A Digest* of ‘France Since 1945’ by Robert Gildea


A library copy like this one is the cheapest way into the many lists, charts and figures on offer, should you ever need to use them.

De Gaulle is a country whose decline can be traced through its many defeats and humiliations since the second world war. The first of these was the American invasion that came hot on the heels of the German departure. As Figure 1. shows, thousands of cinemas were forced under the Marshall Plan to sell hot dogs and show Hollywood productions. The result of this was an 82% downturn in national creativity. 19% of this figure comes from imported comic books alone, which along with the text on Coke cans, replaced newspapers, which in turn simmered an underlying nationalist resentment of outsiders, particularly in the regions.

None of this sat well on top of de Gaulle’s imperialism. The glory days when de Gaulle spread liberty, equality and brotherhood around the globe began to be questioned from the outside as Vietnamese and Algerian separatist movements gained, respectively, 87% and 76% support throughout the 1950s. As the figures suggest, a lack of consensus reflected its own internal divisions within these colonial outposts.

The upside to de-colonialisation and dissensus was the rise of public figures who were either exiled pied noir, or writers who came to prominence in strikes. Central to this development were the 726 political parties that argued with the Communist Party.

In fact, the most of the things that happened in post-war de Gaulle were political. The sheer importance of politicians and irrelevance of anybody else is illustrated by Marshal Petain. His leadership of de Gaulle as a puppet state during the occupation tainted his heroic record in the first war: in all of this, the only civilian involvement was to add to the following figures: 76,000; 873,000; and 56.2%. True, there were other players. Guillaume, de Hautvilliers, de Mathefelon, Thésart, Briçonnet, Châtillon-Jaligny, Garnier, de Rochecorbon, Baudet, Bernard, d’Orléans, Dubois, Burgensis, Garstang, de Lastic-Sieujac, Cocquerel, Simenon, d’Angennes de Rambouillet, Meunier, Grimaldi de Cagnes, André, Chambourcy, Tudert, Happe, Fumée, and de Pardaillan de Gondrin d’Antin – to name but a few – variously attacked or defended Communists or each other. But even their presence was overshadowed, like much of de Gaulle’s, by Pompidou, D’Estang, and Mitterand. These 3 alone account for 97% of existence between the years 1965 and 1999.

Steel production, consumer spending, the formation of the European ideal, the regions (14% set against 42% of 1,251), changes in farming techniques, mass unemployment, the rise of the professions, the Grand Écoles, GNP and GDP decline (see table 57), and not forgetting migration (see the graph in appendix K). There were a few intellectuals, but everybody clings to the old certainties nowadays. Women gradually bought fewer vacuum cleaners because of the contraceptive pill.

Needless to say from the above that growth fell behind other European nations. Most humiliatingly, Germany’s confidence towered over de Gaulle’s by 3.2% per annum by the early 1960s. But things cheered up in 1998 when de Gaulle won the world cup by scoring 15.2% of the goals. Quite how though, given the overall pattern, is a mystery when you consider that the country is increasingly either foreign or at least estranged, even to itself.

*The above is a highly paraphrased digest of the original book. It should not be taken as entirely representative – reading the complete work is recommended for accuracy.

This entry was posted in Culture, Digests, Gildea, Robert, History, Non-Fiction, Politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Digest* of ‘France Since 1945’ by Robert Gildea

  1. Ste J says:

    Excellent, the world cup win fortunately made every other statistic seem like a path to victory, even if they only played on up front at the time. The cinema bit was a very good point though, I would have to applaud that wholeheartedly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeff says:

    French cinema vs. Hollywood is one of many French narratives about outsiders. National identity has become something of a post-war obsession. So beating the world at football became a snub to Le Pen’s brand of nationalism because of the team’s ethnicities. That level of fraternity and equality though, commonplace as it is in sports, is less so in what’s increasingly a country whose mythology shows cracks whenever an immigrant ghetto explodes into riot. Where Gildea does a good job is in explaining this colonialist legacy. This is especially so in the parts about Algeria. Recent developments in terror are much clearer to me now. What didn’t work so well was the way politics and economics made no room for everyday life. A helpful if remote and dry book.


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