Recommended reading on France 1919-1945

Discussions on all aspects of France during the Inter-War era and Second World War.
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Marcus
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Recommended reading on France 1919-1945

Post by Marcus » 18 Aug 2009 18:40

The idea of this sticky is to collect recommendations on good books dealing with France during the 1919-1945 period.

Please post the title, author and a short (or long) explanation as to why you feel that particular title deserves to be included.

/Marcus


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ljadw
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Re: Recommended reading on France 1919-1945

Post by ljadw » 19 Aug 2009 19:42

La grande histoire des Français sous l'occupation (10 volumes ) by Henri Amouroux :a must for those wanting to know something about the French and the occupation (reserved for those able to read French )

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Re: Recommended reading on France 1919-1945

Post by ljadw » 21 Aug 2009 06:15

La france de Vichy :Robert Paxton :with caution !:beying an American he is not able to understand what it is to live in an occupied country and to have to give and take .

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Loïc
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Re: Recommended reading on France 1919-1945

Post by Loïc » 21 Aug 2009 18:52

The French Army 1939-1940 by Lee Sharp (Military Press)
indispensable and recommended study of French Army organisation and Orders of Battles for 1939-1940
Publisher' website with the list and summaries of each volume
http://www.militarypress.co.uk/french_m ... /index.htm
ImageImage

two recommended titles by englishspeaking authors, one American other British translated in french for France under Nazi Occupation :

Choices in Vichy France ~ Clermont Ferrand à l'heure allemande John F Sweets
one of the firts books against the falsifications drained by Ophuls's totally biaised picture Le Chagrin et la pitié and who invalidated Paxton's view about relations between Vichy Regime and the French people

The Dark Years 1940-1944 ~ La France sous l'occupation 1940-1944 Julian Jackson
reference book, same serious approach about this topic

garlock
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Re: Recommended reading on France 1919-1945

Post by garlock » 22 Aug 2009 11:09

Just finishing Verdict on Vichy by Michael Curtis. It's intended to be a study of Vichy's position on and actions regarding the Jews in France during the occupation. However, it also, of necessity, covers some of the more general aspects of the period. In general (but not totally), Curtis takes a dim view of the French actions during the period 1940-1945.

John

MLW
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Book: Maginot Line 1940: Battles on the French Frontier

Post by MLW » 22 Feb 2010 23:39

The book I co-authored - Maginot Line 1940: Battles on the French Frontier - for Osprey Publishing is now available for sale. One experienced reviewer of fortress-type books gave the work a very positive review. I am happy to hear this because my coauthor and I wrote the text and created the maps and order of battle from primary archival documents and did not, as so often happens these days, hack write the book from secondary sources. The text is all original work and is a detailed, fresh look at the Maginot Line’s combat record to include many previously unpublished the photographs from our personal collections.

Along the way, we discovered several myths concerning the Maginot Line that have been perpetuated through the years. The first one (of course) being that the Maginot Line did not see any significant combat. Here is the book’s description, which I think captures the essence of the text:

"Constructed throughout the 1930s, the Maginot Line was supposed to form the ultimate defense against a German invasion of France. However, different sections of the line were built at different times and the strength of various sections varied widely. During their Blitzkrieg invasion, the Germans were able to identify these weak points and focus their attacks against them. The book uses new maps and period photographs to tell the story of the five German operations launched against the Maginot Line. While the Germans were able to smash through the lightly defended section of the line along the Meuse River, the line held at other key points. Ultimately the Maginot Line proved a failure, but the stiff resistance put up by some of the fortresses confirms the fighting ability of the French army during the invasion."

If you are interested in the French Campaign of 1940 and the Maginot Line, then the book may be for you. If you do happen to buy the book, I would be very interested in your opinion of our work.
Here is the link to the book on US amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Maginot-Line-1940 ... 046&sr=8-1
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MLW
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Re: Recommended reading on France 1919-1945

Post by MLW » 24 Feb 2010 23:56

Here is a review of my book from amazon.com. I must agree with the reviewer's criticisms. Cheers, Marc

Finally, A book with Fresh Content about the 1940 French Campaign, February 23, 2010
By R.A.Forczyk

Although there have been a number of good books written about the German attack on France in 1940, traditional historiography has been skewed toward just the first three weeks of the campaign and emphasizing the German breakthrough at Sedan, the dash to the sea and the Allied evacuation from Dunkirk. Most accounts mention the role played by the French Maginot Line in shaping the German breakthrough plan, but rarely discuss what the Maginot Line troops were doing during the actual campaign. Indeed, the follow-up German invasion of metropolitan France (Fall Rot or Plan Red) and the final three weeks of the campaign are usually absent entirely or skimmed over quickly in standard accounts. However, Marc Romanych's Maginot Line 1940 not only fills both these gaps admirably but it succeeds in presenting fresh content about the German efforts to reduce the Maginot Line. Whereas most accounts suggest that little happened around the Maginot Line while the Germans were overrunning the rest of France, Romanych details seven different German operations to reduce and capture various sections of the line. This book is well-researched and put together with an eye for detail that makes it particularly useful for specialist readers.

