The French are a Romansh-speaking titular nation in western Europe . Together with other Romansh-speaking and non-Romance-speaking minorities, they make up the national people of France . Some minorities in France see themselves ethnically as Bretons , Occitans , Alsatians , Catalans , Basques or Corsicans . They thus claim the status of their own ethnic group for their respective group and in this way distinguish themselves from the titular nation of the "French" in the ethnic sense. In many cases, however, there are also multiple identities.
Modern myths about ancient ancestors
The French national myth begins with the Celts ( Gauls ), the Indo-European tribe that was the earliest to break up and penetrate the furthest west, and in the five centuries up to the conquest by Caesar (from 58 BCE) its own culture had developed. The most powerful tribes included the Arverni in the Auvergne mountains and the Äduer between the Saône and Loire . The Indo-European Celts had previously pushed the indigenous population (e.g. Ligurians ) to the south, only a branch of the Iberians , the Aquitans, has survived to this day in small remnants in the western valleys of the Pyrenees . The name Gascogne (vasconia) recalls the earlier further expansion of the Basques , which in France - as in Spain - have not retained their national special status.
After the Roman conquest, the majority of the Celtic nobility had acculturated or assimilated, and large parts of the Celtic population were then merged with the Romans to form a Gallo-Roman population or at least mixed and Romanized . They enjoyed Roman civil rights and had been Christianized by the 4th century at the latest.
“Gaul was quickly Romanized, after two generations Gallic nobles added a Roman name to their Celtic name. Vercingetorix, a Celtic barbarian in Romanized Gaul, was forgotten and only rediscovered in the 19th century. "
A national monument for the legendary Gaul prince Vercingetorix was only in 1864 by Napoleon III. erected, his defiant surrender to Caesar was elevated to a national myth after the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870/71).
Mixtures of the Migration Period
The Christianized Gallo-Roman population was subjugated in the course of the migration of peoples in the south-east, initially by Burgundians , in the south-west by Visigoths and finally all of them by Salian Franks (also Toxandrian ) Franks . This tribe broke away from the Ripuarian Franks around Cologne around 420 and is said to have migrated under Faramund to what is now the Belgian and northern French area, according to legend . The victory of the Franks over the Alemanni in the Battle of Zülpich was later highlighted in the Louvre as the beginning of French history. For their part, however, the Franks themselves were a colorful mixture of “free” tribes. Compared to six to ten million subjugated Gallic Romans, the upper class of the Frankish conquerors only numbered a few hundred thousand, with the (Catholic) baptism of the Frankish king Clovis (around 500) they joined the local nobility, and a new mixed population gradually emerged. From the 10th century onwards, the Normans in Normandy were added to the Germanic peoples of the Great Migration . It was here that the Gallo-Roman majority's ability to assimilate was most evident: within a few generations, the Normans were completely absorbed in them and Francophone Normans conquered England and southern Italy.
The non-Romanesque (Celtic) Bretons , who also immigrated as part of the migration of peoples in the 5th century, have retained their cultural peculiarity and identity to this day.
In the course of the formation of a universal Catholic empire under Charlemagne , the Gallo-Roman culture had acquired a cosmopolitan character. After the division of the empire in 843, the unity of the Gallo-Roman nation became apparent for the first time with the emergence of the new language. In the north and east, most of the former settlement area of the Germanic Franks fell to Eastern Franconia (later Germany) during the division of the empire , while the Gallo-Roman language dominated in western France (later France). Until the 10th century, however, both Carolingian-West Franconian and East Franconian rulers adhered to the unity of the empire, at least ideally , so most historians only postulated the emergence of the first French state with the coronation of Hugo Capet (987).
Nation and nation-state in the Middle Ages
Martin von Tours is the patron saint of 3,700 parishes in France, 400 parishes bear his name
The crusader Louis IX. was canonized in 1297.
Joan of Arc was rehabilitated in 1456 and canonized in 1920.
The mixing of Franks and Gallo Romans had taken place from north to south to varying degrees. In the south there were still Burgundian and Gothic settlements for a while, in the north and east Frankish settlement remains. In addition, around 1000, southern France formed a Romance language bridge, more to Spain (Occitanians, Catalans) than to northern France. These differences were promoted by the interim weakness of the Parisian royalty towards regional dukes and later towards English kings.
As a result of several key events in the Middle Ages, a French nation or an early nation-state emerged
- The combined attack of the German Emperor Heinrich V and the English King Heinrich I in 1124 gave rise to a French national feeling for the first time, and since 1140 ( Historia Karoli Magni et Rotholandi ) Francia prevailed instead of Gallia as the self-designation of the entire kingdom. André Maurois sets the birth of the national community with the victory at Bouvines in 1214.
