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    “The Fall of France: The Nazi Invasion of 1940” Book Review

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    This is a book review of the novel “The Fall of France: The Nazi Invasion of 1940” authored by Julian T. Jackson and published by the Oxford University Press in 2003, located in New York City in the state of New York. This volume is 293 pages long written in english and comes in paperback, hardcover, digital, and cd. This book is retailed for $25.00 on many online shopping sites and found in bookstores all around the world.


    Julian Timothy Jackson is a distinguished British historian and professor of history at Queen Mary, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Historical Society. Jackson is considered one of the leading authorities on twentieth-century France. His education was developed at Peterhouse, Cambridge. He obtained his doctorate in 1982 and was supervised by Professor Christopher Andrew. After university he spent much of his time at the University of Wales, Swansea where he later joined Queen Mary History Department in 2003. He has also written a handful of novels detailing many prominent historical events in France during the centuries. In this exciting novel Jackson tries to evaluate and describe the fall of France during world war two. He gives great descriptive details in a timeline of events leading up to the big fall and adds in authentic real-life testimonies which create a sense of realness and allows the reader to enjoy the book without getting bored. This novel was was one of the winners of the Wolfson History Prize for 2004. This identity of the author helps give credit towards this book by allowing the reader know his many historical achievements. The author expounds the events to help credit his arguments made in order for the reader to understand the history behind France at the pinnacle of world war 2.

    Book Review Content

    In 2003, renowned French historian, Julian Jackson published a remarkable narrative of the Fall of France giving an eventful and administrative view on the affairs that took place. Jackson unfolds the history and strategies that were in place to defend France and how the lack of crucial details created the downfall of the french during this time. In this book The Fall of France, he reveals the detailed and empowering story behind how the prominent French without proper strategies, strong leadership and weakened allies due to the geographic location of France had a fall to power during the second World War. During this time the French were aiming for the height of their economic presence in europe. Yet, the presence of the war was a very hard time for the french because they were desperately wanting to gain strong allies. Primarily the British, who they knew could help defend their lands from the Germans. He details the many reasons why they fell to power in a unique and riveting way. By the use of real life testimonies to historical facts and dates Jackson gives the reasons why the French fell. The reasons he argues are: lack of leadership, poor technology, poor allies, and superior german tactics and warfare. I would heavily agree with all of these issues. Jackson’s accounts help you better understand the real life situations going on at the time to help place yourself in France’s shoes. By doing this it is a better understanding as to why without proper leadership your militia can go to threads.

    Jackson was successful in detailing the weaknesses by breaking it down into four narrative chapters that explore it from a contrastive angles. The first chapter contains the military aspects of the defeat. First, Jackson tells the story of the invasion by giving a timeline of events that were pivotal in the divisions of military. This showed the main weakness and why they were defeated. Throughout the first chapter you see a good rundown of events during the six weeks that the invasion took place. On June 22, 1940, the French government signed an armistice with Nazi Germany just six weeks after the Nazis launched their invasion of Western Europe. The French military was guided by Maurice Gustave Gamelin, who was the senior French Army general. Gamelin was an unsuccessful commander of the French military during the Battle of France. His leadership was poor during the Ardennes. He argues that the refusal of the Belgians to coordinate military strategies against the germans with the british and the french was also a major setback until the germans had already invaded. His command was also not heavily respected due to his steadfast defence of republican values. His use of mechanized maneuver warfare which was not the most successful plan to attack. Even the Germans had better control of the territory than the french. He talks about how their war tactics were outdated and hadn’t been improved really since the first world war. While on the other hand the Germans had developed Blitzkrieg warfare which was an intense tactic based on high-speed and mobile attacks on the enemy’s weak points and it proved devastating in France. The Germans had the strong leadership of Erich von Manstein who created the Schlieffen Plan which came very useful in their defence in the Ardennes and throughout the second world war. Although Jackson argues that the defeat was “in no means inevitable” since the French army was fairly evenly matched with the Nazi Wehrmacht and better armed in many areas. Yet in my opinion this section alone demonstrates that with very weak leadership and poor strategies the French’s “inevitable defeat” was just that, inevitable.

