French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940: The Decline and Fall of a Great Power

French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940: The Decline and Fall of a Great Power

French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940: The Decline and Fall of a Great Power

French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940: The Decline and Fall of a Great Power

Synopsis

French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 outlines France's strategies for protection and appeasement during this period and places interwar relations in a larger European context.This book examines:* relationships with key countries such as Italy and Russia* the significance of interwar France to 20th Century European integration* the historical context of the policies* the setbacks and defeats of the period and how they should be evaluated

Excerpt

Robert Boyce

No event in contemporary history has caused greater shock and consternation than the fall of France in June 1940. For fully three hundred years France had been universally regarded as one of the greatest of the Great Powers. From time to time, of course, French forces met defeat on the high seas or in land battles. In 1870 Napoleon III's armies were swiftly humiliated by the Prussians, but there were good reasons for treating this as a self-inflicted wound. Subsequently France appeared to make up for this show of weakness by acquiring a vast new overseas empire and close alliance relations with Imperial Russia. In August/September 1914 French armies seemed up to the standards of old when they bore the brunt of the initial German offensive, throwing it back in the first battle of the Marne. Thereafter they held on for four more years, enduring the carnage and halting the last great German (Michael) offensive in the second battle of the Marne in July 1918. Two months later Germany sued for an armistice and on 11 November France emerged victorious from the bloodiest war in modern times.

At this point no less than four great European empires-the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and German-succumbed to defeat, with the prospect of severe political upheaval and near certainty of territorial losses. France was also seriously affected. Ten of its most industrialised départements had been laid waste by the war, its casualties approached four million killed or wounded and its Treasury was empty. But against this could be set the recovery of Alsace and Lorraine, possession of a stable political system and the largest army in Europe, indeed in the world.

The preliminary peace conference was convened in Paris after only half-hearted efforts by Britain and the United States-the so-called Anglo-Saxon powers-to meet in a neutral capital. Allied objections to Paris arose not because it was inconvenient or France too exhausted to host the conference. Quite the contrary: their fear was that the clamour of the French public and

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