De Gaulle, 1945-1970 Essay - Critical Essays

De Gaulle, 1945-1970

DEGAULLE: THE RULER 1945-1970 is the brilliant sequel to Lacouture’s DEGAULLE: THE REBEL (1990). While this volume recounts DeGaulle’s years of glory as the ruler of France, it shows as well that he remained a rebel to friends and foes alike.

Becoming head of the French government after the D-Day landings, DeGaulle resigned in 1946 in protest against the obstruction to his policies by the French legislature. For a decade he languished in the political wilderness. The bitter war in Algeria against French rule, an imbroglio which threatened to drag France itself into civil war, restored DeGaulle to power in 1958. While he began the controversial process of successfully disengaging France from Algeria, he also created the Fifth Republic and a constitutional system in which the president—DeGaulle was elected the first president—was given increased power and responsibility. The result was a stable governmental system which outlasted his death.

DeGaulle was extremely controversial in the United States. His opposition to American policies in Vietnam, the recognition of the People’s Republic of China, the withdrawal of France from NATO, the decision to have France develop her own nuclear arsenal, and his vision of a Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals seemed naive, irresponsible, or even willfully subversive of America’s Cold War crusade against communism and the Soviet Union. However, his belief that nation-states and national traditions were of greater significance than economic or political ideologies seems borne out by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the reunification of Germany, and the virulent nationalistic passions which swept Eastern Europe within a decade of his death in 1970.

Imperious and autocratic, DeGaulle succeeded in changing the course of French history. The general reader will find some of the names and events unfamiliar, but Lacouture has written a magnificent biography.

Sources for Further Study

Chicago Tribune. April 12, 1992, XIV, p. 6.

Choice. XXX, October, 1992, p. 363.

Europe. January, 1992, p. 53.

Foreign Affairs. LXXI, Summer, 1992, p. 165.

Library Journal. CXVII, February 15, 1992, p. 178.

New Statesman and Society. V, January 10, 1992, p. 39.

The New York Review of Books. XXXIX, April 23, 1992, p. 18.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVII, May 10, 1992, p. 3.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIX, February 17, 1992, p. 53.

The Times Literary Supplement. April 24, 1992, p. 23.

The Washington Post Book World. XXII, April 19, 1992, p. 4.