| French people|
1st row: Joan of Arc • Jacques Cartier • Descartes • Molière • Pascal
Louis XIV • Voltaire • Diderot • Napoleon
2nd row: Victor Hugo • Alexandre Dumas • Évariste Galois • Louis Pasteur
Jules Verne • Eiffel • de Coubertin • Toulouse-Lautrec • Marie Curie
3rd row: Proust • Charles de Gaulle • Josephine Baker • Cousteau • Camus
Édith Piaf • François Mitterrand • Brigitte Bardot • Zidane
|French citizens||French speakers||French ancestry|
|64,473,140 (includes overseas territories and foreigners living in France)||nearly 100 percent||~52,000,000 or 85 percent of French citizens|
|116,438||~2,000,000 (including creoles and local dialects such as Cajun)||9,651,769 (not including 2,240,648 of French Canadian ancestry and 114,399 of Cajun ancestry)|
|132,421||~4,200,000||Walloons are a distinctive ethnic group.|
French Swiss do not come from France, they always lived in Switzerland.
|94,178 French born people were residing in the during the 2001 Census|
|14,811||~ 350,000 - 1,200,000|
They are one of the Latin European peoples.
Persistent difficulties with French citizens with origins in Maghreb and West Africa are seen by some as signs of racism and discrimination, while others interpret it as the inevitable friction between sizable minorities and the majority culture. There is increasing dissatisfaction with, and within, growing ethno-cultural enclaves (communautarisme). The 2005 French riots that happened in difficult suburbs (les quartiers sensibles) were an example of such tensions that may be interpreted as ethnic conflict as appeared before in other countries like the USA and the UK.
A large number of foreigners have traditionally succeeded in living or have been permitted to do so in a country which prides itself on its openness, toleration and the quality of services available. However citizenship has been required in the last two centuries for many forms of employment, and a relatively high proportion of the population has been employed by the State. Application for French citizenship is often interpreted as a renouncement of previous state allegiance. The European treaties have formally permitted movement and European citizens enjoy formal rights to employment in the state sector (though not as trainees in reserved branches (e.g. as magistrates).
Some regions knew massive migrations of Celtic people for Brittany and Germanic people for Alsatia before the existence of the Frankish kingdoms, and the languages and culture of these groups keep perpetuating until this day in more modern forms.
In the pre-Roman era, all of Gaul (an area of Western Europe that encompassed all of what is known today as France, Belgium, part of Germany and Switzerland, and Northern Italy) was inhabited by a variety of peoples who were known collectively as the Gaulish tribes. Their ancestors were Celtic immigrants who came from Central Europe in the 7th century BC, and dominated native peoples (for the majority Ligures).
Gaul was conquered in 58-51 BC by the Roman legions under the command of General Julius Caesar (except the south-east which had already been conquered about one century earlier). The area then became part of the Roman Empire. Over the next five centuries the two cultures and peoples intermingled, creating a hybridized Gallo-Roman culture. The Gaulish language came to be supplanted by Vulgar Latin, which would later split into dialects that would develop into the French language. Today, the last redoubt of Celtic culture and language in France can be found in the northwestern region of Brittany, although this is not the result of a survival of Gaulish language but of a 5th century A.D. migration of Brythonic speaking Celts from Britain.
With the decline of the Roman empire in Western Europe a third people entered the picture: the Franks, from which the word "French" derives. The Franks were a Germanic tribe who began filtering across the Rhine River from present-day Germany in the third century. By the early sixth century the Franks, led by the Merovingian king Clovis I and his sons, had consolidated their hold on much of modern-day France, the country to which they gave their name. The other major Germanic people to arrive in France were the Normans, Viking raiders from modern Denmark and Norway, who occupied the northern region known today as Normandy in the 9th century. The Vikings eventually intermarried with the local people, converting to Christianity in the process. It was the Normans who, two centuries later, would go on to conquer England. Eventually, though, the independent duchy of Normandy was incorporated back into the French kingdom in the Middle Ages. In the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, founded in 1099, at most 120 000 Franks (predominantly French-speaking Western Christians) ruled over 350,000 Muslims, Jews, and native Eastern Christians.
On December 31, 1687 a community of French Huguenots settled in South Africa. Most of these originally settled in the Cape Colony, but have since been quickly absorbed into the Afrikaner population. After Champlain's founding of Quebec City in 1608, it became the capital of New France. Encouraging settlement was difficult, and while some immigration did occur, by 1763 New France only had a population of some 65,000. From 1713 to 1787, 30,000 colonists immigrated from France to the St. Domingue. In 1805, when the French were forced out of St. Domingue (Haiti) 35,000 French settlers were given lands in Cuba.
