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This fascinating book by Richard Carswell looks at how the fall of France in the Second World War has been recorded by historians and...

This fascinating book by Richard Carswell looks at how the fall of France in the Second World War has been recorded by historians and remembered within French society. The Fall of France in the Second World War: History and Memory (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019) argues that explanations of the ‘debacle’ have usually revolved around the four main themes of decadence, failure, constraint and contingency. It shows that the dominant explanation claimed for many years that the fall was the inevitable consequence of a society grown rotten in the inter-war period. This view has been largely replaced among academic historians by a sizable consensus that distinguishes between the military defeat and the political demise of the Third Republic. It emphasizes the various contingent factors that led to the military defeat of French forces by the Germans. At the same time seeks to understand the constraints within which France’s policy-makers were required to act and the reasons for their policy-making failures in economics, defence and diplomacy. This book makes for most interesting reading for both the academic world and for the lay-educated reader and university student.


Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for Chatham House’s International Affairs.