The Unfree French
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The Unfree French

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  40 ratings  ·  14 reviews
The swift and unexpected defeat of the French Army in 1940 shocked the nation. Two million soldiers were taken prisoner, six million civilians fled from the German army’s advance to join convoys of confused and terrified refugees, and only a few managed to escape the country. The vast majority of French people were condemned to years of subjugation under Nazi and Vichy rul
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published April 27th 2006 by Allen Lane (first published 2006)
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What a disappointment -- totally uncontexualised! It assumes too much of the reader (I'm no historian and was interested in learning about this period in its context). Some interesting perspectives to be had, but would have been much more interesting if it had been set in some sort of historical narrative. As it is, it leaves you dry. There's no context to the invasion, nor political context to the division between occupied and "free France" -- I wanted more!

Still, some interesting anecdotes, al...more
This is how history should be written, rich, deeply analyzed in a tone that is both sensitive but with a little irony of a story teller. The book has the rigor of a professional work, while also having enough anecdotes and facts to appeal to the general reader. Vinen's great success with this work is highlight how varied an experiences like occupation, collaboration and resistance could be. From a theoretical point of view, he ticks all the right boxes, looking at how the German occupation diffe...more
An outstanding history, unsentimental, but with a permeating sadness. Judicious but not righteous
Great insights about life under the Nazis
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]This is a terrifically well-researched and fluently written account of occupied France during the second world war. It is a subject where of which my previous knowledge could probably have fitted on the back of a postcard - collapse in 1940, P�tain and Laval, resistance, D-Day, don't take 'Allo! 'Allo! seriously. I had never considered the impact on France of the continuing imprisonment of the two million - two million! - soldiers capture...more
Margaret Sankey
Vinen does a remarkable job untangling all the political, social and military threads involved in the spring of 1940 and the subsequent years of occupation, with special attention to using difficult sources (the intro is a very useful piece of methodology explanation history students should note) and reminding readers safe in their 2009 homes that choices were not black and white and good and evil, but gray and wrenching and complicated
This book was heavy going - a recitation of many incidents with not quite enough of a sense of what the thesis was - although this, on p.78, might sum it up: "Much of what people said and did under Vichy, however, remains inscrutable." It would probably be a good companion to other sources on the German occupation of France during WWII, but I ended up dipping into each chapter rather than reading straight through.
Michael Wallace
Full of fascinating information. One of about a dozen books I read as I was writing The Red Rooster to help me get the flavor and facts of the era correct.
Linda U
Interesting book about everyday life in France during WWII. Doesn't focus on battles or the politics (some) but how the French dealt with their daily living with the Germans all around them.
very interesting account of the occupied years in France - had no idea things were made worse by infighting among the French, and that women took more of the 'blame' ......
I gave up on this book because I found the narrative too disjointed. I'm going to read Occupation: The Ordeal of France 1940-1944 by Ian Ousby instead.
Michael Selvin
Lots of info on the impact of WWII on the French and the way people reacted to the constantly changing dictums of Vichy and the occupying forces.
Very dense but overall enjoyable and extremely informational. A great look at Occupation life. Just don't read it when you're sleepy.
Karen E.
A great overview of France during the Second World War, with emphasis on everyday people instead of those who were deported.
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Richard Vinen is a Professor in Modern European History at King's College, London. Prior to joining the department in 1991, he was a Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge and also lectured at Queen Mary (Westfield) College.

Richard Vinen is the author of the widely praised "A History in Fragments: Europe in the Twentieth Century". He writes regularly for The Independent, The Times Literary Supplemen...more
More about Richard Vinen...
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