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-------------------------------------------------------------------- H-DIPLO Roundtable Review of Julian Jackson's _France: The Dark Years 1940-1944_ (Oxford, 2001) Roundtable Editor: Peter Jackson Roundtable Participants: Jackie Clarke, Rod Kedward, Simon Kitson, Peter Jackson H-Diplo Roundtable Editor: Diane Labrosse [Please note that all diacritics have been removed -- DL] -------------------------------------------------------------------- Simon Kitson French Studies, University of Birmingham The historiographical context This is in many ways an exceptional book. First amongst its qualities is undoubtedly its capacity to cull together a huge range of secondary literature. Readers of this text will be amazed at the breadth of Jacksons research: virtually all of the major secondary literature has been consulted. Particularly impressive is the range of Doctoral theses which Jackson has sought out to inform his narrative. In culling this information together Jackson shows a keen eye for detail and attempts to integrate micro-histories into the wider context. In the broad sense this is to be welcomes although it does on occasion mean that his text gets bogged down in the detail. _France: the Dark Years_ bears witness to the important changes in the historiography in recent years. Recent historiography has displayed a far greater awareness of the importance of public opinion and everyday life. Jackson has tapped into this. Great emphasis, for example, is placed on the position and role of women in occupied France. This is mainly a legacy of Anglo-Saxon historiography- the experience of women was, after all, one area where the French were slow to catch on (I'm pleased to report that the _Institut d'Histoire du Temps Present_ now devotes a seminar to this theme). It is in this widening out of the historiography away from simply "high politics" and into exploring social phenomenon where the changes of the last twenty years becomes most apparent. Even Resistance is no longer seen as primarily a military phenomenon, but rather emphasis is given to the importance of its social incarnations. Jackson is not an iconoclast and he does not set out to dismantle the work of his predecessors in this field. Rather he seeks to draw on their work and alter it in subtle and intelligent ways. Like Paxton before him, Jackson places Vichy on the longer time scale. Placing the period in its wider chronological context allows him to underline for example that although there were currents of anti-Semitism in Third Republic France there was no determinism and that in many ways Vichy's anti-Semitism, was indeed a break with tradition. But Jackson doesn't content himself with looking backwards from Vichy. Placing it in the longer time-frame also means incorporating the excellent work done by scholars addressing the question of the memory and heritage of Vichy in post-war France. Where Jackson's text is an utter triumph is in offering us an exhaustive account of the war years in this broader context. It does so in a clear and extremely knowledgeable fashion. I have little doubt that this first class book will remain the main synthesis on the subject for many years to come. The originality of the text Jackson's text offers a few novel touches. It draws attention to one or two highly important figures who have often been left on the historiographical wayside. The Vichy role of the economist Franois Perroux thus receives more attention than usual. Also there are themes which emerge here which are often overlooked by scholars of the period: three index references to homosexuality is three more references than most other studies have accorded. As a synthesis, most of the material is drawn from other people's work but he has gone back and examined some primary texts particularly in the cultural domain (where he has clearly re-read many of the texts by collaborationist writers and analysed first hand some of the films of the period). Of course it would be wrong to expect too much innovation from a synthesis. The object of such a text is rather to make sense of existing material rather than dashing off in unexpected directions. One criticism which has been levelled against the book is that it lacks an over-arching argument, with the implication that it is has fallen short of its objective of neatly pulling all of this material together. Personally, I feel this is a little unfair. Jacksons manuscript is a plea for recognition of the complexity of the period. The concept of "grey zones" - applied frequently to Italian wartime history by the former Resister turned historian Claudio Pavone - is at the centre of Jackson's argument. The history of wartime France is particularly difficult to write in black and white terms. For one thing there were shared themes between Vichy and the Resistance. Both had aspirations to revitalise France and to seek out a national unity; both saw peasants as an essential part of French heritage; both were sceptical of the Third Republic, but for different reasons. Even anti-Germanism did not necessarily distinguish those at Vichy and those in the Resistance, as surprising as that may sound. My main criticism of this book is not that it lacks an over-arching argument, but rather that its concept of grey-zones is applied a little too systematically. It is perfectly valid to argue that the history of the period is complicated. Understanding that there are shared values is necessary. But sometimes there is a little too much blurring of the edges. Jackson's insistence on "the limited usefulness of the vocabulary of resistance and collaboration" (p 337) takes the point rather too far. Although the fault lines are sometimes difficult to distinguish clearly these words have by no means lost their value. Jackson devotes as much space to anti-Semitism in the Resistance as he does to the anti-racism of the Resistance. The dangers of taking themes of complexity and ambiguity too far are illustrated by an experience I recently had with my final year Vichy France students - who were given _The Dark Years_ as their core text this year. They were asked to summarise the chapter which begins with the provocatively titled section "Jean Moulin collaborator". Since they were in the early stages of the course, they had not yet been told very much about the Resistance. A reading of Jackson's chapter convinced all of them that one of the leading collaborators in wartime France was a man named Jean Moulin! Now, I do understand what Julian was trying to do here. However, surely it would have been helpful if, at least in passing, he had mentioned at this stage that Moulin might have had an alter-ego rather less devoted to the Nazi cause! Thankfully, I was on hand to convince these students of the error of their interpretation. But I did wonder how an independent reader might interpret this discussion of Moulin. My other major concerns with content also concerned the domain of Resistance. The Resistance was certainly multi-faceted and subject to internal divisions and rivalries, but the conflict of personalities is, in my view, afforded too much space. As a result, we do not get a clear enough picture of either its positive values or its achievements in Jackson's analysis. And, if internal divisions were going to be raised, why not make more of the differences between communist militants and their party? Future directions for research on Vichy. Syntheses not only show us where the historiography has got to, they also remind us of what is still to do. Vichy France is still seen too much uniquely through French eyes. The emphasis on _"les guerres franco-francaises"_ is interesting and passionate, but it distorts the reality of Second World War France. We are sometimes left with the impression of France as a major player even after the defeat. What gets overlooked are those who were really determining France's political future at this point: the Axis and Allied powers. Jackson is by no means the worst offender in this regard. It is a criticism which could be made of much of the current historiography. Too often, the period is represented as a Franco-French picnic at which the Germans buzz around in the background, the Italians are nowhere to be seen and the Allies receive scant attention. Ironically Jackson does devote more space to these aspects than most scholars - we do start to get the beginnings of an understanding about what the Germans intend for France but we do not get the same depth of analysis concerning the Allies. What were their intentions for the future of France? Linked to this is the limited research to date on the Resistance networks, structures which were often directly linked to the Allies. The current limits of knowledge about Resistance networks emerges very clearly in this book. The Resistance movements have been extensively, but we are only just beginning to explore the history of networks operating for the Resistance. Much still has to be done on this theme and Jacksons synthesis reflects that. It would be unfair to end on a negative note when we are discussing a book of such quality. I have made this a core text for my final year students and I suspect that a lot of other University teachers will do the same. This is an excellent book.