French people

French people

French people can refer to:
* The legal residents and citizens of France, regardless of ancestry. "For a legal discussion, see French nationality law."
* People whose ancestors lived in France or the area that later became France.They are one of the Latin European peoples.

Legal residents and citizens

To be French, according to the first article of the Constitution, is to be a citizen of France, regardless of one's origin, race, or religion ("sans distinction d'origine, de race ou de religion"). According to its principles, France has devoted herself the destiny of a proposition nation, a generic territory where people are bounded only by the French language and the assumed willingness to live together, as defined by Ernest Renan's "plébiscite de tous les jours" ("daily referendum" about the willingness to live together). The debate concerning the integration of this view (an obvious point of friction is the status of minority languages) with the principles underlying the European Community remains openfact|date=July 2008.

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 availablefact|date=July 2008. However citizenship has been required in the last two centuriesfact|date=July 2008 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 allegiancefact|date=July 2008. 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).


Most Caucasian people who live in France are the descendants of Gallo-Romans, as well as Aquitanians (Basques), Iberians, and Ligurians in southern France, [Éric Gailledrat, "Les Ibères de l'Èbre à l'Hérault (VIe-IVe s. avant J.-C.)", Lattes, Sociétés de la Protohistoire et de l'Antiquité en France Méditerranéenne, Monographies d'Archéologie Méditerranéenne - 1, 1997.] [Dominique Garcia: "Entre Ibères et Ligures. Lodévois et moyenne vallée de l'Hérault protohistoriques". Paris, CNRS éd., 1993; "Les Ibères dans le midi de la France". L'Archéologue, n°32, 1997, pp. 38-40.] mixed with some Germanic peoples arriving at the end of the Roman Empire (such as the Franks who lent their name to the country) and some Vikings known as Normans who settled in Normandy in the 9th century. [ [ The normans] Jersey heritage trust] [ [ Dudo of St. Quentin's Gesta Normannorum, English translation] How normans conquered the future Normandy, got established and allied with western Frankish by inter-marriage with Kings Rollo and William]

"France" etymologically derives from the word Francia, a territory where lived the Franks, a Germanic tribe that overran Roman Gaul at the end of the Roman Empire.

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.

The Franks

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. [Benjamin Z. Kedar, "The Subjected Muslims of the Frankish Levant", in "The Crusades: The Essential Readings", ed. Thomas F. Madden, Blackwell, 2002, pg. 244. Originally published in "Muslims Under Latin Rule, 1100-1300", ed. James M. Powell, Princeton University Press, 1990. Kedar quotes his numbers from Joshua Prawer, "Histoire du royaume latin de Jérusalem", tr. G. Nahon, Paris, 1969, vol. 1, pp. 498, 568-72.]

15th to 18th century: the kingdom of France

In the roughly 900 years after the Norman invasions France had a fairly settled population Fact|date=February 2007. Unlike elsewhere in Europe, France experienced relatively low levels of emigration to the Americas, with the exception of the Huguenots. However, significant emigration of mainly Roman Catholic French populations led to the settlement of the provinces of Acadia, Canada and Louisiana, both (at the time) French possessions, as well as colonies in the West Indies, Mascarene islands and Africa.

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. [ [ British North America: 1763-1841] ] 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. [ [ Hispanics in the American Revolution] ]

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. [ [ French villages in Banat] ] 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. [ [ Smaranda Vultur, De l’Ouest à l’Est et de l’Est à l’Ouest : les avatars identitaires des Français du Banat, Texte presenté a la conférence d'histoire orale "Visibles mais pas nombreuses : les circulations migratoires roumaines", Paris, 2001] ]

19th to 21st century: the creation of the French nation-state

The French nation-state appeared following the 1789 French Revolution and Napoleon's empire. It replaced the ancient kingdom of France, ruled by the divine right of kings.

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").

Later immigration

Legally, the sovereign people of France are composed of all French citizens, regardless of ethnicity or religion.Fact|date=July 2008 Citizens of any ethnicity are included in that definition. Successive waves of immigrants during the 19th and 20th centuries were thus rapidly assimilated into French culture.

