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Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940-44

4.1 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Tells us as much of the truth about Vichy as we are likely to have for a long time.... Paxton answers all the basic questions... in an even tone, with a vigorous style, allowing the devastating documents... to speak for themselves.

(New York Times Book Review) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

ROBERT O. PAXTON'S CLASSIC STUDY of the aftermath of France's sudden collapse under Nazi invasion utilizes captured German archives and other contemporary materials to construct a strong and disturbing account of the Vichy period in France. With a new introduction and updated bibliography, VICHY FRANCE demonstrates that the collaborationist government of Marshal Petain did far more than merely react to German pressures. The Vichy leaders actively pursued their own double agenda -- internally, the authoritarian and racist "national revolution", and, externally, an attempt to persuade Hitler to accept this new France as a partner in his new Europe. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 399 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; 1st edition (May 15, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231054270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231054270
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #933,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I used this book as the main source for a term paper I recently wrote on Vichy France. Although it is now a bit dated-it was originally published in 1972-it was a groundbreaking work when it was first published. With this work, Mr. Paxton destroyed the myth of the massive French Resistance to the Germans that was propagated for many years after the war, mostly by the French themselves. He thoroughly describes how it was France, not Germany, who sought greater collaboration between the two countries, and that many more Frenchmen than would like to admit wholeheartedly embraced the new fascist policies. And while of course there was a genuine resistance movement, Paxton sees the post-war witch hunt of "collaborationists" as basically a persecution of the guilty by the guilty. To this day, Vichy is still a touchy subject for Frenchmen and Paxton brilliantly exposes exactly why that is. This is an extremely well-written and comprehensive work on Vichy France and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
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Format: Paperback
This pioneering book is usually given credit for sparking the boom in scholarly work on Vichy France, though as Paxton points out, the distinguished German historian Eberhard Jackel and some French scholars were publishing similar work at about the same time. Vichy France is also given credit for igniting public discussion of Vichy in France itself. Published initially in the early 1970s, its basic conclusions remain unchallenged. This is a history of the Vichy governments and their policies. Readers looking for a broader look at France during this period should pick up Julian Jackson's book, France:The Dark Years, which provides a more panoramic view.

Paxton examines 4 key prior conclusions about Vichy; that Vichy was imposed by the Germans, that Vichy governments worked to deflect the worst features of German rule, that the Vichy governments were played a "double game" with the Germans, secretly trying to help the Allies; and that the French public did not support Vichy and was waiting only for plausible alternative to resist the Germans. Paxton subjects all these conclusions to destructive criticism. Vichy was widely accepted as legitimate and was initially popular, a result not only of the crushing defeat but also of widespread disenchantment with the institutions and policies of the Third Republic. The successive Vichy governments proceeded to pursue, independent of German direction, their own "National Revolution." A reactionary set of anti-liberal and anti-leftist policies based on a highly conservative version of Catholic authoritarianism, the National Revolution was in large part an act of revenge by frustrated conservatives against what they perceived as particular enemies - Jews, Freemasons, and leftists of all stripes.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Robert Paxton is the supreme authority on the Vichy regime. This, his seminal work, was originally published in the 1970s and has been updated with a new preface. Despite the availability of additional data, the book stands with very few qualifications as originally written. Vichy, despite the claims of it's many apologists, neither protected nor served France and the French, with the exception of various professional elites, who seamlessly transitioned from Petain's regime to the Fourth Republic and, in some instances, to the Fifth. Petain and his confreres met little, if any, indigenous resistance because virtually all Frenchmen were disgusted with the Third Republic and craved a more ordered and traditional form of government, an authoritarian one, in a word. Petain was happy to oblige, basing the regime on the assumptions that the war would be short, Germany would be victorious, the (despised) British holdouts would soon be defeated and, most importantly, domestic revolution would be avoided. This last point cannot be overestimated in the conservative, Catholic society of mid-century France. The riots of February 6, 1934 left an indelible impression which Vichy manipulated to to telling effect by playing on bourgeoise proclivities for order, not troubling to clarify the origins of the disturbances. It should be recalled that de Gaulle stood virtually alone. Most Frenchmen, especially those in military and government service chose to support the regime, even to the point of fighting the British in North Africa, not only in relatively well-known engagements at Mers el Kabir, but also in Syria and domestically in Dieppe. Vichy mostly hoped to achieve parity with Nazi allies in a German-dominated post-war Europe, also hoping to retain their colonial empire under exclusive French administration.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
paxton's book was a breakthrough in that it showed to what a huge extent the vichy regime's odious policies weren't simply imposed by the germans, but were carrying out willingly and represented the revenge of right-wing, catholic, nationalistic france against the left, unions, and jews and other foreigners. but at times the book goes a little too far and borders on cheap anti-frenchness. his denunciations of the vichy regime and the elements of france they represented are well backed up, but he's on much shakier ground when he tries to downplay the role of and support for the resistance and charles de gaulle. overall, a chilling, important book, but it should be read as a book about vichy, and not as a definitive book about all aspects of france under the occupation, as it purports to be.
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