by Jack Le Moine
Did you ever notice that in almost every great war in history, France has been involved in some way? The military history of France is almost of the military history of the whole world. Scan down this list of wars and form your own opinion.
Here’s a list of the major French wars. Titles link to summaries of the wars. Summaries Pages.
** = still unfinished.
|Gaul||58 – 51 BC||Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul.|
|Barbarian Invasions||376 – 500||Fall of the Roman Empire|
|Rise of the Franks||500 – 732||Including the Moslem Invasion|
|Charlemagne’s||771 – 814||Constant warfare on the frontiers of France|
|The Vikings||900 – 1066||Including the Norman Conquest of England|
|The Crusades||1096 – 1270||France in the Middle East|
|King John’s Angevin War||1202 – 1204||When the English controlled most of France|
|The 100 Yrs War||1338 – 1453||Joan of Arc saves France|
|Renaissance Italian Wars||1494 – 1559||France tries to conquer Italy|
|The Religious Wars **||1562 – 1598||The French Civil War between Catholics and Protestants|
|The 30 Yrs War **||1618 – 1648||France enters late and decides the conflict|
|Louis XIV’s **||1667 – 1714||Just like Charlemagne|
|Frederick the Great’s **||1740 – 1763||Frederick the Great of Prussia plunged Europe into two more great wars.|
|The American Revolution **||1775 – 1783||France was key to victory|
|The French Revolution **||1793 – 1799||France versus the world|
|Napoleon’s **||1799 – 1815||Like Charlemagne & Louis XIV|
|The Crimean **||1854 – 1856||France and Britain versus Russia|
|Italian Independence **||1859 – 1866||France versus Austria and then Italy|
|Franco-Prussian **||1870 – 1871||Napoleon III, Bismark, and the Commune|
|World War I **||1914 – 1918||The Western Front almost entirely within France.|
|World War II **||1939 – 1945||France conquered early; De Gaulle defends France’s status|
|The Suez Affair **||1956 – 1957||France and Europe retreat from Great Power status|
Some of these wars are more historical periods than a war. Constant warfare during a period just merges in our collective, historical memory as just one big long conflict. This is especially true of the Dark Ages. To be consistent, the wars against Germany (Franco-Prussian, WWI , and WWII) could be considered as one long war broken up by intermittent peace, too. Indeed, the “100 Years War” was a collection of wars, rather than just one.
I offer this scheme, as a logical way to understand the major wars of French history. Note, to what extent this list encompasses most of the major wars of human history since Caesar.
P.S. No summary of French military history could be complete without something on the storied French Foreign Legion.
Here’s Wikipedia’s article.