The INSEE does not collect data about language, religion, or ethnicity — on the principle of the secular and unitary nature of the French Republic. [ [ Ethnic, Religious and Language Groups: Towards a Set of Rules for Data Collection and Statistical Analysis] , Werner Haug]

Nevertheless, there are some sources dealing with just such distinctions:

*The CIA World Factbook defines the ethnic groups of France as being "Celtic and Latin with Teutonic, Slavic, North African, Sub-Saharan African, Indochinese, and Basque minorities. Overseas departments: black, white, mulatto, East Indian, Chinese, Amerindian". [ [ CIA Factbook - France] ] Its definition is reproduced on several Web sites collecting or reporting demographic data. [ [ France Population] - Nation by Nation]

*The U.S. Department of State goes into further detail: "Since prehistoric times, France has been a crossroads of trade, travel, and invasion. Three basic European ethnic stocks — Celtic, Latin, and Teutonic (Frankish) — have blended over the centuries to make up its present population. . . . Traditionally, France has had a high level of immigration. . . . In 2004, there were over 6 million Muslims, largely of North African descent, living in France. France is home to both the largest Muslim and Jewish populations in Europe." [ [ Background Note: France] - U.S. Department of State]

*The Encyclopædia Britannica says that "the French . . . hardly constitute a unified ethnic group by any scientific gauge", and it mentions as part of the population of France, the Basques, the Celts (called Gauls by Romans) and the Germanic (Teutonic) peoples (including the Norsemen or Vikings). France also became "in the 19th and especially in the 20th century, the prime recipient of foreign immigration into Europe. . . ." [ [ Encyclopædia Britannica Article: French ethnic groups] , retrieved July 2003 2008]

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. [ [ Race, Ethnicity, and National Identity in France and the United States: A Comparative Historical Overview] George M. Fredrickson, Stanford University, 2003, retrieved March 17 2008]

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. [en icon fr icon See, for example, Laurent Mouloud, "The Anger of the Suburbs", translated November 6, 2005, accessible on [] (in French. Cite news | title=La colère des banlieues | date=2005-11-05 | accessdate=2006-05-03|publisher=L'Humanité|url= ]

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. [ [ Michèle Tribalat's study] (INED) ] 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. [ [ For Pieds-Noirs, the Anger Endures] ] 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 ly 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. [ [ Inflow of third-country nationals by country of nationality] ] In 2005, immigration level fell slightly to 135,890. [ [ Immigration and the 2007 French Presidential Elections] ] 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. [ [,2933,138116,00.html France, U.N. Start Ivory Coast Evacuation] ,] There are 2.2 million French citizens, about 4 percent of the population, outside France. [ [,9171,1606909,00.html?cnn=yes The French Exodus] , TIME]


In France

Most French people speak the French language as their native tongue, but there have been periods of history when large groups of French people had other first languages (local languages or dialects such as Basque, Occitan, Corsican, Alsatian, and Briton). Today, many immigrants speak another tongue at home.

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. [ Eric Hobsbawm, "Nations and Nationalism since 1780 : programme, myth, reality" (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990; ISBN 0-521-43961-2) chapter II "The popular protonationalism", pp.80-81 French edition (Gallimard, 1992). According to Hobsbawm, the base source for this subject is Ferdinand Brunot (ed.), "Histoire de la langue française", Paris, 1927-1943, 13 volumes, in particular the tome IX. He also refers to Michel de Certeau, Dominique Julia, Judith Revel, "Une politique de la langue: la Révolution française et les patois: l'enquête de l'abbé Grégoire", Paris, 1975. For the problem of the transformation of a minority official language into a mass national language during and after the French Revolution, see Renée Balibar, "L'Institution du français: essai sur le co-linguisme des Carolingiens à la République", Paris, 1985 (also "Le co-linguisme", PUF, Que sais-je?, 1994, but out of print) ("The Institution of the French language: essay on colinguism from the Carolingian to the Republic"). Finally, Hobsbawm refers to Renée Balibar and Dominique Laporte, "Le Français national: politique et pratique de la langue nationale sous la Révolution", Paris, 1974. ]


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.

Nationality, citizenship, ethnicity

According to Dominique Schnapper, "The classical conception of the nation is that of an entity which, opposed to the ethnic group, affirms itself as an open community, the will to live together expressing itself by the acceptation of the rules of a unified public domain which transcends all particularisms". Dominique Schnapper, "La conception de la nation", "Citoyenneté et société", "Cahiers Francais", n° 281, mai-juin 1997 ] This conception of the nation as being composed by a "will to live together", supported by the classic lecture of Ernest Renan in 1882, has been opposed by the French far-right, in particular the nationalist "Front National" ("National Front" - FN) party, which claims that there is such a thing as a "French ethnic group". The discourse of ethno-nationalist groups such as the Front National (FN), however, forwards the concept of "Français de souche" or "indigenous" French.

