Category: Julian Jackson

book of books – The Fall of France


Since starting this blog this is the first non-fiction title I have read and a return to the sort of reading I was consuming a couple of years ago. History books these days have to be narrative as well an analytical, something Julian Jackson acknowledges here splitting the first book into that type of history. The second part is briefer and harder to follow and reminds you of the old-fashioned history texts that sent you to sleep while trying to be informative.

Contents summary
The book aims to simply explain why it was that the Nazi army could set out to capture France via Holland and Belgium and manage to do all of that in a matter of weeks. There are several reasons put forward:
Bad preparation
Low morale
Poor intelligence
These were against a political background of few allies and general upheaval with various parties vying for government. When it really mattered there was a split over whether or not the French should stand or sign an armistice and those arguments cost a prime minister his position. Ultimately the German’s were just too quick, better able to use their military hardware and did not attack where they were meant to making the French efforts always going to be second best.

After the war what was interesting is how little the conflict was talked about and how few French historians studied it. But despite that the impact made certain people behave in the way that they did – namely de Gaulle who set out to have a strong sense of French national identity. There are comparisons made between the French army of 1914 and the British relationship and their morale. In the first the only major difference was the French managed to gain a victory, the Marne, that had a massive psychological impact that helped them steady the nerves. When it comes to comparisons with the British they were also neither in a better shape militarily or politically with Churchill not universally admired.

It is well written?
A difficult one here because it does rumble through the events but there is never a real sense of what is happening and then with France having lost the war the narrative cuts off although the political and historical analysis of it carries the story on after the fall of Nazi Germany, leaving you with a vacuum of about five crucial years. The narrative moves forward and backwards a bit like a jelly with you trying to get across the story but each time the narrative seems to move you on it then pulls you back to make a further point about the characters, politics or military strategy of the time. Not the most difficult read but one that could have been made more enjoyable.

Should it be read?
There are not too many books dedicated to looking at why the French collapsed in the way that they did and so this is worth reading from the point of view that there are not going to be too many other places to go to get this sort of information. But it is going to leave you with some gaps that have the potential to annoy. The reason for coming to this book was that having read Iron in the Soul by Jean-Paul Sartre it felt like a good idea to put some more meat on the bones and try to get to the facts of why his lead character Mathieu ended up in the situation he did facing the Germans in a village during a retreat. This partly answers those questions and so for those with a similar desire this is a good option to plum for.

Summary
Facing the blitzkrieg of an army with its confidence high the French never managed to recover from low morale, bad intelligence and divided politics

Version read – Oxford University Press hardback

book of books – The Fall of France


Since starting this blog this is the first non-fiction title I have read and a return to the sort of reading I was consuming a couple of years ago. History books these days have to be narrative as well an analytical, something Julian Jackson acknowledges here splitting the first book into that type of history. The second part is briefer and harder to follow and reminds you of the old-fashioned history texts that sent you to sleep while trying to be informative.

Contents summary
The book aims to simply explain why it was that the Nazi army could set out to capture France via Holland and Belgium and manage to do all of that in a matter of weeks. There are several reasons put forward:
Bad preparation
Low morale
Poor intelligence
These were against a political background of few allies and general upheaval with various parties vying for government. When it really mattered there was a split over whether or not the French should stand or sign an armistice and those arguments cost a prime minister his position. Ultimately the German’s were just too quick, better able to use their military hardware and did not attack where they were meant to making the French efforts always going to be second best.

After the war what was interesting is how little the conflict was talked about and how few French historians studied it. But despite that the impact made certain people behave in the way that they did – namely de Gaulle who set out to have a strong sense of French national identity. There are comparisons made between the French army of 1914 and the British relationship and their morale. In the first the only major difference was the French managed to gain a victory, the Marne, that had a massive psychological impact that helped them steady the nerves. When it comes to comparisons with the British they were also neither in a better shape militarily or politically with Churchill not universally admired.

It is well written?
A difficult one here because it does rumble through the events but there is never a real sense of what is happening and then with France having lost the war the narrative cuts off although the political and historical analysis of it carries the story on after the fall of Nazi Germany, leaving you with a vacuum of about five crucial years. The narrative moves forward and backwards a bit like a jelly with you trying to get across the story but each time the narrative seems to move you on it then pulls you back to make a further point about the characters, politics or military strategy of the time. Not the most difficult read but one that could have been made more enjoyable.

