The history of France has been eventful and dramatic, exciting and complex. By looking at the most outstanding moments in the long process of evolution which has shaped national identity, this book attempts to highlight the main traits that have made the country what it is today. It takes a look at the questions, controversies and uncertainties of the past. France, however, could not exist without the French people, once the subjects of a monarch, now citizens of the French Republic, and it is their life which is described here. History on this scale necessarily turns the spotlight on the men and women responsible for taking the decisions that govern and guide their fellow-citizens. They are the men and women who have created or been subjected to events, people who have supported or instigated collective movements. It also seemed appropriate to set France in its place within Europe and the rest of the world, to see how other nationalities considered, and continue to consider, the country. Lucien Bély was born in Lyon in 1955. He studied in Ecole normale supérieure and obtained the agrégation d'histoire and a thèse d'Etat. He is now Professor at the Sorbonne in Paris.