Wednesday, December 20, 2006

On Wartime & Postwar Leadership: New DeGaulle Oral Histories

Charles Cogan has a review on H-France of an interesting collection of oral histories regarding Charles DeGaulle, Fondation Charles de Gaulle, Avec de Gaulle: témoignages. Tome 1, La Guerre et la Libération (1939-1945)(2003); Fondation Charles de Gaulle, Avec De Gaulle: témoignages. Tome 2, Le temps du rassemblement, (1946-1958)(2005). Illuminating on issues of wartime leadership, war and post-war governance and executive vs parliamentary power. Cogan begins:
The two volumes under review are the first of what will be a five-volume oral history of the career of the man whom René Coty labeled, “the most illustrious of Frenchmen,” at the moment that Coty, then President of the terminally ill Fourth Republic, felt compelled to suggest that Charles de Gaulle be brought back to power. This was in May 1958 when de Gaulle, after twelve long years of a “crossing of the desert,” as the French expression goes, made his political comeback. He would have preferred it sooner. “I’m ten years too old,” he told his niece at the time. (II, 256). De Gaulle reigned (I cannot think of a better word) from 1958 until 1969, having created, in François Furet’s words, a “monarchy of the Republic.”[1] He died a year later, in 1970.
Each of these volumes has oral histories of, respectively, eighteen and thirty-one witnesses of the period, as recorded at the de Gaulle Foundation, and as drawn from a bank of 150 oral histories there. Transcribed and edited, each volume is accompanied by an introduction and by biographical material on the witnesses....
The first of these volumes, La guerre et la Libération, covers the period of de Gaulle’s wartime experience, 1939-1945, up until his abrupt resignation as President at the beginning of the following year. The second volume, Le temps du Rassemblement (1946-1958), is focused on de Gaulle’s ultimately failed attempt to create a political movement around himself, following which came his “crossing of the desert,” referred to above, during which he wrote his war memoirs, whose elegance and profundity surprised and dazzled the French public. Then, more than twelve years after his resignation, he returned again to power.

For the rest, click here.