France (officially the French Republic), is a unitary sovereign state comprising territory in western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean; France covers 640,679 square kilometres and has a population of 66.6 million. It is a semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the nation's largest city and the main cultural and commercial centre. The Constitution of France establishes the country as secular and democratic, with its sovereignty derived from the people.
Since its beginning in 843 France had been a monarchy, but by the late 18th century the monarchy was overthrown in the French Revolution. One legacy of the revolution was the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, one of the world's earliest documents on human rights, which expresses the nation's ideals to this day. France was governed as one of history's earliest Republics until the Empire was declared by Napoleon, who dominated European affairs and had a long-lasting impact on Western culture. Following his defeat, France endured a tumultuous succession of governments: an absolute monarchy was restored, replaced in 1830 by a constitutional monarchy, then briefly by a Second Republic, and then by a Second Empire, until a more lasting French Third Republic was established in 1870.
The French Third Republic (French: La Troisième République, sometimes written as La IIIe République) was the system of government adopted in France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed, until 1940, when France's defeat by Nazi Germany in World War II led to the formation of the Vichy government in France. It came to an end on 10 July 1940.
Vichy France (in French, Régime de Vichy) is the common name of the French State (État français) headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain during World War II. In particular, it represents the southern, unoccupied "Free Zone" (zone libre) that governed the southern part of the country.
The French Fourth Republic was the republican government of France between 1946 and 1958, governed by the fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic, which was in place before World War II, and suffered many of the same problems. France adopted the constitution of the Fourth Republic on 13 October 1946.
The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, introduced on 4 October 1958. The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the French Fourth Republic, replacing the prior parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system. It is France's third-longest-enduring political regime, after the pre-revolutionary Ancien Régime and the Third Republic.
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