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The Fall of France

The Nazi Invasion of 1940

Julian Jackson

Publication Date - May 2004

ISBN: 9780192805508

296 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $19.95

A leading historian illuminates one of the key moments of World War Two


The Fall of France in 1940 is one of the pivotal moments of the twentieth century. If the German invasion of France had failed, it is arguable that the war might have ended right there. But the French suffered instead a dramatic and humiliating defeat, a loss that ultimately drew the whole world into war.

This exciting new book by Julian Jackson, a leading historian of twentieth-century France, charts the breathtakingly rapid events that led to the defeat and surrender of one of the greatest bastions of the Western Allies. Using eyewitness accounts, memoirs, and diaries to bring the story to life, Jackson not only recreates the intense atmosphere of the six weeks in May and June leading up to the establishment of the Vichy regime, but he also unravels the historical evidence to produce a fresh answer to the perennial question--was the fall of France inevitable. Jackson's vivid narrative explores the errors of France's military leaders, her inability to create stronger alliances, the political infighting, the lack of morale, even the decadence of the inter-war years. He debunks the "vast superiority" of the German army, revealing that the more experienced French troops did well in battle against the Germans. Perhaps more than anything else, the cause of the defeat was the failure of the French to pinpoint where the main thrust of the German army would come, a failure that led them to put their best soldiers up against a feint, while their worst troops faced the heart of the German war machine.

An engaging and authoritative narrative, The Fall of France illuminates six weeks that changed the course of twentieth-century history.

About the Author(s)

Julian Jackson is Professor of French History at the University of Swansea and the author of several books on twentieth-century France, including France: The Dark Years 1940-1944, which was a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Award.


"Once in a while a book comes along with an analysis of the past that so strongly resonates with the present that it is as if the two are fused.... Mr. Jackson shows that France was better prepared and better led than either was Britain in 1940 or than France itself had been in 1914. France's military defeat and Britain's survival and ultimate triumph were not due to innate, cultural defects in the French character. Geography meant France was attacked first: it lacked time and lacked the channel.... And the alliance between France and Britain never recovered. As Mr. Jackson's book shows, sometimes events on the ground can move very fast, but history takes its own time."--Rupert Barwall, Wall Street Journal

"France's sudden and shocking defeat in May of 1940 was one of the great calamities in the history of Western democracy.... Jackson assesses the social and political, and also the diplomatic, intelligence, and military, context of the catastrophe.... His book is the best introduction to it.... An admirably accessible analytical history of a complex and fraught event."--Atlantic Monthly

"Jackson's book tells in gripping detail the military, human and political story of a few crucial weeks whose ramifications for European relations for decades afterwards were enormous.... More than a military history, this sharply written account is also an elegy for a fading culture in which we all have a stake."--Financial Times

"A brilliant and authoritative book, compellingly written and persuasive in its explanation of one of the most puzzling events in 20th-century history. Impossible to put down.' Richard Evans, Cambridge University'A fine, powerful and very readable book. Jackson brings a freshness and sharpness to the discussion, with the reader being drawn straight into the action and atmosphere."--Robert Gildea, Oxford University

"Jackson's account is vivid...His conclusions are reinforced by some intriguing analysis--and an ingenious study of counterfactuals--e.g.what would have happened had the United Kingdom been in France's place?"--Stanley Hoffman for Foreign Affairs

Table of Contents

    1. We are Beaten: May 16 1940: Churchill in Paris
    2. Uneasy Allies: May 21 1940: Weygand in Ypres
    3. The Politics of Defeat: 12 June 1940: Reynaud at Cangé(Loire)
    4. The French People at War: Georges Friedmann in Niort: June 17 1940
    5. Causes and Counterfactuals: March Bloch in Gueret: July 1940
    6. Consequences: June 1940: Francois Mitterrand at Verdun: `No need to say more'