Introduction
in The French empire at war 1940–45
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This introduction provides an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book traces the period of wartime French imperial division, setting it within the wider international politics of the Second World War. Neither the Vichy nor the Free French imperial authorities were masters of their own destiny. A truism perhaps, under Marshal Philippe Petain, the Vichy regime established in July 1940 governed only part of a defeated country under the gaze of the fascist powers. Control of the French empire was vital to the competing French leaderships of 1940-1944. The empire was a physical embodiment of what limited independence remained to the Vichy regime. The book evaluates the stability, the value and the strength of the empire, by considering the nature of Vichy and Free French colonial rule and the impact of that authority upon the local populations.

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