Maginot Line 1940 begins with a brief overview of the German invasion plan (Fall Gelb or Plan Yellow), the brief French offensive into the Saar in 1939 and a campaign chronology, followed by the usual sections on opposing commanders, forces and plans. These opening sections are decent, but a bit brief, except for the 3-page order of battle. One good point that the author makes in these sections is that despite the fact that the Maginot Line was created to guard the French border with Germany and thereby allow the French Army to reduce the number of troops committed to static defensive roles, they violated this intent by deploying almost half their divisions to support the Maginot Line. Clearly some of these divisions could have been bettered employed in the general reserve.

The campaign narrative proper begins with the opening German moves through the Ardennes and the breakthrough at Sedan, but the author does not belabor material that has been well-trodden in standard accounts. It is with the German capture of Fort La Ferte, the western end of the Maginot Line, that the author finds his groove. He discusses how the Germans massed over 250 guns against the fort and spent two days reducing its outer defenses until it was finally captured. This was the first Maginot Line fort captured and the author notes that the French high command was stunned that it had fallen so quickly. From this point on, the author discusses the capture of the Maubeuge fortifications and then moves from west to east down the Maginot Line, detailing the German operations that occurred in the final two weeks of the war to reduce the line. As it turns out, there was quite a lot of fighting around the Maginot Line but the Germans only captured 10 of 58 major defensive works before the Armistice. There is a great deal of detail in his narrative and the tactical dynamic tends to be similar for most of these operations: French interval troops withdraw leaving the Maginot Line forts isolated, German troops move in, pound the forts with point-blank fire from 88-mm flack guns then assault with artillery and engineers. Rinse and repeat. This tactical dynamic and the author's recounting of it does get a bit repetitive, particularly since there are no first-person accounts included. On the other hand, much of this information has not appeared in English before so think of it as a helpful dose of medicine. One of the few disappointments I had about the author's research was that the analysis in the Aftermath section seemed incomplete, particularly in regard to casualties. Given that Paris had already fallen by the time that many of these operations were occurring and an armistice was imminent, the question is not asked whether these later attacks on the Maginot Line really contributed to the defeat of France and were the casualties suffered worth what was gained. Some of the German attacks just before the armistice seemed a bit gratuitous and it begs the question who was ordering these attacks.

Maginot Line 1940 has a total of five 2-D maps (overview of the campaign, 10 May - 25 June 1940; overrun of the Ardennes defenses, 12-16 May 1940; Battle for the Mauberge fortifications, 12-27 May 1940; envelopment of the Metz region, 10-21 June 1940; attacks in Alsace, 15-21 June 1940) and three 3-D BEV maps (Battle for Fort La Ferte, 16-19 May 1940; infantry attack on Fortress Fermont, 21 June 1940; Operation Tiger, 14-16 June 1940; assault across the Rhine near Kunheim, 15 June 1940) that do an admirable job of supporting the campaign narrative. Simply put, the maps are superb. The three battle scenes by artist John Whitte (the assault on Fort La Ferte, 18 May 1940; the end of Fort Kerfent, 21 June 1940; the fight for casemate Oberroedern-Nord, 20 June 1940) are also very nice but all are from the German perspective. The B/W photos are also very good and most have not appeared elsewhere in English sources. One of the few shortcomings in this volume is the bibliography, which is rather anemic with only five works cited, including one other Osprey volume. Although the author clearly used German archival records at NARA, he did not list any or provide the specific URLs of some of the Maginot Line-related Internet websites that he mentions in the text. Overall, this volume is not only an excellent addition to Osprey's Campaign series but a serious piece of historical research in its own right.

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Re: Recommended reading on France 1919-1945

Post by MLW » 26 May 2010 22:13

My co-author and I are very happy to learn that our Osprey book - Maginot Line 1940 - has been selected as one of the "Best of Osprey." In three months it has sold more than 3,000 copies and is still selling well. The first printing may be sold out in a few more months. Thanks to those who have bought the book!

