- Vichy France and Everyday Life: Confronting the Challenges of Wartime, 1939–1945 ed. by Lindsey Dodd, David Lee
This wide-ranging collection of essays provides a rich analysis of aspects of daily life in France between 1939 and 1945. This date range, encompassing both the years of France at war and the Vichy occupation, is chosen by the editors, Lindsey Dodd and David Lee, with the intention of opening the study of everyday life in wartime France to comparison with other European countries. It is easy to imagine some essays from the volume, such as those on children and schooling, contributing to a comparative study. It is also for this reason that all the essays in the volume appear in English, including those originally delivered in French. The translation of the French texts is very readable. The Introduction to the volume provides a rapid and clearly written overview of the study of everyday life, [End Page 489] which could be useful to students. The book makes a case for the benefit of the study of everyday life in wartime — valorising the contributions of ‘ordinary people’ to social and historical processes (p. 7), recognizing the role of human agency in responses to historical events, and consequently awakening empathy for these ordinary people. The Introduction resists framing everyday life in wartime France too strictly in terms of collaboration and resistance, although these terms are not absent from the editors’ imagining of the purpose of the volume, nor from the essays themselves. As is often the case with a collection of essays based on a conference (in this instance, a March 2016 conference around the theme of ‘Vichy and the Everyday’), the essays are very diverse and highlight a variety of aspects of life in wartime France, rather than presenting a coherent narrative. Methodologically, they are similarly diverse, linked rather by ‘their attention to less well-known people (and indeed unknown people), to interpersonal interactions and to emotions at a broadly personal rather than national scale’ (p. 5). The editors have grouped the papers into two sections, the first ‘Coping and Helping in Wartime France’ and the second ‘Confrontation and Challenge in Wartime France’. Several common areas of enquiry emerge among the essays: children, the role of the government and of organizations in everyday life, and structures for providing aid. Although the collection is primarily focused on hexagonal France, Sarah Frank’s ‘Colonial Prisoners of War and French Civilians’ discusses the experiences of colonial prisoners of war imprisoned in France, and their interactions with local French populations. In sum, the volume provides intriguing glimpses into aspects of everyday life in wartime France, with well-selected essays and a solid theoretical framework. It should be seen as an invitation to further reflection and research, especially comparative study, rather than an exhaustive accounting.