The Franco-Prussian War Museum at Woerth (Alsace) – Musée de la bataille du 6 août 1870

Ahead of next year’s 150th anniversary of the Franco-Prussian War, I revisited the Musée de la bataille du 6 août 1870 in Woerth (Alsace). The museum is dedicated to the battles around Reichshoffen and Froeschwiller in some of the earliest major clashes of the Franco-Prussian War. The fighting between French and German gave rise to the first major French setbacks on the battlefield, giving a sign of the wider collapse yet to follow.

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Musée de la bataille du 6 août 1870 in Woerth (Alsace)

The museum contains many artefacts from the German and French forces, including uniforms, helmets, guns, swords and medical equipment. It reflects the diverse nature of the armed forces, including the Zouaves and the Turcos recruited from Algeria, forces from Bavaria and Württemberg, as well as those from France and Prussia.

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French Chassepot rifle, Prussian Dreyse needle gun

 

Some of the works of art displayed in the museum went on to be highly significant in shaping public memories of the battle and the war more broadly. La Charge des Cuirassiers de Reichshoffen by Théodore Levigne (1886) depicts a heroic scene of French cavalrymen charging towards their deaths at the hands of the enemy. Produced at a time of growing support for a war of revenge against Germany, the painting portrays French forces as willingly sacrificing their lives for France.

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La Charge des Cuirassiers de Reichshoffen by Théodore Levigne (1886)

Another notable painting is Edouard Detaille’s La Charge du 9e Cuirassiers à Morsbronn (1874). Detaille was one of the leading military artists of the day, being known for his attention to detail and accuracy. In preparation for this piece, Detaille went to Morsbronn, where he sketched the village and spoke to local residents about their experiences and memories. The painting depicts the devastating scene of French forces being caught in a trap, with Prussian forces having constructed a barrier to block their escape and firing on the French from above.

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Edouard Detaille, La Charge du 9e Cuirassiers à Morsbronn (1874)

Finally, the museum also houses a fascinating collection of French and German plates and other commemorative objects made not just to commemorate the battle itself, but attendance at the anniversary commemorations as well.

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Vichy’s Double Bind: Reassessing Collaboration between 1940 and 1943

Introduction

From Mussolini’s declaration of war on 10 June 1940 to the poor performance of Italian forces in the Alps, the French government never accepted Italian claims of victory. So when French negotiators were handed the Italian armistice on 24 June, they were relieved to find its terms seemed relatively mild. Italy gained only a small zone of occupation around Menton and the mountains of Savoie. And whereas France had to pay German occupation costs of 400 million francs per day, it did not have to pay any Italian costs.

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Italian Declaration of War against France, 10 June 1940

But appearances were deceptive. If the armistice terms gave Berlin greater control over France than Rome, Fascist territorial claims over Nice, Savoie, Corsica, Tunisia and Djibouti meant that in a different but no less troubling way, the threats that continued to loom over the country and its colonial empire were Italian as well as German. As early as August 1940, French officials cautioned that having failed to achieve its ambitions in the armistice negotiations, Rome was purposely stoking tensions to ‘create an alibi’ for seizing territory in the near future. Two months later, diplomats warned that the weakness of Italy’s position gave its government a greater hunger for exploiting the French defeat than was the case with Germany.

Rome therefore had the motive to threaten Vichy, but it was the Wiesbaden accords of 29 June 1940 that gave it the means. The axis governments agreed that an Italian Armistice Commission would oversee the implementation of the June 1940 terms not just in the Italian zone of occupation, but in the unoccupied areas of south-eastern France, Corsica, French North Africa, Syria, Lebanon, and French Somaliland as well. Then from November 1942, the Italian zone of occupation expanded to cover an area inhabited by approximately four million people across eleven departments. In other words, from July 1940, the Italian Fascist government had a significant presence in the very areas over which it had ambitions for expansion.

 Double Bind

This then leads me to the title of my paper. My argument is that after the defeat of 1940, Vichy found itself confronted with a double bind. Contrary to the tendency in much of the scholarship to treat Italy as being of peripheral significance, I argue that Fascist claims over French territory and desires to see French power permanently diminished meant that it was not just Germany that represented a continuing threat to Vichy but Italy as well.

In another, more complex sense, Vichy’s double bind saw it caught between the fundamentally irreconcilable yet inescapable positions of the two axis governments. Rome’s attempts to extend its claims over France meant that Vichy was confronted with a secondary level of injunction that was incompatible with Berlin’s demands. Unable to resolve the conflict between the German and Italian positions, Vichy sought to exploit it. Between June 1940 and September 1943, Vichy attempted to set one axis power against the other. Instead of playing a double game between Rome and Berlin, however, Vichy found itself caught in a double bind. Its attempts to benefit from the irreconcilability of axis approaches foundered upon its inability to escape the demands with which it was confronted as a defeated power.

Collaboration with Italy

With many cultural and historical connections, Italy might have seemed a more obvious candidate for French rapprochement and even collaboration than Germany. Indeed, in the months following the armistice, Laval sought to use his pre-war connections with Rome to build a ‘Latin union’ to offset the domination of Berlin. His efforts came to nothing, however, as did those of Vichy’s foreign minister, Paul Baudouin. Determined to assert Italy’s status as a victor alongside Germany, Mussolini systematically rejected Vichy’s attempts to construct a new relationship. The impasse contrasted starkly with the progress Vichy appeared to be making with Berlin. Thus while the French government was able to announce a new policy of collaboration with the Germans following the Montoire meetings of 24 October 1940, there were no such developments with the Italians. As a consequence, whereas the narrative of Franco-German relations was one of Vichy drawing ever further into the Nazi orbit, with Italy, the trajectory was in the opposite direction.

At the same time, however, I would stress the pragmatic and opportunistic nature of Vichy’s dealings with both axis governments. The course of Vichy’s relations with Berlin did not, of course, run smoothly. I’d now like to turn to an example of how Vichy sought to use the Italians against the Germans to secure its aims.

Following the collapse of the protocols of Paris negotiations with the German government in the summer of 1941, Admiral Darlan turned French attentions back to the Italians. Despite Mussolini having consistently rejected French overtures, in the second half of 1941, the Italian army was under growing pressure from the British in Libya. In late December 1941, French officials signed a set of accords allowing Italy access to ports in Tunisia and agreed to transport food, lorries and other supplies to Italian forces in Libya. In other words, Vichy granted the Italian government the very concessions it had refused to give the German government following the collapse of the Protocols of Paris negotiations. The reason for doing so was to provoke a response from the Germans which they could then use to their advantage. The strategy seemed to work. On 17 January 1942, the head of the Italian armistice commission reported that ‘the sensitivity, indeed even the jealousy, of Germany has been awakened’.

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Meeting between Ciano and Darlan, Le Petit Journal, 12 December 1941

If Vichy now found itself in an advantageous position in relation to Germany, its position in relation to Italy was even stronger. On 24 December 1941, the Italian army chief of staff telephoned Admiral Duplat begging for supplies to be sent to Libya as soon as possible, warning that that without them, his forces would collapse within hours. For French officials, this showed that the balance of power had tipped decisively in their favour. As Duplat explained to Darlan on 2 January 1942, Vichy was now in ‘advantageous position’ which it must ‘exploit with due discretion’.

But this is where Vichy’s double bind comes into play. With Italian forces dependent upon French assistance and with Mussolini prepared for the first time to consider concessions on the armistice terms, Vichy should have been able to gain significant concessions. Yet the French government somehow came away having secured nothing substantive. The problem was that while officials were dealing with the Italians, many of the areas in which they really wanted concessions were in the hands of the Germans. Darlan attempted to use Mussolini to lobby Berlin on their behalf, but in doing so, overplayed his hand. With German officials complaining that ‘France had given the impression that it was taking advantage of the unfavourable German situation on the Russian front’, Mussolini withdrew his offer to act as Vichy’s intermediary. Vichy’s decision to end the supplies shipments to Libya in March 1942 was a tacit admission that the strategy of seeking to play the axis governments off against one another had come to nothing.

Occupation post 1942

But Vichy did not simply use the Italians to try to get its way with the Germans. I want to move on now to look briefly at an example of how Vichy sought to use the Germans against the Italians.

There is often a tendency in the scholarship to treat the German and Italian occupations entirely separately. But if we look at how the persecution of the Jews played out in the Italian zone of occupation, we see that Vichy had to reconcile commands from Berlin with those from Rome while also balancing the imperatives of its own ideological agenda and the growing disquiet of its own people.

From the earliest weeks of the Italian occupation in November 1942, Italian forces actively intervened and obstructed French attempts to arrest and deport the Jews. On 30 December 1942, the Italian Fourth Army was ordered to prevent French authorities from interning Jews. On 2 January 1943 Ciano announced that only the Italian authorities had the right to deal with matters relating to foreign Jews and that all French measures were to be immediately suspended. Then on 2 March 1943 the Italian authorities proclaimed a wide-ranging policy to take control over the treatment of the Jews. General Avarna di Gualtieri declared that all Jews in the Italian zone, including those with French citizenship, came under Italian military jurisdiction and that no action affecting the Jews could be taken without Italian approval. A few weeks later, the Italian supreme command demanded the release of all Jews who had been arrested and interned by French police as well.

