The French empire at war 1940–45

Author: Martin Thomas

Between 1940 and 1945 the French empire divided against itself. This book presents the events in the French empire in the 1940s, and traces the period of wartime French imperial division, setting it within the wider international politics of the Second World War. It discusses the collapse of France's metropolitan forces during the second week of June 1940, which became a calamity for the French empire. The final breakdown of the Anglo-French alliance during the latter half of 1940 was played out on the African continent, in heavily defended French imperial territory of vital strategic importance to Allied communications. The Vichy empire lost ground to that of the Charles de Gaulle's Free French, something which has often been attributed to the attraction of the Gaullist mystique and the spirit of resistance in the colonies. Indo-China was bound to be considered a special case by the Vichy regime and the Free French movement. Between late 1940 and 1945, the French administration in Indo-China was forced by circumstances to plough a distinctive furrow in order to survive intact. The book discusses the St Pierre and Miquelon affair, and the invasion of Madagascar, and deals with the issue of nationalism in North Africa, before and after the Operation Torch. The contradiction between the French commitment to constitutional reform and the few colonial subjects actually affected by it was echoed in the wartime treatment of France's colonial forces.

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