France is a country located in Europe, it also has territories elsewhere, but I’ll talk about that later. 675,000 km² including 551,000 in Europe, the country’s population is of around 67 million inhabitants. The capital is Paris and it is a republic semi-presidential. Citizens are led to vote directly for their president. Geo Physics Let’s take a quick look at where the mountains are: Alps, Massif Central, Pyrenees, Vosges, Jura and so on. You could say that the east is more mountainous than the west.
And let’s take a quick look at the rivers: The Seine, the Loire, the Garonne, the Rhône and the Rhine. If not in terms of climate, oceanic, continental and Mediterranean climate. Otherwise, this territory was administratively divided into approximately 36,000 communes. The number drops every year. Which is a huge number especially in comparison with other countries Europeans, Germany for example has three times less. These municipalities are the heritage Catholic parishes of the old regime since 1789. The municipalities are divided into departments, too, set up in 1789, their number has evolved and today there are 101, to which we have added since 2015 a metropolis, a metropolis of Lyon which has become independent from its original department. Then these departments were divided into regions, originally 26 in number,
some merged on January 1, 2016, they are now only 18. The commune of Paris has 2 million inhabitants, with its agglomeration, it would rather make it 10.11 or even 12 million inhabitants. Lyon and Marseille are the two largest agglomerations after Paris, with around or almost 2 million inhabitants each. The other big cities of the country are Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille, Nice, Nantes, Strasbourg. Each having a regional role. But France remains a well centralized country, a case far from unique in the world. Paris brings together between 10 and 20% of the country’s population. In the future, what is projected is that the regions gain in power, that the departments are removed and the most populated municipalities are replaced by metropolises. This is decentralization. This decentralization began in 1982 when the departments and regions began to get their own assemblies. Outside of Europe, France also has territories which are either the same statutes, such as Guadeloupe or Réunion which have a regional assembly and an assembly departmental each. Then there are Guyana, Martinique and Mayotte which have an assembly unique both regional and departmental. The other territories have particular statutes: Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, Saint-Barthélemy, Saint-Martin, Wallis-et-Futuna, French Polynesia and New Caledonia are overseas communities but are apart in the administration. They have one greater autonomy, in particular New Caledonia which is almost a country apart. Besides, Grande Terre, the main island of New Caledonia is the largest island French.
The Southern and Antarctic Lands and Clipperton Island are overseas territories. They have no autonomy, moreover they have no inhabitants. The official language of France, since 1992 is French which is a native language of Île-de-France, itself from the language of OIL, including various dialects are spoken in the north of France. The current dialects of the Oil language such as Norman or Burgundian can be considered as dialects of French. In addition to the language of Oil, two other quite similar languages can be considered as variants of French, Occitan, from the south of France and Francoprovençal, spoken in the East.
There is Breton, which is a Celtic language, like Irish for example. Flemish is historically spoken in the far north of France. In Alsace, there is Alsatian, which is a Germanic language. In Roussillon, there is Catalan, a Romance language like French but not Gallo-Romance. France includes part of the Basque Country, the other part being in Spain. We talk there Basque, which is a completely isolated language. It existed before the arrival of Latin. Finally in Corsica, Corsica is spoken, which can be considered as an Italian language. Obviously, overseas, we also speak other languages. Either indigenous languages, or Creole languages. All these regional languages are very little spoken today due to a policy of standardization.
The Council of Europe, of which France is a member, asks its member countries to try to promote its regional languages, but France has not ratified the charter concerned. In short, to standardize all these territories, they must be linked. As for overseas, practically everything is done by plane, with direct flights from Paris, except for the Pacific where stopovers are mandatory, but that’s because it’s too far. Otherwise, if we look at the road network, it is well developed outside the mountains.
The same goes for the highways which adjoin the main cities of the country. The major axis of country can be considered as being the one starting from Lille towards Marseilles while passing by Paris and Lyon. The highway was completed between 1969 and 1971. Otherwise, France has developed one of the first high-speed rail networks (TGV) in Europe with first a line between Paris and Lyon in 1981 then with a real network in a star over the 1990s and 2000s. Whether it is the highways or the TGV, these networks have the effect of creating tunnel effects. Regions are crossed by major axes but without benefiting from them.
Indeed, if we look at the density map, some regions are very sparsely populated. An axis going from the North-East to the South-West is even called the diagonal of the void. Yet the villages are very numerous there. Historically, France is a country with a large population, but declining fertility and the rural exodus have emptied some regions. Moreover, it is the construction of transport infrastructure that has enabled to recover a lot of labor from the countryside, labor that will be brought to live in the city afterwards. Since the 1950s, these sparsely populated regions have hosted various artificial lakes.