The Fall of France

The Fall of France : The Nazi Invasion of 1940

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On 16 May 1940 an emergency meeting of the French High Command was called at the Quai d'Orsay in Paris. The Germans had broken through the French lines on the River Meuse at Sedan and other locations, only five days after launching their attack. Churchill, who had been contacted by Prime Minister Reynaud the previous evening to be told that the French were beaten, had rushed to Paris. The mood on the French side was one of panic and despair: earlier in the day the French government had discussed the possibility of evacuating Paris. As the meeting proceeded, thick smoke rose from the garden outside the window as officials feverishly burnt papers to prevent them falling into German hands. Churchill asked Gamelin, the French Commander in Chief, 'Where are your reserves?' 'There are none', replied Gamelin. This exciting new book by Julian Jackson, a leading historian of twentieth-century France, charts the breathtakingly rapid events that led to the defeat and surrender of one of the greatest bastions of the Western Allies, and thus to a dramatic new phase of the Second World War. Using eyewitness accounts, memoirs, and diaries to bring the story to life, Julian Jackson both recreates the intense atmosphere of the six weeks in May and June leading up to the Vichy regime, and unravels the historical evidence to produce a fresh answer to the perennial question of whether the fall of France was more

Product details

  • Hardback | 256 pages
  • 164.1 x 241.3 x 30.2mm | 544.32g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • numerous halftone illustrations
  • 019280300X
  • 9780192803009

Table of contents

Introduction; 1. We are Beaten: May 16 1940: Churchill in Paris; 2. Uneasy Allies: May 21 1940: Weygand in Ypres; 3. The Politics of Defeat: 12 June 1940: Reynaud at Cange(Loire); 4. The French People at War: Georges Friedmann in Niort: June 17 1940; 5. Causes and Counterfactuals: March Bloch in Gueret: July 1940; 6. Consequences: June 1940: Francois Mitterrand at Verdun: 'No need to say more'show more

Review Text

The unexpectedly quick capitulation of France in the face of the Nazi invasion of 1940 was one of the pivotal moments of 20th-century history. It took the whole world (not least the Nazis) by surprise, and for a moment it looked as if what the Allies has expected to be a long war would in fact be a short and victorious war for the Fascists. Here Jackson explores the reasons for this surprise defeat, and its repercussions, both for the Second World War and for French political life in the second half of the 20th century. This is a book bursting at the bindings with detail. In fact, there is almost too much detail in places: Jackson's comprehensive comparisons of the strengths and weaknesses of the armies (including numbers and specifications of planes, tanks and weapons) can be rather bewildering for those not well acquainted with mid-20th century armaments. However, this is a minor quibble with what is otherwise an outstanding book. Jackson manages to write a book clearly and basically enough for the reader who is knows virtually nothing about the period, while at the same time successfully adding a new twist to the academic study of the war. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this book is Jackson's 'counterfactuals', in which he demonstrates that France could have just as easily won in 1940 (or indeed that it could have been defeated in 1914 at the start of the First World War). Jackson also lays to rest the myth of 'blitzkrieg': the idea that 'lightening-fast war' was one of Hitler's greatest military innovations. Jackson claims that the senior German generals spent a lot of time trying to slow the advance of the army down, and that they were as surprised as the French by the speed at which things progressed. This would be an excellent addition to the library of both the interested general reader and the professional historian. (Kirkus UK)show more

About Julian Jackson

Julian Jackson is Professor of French History at the University of Swansea and the author of several books on twentieth-century France, including France: The Dark Years 1940-1944, which was a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book more

Review quote

It should become required reading Contemporary Review gripping reading...intelligently crafted with a logical structure that beautifully interweaves narrative and interpretation Hanna Diamond, THESshow more

Rating details

186 ratings
3.83 out of 5 stars
5 24% (45)
4 45% (83)
3 24% (45)
2 5% (9)
1 2% (4)
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