On July 10, 1940, by a 570 to 80 margin, the representatives in the French parliament voted full powers to Philippe Pétain, ending the Third Republic and paving the way for the collaborationist Vichy regime. Olivier Wieviorka offers a nuanced portrait of the individuals who determined the fate of France at this critical moment.
Pétain claimed to be saving France from ruin. The day of the vote has been described as a journée des dupes, the legislators so ignorant or fearful that they voted without a thought to the consequences. But Wieviorka shows that most of the deputies made a considered decision to vote for Pétain. He analyzes the factors, such as political culture and regional origins, that motivated the voting on both sides, and traces the men’s fates through the war.
Recreating the tense atmosphere of summer 1940, Wieviorka shows how pressures brought on by defeat could affect even the most hardened republicans. He illuminates the complex moral issues inherent in accommodation and collaboration in a time of crisis.
This is a superb book that asks all the right questions. And to each question, it proposes a scrupulous, well-documented answer, never losing sight along the way of the drama of individual lives, of the difficulties and consequences of making choices in circumstances of danger and uncertainty...Unlike so much work on this complex and tormented era, Wieviorka's takes a wide-angle view. It is not just about 1940, Vichy, or the Liberation but about all three. Here is a book, full of research and argument, that takes on les années sombres from a fresh and encompassing perspective. This is history-writing at its best.
Olivier Wieviorka is a historian of the first rank. This excellent study provides a detailed collective biography of the men who sat in the French Senate and Chamber of Deputies when the Third Republic collapsed in June–July 1940. Most of them voted for Pétain, but many of them were centrists and leftists who had been elected as members of a Popular Front majority in 1936. This precise and thoughtful book considers how their fateful choices were made, and how these men related to one another, to their parties, and to their constituencies. Wieviorka helps us greatly understand better the place of the Vichy regime in the history of the French nation between the Third and Fourth Republics.
This is a definitive study on a topic about which much has been said, but little rigorous work had been undertaken: why French deputies handed full powers to Marshal Pétain in July 1940. In a nuanced and balanced analysis, Wieviorka does a marvelous job of measuring intangibles: the impact of defeat; the mood of the late Third Republic; the spirit reigning in the halls of Vichy's bourgeois casino on the day of the fateful vote. Actors and contexts are brilliantly and engagingly presented throughout. Eschewing causal determinism or teleology, Wieviorka sheds light on the grey areas of World War II France.
Wieviorka offers a collective recounting of the role French parliamentarians played in the occupation, from the overwhelming vote to grant Marshal Petain governing powers, to the workings of the new regime, to the realization of German defeat and a final recounting before the tribunals of the victors--and the bar of history. Mining both public and private archives, printed document collections, and countless memoirs, the author presents a portrait neither black nor white, but somber gray. The "orphans" were first and foremost politicians, and it was as politicos that they responded: theirs is not a story of soaring (and apocalyptic) rhetoric, but of calculation and nuance. Unsurprisingly, most felt themselves indispensable to the process; most drastically underestimated the evil that was about to engulf them; most sought some form of accommodation with the new regime while trying to avoid involvement in its worst excesses. There was little consistency in their response.
- 448 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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