Vichy saw the Italian actions as an affront to the notion of sovereignty it so desperately clung onto to for a veneer of legitimacy. It therefore called for German intervention. In January 1943 French officials asked Helmut Knochen, the commander of the Sicherheitsdiest and secret police in France, for assistance on Italian obstruction of French policies on foreign Jews. Laval appealed to the German embassy in response to the Italian orders preventing French authorities from arresting Jews of any nationality. Rene Bousquet complained to Carl Oberg about Italian efforts to thwart French searches for Jews in south-eastern France. The approach paid off: Mussolini agreed to hand matters relating to the Jews back to French police.

Vichy’s response was above all driven by a belief that the Italian occupiers were favouring the Jews over French citizens. Local French residents increasingly complained that while the Italians were protecting the Jews, they were condemned to suffer the hardships of the war. In the department of the Alpes-Maritimes, the exemption of all Italian citizens and Jews of any nationality from the STO meant that over a fifth of the population enjoyed the protection of the Italian government, while French citizens had none. Such an inversion of the racial and political hierarchies of Vichy’s ideological vision damaged the regime’s claims of legitimacy. With the very people the regime claimed to be defending now at the bottom of the pile, Vichy’s justification for existence was exposed as utterly worthless. In a desperate attempt to save itself, Vichy therefore invited German encroachments upon French sovereignty in order to oppose Italian encroachments upon French sovereignty.

Collaboration

Existing models of collaboration, conceived in terms of Franco-German encounters, are unable to capture the complexity of the French position in the face of so many conflicting demands from multiple actors. Nor indeed are existing concepts of collaboration able fully to distinguish between direct, intended policies and their indirect, unintended by-products. Vichy’s decision to prioritise collaboration with Germany served to distort its responses to the Italian occupation; in turn, its response to the Italian occupation served to distort its policy towards Germany.

Focusing upon the significance of Italian interventions in France serves to challenge the existing concepts of collaboration. In recent years, scholars including Philippe Burrin, Jean-Pierre Azéma, Marc-Olivier Baruch, François Broche and‎ Jean-François Muracciole have nuanced models of collaboration established by historians such as Robert Paxton and Stanley Hoffmann by exploring the ambiguities of actions taken from the state to the individual level, and motivations ranging from pragmatic, opportunistic and limited cooperation to committed, wide-ranging, ideological collusion. However, for all their complexity, their understandings have remained framed in terms of a two-way relationship between the German authorities and the French. The corollary to such an approach has been to define collaboration by casting a wide net that includes a broad range of actions and intentions within an overarching picture of cooperation and collusion with the German occupiers. It has meant that if the likes of Philippe Burrin have argued that some degree of accommodation was unavoidable, the picture ultimately remains one in which wilful ideological collaboration with the Nazis sits at the extreme end of the spectrums of choice and conduct.

What I would like to suggest, however, is that incorporating Italy into analyses of Vichy’s actions reveals the multi-dimensional and multi-directional nature of French policy. Far from being merely a Franco-German relationship, collaboration was shaped by the trilateral relations between France, Germany and Italy. Italian actions served variously to aggravate and advance Vichy’s relations with Berlin. At the same time, French relations with Italy drove Vichy to take measures whose consequences sometimes obscured the real nature of their intentions and motivations. At its most extreme, the involvement of Italy as a third actor turned French policy intentions and consequences on their head. Thwarting Italian claims over France became a motive for Vichy to collaborate with Germany, while seeking concessions from Germany became a motive for Vichy to collaborate with Italy.

Exploring French encounters with Italy can therefore transform our understanding of Vichy’s wider wartime engagements. What emerges is a picture of Vichy as being less pliant, more pragmatic and more opportunistic than previously depicted, but more constrained in its ability to act as well. Ultimately, the problem was that between Germany and Italy, Vichy was caught in a double bind from which it was unable and unwilling to break free.

 

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‘Anglophobia’ and the Vichy Government’s Policy towards Britain, 1940-42

In the midst of intense negotiations with the German government in late May 1941, French Prime Minister Admiral Darlan declared: ‘I worked with the English for fifteen years, they always lied to me. I have negotiated with the Germans for three months, and they have never misled me.’[1] His interlocutor, Pastor Boegner, pointed out that Hitler had consistently violated the most solemn agreements, but Darlan paid no heed. While Darlan’s comment might be dismissed as mere self-delusion or a self-serving justification of collaboration with Nazi Germany, it was also a measure of something more deeply-rooted within the Vichy government: a belief that the British government and armed forces were fundamentally duplicitous.

This paper explores how perceptions of Britain become critical shaping factors in the foreign policy of the Vichy government after the French collapse of June 1940. Much of the existing scholarship on Vichy’s foreign relations depicts a pervasive Anglophobia rooted in resentments and suspicions of British intentions. However, this paper seeks to suggest that antipathy towards Britain was reactive and inconstant rather than irredeemably ingrained. As such, it was instrumentalised by ministers in Vichy for political ends. At the heart of the problem was that the age-old rivalry between Britain and France happened to revolve around the two key assets upon which Vichy’s post-armistice claims to sovereignty and status as a global power depended: the French colonial empire and navy. The absence of direct diplomatic contact between the UK and France during much of this period created a vacuum in which suspicions flourished and in which British actions that conflicted with French interests served to legitimise Vichy’s agenda of distrust. Rather than balanced analyses of how French interests might best be protected in the circumstances in which France found itself, suspicion and paranoia gained new credence, enabling the architects of Vichy’s foreign policy to re-orientate it away from Britain and towards the axis.

The strains in Franco-British relations leading up to the Second World War were evident; the extent to which Anglophobia had become endemic among the key institutions and individuals who shaped Vichy’s foreign policy was, however, less clear. In the French colonial service, the long history of rivalry with Britain and memories of the Fashoda incident of 1898 loomed large. This deeply-embedded hostility was instrumental in some colonial officials’ decision to support Vichy rather than to join with the British and Free French in 1940. While many historians have portrayed a similar picture of traditional antipathy towards Britain in the French navy, the reality was more complex. After the initial shock of the British attack on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir, many officers reflected that they did not wish to be drawn into doing Germany’s bidding by engaging in hostilities against Britain.[2]

With Vichy appointing senior army and navy figures to key positions of authority over foreign policy, the pervasiveness of anti-British sentiment became acutely significant. Indeed, Peter Jackson and Simon Kitson argue that not only was Admiral Darlan’s strategic vision conditioned by an imperial world-view and the Anglophobia of the French navy but that his whole approach in government was shaped by the ideological and geopolitical vision that he had developed as a naval officer.[3] For Bernard Costagliola, the French navy’s Anglophobia had so embedded itself upon Darlan that he had come to believe that five generations of his family had been ruined by the death of his great-grandfather at the hands of the British at Trafalgar, even though none of his relatives had actually fought in the battle.[4] Hervé Couteau-Bégarie and Claude Huan go still further, suggesting that Darlan’s Anglophobia so blinded him to the realities of Nazi intentions towards France that he believed that France would gain more favourable terms from a German victory than a British one.[5] By looking at the policies pursued by Laval and Darlan between 1940 and 1941 and drawing a comparison with Vichy’s relations with Italy a more nuanced picture emerges, however. The distorted suspicions of Britain prevailed over balanced analysis by virtue of conscious, if misguided, decision-making, rather than visceral Anglophobia.

One of the most striking aspects of French foreign policy under Vichy is how, even among the relatively few voices who favoured maintaining a modus vivendi with Britain after June 1940, none justified doing so on grounds of historical or cultural affinity. Instead, arguments rested on notions that a British-led victory would be the least harmful option for France. In part, this was because the challenging and complex situations in which the French and British governments found themselves after the French defeat caused each to have to defend their interests in ways that were damaging to the other. Indeed, just as the British government was alarmed by some of the actions taken by the French, so a number of actions taken by the British gave Vichy legitimate cause for concern.

The first such incident was the British attack on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir on 3 July 1940. Franco-British relations had been tense since the French surrender, but interpreting the British action as unjustified aggression, Vichy formally severed diplomatic relations between the two states. Foreign Minister Paul Baudouin’s Directeur du Cabinet declared that henceforth, France would be free from any obligations towards its former ally.[6] The fallout might have been surmountable had it not been followed so soon by a British and Free French attack on Dakar on 23 to 25 September 1940. The operation shattered the fragile détente in Franco-British relations that had been so painfully rebuilt in the months following Mers-el-Kébir. It fed into Vichy’s narrative of malign British intentions towards the French colonial empire and allowed Baudouin, who had hitherto been seeking to improve relations, to assert that the British government was using the threat from the axis as a pretext for eliminating a powerful rival navy and seizing the spoils of a defeated former ally.[7]

At the heart of the problem were the fundamentally opposing approaches and priorities of the British and French governments in relation to the French colonial empire. A significant gulf emerged between Vichy’s exaggerated insistence that it retained a high level of sovereignty and British scepticism about the French government’s ability to resist axis demands.[8] For the British government, the risk of the French empire and navy falling into axis hands outweighed the need to allay French suspicions. Thus even when it did seek to reassure Vichy that it did not have malign intentions, it only aggravated matters. In a note sent to the French government via Madrid on 21 October 1940, the British government sought to assure Vichy that it would restore France’s ‘independence and grandeur’ after the war. The problem was, however, that its assertion that France was ‘powerless’ to protect its empire from German or Italian infiltration and that it needed British assistance to do so went entirely against Vichy’s insistence that it would defend the sovereignty of its colonial empire.[9] The language of the British note may have been clumsy, but it signalled an insurmountable lack of faith in Vichy’s claims.

