Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12616

What comes to mind when you think about France? The Eiffel Tower? French bread? French toast? How about oil seeds? Learn about this old and influential European country and its troubled past.



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Which country is highlighted on the map above?

Write down three facts you already know about this country, then read on to learn more about France!

The country highlighted on the map of Europe is France.

The blue, white, and red coloring you see next to the highlighted country depicts what the French flag looks like.

France is considered one of the earliest developed nations and remains a leader in Western Europe and international affairs today. In this lesson, you will learn about France's history, geography, and culture.

A Very Brief History

France became a nation-state (an organized state whose citizens share the same history, traditions, language, etc.) in the mid-1600s.

The early history of France is defined by instability and political uprisings. In the 1700s, the French Revolution occurred because the citizens were unhappy that the king was spending so much money and living a lavish lifestyle while the rest of the country was poor and starving.

During the Revolution, the king and queen were beheaded, and a new government was put in place. Tragically, the new government would not last long because different people fought for power.

For years, the government shifted between absolute rule (all power is given to one person, such as a monarch) and a constitutional monarchy (a government where a monarch is the head of state or the public representative of a country, and a representative is the head of government).

  • How does the political unrest in early France relate to any current events you have seen on the news?

As a neighbor of Germany, France feared for the country's safety during World Wars I and II. After World War I (WWI), the French built the Maginot Line along the French and German border.

The massive defense line was meant to prevent the Germans from moving into France, but it was unsuccessful. Even after WWI ended, Germany pushed its way into France. By 1940, Germany had taken control of part of France, and by 1942, it had taken control of the entire country.

France regained control of itself in 1944, shortly before the end of World War II.

Since World War II, France has remained a republic, a government not governed by a monarch. Instead, power rests with certain citizens who vote for representatives.

France is also one of the six founding members of the European Union (EU) and continues to play an active role in the EU. The EU plays a vital role in both European and global affairs.

To learn more about the EU, watch the video below. As you watch, take notes on what the EU is and what it does. This video contains chiefly written information. If you need to, you can pause the video at any time to read what it says and take notes.

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After you watch the video, answer the following questions.

  • What role does the EU play in Europe?
  • What role does the EU play in international affairs?
  • What would happen to Europe if the EU did not exist?


Look at the map of Europe below and find France. Write a few sentences describing its relative location.

map of Europe

Several countries border France, including Germany, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland. To the north, you will find the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. To the south, you will discover the Mediterranean Sea.

The central part of France you see on the map of Europe is called Metropolitan France.

France also has several overseas territories. These territories fall under the jurisdiction and governance of France. These territories include:

  • French Guiana is located in northern South America.
  • Guadeloupe is located in the Caribbean islands.
  • Martinique is found in the Caribbean islands.
  • Mayotte is found in the southern part of the Indian Ocean.
  • Reunion is an island located off the coast of South Africa.

Look at the world map and identify the areas where each territory is situated.

  • How close are they to France?
  • Do you think it is easy for France to govern these territories?


Look at the Köppen climate map below.

The Köppen climate classification system is one of the most commonly used systems for identifying climate zones. It is named for the person who invented it, Russian climatologist Wladimir Köppen.

  • What type of climate does France have?

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As you can see, most of France has a temperate oceanic climate, meaning it has mostly cool winters and mild summers with occasional precipitation.

The southernmost part of France has a Mediterranean climate, meaning the region has mild winters and hot summers.


While reading about the history of France, you learned that France's government has changed many times throughout the past few centuries.

Today, France is a republic with executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

The executive branch has a head of state, the president, who represents the country. The executive branch also has a head of government called the prime minister, who oversees Parliament.

Parliament is bicameral, comprising the Senate and the National Assembly.

  • How does France's government compare to the United States or your government?

Write a few sentences comparing and contrasting the two governments.


At one time, the French government owned almost all sectors of the French economy, but in recent years, more industries have become privatized, meaning citizens own them.

The primary industries in France are technology and industry, including machinery, automobiles, aircraft, electronics, and chemicals. Agriculture also plays a massive role in the French economy. Some of France's leading agricultural products include wine grapes, wheat, and sugar beets.

Significantly, France has a large tourist industry. More than 80 million people travel to France yearly to experience its history, culture, and geography.

Check out the following video to understand what you can see and do when visiting France. As you watch, make a list of things you would want to do if you visited France.

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Now that you have learned about France, write the answers to the following questions.

  • How do you think France has remained one of the most powerful nations in the world despite its political troubles throughout the years?
  • When watching the video, what types of landscapes did you notice? How does the geography of France change depending on what part of France you travel to?
  • Would you want to visit France?

After writing your answers, move on to the Got It? section to learn more about agriculture and how it impacts the French economy.

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