In the 1700s and early 1800s, a small migration of French emigrated by official invitation of the Habsburgs to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now the nations of Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia and Romania. Some of them, coming from French-speaking communes in Lorraine, maintained for some generations the French language, and a specific ethnic identity, later labelled as Banat French, Français du Banat. By 1788 there were 8 villages populated by French colonists.
Hobsbawm highlighted the role of conscription, invented by Napoleon, and of the 1880s public instruction laws, which allowed mixing of the various groups of France into a nationalist mold which created the French citizen and his consciousness of membership to a common nation, while the various regional languages of France were progressively eradicated.
The 1870 Franco-Prussian War, which led to the short-lived Paris Commune of 1871, was instrumental in bolstering patriotic feelings; until World War I (1914-1918), French politicians never completely lost sight of the disputed Alsace-Lorraine region, which played a major role in the definition of the French nation, and therefore of the French people. During the Dreyfus Affair, anti-semitism became apparent. Charles Maurras, a royalist intellectual member of the far-right anti-parliamentarist Action Française party, invented the neologism of the anti-France, which was one of the first attempts at contesting the republican definition of the French people as composed of all French citizens regardless of their ethnic origins or religious beliefs. Charles Maurras' expression of the anti-France opposed the Catholic French people to four "confederate states" incarning the Other: Jews, freemasons, Protestants and, last but not least, the métèques ("metic").
The INSEE does not collect data about language, religion, or ethnicity — on the principle of the secular and unitary nature of the French Republic.
Nevertheless, there are some sources dealing with just such distinctions:
It is said by some that France adheres to the ideal of a single, homogeneous national culture, supported by the absence of hyphenated identities and by avoidance of the very term "ethnicity" in French discourse.
The discussion about social discrimination has become more important, in particular concerning the so-called "second-generation immigrants"; that is, French citizens born in France to immigrant parents.
France has undergone a high rate of immigration from Europe, Africa, and Asia throughout the 20th century. Michèle Tribalat, researcher at INED, found it difficult to estimate the number of French immigrants or those born to immigrants because of the absence of official statistics. Only three previous attempts had been made: in 1927, 1942, and 1986. According to the 2004 Tribalat study, among about 14 million people of foreign ascendancy (immigrants or people with at least one parent or grandparent who was an immigrant), 5.2 million were from Southern European ascendancy (Italy, Spain, Portugal), and 3 million from the Maghreb. Thus it was found that 23 percent of French citizens had at least one immigrant parent or grandparent. No recognized studies have been done covering the years since mass immigration started in the 20th century.
France's population dynamics began to change in the middle of the 19th century, as France joined the Industrial Revolution. The pace of industrial growth attracted millions of European immigrants over the next century, with especially large numbers arriving from Poland, Belgium, Portugal, Italy, and Spain. In the period from 1915 to 1950, just as many immigrants came from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Russia, Scandinavia and Yugoslavia. A small French descent group also subsequently arrived from Latin America (Argentina , Chile and Uruguay) in the 1970s. Small but significant numbers of Frenchmen in the North and Northeast regions have relatives in Germany and Great Britain. French law made it easy for thousands of colons, ethnic or national French from former colonies of North and East Africa, India and Indochina to live in mainland France. It is estimated that 20,000 colons were living in Saigon in 1945. 1.6 million European pieds noirs migrated from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. In just a few months in 1962, 900,000 French Algerians left Algeria in the most massive relocation of population in Europe since the World War II. In the 1970s, over 30,000 French colons left Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime as the Pol Pot government confiscated their farms and land properties.
In the 1960s, a second wave of immigration came to France, which was needed for reconstruction purposes and for cheaper labour after the devastation brought on by World War II. French entrepreneurs went to Maghreb countries looking for cheap labour, thus encouraging work-immigration to France. Their settlement was officialized with Jacques Chirac's family regrouping act of 1976 (regroupement familial). Since then, immigration has became more varied, although France stopped being a major immigration country compared to other European countries. The large impact of North African and Arab immigration is the greatest and has brought racial, socio-cultural and religious questions to a country seen as Homogenously European, French and Christian for thousands of years.
In 2004, a total of 140,033 people immigrated to France. Of them, 90,250 were from Africa and 13,710 from Europe. In 2005, immigration level fell slightly to 135,890. The European Union allows free movement between the member states. While the UK and Ireland did not impose restrictions, France put in place controls to curb Central and Eastern European migration.
In November 2004, several thousand of the estimated 14,000 French nationals in Ivory Coast left country after days of anti-white violence. There are 2.2 million French citizens, about 4 percent of the population, outside France.
