Resistance, Liberation and Empire, 1940-1945
Historians have studied both Resistance in metropolitan France and the struggle of the Free French and Vichy for control of the Empire, which remained in French hands under the terms of the armistice. The Empire, particularly that in North and Sub-Saharan Africa, was seen as a platform for and renaissance or liberation of France. Less highlighted in the story is the survival of a Vichy regime under American protection in North Africa after Operation Torch in November 1942, under Admiral Darlan, then under General Giraud, and the compromises with this regime that General de Gaulle was obliged to make when Algiers became the base of the French Committee of National Liberation in 1943, becoming a less radical figure than he had been in London. The traditional Army of Africa, amalgamated with the Free French and re-armed by the Americans, became the vehicle of French campaigns against the Axis in Tunisia, Italy and France and, absorbing the French Forces of the Interior, invaded Germany in 1944-45. For the French, however, victory in Europe was not enough: the humiliation of defeat drove the new Republic under de Gaulle to launch expeditions to reclaim her mandates in Syria-Lebanon and lost empire in Indochina, and to consolidate her hold in North Africa, in a world that was now becoming attuned to the logic of the self-determination of colonial peoples.
A podcast of this lecture is available on Vimeo at: https://vimeo.com/67639691