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.

Nationality and citizenship

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:
* Women: until the Liberation, they were deprived of the right to vote. The provisional government of General de Gaulle accorded them this right by the April 21, 1944 prescription. However, women still suffer from under-representation in the political class and from lesser wages at equal functions. The June 6, 2000 law on parity attempted to address this question. [ fr icon Cite web | title=Loi n° 2000-493 du 6 juin 2000 tendant à favoriser l’égal accès des femmes et des hommes aux mandats électoraux et fonctions électives | date=2000-06-06|accessdate=2006-05-02|publisher=French Senate | url= ]
* Military: for a long time, it was called « "la grande muette" » ("the great mute") in reference to its prohibition from interfering in political life. During a large part of the Third Republic (1871-1940), the Army was in its majority anti-republican (and thus counterrevolutionary). The Dreyfus Affair and the May 16, 1877 crisis, which almost led to a monarchist "coup d'état" by MacMahon, are examples of this anti-republican spirit. Therefore, they would only gain the right to vote with the August 17, 1945 prescription: the contribution of De Gaulle to the interior French Resistance reconciled the Army with the Republic. Nevertheless, militaries do not benefit from the whole of public liberties, as the July 13, 1972 law on the general statute of militaries specify.
* Young people: the July 1974 law, voted at the instigation of president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, reduced from 21 to 18 the age of majority.
* Naturalized foreigners: since the January 9, 1973 law, foreigners who have acquired French nationality don't have to wait five years after their naturalization to be able to vote anymore.
* Inhabitants of the colonies: the May 7, 1946 law meant that soldiers from the "Empire" (such as the "tirailleurs") killed during World War I and World War II weren't citizens. fr icon Cite web | author=B. Villalba | title=Chapitre 2 - Les incertitudes de la citoyenneté|accessdate=2006-05-03|publisher=Catholic University of Lille, Law Department | url= ]

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. [ See Giorgio Agamben, "Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life", Stanford University Press (1998), ISBN 0-8047-3218-3. ]

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. [ fr icon P. Hassenteufel, "Exclusion sociale et citoyenneté", "Citoyenneté et société", "Cahiers Francais", n° 281, mai-juin 1997), quoted by B. Villalba of the Catholic University of Lille, "op.cit." ]

Multiculturalism versus universalism

In France, the conception of citizenship teeters between universalism and multiculturalism, especially in recent years. French citizenship has been defined for a long time by three factors: integration, individual adherence, and the primacy of the soil ("jus soli"). Political integration (which includes but is not limited to racial integration) is based on voluntary policies which aims at creating a common identity, and the interiorization by each individual of a common cultural and historic legacy. Since in France, the state preceded the nation, voluntary policies have taken an important place in the creation of this common cultural identity. [ See Eric Hobsbawm, "op.cit." ]

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, [ Even the biological conception of sex may be questioned: see gender theory ] 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 [ It may be interesting to refer to Michel Foucault's description of the discourse of "race struggle", as he shows that this medieval discourse - held by such people as Edward Coke or John Lilburne in Great Britain, and, in France, by Nicolas Fréret, Boulainvilliers, and then Sieyès, Augustin Thierry and Cournot -, tended to identify the French noble classes to a Northern and foreign race, while the "people" was considered as an aborigine - and "inferior" races. This historical discourse of "race struggle", as isolated by Foucault, was not based on a biological conception of race, as would be latter racialism (aka "scientific racism") ]

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...)."

Ernest Renan's "What is a Nation?" (1882)

Ernest Renan described this republican conception in his famous March 11, 1882 conference at the Sorbonne, [ "Qu'est-ce qu'une nation?"] ("What is a nation?"). According to him, to belong to a nation is a subjective act which always has to be repeated, as it is not assured by objective criteria. A nation-state is not composed of a single homogeneous ethnic group (a community), but of a variety of individuals willing to live together.

