France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944

France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944

France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944

France: The Dark Years, 1940-1944

Synopsis

In this monumental new account of the Vichy years, Julian Jackson examines French experiences of Occupation during the 'Black Years' of 1940-4. Pulling together previously separate 'histories' of occupation, resistance, and collaboration he presents a definitive history of the period. This isa more complex history than the traditional dichotomy between 'collaboration' and 'resistance', one in which the ideological frontiers between Vichy and the Resistance were often blurred. This study ranges from the politics of Marshal Petain's regime to the experiences of the ordinary Frenchpeople, from surrender in 1940 to the purges of liberation. The author restores the organized Resistance to a more central role than has been customary in recent years and presents a new social history of the resistance which takes in the roles of foreigners, women, Jews, and peasants. He uncoversthe long term roots of the Vichy regime in political and social conflict and cultural crisis stretching back to the Great War and concludes by tracing the lasting legacy and memory of Occupation since 1945.

Excerpt

This book is inspired by the conviction that the time is ripe for a new history of France during the German Occupation. The last general history of this subject, by the French historian Jean-Pierre Azéma, appeared in 1973, but in the twenty-seven years since then a huge amount of research has taken place. My ambition in writing this study is to offer a new interpretative synthesis which takes account of the massive quantity of new work. What this means, therefore, is that this book could not have been written without the pioneering archival work of innumerable other historians. I hope that I have made my debts to them clear in the footnotes, but I would like to take the opportunity in this preface to mention by name some of those historians whose work has been of particular inspiration and stimulation to me: Philippe Burrin, Luc Capdevila, Daniel Cordier, Jean-Louis Crémieux-Brilhac, Laurent Douzou, Jean-Marie Guillon, Stanley Hoffmann, Roderick Kedward, Pierre Laborie, François Marcot, Robert Paxton, Denis Peschanski, Henry Rousso, Gisèle Sapiro, John Sweets, Olivier Wieviorka.

It can be seen that the majority of names on this list are French, and this fact perhaps needs underlining given the seemingly ineradicable belief outside France (and indeed sometimes in France as well) that the French are still unwilling to 'face up' to their past. While writing this book I lost count of the number of people who wanted to tell me about France's voluntary amnesia about the Occupation and her predeliction for believing in heroic legends about the Resistance. The problem with such comments is not only the unwarranted condescension which underlies them—the assumption is that 'we', the British, would have faced up to things much better in similar circumstances—but also the fact that they are so patently false. It is true that the first important studies of the Vichy regime came from outside France, but French historians caught up long ago. Far from being years which French historians avoid, the Vichy period is probably at present the most intensively researched in French history even if it is difficult to say how far, and in what ways, the findings of the scholarly community have penetrated to the wider public. If anything, however, popular views of the Occupation in France have become excessively fixated on collaboration and antisemitism while the most recent scholarly research has tended to focus again on the Resistance after some years of neglect. One of my aims in this book is also to bring the Resistance back into the picture while not in any way underplaying the bleaker aspects of the period.

I am most grateful to Tony Morris, formerly of OUP, for having encouraged me to write this book and supporting it so enthusiastically. When I told him . . .

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