A chronology of key events:
1789 - French Revolution ends rule of monarchy going back to 9th century; followed by establishment of the First Republic.
Napoleon Bonaparte was renowned for his military victories across Europe
- Born in 1769 in Corsica
- Defeated twice by British forces - at Trafalgar and Waterloo
1799 - Napoleon Bonaparte leads coup to overthrow government; consolidates position with new constitution.
1804-1814 - Napoleon crowns himself emperor of First French Empire; series of military successes brings most of continental Europe under his control.
1815 - Napoleon defeated in Battle of Waterloo; monarchy reestablished.
1848 - Fall of King Louis-Philippe; Louis-Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, proclaimed president of Second Republic.
1852-1870 - Louis-Napoleon takes title of Napoleon III in Second Empire.
1870-71 - Franco-Prussian War, ending in French defeat, loss of Alsace-Lorraine and end of the Second Empire; Third Republic lasts until 1940.
1877 - Republicans win general elections, ending hopes of a monarchist revival.
1914-18 World War I - Massive casualties in trenches in north-east France; 1.3 million Frenchmen are killed and many more wounded by the end of the war.
Paris: 'City of Light'
- French capital has inspired artists, thinkers
- Named after Parisii, Celtic tribe who lived on site
- City planner Baron Haussmann laid out much of modern Paris in 19th century
1918 - Anglo-French offensive - backed by fresh American troops - forces Germany to an armistice on 11 November.
1919 - Peace Treaty of Versailles. France regains Alsace-Lorraine; Germany agrees to reparations.
1936-38 - Rise of the Popular Front, an alliance of left-wing forces.
1939-45 - World War II - Germany occupies much of France. Vichy regime in unoccupied south collaborates with Nazis. General de Gaulle, undersecretary of war, establishes government-in-exile in London and, later, Algiers. Rise of French Resistance.Liberation
1944 - Allied forces land at Normandy leading to liberation of France. De Gaulle sets up provisional government. Purge against former collaborators.
Charles de Gaulle
General De Gaulle formed a wartime government-in-exile and later became president
1946 - De Gaulle resigns as provisional president, replaced by Socialist Felix Gouin.
1946-58 - Fourth Republic is marked by economic reconstruction and the start of the process of independence for many of France's colonies.
1951 - France joins West Germany and other European nations in the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) - leading to the formation in 1957 of the European Economic Community (EEC).
1954 First Indochina War ends - French defeated at Battle of Dien Bien Phu in north-west Vietnam.
Algerian War of Independence begins.
1956 - Colonial rule ends in Morocco and Tunisia.Fifth Republic
1958 - De Gaulle returns to power on back of Algerian crisis and founds the Fifth Republic, with a stronger presidency.
1962 - Algeria granted independence from French colonial rule.
1968 May - Student revolt against government policies and lack of social reform escalates into national strike.
1969 - De Gaulle leaves office. Georges Pompidou elected president.
1970 - De Gaulle dies of stroke.
1974 - Pompidou dies, succeeded by Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
1981 - Socialist candidate Francois Mitterrand is elected president.
1986 - Centre-right victory in legislative elections of 1986 leads to "co-habitation" - a left-wing president and a right-wing prime minister, Jacques Chirac.
1988 - Mitterrand re-elected.
1992 - France signs Maastricht Treaty on European union.
1995 - Jacques Chirac elected president, ending 14 years of Socialist presidency.
France attracts international condemnation by conducting a series of nuclear tests in the Pacific.
1997 - Lionel Jospin becomes prime minister.
2000 September - Chirac embroiled in corruption scandal. He dismisses newspaper allegations.
2001 June - Compulsory military service abolished.
2002 January - Euro replaces franc, first minted in 1360.
Jospin resigns, Chirac re-elected
2002 May - Jacques Chirac re-elected president, trouncing National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the second round of voting. Le Pen's showing in the first round sent shockwaves across France and Europe and galvanised French voters into mass street demonstrations.
- Founder of the Socialist Party was president for 13 years
- Born in Jarnac, 1916
- 1946: Elected to National Assembly
- 1981: Elected as president at third attempt; re-elected in 1988
- Died in Paris, 1996
Lionel Jospin, the main left-wing presidential contender whom Le Pen knocked out in the first round, resigns the premiership and the Socialist Party leadership.
2002 June - Landslide victory in legislative elections for centre-right UMP. Jean-Pierre Raffarin's centre-right government confirmed in office, marking an end to the "cohabitation" years when Chirac had to work with Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.
2002 November - Widespread public sector strikes over government privatisation plans bring country to a standstill.
2003 March - Constitution changed to allow devolution to regions and departments of powers over economic development, transport, tourism, culture and further education. Amendments also provide for local referendums, to give people more say in local decisions.
2003 May-June - Proposed pension reforms spark industrial action as workers protest against prospect of having to pay higher contributions over longer periods.
2003 July - Corsica referendum, first to follow March constitutional amendments, narrowly votes against establishment of unified assembly with limited powers to raise and spend taxes. Paris had hoped that a yes vote would end separatist violence.
Parliament approves controversial reforms to pension system.
2004 March - President Chirac's UMP routed in regional elections.
2004 November - Nicolas Sarkozy takes over as leader of UMP.
2005 January - Trade unions organise wave of public sector strikes against proposed labour, pension and welfare reforms.
2005 May - Referendum goes against proposed EU constitution. The result prompts a political shake-up, including the resignation of Prime Minister Raffarin.
2005 June - International project group says France is to host the world's first experimental nuclear fusion reactor at Cadarache, near Marseille.
