Ptain

Charles Williams, Author . Palgrave $29.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4039-7011-4

The deputy leader of the opposition in Britain's House of Lords, Williams is also the author of a well-regarded biography of Charles de Gaulle, the rival and polar opposite of Henri-Philippe Pétain (1856–1951). France's savior at Verdun and the author of the army's recovery after the 1917 mutinies, Pétain emerged from WWI a national hero. Between the wars, he came to identify inflexibly with the French Right—the "real France" of the countryside as opposed to that of cosmopolitan Paris. He stepped forward in 1940, at an advanced age, to lead a defeated, demoralized nation under circumstances that indicated long-term German hegemony over Europe. Like many generals before and afterward, Pétain exaggerated his own political acumen while coming to despise politicians as a class. Seeking to cut the best deal possible for France, Pétain eventually learned the impossibility of compromise with Hitler and went on to condone German atrocities, to create a police state and to accept the deportation of 75,000 French Jews, most of whom were murdered. Williams, without seeking to rehabilitate Pétain, describes a man who was a misguided patriot; his lucid, dispassionate examination of a man who grossly overestimated himself gives just as clear a picture of the political conditions that created him. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 06/20/2005
Release date: 00/00/0000
Genre: Nonfiction
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