The Last Great Frenchman: A Life of General De Gaulle / Edition 1

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"I am France," General Charles de Gaulle announced when he formed the Free French in 1941. It was no idle boast. Following France's rapid capitulation to Nazi forces, de Gaulle alone stood for a France undefeated and still fighting. Through sheer force of will, he made himself heard, rescuing French dignity and insuring that at the end of World War II France would be among the victorious armies, her status as a world power recognized. It was an immense achievement, one that only a man of de Gaulle's raw nerve, stubbornness, arrogance, and messianic conviction could have accomplished. Though he had virtually no resources and commanded only a few thousand men, he insisted that Britain and America treat France as an equal. His relationship with Churchill was stormy in the extreme but based on a strong mutual admiration; with Roosevelt his relationship was icy. Nonetheless he achieved his goal: France took her place among the Big Five nations in the postwar world. The man who had been sentenced to death as a traitor by the Vichy government returned to France in 1944 a hero and a legend, soon to be elected president. In 1946 de Gaulle shocked the world by resigning. When he stepped back into the political arena twelve years later, it was to once again save a France in crisis. With the adroit maneuvering of a political mastermind he extricated France from Algeria and pulled the country back from the brink of civil war. He barely escaped with his life, surviving numerous assassination attempts by French-Algerians angered by his apparent betrayal. De Gaulle's second presidency lasted ten years until 1968, when student-led revolts toppled his government, but his extraordinary legacy endured in France's most effective constitution since the Revolution, and in international prestige that would have been unthinkable in the previous decade. Charles de Gaulle died in November 1970, a few days before his eightieth birthday. He was a product of northern French provincial socie
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Williams, deputy leader of the opposition in the British House of Lords, tells the story in English of an emphatically French life, and he fully engages the reader. "Ramrod" and "Wormwood" were code names the British "maliciously but accurately" applied to the leader of the Free French; and their wartime ally, American President FDR, detested De Gaulle. This biography explains well French foreign policy toward the "Anglo-Saxons" during the French Fifth Republic. Although admiring De Gaulle's tenacity and strength, the author does not hide what he considers the unattractive side of the general's aloof grandeur and verbal combativeness, and he terms the way De Gaulle came to power in 1958 nearly Napoleonic. De Gaulle in private was more appealing, according to Williams; he is said to have been extraordinarily fond of his retarded daughter. The only thing lacking here is an explanation of the Vichy regime; however, names are helpfully annotated. Recommended for all libraries.-R. James Tobin, Univ. of Wisconsin Lib., Milwaukee
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471117117
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 3/20/1995
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 1,396,031
  • Product dimensions: 1.25 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

CHARLES WILLIAMS (Lord Williams of Elvel) is Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the British House of Lords. Before embarking on his political career, he spent four years in Paris from 1966 to 1970, the last period of de Gaulle's government.

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Table of Contents

Partial table of contents:
A Parisian Boy from Lille.
The Steps of St Ignatius.
The Army of the Republic.
A War to End Wars.
Polish Interlude.
Petain's Chicken.
A Toe in Political Waters.
The Cut of the Sickle.
Is He a New Napoleon?
Laying the Corner Stone.
Afric's Sunny Fountains.
Who is Fighting Whom?
The Eagle and the Bear Join the Party.
Resistance on All Fronts.
Mediterranean Storms.
The Darlan Deal.
From Anfa to Algiers.
Waiting for Overlord.
A Parisian Summer.
Government Must Govern.
With Peace Comes Politics.
The Gamble that Failed.
A Certain Idea of France.
On Public and Private Life.
The New Agenda.
Baiting Uncle Sam.
The Ides of May.
Epilogue: Return to Colombey.
Select Bibliography.
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2008

    A great man, who knew his greatness was his path to success

    I actually read this book when it was first published and noticed the other day that it is missing - so I am thinking of buying another copy as I want to read it again prior to a trip to France. DeGaulle was a young officer in the WWI and survived in large part because he was captured, no killed, at Verdun. His large family was also so blessed, they were the rare exception, they lost no sons in that war. After the war he continued his military career and observed the Polish / Russian war in 1920 - a war of movement. So he was one of the few, if only, French army officers who understood blitzkrieg when the Germans attacked in 1940. He lead is armored unit is a lightning counter attack that penetrated deeply into German held northern France - but it was totally unsupported to he eventually made it to England. His break with Vichy is well documented - few heard his first radio message as the leader of the Free French - but his message of 'ecout, ecout' never the less eventually resounded. He was also an insufferable egotist - but also a loving father who always found at least 1 hour of every day to play with his Downs Syndrome daughter. And after the war, he and Adenaur made a historic raprochmont between Germany and France that was the basis of the EU.

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