2005 October - One-day national strike in protest at welfare reforms, low pay and privatisation plans causes widespread disruption.Urban violence
2005 October-November - Largely immigrant communities in north-east Paris are hit by riots after two youths of North African origin are electrocuted in an electricity substation. The authorities deny that they were being chased by police at the time. Unrest escalates and spreads to other cities. Government introduces emergency measures to try to restore order.
2006 March-April - New youth employment laws spark mass demonstrations in Paris and other cities across France. As protests continue, the legislation is scrapped.Sarkozy becomes president
2007 May - Nicolas Sarkozy, the former interior minister and leader of the ruling conservative UMP, wins a decisive victory in the second round of the presidential election.
2007 June - The UMP wins parliamentary elections, but with a reduced majority. The party insists it still has a mandate to carry out its proposed reforms.
Mr Sarkozy fulfils his pre-election promise to appoint women to half the posts in the new cabinet, and brings in people from across the political divide.
2007 November - Civil servants take to the streets, along with workers from the transport and energy sectors, to protest against Mr Sarkozy's planned cuts in pay and jobs, and reform of pension benefits. There is widespread disruption of public services.
2008 February - France formally ratifies Lisbon Treaty on reform of European Union.Financial crisis
2008 October - European governments pledge up to 1.8 trillion euros as part of co-ordinated plans to shore up their financial sectors, hit hard by the global financial crisis. France says it will inject 10.5bn euros into the country's six largest banks.
2010 March - Ruling UMP suffers heavy defeat in regional elections, losing control of all but one of the 22 regions in mainland France and Corsica.
2010 June - Government announces public spending cuts of 45bn euros in effort to reduce high level of public debt.
2010 July - Prosecutors launch inquiry into allegations that L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt made illegal donations to President Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign.
2010 August - France begins to dismantle illegal Roma (gypsy) camps and to deport their residents back to Romania and Bulgaria, as part of a package of new security measures.Pension protests
2010 September-October - Hundreds of thousands turn out in several waves of trade union-led protests against government plans to raise retirement age to 62.
2010 November - France concludes military and nuclear accord with UK. Under the terms of the new treaty, the two countries will cooperate in testing nuclear warheads.
2011 March - France plays prominent role in imposing and enforcing no-fly zone over Libya.
Ban on religious symbols provoked intense debate
2011 April - Face veil ban comes into force.
2011 May - French political establishment is shaken by arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who had been tipped as a strong Socialist candidate for the presidency, in New York on sexual assault charges that were later dropped.
2011 August - Government announces package of austerity measures aimed at reducing public deficit by 12bn euros over two years. In November it announces a further 7bn euros of cuts in 2012 and 11.6bn euros in 2013.
2011 September - Credit rating agency Moody's downgrades the two biggest French banks, Credit Agricole and Societe Generale, because of concerns over their exposure to Greek debt. Credit Agricole later announces a cut of 2,350 jobs worldwide.
2011 November - Prime Minister Francois Fillon leads politicians and religious leaders in condemning a petrol-bomb attack by Islamic extremists that destoryed the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after it had named the Muslim Prophet Muhammad as a "guest editor".
2012 January - France loses its top AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor's along with Spain and Italy.
2012 February - The Senate approves a bill making it a crime to deny genocide was committed by Ottoman Turks against Armenians during World War I. President Sarkozy is expected to sign it into law by the end of February. Turkey threatens retaliatory measures.
2012 March - French Islamist Mohamed Merah shoots dead seven people, including three Jewish schoolchildren, in Toulouse. He is shot dead in a police siege of his flat. France bans militant Islamist preachers from entering the country, beginning with the Qatari-based Egyptian Yusuf al-Qaradawi.Hollande presidency
2012 May - Socialist candidate Francois Hollande beats Nicolas Sarkozy in the run-off presidential election. He appoints close ally Jean-Marc Ayrault as prime minister over Socialist Party leader and left-wing rival Martine Aubry. President Hollande announces the withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, a year earlier than scheduled.
French police detain the last military leader of the Basque separatist group Eta, Oroitz Gurruchaga Gogorza, and his deputy Xabier Aramburu in a joint operation with Spain.
2012 June - Socialists win comfortable majority in parliamentary elections.
2012 August - France posts zero growth in the second quarter of 2012, as in the previous two - a better result than expected.
2012 October - President Hollande promises the Jewish community a "total mobilisation of the state to fight all terrorist threats" after police shoot dead a man in Strasbourg suspected of targeting a Paris Jewish shop and blanks were fired outside a Paris synagogue on the Succot Jewish holiday. Anti-terror police carry out a series of raids nationwide, arresting 11 suspects.
2012 November - Moody's rating agency downgrades France's credit rating from the top triple-A billing to Aa1, with an option to cut it again. Moody's blames stalled economic growth, the risk of a Greek euro exit and the danger of France having to help bail out other eurozone countries.Intervention in Mali
2013 January - French commandos mount an operation in Somalia to try rescue a hostage, but the bid fails. Al-Shabab Islamist rebels later say they have executed the man.
French forces intervene in Mali and help government regain control over the north of the country seized by Islamists. It begins to withdraw the troops in April.
2013 March - Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac resigns after allegations that he maintained a secret bank account in Switzerland. He is subsequently charged with tax fraud. Mr Cahuzac had been a vocal crusader against the use of overseas tax havens, and the scandal caused by the affair causes President Hollande grave embarrassment.
2013 May - France enters second recession in four years after the economy shrank by 0.2% in the first quarter. The economy shrank by the same amount in the last quarter of 2012.
2013 June - The International Monetary Fund calls on France to lower its labour costs and halt tax hikes to boost both growth and its competitiveness, or else face a widening gap with its European neighbours.