- During the Crusades , the northern and southern French fought together, their leader Louis the Saint († 1270) became the French national saint
- With the Albigensian Crusade and the conquest of the county of Toulouse , the religious, cultural and state unification was completed, the southern French were henceforth under the rule of the northern French, the growing together to a nation of France began
- the Gallicanism contributed to an emerging independent of Rome Catholic Church National
- In the Hundred Years War , France asserted its national independence from an English dynasty, a French nation-state emerged, which, through the hatred of the English troops in broad sections of the population, led to the development of a French nation, Joan of Arc († 1431) Ludwig) to the national saint (in mutual delimitation from one another arose alongside the French as well as the English nation)
- the danger of a Burgundian counter-empire was averted by the division of the Burgundian inheritance and the French nation-state rounded off
Against the background of a possible division of the nation into Catholics and Huguenots, the poet Pierre de Ronsard immortalized in his national epic the figure of Francis, who was only invented in the Middle Ages , an ancestor of the French supposedly descended from the ancient hero Hector Kings, and thus invented a legend that the French nation descended from both Troy and Rome.
National consciousness of modern times
The French finally developed national consciousness as a result of the French Revolution from 1789. The nation did not define itself in the ethnic sense as a demarcation from neighboring peoples, but in the democratic sense as a representative of the will of the people and thus as a sovereign opponent against an absolute kingship. It was not the residents of Paris or the French-speaking Catholics, but the delegates of the Third Estate who proclaimed themselves to be part of the National Assembly ( ball house oath ). The nation became a nation-state , they do not consisted primarily of ethnic French, but from Citoyen and the electorate with civil rights and republican ideals.
The non-French-speaking citizens were assimilated and Frenchized through compulsory military service and later through compulsory schooling or the associated compulsory use and dissemination of the official language. B. Occitan almost entirely. The closed with the papacy Concordat of 1801 confirmed the majority position of Catholicism and led at the same time the separation of state and religion , until 1905 with the Law of Separation of Church and State of secularism was established by law.
The new self-confidence of the bourgeoisie, referring to the Roman Republic (e.g. Brutus), which finally culminated in the execution of the king (1793), also spread to the French peasantry (which at that time made up 90% of the population) in the Revolutionary Wars . and developed into a sense of mission . The Grande Nation looked henceforth as a champion of democracy and freedom and the unification of Europe under French domination, which even after the defeat of Napoleon stopped ( July Revolution of 1830 , the February Revolution in 1848 , the Paris Commune in 1871, student riots in 1968 ). Marianne became the symbol of freedom and the idealistic prototype of the French woman.
Napoleon I, however, had already replaced the Roman republican model with the Roman imperial model (Caesar) in 1799 and strived for French supremacy, as had been the case under Charlemagne and the Sun King Louis XIV . As a representative of popular sovereignty , Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of the French ( empereur des Français ), not Emperor of France . The empire with 50 million inhabitants included millions of Germans, Dutch, Italians and Croats as French citizens. The Bourbon Restoration endeavored to replace the bourgeois-liberal-republican ideals with religious-monarchist content (for example, the Bourbon troops that invaded Spain in 1823 to suppress the liberal revolution were called the "100,000 sons of St. Louis" , the Dominican and Jesuit mission overseas was sponsored). But since the Orient Crisis or the Rhine Crisis of 1840 at the latest , a nationalistic note was added, the religious component fell behind at the latest with the end of the monarchy and the French-Spanish intervention in favor of the Pope in Rome. From 1852 Napoleon III propagated . also panlatinism . In this way, a civilizational and missionary awareness of mission arose in the colonialist field, which after the defeat in the Franco-German War also produced revanchist chauvinism and shortly after the end of the First World War (1919) led to a renewed French claim to hegemony over Europe.
In the post-war period, Gaullism brought about a renewal of French national consciousness on the right : instead of Catholic-conservative or fascist ideas, there was a positive reference to the achievements of the French Revolution (and, in its wake, the republican form of government and secularism) and the achievements of the Resistance , the two modern founding myths of France. In the self-image of the French Republic , the French nation is not an ethnic group; the French constitution rejects the idea of an ethnic classification that goes beyond citizenship . This is countered by nationalist or racist views, which deny that French citizens , who come from areas outside of European France, belong to the French nation because of their skin color, religion or ethnic origin.
A hundred million French
As early as 1868, the Americanophile publicist and France's later US ambassador Lucien-Anatole Prévost-Paradol had his Emperor Napoleon III. pointed out to France's importance in the Mediterranean area and warned that it would take up to 100 million French people on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea to assert sufficient validity for a global hegemony claim against Anglo-Saxon, German and Russian rivals. The colonial expansion (to Morocco and Tunisia) was supposed to prepare “ living space ” and “people's strength ” for a corresponding population growth.
