France the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean, it is bordered by Belgium and Germany to the northeast and Italy to the east, Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic and Indian oceans; the country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Toulouse, Bordeaux and Nice. During the Iron Age, what is now metropolitan France was inhabited by a Celtic people. Rome annexed the area in 51 BC, holding it until the arrival of Germanic Franks in 476, who formed the Kingdom of Francia.
The Treaty of Verdun of 843 partitioned Francia into Middle Francia and West Francia. West Francia which became the Kingdom of France in 987 emerged as a major European power in the Late Middle Ages following its victory in the Hundred Years' War. During the Renaissance, French culture flourished and a global colonial empire was established, which by the 20th century would become the second largest in the world; the 16th century was dominated by religious civil wars between Protestants. France became Europe's dominant cultural and military power in the 17th century under Louis XIV. In the late 18th century, the French Revolution overthrew the absolute monarchy, established one of modern history's earliest republics, saw the drafting of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which expresses the nation's ideals to this day. In the 19th century, Napoleon established the First French Empire, his subsequent Napoleonic Wars shaped the course of continental Europe. Following the collapse of the Empire, France endured a tumultuous succession of governments culminating with the establishment of the French Third Republic in 1870.
France was a major participant in World War I, from which it emerged victorious, was one of the Allies in World War II, but came under occupation by the Axis powers in 1940. Following liberation in 1944, a Fourth Republic was established and dissolved in the course of the Algerian War; the Fifth Republic, led by Charles de Gaulle, remains today. Algeria and nearly all the other colonies became independent in the 1960s and retained close economic and military connections with France. France has long been a global centre of art and philosophy, it hosts the world's fourth-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is the leading tourist destination, receiving around 83 million foreign visitors annually. France is a developed country with the world's sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP, tenth-largest by purchasing power parity. In terms of aggregate household wealth, it ranks fourth in the world. France performs well in international rankings of education, health care, life expectancy, human development.
France is considered a great power in global affairs, being one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with the power to veto and an official nuclear-weapon state. It is a leading member state of the European Union and the Eurozone, a member of the Group of 7, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Trade Organization, La Francophonie. Applied to the whole Frankish Empire, the name "France" comes from the Latin "Francia", or "country of the Franks". Modern France is still named today "Francia" in Italian and Spanish, "Frankreich" in German and "Frankrijk" in Dutch, all of which have more or less the same historical meaning. There are various theories as to the origin of the name Frank. Following the precedents of Edward Gibbon and Jacob Grimm, the name of the Franks has been linked with the word frank in English, it has been suggested that the meaning of "free" was adopted because, after the conquest of Gaul, only Franks were free of taxation.
Another theory is that it is derived from the Proto-Germanic word frankon, which translates as javelin or lance as the throwing axe of the Franks was known as a francisca. However, it has been determined that these weapons were named because of their use by the Franks, not the other way around; the oldest traces of human life in what is now France date from 1.8 million years ago. Over the ensuing millennia, Humans were confronted by a harsh and variable climate, marked by several glacial eras. Early hominids led a nomadic hunter-gatherer life. France has a large number of decorated caves from the upper Palaeolithic era, including one of the most famous and best preserved, Lascaux. At the end of the last glacial period, the climate became milder. After strong demographic and agricultural development between the 4th and 3rd millennia, metallurgy appeared at the end of the 3rd millennium working gold and bronze, iron. France has numerous megalithic sites from the Neolithic period, including the exceptiona
The National Gendarmerie is one of two national police forces of France, along with the National Police. It is a branch of the French Armed Forces placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior—with additional duties to the Ministry of Defense, its area of responsibility includes smaller towns and suburban areas, while the Police Nationale—a civilian force—is in charge of cities and downtowns. Due to its military status, the Gendarmerie fulfills a range of military and defense missions; the Gendarmes have a cybercrime division. It has a strength of more than 100,000 personnel as of 2014; the Gendarmerie is heir to the Maréchaussée, the oldest police force in France, dating back to the Middle Ages. It has influenced the culture and traditions of gendarmerie forces all around the world—and in the former French colonial empire; the Gendarmerie is the direct descendant of the Marshalcy of the ancien regime, more known by its French title, the Maréchaussée. During the Middle Ages, there were two Grand Officers of the Kingdom of France with police responsibilities: The Marshal of France and the Constable of France.
