The facts behind France’s most potent modern myth

In Marianne in Chains, his last book on Occupied France, Robert Gildea offered an original view of life in that country between 1940 and 1944, arguing that outside the cities it had not always been as bad, nor had the Vichy regime always been as reactionary, as was subsequently claimed. Confining his research to three departments in the Loire valley, Gildea also suggested that for most people most of the time the Resistance was a dangerous irrelevance, to be avoided wherever possible. These conclusions were presented at a conference in Tours where they caused a minor uproar among French specialists.