Central to the formulation of Vichy’s foreign policy were the conflicting impulsions of weighing up the most likely outcome of the war against the preferred outcome. In the initial months after the French surrender, few believed there was any realistic prospect of a British victory. Even as the tide started to turn against the axis in 1941, officials at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs concluded that the most Britain could hope for was a compromise peace. But whereas diplomats maintained that a German-led victory would be significantly more harmful to France than a British-led one, the likes of Darlan, Laval and Pétain maintained the opposite.

Numerous diplomats reported that any unpleasantness from having to endure future British domination would be as nothing compared to the territorial and material losses that Germany would impose.[10] Indeed, in a note for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 14 October 1940, François Charles-Roux summed up the position by stating that a ‘pax Britannica’ would be infinitely less disadvantageous than a ‘pax Germannica’. Without concrete assurances from the axis, Vichy risked playing a ‘fool’s game’ in defending its colonies against the British and the Free French only to find that it later lost them to Germany, Italy or even Spain and Japan.[11] Yet despite criticisms including from the head of the French armistice commission for Germany that their assessments of German intentions were not based on political realities, Darlan, Laval and Pétain continued to maintain that French interests were better safeguarded under Nazi Germany than under Britain.[12]

The Vichy government’s dogmatic distrust of Britain might be contrasted with the way that it viewed Fascist Italy. As with Britain, France had long-running colonial and naval rivalries with Italy, especially in the Mediterranean. France and Italy had also been allies in the First World War and their governments had also diverged over the peace terms of 1919. French support for sanctions against Italy over its invasion of Abyssinia, the election of the Popular Front government and the Spanish Civil War widened tensions between the two states in the interwar years. But as with Britain, a narrative of betrayal developed from the fall of France, with Mussolini’s declaration of war on 10 June 1940 widely seen as Italy ‘stabbing’ France in the back. Despite all this, between July 1940 and November 1942, Baudouin, Laval and Darlan each sought rapprochement with Italy, claiming that it was France’s natural ally.

The need to ease the burden of the German armistice terms led Vichy to create a cultural rationale that enabled it to transcend resentments over past Italian action and suspicions about Italian intentions. Over late summer and early autumn 1940, Laval and Baudouin engaged in sustained efforts at rapprochement with the Italian government, citing cultural and historical affinity as two ‘Latin and Catholic’ countries.[13] These attempts at an alignment with Fascist Italy were not, however, ideologically-driven efforts in pursuance of collaboration with the axis. Indeed, in the summer and autumn of 1940 and again in the winter of 1941, Laval, Baudouin and Darlan sought to drive a wedge between the axis partners by appealing to Mussolini in order to isolate the German government, weaken its domination and pressurise it into granting France concessions on the armistice terms.[14] In other words, Vichy’s relations with Italy suggest that cultural perceptions functioned as important shaping elements but not determining factors in the formulation of French foreign policy.

The brutally sudden nature of the rupture in Franco-British relations in 1940 was perhaps best summed by the Marquis de Castellane, First Secretary to the French embassy in London. Despite diplomats working for decades to create an atmosphere of reciprocal trust, after the Mers-el-Kébir attack, ‘this closeness was destroyed within the space of one day […] we suddenly went from the closest of alliances to acts of hostility, a […] situation which has perhaps no precedent in modern history.’[15] Yet there was nothing inevitable or irreversible in the rupture of diplomatic relations. The picture was rather one of misunderstanding and wilful misrepresentation due in no small part to the reduced influence and personnel changes that Vichy imposed upon the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to François Charles-Roux, the Secretary-General at the Foreign Ministry, ministers suspected the entire diplomatic service of opposing the government’s foreign policy and harbouring sympathies towards Britain.[16] As a consequence, many experienced diplomats were recalled, retired, moved or like Charles-Roux, resigned.

Foreign policy under Vichy moved increasingly into the domain of two men who had little relevant experience in foreign affairs and who were driven instead by their own political agendas. Since leaving office in January 1936, Laval had been cut off from the Quai d’Orsay and was consequently out of touch when he returned to government in June 1940. Darlan’s lack of experience exposed him as being out of his depth and easily outmanoeuvred. In the negotiations with the German government over the Protocols of Paris, for example, he made significant concessions on the use French airfields in Syria and the Tunisian port of Bizerte for little in return. French diplomats expressed deep concern at Darlan’s ignorance of Nazi ideology and the delusion of those in Vichy who believed that the final peace terms would be like those at the end of the Franco-Prussian War, in which France would lose Alsace-Lorraine, pay some indemnities, and that would more or less be the end of the matter.[17] The chaotic and amateur conduct of Franco-British relations during this period is epitomised in Louis Rougier’s unofficial mission to Britain in which he exaggerated his authority, misled his interlocutors in London and Vichy and ultimately only aggravated matters.

Previous analyses have tended to depict an image of culturally-ingrained ‘Anglophobia’ within the French government, administration and the armed forces. Yet comparisons with Vichy’s policy towards Italy suggest that while antipathy towards Britain was widespread, its elevation to the core of foreign policy was a calculated political manoeuvre. Indeed, if the likes of Laval and Darlan were willing to set aside traditional hostility towards Germany to pursue collaboration, no such incentive existed for Italy. With diplomats increasingly marginalised over the course of 1940 and 1941, negative perceptions of Britain were manipulated to legitimise a foreign policy that centred upon an assumption of German victory. Clashes over the fleet and colonial empire served to create an image in which the alliance had been no more than a pragmatic deal whose specious character had manifested itself in the events of 1940 to 1941. For Vichy, breaking ties with Britain therefore represented a useful symbolic rupture with the discredited policies and values of the Third Republic. The damaging consequences of such an approach were all too evident to Baudouin by September 1940. In vain he appealed for French relations with Britain to be conducted from a more balanced perspective so that they might cease to be a series of harmful clashes in front of the ‘tertius gaudens’.[18]

 

 

[1] Cited in Bernard Costagliola, Darlan: La collaboration à tout prix (Paris: CNRS, 2015), p. 140.

[2] Ibid, p. 83.

[3] Peter Jackson and Simon Kitson, ‘Pétain’s Vichy France’, in Jonathan Adelman (ed.), Hitler and his Allies in World War II (London: Routledge, 2007), p. 87.

[4] Costagliola, Darlan, p. 66.

[5] Hervé Coutau-Bégarie and Claude Huan, Darlan (Paris: Fayard, 1989), pp. 442, 447.

[6] Archives Diplomatiques, 10GMII473, Note, 5 July 1940.

[7] M. Baudouin, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, à M. Haye, Ambassadeur de France à Washington, 24 September 1940; M. Baudouin, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, à M. de La Baume, Ambassadeur de France à Madrid, 29 September 1940, in Ministère des Affaires Etrangères Commission de Publication des Documents Diplomatiques Français, Documents diplomatiques français: 1940 Tome II (11 juillet – 30 décembre) (Peter Lang: Brussels, 2009), pp. 494-5, 505.

[8] Note de M. de Castellane, 7 August 1940, in Ministère des Affaires Etrangères Documents diplomatiques français: 1940 Tome II, p. 210.

[9] Note du directeur politique. Observations sur la Note anglaise du 21 octobre 1940, 22 October 1940, in Ibid, p. 732.

[10] Note de Nac, 16 July 1940, in Ibid, pp. 51-2.

[11] Archives Diplomatiques, Papiers Charles-Roux 1, Situation Internationale et Politique Extérieur Française, 14 October 1940.

[12] Note de l’Amiral Darlan sur la situation politique, 5 October 1941 in Ministère des Affaires Etrangères Commission de Publication des Documents Diplomatiques Français, Documents diplomatiques français (1 janvier 1941- 31 décembre 1941) (Peter Lang: Brussels, 2015), pp. 841-7.

[13] Relations avec l’Italie, Mirko Giobbe, 15 September 1949, in Institut Hoover, La vie de la France sous l’occupation (1940-1944) Tome III (Librairie Plon: Paris, 1957), pp. 1367-8.

[14] Archives Diplomatiques 10GMII473. Telegram, 6 August 1940; L’Ambassade de France au Secrétaire d’Etat, 19 August 1940, Actes et documents du Saint-Siège relatifs à la période de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, 4 (juin 1940-juin 1941) (Liberia Editrice Vaticana: Vaticana, 1967), pp. 113-4. See Karine Varley, ‘Entangled Enemies: Vichy, Italy and Collaboration’, in Alison Carrol and Ludivine Broch (eds.), France in an era of Global War: Occupation, Politics, Empire and Entanglements (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), pp. 152-70.

[15] Note de M. de Castellane, 7 aout 1940, in Ministère des Affaires Etrangères Documents diplomatiques français: 1940 Tome II, p. 214.

[16] François Charles-Roux, Cinq mois tragiques aux affaires étrangères, 21 mai-1er novembre 1940 (Paris: Plon, 1949), p. 319.

[17] Note, 5 May 1941, in Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, Documents diplomatiques français (1 janvier 1941- 31 décembre 1941), p. 433.

[18] M. Baudouin, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, à M. de La Baume, Ambassadeur de France à Madrid, 29 September 1940, in Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, Documents diplomatiques français 1940 Tome II, p. 532.

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Memories and Legacies of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 in the First and Second World Wars

Why were memories of the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune so problematic? France had, after all, suffered such humiliations before, and had re-emerged revived and reinvigorated. It seems that the traumas of 1870-71 were particularly acute because they revived questions about the revolution of 1789 and the character of the nation. Memories of the war against Germany could neither replace nor erase memories of the civil war because the two had been so closely connected. The Paris Commune had sprung from a patriotic rejection of the armistice with Germany and a feeling that the nation and the Republic had been betrayed by the government in Versailles. In the eyes of many Parisians, those who supported the Commune were the true patriots, whereas those who opposed it, including Catholics, monarchists, the Army of Versailles, and even moderate republicans, were the traitors.