    The next chapter talks mainly about the relation the french had with their allies. He argues that the British helped strongly with their Royal Air Force and British Expeditionary Forces yet there were many weaknesses with the allies. The RAF were used to using the strategic bombings system and the french had their own way of strategies it was hard for the BEFs to have air support. This was all in control of the bomber command and was not designed to cooperate with the land force so this was entirely inadequate. He argued that the french lacked the economic resources to “underpin” its alliances with material to help them. Also how they were poorly geographically placed it was hard for their allies to to gain military assistance. I agree that this situation because it directly correlates how the french were at a disadvantage with not only the technology but with the strategic communication. The Germans were at an advantage with the radio communication, tanks and planes. This helped them when bombing because the French were unaware when these hits were going to happen.

    The next chapter talks about the political problems the french were facing and how the country was under a complete divide and the political dilemma at the time with the strong lefts creating turmoil with the rightists. This had a huge effect on the men fighting in the war. A quote from the text fiercy sums up the mood of the men at the time. “François Mitterand, who wrote to friends from the front line, “What would really annoy me is dying for values in which I do not believe.” Die many thousands of French soldiers did, though, and France fell. The reverberations were immediate, “ writes Jackson. This was a huge takeaway and this really boosts the argument of the weakness the country was facing. It showed how the French public were also bitterly divided. These political divisions and incapable leadership persuaded many French citizens that their country could not defeat Germany. The historian also suggested that the british morale was at an all time low from September 1939 through May of 1940 which also did not help the fact that the morale was at a low in France. All these combined factors ensure a swift losing mentality between May and June 1940. The last chapters talk a lot about the french people and tied the whole series of events ties together. The final conclusion was that the root cause was the bad intelligence that the French had, which caused them to send their best troops against a German force. Ultimately the Maginot Line failed to protect France.

    This context all helped validate the historiography and methodology the author suggested because it made all of the arguments believable. The author’s stance on literature was that the reasons stated above were poor it created a weakness that filled out France. The arguments were also very similar to the ones we talked about in class which also helped the reading go a lot smoother because I already had enough adequate knowledge about the topic which actually helped be pick out this novel. The only argument not mentioned in class was that the general Gamelin was a sole weakness on the french side at the time and I found this a crucial part in the fall.


    In conclusion, I felt as though this novel was very informative and detailed oriented. I agreed with all of his arguments and feel like I can piece together all the components of the French fall during the world war two. I truly thought that the author’s use of historical context and flow of timeline was very impressive. It helped you get a grasp of what was actually happening, I also was really impressed with the way Jackson tells the story. His writing is expressive, and his use of testimonies from memoirs of generals, the common soldiers, and and politicians is really well-done. The validity and effectiveness of his writing is extremely persuasive and allows you to find the facts set straight and realize what is going on. The use of adequate evidence and convincing the author’s message was strong and his approach was flexible enough for the reader to feel comfortable without feeling like there is too much context in only 293 pages. The author had very good organization and writing style which allowed him to accomplish the purpose of this text thoroughly.

    Although with all good books weaknesses do appear. The only few I can think of would be some of the parts in the first chapter seemed a little repetitive and got confusing when he would go back and forth with arguments. Also some of the parts in the last chapter seemed a little unneeded because he already gave a lot of context giving reasons for the fall and the reasons that the germans had prevailed. This would definitely appeal to the reader who enjoys history, world war two history to be exact. The audience would be historians, students, or war history enthusiasts to put into a specific category. All in all I really enjoyed this book and felt like it was a informative read. I give this book a 9/10 due to the organization, historical context, and the real life testimonies and stories shared in the book, those made the book feel more real.

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