Cheers, Marc
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Georges JEROME
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Re: Recommended reading on France 1919-1945

Post by Georges JEROME » 11 Jul 2010 20:51

I recommand you :

Julian Jackson France the dark years 1940 1944 Oxford University Press 2001
summ of infos and well referenced

abour collaboration 3 very good books rather complete and well illustrated which remain today the referenced books on the matter :

- Partis et mouvements de la Collaboration by Pierre Lambert and Gérard Le Marec
covering all the collaborationists french parties and movements clear precise and well illustrated (pics, badges, uniforms) Editions Jacques Grancher

- Les français sous le casque allemand 1941 1945 by Pierre Lambert and Gérard Le Marec
covering all units serving in military and not military german units as welle clear precise and well illustrated
Editions Jacques Grancher

- Organisations, unités et mouvements de l'état français by Pierre Lambert and Gérard Le Marec
covering all Vichy state organisations Editions Jacques Grancher

Georges

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Bronsky
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Re: Recommended reading on France 1919-1945

Post by Bronsky » 06 Aug 2010 19:38

Marc Bloch: "Strange Defeat". A short, insightful book, written in 1941 by someone who was both a reserve officer in 1940 and a trained observer, being as he was a famous historian. Bloch didn't live to see his book published.

Julian Jackson: "The Fall of France", in my opinion the best single-volume book on the campaign.

Jean-Louis Crémieux-Brilhac: "Les Français de l'An 40", a very good look at the politics and economics of prewar and phoney war France. It's big and it's in French, though, so be warned.

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Re: Recommended reading on France 1919-1945

Post by Pips » 21 Sep 2010 23:50

For those of us who can only speak English, there really is only one book that comprehensively addresses the fall of France.

And that book is "The Collapse Of The Third Republic", by William L. Shirer. The book is THE tome on the subject, starting as it does with the rise of the Third Republic after the humilating defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War, through the gore, chaos and glory of the Great War (arguably France' finest moment), to the utter defeat and disgrace of that awful summer in 1940.

The question that has always bothered me is how could France have plumbed so far by 1940 from it's zenith in 1918? There is no simple answer, as reading this book will show. Internal rife, greed, class rule, self-seeking politicans, a totally chaotic form of Government, amazingly poor military leadership, misguided international alliances, conflict with the self-serving policies of Britain and America........ all are reviewed, analised, laid out bare in this book. The fatal blow didn't happen in the late 30's, it was brewing for decades.

One weeps for France when reading this book. She was failed by so many men over such a long period from so many walks of life.

Anyone who is seriously interested in understanding how this cultured, sophisticated, advanced country failed so miserably in it's time of need MUST read this book.
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Bronsky
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Re: Recommended reading on France 1919-1945

Post by Bronsky » 22 Sep 2010 16:40

Pips wrote:For those of us who can only speak English, there really is only one book that comprehensively addresses the fall of France.
There is a plethora of books on the topic in English. Of the three I had listed in the post just above yours, only one isn't available in English, and one of them - Jackson's - was written in English in the first place (though a French translation is also available).
Pips wrote:And that book is "The Collapse Of The Third Republic", by William L. Shirer. The book is THE tome on the subject, starting as it does with the rise of the Third Republic after the humilating defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War, through the gore, chaos and glory of the Great War (arguably France' finest moment), to the utter defeat and disgrace of that awful summer in 1940.
It is a worthwhile read, but THE one-stop book on the subject it is anything but. Schirer's research is dated, he only had access to people who had been actors at the time and therefore pushed their own agenda.

Schirer's take is valuable for his own impressions as a contemporary witness, but his analyses have been superceded by more recent books. The same applies to his work on the Third Reich, by the way. Worth reading? Certainly. Definitive? No.
Pips wrote:The question that has always bothered me is how could France have plumbed so far by 1940 from it's zenith in 1918?
But was 1918 really the country's zenith? France in 1918 was in much the same state as 1945 Britain: a major belligerent that was gradually being overtaken by others, notably the USA, and which was both very modern and close to exhaustion.
Pips wrote: There is no simple answer, as reading this book will show. Internal rife, greed, class rule, self-seeking politicans, a totally chaotic form of Government, amazingly poor military leadership, misguided international alliances, conflict with the self-serving policies of Britain and America........ all are reviewed, analised, laid out bare in this book.
So the French essentially self-destructed? And here I was, thinking the Germans had had something to do with it!

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Re: Recommended reading on France 1919-1945

Post by ljadw » 22 Sep 2010 17:18

the memories I have from Shirer's work are those of a typical American journalist afflicted with intellectual snobbism,who never left Paris and his microcosm,for whom Paris was France,and who was taking his informations from a small group self declared intellectuals,convinced of their importance .

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Re: Recommended reading on France 1919-1945

Post by Mark McShane » 14 Oct 2010 02:02

Do any of the english language books deal in deal with thr relarionship between the Vichy government and the French west African colonies including trade?

Regards,

Mark

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Bronsky
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Re: Recommended reading on France 1919-1945

Post by Bronsky » 14 Oct 2010 17:54

I don't know about English-language books on the subject, but I have posted information about it on this forum over the years.

A fairly recent book, which I haven't read, and the title of which is something along the lines of "our war with the French", dealing with the British vs Vichy French fighting, might have information. After all, a lot of the clashes involved the Royal Navy intercepting French merchantmen, so a mention of Vichy French imports may have been provided.

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