The military policing responsibilities of the Marshal of France were delegated to the Marshal's provost, whose force was known as the Marshalcy because its authority derived from the Marshal. The marshalcy dates back to the Hundred Years War, some historians trace it back to the early twelfth century. Another organisation, the Constabulary, was under the command of the Constable of France; the constabulary was regularised as a military body in 1337. In 1415 the Maréchaussée fought in the Battle of Agincourt and their commander, the "Prévôt des Maréchaux", Gallois de Fougières, was killed in battle, his existence was rediscovered in 1934. Gallois de Fougières was officially recorded as the first known gendarme to have died in the line of duty and his remains are now buried under the monument to the gendarmerie in Versailles. Under King Francis I, the Maréchaussée was merged with the Constabulary; the resulting force was known as the Maréchaussée, or, the Constabulary and Marshalcy of France. Unlike the former constabulary the new Maréchaussée was not a militarized force.
In 1720, the Maréchaussée was attached to the Household of the King, together with the "gendarmerie" of the time, not a police force at all, but a royal bodyguard. During the eighteenth century, the marshalcy developed in two distinct areas: increasing numbers of Marshalcy Companies, dispersed into small detachments, were stationed around the French countryside providing law and order, while specialist units provided security for royal and strategic sites such as palaces and the mint While its existence ensured the relative safety of French rural districts and roads, the Maréchaussée was regarded in contemporary England, which had no effective police force of any nature, as a symbol of foreign tyranny. English visitors to France saw their armed and uniformed patrols as royal soldiers with an oppressive role. In 1789, on the eve of the French Revolution, the Maréchaussée numbered 3,660 men divided into small brigades, their limited numbers and scattered deployment rendered the Maréchaussée ineffective in controlling the "Great Fear" of July-August 1789.
During the revolutionary period, the Maréchaussée commanders placed themselves under the local constitutional authorities. Despite their connection with the king, they were therefore perceived as a force favouring the reforms of the French National Assembly; as a result, the Maréchaussée Royale was not disbanded but renamed as the gendarmerie nationale. Its personnel remained unchanged, the functions of the force remained much as before. However, from this point, the gendarmerie, unlike the Maréchaussée became a military force. During the revolutionary period, the main force responsible for policing was the National Guard. Although the Maréchaussée had been the main police force of the ancien regime, the gendarmerie was a full-time auxiliary to the National Guard militia. In 1791 the newly named gendarmerie nationale was grouped into 28 divisions, each commanded by a colonel responsible for three départements. In turn, two companies of gendarmes under the command of captains were based in each department.
This territorial basis of organisation continued throughout the 20th centuries. Under Napoléon, the numbers and responsibilities of the gendarmerie, renamed gendarmerie impériale, were expanded. In contrast to the mounted Maréchaussée, the gendarmerie comprised both foot personnel. In 1804 the first Inspector General of Gendarmerie was appointed and a general staff established—based in the rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré in Paris. Subsequently, special gendarmerie units were created within the Imperial Guard, for combat duties in French occupied Spain. Following the Second Restoration of 1815, the gendarmerie was reduced in numbers to about 18,000 and reorganised into departmental legions. Under King Louis Phillippe a "gendarmerie of Africa" was created for service in Algeria and during the Second Empire the Imperial Guard Gendarmerie Regiment was re-established; the majority of gendarmes continued in what was now the established role of the corps—serving in small sedent
Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, commerce, fashion and the arts; the City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €681 billion in 2016, accounting for 31 percent of the GDP of France, was the 5th largest region by GDP in the world. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, ahead of Zurich, Hong Kong and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong-Kong, in 2018; the city is a major rail and air-transport hub served by two international airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly.
Opened in 1900, the city's subway system, the Paris Métro, serves 5.23 million passengers daily, is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow Metro. Gare du Nord is the 24th busiest railway station in the world, the first located outside Japan, with 262 million passengers in 2015. Paris is known for its museums and architectural landmarks: the Louvre was the most visited art museum in the world in 2018, with 10.2 million visitors. The Musée d'Orsay and Musée de l'Orangerie are noted for their collections of French Impressionist art, the Pompidou Centre Musée National d'Art Moderne has the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe; the historical district along the Seine in the city centre is classified as a UNESCO Heritage Site. Popular landmarks in the centre of the city include the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris and the Gothic royal chapel of Sainte-Chapelle, both on the Île de la Cité. Paris received 23 million visitors in 2017, measured by hotel stays, with the largest numbers of foreign visitors coming from the United States, the UK, Germany and China.
