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The Fall of France


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Table of Contents

Introduction 1: 'We are Beaten' 2: Uneasy Allies 3: The Politics of Defeat 4: The French People at War 5: Causes and Counterfactuals 6: Consequences

About the Author

Julian Jackson is Professor of French History at the University of Swansea and author of several books on 20th-century France. His book France: The Dark Years was also published last year to great critical acclaim.


In his thorough monograph, University of Swansea historian Jackson (The Dark Years) begins with pre-war developments-French military innovations and battle strategy; Germany's plan to invade Belgium and France-before recounting the German breakthrough and defeat of British and French forces in May 1940. The second chapter opens with General Weygand taking command of the French army later that month, then provides background on France's position in Europe before the war, particularly its relations with Great Britain: the failure of attempted British-French-Soviet alliance in early 1939, and the so-called Phony War on the western front September 1939-April 1940. He tracks French attempts to halt the German onslaught and the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, leading to the June 1940 surrender, then cuts back to analyze French internal politics during the 1930s and its effect on French foreign policy. Another chapter gets devoted to the French people circa 1940, including pacifist society following World War I; soldiers' reactions to the German invasion and recollections of the mass exodus of WWI refugees from the advancing Germans are also covered. The final chapters provide a historiography of the campaign itself and the effects of the defeat on France, focusing on the collaborationist Vichy government that followed the defeat, the rise of De Gaulle's movement, and a treatment of how the defeat is viewed today. Designed for the academic rather than the casual reader, this presentation is careful and measured, and seems likely to find its way onto college history syllabi. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

`Review from previous edition an extremely lucid and absorbing account...superb reconstruction, which melds expert military knowledge with riveting mini-biographies of the principal players. This is history as it should be written. ' Frank McLynn, New Statesman `eminently fair and utterly absorbing book. This is an admirable study, clearly written and quite the best thing I have read on this sore subject. ' Allan Massie, Literary Review `excellent ' Max Hastings, Sunday Telegraph (Review)

In May 1940, the German army punched through the Ardennes Forest and in less than a month's time swept aside two French armies and shoved the fumbling remnants of the British and French forces into the English Channel at Dunkirk. It was a staggering defeat for the Allied cause and gave impetus to Hitler's drive for world domination. Writers ever since have been trying to explain this monumental defeat. None does it better than Jackson (history, Univ. of Swansea). Through an exhaustive analysis of diaries, memoirs, public documents, and every secondary work on the subject, Jackson challenges conventional explanations for the French army's collapse. He contends that France's humiliating defeat was not the result of deep systemic factors, a theory favored by such authors as William Shirer. Instead, it was the boldness of a tactical strike that the Germans happened to aim at the weakest link in the Allied defenses. An extreme version of this theory was first offered in Ernest May's Strange Victory: Hitler's Conquest of France, but Jackson offers a far more in-depth analysis. This book is a fitting introduction to Jackson's critically acclaimed France: The Dark Years 1940-44 and belongs in every academic and public library.-Jim Doyle, Sara Hightower Regional Lib., Rome, GA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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