Skip to main content


Published on November 21, 2007

58 BC - 481 AD Roman conquest of Celtic Gaul. Gallo-Roman civilization.

481-987 Meovingian and Carolingian dynasties. Sweeping invasions from the east. Hugh Capet, elected King of France, founds the Capetian dynasty.

11th-13th centuries Development of agriculture and trade. Emergence of towns. Royal power gains ground over feudal lords. Economic and cultural role of the great monastic orders. Crusades.

14th-15th centuries Epidemics (Black Death, 1397), famine and civil wars. Rivalry between France and England: Hundred Years’ War, epic of Joan of Arc (1425-1431). Territorial alliances and reconstitution of the kingdom. Development of agriculture, the population and trade. First Italian wars and start of the Renaissance in France.

16th century The Reformation. Religious wars between Catholics and Protestants. Reign of Henry IV (1589-1610). Edict of Nantes grants freedom of conscience and worship (1598).

1610-1715 Reigns of Louis XIII and Louis XIV. Royal power at its peak; France dominates Europe, French culture spreads. Start of large-scale sea trade.

18th century Reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. Economic and demographic growth. Age of Enlightenment. Absolute monarchy challenged.

1789-1799 French Revolution. Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (26 August 1789). Abolition of the monarchy (1792). First Republic. Directory. Consulate.

1799-1815 Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul, then Emperor of the French (1804). Establishment of modern administrative institutions, codification of the law. European wars lead to abdication of the Emperor.

1815-1848 Restoration and constitutional monarchy (Louis XVIII, Charles X). Revolution of 1830. Reign of Louis-Philippe. Economic prosperity. Rapid development of industrialization. First railways. First colonies established.

1848-1852 Revolution. Second Republic. First laws on labour, the press and education.

1852-1870 Coup d’Etat by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon I. Second Empire. Political liberalization (1860). Period of strong growth and colonial expansion.

1870-1875 Franco-Prussian war resulting in the loss of Alsace and Lorraine and the fall of Napoleon III. Paris Commune (1871). Third Republic.

1875-1914 Parliamentary power at its peak. Recognition of trade unions. Separation of church and state (1905). Important scientific and technological inventions.

1914-1918 First World War. Allied victory. Alsace and Lorraine revert to France. Peace treaties.

1919-1939 Reconstruction. Paris attracts artists from all parts of the world. Great Depression. Popular Front (1936), development of social legislation. Tension rises in Europe.

1939-1945 Second World War. Defeat and occupation. General de Gaulle leads the Resistance from London and Algiers. Allied victory (8 May 1945).

1946-1957 Fourth Republic. Reconstruction. Demographic and economic growth. Decolonization. Founding of the European Communities (Treaty of Rome, 1957).

1958-1968 General de Gaulle returns to power. Constitution of the Fifth Republic adopted by referendum (28 September 1958). Common Market becomes a reality (1959). Signature of Evian Agreements ends war in Algeria (18 March 1962). Constitutional amendment introduces election of the President of the Republic by direct universal suffrage (referendum of 28 October 1962). General de Gaulle and Chancellor Adenauer sign Elysée Treaty establishing a framework for Franco-German rapprochement (23 January 1963). Economic growth. Social crisis (May 1968).

1969-1981 Georges Pompidou’s presidency (1969-1974). Economic development. Continued European construction (first attempt to coordinate currencies by setting up the "snake" on 10 April 1972, and expansion of the European Communities to include Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom on 1 January 1973). First oil shock (1973). Presidency of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (1974-1981). Stages in European construction: European Council established (December 1974), first Lomé Convention signed (28 February 1975), European Monetary System - EMS - set up (1 January 1979), accession of Greece (1 January 1981). Right to vote at age 18 introduced. Abortion law promoted by Simone Veil is adopted (17 January 1975). Second oil shock (1979). Rise of inflation and unemployment.

1981-1995 Presidency of François Mitterrand (elected 1981, reelected 1988). Death penalty abolished (1981). Decentralization laws passed (1982). Rules governing radio and television stations are liberalized (1982).European construction progresses: Spain and Portugal join on 1 January 1986, the Single Act comes into effect on 1 July 1987, the Treaty on European Union (Treaty of Maastricht) is ratified by referendum (20 September 1992).

1986-1988 First cohabitation: The 1986 general election resulted in a parliamentary majority for the two main right-wing parties, RPR and UDF. Jacques Chirac is appointed Prime Minister by President François Mitterrand. This first cohabitation ended with François Mitterrand’s re-election in 1988.

1993-1995 Second cohabitation: Edouard Balladur is appointed Prime Minister by François Mitterrand after the 1993 General Election. This cohabitation ended with Jacques Chirac’s election as President of the Republic in 1995.

May 7, 1995 Jacques Chirac is elected President of the Republic. Alain Juppé is appointed Prime Minister.

May-June 1997 Dissolution of the National Assembly and General Elections resulting in a left-wing majority and thus the third cohabitation. Lionel Jospin is appointed Prime Minister.

October 2, 1997 Signing of the Amsterdam Treaty.

January 1, 1999 Beginning of the introduction of the euro. The exchange rates for 11 European currencies are permanently fixed relative to each other and relative to the euro.

September 24, 2000 In a referendum, 73% of the French people voted in favor of shortening the presidential term from 7 to 5 years. The 5-year term will be effective after the presidential elections of 2002.

January 2, 2002 Euro bills and coins are introduced. The euro now is used for all transactions in the 12 participating European Union countries (France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Finland).

February 17, 2002 French francs are no longer legal tender in France.

May 5, 2002 Jacques Chirac is re-elected President of the Republic and appoints Jean-Pierre Raffarin as Prime Minister. It is the end of the third cohabitation.

May 29, 2005 In a referendum, 54.68% of the French people rejects the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe.

May 6, 2007 Nicolas Sarkozy is elected President of the Republic and appoints François Fillon as Prime Minister .

February 4, 2008 The French Parliament ratifies the European Treaty of Lisbon.

May 6, 2012 François Hollande was elected President of the Republic.

February 11, 2014 French President François Hollande paid a State visit to the U.S. at the invitation of U.S. President Barack Obama.

Related information: The Elysee Palace

      top of the page