France is the most visited country in the world. It attracts millions of tourists, most of whom come in search of beautiful architecture, good food and fine art. But appearances can be deceptive. France is not only a place of culture and glamour; it also carries the bitter memories of violence, division and broken promises.

In this arresting book, Emile Chabal tells the story of a paradoxical country. From the calamitous defeat by Hitler's armies in 1940 to the spectacular <i>gilets jaunes</i> protests, he explores the contradictions that have shaped French history over the last 80 years. The picture that emerges is one of a nation struggling to reconcile its core political values with the realities of a diverse society.

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  • November 2020
  • 224 pages
  • 138 x 216 mm / 5 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $59.95
  • 9781509530014
  • Paperback $14.95
  • 9781509530021
  • Open eBook $14.95
  • 9781509530045
Table of Contents
Introduction: A paradoxical nation
1. Defeat and resistance
2. Colonialism and anti-colonialism
3. Grandeur and decline
4. Left and right
5. The Republic and its discontents
6. Local citizens in a global state
Conclusion: An uncertain future
Further reading
About the Author
Emile Chabal is a Reader in History at the University of Edinburgh. He is one of the foremost experts on twentieth-century French political and intellectual history and author of A Divided Republic: Nation, State and Citizenship in Contemporary France.
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'This superb analysis of how France’s current struggles—over diversity, state authority, the EU, and much else—emerged from its history since 1940 will enthrall newcomers to the subject and experts alike. A major achievement.'
Herrick Chapman, New York University

'In this highly polished introduction to contemporary France, Chabal combines a keen eye for detail with an admirable capacity for vivid narration and analytical generalisation. His focus on France’s modern paradoxes offers a stimulating and enjoyable point of entry into the ongoing fractures of its contemporary social and political life.'
Sudhir Hazareesingh, University of Oxford

‘A refreshing and tightly written introduction to France’s recent history.’
Arthur Asseraf, University of Cambridge

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