THE COLLAPSE OF THE THIRD REPUBLIC
An Inquiry Into The Fall Of France In 1940
William L. Shirer
This is a companion effort to Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960), also voluminous but very readable, reflecting once again both Shirer's own experience and an-enormous mass of historical material well digested and assimilated. The prime intention is to trace the forces -- political, economic, and social, with the first clearly predominant -- that sapped the strength and resilience of the French Third Republic and made it ripe for sudden political and moral collapse. Though he doesn't dig as determinedly as in Rise and Fall, Shirer looks for seeds of ruin planted in the past, starting his chronological investigation with the Republic's "freakish birth" in 1870 and the early growing pains that highlighted fatal fissures in French society inherited from the turbulent aftermath of the Revolution. The main body of the work concentrates upon the last years of the Republic (1934-1939), with the nation irrevocably split in two, and the war, defeat, and collapse (1939-1940). The subject matter lacks the same fascination-repulsion which propelled so many readers through the numerous pages of Rise and Fall, but Collapse should also achieve a good measure of critical and popular success.