Should it be read?
There are not too many books dedicated to looking at why the French collapsed in the way that they did and so this is worth reading from the point of view that there are not going to be too many other places to go to get this sort of information. But it is going to leave you with some gaps that have the potential to annoy. The reason for coming to this book was that having read Iron in the Soul by Jean-Paul Sartre it felt like a good idea to put some more meat on the bones and try to get to the facts of why his lead character Mathieu ended up in the situation he did facing the Germans in a village during a retreat. This partly answers those questions and so for those with a similar desire this is a good option to plum for.

Summary
Facing the blitzkrieg of an army with its confidence high the French never managed to recover from low morale, bad intelligence and divided politics

Version read – Oxford University Press hardback

book of books – The Fall of France


Since starting this blog this is the first non-fiction title I have read and a return to the sort of reading I was consuming a couple of years ago. History books these days have to be narrative as well an analytical, something Julian Jackson acknowledges here splitting the first book into that type of history. The second part is briefer and harder to follow and reminds you of the old-fashioned history texts that sent you to sleep while trying to be informative.

Contents summary
The book aims to simply explain why it was that the Nazi army could set out to capture France via Holland and Belgium and manage to do all of that in a matter of weeks. There are several reasons put forward:
Bad preparation
Low morale
Poor intelligence
These were against a political background of few allies and general upheaval with various parties vying for government. When it really mattered there was a split over whether or not the French should stand or sign an armistice and those arguments cost a prime minister his position. Ultimately the German’s were just too quick, better able to use their military hardware and did not attack where they were meant to making the French efforts always going to be second best.

After the war what was interesting is how little the conflict was talked about and how few French historians studied it. But despite that the impact made certain people behave in the way that they did – namely de Gaulle who set out to have a strong sense of French national identity. There are comparisons made between the French army of 1914 and the British relationship and their morale. In the first the only major difference was the French managed to gain a victory, the Marne, that had a massive psychological impact that helped them steady the nerves. When it comes to comparisons with the British they were also neither in a better shape militarily or politically with Churchill not universally admired.

It is well written?
A difficult one here because it does rumble through the events but there is never a real sense of what is happening and then with France having lost the war the narrative cuts off although the political and historical analysis of it carries the story on after the fall of Nazi Germany, leaving you with a vacuum of about five crucial years. The narrative moves forward and backwards a bit like a jelly with you trying to get across the story but each time the narrative seems to move you on it then pulls you back to make a further point about the characters, politics or military strategy of the time. Not the most difficult read but one that could have been made more enjoyable.

Should it be read?
There are not too many books dedicated to looking at why the French collapsed in the way that they did and so this is worth reading from the point of view that there are not going to be too many other places to go to get this sort of information. But it is going to leave you with some gaps that have the potential to annoy. The reason for coming to this book was that having read Iron in the Soul by Jean-Paul Sartre it felt like a good idea to put some more meat on the bones and try to get to the facts of why his lead character Mathieu ended up in the situation he did facing the Germans in a village during a retreat. This partly answers those questions and so for those with a similar desire this is a good option to plum for.

Summary
Facing the blitzkrieg of an army with its confidence high the French never managed to recover from low morale, bad intelligence and divided politics

Version read – Oxford University Press hardback

Fall of France – post V

The narrative comes to an end with you wondering just how things ended with Paris being captured and the rise of the Vichy government – there is a feeling that you just have to assume those things happened and fill in the blanks. It doesn’t help to have unanswered questions but in fairness the scope of the book was confined to the defeat and that is covered.

Bullet points between pages 200 – 249

* Comparisons are made between the state of the British and the French from both a military and political view and in both cases there was not too much superiority on the British side of the channel

* Churchill was painted out with hindsight to be the popular leader but for the first period of his time as leader he struggled to get backing from his own party and the public and could not be considered to be much more popular than his French counterpart

* The difference for the French was that aside from indifferent polticial leadership there was poor intelligence and when the Germans did attack they were able to exploit the fog of misunderstanding that swamped the French

* Following 1940 the defeat was not talked about much but present in policies carried out by de Gaulle who leant on the Empire as some sort of consolation and ended up in wars in Vietnam and Algeria as a result

* The impact of the defeat lives on with historians continuing to see the political leadership of the time – the Third Republic – as decadent and architects of their own downfall despite the increasing amount of facts proving that view wrong

A review will follow soon…

Fall of France – post V

The narrative comes to an end with you wondering just how things ended with Paris being captured and the rise of the Vichy government – there is a feeling that you just have to assume those things happened and fill in the blanks. It doesn’t help to have unanswered questions but in fairness the scope of the book was confined to the defeat and that is covered.

