France, known since 1875 as the French Republic, is a transcontinental sovereign state whose metropolitan territory extends into Western Europe and whose overseas territory extends into the Indian, Atlantic, Pacific oceans, as well as in Antarctica and South America. The country has land borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Monaco, and Andorra in Europe, to which are added land borders with Brazil, Suriname, and the Netherlands in the Americas. France has significant maritime frontages on the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Pacific, and the Indian Ocean – allowing it to benefit from the second largest exclusive economic zone in the world.
Since the promulgation of the constitution of the Fifth Republic in 1958, France has been a unitary constitutional republic with a semi-presidential system. Its capital is Paris, and its official language is French, the language of administration since 1539. As of January 1, 2022, the population of France was reportedly approximately 68 million residents and growing.
During the Iron Age, the territory of metropolitan France was inhabited by the Gauls (Celtic people), before being conquered by the Roman Republic in 51 BC. The Franks (Germanic people) settled in this region in the 5th century and founded the Carolingian Empire in the 9th century. The empire was partitioned in 843, and West Francia became the kingdom of France, a major power in Europe since the Middle Ages. In 1789, the French Revolution adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, marking the end of the old regime and absolute monarchy, as well as the spread of revolutionary ideas. The country thereafter experienced several changes in institutional regime (First Republic, First Empire, Restoration, July Monarchy, Second Republic, Second Empire) until the definitive advent of the Republic following the defeat against Prussia and the civil war of 1871. Between the mid-16th century to the mid-20th century, it conquered the second largest colonial empire behind the British Empire.
From the 1950s, it was one of the actors in the construction of the European Union, one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and a member of NATO. France is also a member of the G7, the G20, the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie and the euro zone, and is home to the headquarters of several international organizations including the Council of Europe, UNESCO, OECD, Interpol, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
With the fifth largest defense budget in the world, it is the seventh largest military power in the world and in the top five in terms of housing nuclear warheads. It exercises a notable influence in political, economic, military, linguistic, and cultural matters – in Europe and across the rest of the world.
Producing a nominal GDP of $3,013 billion USD in 2022 according to the IMF, France was that year the third largest European economy after Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as the seventh largest economy in the world. It displays a “very high” standard of living on the HDI ranking. It is among the world leaders in the agri-food, aeronautics, automobile, tourism, nuclear, fashion, and luxury sectors.
Since 2016, France has been divided into 18 administrative regions: 13 regions in metropolitan France (including Corsica), and five overseas. These regions have been further subdivided into 101 departments, which are numbered mainly alphabetically. The department number is used in postal codes and was formerly used on vehicle registration plates. Among the 101 French departments, five (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Réunion) are in overseas regions (ROMs) that are simultaneously overseas departments (DOMs), enjoying the same status as metropolitan departments – so they are thereby included in the European Union.
The 101 departments are subdivided into 335 arrondissements, which are, in turn, subdivided into 2,054 cantons.
These cantons are then divided into 36,658 communes, which are municipalities with an elected municipal council. Three communes—Paris, Lyon and Marseille—are subdivided into 45 municipal arrondissements.
Centre-Val de Loire (Orléans)
Grand Est (Strasbourg)
Pays de la Loire (Nantes)
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (Marseille)