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The Interwar Years and the "Strange Defeat" of 1940


Seminar questions

  • What were the chief crises of the interwar years? How did the past figure in them?

  • What explains the success of the Popular Front in 1936 and its rapid demise?

  • To what extent did the divisions of the Third Republic lead to the defeat of France?

  • What, if anything, was strange about the defeat of France in 1940?


Core Texts:

  • M. Bloch, Strange Defeat: A Statement of Evidence Written in 1940, ch 3, 'A Frenchman examines his conscience', (1949) [digitized book chapter]

  • J. Jackson, The Fall of France: The Nazi Invasion of 1940 (2003), chap 5 ‘Causes and Counterfactuals’ [digitized book chapter]

  • J Wardaugh, 'Fighting for the Unknown Soldier: The Contested Territory of the French Nation in 1934-1938', Modern and Contemporary France 15:2 (2007), pp 185–201 [electronic]
  • Background: Popkin, History of Modern France, chps. 24-26.


Further Reading:


Primary sources:

  • Documents on the Popular Front and Fascism in interwar France complied by Warwick's Modern Records Centre http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/mrc/modules/docs/france
  • M. Bloch, Strange Defeat: A Statement of Evidence Written in 1940 (1949)

  • Irène Némirovsky, Suite Française (2007) [N.B. can this novel be treated as a primary source? What does it tell us about the social experience of the exodus?]


The Aftermath of World war one

  • A Prost, In the Wake of War: “Les anciens combatants” and French Society (1992)

  • M L Roberts, Civilization without Sexes: Reconstructing Gender in Postwar France, 1917-1927 (1994), available as an ebook

  • A Lyford, Surrealist masculinities : gender anxiety and the aesthetics of post-World War I reconstruction in France (2007)

  • D J. Sherman, The Construction of Memory in Interwar France (1999)

  • D J Sherman, 'Bodies and Names: The Emergence of Commemoration in Interwar France,' American Historical Review 103:2 (1998), 443-66

  • D J Sherman, ' Monuments, Mourning, and Masculinity in France after World War I,' Gender and History (1996), 82-107

  • S L. Harp, Marketing Michelin: Advertising and Cultural Identity in Twentieth-Century France (2001), chapter 3

  • Hugh Clout, After the Ruins (1996)

  • M Perry, Memory of War in France, 1914-1945 (2011), chaps 1 and 2

  • R Scales, 'Radio Broadcasting, Disabled Veterans, and the Politics of National Recovery in Interwar France,' French Historical Studies 31:4 (2008)


Politics, society and culture in interwar France

  • J Jackson, France: The Dark Years 1940-1944 (2001), 23-136

  • J Jackson, The Popular Front in France (1988)

  • S Dell, Image of the Popular Front (2007)

  • R. Wohl, French Communism in the Making (1966)

  • M Alexander, The French and Spanish popular fronts : comparative perspectives (1989)

  • J Wardhaugh, In Pursuit of the People (2009)

  • E Weber, France: The Hollow Years (1995)

  • S Kennedy, Reconciling France against Democracy (2007)

  • J Clarke, 'Imagined Productive Communities: Industrial Rationalization and Cultural Crisis in 1930s France,' Modern and Contemporary France 8:3 (2000)

  • J Clarke, France in the Age of Organization (2011)

  • R Soucy, French Fascism: The First Wave, 1924-1933 (1986)

  • R Soucy, French Fascism: The Second Wave, 1933-1939 (1995)

  • E Arnold (ed), The Developing of the Radical Right in France (2000), part 2

  • Z Sternhell, Neither Right nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France (1996)

  • B Jenkins (ed), France in the Era of Fascism (2005)

  • K Passmore, 'The French Third Republic: Stalemate Society or cradle of fascism?' French History 7:4 (1993)

  • C Millington, ‘February 6, 1934: The veterans’ riot’, French Historical Studies 33.4 (2010), 545-572

  • V Caron, Uneasy Asylum: France and the Jewish Refugee Crisis, 1933-1942 (1999)


The ""weaknesses" of the Third Republic's Military and Foreign Policies

  • R. Boyce (ed.), French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 (1998)

  • A. Adamthwaite, Grandeur and Misery: France’s Bid for Power in Europe, 1914-1940 (1995)

  • M. Alexander, The Republic in Danger: General Maurice Gamelin and the Politics of French defence (1992)

  • M. Siegel, The Moral Disarmament of France: Education, Pacifism, and Patriotism, 1914-1940 (2005)

  • W. Shirer, The Collapse of the Third Republic (1970)

  • R Young, In Command of France: French foreign policy and military planning 1933-1940 (1978)

  • N Ingram, Politics of Dissent: Pacifism in France (1991)

  • N Jordan, The Popular Front and Central Europe : the dilemmas of French impotence, 1918-1940 (1992)

  • D. Hucker, ‘French Public Attitudes towards the Prospect of War in 1938-1939: “pacifism” or “war anxiety,” French History 21/4 (2007): 431-49 [electronic resource]


The "Phoney War" and the Fall of France

  • P. Bell, A Certain Eventuality: Britain and the Fall of France (1974)

  • P. Bell, ‘John Cairns and the Historiography of Great Britain and the Fall of France: Il n’y a que le premier pas qui coûte,’ in K. Mouré and M. Alexander (eds), Crisis and Renewal in
    France
    , 1918-1962 (2002), 15-27

  • J. Blatt (ed.), The French Defeat of 1940: Reassessments (1998)

  • l. Boswell, ‘Franco-Alsatian Conflict and the Crisis of National Sentiment during the Phoney War,’ The Journal of Modern History 71/3 (September 1999), 552-84

  • J Cairns, ‘Great Britain and the fall of France: A Study in Allied Disunity,’ Journal of Modern History 27/4 (December 1955): 365-409

  • J Cairns, ‘Some Recent Historians and the “Strange Defeat” of 1940,’ Journal of Modern History 46/1 (1974): 365-409

  • A Cheal Pugh, France1940: Literary and Historical Reaction to Defeat (1991)

  • H. Diamond, Fleeing Hitler: France 1940 (2007)

  • C. Fink, ‘Marc Bloch and the drôle de guerre: Prelude to the “Strange Defeat,” in J. Blatt (ed.), The French Defeat of 1940: Reassessments (1998), 39-53

  • S. Fishman, We will Wait: Wives of French Prisoners of War, 1940-1945 (1991), chapter 2

  • T. Imlay, ‘France and the Phoney War, 1939-1940’ in R. Boyce (ed.), French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 (1998), 261-82

  • T. Imlay, ‘Mind the Gap: The Perception and Reality of Communist Sabotage of French War Production during the Phoney War, 1939-1940,’ Past and Present 189/1 (2005): 179-224

  • W. D. Irvine, ‘Domestic Politics and the Fall of Francein 1940,’ in J. Blatt (ed.), The French Defeat of 1940: Reassessments (1998), 85-99

  • J. Jackson, The Fall of France: The Nazi Invasion of 1940 (2004)


The following are useful literature reviews:

  • P. Jackson, ‘Recent Journeys Along the Road Back to France, 1940,’ The Historical Journal, 39/2 (1996), 497-510

  • P. Jackson, ‘Returning to the Fall of France: Recent Work on the Cause and Consequences of the “Strange Defeat” of 1940,’ Modern and Contemporary France, 12/4 (November 2004), 513-36

  • D. Porch, ‘Military 'Culture' and the Fall of France in 1940: A Review Essay’ in International Security 24,4 (2000)