Introduction / History The French Republic (France) is located in Western Europe and in several overseas islands and territories located on other continents. France is the largest country in the European Union by land area and the second largest in Europe behind Ukraine. France has been a major power in world political affairs for centuries with strong economic, cultural, military, and political influence. During the 17th and 18th centuries, France colonized much of North America; during the 19th and early 20th centuries, France built the second largest empire of that time, including large portions of Africa, Southeast Asia, and many Pacific Islands.
France is a developed country possessing the fifth largest economy by nominal GDP. It is the most visited country in the world, receiving 82 million foreign tourists annually. France is a founding member of the United Nations and the European Union and is one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council. France possesses the third largest number of nuclear weapons in the world and the largest number of nuclear power plants in the European Union.
In the 4th century AD, Gaul's eastern frontier along the Rhine was overrun by Germanic tribes, principally the Franks, from whom the ancient name of "Francie" was derived. The Franks were the first tribe among the Germanic conquerors of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire to convert to Catholicism. France obtained the title "Eldest daughter of the Church" and the French would adopt this as justification for calling themselves "the Most Christian Kingdom of France".
Existence as a separate entity began with the Treaty of Verdun in 843. Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire was divided into East, Middle, and West Francia. West Francia approximated the area occupied by modern France and was the precursor to modern France. The Carolingian dynasty ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of France. His descendants progressively unified the country through a series of wars and dynastic inheritance.
The monarchy reached its height during the 17th century during the reign of Louis XIV. At this time, France possessed the largest population in Europe and had tremendous influence over European politics, economy, and culture. French became the common language of diplomacy in international affairs and remained thus until the 20th century. Much of the Age of Enlightenment occurred in French intellectual circles, and major scientific breakthroughs were achieved by French scientists in the 18th century. In addition, France obtained many overseas possessions in the Americas, Africa, and Asia.
The monarchy ruled France until the French Revolution in 1789. After a series of short-lived governmental schemes, Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the Republic in 1799, making himself Emperor of what is now known as the First Empire (1804–1814). Following Napoleon's final defeat in 1815, the French monarchy was re-established with new constitutional limitations. France maintained colonial possessions, in various forms, beginning early in the 17th century and lasting until the 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, its overseas colonial empire was the second largest in the world behind the British.
France was an occupied nation in World Wars I and II. The human and material losses in the first war, which left 1.4 million French soldiers dead, exceeded largely those of the second, even though only a minor part of its territory was occupied during World War I. Political uncertainty and struggles for control dominated France during and after the World Wars. Form of government and territorial control was fluid during this time. Most governmental entities were unstable at best and civil war raged frequently.
In 1958, the weak and unstable Fourth Republic (governmental structure) gave way to the notable Fifth Republic that contained a strengthened Presidency. In that role, Charles de Gaulle managed to keep the country together while taking steps to end the civil wars. The Algerian War and Franco-French civil war were ended with peace negotiations in 1962.
In recent decades, France's reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the political and economic integration of the European Union. France enjoys the greatest amount of tourism of any country in the world. Its reputation as being rude to visitors and ambivalent toward the United States, whether deserved or not, remains a hallmark of the experience of visiting France. Many historical, architectural, artistic, culinary, and performance exhibits give tourists many hours of enjoyment.
Where are they located? The French Republic (France) is located in Western Europe and in several overseas islands and territories located on other continents. Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine River to the Atlantic Ocean.
France is bordered (clockwise from the north) by Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Andorra, and Spain. France's overseas territories and areas of influence share land borders with Brazil, Suriname, and the Netherlands Antilles. France is linked to the United Kingdom by the Channel Tunnel that passes underneath the English Channel.
Metropolitan France is situated between the 41st and 51st degree of north latitude on the western edge of Europe and lies within the Northern Temperate Zone. The north and northwest have a temperate climate while a combination of maritime influences and altitude produce a varied climate in the rest of Metropolitan France. In the southeast, a Mediterranean climate prevails. In the west, the climate is predominantly oceanic with a high level of rainfall, mild winters, and cool to warm summers. Inland, the climate becomes more continental with hot, stormy summers, colder winters and less rain. The climate of the Alps region is mainly alpine, with more than 150 of days per year with temperatures below freezing snow cover lasting for up to six months.
What are their lives like? France functions like most of the developed countries of the world. The larger cities are more metropolitan and offer the most modern conveniences while the rural areas are more sedate and modern conveniences are less plentiful. French people are known for possessing a bit of an attitude when it comes to receiving tourists and visitors. A visitor who attempts to converse in the French language may find a more enjoyable exchange with the locals.
France uses the metric system for weights, measures, and volumes. It uses a 24-hour time clock without the AM/PM designations used in the US. Dates are listed in numeric form in the order of day-month-year. The Euro is the currency used in France and most of Europe.
France maintains an active military with air, ground, and naval forces at the ready. They also keep a sizable police force that is equipped to maintain the peace within their cities.
France relies heavily upon nuclear reactors to produce its electricity. They utilize public transportation as much as possible and many citizens do not own cars. The French government and the private sector combine in some cases to promote manufacturing and agricultural job opportunities; however, unemployment problems have plagued France for many years and disputes have arisen between labor unions, government policies, and private enterprises.
France is the most popular tourist destination in the world. Many historical, architectural, artistic, culinary, and performance exhibits give tourists many hours of enjoyment. France features cities of high cultural interest, beaches and seaside resorts, ski resorts, and rural regions noted for their beauty and tranquility. Among the most popular tourist destinations in France are Paris, Lourdes, and several wine and agricultural regions. Attractions visited most often include the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Palace of Versailles, Musee d'Orsay, Arc de Triomphe, Centre Pompidou, Mont Saint-Michel, Chateau de Chambord, Sainte-Chapelle, and Puy de Dome.
With an estimated population of 65.1 million people, France is the 19th most populous country in the world. Its largest cities are Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Toulouse, Nice, and Nantes. France's natural population growth accounts almost entirely for the natural population growth of the entire EU.
France is an ethnically diverse nation with about six million North Africans. It is currently estimated that 40% of the French population descends from different waves of migrations. According to the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies, it has an estimated 4.9 million foreign-born immigrants and 2 million of these have acquired French citizenship. France is the leading asylum destination in Western Europe with an estimated 50,000 applications in 2005.
Professional sports are quite popular in France. Bicycle racing, tennis, golf, rugby, soccer, basketball, and downhill ski racing are among the most popular.
What are their beliefs? Approximately one-half of the French population consider themselves to be Roman Catholic and one-third consider themselves agnostic or atheist. Various smaller groups are listed with Muslim being the most notable at 6% of the population and growing. France is a secular nation with religious freedom granted to all recognized religions. Some very small groups exist that are not afforded the same level of rights due to being considered sects.
What are their needs? France, like most of Europe, is considered 'post-Christian' by many evangelical theologians. What many would consider as 'Bible believing' ministries may be hard to find in most cities. However, small groups of grass-roots missionaries and evangelical church planters may be found in some areas.
Like most places around the world, France needs people who will preach, teach, and demonstrate Biblical Christianity in their everyday lives.
Prayer Points * Pray for God to send laborers into this field of opportunity.
* Pray that He will raise up and equip locals who will take the gospel to their neighbors and to adjoining countries in Europe.