The French Empire At War, 1940-45

Overview

The French empire at war draws on original research in France and Britain to investigate the history of the divided French empire - the Vichy and the Free French empires - during the Second World War.

What emerges is a fascinating story. While it is clear that both the Vichy and Free French colonial authorities were only rarely masters of their own destiny during the war, preservation of limited imperial control served them both in different ways. The Vichy government exploited ...

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Overview

The French empire at war draws on original research in France and Britain to investigate the history of the divided French empire - the Vichy and the Free French empires - during the Second World War.

What emerges is a fascinating story. While it is clear that both the Vichy and Free French colonial authorities were only rarely masters of their own destiny during the war, preservation of limited imperial control served them both in different ways. The Vichy government exploited the empire in an effort to withstand German-Italian pressure for concessions in metropolitan France and it was key to its claim to be more than the mouthpiece of a defeated nation.

For Free France too, the empire acquired a political and symbolic importance which far outweighed its material significance to the Gaullist war effort. As the war progressed, the Vichy empire lost ground to that of the Free French, something which has often been attributed to the attraction of the Gaullist mystique and the spirit of resistance in the colonies. In this radical new interpretation, Thomas argues that it was neither of these. The course of the war itself, and the initiatives of the major combatant powers, played the greatest part in the rise of the Gaullist empire and the demise of Vichy colonial control.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Drawing upon primary sources, Thomas (international history, U. of the West of England, Bristol) unconventionally interprets the crisis of power between the Vichy and Free French colonial authorities in a prewar context, during the African clashes, 1940-41, the second wave of the Free French empire from the Caribbean to Indo-China, 1941-45, and an questionable new imperial order. He argues that it was neither the Gaullist mystique nor the spirit of resistance that led to the eclipse of Vichy colonial power by the Gaullists, but rather initiatives of the major combatant powers. Distributed in the US by St. Martin's Press. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780719065194
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Publication date: 9/5/2000
  • Series: Studies in Imperialism
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin Thomas is a Senior Lecturer in International History at the University of the West of England, Bristol.

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Table of Contents

The inter-war Empire and French defence
Territories divided, June -December 1940
The empire between the Axis and the Allies, 1940—41
The empire goes to war: The Syrian campaign and Free French administration in the Levant, 1941—45
Empire as a diplomatic incident: St Pierre and Miquelon and the Madagascar invasion, 1942
Operation Torch and Free French imperial supremacy in Africa, 1942—45
The fate of French Indo—China, 1940—45
A new imperial order?

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