Emile ChabalNov 12, 2021
An accessible and compelling read, Emile Chabal's France (Polity, 2020) is an overview of the nation's political history from 1940 right up to the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Organized thematically around the paradoxes at the heart of the French Republic since the period of the Second World War (and with roots well before this period), the book is an excellent introduction to historical contests over what France means--and what it means to be "French"-- the legacies of which persist well into the twenty-first century.
An introduction that will be extremely helpful to students and non-specialists, the book also offers a reading of French politics and history that will inspire discussion among those more familiar with this terrain. In chapters that fit well together while making strong individual arguments, France examines: defeat and resistance after 1940; the colonial and anti-colonial pasts; grandeur and decline; the political divisions of left and right, republicanism, and tensions between the local and global. Moving from a complex past towards what promises to be a no less complex future, the book is serious, smart, quick, and a pleasure to read.
Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada who specializes in twentieth and twenty-first century France and its empire. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send her an email (email@example.com).