It was ranked as the third most visited travel destination in the world in 2017, after Bangkok and London. The football club Paris Saint-Germain and the rugby union club Stade Français are based in Paris; the 80,000-seat Stade de France, built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, is located just north of Paris in the neighbouring commune of Saint-Denis. Paris hosts the annual French Open Grand Slam tennis tournament on the red clay of Roland Garros. Paris will host the 2024 Summer Olympics; the 1938 and 1998 FIFA World Cups, the 2007 Rugby World Cup, the 1960, 1984, 2016 UEFA European Championships were held in the city and, every July, the Tour de France bicycle race finishes there. The name "Paris" is derived from the Celtic Parisii tribe; the city's name is not related to the Paris of Greek mythology. Paris is referred to as the City of Light, both because of its leading role during the Age of Enlightenment and more because Paris was one of the first large European cities to use gas street lighting on a grand scale on its boulevards and monuments.
Gas lights were installed on the Place du Carousel, Rue de Rivoli and Place Vendome in 1829. By 1857, the Grand boulevards were lit. By the 1860s, the boulevards and streets of Paris were illuminated by 56,000 gas lamps. Since the late 19th century, Paris has been known as Panam in French slang. Inhabitants are known in French as Parisiens, they are pejoratively called Parigots. The Parisii, a sub-tribe of the Celtic Senones, inhabited the Paris area from around the middle of the 3rd century BC. One of the area's major north–south trade routes crossed the Seine on the île de la Cité; the Parisii minted their own coins for that purpose. The Romans began their settlement on Paris' Left Bank; the Roman town was called Lutetia. It became a prosperous city with a forum, temples, an amphitheatre. By the end of the Western Roman Empire, the town was known as Parisius, a Latin name that would become Paris in French. Christianity was introduced in the middle of the 3rd century AD by Saint Denis, the first Bishop of Paris: according to legend, when he refused to renounce his faith before the Roman occupiers, he was beheaded on the hill which became known as Mons Martyrum "Montmartre", from where he walked headless to the north of the city.
Clovis the Frank, the first king of the Merovingian dynasty, made the city his capital from 508. As the Frankish domination of Gaul began, there was a gradual immigration by the Franks to Paris and the Parisian Francien dialects were born. Fortification of the Île-de-la-Citie failed to avert sacking by Vikings in 845, but Paris' strategic importance—with its bridges prevent
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France in the southwest Pacific Ocean, located to the south of Vanuatu, about 1,210 km east of Australia and 20,000 km from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Chesterfield Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of Pines, a few remote islets; the Chesterfield Islands are in the Coral Sea. Locals refer to Grande Terre as Le Caillou. New Caledonia has a land area of 18,576 km2, its population of 268,767 consists of a mix of Kanak people, people of European descent, Polynesian people, Southeast Asian people, as well as a few people of Pied-Noir and North African descent. The capital of the territory is Nouméa; the earliest traces of human presence in New Caledonia date back to the Lapita period c. 1600 BC to c. 500 AD. The Lapita were skilled navigators and agriculturists with influence over a large area of the Pacific. British explorer Captain James Cook was the first European to sight New Caledonia, on 4 September 1774, during his second voyage.
He named it "New Caledonia". The west coast of Grande Terre was approached by the Comte de Lapérouse in 1788, shortly before his disappearance, the Loyalty Islands were first visited between 1793 and 1796 when Mare, Lifou and Ouvea were mapped by William Raven; the English whaler encountered the island named Britania, today known as Maré, in November 1793. From 1796 until 1840, only a few sporadic contacts with the archipelago were recorded. About fifty American whalers have been recorded in the region between 1793 and 1887. Contacts became more frequent because of the interest in sandalwood; as trade in sandalwood declined, it was replaced by a new business enterprise, "blackbirding", a euphemism for taking Melanesian or Western Pacific Islanders from New Caledonia, the Loyalty Islands, New Hebrides, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands into indentured or forced labour in the sugar cane plantations in Fiji and Queensland by various methods of trickery and deception. Blackbirding was practiced by both French and British-Australian traders, but in New Caledonia's case, the trade in the early decades of the twentieth century involved relocating children from the Loyalty Islands to the Grand Terre for labour in plantation agriculture.
New Caledonia's primary experience with blackbirding revolved around a trade from the New Hebrides to the Grand Terre for labour in plantation agriculture, mines, as well as guards over convicts and in some public works. The historian Dorothy Shineberg's milestone study, The People Trade, discusses this'migration'. In the early years of the trade, coercion was used to lure Melanesian islanders onto ships. In years indenture systems were developed; this represented a departure from the British experience, since increased regulations were developed to mitigate the abuses of blackbirding and'recruitment' strategies on the coastlines. The first missionaries from the London Missionary Society and the Marist Brothers arrived in the 1840s. In 1849, the crew of the American ship Cutter was eaten by the Pouma clan. Cannibalism was widespread throughout New Caledonia. On 24 September 1853, under orders from Emperor Napoleon III, Admiral Febvrier Despointes took formal possession of New Caledonia. Captain Louis-Marie-François Tardy de Montravel founded Port-de-France on 25 June 1854.