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. [ See John Locke's definition of consciousness and of identity. Consciousness is an act accompanying all thoughts (I am conscious that I am thinking this or that...), and which therefore doubles all thoughts. Personal identity is composed by the repeated consciousness, and thus extends so far in time (both in the past & in the future) as I am conscious of it ("An Essay Concerning Human Understanding" (1689), Chapter XXVII "Of Identity and Diversity", available [ here] ) ]

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. [ See e.g. Hannah Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism" (1951), second part on "Imperialism" ] 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. [ en icon Cite news | author=Olivier LeCour Grandmaison|title=Torture in Algeria: Past Acts That Haunt France - Liberty, Equality and Colony|publisher=Le Monde diplomatique | date=June 2001 | url= ]

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" [ Ernest Renan's June 26, 1856 letter to Arthur de Gobineau, quoted by Jacques Morel in " [ Calendrier des crimes de la France outre-mer] ", L’esprit frappeur, 2001 (Morel gives as source: Ernest Renan, "Qu'est-ce qu'une nation? et autres textes politiques", chosen and presented by Joël Roman, Presses Pocket, 1992, p 221. ]

"Jus soli" and "jus sanguinis"

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.

European citizenship

The 1993 Maastricht Treaty introduced the concept of European citizenship, which comes in addition to national citizenships.

Citizenship of foreigners

By definition, a "foreigner" is someone who does not have French nationality. Therefore, it is "not" a synonym of "immigrant", as a foreigner may be born in France. On the other hand, a Frenchman born abroad may be considered an immigrant (e.g. prime minister Dominique de Villepin who lived the majority of his life abroad). In most of the cases, however, a foreigner is an immigrant, and vice-versa. They either benefit from legal sojourn in France, which, after a residency of ten years, makes it possible to ask for naturalisation. [ This ten-year clause is threatened by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy's law proposition on immigration.] If they do not, they are considered "illegal aliens". Some argue that this privation of nationality and citizenship does not square with their contribution to the national economic efforts, and thus to economic growth.

In any cases, rights of foreigners in France have improved over the last half-century:
* 1946: right to elect trade union representative (but not to be elected as a representative)
* 1968: right to become a trade-union delegate
* 1972: right to sit in works council and to be a delegate of the workers at the condition of "knowing how to read and write French"
* 1975: additional condition: "to be able to express oneself in French"; they may vote at "prud'hommes elections" ("industrial tribunal elections") but may not be elected; foreigners may also have administrative or leadership positions in tradeunions but under various conditions
* 1982: those conditions are suppressed, only the function of "conseiller prud'hommal" is reserved to those who have acquired French nationality. They may be elected in workers' representation functions (Auroux laws). They also may become administrators in public structures such as Social security banks ("caisses de sécurité sociale"), OPAC (which administrates HLMs), Ophlm...
* 1992: for European Union citizens, right to vote at the European elections, first exercised during the 1994 European elections, and at municipal elections (first exercised during the 2001 municipal elections).

The National Front, multiculturalism and "métissage culturel"

This republican conception of the French nation-state has been challenged since the 1980s by the "Front National" 's nationalist discourse of "La France aux Français" ("France to the French") or "Les Français d'abord" ("French first"). Their claims of an "ethnic French" group ("Français de souche", which literally translated as "French with roots") have been adamantly refused by many other groups, which widely considered this party as racist [] . Alain de Benoist's "Nouvelle Droite" movement, quite famous in the 1980s but which has since lost influence, has embraced a kind of European "white supremacy" ideology. It should be noted that the expression "Français de souche" has no official validity in France although it is used in everyday language, something which has been designed as "lepénisation des esprits" ("LePen-isation of the minds").

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. [ See Michèle Tribalat, study at the INED already quoted. See also Demographics in France. ] 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, [cite book | last=Dumas, père | first= Alexandre | authorlink=Alexandre Dumas, père |title=Mes Mémoires | publisher=Cadot |year= 1852-1854] and Empress Josephine Napoleon who was born and raised in the French West Indies from a plantation estate familyFact|date=February 2007.We can mention as well, the most famous French singer Edith Piaf whose grandmother was a North African from Kabylie. [Aïcha Saïd Ben Mohamed (1876 - 1930) was born in Kabylie, "Généalogie Magazine, N° 233, p. 30/36"]

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"), [Le Point, February 8, 2007] even if racist and anti-immigration sentiment has recently been documented to be increasing in France at least according to one poll. [ Cite news | title=One in three French 'are racist' | date=2006-03-22 | accessdate=2006-05-03|publisher=BBC News|url=] 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" [ fr icon Cite news | title=L’illusion ethnique | date=1999-04-15|accessdate=2006-05-03|publisher=L'Humanité | url= ]

