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The Collapse of the Third Republic

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  635 ratings  ·  54 reviews
On June 17, 1940 William L. Shirer stood in the streets of Paris and watched the unending flow of gray German uniforms along its boulevards. In just six lovely weeks in the spring and summer of 1940 a single battle brought down in total military defeat one of the world's oldest, greatest, and most civilized powers—the second mightiest empire on earth and the possessor of ...more
Paperback, 1082 pages
Published March 21st 1994 by Da Capo Press (first published 1959)
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Mikey B.
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-ii, france
This is a monumental and very tragic account of the collapse of France. Unfortunately France’s democratic values failed to withstand the Nazi onslaught. Shirer illustrates how a democracy can become so self-absorbed that it fails to recognize the dangers on its very border. For a country in Europe, at that stage after the ending of the Great War – to ignore the latest military developments (airplanes, tanks) was a path to self-destruction.

Its’ unstable governments and prime ministerial
Aug 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I first read this in '97 in Japan, and I've just re-read it. It's great writing and even though it's 958 pages it's a page turner (for history dorks like me, anyways). There are a lot of parallels between the bitter rancour that was present in France in the Third Republic and our own time, but of course that's a common temptation for historians, to find evidence in others' catastrophes clues for one's own circumstance. In any case, Shirer's writing is accessible and his sources are impressive. ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read for the history buff and what better author to read than William Shirer who was an eye witness to the unfolding of WWII both in France and Germany.
The government of France was in shambles prior to WWII as various factions vied for power and when war raised its ugly head things went from bad to worse. Shirer, as usual, has done excellent research and this is an in-depth view of what was happening while the world was about to go up in flames.
Classic histories don't need long
Christopher Saunders
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-reads
William Shirer's The Collapse of the Third Republic is intended as a Gallic counterpart to his Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, chronicling the political, cultural and military factors that triggered France's shocking defeat to Germany in 1940. Shirer at least corrects some of the issues which make Reich such a problematic read: more time spent on political and cultural background, less knee-jerk judgments and generalizations about "national character." The book's best exploring the chaotic ...more
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: partial-read
Chapters 1-15
It’s tempting to read Shirer’s book and see the dysfunctions of the Third Republic in the contemporary United States. Or any democratic nation really. I think it’s best to resist this temptation.

Yes, like today’s democracies (pick one), France was riven by factions and seemingly incapable of responding to the most basic challenges. The citizens were jaded and felt alienated from the government and politicians. The elite made sure their positions were unchallenged and felt no
Tom Schulte
Apr 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some amazing things in this history! I had no idea Shirer was a radio correspondent basically embedded with the Nazi army and thus present at many key events, such as outside Foch's rail car for the defeat signing and strolling into an abandoned Paris. (At that point cows gazed in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.) Peeling away the onion of sociological and political France pre-WWII the sudden defeat makes sense with the seeds planted there. Riddled with fascist support, even the far left was ...more
Erik Graff
Apr 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: modern French history fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
This is a very impressive history of the French Third Republic by the journalist-historian William L. Shirer, author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Not having been alive during the period he discusses and not being as inculcated with information about France as I was about Germany in the years leading up to WWII, I found the detail almost overwhelming. The general impression, however, is of a polity still riven by the conflicts which came to eruption during the French revolution: ...more
I read this book on and off in a 2 month period so my review will be largely based on the last chapters of the book.

It's an extensive read about the start and goings of the Third Republic, and especially the last chapters during the take over by Petain and Laval, who put the nail to the coffin of the Third Republic.
Aaron Crofut
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-ii, history
Imagine for a moment the birth of a dragon. It emerges from its egg full of vim and hate, but still small and vulnerable. Nearby a knight in full kit watches, tired from having spent days in battle with the mother of this beast but still fully capable of stamping it out. Indeed, he need do little but walk upon it to end the future bane of his existence. But rather than do this, the knight calls on the aid of the other knights who helped slay the earlier creature. Their castles are farther away ...more
Anne Alexander
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is thatgood men do nothing.”

Watch good men doing nothing- except destroy the French Third Republic, a bullwork of chaotic and glorious democracy. They destroyed it by parts, slowly at first, then with rapid abandon - with inaction, timidity in the face of bullies, and blindness. Watch them underestimate the dangers of fascism and radicalism and nationalism. Watch them overestimate the strength of their governmental and social system.