Memories of the ‘terrible year’ pervaded French responses to the catastrophes of the Second World War. With the outbreak of war imminent in August 1939, the director of the notoriously right-wing Le Gringoire, Horace de Carbuccia, declared, ‘1870 is starting all over again!’[1] While it may have seemed to some observers in 1940 as though they were condemned to relive France’s darkest hours, the comparisons and connections between the two defeats raise questions about the political continuities that led 1870-1871 and 1940 to be interpreted in similar terms.

The likes of Stanley Hoffmann and Jean-Louis Cremieux-Brilhac argue that while humiliating, the defeat of 1870 was less traumatic than that of 1940 because 1870 could be written off as a failure of the Second Empire, whereas in1940 the entire nation was implicated. Such reasoning might work for the defeat at Sedan, but because the post-4 September war effort was cast in terms of a war of national defence, and because it was followed shortly after by a civil war, like the debacle of 1940, the events of l’année terrible of 1870-1 produced a political vacuum in which it was a matter of defining what had gone wrong with the nation and it was a time when everyone competed to offer their own panacea.

It therefore stands to reason that memories of l’année terrible should have lasted beyond the early years of the Third Republic. What is perhaps less clear is the extent to which these memories impacted upon interpretations of the defeat of 1940. What I’d like to suggest is that if after the First World War memories of l’année terrible no longer occupied a central position in public and political consciousness, they didn’t disappear entirely. But whereas Robert Gildea argues that the principal legacy of 1870 for 1940 was to provide a model of how to reconstruct grandeur out of defeat, I’d like to suggest that the often conscious references to 1870 derived from its divisive impact upon French political culture.

One explanation for the apparent parallels between responses to the debacles of 1870 and 1940 may lie in broader patterns of how nations deal with military defeats. Wolfgang Schivelbusch has established common patterns of reaction to defeat. Beginning with despair at their loss, nations quickly move on to experience feelings of jubilation as the regimes responsible for the collapse are overthrown and turned into scapegoats. The next phase sees nations entering a delusional state, during which there may be internal instability as populations grapple with hopes and disappointments. When victors impose harsh peace terms, the prevailing mood of optimism quickly changes to be replaced with a sense of betrayal. The enemy’s success is then unpicked as illegitimate and unjust; the loser is therefore the moral victor and has the right and duty to exact revenge. While preparing itself for future war, the losing nation reconstructs its self-confidence with the notion that it is intellectually superior to its enemy and that its setback is merely a temporary aberration in an otherwise rarely-broken narrative of historical greatness.[2]

When the nation entered into war against Germany once again in 1914, memories of 1870-71 returned. As Jean-Jacques Becker has argued, insofar as there had ever been a generation nurturing thoughts of revanche, most of their number had died by the outbreak of the First World War and it was not at the forefront of public thinking. At the same time however, if the Union Sacrée that was created in 1914 had its weaknesses, it nonetheless drew strength from a common consensus that it was legitimate to defend the nation against an attack by the old enemy.[3] The men who fought in the trenches had all been through a republican education system shaped by memories of the collapse of 1870-71. They operated in an army that had undergone significant structural reform and whose strategic thinking was influenced by the lessons of the defeat. Senior commanders had their own memories of the Franco-Prussian War: Foch recalled witnessing Napoleon III travelling through Metz, while Joffre had served in the siege of Paris in 1870.[4]

Whatever the mood of the nation at the start of the First World War might have been, halting the German offensive on the Marne contributed significantly towards repairing confidence in the French army, while the return of Alsace-Lorraine laid to rest lingering resentments at the mutilation of the nation. The ceremonial burial of the Unknown Soldier in 1920 was dominated with symbolic efforts to present the victory of 1918 as closure for the trauma of 1870-71. Before being taken to the Panthéon, the Unknown Soldier was left for one night at place Denfert-Rochereau, the square in the fourteenth arrondissement of Paris named after the hero of the siege of Belfort and the site of a monument dedicated to the Franco-Prussian War. The following day, the cortège was joined by an urn containing the heart of Gambetta, whose memory remained synonymous with the republican patriotism of 1870-71 and fidelity to Alsace-Lorraine. On either side of the grave under the Arc de Triomphe were plaques bearing inscriptions that made the links between the two wars explicit.[5] Through such words and gestures, the Republic that had been born in defeat in 1870 sought to establish legitimacy through victory over Germany in 1918.

The shock of another defeat in 1940 resurrected deeply-embedded memories of the traumas of 1870-71 and once again thoughts turned to notions of decline stemming from the belief that war represented a judgment on national strength and worth.[6] In the struggle to make sense of what had happened in the Second World War, France drew upon a discourse stemming in part from the Franco-Prussian War.

At this point, it must be stressed that in the intervening period, a whole set of new domestic and international challenges had come into play and indeed, it might be argued that the collapse of 1940 acts as a distorting prism by exaggerating the sense in which the painful memories of l’année terrible lived on despite victory in the First World War.

And yet, many French leaders had doubted that that the peace of 1918 would bring anything other than temporary respite, and indeed it is widely considered that the Union Sacrée represented merely a fragile and temporary truce in an ongoing set of political struggles. The collapse of 1940 was interpreted in terms that returned thoughts to 1870-71 once again. For memories of l’année terrible were not only part of the fabric of French political culture but were particularly pertinent because many of the chief protagonists in the Second World War were of such an age as to feel a direct connection with 1870-1871.

Pétain’s memories of the events of 1870 to 1871 had a direct influence upon his interpretation of the crisis of 1940. Born in 1856, Pétain belonged to a generation with direct experience of l’année terrible. Having been educated by priests whose colleagues had been victims of the Paris Commune, Pétain learned from an early age to despise the far left perhaps as much as the German enemy.[7]

In the crisis of the collapse of June 1940, Pétain was joined by Weygand in believing that the nation had to be defended against the threat of revolution in the capital. Clearly the anti-Communism of the interwar period had a significant impact upon the calculations of Pétain and Weygand, but the spectre of the Paris Commune and the civil war that had followed represented an enduring and particularly potent memory for the right. And as if to reinforce the point, on 20 May 1940 L’Humanité sought to arouse France’s revolutionary and patriotic heritage by evoking the spirit and memory of the Commune, comparing the government with that of Adolphe Thiers, and even calling for a seizure of power in the manner of the Commune.[8]

In the aftermath of the Paris Commune, having redeemed itself by re-establishing order, the army came to be regarded as the guarantor of social and political order and the defender of a set of values antithetical to those of the far left. In June 1940, Pétain and Weygand sought an armistice that would ensure that the defeat was attributed to political rather than military failings. Indeed, at several points Weygand explicitly referenced the events of 1871 in arguing that responsibility for surrender should not fall upon the army. In so doing, they hoped to replicate the way that the army had spearheaded the national recovery as it had done after 1871.[9]

Those observing Pétain’s actions were also struck by the apparent parallels with 1870-71. In supporting an armistice, Pétain was thinking not merely about defending France against invasion, but of the political order that could be constructed out of the defeat and collapse of the Third Republic. His prioritization of the political over the military thus brought echoes of the machinations of Marshal Bazaine who was tried for treason and undermining the war effort out of loyalty to the deposed Second Empire in 1870. Both men had been deeply suspicious of the republican regimes in which they were operating, claiming their ideals were antithetical to the interests of the France they wished to create. Not since Bazaine had a military commander and hero seized upon the occasion of their nation’s misfortune to negotiate with the enemy for a peace that would enable the pursuit of a particular political agenda.

Bloch’s analysis of the defeat of 1940 covered much of the same ground already explored by the likes of Renan, Taine, Arthur de Gobineau, and Michelet in their analyses of the defeat of 1871. In each case, assertions that France had been outclassed centred on narratives of national decay and decline. If the precise causes of the decline varied from being rooted in 1789 to being caused by racial degeneration, or in the case of Bloch being caused by the sclerosis of interwar France, all also recognised the need to learn from the German example. While Bloch argued that it was the Dreyfus Affair that brought the separation of the army and bourgeoisie from the nation his comment on Bazaine may be read as suggesting that the problems within the army dated back further to 1870.[10] In this sense, there were not just comparisons between 1870 and 1940 but continuities.

On one level, the ways that Pétain, Weygand, Maurras and others interpreted the events of 1940 might be considered to represent the re-emergence of a persistent undercurrent that challenged republicanism and looked upon defeat as an opportunity to roll back the tide of political development. Such a contention does, of course, present too stark a division between support and opposition to republicanism but it also raises questions about the continuities between 1870 and 1940. Despite the consolidation of the Republic and the experiences of the First World War, l’année terrible continued to cast a dark shadow over narratives of the nation’s past and future, seeming to present a compellingly disturbing image of political and social disunity, and seeming to suggest that France was on a downward spiral of decline.

