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This chronology of the history of France covers 2,000 years of history. It begins with Roman Gaul, the ancestor of France. It will take more than a millennium, between the 5th and 16th centuries, for France to acquire its name, its geographical cohesion and the awareness of its inhabitants of belonging to a nation.
From Roman Gaul to the Carolingians
Conquered by Julius Caesar in 52 BC, Gaul became one of the most prosperous provinces of the Roman Empire. At the beginning of the 5th century, it was invaded by so-called barbarian peoples, including the Franks who imposed themselves under Clovis. Charlemagne resuscitated the empire for a time from Gaul. The quarrels among his successors mark the beginning of the emergence of the French and German nations. The election as King of France of Hugues Capet ushers in a new era.
1st century before our era: the Romans settle in the south of Gaul.
52 before our era: The coalition of Gallic tribes led by Vercingetorix is defeated in Alésia by Julius Caesar. Gaul becomes a Roman province for four centuries.
177 : First persecutions of Christians in Gaul, which does not prevent the new religion from making rapid progress there.
257 : Several barbarian tribes, including Franks, cross the Rhine. Repulsed, they will eventually settle in Gaul as federated peoples.
406 : The irruption of the Huns in Eastern Europe causes a gigantic migratory wave of barbarian peoples which swept over Gaul: Franks in the north, Burgundians in the east, Visigoths in Aquitaine.
448 : The Frankish tribes choose themselves for chief Mérovée, at the origin of a new dynasty.
451 : Near Troye, a coalition of Gallo-Romans, Visigoths and Franks led by General Aetius defeats the huns of Attila.
486 : Clovis imposed himself at the head of the Franks and defeated the last Gallo-Roman state and then the Visigoths.
496 (?): After having repelled an attack by the alamans in Tolbiac and at the head of almost all of Roman Gaul, Clovis converted to Christianity.
6th-7th century : The Frankish kingdom is several times divided then reunified by the descendants of Clovis.
628 - 638 : During the reign of Dagobert I, the Abbey of Saint Denis was founded, which later became the burial place of the kings of France.
639- 752 : The Merovingian rulers gradually ceded power to the “mayors of the palace”.
732 : The mayor of the Charles Martel palace puts an end to an Arab incursion near Poitiers.
752 : Pépin le Bref, son of Charles Martel, deposits the last Merovingian and becomes crowned king in Reims.
771 : Charlemagne becomes sole king of the Franks and considerably enlarges his domain in forty years of wars.
800 : Charlemagne, who reigns over the Frankish, Germanic and Italic worlds, is crowned emperor in Rome by the pope.
843 : Charlemagne's grandsons share the empire in Verdun. Charles the Bald becomes the first king of France.
845 - 912 : Multiple Norman incursions ravage the kingdom.
877 : Through a collection of ordinances, inherited from the conceded fiefdoms, Charles the Bald lays the foundations of the feudal system.
987 : On death without a direct heir to the last Carolingian (Louis V), the great of the kingdom elect King Hugues Capet.
From the beginning of the Middle Ages, the kingdom of France was divided into a multitude of fiefdoms, held by lords in theory vassals of the king. Gradually, the French monarchy, which had become hereditary, was consolidated and strengthened. Several rulers, such as Philippe Auguste and Saint Louis contributed to the prestige of the Capetian dynasty. The Hundred Years' War will lay the seeds for the awareness of belonging to the French nation.
987 : Hugues Capet is crowned king and sacred in Noyon.
1066 : The Norman Duke William the Conqueror seizes the English crown and transposes the feudal system there.
1095 : The monk Peter the Hermit preaches the crusade. The Frankish Crusaders seized Jerusalem in 1099.
1152 : Louis VII separates from Eleanor of Aquitaine, who marries the King of England Henry II. The western half of France came under English rule. The two monarchies become lasting rivals.
1180-1223 : Reign of Philip II known as Augustus, who considerably enlarged the royal domain and carried out reforms of the royal administration.
1214 : Victory of Philippe-Auguste at Bouvines over the Germanic Emperor and the King of England. This battle is often cited as the founding act of the kingdom of France.
1220-1129 : Crusade against the Albigensians: the kings of France take advantage of the fight against the Cathar heresy to extend their influence in the south.
1250 : Party on a crusade, King Louis IX is taken prisoner in Egypt after the battle of Mansourah. Freed against a ransom that will bring the kingdom to its knees, the fervent Christian monarch dies of the plague in Tunis and becomes Saint.
1285-1314 : Reign of Philip IV the Fair. It accelerates the movement of centralization of the monarchy and affirms its independence vis-à-vis the Pope for religious affairs (Gallicanism). He had a French pope elected who transferred the papal see to Avignon.