According to historian Eric Hobsbawm, "the French language has been essential to the concept of 'France' ", although in 1789, 50 percent of the French people didn't speak it at all, and only 12 to 13 percent spoke it fairly well; in Languedoc, it was not usually used except in cities, and even there not always in the outlying districts.
Abroad, the French language is spoken in many different countries — in particular the former French colonies. Nevertheless, speaking French is distinct from being French. Thus, francophonie, or the speaking of French, must not be confused with French citizenship or ethnicity. For example, French speakers in Switzerland are not "French".
Native English-speaking Blacks on the island of Saint-Martin hold French nationality even though they do not speak French, while their neighbouring French-speaking Haitian immigrants may be able to speak some French yet remain foreigners. Large numbers of people of French ancestry outside Europe speak other first languages, particularly English, throughout most of North America, Portuguese in southern South America, and Afrikaans in South Africa.
Since the beginning of the Third Republic (1871-1940), the state has not categorized people according to their alleged ethnic origins. Hence, in contrast to the United States Census, French people are not asked to define their ethnic appartenance, whichever it may be. The usage of ethnic and racial categorization is avoided to prevent any case of discrimination, same regulations apply to religious membership data cannot be compiled under the French Census. This classic French republican non-essentialist conception of nationality is officialized by the French Constitution, according to whom "French" is a nationality, and not a specific ethnicity.
Despite this official discourse of universality, French nationality has not meant automatic citizenship. Some categories of French people have been excluded, through out the years, from full citizenship:
It must also be noted that France was one of the first countries to implement denaturalization laws. Philosopher Giorgio Agamben has pointed out this fact that the 1915 French law which permitted denaturalization with regard to naturalized citizens of "enemy" origins was one of the first example of such legislation, which Nazi Germany later implemented with the 1935 Nuremberg Laws.
Furthermore, some authors who have insisted on the "crisis of the nation-state" allege that nationality and citizenship are becoming separate concepts. They show as example "international", "supranational citizenship" or "world citizenship" (membership to transnational organizations, such as Amnesty International or Greenpeace NGOs). This would indicate a path toward a "postnational citizenship".
Beside this, modern citizenship is linked to civic participation (also called positive freedom), which implies voting, demonstrations, petitions, activism, etc. Therefore, social exclusion may lead to deprivation of citizenship. This has led various authors (Philippe Van Parijs, Jean-Marc Ferry, Alain Caillé, André Gorz) to theorize a guaranteed minimum income which would impede exclusion from citizenship.
On the other hand, the interiorization of a common legacy is a slow process, which B. Villalba compares to acculturation. According to him, "integration is therefore the result of a double will: the nation's will to create a common culture for all members of the nation, and the communities' will living in the nation to recognize the legitimacy of this common culture". Villalba warns against confusing recent processes of integration (related to the so-called "second generation immigrants", who are subject to discrimination), with older processes which have made modern France. Villalba thus shows that any democratic nation characterize itself by its project of transcending all forms of particular memberships (whether biological - or seen as such, ethnic, historic, economic, social, religious or cultural). The citizen thus emancipates himself from the particularisms of identity which characterize himself to attain a more "universal" dimension. He is a citizen, before being member of a community or of a social class
Therefore, according to Villalba, "a democratic nation is, by definition, multicultural as it gathers various populations, which differs by their regional origins (Bretons, Corsicans or Lorrains...), their national origins (immigrant, son or grandson of an immigrant), or religious origins (Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Agnostics or Atheists...)."
Renan's non-essentialist definition, which forms the basis of the French Republic, is diametrically opposed to the German ethnic conception of a nation, first formulated by Fichte. The German conception is usually qualified in France as an "exclusive" view of nationality, as it includes only the members of the corresponding ethnic group, while the Republican conception thinks itself as universalist, following the Enlightenment's ideals officialized by the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. While Ernest Renan's arguments were also concerned by the debate about the disputed Alsace-Lorraine region, he said that not only one referendum had to be made in order to ask the opinions of the Alsatian people, but a "daily referendum" should be made concerning all those citizens wanting to live in the French nation-state. This plébiscite de tous les jours might be compared to a social contract or even to the classic definition of consciousness as an act which repeats itself endlessly.
Henceforth, contrary to the German definition of a nation based on objective criteria, such as the "race" or the "ethnic group", which may be defined by the existence of a common language, among others criteria, the people of France are defined by all the people living in the French nation-state and willing to do so, i.e. by its citizenship. This definition of the French nation-state contradicts the common opinion according to which the concept of the French people would identify themselves with the concept of one particular ethnic group, and thus explains the paradox to which is confronted by some attempts in identifying the "French ethnic group": the French conception of the nation is radically opposed (and was thought in opposition to) the German conception of the Volk ("ethnic group").
