Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance

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Product Details

$35.00  $32.55
Belknap Press
Publish Date
6.3 X 9.4 X 1.8 inches | 2.3 pounds

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About the Author

Robert Gildea is Professor of French History at the University of Oxford.


This book is a must-read. It paints on a broad canvas the story of the men and the women, French and foreign, who fought and fell in the ranks of the French Resistance, following the interior resistance and the Free French, political movements, Allied intelligence networks and the maquis. Gildea confronts the dissensions that divided the Resistance and evokes the many and complex emotions experienced by its fighters. He has accomplished a tour de force.--Guillaume Piketty, Professor of History, Sciences Po, Paris
With its deep concern for human failings, and for the suffering that came from bravery that was badly channeled or poorly rewarded, Gildea's book might have been dark and pessimistic. In fact it is vivid with real life and ordinary heroism. In this, what is an apparently straightforward aim--that Gildea felt it was high time to give resistance fighters their voice in the story--is in fact deeply important... The relentless, persistent way in which Gildea gives voice to a kaleidoscope of men and women of different nationalities and races does more than any author before him to provide a convincingly complex and moving account of the ways in which people in France took up arms against the Vichy state and the Nazi occupation. This book cuts against the grain of classic narratives, not by setting out counter-narratives but by asking for our attention, for a page or two at a time, to listen to detail: the real-life detail of the frustrations, the suffering and heroism of people who exist at several removes from the grand shapers of history.--Julian Wright "Times Literary Supplement" (1/8/2016 12:00:00 AM)
An important new book...[Gildea] blends top-down history with the bottom-up stories of those who schemed, improvised, grabbed chances and risked their lives.-- "The Economist" (8/29/2015 12:00:00 AM)
[An] ambitious overview of the Vichy years...There have been many excellent recent books, both in French and in English...on France during the resistance years. What Gildea has done is to step back and look at the wider picture, thereby providing a context for the individual acts of courage, which he celebrates in moving detail. He gives recognition to the widest range of participants, many of them little known, and to the categories who did not fit well into the postwar myth of heroism, and that is perhaps his most important contribution to the field.--Caroline Moorhead "The Guardian" (8/19/2015 12:00:00 AM)
Deeply researched [and] sophisticated...The picture of the Resistance movement to emerge in Gildea's account is far, far more complicated and morally ambiguous than the myth would suggest...Gildea is at his best in conveying a richly textured picture of the Resistance as diverse in makeup, motivation, and strategy...Gildea's masterly account of the liberation of Paris, and of de Gaulle's crafty work in outmaneuvering the Communist effort to spark a people's uprising, is one of the highlights of this fine contribution to our understanding of World War II's most important resistance movement.--James A. Warren "Daily Beast" (12/10/2015 12:00:00 AM)
Scrupulous, evenhanded reconsideration of the fighters of the French Resistance and how the patriotic myth became central to the identity of postwar France. Employing a refreshing approach to the history of this traumatic epoch by sticking with firsthand testimony, both written and oral, Gildea restores some of the marginalized voices so crucial to the story: women, communists, and foreigners...Gildea proceeds step by step in the buildup to resistance, which required both an internal and external network, especially from de Gaulle's Allied base in London. Moreover, the liberation by the Americans of North Africa in November 1942 proved to be the 'hinge' in galvanizing resistance and clarifying the Vichy versus Free French struggle. A masterly, painstakingly researched study incorporating the urgent stories of the resisters themselves.-- "Kirkus Reviews (starred review)" (9/15/2015 12:00:00 AM)
Gildea is among the best historians writing today about French identity, and specifically about how France's national myths have been re-formed over the past 75 years...His compellingly detailed--and lengthy--book brings forth the testimonies of many résistants and résistantes that have been gathering dust in archives, in museums, in forgotten memoirs and in the memories of still living actors in the drama. He has done a daunting amount of research, ranging from an almost archaeological fascination with the layers of myth surrounding the meaning of 'resistance' to compassionate interviews with survivors and their descendants. Fighters in the Shadows gives us a cacophony of voices, subtly orchestrated by a historian who loves France, yet one who respects historical objectivity...Gildea is meticulous in his analysis of how the French have remembered this fateful half-decade in their history. In the final chapters, he deftly leads us through the minefield of postwar collective memory.--Ronald C. Rosbottom "Wall Street Journal" (1/1/2016 12:00:00 AM)