Grandeur and Misery

France's Bid for Power in Europe 1914-1940
Adamthwaite, Anthony
Date published: 
September 1995

France's fall in 1940 was Europe's loss as Germany's rise and hegemony inflicted horrendous suffering and savagery. The transition from victor in 1918 to vanquished in 1940 has usually been seen in terms of a 'decline and fall', and France's defeat the outcome of deep-seated political, social, and economic weaknesses. However, this view has been undermined by detailed studies of recent years. In this new account Adamthwaite offers a long-overdue reassessment of all the central issues, drawing on the secondary work in the field but relying also on his own findings in the archives. He argues that nothing was inevitable about France's eclipse: the victory of 1918 could have been turned into a real predominance. Despite powerful constraints, leaders had room for manoeuvre. It was contingency and chanciness, not inevitability that characterized French policy.