At the end of the second century B.C. , when what is now France was partly under Roman rule, Provence was the first Roman provincia (hence the name Provence) beyond the Alps. With the breakdown of the Roman Empire, about 536, Provence fell under Carolingian rule (in the second Frankish dynasty founded by Charlemagne), after suffering successive invasions by the Franks from the north. Following the collapse of the Carolingian Empire in the ninth century and until the beginning of the eleventh century, Provence formed part of a series of kingdoms set up between France and Germany. By the end of the tenth century, a local dynasty (which had led the defense against the invasion by Muslims) dominated the area and acquired for its leader the title of count of Provence. In 1113, this dynasty ended, the House of Barcelona gained the title, and Provence fell to Spanish rule from Catalonia for over a century. Under Catalonian-Spanish rule, Provençal cities grew, becoming important centers for trade with Spain. Troubadour poetry, Romanesque architecture, and the use of a language very similar to Latin were characteristic of this period. In the thirteenth century, the Albigensian crusade was launched by the Catholic church to suppress the Cathari sect of southern France, which was considered heretic. The crusade consolidated the influence of the papacy and northern France. The popes acquired certain territories in northern Provence and took up residence in Avignon from 1309 to 1377. The domination of Provence by the north dates from around 1246, with the Extension of the rule of the Angevin dynasty, started by Charles of Anjou, brother of Louis IX. During this period, the administrative autonomy of Provence prevailed with the development of the estates that had the power to approve taxes and to help rule the province in times of disorder. In 1481, Provence was willed to the king of France, and from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, control by the king grew and the power of the estates decreased. After the revolution of 1789, Provence lost all its political institutions, and in 1790 the first division of the province into departments occurred.
Contemporary France is inhabited by a culturally diverse population, though white native French represent the numerical majority. While Spanish and Italian immigrants have been more easily absorbed into the dominant culture, visible minority groups are less easily absorbed and tolerated. As the economic recession has reduced the demand for labor, resulting in job scarcity, ethnic tensions have grown. In the 1970s, racial intolerance became the political platform of the Right and ultra-Right parties of France. Interracial conflict is especially evident in areas with a large population of visible minority groups, such as Marseille, which represents one of the main ports of entry for the migrants from North Africa. In the rural areas, social interaction between French families and families of North African origin is highly attenuated and limited usually to the workplace.