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During the Renaissance, French culture flourished and a global colonial empire was established, which by the 20th century would be the second largest in the world.

France was a major participant in World War I, from which it emerged victorious, and was one of the Allied Powers in World War II, but came under occupation by the Axis powers in 1940.Following liberation in 1944, a Fourth Republic was established and later dissolved in the course of the Algerian War.The country's 18 integral regions (five of which are situated overseas) span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) which, as of October 2017, has a population of 67.15 million people.France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre.France has long been a global centre of art, science, and philosophy.

It hosts Europe's third-largest number of cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites and receives around 83 million foreign tourists annually, the most of any country in the world.

Rome annexed the area in 51 BC, and held the region until 486, when the Germanic Franks conquered the region and formed the Kingdom of France.

France emerged as a major European power in the Late Middle Ages following its victory in the Hundred Years' War (1337 to 1453).

Other major urban centres include Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Nice, Toulouse and Bordeaux.

During the Iron Age, what is now metropolitan France was inhabited by the Gauls, a Celtic people.

These cities were built in traditional Roman style, with a forum, a theatre, a circus, an amphitheatre and thermal baths.