At the time of its greatest expansion (between the two world wars) the (Second) French colonial empire had around 45 million inhabitants, the French metropolitan area ( France métropolitaine ) numbered around 40 million, while the “hereditary enemy” Germany or the contiguous settlement area of the Germans in Central Europe about 80 million inhabitants. By 1960 the population of France had risen to almost 46 million, but France had since lost some colonies (Syria / Lebanon 1943/46, Indochina 1953/54, French India 1949/56, Morocco and Tunisia 1956/57, Guinea 1958). The population of the remaining colonies had grown to just under 54 million.
As early as 1848 and 1871, France had declared Algeria and in 1916 the four most important cities of Senegal ( Quatre Communes ) to be integral parts of France; some of the inhabitants received French civil rights, which were primarily associated with compulsory military service. Thus, Blaise Diagne , the mayor of Dakar, elected to the French National Assembly while hundreds of thousands of Algerians and Senegalese fought on French soil for France in both world wars and fell. France kept a total of 1.5 million additional soldiers in reserve in its colonies.
As part of an " assimilation policy ", France tied native elites into the administration of its colonies to a greater extent than Great Britain, Belgium or Portugal, in order to supplement and disguise the colonialist system. In Guadeloupe and Chad, for the first time, there was a black African governor, Félix Éboué , who in 1940 became the first French colony to join the " Free France " of General Charles de Gaulle , thus supporting the tradition of republican France against that of conservative restoration. The former colonial minister Jacques Stern promoted the assimilation of the "colored" French.
But the civil rights granted to the local population were initially restricted and reserved for a few; the secular republic included e.g. B. granted the majority of Algerian Muslims full civil rights, which ultimately contributed to the failure of the "assimilation policy". After 1945, the French Fourth Republic promised integration on an equal footing. In 1945, in addition to Algerians and Senegalese, all inhabitants of the colonies became formally equal citizens , but it was not until 1957 that universal suffrage replaced an electoral system that was disadvantageous to the natives of the colonies.
French Union and French Community
The colonial empire was replaced in 1946 by a Union française (French Union) between the mother country and the remaining colonies that had been converted into autonomous subsidiary republics , followed by the Communauté française (French community) in 1958 . The Popular Front government Léon Blum had already sought such a union in 1937. Foreign policy, defense, finance, long-term economic planning, strategic raw materials, control of the judiciary, education and communication systems should remain under the competence of the Union or the Community. Instead of citizenships of the individual member republics, there was only citizenship of the Union, which, however, was not identical to French citizenship. The official language was French.
- “The colonial empire is dead. We built the Union in its place. France enriched, ennobled and enlarged, will tomorrow have 100 million citizens and free people. "(Pierre Cot)
- "France has not given up its dream of an empire of 100 million French." ( Ralph Bunche )
But in 1960 the desired community of 100 million francophone citizens finally collapsed, the autonomous republics became independent nation states, Algeria followed in 1962. By 1980, the Comoros, Djibouti and Vanuatu also separated from France. France, Canada, Belgium and the former colonies have been trying to maintain at least an ideal (and to some extent also economic) cohesion in Francophonie since 1970 .
Birth Rate and Immigration
Nevertheless, the catchphrase of “a hundred million French” was repeatedly taken up and revised by French and African politicians in the years that followed. An alternative interpretation came to de Gaulle and Michel Debrés' post-war plan to promote the birth rate and population growth in France through numerous state perks and facilities. This was also an experience from the military defeat against Nazi Germany in 1940. Even the Vichy regime under Marshal Pétain had tried to achieve an increase in the birth rate, at that time the lowest in Europe, a policy that in the post-war period - favored by increasing economic prosperity - was maintained, reinforced from around 1960 by immigration.
- It must be 100 million French. If this does not come about through birth, then through immigration. (Michel Debré)
In fact, between 14 and 15 million (22-23%) of France's 64 million population today have a migrant background , but most of their parents and ancestors are immigrants from other European countries. Since the independence of the colonies , millions of North African and West African immigrants have come to the former mother country in waves. As children of Union citizens, many of them are legally entitled to French citizenship. Many immigrants live in the new housing estates that have been built since the 1970s in the banlieue on the outskirts of major French cities. The integration of these immigrants has so far only partially succeeded, which creates unease about immigration and fears of foreign infiltration among the native French. a. led to electoral successes for right-wing extremist parties such as the Front national .
According to British historian and author Paul Johnson, if the French nation ever reached 100 million, half would be North African Muslims. Western Europe had to counteract this with higher birth rates, argued Johnson in 2006 in the Jewish World Review . Adolf Hitler had already expressed himself more decidedly in Mein Kampf when he castigated France as "neglected" because of its policy of assimilation. But even the satirical Simplicissimus had caricatured French colonial policy as “racial mixing” as early as 1904.
