France Lecture 1

Protected by mountains on both the southwest the

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Unformatted text preview: break the alternating cycle of stern authoritarian rule and chaotic and dysfunctional, democracy ! Major Geographic and Demographic Features •France is a large country—roughly the size of Texas. •By European standards, it is substantial, twice the area of Great Britain and in Europe second in size only to Russia. •It seems even larger because of its span across much of Western Europe •France shares borders with six countries and is at once an Atlantic, continental, and Mediterranean country. ! This geography facilitated foreign commerce but it also exacerbated French feelings of vulnerability. •Protected by mountains on both the southwest (the Pyrenees) and the southeast (the Alps) •No such natural barriers exist between France and Belgium and Germany to the north and northeast. •Through the centuries, this corridor has been the locus of repeated invasions and confrontation. •Abundant mineral resources (in the Saar region) and productive farmland (in Alsace- Lorraine) raised the stakes and aggravated the conflicts. •This vulnerability has also motivated France’s preoccupation with establishing a formidable standing army and a strong centralized state (unlike England, which had a strong navy but a weak army). ! Dealing with Neighborhood Tension •The French solution to vulnerability after World War I was the construction of the Maginot Line, a series of concrete fortifications along the Franco- German border designed to prevent the next war •In the event, Nazi forces simply skirted the defenses and invaded France through Belgium •The French solution after World War II—integration with its long- standing German nemesis in the form of the EU—has proved much more effective ! Demographics •The capital of France is Paris •Paris serves as the administrative, commercial, and cultural nucleus of France. Generations of Parisian bureaucrats have imposed taxes, corvées (mandatory labor assessments), and even the Parisian dialect of French on...
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