Dodd, Lindsey (2008) Are We Defended? Conflicting Representations of War in Pre-War France. University of Sussex Journal of Contemporary History (12). pp. 1-13.

This article examines contradictions in the way that war was represented to the French population in the interwar period. It argues that an ‘official’ representation of war gave an impression of France as a secure nation; people were discouraged from questioning the dominant military doctrine of defensive warfare, and were denied access to information to stifle potential criticism. ‘Unofficial’ representations, on the other hand, combined to create an image of a country whose security was increasingly threatened, particularly by a powerful eastern neighbour. During the 1930s, a feeling of imminent catastrophe was in the air, not only as a result of representations of war in film, press and advertising, but also fuelled by the ‘official’ literature of civil defence. The article draws on archival material from the towns of Boulogne-Billancourt and Brest to show that conflicting representations of war led to such confusion when war broke out in 1939 that people were unprepared, psychologically and physically, despite a near obsession with war over the past twenty years. Further, the strength of the representation of war as imminent catastrophe contributed to the state of mind which caused between eight and ten million citizens to flee the invading German army in panic in the summer of 1940.

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