This universalist conception of citizenship and of the nation has influenced the French model of colonization. While the British empire preferred an indirect rule system, which did not mix together the colonized people with the colons, the French Republic theoretically chose an integration system and considered parts of its colonial empire as France itself, and its population as French people. The ruthless conquest of Algeria thus led to the integration of the territory as a Département of the French territory.
This ideal also led to the ironic sentence which opened up history textbooks in France as in its colonies: "Our ancestors the Gauls...". However, this universal ideal, rooted in the 1789 French Revolution ("bringing liberty to the people"), suffered from the racism that impregnated colonialism. Thus, in Algeria, the Crémieux decrees at the end of the 19th century gave French citizenship to north African Jews, while muslims were regulated by the 1881 Indigenous Code. Liberal author Tocqueville himself considered that the British model was better adapted than the French one, and did not balk before the cruelties of General Bugeaud's conquest. He went as far as advocating racial segregation there.
This paradoxical tension between the universalist conception of the French nation and the racism inherent in colonization is most obvious in Ernest Renan himself, who goes as far as advocating a kind of eugenics. In a June 26, 1856 letter to Arthur de Gobineau, author of An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853-55) and one of the first theoreticians of "scientific racism", he thus wrote:
You have done here one of the most noteworthy book, full of vigour and spiritfull originality, but it is not made to be understood in France or rather it is to be misunderstood. The French spirit pays no attention to ethnographic considerations: France hardly believes to race... The fact of race is huge in its origins; but it always goes losing importance, and sometimes, as in France, it finally erases itself completely. Is that, in absolute, talking about decadence? Yes, surely if considering the stability of institutions, the originality of characters, a definite nobility which I, for my part, considers with the utmost importance in the whole of human things. But also how much compensations!
Doubtlessly, if the noble elements blended in a people's blood would erase themselves completely, then it would be a vilifying equality, analogous as in certain states of Orient and, in some respects, China. But in reality a very little quantity of noble blood put in circulation in a people is enough to nobilize it, at least as to historical effects: this is how France, a nation so completely fell in commonless [roture], plays in reality in the world the role of a gentleman. By setting apart the utterly inferior races whose interference with the great races would lead only to poison the human species, I plan for the future a homogeneous humanity
During the Ancien Régime (before the 1789 French revolution), jus soli (or "right of territory") was predominant. Feudal law recognized personal allegeance to the sovereign, but the subjects of the sovereign were defined by their birthland. According to the September 3, 1791 Constitution, those who are born in France from a foreign father and have fixed their residency in France, or those who, after being born in foreign country from a French father, have come to France and have sworn their civil oath, become French citizens. Because of the war, distrust toward foreigners led to the obligation on the part of this last category to swear a civil oath in order to gain French nationality.
However, the Napoleonic Code would insist on jus sanguinis ("right of blood"). Paternity became the principal criteria of nationality, and therefore broke for the first time with the ancient tradition of jus soli, by breaking any residency condition toward children born abroad from French parents.
With the February 7, 1851 law, voted during the Second Republic (1848-1852), "double jus soli" was introduced in French legislation, combining birth origin with paternity. Thus, it gave French nationality to the child of a foreigner, if both are born in France, except if the year following his coming of age he reclaims a foreign nationality (thus prohibiting dual nationality). This 1851 law was in part passed because of conscription concerns. This system more or less remained the same until the 1993 reform of the Nationality Code, created by the January 9, 1973 law.
The 1993 reform, which defines the Nationality law, is deemed controversial by some. It commits young people born in France to foreign parents to solicit French nationality between the ages of 16 and 21. This has been criticized, some arguing that the principle of equality before the law was not complied with, since French nationality was no longer given automatically at birth, as in the classic "double jus soli" law, but was to be requested when approaching adulthood. Henceforth, children born in France from French parents were differentiated from children born in France from foreign parents, creating a hiatus between these two categories.
The 1993 reform was prepared by the Pasqua laws. The first Pasqua law, in 1986, restricts residence conditions in France and facilitates expulsions. With this 1986 law, a child born in France from foreign parents can only acquire French nationality if he or she demonstrates his or her will to do so, at age 16, by proving that he or she has been schooled in France and has a sufficient command of the French language. This new policy is symbolized by the expulsion of 101 Malians by charter.
