From colonial outposts in Africa and the Pacific, Free France took over more and more Vichy possessions, until after the Allied landings in North Africa in November 1942 Vichy only ruled over the zone libre in southern France and a few possessions in the West Indies. The French Army of Africa switched allegiance to Free France, this caused the Axis to occupy Vichy in reaction. On August 1, 1943, L'Armée d'Afrique was formally united with the Free French Forces to form L'Armée française de la Liberation. By mid-1944, the forces of this army numbered more than 400,000, they participated in the Normandy landings and the invasion of southern France leading the drive on Paris. Soon they were fighting in Alsace, the Alps and Brittany, by the end of the war in Europe, they were 1,300,000 strong—the fourth-largest Allied army in Europe—and took part in the Allied advance through France and invasion of Germany; the Free French government re-established a provisional republic after the liberation, preparing the ground for the Fourth Republic in 1946.
An individual became "Free French" by enlisting in the military units organised by the CFN or by employment by the civilian arm of the Committee. On 1 August 1943 after the merger of CFN and representatives of the former Vichy regime in North Africa to form the CFLN earlier in June, the FFF and the Armée d'Afrique were merged to form the French Liberation Army, Armée française de la Libération, all subsequent enlistments were in this combined force. In many sources, Free French describes any French individual or unit that fought against Axis forces after the June 1940 armistice. Postwar, to settle disputes over the Free French heritage, the French government issued an official definition of the term. Under this "ministerial instruction of July 1953", only those who served with the Allies after the Franco-German armistice in 1940 and before 1 August 1943 may be called "Free French". On 10 May 1940, Nazi Germany invaded France and the Low Countries defeating the Dutch and Belgians, while armoured units attacking through the Ardennes cut off the Franco-British strike force in Belgium.
By the end of May, the British and French northern armies were trapped in a series of pockets, including Dunkirk, Boulogne, Saint-Valery-en-Caux and Lille. The Dunkirk evacuation was only made possible by the resistance of these troops the French army divisions at Lille. From 27 May to 4 June, over 200,000 members of the British Expeditionary Force and 140,000 French troops were evacuated from Dunkirk. Neither side viewed this as the end of the battle. After being evacuated from Dunkirk, Alanbrooke landed in Cherbourg on 2 June to reform the BEF, along with the 1st Canadian Division, the only remaining armoured unit in Britain. Contrary to what is assumed, French morale was higher in June than May and they repulsed an attack in the south by Fascist Italy. A defensive line was re-established along the Somme but much of the armour was lost in Northern France.
Obernai commune in the Bas-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France. It lies on the eastern slopes of the Vosges mountains. Obernai is a growing city, its number of inhabitants having gone up from 6,304 in 1968 to 11,099 in 2006; the metropolitan area of Obernai had 12,369 inhabitants in 2006, from 7,293 in 1968. The Obernai region, the property of the dukes of Alsace in the 7th century, is the birthplace of St. Odile, daughter of the Duke, who would become the Patron Saint of Alsace; the Obernai name first appears in 1240, when the village acquires the status of town under the tutelage of the Hohenstaufen family. The town prospered, it became a member of the Décapole in 1354, an alliance of ten towns of the Holy Roman Empire in Alsace. Obernai's status reaches its apex in the 16th century. In 1562, Emperor Ferdinand I visited the prosperous town of Obernai; the Thirty Years' War damaged the town, occupied by the Imperial troops by the Swedes. The town was ransomed and ceded to France in 1679, started to recover some of its prosperity, without recapturing its former glory.
