Located on both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and touching the North Sea, France has a wider range of maritime opportunities than any other European country not even excepting Spain. The western Mediterranean admits the country to northern Africa where the colonies of Algiers, Tunis, and Morocco are almost an integral part of France. They serve as a stepping-stone to the great French colonial empire in the Sudan and equatorial Africa. The Atlantic gave France a share in the exploitation of the world in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Most of the fruits of this are lost, as in the case of Canada, but commercial as well as cultural contacts still remain.
A second geographical factor which favors France is its climate, which is an almost perfect blending of three different types, the western European, the Mediterranean, and the central European. Cyclonic control is dominant, but is less vigorous than in countries farther north. Hence the French climate is on the whole less stimulating than the less agreeable climates of its northern neighbors.
The relief of the surface is another asset, for only locally is France seriously rugged. The wide rolling plains, the uplands and plateaus, and the mountain ranges induce diversity of production to the great profit of the country as a whole. Moreover, in spite of high mountains, the relief permits easy connections between the different French regions and permits France to have an admirable system of roads, canals, and railroads.
France is also rather well provided with mineral resources. The coal production, it is true, does not equal the consumption, but the waterpower, especially of the Pyrenees and Alps, partially offsets this deficit. Potash, rock salt, and bauxite are valuable French mining products, but the chief factor in France's mineral output is the abundance of iron ore, for which France is the second world producer.
Finally, the last but not the least French asset is the population itself. This mixture of ancient Celts and later Germanic invaders shows strong ethnic unity, and for centuries has withstood the shocks of national existence.