Acquired many overseas territories in previous two centuries, often in direct competition with Britain. Invaded by Germany in August 1914, at the start of the First World War. Founder member of the Allied coalition which defeated Germany on 11 November 1918. Provinces of Alsace and Lorraine returned from German control. Second World War started 3 Sept 1939, but initially only a ‘Phoney War’ (Drole de Guerre).
On 10 May 1940 Nazi Germany invaded France. French and British forces were quickly forced into retreat, and by early June 1940 large parts of northern France were over-run by German forces. Some elements of the French Government wanted to fight on, while a larger faction decided to negotiate a surrender. In mid June former French government minister General de Gaulle publicly called for France to continue fighting. Following the French Government’s signing of the surrender document on 22 June 1940, French exiles in Britain, under the leadership of General de Gaulle, formed the Free French Forces to continue the fight outside of France.
Following the surrender, France was partitioned into a German-run northern region and a French-run southern region. The latter was administered by a semi-fascist puppet government based in the town of Vichy, and so became known as Vichy France.
7 November 1942 Allies invade North Africa, and following clashes with Vichy units, many defect to Allied Cause. 27 November 1942 Vichy Government disbanded and Germany & Italy occupy entire country. 6 June 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy. May 1945 end of Second World War. 1945-1954 operations to reestablish control of French Indochina fail. 1951 France joins NATO. November 1956 Suez Campaign in Egypt alongside Britain. 1 November 1954-1962 war to prevent Algerian independence eventually fails. Initiated slow decolonisation process during 1960’s. Possesses nuclear weapons. Founder member of European Community. Major participant in Gulf War of 1991, and NATO Operations ‘Deny Flight’/’Determined Force’ over Bosnia and ‘Allied Force’ over Kosovo.