Saturday, September 12, 2009

France's Wars

Did you ever notice that in almost every great war in history, France has been involved in some way? The military history of France is most of the military history of the world.

Here’s a list of the major French wars. Titles link to summaries of the wars. Since so much is happening this month, I’m backdating the summaries. (These also fill holes in my blog, too – grin!)

Click on the map to see a detailed topographical map of France.

Check back often as I work my way through this. ** = still unfinished.

Gaul58 – 51 BCJulius Caesar's conquest of Gaul.
Barbarian Invasions376 - 500Fall of the Roman Empire
Rise of the Franks500 - 732Including the Moslem Invasion
Charlemagne’s771 - 814Constant warfare on the frontiers of France
The Vikings **900 - 1066Including the Norman Conquest of England
The Crusades **1096 - 1270France in the Middle East
The Plantagenets **1200 - 1450When the English controlled most of France
The 100 Yrs War **1338 - 1453Joan of Arc saves France
Invasions of Italy **1495 - 1559France tries to conquer Italy
The Religious Wars **1562 - 1598The French Civil War between Catholics and Protestants
The 30 Yrs War **1618 - 1648France enters late and decides the conflict
Louis XIV's **1667 - 1714Just like Charlemagne
Frederick the Great's **1740 - 1763Frederick the Great of Prussia plunged Europe into two more great wars.
The American Revolution **1775 - 1783France was key to victory
The French Revolution **1793 - 1799France versus the world
Napoleon's **1799 - 1815Like Charlemagne & Louis XIV
The Crimean **1854 - 1856France and Britain versus Russia
Italian Independence **1859 - 1866France versus Austria and then Italy
Franco-Prussian **1870 - 1871Napoleon III, Bismark, and the Commune
World War I **1914 - 1918The Western Front almost entirely within France.
World War II **1939 - 1945France conquered early; De Gaulle defends France’s status
The Suez Affair **1956 - 1957France and Europe retreat from Great Power status

Some of these wars are more historical periods than a war. Constant warfare during a period just merge in our collective, historical memory as just one big long war. This is especially true of the Dark Ages. To be consistent, the wars against Germany (Franco-Prussian, WWI , and WWII) could be considered as one long war broken up by intermittent peace, too. Indeed, the “100 Years War” was a collection of wars, rather than just one.

I offer this scheme, as a logical way to understand the major wars of French history. Note, to what extent this list encompasses most of the major wars of human history since Caesar.

P.S. No summary of French military history could be complete without something on the storied French Foreign Legion.

Here's Wikipedia's article.

Updated 3/4/11. I'm finally getting around to doing this series. It will be done on Fridays on my history blog. I will move these entries as they are completed.


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