The second Pasqua law on "immigration control" makes regularisation of illegal aliens more difficult and, in general, residence conditions for foreigners much harder. Charles Pasqua, who said on May 11, 1987: "Some have reproached me of having used a plane, but, if necessary, I will use trains", declared to Le Monde on June 2, 1993: "France has been a country of immigration, it doesn't want to be one anymore. Our aim, taking into account the difficulties of the economic situation, is to tend toward 'zero immigration' ("immigration zéro")".
Therefore, modern French nationality law combines four factors: paternality or 'right of blood', birth origin, residency and the will expressed by a foreigner, or a person born in France to foreign parents, to become French.
In any cases, rights of foreigners in France have improved over the last half-century:
Indeed, the inflow of populations from other continents, who still can be physically and/or culturally distinguished from Europeans, sparked much controversies in France since the early 1980s, even though immigration inflow precisely began to decrease at this time. The rise of this racist discourse led to the creation of anti-racist NGOs, such as SOS Racisme, more or less founded on the model of anti-fascist organisations in the 1930s. However, while those earlier anti-fascists organisations were often anarchists or communists, SOS Racisme was supported in its growth by the Socialist Party. Demonstrations gathering large crowds against the National Front took place. The last such demonstration took place in a dramatic situation, after Jean-Marie Le Pen's relative victory at the first turn of the 2002 presidential election. Shocked and stunned, large crowds, including many young people, demonstrated every day in between the two turns, starting from April 21, 2002, which remains a dramatic date in popular consciousness.
Now, the interracial blending of some native French and newcomers stands as a vibrant and boasted feature of French culture, from popular music to movies and literature. Therefore, alongside mixing of populations, exists also a cultural blending (le métissage culturel) that is present in France. It may be compared to the traditional US conception of the melting-pot. The French culture might have been already blended in from other races and ethnicities, in cases of some biographical research on the possibility of African ancestry on a small number of famous French citizens. Author Alexandre Dumas, père possessed one-fourth black Haitian descent, and Empress Josephine Napoleon who was born and raised in the French West Indies from a plantation estate family. We can mention as well, the most famous French singer Edith Piaf whose grandmother was a North African from Kabylie.
For a long time, the only objection to such outcomes predictably came from the far-right schools of thought. In the past few years, other unexpected voices are however beginning to question what they interpret, as the new philosopher Alain Finkielkraut coined the term, as an "ideology of miscegenation" (une idéologie du métissage) that may come from what one other philosopher, Pascal Bruckner, defined as the "sob of the White man" (le sanglot de l'homme blanc). These critics have been dismissed by the mainstream and their propagators have been labelled as new reactionaries (les nouveaux réactionnaires), even if racist and anti-immigration sentiment has recently been documented to be increasing in France at least according to one poll. Such critics, including Nicolas Sarkozy, the current President of France, take example on the United States' conception of multiculturalism to claim that France has consistently denied the existence of ethnic groups within their borders and has refused to grant them specific rights.
President Jacques Chirac as well as the Socialist Party and other organizations have condemned these views, arguing that this refusal of the traditional universalist republican conception only favorizes communitarianism, which the Republic does not recognize since the dissolving of intermediate associations of persons during the Estates-General of 1789 (the population of the kingdom of France was then divided into the First Estate (nobles), the Second Estate (clergy), and the Third Estate (people)). For this reason, associations were forbidden until the Waldeck-Rousseau 1884 labor laws which permitted the creation of trade unions and the famous 1901 law on non-profit associations, which has been largely used by civil society in order to organizes itself. Hervé Le Bras, head of the INED demographic institute, also insists that "ethnicisation of social relations is not a 'natural' phenomenon, but an ideological one
English and Dutch colonies of pre-Revolutionary America attracted large numbers of French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in France. In the Dutch colony that later became New York and northeastern New Jersey, these French Huguenots, nearly identical in religion to the Dutch Reformed Church, assimilated almost completely into the Dutch community. However, large it may have been at one time, it has lost all identity of its French origin, often with the translation of names (examples: de la Montagne > Vandenberg by translation; de Vaux > DeVos or Devoe by phonetic respelling). Huguenots appeared in all of the English colonies and likewise assimilated. Even though this mass settlement approached the size of the settlement of the French settlement of Quebec, it has assimilated into the English-speaking mainstream to a much greater extent than other French colonial groups, and has left few traces of cultural influence. New Rochelle, New York is named after La Rochelle, France, one of the sources of Huguenot emigration to the Dutch colony; and New Paltz, New York, is one of the few non-urban settlements of Huguenots that did not undergo massive recycling of buildings in the usual redevelopment of such older, larger cities as New York City or New Rochelle.