While for the likes of Pétain memories of l’année terrible lived on as disasters to avoid repeating, for de Gaulle they left a more ambiguous legacy. Born in 1890, de Gaulle was too young to have had any direct experience of 1870. But as a young boy, de Gaulle’s father took de Gaulle to where he had fought in the siege of Paris in 1870. And of course, perhaps more significantly, de Gaulle was educated in an early Third Republic political culture strongly influenced by the myths and memories of l’année terrible. Writing about how he ‘thought of France in a certain way’ in a now-famous passage at the start of his war memoirs published in 1954, de Gaulle evoked the painful memories of hearing about his parents’ sadness at the fruitless efforts to break free from the siege of Paris and the capitulation of Bazaine.[11] That de Gaulle should have placed these recollections so early in his book seems to suggest that these memories represent a deeply-embedded trauma that had a significant impact upon de Gaulle’s conception of the nation. De Gaulle chose to evoke these memories of the Franco-Prussian War because they would resonate with French readers and give pathos to the troubled narrative of French greatness he was seeking to construct. The nation’s disasters place its moments of glory into sharper relief and crucially for de Gaulle, serve as reminders that recovery can follow collapse.

While reflecting upon the state of the army twenty years earlier, de Gaulle’s analyses of the 1871 defeat appear to have furnished him with a useful model with which to interpret with the defeat of 1940. In Le fil de l’epée (1932) de Gaulle argued that after 1815, France had expected a period of peace and so the cream of its youth had shunned careers in the army. When war erupted in 1870, the nation therefore had only mediocre military commanders to lead it. After the defeat, however, the entire nation devoted its energies to repairing the injustices in a future war against Germany. The most talented of the new generations therefore entered the army, which became the object of a new cult.[12] The opposition to war after 1918 was simply a repeat of the nation’s feelings after 1815.

Despite portraying the Franco-Prussian War as having a galvanizing effect upon the nation, de Gaulle was not ignorant of its divisiveness when left to fester under the early Third Republic. By the 1890s when the bourgeois parliamentary system was being challenged by nationalists and the left, ‘A kind of self-doubt overcame a people humiliated by defeat and irritated by politics,’ de Gaulle claimed. In this context, de Gaulle saw the danger to the army and nation as coming from the left, and the anti-militarist sentiments of the Paris Commune and socialist internationalism.[13] Having analysed the impact of l’année terrible upon the nation in his writings in the 1930s and how the left could destabilize the nation, de Gaulle would have been acutely aware of the need to avoid another collapse into civil war after the defeat of 1940.

The rapid and humiliating collapses of 1870-71 and 1940 had quite distinct causes and occurred in very different contexts, but the latter became connected to the former in public memories because it seemed to suggest a declining national status in terms of France’s position as a world power and in terms of the grandeur of its ideas. The discourse of decline and decadence had been a significant part of French political culture since the Revolution of 1789, but the Franco-Prussian War came as a particularly sharp blow to French pride, bringing the defeat not simply of a regime but of the nation. Notions of superiority and of the French mission to spread the ideas of the Revolution of 1789 appeared discredited by weakness in the face of what was considered a militarily inferior enemy and by the tensions between strands of republican thinking manifested in the sombre days of the civil war. By constructing a narrative of resistance, bravery against the odds, ingenuity, and humanity at one level while engaging in intense political and ideological struggle at another, however, France was able once again to ride through a time of intense turmoil.

[1] Cremieux-Breuilhac, Les Francais (1990), p. 114.

[2] W. Schivelbusch, The Culture of Defeat: On National Trauma, Mourning, and Recovery, trans. J. Chase (London: Granta, 2003), pp. 1-35.

[3] Ibid., 582-3.

[4] Horne, Fall, 429; C. Williams, Pétain (London: Little Brown, 2005), pp. 28-34.

[5] L. V. Smith, S. Audoin-Rouzeau, A. Becker, France and the Great War, 1914-1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 170-4.

[6] P. Jackson, ‘Returning to the Fall of France: Recent Work on the Causes and Consequences of the “Strange Defeat” of 1940’, Modern and Contemporary France 12:3 (2004) 362-84.

[7] Williams, Pétain, 28-34.

[8] Courtois, Le PCF dans la guerre, p. 127.

[9] J. Jackson, The Fall of France: The Nazi Invasion of 1940 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 104.

[10] Nicole Jordan, ‘Strategy and Scapegoats’, in Blatt, p. 34.

[11] C. de Gaulle, War Memoirs, vol. 1: The Call to Honour 1940-1942 trans. J. Griffin (London: Viking Press, 1955), p. 10.

[12] C. de Gaulle, Le fil de l’épée (Paris: Editions Berger-Levrault, 1944), pp. 28, 39-40.

[13] De Gaulle, La France et son armée, pp. 111, 133-6.

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Britain, France and Europe: Reassessments

On 22 May 2018, I and my Strathclyde colleague, Dr Rogelia Pastor-Castro, led a debate on the history of relations between the UK and France and what shape their future relations might take post-Brexit. Hosted by the French Ambassador to the UK, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, at the Ambassador’s Residence in London, the event on 22 May was attended by members of the international and national media, Embassy officials, MOD staff, Foreign Office Historians and academics.

Embassy line up

Karine Varley, Ambassador Jouyet, Robert Tombs, Peter Jackson, Rogelia Pastor-Castro

The debate featured Professor Robert Tombs of the University of Cambridge, a leading historian of Franco-British relations and founder of a pro-Brexit media briefing website, and Professor Peter Jackson of the University of Glasgow, one of the foremost historians of global security and UK-French relations.

In a lively debate in which each side defended their case, the speakers agreed that the relationship between the UK and France remains unique and that while the UK may be leaving the EU, Britain and France will remain close partners.

Ambassador speaking

Ambassador Jean-Pierre Jouyet

The event was organised as part of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Network Grant that I hold with Rogelia Pastor-Castro on relations between the UK and France in World War Two. It is part of a series of events that have included a colloquium hosted by Ambassador Sir Peter Ricketts at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Paris, academic workshops and a public roundtable on Franco-British relations at the Institut Français d’Ecosse in Edinburgh.

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The Paris Commune of 1871

The Paris Commune was long held up by Marxists as the archetypal proletarian government – rule by the workers for the workers. Observing the violent insurrection, and the numerous political clubs that sprang up everywhere, Marx was inspired to declare that this was the empowerment of the ordinary people. He argued that the ‘true secret’ of the Commune was the working class government which could work towards the economic emancipation of labour. For Engels, the workers’ self-government and self-advancement signified a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. For the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917, the Commune provided a model of action and inspiration, with old Communards present in Petrograd in 1917. The Communists even sent a piece of a flag used in the Paris Commune of 1871 on their first lunar expedition. But it also provided a warning of what might happen when a revolution in the capital was not supported in the provinces. The Marxist perspective dominated historiography on the Paris Commune until the collapse of the Soviet Union, but this interpretation has now been largely discredited. We will examine how the Commune came to power, its actions, the nature of its support and leadership, and its wider significance in French history. We will address the key themes that have dominated historians’ understanding of the Commune, namely whether the Commune marked the formation of proletarian consciousness, and whether this really was a struggle between Paris and the provinces.

 

Origins of the Commune

The Paris Commune of 1871 must be understood within the context of earlier insurrections in the capital’s history. The Revolution of 1789 served as a source of inspiration for the Communards of 1871, and they consciously sought portray themselves as the continuation of that tradition. So dominant were memories of the Revolution that Marx warned against the danger of their creating a ‘reactionary cult of the past’. Many of those involved in the events of 1870-1871 also had personal memories of the revolution of 1848. The roots of the Paris Commune undoubtedly lie in the republican memories of earlier revolutions and their subsequent suppression by the forces of conservatism. For the revolution of February to June 1848 was cut short by the election of Louis-Napoleon in December 1848, and many far-left republicans were forced into exile after the coup of 2 December 1851, in which Napoleon III, as he now called himself, declared the establishment of the Second Empire. The French collapse in the battle of Sedan saw the left rise up to proclaim a republic. Many perceived the remainder of the conflict as being as much about safeguarding this revolution as it was about resisting the German invasion.

But the revolution of 4 September 1870, which was spearheaded by republicans in the capital and in several major provincial cities such as Lyon and Marseille, was not supported by significant sections of the population. Even in government, there was open hostility between the likes of Gambetta and the conservative army commanders. While Gambetta saw the concept of a levée en masse as being the key to safeguarding the fatherland in danger, military chiefs were not convinced that the national guard could be a serious fighting force. Thus the 200,000 or so national guards deployed in the capital were left idle as the siege of Paris unfolded, left simply to watch over the city ramparts and keep order. This inaction led to a demoralising sense of uselessness; many were often drunk on the job, while many others spent their evenings listening to orators at the many extreme left-wing clubs that sprang up from the increasing impatience at the failure to break out of the impasse. Soon the political clubs began to develop considerable power over both the national guardsmen and the government, one club leader declaring that the government could not undertake any military operation without consulting the clubs first.

Unrest and dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the war effort exploded on 5 October when red leaders led the Belleville and Ménilmontant battalions of the national guard to the town hall to demand an immediate sortie. Trochu, who was in charge of the city’s defence, refused, however. So three days later there was a much noisier march to the town hall in which cries of ‘long live the Commune’ were heard for the first time. At this point it I should perhaps clarify what was meant by the term Commune. The word had deep roots in French history. In political terms, it had several meanings, including municipalism, and communism. It was strongly reminiscent of the 1793 Commune which enabled the most radical revolutionaries to control Paris during the Terror. All the hopes of republicans in Paris were encapsulated in the word Commune as a revolutionary embodiment of the people which would surmount all problems.