A few dozen free settlers settled on the west coast in the following years. New Caledonia became a penal colony in 1864, from the 1860s until the end of the transportations in 1897, France sent about 22,000 criminals and political prisoners to New Caledonia; the Bulletin de la Société générale des prisons for 1888 indicates that 10,428 convicts, including 2,329 freed ones, were on the island as of 1 May 1888, by far the largest number of convicts detained in French overseas penitentiaries. The convicts included many Communards, arrested after the failed Paris Commune of 1871, including Henri de Rochefort and Louise Michel. Between 1873 and 1876, 4,200 political prisoners were "relegated" to New Caledonia. Only 40 of them settled in the colony. In 1864 nickel was discovered on the banks of the Diahot River. To work the mines the French imported labourers from neighbouring islands and from the New Hebrides, from Japan, the Dutch East Indies, French Indochina; the French government attempted to encourage European immigration, without much success.
The indigenous population or Kanak people were excluded from the French economy and from mining work, confined to reservations. This sparked a violent reaction in 1878, when High Chief Atal of La Foa managed to unite many of the central tribes and launched a guerrilla war that killed 200 Frenchmen and 1,000 Kanaks. A second guerrilla war took place in 1917, with Catholic missionaries like Maurice Leenhardt functioning as witnesses to the events of this war. Leenhardt would pen a number of ethnographic works on the Kanak of New Caledonia. Noel of Tiamou led the 1917 rebellion, which resulted in a number of orphaned children, one of whom was taken into th
A decree is a rule of law issued by a head of state, according to certain procedures. It has the force of law; the particular term used for this concept may vary from country to country. The executive orders made by the President of the United States, for example, are decrees. In non-legal English usage, the term refers to any authoritarian decision. Documents or archives in the format of royal decrees or farming were issued by rulers. In Belgium, a decree is a law of regional parliament, e.g. the Flemish Parliament. The word décret "decree", is an old legal usage in France and is used to refer to executive orders issued by the French President or Prime Minister. Any such order must not violate the French Constitution or Civil Code, a party has the right to request an order be annulled in the French Council of State. Orders must be ratified by Parliament. Special orders known as décret-loi "decree-act" or "decree-law" considered an illegal practice under the 3rd and 4th Republic, were abolished and replaced by the ordinances under the 1958 Constitution.
Except for the reserve powers of the President, the executive can issue decrees in areas that the Constitution grants as the responsibility of Parliament only if a law authorizes it to do so. In other cases, orders are illegal and, should anyone sue for the order's annulment, it would be voided by the Council of State. There exists a procedure for the Prime Minister to issue ordinances in such areas, but this procedure requires Parliament's express consent. Orders issued by the Prime Minister take two forms: Orders. Sometimes, people refer to décrets en Conseil d'État improperly as décrets du Conseil d'État; this would imply that it is the Council of State that takes the decree, whereas the power of decreeing is restricted to the president or prime minister. Decrees may be classified into: Regulations, which may be: Application decrees, each of which must be authorized by one or more statutes to determine some implementation conditions of this or these statutes. Only the prime minister may issue regulatory or application decrees.
Presidential decrees are nominations or exceptional measures where law mandates a presidential decree, such as the dissolution of the French National Assembly and the calling of new legislative elections. Decrees are published in the Journal Officiel de la République Française or "French Gazette". A decree in the usage of the canon law of the Catholic Church has various meanings. Any papal bull, brief, or motu proprio is a decree inasmuch as these documents are legislative acts of the pope. In this sense the term is quite ancient; the Roman Congregations were empowered to issue decrees in matters which come under their particular jurisdiction, but were forbidden from continuing to do so under Pope Benedict XV in 1917. Each ecclesiastical province and each diocese may issue decrees in their periodical synods within their sphere of authority. While in a general sense all documents promulgated by an ecumenical council can be called decrees. in a specific sense some of these documents, as at the Second Vatican Council, were called more constitutions or declarations.
