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Years of Plenty, Years of Want

France and the Legacy of the Great War

Benjamin Franklin Martin

Publication Year: 2013

The Great War that engulfed Europe between 1914 and 1918 was a catastrophe for France. French soil was the site of most of the fighting on the Western Front. French dead were more than 1.3 million, the permanently disabled another 1.1 million, overwhelmingly men in their twenties and thirties. The decade and a half before the war had been years of plenty, a time of increasing prosperity and confidence remembered as the Belle Epoque or the good old days. The two decades that followed its end were years of want, loss, misery, and fear. In 1914, France went to war convinced of victory. In 1939, France went to war dreading defeat.

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-6


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

When asked for advice about writing, my friend Courtlandt Dixon Barnes Bryan cited the famous injunction from J. D. Salinger’s novella Seymour: An Introduction: ask yourself what story you most want to read and then dare to write it. In my case, the story has been the one that preoccupies me the most. ...

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1—July 1914

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pp. 11-38

Summer 1914: at the end of June in Sarajevo, Bosnia, a Serbian-trained assassin shot dead the heir to the imperial throne of Austria-Hungary; at the beginning of August, the chanceries of the Great Powers exchanged declarations of war. Hell gaped open. The Great War, much predicted and much delayed, stalked forth. ...

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2—Georges—The Defiant

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pp. 39-74

Georges Clemenceau was unrepentant. “Yes, they told me to shut up, but damn it all! To hell with the Chamber, to hell with the majority if they failed to understand. . . . Nothing in the world could have stopped me.” Two days earlier, on 20 July 1909, the words he could not resist uttering took him from premier to political oblivion. ...

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3—The Thibaults

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pp. 75-112

During the first eight decades or so following the chaos and innovation of the 1789 Revolution, the French bourgeoisie fashioned a world of order and stability. From Liberté, they generated “classical liberalism,” laissez-faire economics, and individual freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and religion. ...

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4—Shifting Ground

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pp. 113-142

The Great War laid waste to France. Broad measures stagger: the dead, 1.3 million; the severely wounded, 1.1 million; the damage to the region of the Western Front, 88.7 billion francs ($151 billion in 2011); the debt incurred prosecuting the battle, 177 billion francs ($301 billion in 2011); ...

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5—Edouard—The Hesitant

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pp. 143-182

In the early morning hours of 7 February 1934, Edouard Daladier capitulated. He was prime minister of France, but a single night of violence broke his nerve and left him unwilling to remain in office. The critical hours began the previous afternoon when he faced a Chamber of Deputies in pandemonium. ...

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6—August 1939

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pp. 183-208

In 1969, thirty years later, William L. Shirer described Paris during that last summer before World War II in The Collapse of the Third Republic. The 1789 Revolution and the storming of the Bastille were celebrating their sesquicentennial. Dressed by Schiaparelli, Maggy Rouff, Lanvin, and Robert Piguet, the women of high society were crazy for dancing, ...


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pp. 209-232


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pp. 233-240

E-ISBN-13: 9781609090807
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875804682

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 15 halftones
Publication Year: 2013