Vichy France and Everyday Life: Confronting the Challenges of Wartime, 1939-1945

By Langlois, Suzanne | The Historian, Winter 2019 | Go to article overview

Vichy France and Everyday Life: Confronting the Challenges of Wartime, 1939-1945


Langlois, Suzanne, The Historian


Vichy France and Everyday Life: Confronting the Challenges of Wartime, 1939-1945. Edited by Lindsey Dodd and David Lees. (New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018. Pp. ix, 253. $114.00.)

These 13 collected essays on the everyday experience of French people during wartime constitute a solid addition to the enormous scholarship on Vichy France. The editors have fittingly opted for a periodization that expands the traditional Vichy period (1940-1944) to cover the entire duration of the Second World War (1939-1945), and they explore a variety of locations and segments of French society. The essays are richly documented: Toys, drawings, family photographs, the press, war diaries, oral history archives, public and private documents, aid agencies' archives, and films all bring life and empathy into the discussion. Each author reflects on the methodology adapted to use this material and examines the daily experiences of people as different as children, railroad workers, prostitutes, social workers, farmers, and colonial prisoners of war, among many others.

The individual essays are not equally strong, but the book succeeds in guiding its readers to "shift the lens" and "redirect their gaze". The editors provide an excellent introduction, the kind that any professor would judiciously assign undergraduate students to discuss the concept of the everyday. The historical and the historiographical context of the subject of Vichy has heretofore been interpreted within distinct scholarly traditions, the Francophone and the Anglophone. Collectively, the authors document how French people adapted their mundane, quotidian routine to the circumstances of war; they valorize and give meaning to daily predicaments and decisions, and they bring in emotions. The everyday category, however, does not obliterate the political (le politique)--in the French sense of the term, i.e., a wide socially based conception of politics (198). …

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