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To Lose a Battle: France 1940 Paperback – August 1, 1990


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (August 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140134301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140134308
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,601,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

One of Britain's greatest historians, Sir Alistair Horne, CBE, is the author of several famous books on French history as well as a two-volume life of Harold Macmillan. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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A very well written book.
A Movie Buff
Horne reminds us that it was the Allies who had the Germans outnumbered in both troops and tanks, even without the fortress troops.
A Customer
If you have read Stephen Ambrose & Cornelius Ryan, you also want to read Alistair Horne!
A Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By K Greenwood on October 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating review of France between its victory in 1918, and its fall in the summer of 1940. The first half of the book deals with the social and political upheaval in France during the interwar years, and the demise of French military power. The second half covers the debacle from the onset of the 2nd World War through France's fall. Very well written, fascinating and informative. The first book I read by Alistair Horne, and it got me hooked.
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful By James Gallen VINE VOICE on March 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In "To Lose A Battle" Alastair Horne tells the story of the Fall of France in 1940 in great detail. Beginning with the political and military background which lead to French weakness, the reader is carried through to the final collapse and its aftermath.
The parts of the book which I liked the best were the beginning and the end. In the early parts we read how the tragedy of World War I set France up for failure in World War II. France had been badly divided politically for generations, a heritage which contributed to the disaster of 1940. The massive kill-off of 1914-18 followed by the low Depression-era birthrate left France with a much smaller manpower pool than had existed in 1914. The memory of World War I, along with the long-standing divisions in the French body politic prevented the French form preparing an army which could maintain the distinguished French military tradition.
During the reading of this book, I gained a deeper appreciation of the role played by the Maginot Line. I has always heard that it was the last stand of fixed fortifications. In this book we see how the costs of the Line and its personnel demands drained money and resources which would have been more productively devoted to other units. During the "Phony War" the only effective relief that France could have provided to embattled Poland would have been an invasion of Germany. The ultimate irony is that the impregnable Maginot Line formed a barrier, not only to German invasion, but also to a French advance into enemy territory.
The massive middle of the book explains the facts of the defeat of France in agonizing detail.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By jtquin01@gwise.louisville.edu on April 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
It's a shame this book is out of print. Horne's book is the best treatment of the Battle of France I've come across so far.
Horne prelude's the battle very well with his analysis of French culture and politics during the inter-war years. His detailed descriptions of the major engagements are well written and obviously researched. His conclusions are not forced but seem to flow naturally.
The only aspect of the book that I would have altered is to tone down some of Horne's politically conservative prejudices. However, a dozen or so passages does not invalidate this excellent book. Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ethan Cooper VINE VOICE on February 20, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Readers who want a first-rate examination of the political, cultural, and military issues that produced Germany's rapid defeat of France in May 1940 will certainly enjoy TO LOSE A BATTLE. In TLaB, this information is primarily conveyed in Part One, this book's first eight chapters, where analysis strikes the perfect balance between overview and detail. Illustrating the level at which Alistair Horne approaches this material are the section heads, which in Chapter 3, "Fortune Changes Sides," are: Hitler Rearms; The `Revolutionary' Wehrmacht; Anti-Militarism in France; Political Scandals; and Beginnings of Civil War.

In contrast, Part Two of TLaB examines the Battle of France as it unfolds. In this section, each of the first eight chapters (pages 257-510) follows the battle developments on a single day. For example, Chapter 11, "On the Meuse", examines the situation on May 12. Its section heads are: The Low Countries; Guderian Across the Semois; Second Army; Guderian at Sedan; Reinhardt; Ninth Army Cavalry Withdraws; and so on. These sections, in other words, convey what a particular general or army was experiencing during a certain tactical moment in the battle. Here, Horne's command of detail is impressive. Still, the actual evolution of events was not always easy to follow. I'd suggest more maps.

After the detailed battle analysis of Part Two, I found the final chapter, "Aftermath", to be a welcome jump back to the macro level, where Horne delivers great insights about the after-effects of this battle. These include:

o "But Hitler... had thought no further ahead...; no contingency plan had been prepared whereby a tottering Britain might be invaded immediately after success had been achieved in France... The Germans had missed the bus...
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dan tdaxp on May 15, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
To Lose a Battle, by Alistair Horne (the author of A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962) is (1) a logistics-heavy description of the Battle of France, (2) a description of the general incompetence in both the France and German High Commands, (3) a tale of France, a country that was not then and never became a western democracy, and (4) a history of the end of France and Germany as distinct states.

1. The Logistics of War

"It was time that was the vital element which -- more than weapons, even perhaps more than morale -- France most lacked in 1940."

Horne's focus on logistics, timing, supplies, and materiel is refreshing, especially given so much strategy-focused writing by John Boyd and William Lind. I am not in a position to evaluate the completeness of Horne's account, but his manner of writing certainly has fans:

Some two years later, I encountered at a London publishing party Israel's leading military analyst and former Chief of Intelligence, Chaim Herzog (He was later to become Israel's President.) We had met some years previously in Israel, and he had now just published his own account of the 1973 campaign, The War of Atonement. (Weidenfeld, 1975). When I commented on the similarities to the Manstein Plan of 1940, he smiled knowingly and said something to the effect that, only recently, General Sharon had referred to it, acknowledging a certain indebtedness to To Lose a Battle. Herzog kindly signed a copy of his book for me, adding the laconic but meaningful inscription, "In appreciation."

I've never read a clearer account of battle that focused on the vital appointment of having the right materiel at the right location at the right time.
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