© 2019

The Fall of France in the Second World War

History and Memory


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. Richard Carswell
    Pages 1-17
  3. Richard Carswell
    Pages 19-47
  4. Richard Carswell
    Pages 49-68
  5. Richard Carswell
    Pages 69-121
  6. Richard Carswell
    Pages 123-159
  7. Richard Carswell
    Pages 161-207
  8. Richard Carswell
    Pages 209-258
  9. Richard Carswell
    Pages 259-267
  10. Richard Carswell
    Pages 269-275
  11. Back Matter
    Pages 277-283

About this book


This book examines how the fall of France in the Second World War has been recorded by historians and remembered within society. It argues that explanations of the fall have usually revolved around the four main themes of decadence, failure, constraint and contingency. It shows that the dominant explanation claimed for many years that the fall was the inevitable consequence of a society grown rotten in the inter-war period.  This view has been largely replaced among academic historians by a consensus which distinguishes between the military defeat and the political demise of the Third Republic. It emphasizes the contingent factors that led to the military defeat. At the same time it seeks to understand the constraints within which France’s policy-makers were required to act and the reasons for their policy-making failures in economics, defence and diplomacy.


Battle of France World War Two Anglo-French relations Memory studies National myths

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.RichmondUK

About the authors

Richard Carswell is an independent researcher specialising in French and British history of the mid-twentieth century. His doctoral thesis, from the University of Reading, analysed the image of France in the British press in the period 1938-1940.

Bibliographic information


“This book makes for most interesting reading for both the academic world and for the lay-educated reader and university student.” (Charles Coutinho, New Books network,, June 25, 2020)

“Carswell presents a deeply learned work of historiography on an important topic that will benefit any who delve into it. The work should be read by anyone interested in the Second World War in Europe looking for an acute discussion of the defeat of France in 1940.” (Robert Lynn Fuller, Journal of Military History, Vol. 84 (1), 2020)

“The Fall of France in the Second World War will appeal to readers who have an interest in modern history – especially the Second World War – and/or in French history.” (David Drake, Journal of European Studies, Vol. 50 (2), 2020)

“Carswell’s book deserves praise as an excellent and thorough account, worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the events of 1940 or in the massive literature it generated. … I learned new things from reading Carswell’s book and recommend it to other scholars and students interested in the Fall of France.” (Sarah Fishman, H-France Review, Vol. 20 (64), April, 2020)