Cover: Orphans of the Republic: The Nation’s Legislators in Vichy France, from Harvard University PressCover: Orphans of the Republic in HARDCOVER

Harvard Historical Studies 164

Orphans of the Republic

The Nation’s Legislators in Vichy France

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Product Details


$72.00 • £57.95 • €65.00

ISBN 9780674032613

Publication Date: 03/31/2009


448 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

1 map, 48 tables

Harvard Historical Studies


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.—Philip Nord, French Politics, Culture and Society

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.—G. P. Cox, Choice

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.—Patrice Higonnet, author of Paris: Capital of the World

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.—Eric T. Jennings, author of Vichy in the Tropics

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