Bullet points between pages 200 – 249

* Comparisons are made between the state of the British and the French from both a military and political view and in both cases there was not too much superiority on the British side of the channel

* Churchill was painted out with hindsight to be the popular leader but for the first period of his time as leader he struggled to get backing from his own party and the public and could not be considered to be much more popular than his French counterpart

* The difference for the French was that aside from indifferent polticial leadership there was poor intelligence and when the Germans did attack they were able to exploit the fog of misunderstanding that swamped the French

* Following 1940 the defeat was not talked about much but present in policies carried out by de Gaulle who leant on the Empire as some sort of consolation and ended up in wars in Vietnam and Algeria as a result

* The impact of the defeat lives on with historians continuing to see the political leadership of the time – the Third Republic – as decadent and architects of their own downfall despite the increasing amount of facts proving that view wrong

A review will follow soon…

Fall of France – post IV

As Jackson moves onto look at the performance of the French army it is almost impossible to not draw comparisons with the feelings shown in 1914. The difference that did have a real impact was the phoney war that managed to work in the favour of the Germans dragging down confidence and morale.

When the fighting did start missed messages, a tendency to panic and a lack of air support meant that the Germans were able to bypass pockets of resistance.

Bullet points from pages 150 – 200

* By the time the war started the peace movement had virtually disappeared being both discredited and politically unfashionable and most people were resigned to going to war

* Once in the firing line some troops fought well but the phoney war had already reduced morale and the training had been poor and Jackson quotes from Sartre’s diaries to illustrate the level of boredom in the mobilised troops

* A lack of communication led to panic and retreat that was fuelled by the superiority of the German army and air support with Stuka bombers peppering French defences with bombs uncontested for hours at a time

* But there were real accounts of bravery and resistance and for a while the French even thought they might hold out on the Somme-Ainse line that they tried to keep the Germans back from but that passed and the roads became clogged with those evacuating and heading South

* Following the defeat a committee was set up to look at the reasons for it and although it did not conclude its findings until 1954 it turned into an opportunity for the various sides to try and shift the blame and point the finger

* French historians ironically largely ignored the conflict and until de Gaulle ended his term in office there were just a few histories of the defeat but after the great general, who did his fair share of revising history, was gone the floodgates started to open a little bit more

* When objective comparisons are made between the state of France in 1914 and 1940 the country was no better off at the outbreak of the First World War the difference was the victory at Marne in the first conflict that helped build morale and helped settle nerves

The final chunk of this interesting look at the vital period when France turned from a potential block to Hitler’s ambitions to an easy opponent tomorrow…

Fall of France – post IV

As Jackson moves onto look at the performance of the French army it is almost impossible to not draw comparisons with the feelings shown in 1914. The difference that did have a real impact was the phoney war that managed to work in the favour of the Germans dragging down confidence and morale.

When the fighting did start missed messages, a tendency to panic and a lack of air support meant that the Germans were able to bypass pockets of resistance.

Bullet points from pages 150 – 200

* By the time the war started the peace movement had virtually disappeared being both discredited and politically unfashionable and most people were resigned to going to war

* Once in the firing line some troops fought well but the phoney war had already reduced morale and the training had been poor and Jackson quotes from Sartre’s diaries to illustrate the level of boredom in the mobilised troops

* A lack of communication led to panic and retreat that was fuelled by the superiority of the German army and air support with Stuka bombers peppering French defences with bombs uncontested for hours at a time

* But there were real accounts of bravery and resistance and for a while the French even thought they might hold out on the Somme-Ainse line that they tried to keep the Germans back from but that passed and the roads became clogged with those evacuating and heading South

* Following the defeat a committee was set up to look at the reasons for it and although it did not conclude its findings until 1954 it turned into an opportunity for the various sides to try and shift the blame and point the finger

* French historians ironically largely ignored the conflict and until de Gaulle ended his term in office there were just a few histories of the defeat but after the great general, who did his fair share of revising history, was gone the floodgates started to open a little bit more

* When objective comparisons are made between the state of France in 1914 and 1940 the country was no better off at the outbreak of the First World War the difference was the victory at Marne in the first conflict that helped build morale and helped settle nerves

The final chunk of this interesting look at the vital period when France turned from a potential block to Hitler’s ambitions to an easy opponent tomorrow…