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France and the Cold War World

Key questions

  • What was France's international role and status after 1945? Where did France stand between the Cold War rivals?
  • Why was anti-Americanism so strong in the 1950s? Which of the French opposed American influence, and why?
  • How did the French imagine and seek to shape post-war Europe? What were their attitudes to Germany?
  • Who was Jean Monnet and what did he achieve?
  • How did de Gaulle's foreign policy shape France's role on the world stage?


The lecture will describe France's international standing in 1945, and then discuss various ways in which the French tried to come to terms with their loss of great power status. Firstly it will explore the Franco-American relationship, and look at the causes and effects of anti-Americanism, in particular French opposition to 'coca-colonisation'. Then it will discuss French attitudes towards and plans for the new post-war Europe, especially those of Jean Monnet, and finally it will analyse de Gaulle's policies of 'grandeur' and their consequences for France and the French.

Click to download the Lecture Handout and the Lecture PowerPoint


In the seminar we will have the opportunity to explore French reactions to the Cold War world in more detail, looking at a variety of sources. We will first watch an advert from the late 1930s as a means of thinking about the evolution of French attitudes to consumerism and Americanization. We will then discuss Sidney Lens's analysis of 'l'Homme standard', and Jean Monnet's vision for postwar Europe. Please study all the sources for this week: Study groups A and B should focus in particular detail on the Lens text; Study Groups C and D on the piece by Monnet.

In preparation for our discussions, you should also read an analysis of post-war French attitudes to Europe and America in one of the textbooks (Gildea and Sowerwine are very helpful on this), and look at the following online article:

  • Richard Kuisel, ‘Coca-Cola and the Cold War: the French face Americanisation, 1948-1953’, French Historical Studies 17.1 (Spring 1991), pp. 96–116.

Further reading

Through the lecture and seminar, we will have explored French reactions to the Cold War world through the eyes of various groups, for example intellectuals, Communists, government leaders and advisers. Choose one of these groups and explore their reactions further through one of the books in the module bibliography:

  • Tony Judt, Past Imperfect. French Intellectuals, 1944–56 (1992)
  • Richard Kuisel, Seducing the French. The Dilemma of Americanisation (1993) (also an electronic resource) (covers a range of social/political groups)
  • Denis Lacorne, The Rise and fall of anti-Americanism. A century of French perception (1990)
  • Douglas Brinkley and Clifford Hackett, Jean Monnet: the Path of European unity (1991) (Europeanists and Monnet)
  • Stanley Hoffmann, ‘De Gaulle, Europe, and the Atlantic Alliance’, International Organization18.1 (Winter 1964), pp. 1–28 (JSTOR) (a defence of Gaullist policy by an ardent Gaullist)