1312 -1314 : After the dissolution of the Order of the Temple and the confiscation of its property by Philip II, its main leaders are condemned to the stake.
1328 : On death without a direct heir to Charles IV, the great of the kingdom conveniently issue a Salic law to remove King Edward III of England (grandson of Philip IV) from the succession and choose Philippe de Valois to occupy the throne.
1337 - 1364 : Hundred Years War between France and England, marked by a series of conflicts, and military disasters for the French knighthood: Crécy (1346), Poitiers (1356), Azincourt (1415).
1347-1348 : Beginning of the black plague epidemic in France which will ravage the kingdom, already badly affected by the war. A third of the population will succumb to it.
1420 : After the sinking of Azincourt, the Treaty of Troye gives the crown of France to the King of England. A refugee in Bourges with his supporters, the Dauphin Charles will remain in a precarious situation until the Joan of Arc episode.
1431 : After delivering Orleans and contributing to the coronation of Charles VII in Reims, Joan of Arc died at the stake in Rouen.
1450-1453 : With the victories of Formigny and Castillon, Charles VII dismisses the English threat and restores the prestige of the Capetian monarchy.
From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment
The end of the Hundred Years War also marks the end of the Middle Ages in France. The Renaissance begins in a cohesive, powerful and densely populated kingdom. A time weakened by the wars of religion, the former regime will experience its peak during which royal absolutism and enlightenment will coexist.
1461 -1484 : Reign of Louis XI. Cunning and politically savvy, Louis XI meticulously rid himself of Burgundian competition and aggregated many territories which made France a kingdom in one piece.
1491 : Marriage of Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany. The duchy will be definitively attached to the kingdom in 1532.
1494 : Beginning of the calamitous wars of Italy, which will be the obsession of three French monarchs (Charles VIII, Louis XII and François Ier) and whose only benefit will be the introduction in France of the Renaissance.
1515 : François Ier begins his reign with fanfare with the victory over the Swiss at Marignan.
1525 : Defeat of Pavia. Taken prisoner, François Ist must accept heavy territorial losses for the benefit of Charles Quint. As soon as he was released, he denounced the treaty and waged several wars against the emperor, without results.
1539 : By the ordinance of Villers-Cotterêt, French becomes official language of the kingdom.
1562 - 1598 : Wars of Religion in France, opposing Catholics and Calvinists. They will cause many victims (Saint-Barthélémy, 1572) and will end with the edict of Nantes (1598).
1589 : After the assassination of Henri III, the Bourbon and Huguenot Henri IV becomes king of France. He will convert to Catholicism to consolidate his throne. The kingdom, under the leadership of Sully, returned to prosperity and expanded in Béarn, Bugey and Bresse.
1610 : Assassination of Henri IV by Ravaillac. Marie de Médicis exercises the regency for her son, the future Louis XIII.
1624 : Having become principal Minister of State, Cardinal Richelieu inaugurates a policy aimed at consolidating royal power to the detriment of the nobility and Protestants. He does not hesitate to take from the rear the Habsburgs who surrounded France by allying with the German Protestant princes during the Thirty Years War.
1630 : Fool's Day. Yet another plot failed to overthrow Richelieu, who retained the king’s support until his death in 1642.
1635 : Foundation by Richelieu of the Académie française.
1643 : Death of Louis XIII. Anne of Austria exercises regency with Cardinal Mazarin for her son the future Louis XIV. They will have to face the Fronde (1648-1653), the last attempt to oppose the march towards royal absolutism.
1648 : The Treaty of Westphalia which ends the Thirty Years' War grants Alsace to France. The war against Spain (Battle of the Dunes, 1658) did not end until 1559 with the Treaty of the Pyrenees. France wins Roussillon there and Louis XIV marries Marie-Thérèse, daughter of the King of Spain.
1661 : Death of Mazarin. louis XIV announces that he will exercise personal reign from now on.
1662 : Colbert takes the place of Superintendent Fouquet, disgraced. He will promote a resolutely interventionist and mercantilist economic policy, and will renovate the Royal Navy.
1664 : Start of construction in Versailles.
1668 - 1697 : Several wars allow the kingdom to expand from Franche-Comté and southern Flanders. The kingdom is getting closer to its hexagonal shape which will inspire Vauban's policy of the “pre-square”, with the construction of numerous defensive works.
1685 : Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Protestant elites leave the kingdom.
1701 - 1713 : War of the Spanish Succession. Louis XIV laboriously imposes his grandson Philippe on the Spanish throne.
1710 : Death of Louis XIV, whose reign was the longest in the history of France. Philippe of Orleans exercised the regency for Louis XV until 1723.
1748 : Victory of Fontenoy. While France is in a strong position in the War of the Austrian Succession, Louis XV voluntarily removes nothing from the conflict.
