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Stretching across western Europe, from the English Channel (la Manche) to the Mediterranean Sea, France was Europe’s first modern republic, and is still a leading industrial power.
Geography: Broad plain covers northern half of the country. Tall mountain ranges in the east and southwest, with a mountainous plateau in the center.
Climate: Three main climates: temperate and damp northwest; continental east; and Mediterranean south.
People and Society: Strong French national identity coexists with pronounced regional differences, including local languages. Immigration laws have been tightened since the 1970’s, but ethnic minorities growing up in city suburbs feel increasingly alienated. New rules aim to bring more women into politics.
The Economy: Chemicals, electronics, heavy engineering, cars, and aircraft typify a strong and diversified export sector. World leader in cosmetics, perfumes, and quality wines. Modernized agriculture.
Insight: France is the most popular tourist destination in the world, with over 80 million visitors a year
Official Name: French Republic
Date of Formation: 987
Population: 62.3 million
Total Area: 211,208 sq. miles (547,030 sq. km)
Density: 294 people per sq. mile
Languages: French*, Provençal, other
Religions: Catholic 88%, Muslim 8%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Buddhist 1%
Ethnic Mix: French 90%, North African 6%, German 2%, Breton 1%, other 1%
Government: Mixed presidential–parliamentary system
Currency: Euro = 100 cents