De Gaulle

Julian Jackson. Belknap, $39.95 (848p) ISBN 978-0-674-98721-0
Jackson, of Queen Mary University of London, comes as close to a definitive biography of Charles de Gaulle, one of the 20th century’s most protean figures, as may be possible. De Gaulle was seen as rebel and savior, patriot and internationalist, ideologue and pragmatist, colonialist and emancipator; a half-century after his death, historians have reached no consensus. Jackson’s de Gaulle is a man with an idea of France—but not always the same idea. He was sometimes moved by circumstance, as when he committed to resistance against the occupying Germans in 1940. At other times, he was influenced by relationships, such as his fraught wartime connections with Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. He backed himself into political corners, most spectacularly when forced into retirement in the early 1950s, but then made a triumphant comeback in 1958, when rebellion in Algeria and constitutional crisis in the metropole swept him into office as first president of the Fifth Republic (France’s current dual-executive republican system of governance). The political unrest of May 1968, which Jackson brilliantly describes, was the first stage in de Gaulle’s final exit. Jackson’s wide-ranging scholarship will dazzle academics, and his smooth synergy of narrative and analysis will engage general readers—who should not be daunted by the work’s more than 800 pages. This comprehensive book repays time and effort. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/09/2018
Release date: 08/13/2018
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