Notable expatriates

Many people have resided in France while maintaining citizenship elsewhere.
* Benjamin Franklin, politician
* Cesar Vallejo, writer
* Charlie Parker, musician
* Ernest Hemingway, writer
* Ezra Pound, writer
* Gertrude Stein, writer
* Jim Morrison, musician
* Johnny Depp, actor
* Kristin Scott Thomas, actress
* Marc Jacobs, fashion designer
* Marisol Deluna, fashion designer
* Miles Davis, musician
* Molly Ringwald, actress
* Oscar Wilde, writer
* Pablo Picasso, painter
* T. S. Eliot, writer
* Vincent Van Gogh, painter

Populations with French ancestry

The Americas

There is a sizable population claiming ethnic French ancestry in the Western Hemisphere.


There are nearly seven million French speakers and six million people of French ancestry in Canada. The Canadian province of Quebec is the center of French life on the Western side of the Atlantic; however, French settlement began further east, in Acadia. Quebec is home to vibrant French-language arts, media, and learning. There are sizable French-Canadian communities scattered throughout the other provinces of Canada, particularly in Ontario and New Brunswick, which is the only fully bilingual province and is approximately 50 percent Acadian.

United States

The United States is home to an estimated 13 million people of French descent, or 4 percent of the US population, particularly in Louisiana, New England and parts of the Midwest. The French community in Louisiana consists of the Creoles, the descendants of the French settlers who arrived when Louisiana was a French colony, and the Cajuns, the descendants of Acadian refugees from the Great Upheaval. In New England, the vast majority of French immigration in the 19th and early 20th centuries came not from France, but from over the border in Quebec, the Quebec diaspora. These French Canadians arrived to work in the timber mills and textile plants that appeared throughout the region as it industrialized. Today, nearly 25 percent of the population of New Hampshire is of French ancestry, the highest of any state.

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.

Latin America

Elsewhere in the Americas, the majority of the French-descended population can be found in Argentina, Brazil ,Haiti, Chile and Uruguay. Several Presidents of Chile have been of French ancestry including: Michelle Bachelet and Augusto Pinochet. Also, in Mexico, a sizeable population can trace it's ancestry to France, which was the second largest European contributor to Mexico, after Spain. Many came as a result of the Second Mexican Empire in the 1860s, which was part of Napoleon III's scheme to create a Latin empire in the New World.


In Europe large numbers of Huguenots are known to have settled in the United Kingdom and in Protestant areas of Germany, (especially the city of Berlin). Many people in this two countries still bear French names, even though their culture and identity are now completely assimilated. There are currently an estimated 400,000 French people in the United Kingdom, most of them in London. [ [,0,717461.story?track=rss Sarkozy raises hopes of expats] ]


Apart from Québécois, Acadians, Cajuns, and Métis, other populations of French ancestry outside metropolitan France include the "Caldoches" of New Caledonia and the so-called "Zoreilles" and "Petits-blancs" of various Indian Ocean islands.


In a 2005 study of ASPM gene variants, Mekel-Bobrov et al. found that the French people have among the highest rate of the newly-evolved ASPM haplogroup D, at 50% occurrence of the approximately 6,000-year-old allele. [ [ "Ongoing Adaptive Evolution of ASPM, a Brain Size Determinant in Homo sapiens"] , "Science", 9 September 2005: Vol. 309. no. 5741, pp. 1720-1722.] While it is not yet known exactly what selective advantage is provided by this gene variant, the haplogroup D allele is thought to be positively selected in populations and to confer some substantial advantage that has caused its frequency to rapidly increase, perhaps imbuing cognitive or behavioral abilities related to non-tonal languages and alphabetical scripts.

ee also

* Acadians
* Cajuns
* Caldoche
* Demographics of France
* European ethnic groups
* Franco-Mauritian
* Franco-Réunionnaise
* French Algerians
* French American
* French Canadian
* French Chilean
* French Peruvian
* French people in Britain
* Genetic history of Europe
* Languages of France
* List of French people


* Wieviorka, M "L'espace du racisme" 1991 Éditions du Seuil
* Marc Abélès," [ How the Anthropology of France Has Changed Anthropology in France: Assessing New Directions in the Field] "Cultural Anthropology" 1999

External links

* [ Discover France]
* [ The Rude French Myth]
* [ INSEE - "Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques"] - French official statistics from INSEE
* [ CIA World Fact Book. 2005]
* [ US Department of State. 2005]

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