France and perhaps another million living away from the homeland who have transplanted their culture to their new outposts and still cling to French citizenship. Most French anthropologists claim, without much conviction, that the French people derive from Celtic tribes that came under Roman subjugation and influence some 2,000 years ago. Since that time the population has remained remarkably homogeneous, although there have been infusions of Spaniards in the west and south and there are large pockets of Italian and Polish immigrés in the northeast, and about 500,000 unassimilated Moslems from North Africa. Thus the sharp distinctions between Frenchmen from various corners of France, most marked in such things as language and family customs, are probably not due to ethnic differences as much as to the geographic, and until recent years the political, semi-isolation of the principal regions of the nation.
The modern French population is by world standards old. From the turn of the century until World War II the population declined absolutely; France had for the first four decades of the twentieth century the lowest birth rate in the world at a time when high medical standards were constantly extending the life span of the average Frenchman. In recent years, however, the population trend has been sharply changed. Under the stimulus of social welfare bonuses for large families and a clear reduction in the fear of recurrent unemployment, Frenchmen have once again started to reproduce themselves in large numbers. Over the next quarter century, at least, France seems destined to be a land topheavy at both ends of its population scale -- more children and old people than productive adults -- with all the familiar social obligations and responsibilities this imposes on a society.
We cannot hope to make an exhaustive analysis of the French personality -- or better, the French personalities. However, some light may perhaps be shed on this complex subject by discussing certain influences which appear to affect great numbers of Frenchmen, regardless of age, regardless of the region they come from. These are, in other words, national influences which permeate France, although, of course, they may be more or less successfully resisted depending on the personality structure of each individual Frenchman, his life experience, local conditions, etc. Clearly, in some areas that are isolated, or even geographically separated from metropolitan France -- such as Corsica and Algeria -- these influences may be far less important to the citizen than local characteristics, traditions, and peculiarities.