Julian Jackson

A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle

In the early summer of 1940, when France was overrun by German troops, one junior general who had fought in the trenches in Verdun refused to accept defeat. He fled to London, where he took to the radio to address his compatriots back home. “Whatever happens,” he said, “the flame of French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished.” At that moment, Charles de Gaulle entered history.

For the rest of the war, de Gaulle insisted he and his Free French movement were the true embodiment of France. Through sheer force of personality he inspired French men and women to risk their lives to resist the Nazi occupation. Sometimes aloof but confident in his leadership, he quarreled violently with Churchill and Roosevelt. Yet they knew they would need his help to rebuild a shattered Europe. Thanks to de Gaulle, France was recognized as one of the victorious Allies when Germany was finally defeated. Then, as President of the Fifth Republic, he brought France to the brink of a civil war over his controversial decision to pull out of Algeria. He challenged American hegemony, took France out of NATO, and twice vetoed British entry into the European Community in his pursuit of what he called “a certain idea of France.”

Julian Jackson

Julian Jackson is a fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Historical Society. As a professor of History at Queen Mary, University of London, he is one of the leading authorities on twentieth-century France.

He was educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he obtained his doctorate in 1982 and had been supervised by Professor Christopher Andrew. After many years spent at the University of Wales, Swansea, he joined the Queen Mary History Department in 2003.

Jackson’s first two books covered the 1930s crisis in France. The Politics of Depression France 1932–1936 (Cambridge University Press, 1985) was a study of economic policy-making in France during the Depression and more generally of the Depression’s impact on French politics. The Popular Front in France: Defending Democracy 1934–1938 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988, a history of the Popular Front, encompassed its political, social and cultural dimensions.

In more recent years, Jackson’s research interests have moved on to the period after 1940. In 2001, he published an extensive synthesis of France under the Occupation entitled France: The Dark Years 1940–1944 (Oxford University Press: 2001), which was short-listed for the Los Angeles Times History Book Prize and translated into French in 2003. The French translation was commended by the judges of the Prix Philippe Viannay-Défense de la France.

Jackson’s recent books include The Fall of France (2003) and Living in Arcadia: Homosexuality, Politics and Morality in France from the Liberation to AIDS (2010)