Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Vichy France and the Resistance

Key questions

  • Why was France defeated by Nazi Germany in 1940? Who was blamed for this defeat?
  • How did the new government try to rebuild France, and with what results?
  • What was the meaning of the 'National Revolution' and how did Vichy try to promote this project?
  • What did collaboration and resistance mean in practice?
  • How did de Gaulle succeed in uniting the French Resistance?

In preparation for the lecture and seminar this week, you may wish to read chapter 14 'Vichy in Power 1940-42' in Charles Sowerwine's book, but this is by no means obligatory.


The lecture will give an overview of France's experience of defeat and occupation, including a timeline of military defeat and an outline of some of the polices of the Vichy regime. It will also introduce and discuss the controversy surrounding collaboration and resistance in France still present today.

The resources from the lecture can be downloaded below:
Lecture handout

Lecture PowerPoint

Seminar preparation

In the seminar, we will discuss some of the visual and aural propaganda of the Vichy regime (extracts 2a and 2b in the sourcebook), and watch a short newsreel clip from the period.

To prepare, you should read through the sourcebook extracts for week 2 (where you will also find links to online recordings from this period). For further reading, look at one or more of these general overviews:

  1. James McMillan, Twentieth-century France: Politics and Society, 1898–1991 (1992), Chs 13 and 14
  2. H.R.Kedward, Occupied France: Collaboration and Resistance, 1940–44 (1985) (excellent short introduction by an expert on the Resistance; see especially Chapter 2)

Think particularly about how the French responded to the humiliation of defeat: how did politicians work with the new situation, and what were their motivations? How did ordinary people manage in these difficult years? Should they be classified as collaborators and resisters, or were they just trying to survive?