Rethinking France

Plans for Renewal 1940-1946
Shennan, Andrew
Date published: 
November 1989

The defeat of 1940 was an unprecedented humiliation for the French people. In its wake, an entire generation was compelled to come to terms with France's national decline and to accept the need for fundamental change - political, economic, and social; domestic and international; individual and collective. The great debate over the reasons for France's defeat and the sources of her future renewal - a debate which began in the dark days of the German occupation and the Vichy regime and reached its climax in the euphoric months after the Allies had liberated Paris in August 1944 - was one of the most distinctive features of these critical years. In this book, Andrew Shennan provides the first comprehensive account of this debate. In contrast to most previous treatments of the subject, which have confined themselves to one particular group in French society or to one particular issue, Dr Shennan offers a broad-ranging interpretation. He examines the contributions that each of the major political forces made to the debate and looks at each of its major themes, from economics to empire, from schools to social security. Combining extensive primary research with synthesis of a vast secondary literature, he traces the sources, peculiarities, and outcomes of the debate about post-war renewal. His assessment of French politicians and reformers during the 1940s casts light both on the period itself and on the roots of France's remarkable post-war resurgence.