France: An Introduction
France is sometimes represented as a hexagon (see p. xvi). The coasts of the Channel and then the Atlantic, the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean sea, the Alps and the Jura, the Vosges and the Rhine and the long land frontier with Luxembourg and Belgium seem to outline a regular pattern. The shape of France is not, however, the consequence of some long and rational process of geometrical ncatness. It emerged only slowly, as successive French kings extended their control from their heartland around Paris, conquering Normandy, driving the English out of the South West and the West (Calais, the last English outpost, fell to the French in January 1558) asserting their domination over Burgundy (1481) and Provence (1491), and incorporating Brittany into the kingdom (1532). At the beginning of the nineteenth century Napoleon extended the sphere of metropolitan French administration into the Low Countries and parts of Germany and Northern Italy. In 1815 the Treaty of Vienna redefined France’s borders: Savoy and the town of Nice, which had been annexed during the Revolution were then lost. They were to return in 1860. The bitter history of Alsace (mostly incorporated into France in 1648) and Lorraine (incorporated in 1766) which were conquered and attached to the German Empire in 1870, regained by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, conquered again in 1940 and liberated in 1945 left a deep mark on French historical consciousness.
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