The French are citizens of France (the French republic). Including the island of Corsica, France occupies 549,183 square kilometers and in 1990 had an estimated population of 56,184,000. About 10 percent of the population is composed of immigrants and workers from Italy, Spain, Portugal, and other European nations and refugees from former French colonies in Southeast Asia and Africa. French is the language of France and about 90 percent of the people are Roman Catholics, with a large Muslim population made up mainly of immigrants from northern Africa, especially Algeria. A strong Parisian-centered government and centralized authority began to emerge in the tenth century, and in the twentieth century mass communication has strengthened French nationalism at the expense of the regional cultures. Still, though, there are viable regional cultures and marked linguistic variations. Among the major regional cultures are the Alsatians in the east; the Corsicans on the Mediterranean island of Corsica; the Bretons in the northwest; the Burgundians, Auvergnats, and Aveyronnais in central France; and Aquitaine, Occitans, Provencal, and the Basques in the south.
Kurian, George T. (1990). Encyclopedia of the First World. 2 vols. New York: Facts on File.
Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations (1988). 7th ed. New York: Worldmark Press.