1763 : End of the Seven Years' War. Defeated, France loses almost all of its first colonial empire (North America, India).
1766 : Lorraine is united with France.
1768 : Genoa cedes Corsica to France.
1772 : Diderot completes his encyclopedia.
1774 : Death of Louis XV. Begun under the best auspices, the reign of the “beloved” ends in a twilight atmosphere.
1776 - 1783 : To embarrass her hereditary enemy England, France joins forces with the insurgents in America.
1783 : First flight of a free balloon (hot air balloon) in Annonay (Ardèche).
1789 : After the failure of several reform attempts, Louis XVI summons the Estates General in Versailles (May 5). The Third Estate proclaims itself the National Assembly (June 17) and the storming of the Bastille (July 14) symbolizes the end of the Ancien Régime.
Revolution (s) and Empire (s)
From 1789 and the fall of the Ancien Régime, France entered a long period of political instability, with an alternation of revolutions and attempts to return to the old order. The main achievements of the Revolution nevertheless endured and France saw the flourishing of the bourgeoisie as the economy entered the industrial revolution.
1789 : The National Assembly proclaims the abolition of feudal privileges (August 4) as well as the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (August 26).
1790 : Having become a constitutional monarchy, France is divided into 83 departments.
1791 : Flight of the king, who was arrested in Varennes. France annexed Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin.
1792 : End of royalty (August 10) and proclamation of the republic (September 21), the day after Valmy's victory.
1793 : At the end of his trial, Louis XVI, now Louis Capet, is condemned to death and guillotined. Revolutionary France is at war against almost all European monarchies.
1794 : The tricolor flag is adopted. Fall of Robespierre (July 27-28). French military success, especially at Fleurus.
1795 - 1799 : Management Board regime. Five directors share executive power. In northern Italy, Bonparte led a victorious campaign against the Piedmontese and the Austrians.
1798 : Bonaparte’s Egyptian Expedition. Scientific successes cannot hide the military setback.
1799 : Coup d'etat of 18 Brumaire. Bonaparte takes power and is appointed consul.
1804 : Bonaparte becomes hereditary emperor under the name of Napoleon I and crowns himself at Notre Dame de Paris.
1805 : After the naval disaster of Trafalgar (October 21), Napoleon defeated Russia and Austria at Austerlitz (December 2).
1806 - 1809 : After a series of victories (Jena, Auerstaedt, Friedland, Wagram), Europe folds before Napoleon.
1812 : The Russian campaign, after leading the Napoleonic armies to Moscow, turns into disaster.
1813 - 1814 : As a result of the defeat of Leipzig against a united Europe, France is invaded. Napoleon must abdicate for the first time.
1815 : The hundred days. Defeated at Waterloo (June 18), Napoleon abdicates a second time. Louis XVIII becomes king of France again.
1821 : Death of Napoleon at Saint Helena.
1824 : Charles X ascends the throne after the death of Louis XVIII.
1830 : France begins to conquer Algeria (capture of Algiers).
1830 : The insurrection of the three glorious years (July 27,28,29) led to the abdication of Charles X. Louis-Philippe I became king of the French and established a liberal regime.
1848 : A Parisian insurrection provokes the fall of Louis-Philippe and the proclamation of the Second Republic, which undertakes many reforms: abolition of slavery, working time at 10 am, universal suffrage (male). Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte becomes President of the Republic.
1852 : Proclamation of the Second Empire. Napoleon III is proclaimed emperor (December 2). Authoritarian and then liberal, the Second Empire saw a few short-lived military expeditions (Crimea 1854, Mexico 1862) and above all sustained economic growth.
1860 : France receives Nice and Savoy, cession validated by a referendum, as the price of its support for the new kingdom of Italy against the Austrians.
1870 - 1871 : Napoleon III imprudently declares war on Prussia July 19, 1870). After the disaster of Sedan and the rout of the French armies, the imperial dynasty fell. The provisional government led by Gambetta must demand an armistice. France loses Alsace and Lorraine.
France of the republics
The Third Republic, which was the longest period of institutional stability in French history, was a period of strong economic development, educational reform and colonial expansion until it was won by the defeat of 1940. the fourth which succeeds it will last only a dozen years, before General de Gaulle, who has returned to power, establishes a strong presidential regime, the Fifth Republic.
1871 : After the defeat against Prussia, the insurrectionary Commune of Paris opposes the government, which took refuge in Versailles. After the fall of the Commune, Thiers receives the title of President of the Republic.
1875 : Marshal Mac-Mahon is elected President of the Republic, which rules out a return of the monarchy.
1880 : First celebration of the national holiday on July 14.
1880 - 1881 : Ferry Law, primary education becomes compulsory, secular and free.