The town was annexed by Germany in 1871 with the rest of Alsace was returned to France after World War I in 1918. Obernai is an important center of beer production as well as a touristic destination; the industrial activity features the following companies: Hager, Triumph, Sobovia and Stoeffler. The historical wine of the city is called the Vin du Pistolet in reference to a local legend. During the mid-1800s, Obernai was home to a Marianist primary school. Domaine de la Léonardsau: current museum of the horse and the horse carriage. Truttenhausen abbey: old monastery of the regular canons of St-Augustin. Gail Castle: Currently the Freppel High School Oberkirch Castle: rebuilt between 1843 and 1846 with the characteristics of an older fortified castle of the 16th or 17th century. El Biar Castle: Built between 1864 and 1865 on the site of an old flour mill, by General de Vives. Old six-bucket well Clocktower Wheat Market Romanesque house in the rue des Pélerins Old Synagogue Nicolas Léonard Beker Jean-Victor Hocquard, musicologist Charles-Émile Freppel Thomas Murner André Neher Charles Pisot René Schickele John Stintzi, Marianist brother and academic, taught in the village during the 1840s Klevener de Heiligenstein, a wine style produced in Obernai Communes of the Bas-Rhin department Official website
The French Resistance was the collection of French movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and the collaborationist Vichy régime during the Second World War. Resistance cells were small groups of armed men and women, who, in addition to their guerrilla warfare activities, were publishers of underground newspapers, providers of first-hand intelligence information, maintainers of escape networks that helped Allied soldiers and airmen trapped behind enemy lines; the men and women of the Resistance came from all economic levels and political leanings of French society, including émigrés, students, conservative Roman Catholics, citizens from the ranks of liberals and communists. The French Resistance played a significant role in facilitating the Allies' rapid advance through France following the invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, the lesser-known invasion of Provence on 15 August, by providing military intelligence on the German defences known as the Atlantic Wall and on Wehrmacht deployments and orders of battle.
The Resistance planned and executed acts of sabotage on the electrical power grid, transport facilities, telecommunications networks. It was politically and morally important to France, both during the German occupation and for decades afterward, because it provided the country with an inspiring example of the patriotic fulfillment of a national imperative, countering an existential threat to French nationhood; the actions of the Resistance stood in marked contrast to the collaboration of the French regime based at Vichy, the French people who joined the pro-Nazi Milice française and the French men who joined the Waffen SS. After the landings in Normandy and Provence, the paramilitary components of the Resistance were organised more formally, into a hierarchy of operational units known, collectively, as the French Forces of the Interior. Estimated to have a strength of 100,000 in June 1944, the FFI grew and reached 400,000 by October of that year. Although the amalgamation of the FFI was, in some cases, fraught with political difficulties, it was successful, it allowed France to rebuild the fourth-largest army in the European theatre by VE Day in May 1945.
Following the Battle of France and the second French-German armistice, signed near Compiègne on 22 June 1940, life for many in France continued more or less at first, but soon the German occupation authorities and the collaborationist Vichy régime began to employ brutal and intimidating tactics to ensure the submission of the French population. Although the majority of civilians neither collaborated nor overtly resisted, the occupation of French territory and the Germans' draconian policies inspired a discontented minority to form paramilitary groups dedicated to both active and passive resistance. One of the conditions of the armistice was; this burden amounted to about 20 million German Reichsmarks per day, a sum that, in May 1940, was equivalent to four hundred million French francs. Because of this overvaluation of German currency, the occupiers were able to make fair and honest requisitions and purchases while, in effect, operating a system of organized plunder. Prices soared, leading to widespread food shortages and malnutrition among children, the elderly, members of the working class engaged in physical labour.
Labour shortages plagued the French economy because hundreds of thousands of French workers were requisitioned and transferred to Germany for compulsory labour under the Service du Travail Obligatoire. The labour shortage was worsened by the fact that a large number of the French were held as prisoners of war in Germany. Beyond these hardships and dislocations, the occupation became unbearable. Onerous regulations, strict censorship, incessant propaganda and nightly curfews all played a role in establishing an atmosphere of fear and repression; the sight of French women consorting with German soldiers infuriated many French men, but sometimes it was the only way they could get adequate food for their families. As reprisals for Resistance activities, the authorities established harsh forms of collective punishment. For example, the increasing militancy of communist resistance in August 1941 led to the taking of thousands of hostages from the general population. A typical policy statement read, "After each further incident, a number, reflecting the seriousness of the crime, shall be shot."
During the occupation, an estimated 30,000 French civilian hostages were shot to intimidate others who were involved in acts of resistance. German troops engaged in massacres such as the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre, in which an entire village was razed and every resident murdered because of persistent resistance in the vicinity. In early 1943, the Vichy authorities created a paramilitary group, the Milice, to combat the Resistance, they worked alongside German forces. The group collaborated with the Nazis, was the Vichy equivalent of the Gestapo security forces in Germany, their actions were brutal and included torture and execution of Resistance suspects. After the liberation of France in the summer of 1944, the French executed many of the estimated 25,000 to 35,000 miliciens for their collaboration. Many of
History of France
The first written records for the history of France appeared in the Iron Age. What is now France made up the bulk of the region known to the Romans as Gaul. Roman writers noted the presence of three main ethno-linguistic groups in the area: the Gauls, the Aquitani, the Belgae; the Gauls, the largest and best attested group, were Celtic people speaking what is known as the Gaulish language. Over the course of the 1st millennium BC the Greeks and Carthaginians established colonies on the Mediterranean coast and the offshore islands; the Roman Republic annexed southern Gaul as the province of Gallia Narbonensis in the late 2nd century BC, Roman forces under Julius Caesar conquered the rest of Gaul in the Gallic Wars of 58–51 BC. Afterwards a Gallo-Roman culture emerged and Gaul was integrated into the Roman Empire. In the stages of the Roman Empire, Gaul was subject to barbarian raids and migration, most by the Germanic Franks; the Frankish king Clovis I united most of Gaul under his rule in the late 5th century, setting the stage for Frankish dominance in the region for hundreds of years.
