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About France
 
History
The oldest traces of human life (homo) in what is now France date from approximately 1.8 million years ago.[20] Humans were then confronted by a hard and variable climate, marked by several glacial eras which led them to a nomadic hunter-gatherer life.[20] France has a large number of decorated caves from the upper Paleolithic era, including one of the most famous and best preserved: Lascaux[20] (approximately 18,000 BC). At the end of the last glacial period (10,000 BC), the climate softened[20] and from approximately 7,000 BC, this part of Western Europe entered the Neolithic era and its inhabitants became sedentary. After strong demographic and agricultural development between the 4th and 3rd millennia, metallurgy appeared at the end of the 3rd millennium, initially working gold, copper and bronze, and later iron.[21] France has numerous megalithic sites from the Neolithic period, including the exceptionally dense Carnac stones site (approximately 3,300 BC). Gaul Main articles: Gaul, Celts, and Roman Gaul In 600 BC, Ionian Greeks, originating from Phocaea, founded the colony of Massalia (present-day Marseille), on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. This makes it France's oldest city.[22][23] At the same time, some Gallic Celtic tribes penetrated parts of the current territory of France, and this occupation spread to the rest of France between the 5th and 3rd century BC.[24]
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Republics and Empires
After the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, the absolute monarchy was abolished and France became a constitutional monarchy. Through the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, France established fundamental rights for French citizens (who could only be male). The Declaration affirms "the natural and imprescriptible rights of man" to "liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression". It called for the destruction of aristocratic privileges and proclaimed freedom and equal rights for all men, as well as access to public office based on talent rather than birth. The monarchy was restricted, and all citizens were to have the right to take part in the legislative process. Freedom of speech and press were declared, and arbitrary arrests outlawed. The Declaration also asserted the principles of popular sovereignty, in contrast to the divine right of kings that characterized the French monarchy, and social equality among citizens, eliminating the privileges of the nobility and clergy. While Louis XVI, as a constitutional king, enjoyed popularity among the population, his disastrous flight to Varennes seemed to justify rumours he had tied his hopes of political salvation to the prospects of foreign invasion. His credibility was so deeply undermined that the abolition of the monarchy and establishment of a republic became an increasing possibility.
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Geography
Metropolitan France is situated mostly between latitudes 41° and 51° N, and longitudes 6° W and 10° E, on the western edge of Europe, and thus lies within the northern temperate zone.

From northeast to southwest, France shares borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Spain and Andorra. France also borders Suriname to its west and Brazil to its east and south, by way of the overseas region of French Guiana, which is considered an integral part of the Republic.[58]

Corsica and the French mainland form Metropolitan France; Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion, and Mayotte form, with French Guiana, the overseas regions. These two integral groupings, along with several overseas collectivities and one territory, comprise the French Republic.

The European territory of France covers 547,030 square kilometres (211,209 sq mi),[58] the largest among European Union members.[16] France possesses a wide variety of landscapes, from coastal plains in the north and west to mountain ranges of the Alps in the south-east, the Massif Central in the south-central and Pyrenees in the south-west.

At 4,810.45 metres (15,782 ft)[59] above sea level, the highest point in Western Europe, Mont Blanc, is situated in the Alps on the border between France and Italy. France also has extensive river systems such as the Seine, the Loire, the Garonne, and the Rhone, which divides the Massif Central from the Alps and flows into the Mediterranean Sea at the Camargue. Corsica lies off the Mediterranean coast.
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Climate
The north and northwest have a temperate climate, while a combination of maritime influences, latitude and altitude produce a varied climate in the rest of Metropolitan France.[62] Most of France in the south has a Mediterranean climate that prevails. In the west, the climate is predominantly oceanic with a high level of rainfall, mild winters and warm summers. Inland the climate becomes more continental with hot, stormy summers, colder winters and less rain. The climate of the Alps and other mountainous regions is mainly alpine, with the number of days with temperatures below freezing over 150 per year and snow cover lasting for up to six months.
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