1889 : The Eiffel Tower is inaugurated during the Universal Exhibition in Paris.
1898 : The Dreyfus affair, which began 4 years earlier, takes a national turn with the publication of Zola's "Jaccuse".
1904 : France is approaching Great Britain in a cordial understanding to face the central empires.
1905 - 1906 : The Concordat of 1801 is abolished and a law separates the churches from the State.
1914 : Germany declares war on France (August 3). Tensions in Europe and the assassination of the Archduke, heir to the Austrian throne in Sarajevo on June 28, triggered the First World War. In September, the German offensive was halted during the Battle of the Marne.
1916 : Battle of Verdun (February-December), which will cause several hundred thousand dead and wounded.
1917 : Clemenceau becomes chairman of the board, with the sole mission of winning the war.
1918 : After the failure of a final German offensive, the allies reinforced by the United States gain the upper hand. The armistice is signed on November 11. At the end of the war, France had 1.4 million dead and 1 million disabled, as well as immense material destruction.
1919 : Through the Treaty of Versailles, France regains Alsace and Lorraine.
1924 : Victory in the legislative elections of the Left Cartel.
1929 : Start of construction of the Maginot Line.
1936 : Victory of the Popular Front in the legislative elections. Léon Blum leads social reforms on work, wages and paid holidays.
1939 : Declaration of war on Germany (September 3), which has just invaded Poland.
1940 : On May 10 the Germans go on the offensive. After the breakthrough in the Ardennes, the French army is routed. Marshal Pétain takes power (June 16) to conclude an armistice, while from London, General De Gaulle calls for resistance (June 18).
1942 : The Pétain regime, which collaborates with Nazi Germany, has several thousand Jews arrested and deported during the Vél’hiv ’roundup (July 16-17).
1944 : Allied landing in Normandy (June 6, Overlord), then in Provence (August 15). Entry of the 2nd DB into Paris released on August 25.
1945 : Surrender of Germany. Republican institutions are reestablished in France with the election of a constituent assembly. Nationalization of banking establishments, Renault, and the energy and insurance sector (1945 - 1946).
1946 : Resignation of De gaulle (January). Beginning of the Fourth Republic and election of Vincent Auriol as President.
1954 : After the fall of Diên Biên Phu (May), Mendès-France negotiates the Geneva agreements on Indochina. Beginning of the insurrection in Algeria (December).
1957 : The Treaty of Rome creates the European Economic Community (EEC, March 25).
1958 : The Fourth Republic being unable to resolve the Algerian conflict, De Gaulle returns to power. Adoption of the new constitution of the Fifth Republic (September 28, 1958).
1962 : Through the Evian Accords (March 18), Algeria gains independence. A referendum establishes the election of the President of the Republic by universal suffrage. De Gaulle will be re-elected to this function in 1965.
1968 : May events. Students then employees go on strike. The Grenelle agreements grant wage increases and a reduction in working time.
1969 : After the failure of the referendum on the reform of the Senate and the regions, General de Gaulle resigns. Georges Pompidou succeeds him.
1970 : death of General de Gaulle in Colombey (November 9).
1974 : After the death of Pompidou (April 2), Valéry Giscard d´Estaing was elected President of the Republic. His seven-year term will be marked by societal reforms and the onset of the economic crisis which follows the first oil shock.
1981 : Election of François Mitterrand, first president of the Fifth from the left. Numerous social and societal reforms: increase in the minimum wage, 39-hour week, 5th week of paid leave, retirement at age 60, abolition of the death penalty ...
1986 : The right wins the legislative elections and Jacques Chirac becomes Prime Minister of “cohabitation”.
1988 : Re-election of François Mitterrand. Michel Rocard becomes Prime Minister. Agreement on New Caledonia.
1992 : Ratification of the Maastricht Treaty (September 20). The Single European Act establishes an economic union, an area without borders and a single currency: the euro.
1995 : Jacques Chirac is elected president of the republic. Two years later, after the left's victory in the 1997 legislative elections, Lionel Jospin became prime minister.
2002 : Entry into force of the Euro (January 1). Jacques Chirac is re-elected president.
2005 : Failure of the referendum for a European constitution.
2007 : Election of Nicolas Sarkozy as President of the Republic.
2007 - 2009 : The Lisbon Treaty gives birth to a new legal entity: the European Union.
2014 : François Hollande becomes president of the republic.
2015 : France is the target of a series of terrorist attacks, claimed by Islamic terrorists.
2017 : Emmanuel Macron becomes the 8th President of the Republic.
To go further on the history of France
- Chronology of the history of France: from the origins to the present day. Bescherelle culture, 2017.
- Small chronology of the history of France. Southwest, 2012.
- 1515 and the major dates in the history of France. Points Histoire, 2008.