To return back to the events of 1870, though, a failed sortie from Paris, and news of the capitulation of Metz led to renewed unrest on 31 October. The mayor of Montmartre, Clemenceau, issued a poster declaring that if the government accepted an armistice, this would be considered an act of treason. Around 15,000 national guardsmen gathered spontaneously at the town hall. The revolutionary leader Gustave Flourens proposed that the Belleville national guard overthrow the government and replace it with one headed by the men of the extreme left, such as Blanqui and Delescluze. In the event only around 400 men turned up, and the situation was easily contained until a shot was fired into the crowds, causing panic to break out. Flourens led a handful of men into the town hall, where they took several members of the government hostage. In negotiations wth the governemnt for their release, it was agreed that there would be immediate elections and no reprisals against the insurgents. In reality, however, the elections held on 3 November turned into a vote of approval for the government, while the insurgents were quickly rounded up by police.

Since September, patriots led by revolutionary leaders and the national guard had been demanding a sortie torrentielle in order to break the deadlock of the siege. By late January, the government and army felt obliged to acquiesce, ordering a sortie from Buzenval on 19 January. It was another disaster, bringing angry crowds to the town hall once again.

So – as we have seen, over the course of the war, there were constant undercurrents of unrest in Paris, which goes back to the lack of political unity during the Franco-Prussian War. What seems to have really sparked the mobilisation of the city’s republicans was the feeling that patriotic and republican Paris was being betrayed by a conservative government and a conservative population in the provinces. The elections of 8 February produced a massive monarchist majority. The actions of the government were therefore viewed through in these terms. With memories of the suppression of the revolutions of 1789 and 1848 vivid in the popular imagination, the instinctive reaction of many in the capital was to resist the actions of the government.

Such suspicions of the government were fuelled by the capitulation and armistice of 26 January. Many in the capital believed it a betrayal by those who opposed republican and patriotic Paris. The government’s agreement to a triumphal entry into Paris on 1 March was particularly galling for a city that believed it had not been defeated militarily. For unlike in Petrograd in 1917, where revolutionaries wanted to end the war and the government attempted to continue it at the expense of the population, in France in 1871, the situation was the other way round, with revolutionaries wanting to continue the war. The prospect of a German parade and the loss of their pay led many national guardsmen to re-mobilise themselves spontaneously and to establish their own political leadership, which was regarded as the framework for the political organisation of Paris. They seized the guns bought by public subscription and rejected their official commanders as defeatist royalists.

The next step in convincing the capital that the government was operating against its interest was the so-called ‘measures against Paris’. On 11-12 March 1871, the National Assembly adopted four bills, each of which was detrimental to the capital. They included ending pay for National Guardsmen, and end to the moratorium on the sale of goods at pawnshops, overdue bills payable with interest, and the National Assembly being adjourned to Versailles. The end of the moratorium on rent and other of the four measures hit the poorest sections of Paris the hardest, thereby fuelling extreme-left claims that this was an act of class war. The government decision to return to Versailles rather than Paris caused intense anger and fuelled calls for Paris to have its own government. It was interpreted by many Parisians as a deliberately hostile act by the reactionary rural majority.

The uprising of 18 March was essentially spontaneous, lacking any significant direction by extreme-left figures until relatively late in the day. Essentially, national guards and the people of Paris responded to what they perceived to be an act of provocation by the government of Adolphe Thiers based in Versailles. In reality, the actions of the government were intended to avoid provocation. The National Assembly had been pressing Thiers to impose order on the capital. The problem was that while the city had been disarmed as part of the armistice with Germany, 400 cannon remained in the hands of the national guard, having been paid for out of public donations. To avoid confrontation, the government planned a surprise seizure of the artillery to be followed by a police round-up of radicals and revolutionaries. But there was a delay in the arrival of the horses needed to haul the cannon away, which gave defending guardsmen time to raise the alarm.

The main scene of the confrontation was at Montmartre. One national guardsman named Turpin challenged the soldiers attempting to seize the cannon, only to be shot. With the alert sounded, women began to gather and attempt to fraternise with the soldiers, offering them food. The divisional commander, General Lecomte, realising he had lost control of his men, ordered them to shoot, but by then it had become psychologically impossible, so the men turned round and captured Lecomte. That afternoon, crowds spotted General Thomas, a commander of the forces that had repressed the demonstrations of June 1848, and when they heard that guardsman Turpin had been shot, they killed him and Lecomte.

These were spontaneous actions by national guards and local residents, and not the carefully co-ordinated moves of revolutionary leaders acting as the vanguard of the proletariat, as Marxist historiography later claim. Indeed, it was only in the middle of the morning that the national guard Central Committee gathered to formulate a plan. By 10pm, one group of guardsmen acting on behalf of the Central Committee occupied the prefecture, and by 11pm, another had occupied the town hall. By midnight, then, the authority of the state had effectively collapsed in the capital, leaving the Central Committee as the only body with any authority over Paris.

In the following two days, there were negotiations between the Central Committee and the National Assembly, but these ultimately broke down and elections for the municipal council of Paris were called for 26 March. This announcement made clear the break with legality. The Commune was officially proclaimed on 28 March amidst great optimism.

 

Interpretations of the Commune

Municipalism

Some historians have claimed that what began as a revolution by a minority turned into a general war of secession. As Roger Gould has argued, despite neighbourhood localism, the uprising of March 1871 is best understood as the whole city rising collectively to defend municipal liberties, and this perception was shared by participants. As we have seen, the national guard was at the centre of the uprising. Owing to mass mobilisation, which reinforced neighbourhood solidarity and created ties across residential communities, it effectively became the organisation of Parisian citizenry and created a framework for a collective city-wide identity.

This desire for municipal autonomy must be understood within the context of the administration of Paris before 1870. Under the Second Empire, the capital was subject to the worst excesses of political spying by the secret police as they sought to suppress the activities of republicans and the far left.

A particularly powerful impulsion leading to calls for municipal autonomy was the notion of a battle between Paris and the provinces. This idea had its origins in the June Days of 1848, when insurrectionaries were suppressed by government troops comprising volunteers from the provinces. Napoleon III’s coup of 2 December 1851 against the republicans had also been supported by provincial votes in a plebiscite later that month. Thus in February and March 1871, many looked back at 1848 and 1851 with foreboding, fearing that history might be about to repeat itself. And so when Thiers ordered the seizure of the cannon on 18 March, many instinctively resisted, seeing it as an assault on Paris. Under the Second Empire, the feeling of Parisian isolation was considerable. Many saw the capital as an island of republicanism surrounded by a sea of reaction. The experiences of the siege only increased the sense that provincial France had abandoned the capital. Thus from the end of the siege in late January through to the beginning of the civil war in early April, there was a broad consensus on the injustice and illegitimacy of the actions of the government.

We should, however, be careful not to overstate the extent to which Paris stood alone. Uprisings in Lyon, Marseille, and Toulouse demonstrated sympathy for the plight of the capital. Thus the myth of peasant France attacking republican Paris had to be modified with the realisation that the provinces offered the only hope of survival. So from mid-April, the Paris Commune began to emphasise the common causes between Paris and the provinces.

Still the question remains why the desire for greater municipal autonomy should result in civil war. The answer essentially lies in Robert Tombs’s argument that behind the question of municipal liberties lay aspirations for the triumph of a revolutionary city over a reactionary country. It was these ideas that led ultimately to civil war.

 

Commune as Proletarian Revolution

For over a century, the Marxist analysis dominated interpretations of the Commune. The first major work to challenge this view came in 1964 when Jacques Rougerie published a pioneering analysis of the Commune which was fiercely attacked by Communist historians for questioning the traditional Marxist view. He argued that far from being a proto-proletariat, the Communards were mainly workers in small-scale industry, with artisan, white collar, and lower middle-class leaders. Thus, he argued, the Commune was not the first proletarian revolution but the last traditional Parisian revolt – in his words ‘dusk not dawn’.

Research undertaken since then has largely corroborated Rougerie’s findings. If we turn first to the social composition of Communard support, we find, in the words of Robert Tombs, that the Communards were the ‘people’ rather than the proletariat. Many of those at the heart of the Commune were skilled manual and white collar workers, while established politicians and the commercial middle classes who normally tried to take over leadership in revolution remained relatively aloof.

In terms of collective identity, class was not a very significant factor. Rather than class antagonism, Communard rhetoric referred to a class alliance. The statutes of the national guard Central Committee spoke of the defence of the Republic against monarchists and foreign invaders, making only one reference to ‘exploiters and oppressors who treat their equals as property’. While class rhetoric had been important during the siege of Paris, with the end of the German blockade, provisions began to reach the people once more, thus reducing the appeal of class war. There does, however, seem to be evidence that support for the Commune was strongest within the workers. When the final assault by government forces came, resistance was confined to the workers, as the administrative and military authorities collapsed. Likewise, the political coalition between moderate and extreme left elements proved to be an unstable coalition. Revolutionaries could not inspire the majority of Parisians to defend the Commune to the end. So the Commune drifted to its bloody dénouement, while more moderate elements jumped ship as soon as its authority slipped.

 

Policies of the Commune

Aspirations for greater municipal autonomy and desires to improve the standard of living for ordinary Parisians were evident in the policies of the Paris Commune. National guardsmen took over the role of the police, they reversed the four measures against Paris, restored freedom of the press and amnestied political prisoners. They sought to help workers by ensuring decent wages and conditions. On 2 April, the Commune declared the separation of Church and State. They were particularly concerned with establishing free, non-clerical, secular, and preferably mixed education. Many believed that it was vital to educate women for as mothers, they needed to create and educate republicans. The Commune sought also to bring art and music to the people. Even as troops from Versailles entered the capital, free open air concerts were being held. One of the reasons for such policies was that the Commune’s political leaders saw the workers as their main constituency. Indeed, Henri Lefebvre has argued that behind the Commune lay the reconquest of Paris by workers and the poor who had been forced out by the reforms of Haussmann in the 1850s and 1860s.

