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  • William Tyler

Towards and Into Despair - The end of the 3rd Republic

France 1914-40


France's war from 1914 to 1918 was a war like Europe had never before witnessed. A war of new technologies and of horrific casualties; France like Britain was ill prepared for the conflict. However, France suffered far more than Britain as Northern France was left ravaged by the war, not least French industry.


The harsh terms imposed by The Allies on Germany at Versailles, laid the groundwork for the rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany. Hitler came to power in 1933, six short years before the outbreak of The Second World War.


The politics of The 3rd Republic remained as divided and as indecisive as ever during the two decades of an uncertain peace. The historian, Rod Kedward, ascribes the word 'complacency' to the French attitude towards Germany - much the same as in Britain.


The late 20s and early 30s brought new financial problems to France in the wake of The Great Crash and subsequent economic downturn.


From 1933, the belligerence of Nazi Germany became gradually more and more into the open. French, and indeed British, politicians continued to act as though any problems would miraculously disappear. They didn't, and in September 1939, France found itself once more at war with Germany. This time an Anglo-French Force was unable to prevent the Germans capturing Paris, and the country entered what has been called 'The Dark Years', 1940-44.


And, that is where I shall pick up the story again on Thursday 5th January 2023. The following week we revert to Mondays for my final lecture on French History.

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