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France in 1938

264 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / 4 halftones

West European History

  Paperback / 9780807131954 / September 2006

"When Benjamin Martin's latest report from the front of French fallibility does not read like a tragedy, whose end is foreordained, it reads like a melodrama: sensational doings punctuated by catchy melodies like 'L'Internationale' and 'La Marseillaise.' In both cases it reads well. . . . French life in the run-up to World War II was a gangrenous decomposition, to be followed by still worse. The country's leaders found nary a pratfall that they could avoid. They chose a semblance of peace above honor and ended up with neither. . . . In spite of a masterful prologue, successful synthesis, elegant concision and lucid presentation (or perhaps thanks to them), the reader can't help sharing the nation's shames. A tribute to the historian's talent."—Eugen Weber, Phi Beta Kappa Key Reporter

At the beginning of 1938, containment of Nazi Germany by a coalition of eastern and western democracies without resorting to war was still a distinct possibility. By the end of 1938, however, Germany was much stronger, the western democracies stood alone, and war was all but certain. The primary cause for these developments, argues Benjamin F. Martin, was the foreign and domestic policies adopted by the French government and embraced by the French people. In a riveting account of the dark days leading up to France's defeat and occupation, Martin reveals a great and civilized nation committing a kind of suicide in 1938. Using movies, novels, newspapers, and sensational court cases, Martin weaves an absorbing tale of France's collective fear and melancholy during this troubled prewar period. 

Benjamin F. Martin is the author of four previous books, France and the Après Guerre, 1918-1924: Illusions and Disillusionment; Crime and Criminal Justice under the Third Republic: The Shame of Marianne; The Hypocrisy of Justice in the Belle Epoque; and Count Albert de Mun: Paladin of the Third Republic. He has served as a consultant and an on-air interview subject for documentaries broadcast on the History Channel and the Learning Channel. He is a professor of history at Louisiana State University and lives in Baton Rouge.

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