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France: Victory in the Second World War?

This course listing applies to a Fall 2009 course. To find current courses, check out the Find a Course page.

Fall 2009
History 98
2 Unit(s)

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About the Course:

"When at last . . . the will-to-live of the German nation, instead of continuing to be wasted away in purely passive defence, can be summoned together for a final, active showdown with France, and thrown into this in one last decisive battle with the very highest objectives for Germany; then, and only then, will it be possible to bring to a close the perpetual and so fruitless struggle between ourselves and France." -Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (1925)

Escape from stereotypes for a moment and ask yourself this question: how well do you truly know the military history of France during the Second World War? The history of France during the Second World War is often portrayed as simplified steps from defeat and occupation to liberation, yet it is conventional knowledge that in 1945 a significant portion of occupied Germany was militarily administered by France.

How did France have an army capable of this in 1945?

Whereas most histories examine France during the war from a social point of view, this course will examine and discuss it from a military point of view as well as taking into account the diplomacy that guided the country. Heavy emphasis will be placed on minute details such as strategy, tactics, and weaponry, all of which are essential for understanding the reasons France failed in 1939-1941, why France faltered in 1942-1943, and why France triumphed, if indeed it did, in 1944-1945.

This course not only hopes to give its students a greater understanding of France's history and the history of the Second World War as a whole, but also to enable them to critically question popular history's conventions. For example, if the French Army failed in 1940 because it lethargically sat behind the Maginot Line only for the Germans to circumvent it, then why is it that in 1936 Marshal Philippe Pétain declared that "The conception of the defensive army which has had priority in France since the Treaty of Versailles has had its day . . . for modern offensive techniques are alone capable of effectively collaborating with an ally in peril . . ." or that Commander-in-Chief of the French Army General Maurice Gamelin, frustrated with Belgian neutrality, wrote in October 1939 that "Belgium must bear a heavy responsibility—and she will pay for it by serving as the powers' battlefield"?

How to Enroll:

This course has no prerequisites.

The class is composed of weekly two-hour-long sessions, each of which is opened with a weekly quiz with the aim of taking attendance as well as testing comprehension of the previous week's information. More than two unexcused absences will warrant a failing grade.

To pass the course, a mandatory final project consisting of either a research report, an analytical report of a relevant book, or an artistic endeavor implementing information learned in the course must be turned in before the end of the semester.

The class meets from 6 to 8 P.M. on Tuesdays at 179 Dwinelle beginning the second week of Fall semester, so the first class will be held on 1 September – a highly relevant coincidence! Note therefore that "Week 1" on the syllabus corresponds to the second week of the Fall semester.

The CCN will be revealed during the first session.

Course Contact: johannesnova AT berkeley.edu

Faculty Sponsor: Professor Stovall

Time & Location:

SectionFacilitatorsSizeLocationTimeStartsStatusCCNs
Johannes de Nova
30179 DwinelleTu 6-8 P.M.9/01started

Uploaded Files:

NameDateSizeTypeActions
Syllabus: France World War II Decal Syllabus.docAug 536kbWord Doc (Viewer)View Download

Course info last modified August 23, 2009. This page has been viewed 2338 times.

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