 

Suppression

The final element in the history of the Commune that needs addressing is its violent fall. The suppression of the Commune surpassed the violence of the Terror of 1793-4, to be exceeded only by the death toll of the Franco-French war of 1944-5. The uprising of 18 March signalled the collapse of state power in the capital. The government, headed by Adolphe Thiers, was located in Versailles rejected the move as illegal and illegitimate. So, having just signed the peace with Germany, France went to war with itself. The government in Versailles recalled the army, and launched an attack on Paris on 2 April 1871. The Commune portrayed the conflict as a matter of the defence of Paris against royalist forces supported by papal soldiers, police and primitive peasants from the west. It therefore responded with an abortive attack on Versailles on 3 April. Thus began the civil war in earnest. Hopes for a peaceful resolution disappeared when it emerged that the Versailles army had executed insurgents taken prisoner in the fighting. In response, the Commune passed the notorious ‘hostage decree’, in which anyone suspected of complicity with Versailles would be imprisoned and for every prisoner killed by Versailles, the Commune would kill three of its prisoners.

Most of those who fought on the side of the Commune were former national guardsmen. The Army of Versailles, by contrast, included peasants longing for peace, country gentlemen hoping for a restoration of the monarchy, craftsmen, middle class men opposed to insurrection who supported a moderate Republic. What bound them all together was not conviction but discipline and coercion.

On 21 May 100,000 men from the Versailles army entered western Paris. Thus began the semaine sanglante, or week of blood, which lasted from 21 to 28 May 1871. The army encountered little resistance, yet it continued to execute prisoners, prompting Communard forces to retaliate with the execution of its hostages including the Archbishop of Paris. From 23 May Communard resisters began to set fire to public buildings to cover their retreat. Hostile observers claimed that it was the work of working class women, the so-called pétroleuses. The myths of the pétroleuses played a key role in anti-Communard propaganda, firing the imagination as it struck at the heart of the idea of domesticity on which bourgeois society was based. For others on the right, the total destruction of the town hall, and Tuileries Palace, and part of the Louvre was a worse crime than the taking of lives.

The killings of ordinary people began as soon as Versailles forces ‘liberated’ each district. Young and old were sometimes rounded up for no reason other than their appearance. The aim was not to ‘expiate’ the crimes of the Commune or to exterminate those responsible, but rather to terrorise the whole community, meaning that anyone, including women and children was a legitimate target. During one week, between 10 and 30,000 Parisians lost their lives, as compared with under the Terror of 1793, when it took 16 months to kill 2600. Around 45,000 were arrested, including over 1000 women. Over 5000 were imprisoned, 4500 were deported to new Caledonia, and 9000 fled.

Conclusion

The Paris Commune had a profound impact on French politics and culture. But it is important to understand it as having essentially sprung from a patriotic rejection of the armistice with Germany at the end of the Franco-Prussian War and from a feeling that the nation and the Republic had been betrayed. In the eyes of many Parisians, those who supported the Commune were the true patriots, whereas those who opposed it, including Catholics, monarchists, the Army of Versailles and even moderate republicans, were traitors. Without the unique circumstances created by the ‘people’s war’ against Germany, the Commune probably would not have happened.

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Was the Franco-Prussian War a Modern or Total War?

Total war

The term was first coined by Ludendorff 1918 to signify a departure from previous modes of conflict. It essentially involved the necessary mobilisation of material, intellectual, and moral energies against all legitimate objects of war. In fact, the concept of total war might be dated back to the 1790s and the revolutionary period, when conflicts began to be conducted with the intention of destroying the enemy’s military might, political system and culture – the total opposite of diplomacy, in other words. Daniel Pick has taken up the theme in his book War Machine to claim that the fact that the Franco-Prussian War was fought in a manner reminiscent of earlier conflicts did not detract from the argument that the ‘war machine’ was without leadership and existed for the sole purpose destruction. Clausewitz could not have anticipated the destruction made possible by technological improvements- total war is therefore less associated with the means by which war is conducted and more with the war objectives.

Mobilisation 

In August 1870 all single men under 40 were mobilised, but after 4 September 1870, Gambetta extended mobilisation to all men including those who were married under 40, while all men up to 65 joined some kind of irregular military force. Some workers, including those working in munitions were exempt. Men unfit to join the army could join the battle as francs-tireurs. In return, when calling for mass mobilisation, Gambetta emphasised new social obligations of the state in providing for families and wounded.

Industrialisation

In terms of industrialisation, there is less of a case to be made for total war. France had not fully integrated the industrial and military sectors. Railways, which were to become so key in modern warfare, were not fully integrated into the French war effort. There were, however, some significant developments in weaponry, most famously with the mitrailleuse. France also famously used balloons not only to allow Gambetta to escape besieged Paris on 7 October 1870 to organise the provincial war effort, but also to carry over 11 tons of mail to provincial France.

Sieges and Civilians

The besieged cities, most notably Paris, Strasbourg, Metz and Belfort came closest to experiencing total war. German forces regularly bombarded civilian areas with the intention of damaging morale. In Paris, up to 400 shells a day were fired at civilian areas. Civilians also had to endure the privation of foodstuffs and fuel in one of the harshest winters in living memory. In Paris, the government was reluctant to introduce rationing. So after eating all the horses in the city, the people then devoured their pets. And when they ran out, they turned to eating rats. For those with more money, the wartime menu was rather more exotic. High class butchers and restaurants began to serve meat from kangaroos, bears, antelope, and eventually elephants. To the anguish of the keepers, Paris ate the animals in its zoo.

The extent and legitimacy of civilian involvement in combat was a subject of intense controversy, and it could be argued that their participation heralded a kind of total war, in that men and women were waging a kind of guerrilla resistance, with whole towns and villages caught up in the German reprisals. The presence of civilian resistance terrorised German soldiers, and many responded with disproportionate violence.

The Bazeilles Controversy

The small village of Bazeilles was endured one of the most brutal assaults inflicted on civilians by the German invaders in 1870. Even before the war had ended, Bazeilles was widely regarded as a martyred village, not only in France, but across Europe. The village was suddenly plunged into the conflict at around four o’clock in the morning on Thursday 1 September 1870, when Bavarian forces led by General von der Tann attacked Bazeilles with 40,000, facing a French defence comprising only four marine infantry regiments of 10,000 men. By some fateful error, the French army failed to blow up the bridge over the Meuse leading to Bazeilles before the Bavarians arrived. As they struggled to prevent General von der Tann’s men from capturing the bridge, the marines were pushed back, forced to retreat into the village for protection. The marines mounted a fierce resistance, often fighting the enemy face to face in the streets. Some took refuge inside houses, where local residents assisted them and even took up arms themselves. Bavarian troops began to show increasing signs of frustration at suffering such heavy casualties for so little territorial gain. What happened next, however, was and remains a source of considerable controversy.

The undisputed facts are that in the struggle to capture Bazeilles, around four hundred houses were burned, as well as the town hall and church, leaving only a handful of dwellings standing. Thirty-nine civilians perished out of a total population of 2,048. Yet it was the issue of how the fires were started and why so many civilians died that lay at the centre of the polemic. According to French sources, Bavarian soldiers were furious at the extent of their losses, blaming the guerrilla war being waged by local residents. Eye-witnesses claimed they saw Bavarians ‘armed with torches setting fire to houses which had been spared from gunfire, without verifying whether there were women, elderly people, or children inside.’ British and Belgian newspaper correspondents reporting from the front line sent back detailed accounts of Bavarian massacres of innocent civilians which provoked outrage in the two countries. Apart from the obvious immorality of attacking reportedly unarmed civilians, since the signing of the Geneva Convention in 1864, European opinion increasingly expected that civilians and soldiers should be treated humanely in war.

On 29 June 1871, General von der Tann issued a strong statement refuting allegations that his men had acted barbarously in Bazeilles. He denied that large numbers of inhabitants had perished in the flames. He insisted that of the thirty-nine residents reported dead, wounded or missing, only two bedridden women, three men, and three children had burned to death or had been suffocated. He refuted the allegations that the fires were started deliberately, arguing instead that the houses caught fire because they were in the line of German projectiles.

Accusations of German barbarity towards those they had defeated were a prominent feature of French memories of the war. Descriptions commonly made the victims society’s most vulnerable, namely women, children, the elderly and infirm, but they also included unarmed or wounded soldiers. At the heart of French allegations and German refutations were differing views on the status of guerrillas and civilians who took up arms. The German army regarded them as legitimate targets on a par with spies. But it also indiscriminately attacked local populations in a bid to deter further civilian resistance. The issue of guerrilla war split communities, as many local authorities and residents preferred to co-operate with the enemy rather than risk reprisals.

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The French Defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71

In the eyes of many, the French defeat of 1871 had been nothing less than ‘the greatest military collapse recorded by history’. Within the space of only six months, France had lost the war, lost Alsace-Lorraine, and lost its self-belief. The newspaper Le Siècle summed up the popular view: ‘Which Frenchman, even after many centuries, will forget the name Sedan, more fateful even than the names Poitiers, Agincourt, or Waterloo?’ It might have been easier if the war had ended at Sedan with the defeat of Napoleon III in September 1870. Then, at least, it could have been written off as the collapse of the Second Empire. But when the war continued under the republican Government of National Defence, it became a defeat not only of the nation, but of the fledgling Republic as well.

