A chronology of key events:
1789 - French Revolution ends rule of monarchy going back to 9th century; followed by establishment of the First Republic.
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 re-established.
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.
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.
1944 - Allied forces land at Normandy leading to liberation of France. De Gaulle sets up provisional government. Purge against former collaborators.
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.
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 - President Chirac embroiled in corruption scandal. He dismisses newspaper allegations.
2001 June - Compulsory military service abolished.
2002 January - Euro replaces franc, first minted in 1360.
2002 May - Jacques Chirac re-elected president, beating National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the second round of voting. Jean-Marie strong Le Pen's showing in the first round sent shockwaves across France and Europe and prompted mass demonstrations.
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 new centre-right government ends the "cohabitation" between President Chirac and Socialist 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.
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-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 they were being chased by police. Unrest spreads to other cities. Government introduces emergency measures.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 their exposure to Greek debt.
2012 January - France loses its top AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor's.
2012 February - The Constitutional Council strikes down as violating freedom of expression a new law making it a crime to deny genocide was committed by Ottoman Turks against Armenians during World War I.
2012 March - French Islamist Mohamed Merah shoots dead seven people, including three Jewish schoolchildren, in Toulouse, before himself being 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.
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.
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.
2012 October - Anti-terror police carry out a series of raids nationwide, arresting 11 suspects, after police shoot dead a man in Strasbourg suspected of targeting a Paris Jewish shop.
2012 November - Moody's rating agency downgrades France's credit rating from the top triple-A billing to Aa1, citing weak growth and the eurozone crisis.
Intervention in Mali
2013 January - French commando raid to rescue a hostage in Somalia fails. Al-Shabab Islamist rebels later say they executed the man.
French forces intervene in Mali and help government recapture northern regions seized by Islamists. They begin to withdraw in April.
2013 March - Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac - a vocal crusader against overseas tax havens - resigns after belatedly admitting to owning a secret Swiss bank account, in an embarrassing scandal for President Hollande.
2013 May - France enters second recession in four years after the economy shrinks by 0.2% in the first quarter.
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.
2013 November - Standard and Poor's (S&P) downgrades France's credit rating further from AA+ to AA, citing high unemployment.
2013 December - France deploys 1,600 troops to the Central African Republic to try to restore order.
National Front gains
2014 March - Interior minister Manuel Valls replaces Jean-Marc Ayrault as prime minister after the governing Socialists suffer a drubbing in municipal elections. The far-right National Front makes significant gains in the polls.
2014 May - The far-right Front National wins the European elections in France with about a quarter of the vote, pushing President Hollande's Socialists into third place.
2014 July - Ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy is detained and placed under formal investigation over allegations he sought insider information about a probe into illegal campaign funding. He says the move is a plot to stop his return to politics.
2014 August - Manuel Valls forms a new cabinet after three ministers quit their posts in a bitter row over the government's austerity strategy.
2014 September - The National Front wins its first ever seats in the French senate, inflicting a third humiliating electoral defeat on the ruling Socialists and their leftwing allies, who lose their majority in the upper chamber.
2014 October - France publishes a budget for 2015 that includes 21bn euros (£17bn) worth of cuts in public spending, but which still envisages a budget deficit of 4.3% - way above the EU target figure of 3% of GDP.
2014 November - The number of people seeking work climbs to a record high of 3,488,300. President Hollande says he will not seek a second term in office if he fails to deliver on his pledge to bring down joblessness.
Islamic State attacks
2015 January - Islamist gunmen shoot dead 17 people in Paris - most of them staff at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo - before being killed by security forces.
The government announces a range of new security measures following the shootings in Paris. It says more than 2,500 new intelligence personnel will be recruited over the next three years to investigate Islamic extremism.
2015 September - France launches air strikes again Islamic State group targets in Syria.
2015 November - Islamic State group claims responsibility for terror attacks in Paris that kill 130 people - deadliest attacks in France since Second World War, and in European Union since 2004 Madrid railway bombings. France announces state of emergency, launches renewed bombing raids in Syria.
2016 February - Government begins dismantling notorious 'Jungle' migrant camp at Calais on the English Channel.
2016 May - Following weeks of street protests, government pushes through legislation making France's protective labour laws less restrictive, with the aim of encouraging firms to recruit.
2016 July - At least 84 people are killed in lorry attack on crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. Islamic State claims responsibility.
2016 December - President Hollande announces that he will not stand for a second term in 2017.
2017 April - Islamist kills policeman in attack on Champs-Elysees in Paris.
President Macron elected
2017 May - Centrist former economy minister Emmanuel Macron decisively beats the far-right National Front's Marine Le Pen in the presidential election. Neither of the two main parties, the Socialists and Republicans, made it into the run-off round.
2017 June - Mr Macron's La Republique En Marche! movement wins an overall majority in parliamentary elections.
2017 September - Mr Macron signs into law sweeping changes to the labour code designed to make it easier for companies to hire and fire workers.
2018 April - Rail workers announce a three-month strike, as the first major challenge to the government's employment reforms.
2018 November-December - Major nationwide "yellow-vest" protests at attempts to curb fossil fuel use through price hikes turn violent, prompting a partial government climb-down. Protests continue into new year.
2020 July - President Macron appoints Jean Castex prime minister, after Edouard Philippe resigned in the wake of a poor showing for the governing La République En Marche! party in local elections.