In 1996, Frances population reached 58 million people. Almost
threequarters of the citizens live in urban areas. The capital
Paris has about 2.2 million inhabitants; Marseilles is the second
most populous city, with just over 800,000 people.
Since prehistoric times, trade, travel, and invasion have shaped
France. Three basic European stocksCeltic, Latin, and Teutonic
(Frankish) have blended over the centuries to make up
its present population.
Traditionally, France has had a high level of immigration. Fiftytwo
percent of Frances noncitizens are southern Europeans. Another
26 percent of the countrys people are North Africans, primarily
About 90 percent of the people are Roman Catholic, less than 2 percent
are Protestant, and about 1 percent are Jewish. The countrys
1 million Muslims are primarily immigrants.
French is the mother tongue of some 200 million people around the
world. It is an official language in Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg
and Switzerland, as well as a host of African countries including
Zaire and Niger.
To a great extent, French is still seen as the language of diplomacy,
both in the European Union and on an international level.
France is mainly dominated by Christianity and Islam.