For France, the war of 1870 was meant to have chastened Prussia. Instead, the conflict empowered and emboldened it, confirming Prussia’s position at the heart of German unification, and leaving France ruined and dismembered. Relations between the two powers had been strained ever since the Prussian victory over Austria in 1866; the dispute over the Spanish succession in July 1870 merely brought matters to a head. With French political opinion demanding decisive action from the politically-weak government of Emile Ollivier, war was declared on 19 July 1870. Few doubted that the conflict would see a rapid French victory; the supposedly bespectacled Prussian army was thought to be little match for the professional and experienced imperial army. In reality, however, Prussia had embraced the economic, social and technological developments of recent years, producing an efficient, effective fighting force. France, by contrast, had not, leaving an army which was rich in courage but woefully poor in organisation, equipment and tactical thinking. Within days of the commencement of hostilities, French forces were forced onto the defensive, suffering heavy casualties, and beginning a catalogue of disasters. Early optimism was soon dampened by major defeats at Wissembourg on 4 August, Froeschwiller on 6 August and Gravelotte on 16 August. By the end of the month, the French army had been pushed back to the two cities which were to symbolise the bankruptcy of the imperial regime: Metz and Sedan. At Metz, Marshal Bazaine let his men be encircled and besieged, only to capitulate without a fight two months later, along with 137,000 men of the Army of the Rhine. At Sedan on 1 September, Napoleon III surrendered 83,000 men, 6,000 horses, and himself. The Second Empire had fallen; a Third Republic arose to replace it.

The defeat at Sedan brought insurrection in Paris, the proclamation of a Government of National Defence, and a new patriotic enthusiasm. The nation’s fighting forces were reorganised, with a reformed National Guard, garde mobile, Papal Zouaves and Garibaldian francs-tireurs all fighting alongside each other in a defensive effort which cut across political and religious lines.

The notion of guerre à outrance  – war to the end – was resurrected in 1870, with many left-republicans and socialists rejecting claims that France could not continue to fight as defeatist and a betrayal of the Republic by the forces of reaction. Republicans unashamedly drew upon myths dating back to the revolutionary wars and the mass call to arms of 1792 and 1793. Then, with claims the fatherland was in danger. Then the Revolutionary army had neither the time nor the inclination to accept traditional discipline – so they made a virtue of necessity, fighting as free men, with a combination of individual skirmishes and mass column attacks. The secret of their success was a combination of the professionalism of ancien regime armies with enthusiasm of a nation in arms. By August 1793 the supply volunteers ran out so all were conscripted. The nature of the fighting reflected the fact that the army now had vast numbers of men, but with little combat experience. There was, in the words of Lazare Carnot, to be ‘no more manoeuvres, no more military art but fire, steel and patriotism’ – it must be guerre à outrance, that is to say, exterminate the enemy to the bitter end.

The renewed efforts failed to produce positive results, however. Shortly after the government left Paris for Tours on 11 September, enemy forces surrounded the capital, beginning a siege which was to last until 26 January 1871. Meanwhile, the city’s extreme left were becoming impatient, increasingly agitated, and restless at the failure to break out of the impasse. With news of the disastrous sortie from Le Bourget on 30 October, the surrender of Dijon the following day, and the loss of Metz, the anxiety erupted into fresh unrest. Many looked to the provincial forces of Léon Gambetta for relief. But despite the impressive heroism of General Chanzy’s men at Le Mans, Faidherbe’s men at Saint-Quentin, and Denfert-Rochereau’s men at Belfort, the provincial war effort brought only defeat and deadlock.

With the capital’s food supplies dwindling to dangerous levels, a cease-fire was finally signed on 26 January 1871. The following day, the government entered into negotiations for an armistice which would end the conflict everywhere except in the regions of Bourgogne and Franche-Comté, where fighting continued until 13 February. The peace polarised the nation. Elections to the National Assembly on 8 February produced civil war returns, as the country swung to the two extremes: a massive vote for monarchists endorsing peace in the war-weary provinces, and loyal support for the republican left in the major cities. There was fury in the capital, and rising calls for a guerre à outrance. Rejecting the armistice, the peace terms demanding the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, indemnities of 5 billion francs, and a German parade down the Champs-Elysées, the extreme left erupted to proclaim a new Paris Commune.

 

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Corsican nationalism twenty years after the assassination of Prefect Claude Erignac

On Tuesday 6 February 2018, Emmanuel Macron is due to make his first visit to Corsica since being elected French President. The occasion will be to mark twenty years since the assassination of Prefect Claude Erignac in Ajaccio by Corsican terrorists. The murder provoked shockwaves across Corsica and France and was condemned by many, including the overwhelming majority of Corsicans.

Twenty years since the assassination of Erignac, and over forty years since the beginning of the terrorist campaigns to bring Corsican independence from France, how far have things changed in Corsica?

In 2014, the FLNC announced it was laying down its arms, and although some terrorist groups still exist, Corsican nationalism has moved into mainstream politics. In the December 2017 elections to the Corsican Assembly, nationalists groups won a comfortable overall majority, led by Corsica Libera’s Jean-Guy Talamoni. Meanwhile, the president of Corsica’s executive council, is none other than Gilles Simeoni, lawyer for Yvan Colonna who was convicted of Erignac’s murder.

Nationalist parties now dominate Corsican politics, and there is a sense that Corsica is growing increasingly distant from mainland France in political terms. After decades of little being done to improve the island’s poor infrastructure, high unemployment and poverty, many Corsicans feeling that only nationalists will stand up for them.

The 2017 legislative elections saw nationalists overturn decades of domination by a small number of established political families, many of whom had held office for decades, if not centuries. In one of the most significant results, the nationalist Paul-André Colombani overturned the comfortable lead of Les Républicains deputy Camille de Rocca Serra, who had dominated politics in southern Corsica since 1988. De Rocca Serra had taken over from his father, Jean-Paul de Rocca Serra, who in his turn had held held political office continually since 1949.

When Macron arrives in Corsica he is facing a tough challenge. In round one of the 2017 presidential elections, he came mere third, behind Marine Le Pen and François Fillon. He has also made it clear that he does not intend to make concessions to Corsican nationalists that might compromise the values of the French Republic.

But things have changed in Corsica in recent years. In part due to the growing influence of the nationalists, the island has been a more assertive of its identity and language. The Corsican Assembly led the way with Talamoni making a point of using the Corsican language, rather than French. More broadly, over the past two or three years, dual language signs are becoming more common, with shops, for instance, now having signs in Corsican as well as French. The Corsican anthem, Diu vi Salvi Regina, can now be heard not just at football matches, but at family gatherings.

However, with this, there has also been a rise in the more exclusionary type of Corsican nationalism. It is increasingly common to see ‘IFF’ graffiti, signalling ‘I Francesi Fora’ or ‘French out’. There have also been tensions between some nationalists and the island’s Muslim communities, flaring up most dramatically in Sisco in 2016.

So there is a good deal at stake in Macron’s meetings with Corsica’s political leaders on 6 February. On the one hand, most Corsicans do not support independence. On the other, the more the French government refuses to make concessions to Corsica, the more the nationalists are able to present the government in Paris as being far-removed, uninterested and unwilling to support the island. But if the nationalists push too far, however, they risk losing support from Corsicans and losing the chance to push for greater autonomy.

 

 

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Relations between Britain and France in World War Two

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Institut Français d’Ecosse, Edinburgh, 3 May 2017

Roundtable speakers: Professor Peter Jackson (Glasgow) and Dr Emile Chabal (Edinburgh)

When war was declared in September 1939, Britain and France stood together as allies with similar democratic traditions, levels of military and economic strength and global interests. Within less than a year, however, the two states had severed diplomatic relations and become bitter enemies. This one-day workshop seeks to explore the trajectory of relations between Britain and France over the course of the Second World War. While historians have often highlighted how military defeats and political tensions caused mutual suspicions rooted in centuries of imperial and naval rivalries to resurface, this workshop aims to examine how the interconnections between the two states were critical to their survival and future.

We invite speakers to interpret this subject in its broadest sense. Possible topics might include:

  • Diplomatic relations between Britain, Vichy France and the Free French
  • Military and intelligence relations
  • Propaganda and perceptions
  • The SOE and British roles in French resistance activities
  • The RAF bombing campaign in France
  • The liberation of France
  • Colonial rivalries between Britain and France, 1939-45
  • Legacies of the war in postwar relations between Britain and France

Proposals for papers of 20 minute or for panels of two or three papers are invited. We particularly invite contributions from postgraduate students and overseas scholars. Paper proposals should comprise a paper title, abstract of 300 words and a one-page CV in a single pdf file. Please send proposals to Dr Karine Varley at: Karine.Varley@strath.ac.uk by 3 April 2017. Funding assistance will be available to contribute towards speakers’ travel expenses.

The workshop will be followed by a public roundtable discussion on the lessons and legacies of the Second World War for relations between the UK and France today. Roundtable speakers include Professor Peter Jackson (Glasgow) and Dr Emile Chabal (Edinburgh).

The workshop is part of a wider two-year project funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh on ‘Relations between Britain and France in World War Two’, led by Dr Rogelia Pastor-Castro and Dr Karine Varley, University of Strathclyde.

Edinburgh workshop programme

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