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The Celtic Gauls were the first inhabitants of France in 1500 and 500 BC. By 52 BC, they lost the territory to Julius Caesar and in the 5th century, the Franks and other Germanic groups took over the country. During the Middle Ages, there were many wars for succession and both the Capetian Dynasty as well as the Crusades left their impact on France.

In the 17th century, Cardinal Richelieu established an absolute monarchy and France started becoming more important on the European stage. Monarchy lasted until the reign of Louis XV, when the Parisian masses who were increasingly dissatisfied with the disparity in wealth, revolted. This is known as the French Revolution. Although it gave rise to the radical Jacobins, led by Robespierre, Danton and Marat, it ultimately turned on them for imposing dictatorial control.

The legendary Napoleon Bonaparte assumed domestic power in 1799 and embarked on a mission to conquer most of Europe. He was finally vanquished by the English at Waterloo and exiled to the remote South Atlantic island of Saint Helena, where he died in 1821. Napoleon is still remembered as a hero because of his constitutional and legal policies and reforms.

During WWI and WWII, the country suffered heavy losses despite being part of the winning forces. However, it recovered largely due to American aid.

France is one of the founders of the European union as well as United Nations.