France 1940

Defending the Republic

Philip Nord

View Inside Price: $27.50


April 28, 2015
208 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
ISBN: 9780300189872
Cloth

A new perspective on the calamitous fall of France in 1940 and why blame has been misplaced ever since

In this revisionist account of France’s crushing defeat in 1940, a world authority on French history argues that the nation’s downfall has long been misunderstood. Philip Nord assesses France’s diplomatic and military preparations for war with Germany, its conduct of the war once the fighting began, and the political consequences of defeat on the battlefield. He also tracks attitudes among French leaders once defeat seemed a likelihood, identifying who among them took advantage of the nation’s misfortunes to sabotage democratic institutions and plot an authoritarian way forward. Nord finds that the longstanding view that France’s collapse was due to military unpreparedeness and a decadent national character is unsupported by fact.
 
Instead, he reveals that the Third Republic was no worse prepared and its military failings no less dramatic than those of the United States and other Allies in the early years of the war. What was unique in France was the betrayal by military and political elites who abandoned the Republic and supported the reprehensible Vichy takeover. Why then have historians and politicians ever since interpreted the defeat as a judgment on the nation as a whole? Why has the focus been on the failings of the Third Republic and not on elite betrayal? The author examines these questions in a fascinating conclusion.

Philip Nord is Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, Department of History, Princeton University. He lives in Princeton, NJ.

"A well thought-out and well-presented book on a thorny problem of European history: why was France defeated in 1940?"—Robert Gildea, author of Marianne in Chains

'Philip Nord's lively book - especially the comparative aspects of his analysis - should be essential reading for all those who still cling to the increasingly discredited idea that France's defeat in 1940 was the inevitable result of some supposed decadence in inter-war France.' - Julian Jackson, author of France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944

“A fascinating and long overdue re-examination . . . well-written and persuasive.”—J. W. Thacker, Bowling Green Daily News

“It is welcome that there should be reevaluations of the French wartime experience . . . Nord thinks that the 1940 collapse of the French army was by no means inevitable.”—Max Hastings, New York Review of Books

"Nord's goal is to separate myth and legend from the polemical by asking what really happened, making good use of recent research to dispel such views and defend the republic from its critics and opponents."—Kim Munholland, Journal of Modern History