Cover: France on Trial: The Case of Marshal Pétain, from Harvard University PressCover: France on Trial in HARDCOVER

France on Trial

The Case of Marshal Pétain

Product Details


$35.00 • £30.95 • €31.95

ISBN 9780674248892

Publication Date: 08/22/2023


480 pages

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

44 photos, 1 map, 1 table

Belknap Press

Not for sale in the UK and Commonwealth, Europe, South Asia, and South America

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This is a finely tuned history… Those who enjoy tales of the sparring among excellent lawyers arguing an important case will find this book riveting. And for those who want to understand contemporary France and its intricate politics, France on Trial provides…a vibrant analysis of a trial and verdict that remain contentious almost eight decades later.—Ronald C. Rosbottom, Wall Street Journal

Painstakingly researched… Jackson vividly reconstructs the drama.The Economist

Masterly… The trial of a nation, its recent history, its dilemmas and its sense of itself.—Martin Kettle, The Guardian

[Jackson’s] vision sweeps both backwards—to take in the tragicomedy of Pétain’s forced departure from France in the summer of 1944 and subsequent exile in a German castle at Sigmaringen—and forwards to Pétain’s imprisonment, death and posthumous mythologization… [This] scrupulous and vivid reconstruction of the trial reveals much about the Vichy regime and the way that it was remembered in postwar France.—Richard Vinen, Times Literary Supplement

[A] superb book… Jackson is that rare beast: a distinguished academic historian who writes with air and clarity. It makes him a pleasure to engage with, and when reading about the legal process, one could almost be buried in a work of high-class fiction. He is scrupulously objective in his description of personalities and events.—Simon Heffer, The Telegraph

Splendid… The central narrative of the trial grips like a thriller and the history of Vichy itself, which inevitably involves much retrospective explanation, is seamlessly woven into it without ever slowing the story’s momentum. Jackson’s vivid prose is leavened by wit and sharpened by telling details… This is a substantial achievement.—Munro Price, Literary Review

A masterful account of the 1945 treason case that forced a reckoning with four years of Nazi collaboration.—John Thornhill, Financial Times

A riveting and meticulous recreation of the Vichy leader’s 1945 prosecution for collaborating with the German occupiers… Exemplary and fascinating.—Michael Ignatieff, Project Syndicate

An enthralling book… The past is dangerous, you see. Real, hard history of this kind can reach out of the page and stick its thumb in your eye. Who needs fiction when the truth is as gripping as this?—Peter Hitchens, The Mail on Sunday

[An] absorbing account…[and] an essential key to understanding the country’s recent past.—Patrick Marnham, The Spectator

Julian Jackson, the foremost historian of the period, here provides a magisterial account of this extraordinary yet also somehow squalid courtroom drama and its context… [A] fine, thought-provoking book.—Max Hastings, Sunday Times

Jackson’s France on Trial is one of those instant classic history books that are immediately recognisable as a masterpiece of scholarship.—Andrew Roberts, Aspects of History

Jackson’s vivid, stylish, sometimes even cinematic reconstruction suggests that this court case was about far more than one elderly man. It also turned into a proxy debate between French people who were horrified by their country’s partial collaboration with Nazism and those who felt there had been no practical alternative… [A] gripping and timely book.—Andrew Lynch, Business Post

Jackson has woven a story so rich in both the historical and the metaphysical that it leaves the reader with a sense of uncertainty about how to view Pétain… [He] demonstrates to near perfection that history is not always black and white.—Dustin Bass, Epoch Times

Few historians know 20th century France as well as Jackson, and fewer historians write as well as he does. His account of the trial moves seamlessly between the comic and tragic, the appealing and appalling.—Robert Zaretsky, The Forward

A brilliantly researched and vividly narrated attempt to understand and assess a man alternately among the most admired and most abhorred in modern French history… Jackson manages to engage the reader, adopting a rich literary style with which to communicate not only the data and opinions expressed but also the atmosphere in and outside the court and something of the personality of a variety of characters.—Daniel Snowman, Jewish Chronicle

I have nothing but praise for the way Jackson tells the story, with a clear elucidation of the swirling political passions, and vivid portraits of the heroes and villains, and those in between.—Piers Paul Read, The Tablet

Jackson deftly uses the trial of the French World War I hero-turned-Nazi collaborator Philippe Pétain to explore France’s role in World War II and the Holocaust, as well as the nation’s struggles with memory and responsibility.—Sean Durns, Washington Examiner

A captivating account of the 1945 trial of the French marshal who had agreed to an armistice with the Nazi regime in 1940… A highly insightful work of French history.Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The great general of the First World War, collaborator with Germany in the Second, how is Marshal Philippe Pétain to be remembered? His trial on charges of treason divided the French in 1945 and has divided them ever since. In the hands of Julian Jackson, a superb historian with the sensibility of a novelist, this is a story not just about Pétain but about war and resistance, the moral compromises of leadership, and the meaning of France itself.—Margaret MacMillan, author of Paris 1919

Julian Jackson brings to life here with his customary mastery the trial in 1945 of France’s highest-ranking military officer, accused of having betrayed his country. Philippe Pétain knew extremes of glory and shame in his long military career. In 1919, as the supreme commander of French armies in World War I, he rode down the Champs-Elysées at the head of a victory parade. After June 1940, with almost unlimited power and prestige, he governed France under German occupation. In 1945, he sat in a French courtroom charged with treason for his exercise of that power. In this compelling book, Jackson gives the reader a seat in the jury box and then follows France’s debate over Pétain—hero or traitor?—over the next fifty years.—Robert Paxton, author of The Anatomy of Fascism

Julian Jackson masterfully performs a high-wire act of historical narration, using the story of the trial of Philippe Pétain to explore in brilliant detail how people in France fought over competing understandings of the Vichy regime—both at the time and ever since. This is a book of great originality, in both form and substance, that will become a landmark in the literature on France and the Second World War.—Herrick Chapman, author of France’s Long Reconstruction

The principal figures in France on Trial parade in front of us as in a film or a play, all charged in their own way with their past and all trying one after another to justify themselves. Pétain is there at the center, silent like a statue. It is history, but also more than history, a kind of classical tragedy where the press take the role of the chorus. A captivating book.—Antoine Prost, University of Paris

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