Tomas Pueyo

Tomas Pueyo



France is weird: Why is it the biggest sea country worldwide? Why was it the most powerful? Why not anymore, even in Europe? Why the only EU country that belongs to both north & south? Why did it form so early, >1000 years ago? It all starts here:

The 1st thing you notice: southern Europe is awfully mountainous

Which is why the early phase of Roman expansion was limited to the Mediterranean: they were a sailing civilization, so couldn't stray much from the sea, especially beyond massive mountain ranges.

Meanwhile, northern Europe has the vast Northern European Plain: flat and with slow rivers flowing from the southern mountains, it has the highest density of natural navigable waterways in the world.

This is the main reason why northern Europe is richer than the south: + fertile land鉃★笍+food 鉃★笍+ppl +navigable waterways鉃★笍transport is 10x cheaper鉃★笍+wealth/person

These southern European mountains are there because of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates colliding. The Northern European Plain is unaffected, but receives the water from the mountains.

But here's the very weird feature that France has, unlike any other northern European plain country: it has 2 passes through the mountains: one through the聽Rh么ne river valley, the other around the city of Carcassonne

This is what these passes look like, zooming in:

Initially, technology/civilization emerged from the Middle East, slowly moving through the Mediterranean: Phoenicians鉃★笍Greeks鉃★笍Romans

Tech spread north through these passes: Every early civ that went south to north used them, starting with Caesar's conquest of Gaul through the Rh么ne valley, and continuing with Muslims.

Over the centuries, as tech spread & pop grew, northern plains grew richer & surpassed the south. This made FR richer than any other Northern European Plains country. Why? Because most other rivers in Europe flow straight into the North Sea, forming their own independent culture

But not France: all 5 big rivers have sources so close to each other that they always formed an economic unit: The Seine touches the Loire and the Sa么ne (which can be navigated to the Rh么ne) The Loire touches the Dordogne, which connects with the Garonne.

They all formed a cultural & economic unit. You can also see the importance of rivers in the location of cities: all the main ones are at the confluence of rivers: Paris? Seine & Marne Lyon? Rh么ne & Sa么ne Bordeaux? Garonne & Dordogne Tours? Loire & Cher Nantes? Loire & S猫vre Etc

Paris is an interesting case: 鈥 Confluence of Seine&Marne 鈥 The Seine is central: close to Loire&Rh么ne 鈥 Middle of superfertile Beauce region 鈥 Seine鈥檚 mouth is close to England, Netherlands, Germany, Baltics鈥 鈥 Originally on an island (l鈥櫭巐e de la Cit茅) for defense

So the north is rich. But regions north & south of Europe rarely united because of the mountains. FR, however, with 2 passes, would eventually unite. Without them, it would have been very different

The south would have formed an independent country (Provence?), with its own national language (Occitan?), its capital (Marseille?), its wealth (from agriculture, trade through the Rh么ne and Mediterranean?) and its history. It used to be, connected to the Kingdom of Aragon

But eventually, lords from northern France conquered it. It's a fascinating story of a Secret Medieval Sect, an Angry Pope, an Opportunistic Lord, a Genocide, and Europe鈥檚 Destiny.

Without the union of N&S, France would never have been the powerhouse it was, because that power came from its size & population

The moment FR lost the lead, Germany, the US, the UK passed it and took over. That's why France is not the most powerful country, not even in Europe

Why France, despite being the biggest country in Europe, with amazing land, is not the most populated? Because of secularization. Ppl just started having fewer kids due to the ideas of the Enlightenment, born there

Before that, FR's features made it the ideal country: 鈥 Defended on all sides by seas and mountains 鈥 Access to 2 seas for trade 鈥 Best river system in Europe 鈥 Northern European Plain Only 1 opening for attacks (where Belgium is), and that's where they all came from

This is why Germany will always be France's #1 focus of attention: it's the only big power that has easy land access to FR. It's used it several times. That's why Belgium is a buffer state, & why FR needs DE in the EU: to hug it so tight it can't be a threat.

It's why FR never focused on colonies: Both the great land & the threat are local ES, Portugal, England had the same Atlantic access, but with worse local land, the others had to focus abroad That's why FR's colonies were not great: cold Quebec, jungly Guiana, islands...

Ironically, this is why FR still has so many islands: not very valuable, so few homegrown nations emerged, & FR supports them rather than the other way around. Since each island comes with sea territory, FR is the biggest sea territory country in the world

In summary: 鈥 Tectonic plates form the southern European mountains & their northern navigable waterways 鈥 The northern plain is super fertile and great for trade, forming several cultures 鈥 In FR, they are connected, which grew a rich & populous country

鈥 Cities sprung up at every river confluence 鈥 Paris was naturally the best positioned city, so the capital 鈥 2 passes between the N&S unite FR into 1 country 鈥 FR is safely protected by seas & mountains 鈥 Its only opening exposes FR to DE, which is + powerful because of pop

鈥 So FR will always obsess about DE and needs it as a tight ally: either war or alliance 鈥 The seas are secondary for FR, so it got less valuable territories, which they kept, & now have the biggest sea territory

鉃★笍FR originally united north&south because of passes. The only pass left leads to DE FR's destiny is to merge with Germany, and its tool is the European Union. Many more details in today's article:

How FR's pop reduction cost it its power: And here are deep dives on other regions: China Mexico & Caribbean Africa US

How would the world have changed if these two passes across mountains in France had not existed?

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