It was not until 1995 that the communauté , which had become meaningless, was also dissolved in formal legal terms. All the former member states (France and the subsidiary republics, including Togo and Cameroon) together already had almost 200 million inhabitants at that time, and the former states of the Union even more than 330 million. However, there are only around 131 million native French speakers worldwide, around 60 million of them in Africa (Haarmann). 88 million native speakers live in the 32 countries in the world where French is the official language.
France today has around 64 million inhabitants, 94% of whom are French citizens (MSN Encarta). For 86% and 88% (Haarmann) of them, French is the mother tongue.
The majority of the population is Catholic, with the figures ranging from 51% (Le Monde des religions) to 64% (Foreign Office) and 75% (Fischer Weltalmanach 2010) to 88% (CIA). Around 5 million (8%) are Muslims, mainly from North and West Africa. There are also 1–3% Protestants and Jews, the rest are mainly atheists and non-denominationalists. According to a study by the PewResearch Center in 2008, only a minority of 37% of French people describe themselves as "religious" (including 9% as "very religious"). Both are the lowest values among the countries examined. The study also reveals prejudices against Muslims and Jews .
The non-Catholic French had already been effectively excluded and expelled by the Huguenot Wars (until 1598) and by the repeal of the Edict of Nantes by the Edict of Fontainebleau (1685). Francophone Swiss , the majority of whom are Calvinist or Reformed, therefore rarely refer to themselves as French. However, the Catholic Walloons are considered to be the French Community of Belgium .
By 1960 (Catholic) Christians made up around 45% and Muslims over 30% of the 100 million French (over 30 million Muslims and 10 million Christians in the African subsidiary republics alone), before 1958 (loss of Morocco, Tunisia and Guinea) the proportion was Muslims even higher. (Then there were the Buddhists from Indochina.)
In the 19th and 20th centuries, many immigrants came from Eastern Europe , Western Asia and Indochina , including Poles , Armenians and Lebanese , who were absorbed into the population. Famous examples here are Marie Curie and the Armenian-born chanson singer Charles Aznavour . Since the end of the 19th century, numerous Italians , and since the 1960s also Portuguese, came to the country as guest workers and often stayed permanently. a. the football legend Michel Platini . Especially in the south of France, after the defeat of the left in the Spanish Civil War, numerous politically persecuted Spaniards and Catalans settled there ("Red Spaniards"), among others. a. the father of Raymond Domenech . Numerous foreigners also acquired French citizenship as mercenaries in the Foreign Legion .
Populations of French descent
French emigrants had founded colonies overseas as early as the 17th and 18th centuries, and the settlements persisted even after the loss of the (First) Colonial Empire (1763). Descendants of French emigrants in Canada are the Québécois , the Acadians and the Francophone Canadians ("French Canadians") of the other provinces, a total of over 7 million Francophone native speakers. Citizens of the United States who have French ancestry are called Franco-Americans . The majority are French Canadians who immigrated to New England during industrialization . In addition, there are Cajuns and Francophone Creoles descended from French-Canadian emigrants in the US state of Louisiana , where a majority of Americans in this state have French or Creole ancestors, but only 4.7% speak French as their mother tongue.
A total of 9,616,700 Americans (2.8%) have French or Creole and a further 2,184,200 (0.6%) French-Canadian ancestors, but only 1,355,800 (0.5%) speak French and a further 629,000 (0.2%) Creole as mother tongue. Of these native French speakers, only 21.8% are proficient in English, compared to 43.3% of Creoles. In addition, 600,000 French citizens live as foreigners in the USA.
There are also many ethnic groups, some of which are of French origin, such as the Métis in North America (Indian descent), Creoles of the Caribbean and Africa (of French and African descent, in the Caribbean also Indian roots) and the Europolynesians (of French and Polynesian descent).
A feeling of closeness and solidarity felt by many French over other francophone nations and ethnic groups in the world, such as the Belgian Walloons , the Swiss French-speaking Swiss or Canadian Québécois. The latter are often referred to as “cousins”, which across the Atlantic is perceived as derogatory. 120,000 French citizens still live in Belgium and 75,000 in Switzerland between French-speaking Switzerland and Wallonia. Another 300,000 French live in Italy, plus 200,000 Francophone Valdostans in the Italian Aosta Valley .
French immigrants also came to Germany and were assimilated over time. An important group of such immigrants in the 17th and 18th centuries were the Huguenots , who found refuge in the Netherlands and England and their colonies as well as in Switzerland and the Protestant German states, especially in Brandenburg-Prussia . The proportion of Huguenots in Berlin was around 20% around 1700, around 10% around 1800 and a good 1% around 1900.
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