Caesar indicates as natural borders of Gaul: the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean, the Alps, the Rhine and the Atlantic; and this conception of the natural borders of the French region always remained traditional. The borders were greatly enlarged by the empire of Charlemagne; on the other hand, at the beginning of the Capetian dynasty (end of the 10th century), the royal dominion was reduced more or less to the Isle of France, because it did not go beyond Noyon in the north and Orleans in the south; later it slowly expanded with continuous progress. At the same time it was forming in the O. a vast Anglo-Norman-Angevin state, which ended up also incorporating Aquitaine. The victories of Philip Augustus precipitated the collapse of English power on the continent. With Anjou and Maine (1481), Touraine, Normandy (1450), Poitou (1422) and Saintonge, Capetian France gained a double front on the sea; and the crusade of the Albigensians gave it, with the Languedoc (1271), a beach on the Mediterranean. The border also moved eastwards, with the taking of possession of Brie and Champagne (1235), and penetrated to the heart of the Alps, with the purchase of the Dauphiné (1349). The Hundred Years War interrupted this consolidation work. After the victories of Joan of Arc and Charles VII, the English were left with only Calais, which they were to lose a century later. Louis XI resumed the march towards E. and the defeat and death of the powerful Duke of Burgundy Charles the Bold (1477) made him master of Burgundy and Picardy, while, a few years later, the inheritance of Renato d’Angiò gave him Provence. To the west only Brittany remained, which then became definitively French under Louis XII. Except that the marriage of the heir of the Daredevil with Maximilian of Austria, will give rise to a series of wars for over two hundred years between the kingdom of France and the empire, which resulted in oscillations of the border on the side of Flanders and the Marches oriental. However, Francis I managed to consolidate the French block, with the confiscation of the assets of the Bourbons, which included a large part of the Massif Central (Bourbonese, Auvergne, Forez and Rouergue), and Henry II bought the three Lorraine bishoprics. On the death of Henry IV (1610), who with his dominions (Béarn, Armagnac, Albret) had made it possible to extend the frontier to the Pyrenees, France was, it can be said, constituted, including the 4 / 5 of the current territory. However, it is still far from the natural borders to the north-east. Richelieu conceived the design of “confounding the Gaule avec la France et partout ou fut the ancienne Gaule y retablir la nouvelle”; and partly implemented it with the conquest of Artois, Alsace and Roussillon (1648, 1659). Louis XIV completed the work, definitively removing Flanders and Franche-Comté from Spain, while the annexation of Strasbourg in 1681 “stopped the Gaule aux Germains”.
On the eve of the revolution of 1789, France was almost what it is today. The Napoleonic conquests gave the French Empire an abnormal, not lasting extension; and victorious Europe restored the frontiers of 1789 to France, also reducing them here and there: on the side of Belgium, the border was modified with recesses that constituted a danger for the defense; on the Lorraine side, the Sarre with its coal mines was given to Prussia. Subsequently, France never asked for anything other than respect for the border of 1815. The only purchase it made was that of Savoy and the County of Nice, confirmed by a plebiscite of the populations, in 1860. At the loss of the Alsace and part of Lorraine, removed from Germany after the war of 1870-71,
France occupies the narrowest of the European isthmuses, through which traffic routes from the Northern Seas to the Mediterranean must necessarily pass. Indeed, while there are 1300 km. from the Baltic to the Black Sea for Poland and Romania, and 1000 from the North Sea to the Adriatic for Germany, Austria and Italy, 800 km. they only separate Dunkirk from Marseille, and there are no more than 350 from the mouth of the Gironde to the coast of Languedoc. And the kings of France, whose power began, as has been said, from the Parisian Basin, owed it to this situation if they were able to achieve what for the German emperors always remained a dream, the formation of a state with the front to once on the Ocean and the Mediterranean, and not only on the Atlantic Ocean proper,
Therefore, France is at once an oceanic, semi-continental and Mediterranean country. Bordering the Rhine and occupying the Vosges and the Jura, it participates in the structure and, to a certain extent, in the types of climate of Central Europe; extending into the sea the two peninsulas of Brittany and Cotentin, it is battered by ocean storms and has some landscapes, a climate and even a population similar to those of Cornwall, Wales and Ireland; while to the NE. of the Pas de Calais it sees the low, misty but rich coast of Flanders begin; finally, Languedoc and Provence, for a length of over 500 km., extend their plains covered with vineyards and their rocky coasts in full sun on the shores of the Mediterranean, the appearance of which, as one proceeds eastwards, it is getting closer and closer to that of the Italian coasts. This variety, which results from the very position of France and is an essential element of its geographical features, if it has its advantages, it also has its drawbacks.
According to relationshipsplus, the borders of France are natural borders to the NW. (coasts of the North Sea and the English Channel), to the West (coasts of the Atlantic Ocean), to the South. (Pyrenees and the Mediterranean) and to the SE. (Alps and Jura); but NE. starting from the point where the border leaves the Rhine, for a stretch of over 500 km., there is no longer any accident on the ground that marks its route. On this side, in fact, from the century. XVIII the frontier was subject to the greatest variations; and invading foreigners have always advanced this way, aiming at the capital, which is only 400 km away. from the Rhine and 200 from Belgium. This is one of the most endangered areas of the French territory, especially after industrial development,
Within these borders, France has an area of 550,986 sq km. and it is one of the largest European states, coming before Germany and Italy. Its dimensions are roughly equal from N. to S. (9 ° lat. And 973 km. In a straight line from Zuydcoote, 51 ° 5, to Prats-de Mollo, 42 ° 20 ‘) and from W. to E. (930 km. from the Punta di Corsen to the confluence of the Lauter and the Rhine, which corresponds, given the latitude, to 13 ° of long. ie a time difference of 52 minutes).