France, officially the French Republic, is a sovereign state comprising territory in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The European part of France, called Metropolitan France, extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. France spans 640,679 square kilometres (247,368 sq mi) and has a total population of 67 million. It is a unitary semi-presidential republic with the capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. The Constitution of France establishes the state as secular and democratic, with its sovereignty derived from the people.
France became Europe's dominant cultural, political, and military power under Louis XIV. French philosophers played a key role in the age of Enlightenment in the 18th century. In 1778, France became the first and the main ally of the new United States in the American Revolutionary War. In the late 18th century, the absolute monarchy was overthrown in the French Revolution. Among its legacies was the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, one of the earliest documents on human rights, which expresses the nation's ideals to this day. France became one of modern history's earliest republics until Napoleon took power and launched the First French Empire in 1804. Fighting against a complex set of coalitions during the Napoleonic Wars he dominated European affairs for over a decade and had a long-lasting impact on Western culture. Following the collapse of the Empire, France endured a tumultuous succession of governments until finally a more lasting French Third Republic was established in 1870. By the 1905 law, France adopted a strict form of secularism, called laïcité, which has become an important federative principle in the modern French society.
France reached its territorial height during the 19th and early 20th centuries, when it ultimately possessed the second-largest colonial empire in the world.
Throughout its long history, France has been a leading global center of culture, making significant contributions to art, science, and philosophy.