French history dates back to 200 B.C. There were tribes called Celts and many other people that lived in what is now France. In 200 B.C. the Roman armies started to invade France. By 121 B.C. the Romans controlled the land along the Mediterranean Sea and in the Rhone Valley. By 51 B.C. Julius Caesar ruled the entire region.
In the 400ís A.D. Germanic tribes invaded from the east, and defeated the Roman Empire. Clovis, King of the Franks, first defeated the Roman governor of Gaul in 486 A.D. Then went on to defeat other Germanic tribes, enlarging his empire. Clovis was the first in the line of Merovinian rulers.
From the 600 Ė 1000ís A.D., in the early years of the middle ages, manors were found all over France. Manors were large estates owned by landlords or lords. The lords offered protection to the poor people called serfs. In the mid 600ís the Merovinian kings became weak rulers. Pepin, the chief royal advisor, soon took over most of the royal powers. Pepinís son, Charles Martel, then made the familyís power stronger by conquering an Arab army in 732. Pepin the Short, son of Charles Martel took over power from the last Merovinian ruler. And became king of the Franks in 751. Pepin the Short established the Carolingian dynasty. And enlarged the Frankish kingdom. Pepinís son, Charlemagne was the most powerful defeated of all time. After he became king of the Franks he went on more than 50 campaigns, and enlarged his kingdom far beyond the borders of what is now France. In 814 Charlemagne died. His three grandsons later fought among themselves for control of his huge empire. By the late 900ís, the Carolingian king had lost a lot of power.
In 987BC, the nobles ended the Carolingian dynasty. The nobles chose Huge Capet as their king, who started the Capetian dynasty. For over 300 years every Capetian king had a son to succeed him to the throne. Phillip II was one of the most important of the Capetian kings. After he took the throne in 1180, he doubled the size of the royal domain. He also developed Paris as a permanent capital. The last Capetian king died without a male heir to the throne in 1328. A cousin, Phillip VI, took the throne. In 1337 Phillip declared that he would take the French land of King Edward the III of England. King Edward was the nephew of the last Capetian king, and he claimed the French throne. This was the start of the Hundred Yearsí War, a series of wars between the French and the English.
In the 1500ís a religious movement called the Reformation occurred in France. Catholics and Protestants fought a series of civil wars that lasted over 30 years.
Between 1500 and 1700, the French kings and their ministers (high government officials) grew stronger. France became a strong nation, mainly because of the ministers. In 1661, after the death of the prime minister, King Louis XIV decided he would be his own prime minister. In 1865, Louis began to persecute the Protestants. Nearly 200,000 fled France. Louis tried to rule Europe, but was stopped by England, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, and other nations.
In the 1700ís France began to collect taxes. And formed an army. Royal courts supported law and order. Nobles (People who could afford to buy their offices from the king at very high prices) did not have to pay taxes. Franceís population grew during this time. And food shortages and famine became more and more common. In 1786 France proposed a new land tax so that they did not become bankrupt. Many people did not favor the new tax, and out of this crisis the French Revolution was born.
In 1789, commoners formed an assembly. And declared that they had the power to write a new constitution. The king began to gather troops around Paris to break up the commoners. A large crowd of Parisians captured the royal fortress called Bastille. King Louis was forced to give up. In 1792 France went to war against Austria and Prussia, who wanted to get King Louis back on the throne. The French revolutionaries imprisoned the king and his family. And declared France a republic. During the French Revolution, a young officer named Napoleon Bonaparte was named general in 1793. His power grew fast and by 1812 he had conquered most of central and Western Europe.
In the 1860ís, France became aware of the growing strength of Prussia. After a number of arguments, France declared war with Prussia in 1870. After one year, France won the war.
In the early 1900ís France had many arguments over colonial property. Soon after the start of WWI Germany invaded France. The worst fighting faced by the French army was in a city called Verdun in 1916. German armies launched many attacks, and many French troops were killed. The Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919. France and other allied nations were awarded payments for war damages from Germany. The French did a lot to be friends with Germany. France signed an agreement that forced Czechoslovakia to give territory to Germany in 1938, this was the Munich Agreement.
Two days after World War II started in 1939 France and Britain declared war on Germany. The Germans launched a major attack on France on June 5th, and March into Paris on June 14th. The Germans occupied the northern 2/3 of France, while southern France remained under French control. On June 6, 1944, allied troops landed in France at Normandy. On August 15, 1944 the Allies invaded southern France, and on August 25, 1944 they entered Paris. In 1945, France became a charter member of the United Nations.