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The Unfree French


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About the Author

Richard Vinen is on the faculty of the Department of History, Kings College, University of London.


This book makes an important contribution to a full understanding of World War II France. Taking a social as opposed to a political perspective, it aims to re-create life under German occupation as it was experienced by ordinary French citizens, especially women, Jews, prisoners of war, refugees, and young men drafted to work in Germany. Vinen (history, King's Coll., Univ. of London) relies on archival sources and published, retrospective accounts, especially autobiographies, to show that life for most of the French from 1940 through 1944 was miserable. Misery, he explains, came to include not only material shortages, physical discomfort, and geographical relocations but also fear, social dislocation, and societal breakdown. Debunking the myth of wartime France as the united home of patriotic resistance fighters, he asserts that particular experiences were shaped by class, geography, occupation, and personal circumstance. He is especially sensitive to class, using case studies and brief biographical vignettes to illustrate his themes. For example, those French women most likely to have relations and relationships with German men came from the most underprivileged parts of society: they were young, poor, and not well educated. Vinen amplifies our understanding of this era. Recommended for academic libraries and specialists in the field. Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"Even well-informed readers will come away from Vinen's social history with a deeper knowledge of what it was like to live in France during the German occupation. It turns out in his wide-ranging account that it was much bleaker than what we had supposed."-Robert Wohl, author of "The Spectacle of Flight: Aviation and the Western Imagination, 1920-1950."
-- Robert Wohl

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