A new imperial order
in The French empire at war 1940–45
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One irony of the turbulent history of France's wartime empire is that, while the Gaullist recovery was mounted from colonial territory, it was the Vichy state which made empire central to the ethos of its regime. Between 1940 and 1942 both Gaullist and Vichy propaganda emphasised the need to preserve imperial solidarity and a colonial patrimony for France. In general, where Vichy looked southward towards a collapsing imperial position, Free France inevitably gazed northward to metropolitan France. The severity of French colonial rule in black Africa was much affected by the local availability of cheap labour in individual colonies. To the Vichy government, the Levant states were never fertile grounds for the national revolution. After June 1940, possession of the Maghreb territories was the single most important diplomatic lever remaining to the Vichy regime.

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