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Genealogy Chat Friends' French Research


Special thank you to Applepie_43 who did the original GCF French Genealogy Research Page

A Quick French History Lesson

Colonies were founded on the Mediterranean coast now which is France by Greek colonies in 600 B.C. very little was known about this region. Julius Ceaser began his conquests in 58 B.C. The tribes who were present in France were called Gauls by the Romans. Gallic legends and traditions have been a part of the culture of France. The region was richly endowed with prosperous cities with works of Roman and Gallic engineering and buildings.

Gaul experienced violent invasions and destruction after 180 A.D. by Visigoths, Vandals, Burgundians and many other invaders passed through conquering parts of it.

476 A.D the Western Roman Empire came to an end and Gaul was left to defend itself. The Franks, a Germanic tribe entered Gaul and by 486 A.D. had united under Clovis. Converted to Christianity in 496 The Franks graddually conquered Gaul. But they were unable to maintain control over some of these areas.

Merovingians power passed to the mayors of the palace. Eventually these mayors took over the kingship titles, and in this way the Carlovingians became the ruling dynasty of the region and that was the beginning to be called France.

Charles the Great (768-814) also known as Charlemagne raised the Frankish people to great power in Western Europe, He also ruled parts of Germany and Italy. At this time France became a great battlefield defending itself from Viking and other groups. Huge castles sprang up replacing towns that were ruble from the fighting. People began locking themselves up in these Castles for protection against the uprisings, violence that spread over Western Europe. The citizens sold their freedom for protection. The Age of Feudalism had come to France. After the death of Charlemagne  this area fell apart only a small part remained around the area of what is Paris. Capet who founded the third dynasty of French nobility. His family ruled France for 800 years.

The Capetian rulers increased their control over the people of France and established order. This was done at the expense of Feudal elements and the increase of the middle class and non feudal groups in the area.

Louix IX (1226-1270)  Overcame the feudal practices and became popluar to all groups His capital was known as the intellectual center of Europe. He died while on Crusade in the Holy Land.

The Crusades began in 1096 and lasted until the Fourteenth Century. Most leaders in the first four Crusades were of French nobility. France learned many lessions in warfare and recived from the Crusades the benfits of greater commerice and quickened industrial activity. These things helped acheive the Rennaisance in France and helped to lift them from the dark ages.

The French Dynasties were always challenged by England ruler Henry the II (1154) and his sons Richard and John but the French rulers were able to hold most of their land from the first English powers.

Edward III, (1328) challanged the French throne. The fighting began in 1337 and lasted for over 100 years. This was called the Hundred year war. During this time Joan of Arc inspired French arms and brought Charles VII to the throne of France. Joan was captured and burned at the stake as a witch. And the French armies were able to drive England from France. by 1461. After this war French people became more united. The next two centuries brought more discord caused by religious persecution.

The Protestant Reformation-The Protestants did not have a strong effect on France as it did in other countries in Europe. But large populations that did become Protestant were persecuted by Catholics. Under Louix XIV(1643-1715) The Sun King did much to make the French empire the center of the Western Civilization. This came to an end in 1789 when Louis XVI oveturned the throne by a revolution. The French Revolution abolished the divine rights and replaced it with a political authority. This Bloody Civil war ended when Napoleon Bonaparte took control. Napolean led the nation to conquests and empire building that ended with his defeat in Waterloo. A town in Belgium.

The First Empire was suceeded by the Second Monarchy (1848-1852) Memories of Napolean were revived during the short second empire that lasted from 1852-1870. led by Napolean the III. France unfortunatly had conflict with an newly unified Germany and was beaten and then revolution overthrew the empire creating the Third Republic (1875)

In World War I France became the main Battleground. Although victorious it weakened France. WWI started in 1914.

World War II began in 1939. Once again German armies crossed into France. This time the nations's resistance against a large German army only lasted six weeks. The government was set up to administer the German Occupation. During this time the French government officials were exiled and and functioned out of England. Under the leadership of Charles De Gaulle, French Gorilla fighters called the resistance worked closely with De Gaulle headquarters and the allies. Following the invasion by the Allies, France was liberated by October 1944. De Gaulle retired in 1946.

The Fourth Republic lasted from 1946 to 1958 lost major French colonies including those in the Middle East, But it made a bitter and vain effort to retain Algeria. Recalled to take leadership of the Fifth Republic De Gaulle granted independence to Algeria in 1962. He resigned again in1969. Many of his policies were continued by George Pompidou.

While France evaded Communisim, it has drifted more to socialism, culminating with the election in May of 1981 of Francois Mitterrand a socialist Candidate..--by Applepie_43

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