Canon 29 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law offers a definition of general decrees: General decrees, by which a competent legislator makes common provisions for a community capable of receiving a law, are true laws and are regulated by the provisions of the canons on laws. The Holy See uses decrees from the pope such as papal bull, papal brief or motu proprio as legislative acts. According clause 77 of the Italian Constitution, "The Government may not, without an enabling act from the Houses, issue decrees having the force of ordinary law; when in extraordinary cases of necessity and urgency the Government adopts provisional measures having the force of law, it must on the same day present said measures for confirmation to the Houses which if dissolved, shall be summoned for this purpose and shall convene within five days. The decrees lose effect from their inception if they are not confirmed within sixty days from their publication; the Houses may however regulate by law legal relationships arising out of not confirmed decrees."
The effectiveness for sixty days produces the effects giving rights or expectations whose legal basis was in fact precarious when the conversion law never intervened. In Portugal, there are several types of decrees issued by the various bodies of sovereignty or by the bodies of self-government of autonomous regions. There are the following types of decrees: Decree-law: is a legislative act issued by the Government of Portugal under its legislative powers defined by Article 198 of the Portuguese Constitution.
A passport is a travel document issued by a country's government, that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder for the purpose of international travel. Standard passports may contain information such as the holder's name and date of birth, photograph and other identifying information. Many countries are moving towards including biometric information in a microchip embedded in the passport, making them machine-readable and difficult to counterfeit; as of January 2019, there are over 150 jurisdictions issuing these e-Passports. Issued passports remain valid until each expires. A passport holder is entitled to enter the country that issued the passport, though some people entitled to a passport may not be full citizens with right of abode. A passport does not of itself create any rights in the country being visited or obligate the issue country in any way, such as providing consular assistance; some passports attest to status as a diplomat or other official, entitled to rights and privileges such as immunity from arrest or prosecution.
Many countries allow entry to holders of passports of other countries, sometimes requiring a visa to be obtained, but this is not an automatic right. Many other additional conditions, such as not being to become a public charge for financial or other reasons, the holder not having been convicted of a crime, may apply. Where a country does not recognise another, or is in dispute with it, it may prohibit the use of their passport for travel to that other country, or may prohibit entry to holders of that other country's passports, sometimes to others who have, for example, visited the other country; some countries and international organisations issue travel documents which are not standard passports, but enable the holder to travel internationally to countries that recognise the documents. For example, stateless persons are not issued a national passport, but may be able to obtain a refugee travel document or the earlier "Nansen passport" which enables them to travel to countries which recognise the document, sometimes to return to the issuing country.
Passports are requested in other circumstances to confirm identification such as checking in to a hotel or when changing money to a local currency. One of the earliest known references to paperwork that served in a role similar to that of a passport is found in the Hebrew Bible. Nehemiah 2:7–9, dating from 450 BC, states that Nehemiah, an official serving King Artaxerxes I of Persia, asked permission to travel to Judea. Passports were an important part of the Chinese bureaucracy as early as the Western Han, if not in the Qin Dynasty, they required such details as age and bodily features. These passports determined a person's ability to move throughout imperial counties and through points of control. Children needed passports, but those of one year or less who were in their mother's care might not have needed them. In the medieval Islamic Caliphate, a form of passport was a receipt for taxes paid. Only people who paid their zakah or jizya taxes were permitted to travel to different regions of the Caliphate.
In medieval Europe, such documents were issued to foreign travelers by local authorities and contained a list of towns and cities the document holder was permitted to enter or pass through. On the whole, documents were not required for travel to sea ports, which were considered open trading points, but documents were required to travel inland from sea ports. King Henry V of England is credited with having invented what some consider the first passport in the modern sense, as a means of helping his subjects prove who they were in foreign lands; the earliest reference to these documents is found in a 1414 Act of Parliament. In 1540, granting travel documents in England became a role of the Privy Council of England, it was around this time that the term "passport" was used. In 1794, issuing British passports became the job of the Office of the Secretary of State; the 1548 Imperial Diet of Augsburg required the public to hold imperial documents for travel, at the risk of permanent exile. A rapid expansion of railway infrastructure and wealth in Europe beginning in the mid-nineteenth century led to large increases in the volume of international travel and a consequent unique dilution of the passport system for thirty years prior to World War I.
The speed of trains, as well as the number of passengers that crossed multiple borders, made enforcement of passport laws difficult. The general reaction was the relaxation of passport requirements. In the part of the nineteenth century and up to World War I, passports were not required, on the whole, for travel within Europe, crossing a border was a straightforward procedure. Comparatively few people held passports. During World War I, European governments introduced border passport requirements for security reasons, to control the emigration of people with useful skills; these controls remained in place after the war, becoming a standard, though controversial, procedure. British tourists of the 1920s complained about attached photographs and physical descriptions, which they considered led to a "nasty dehumanization". In 1920, the League of Nations held
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