Their actions
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Exceptionally detailed account of the French collapse at the outset of WWII.
I wouldn't recommend this to any but the serious student of history, although, as a cautionary lesson to modern Americans, it would be beneficial to many.
It's an excellent companion piece the The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
Jan 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This should be required reading for anyone interested in government, history, or both. An amazingly intimate and detailed portrait of the governmental dysfunction of a major world power (at least at that time).
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Let me start this review by saying that, although this book was excellent, it was way too long. Good Lord was this thing long. With the word “inquiry” in the subtitle, one wonders if the author forgot that it’s sometimes helpful to be a bit concise when telling a narrative, and it isn’t necessary to cover every single point and every single detail of every single event that is relevant to the subject matter. Being that I read this on a Kindle (and the Kindle version didn’t have page numbers), ...more
Nov 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Awesome and comprehensive. Shirer has the ability to write one-hundred word long sentences that don't confuse. Not recommended prose, but distinctive.
John Miller
Oct 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Utterly the best book for understanding the start of WWII in Europe. Tremendous relevance to today's world with many ominous parallels to America's current brand of poison politics.
Paul G
Oct 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I found this work to be even more interesting and relevant than Shirer's "Third Reich." It is just as comprehensively researched, too.
Sep 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Great- detailed breakdown of military and political fall of France.
Sep 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent. Nearly as good but certainly as insightful as The Rise and Fall...
Feb 20, 2011 is currently reading it
If this History is forgotten the US will follow the same path. This book needs to be required reading - along with its earlier cousin.
Craig Dean
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bill V
Jun 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a tedious read. I enjoy military history but I understand the role politics plays in shaping military affairs. This book is overwhelmingly about French politics prior to and during the early stages of the Second World War and it underwhelmed me at times. Items such as disputes regarding the phrasing of a word or term bored me. The jockeying of political personages for offices, titles or manipulating others into taking certain positions was expected.
I would say about 90% of the
Tony Cavicchi
William L. Shirer gives a masterful tour de force of French history from 1870 to 1941. He covers the origins of the Third Republic, the growth of France's first true democracy, the moral trial of the nation in the crucible of World War One, and then the myriad failures that caused 1940.

While the book is colored by Shirer's own personal experience and familiarity with French politicians from his time as a correspondent in Paris, that is also a benefit to the storytelling. Shirer (just like he did
Bernie Charbonneau
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, ebook, ww2
Oh my goodness I am finally finished this classic! This is not to say that I did not enjoy this fine piece of writing art, because I did, but oh man, does this ever cover a lot of ground. Just be prepared to invest time and energy in this superb recollection of a time when the world was at the brink of change once again. I kept at this book while reading other tales of destruction but Mr. Shirer, who was also witness to the events that he describes, always led me back for more paragraphs of ...more
Randall Russell
Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it
I first read this book many years ago when I was about 13 years old, and I remember not understanding a lot of it, but being very impressed. Having now read it again almost 50 years later, I'm certainly less impressed. Shirer does an excellent job of describing all of the political turmoil that occurred in France between World War I and II, but I felt like what he didn't do was summarize events at the end of the book, and provide a comprehensive overview of how the political turmoil impacted ...more
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Took me over a month to read this book, as I tried to put in around 30 pages per day. I enjoyed it, but it was not nearly as easy a read as his Rise and Fall or Nightmare Years. Shirer is a great writer and has done very thorough research on this, as well as his other books. This book covered a much longer period (70 years) as opposed to just 20 years for Rise and Fall. The whole Hitler/Germany story is much more well known, with more memorable characters and was much easier for me to follow ...more
Monty Milne
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Anyone with an interest in the second world war is sure to be utterly gripped by this, as I was. Shirer was there, and his account of the dread days of summer 1940 has an utterly authentic feel. Some might find the lengthy political descriptions tedious; I found them engrossing. This book changed my opinion about some of the leading players in the drama. Before I read it, I thought Blum and Daladier were shits: now, I have much more sympathy for them, considering the terrible hand that fate ...more
Glenn Robinson
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An extremely important book on an incredible demise of a great nation. The end of France and complete resignation to the Nazi's was a painful and sorrowful journey that took much of the 30's and the frequent resignations of governments especially at the important time of needs for strength, such as when the Nazi's moved into Alsance-Lorraine, the Nazi's moves into Czechoslovakia, Austria and Poland.

The complete collapse needs to be studied today, for when leaders cease to keep the well being of
Jared Nelson
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely fascinating history of France’s Third Republic. Most of what I read I learned for the first time, notwithstanding I have read quite a few books about the second world war as well as the interwar years. It turns out most of my knowledge was from the German perspective and not the French perspective. It was a long book but well worth it and all the details I found were well considered and salient to the authors thesis. France’s Third Republic did not collapse under pressure from ...more
Craig Jordan
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book follows the author's most famous work; The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. This book follows the same format of background detail covering France's Third Republic between 1871 - 1940.

It is quite a grind to read cover to cover but a valuable addition to keep on your shelf as a historical reference.
Ryan Groesbeck
Dec 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's "magisterial" in the sense of "it tells everything but maybe collapses under its own weight a little". Not as good as his more well-known Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (and probably for good reason).
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William Lawrence Shirer was an American journalist and historian. He became known for his broadcasts on CBS from the German capital of Berlin through the first year of World War II.

Shirer first became famous through his account of those years in his Berlin Diary (published in 1941), but his greatest achievement was his 1960 book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, originally published by Simon