Frankish power reached its fullest extent under Charlemagne. The medieval Kingdom of France emerged from the western part of Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire, known as West Francia, achieved increasing prominence under the rule of the House of Capet, founded by Hugh Capet in 987. A succession crisis following the death of the last direct Capetian monarch in 1328 led to the series of conflicts known as the Hundred Years' War between the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet; the war formally began in 1337 following Philip VI's attempt to seize the Duchy of Aquitaine from its hereditary holder, Edward III of England, the Plantagenet claimant to the French throne. Despite early Plantagenet victories, including the capture and ransom of John II of France, fortunes turned in favor of the Valois in the war. Among the notable figures of the war was Joan of Arc, a French peasant girl who led French forces against the English, establishing herself as a national heroine; the war ended with a Valois victory in 1453.
Victory in the Hundred Years' War had the effect of strengthening French nationalism and vastly increasing the power and reach of the French monarchy. During the period known as the Ancien Régime, France transformed into a centralized absolute monarchy. During the next centuries, France experienced the Protestant Reformation. At the height of the French Wars of Religion, France became embroiled in another succession crisis, as the last Valois king, Henry III, fought against rival factions the House of Bourbon and the House of Guise. Henry, King of Navarre, scion of the Bourbon family, would be victorious in the conflict and establish the French Bourbon dynasty. A burgeoning worldwide colonial empire was established in the 16th century. French political power reached a zenith under the rule of Louis XIV, "The Sun King", builder of Versailles Palace. In the late 18th century the monarchy and associated institutions were overthrown in the French Revolution; the country was governed for a period as a Republic, until the French Empire was declared by Napoleon Bonaparte.
Following Napoleon's defeat in the Napoleonic Wars, France went through several further regime changes, being ruled as a monarchy briefly as a Second Republic, as a Second Empire, until a more lasting French Third Republic was established in 1870. France was one of the Triple Entente powers in World War I, fighting alongside the United Kingdom, Italy, the United States and smaller allies against Germany and the Central Powers. France was one of the Allied Powers in World War II, but was conquered by Nazi Germany in 1940; the Third Republic was dismantled, most of the country was controlled directly by Germany while the south was controlled until 1942 by the collaborationist Vichy government. Living conditions were harsh as Germany drained away food and manpower, many Jews were killed. Charles de Gaulle led the Free France movement that one-by-one took over the colonial empire, coordinated the wartime Resistance. Following liberation in summer 1944, a Fourth Republic was established. France recovered economically, enjoyed a baby boom that reversed its low fertility rate.
Long wars in Indochina and Algeria ended in political defeat. In the wake of the Algerian Crisis of 1958, Charles de Gaulle set up the French Fifth Republic. Into the 1960s decolonization saw most of the French colonial empire become independent, while smaller parts were incorporated into the French state as overseas departments and collectivities. Since World War II France has been a permanent member in the UN Security Council and NATO, it played a central role in the unification process after 1945. Despite slow economic growth in recent years, it remains a strong economic, cultural and political factor in the 21st century; the French military has 30,000 troops deployed worldwide performing counter-terrorism missions. Opération Chammal, France's military efforts to contain ISIS, killed over 1,000 ISIS troops between 2014 and 2015. Stone tools discovered at Chilhac and Lézignan-la-Cèbe in 2009 indicate that pre-human ancestors may have been present in France at least 1.6 million years ago. Neanderthals were present in Europe from about 400,000 BC, but died out about 30,000 years ago out-competed by the modern humans during a period of cold weather.
The earliest modern humans – Homo sapiens – entered Europe by 43,000 years ago. The cave paintings of Lascaux and Gargas as well as the Carnac stones are remains of the local prehistoric activity; the first written records for the