UNZ: 24-06-2024,

No figure of modern French history is as honored as Charles de Gaulle. His name has been given to more streets, avenues and monuments in France than to any other man of the nation’s past. The country’s largest airport bears his name. French politicians – right, left and center – invoke his name and claim his legacy.

“Free French” leader in London, 1942

“Free French” leader in London, 1942

In 1940 he refused to accept his country’s defeat by Germany, and from London he founded and led the pro-Allied “Free French” force during World War II. From 1944 to 1946 he headed the provisional government of France. In 1958 he was called from retirement by popular acclaim to resolve the seemingly unsolvable crisis over Algeria. He demanded, and got, a new French constitution with a strong executive, which established the “Fifth Republic” that has endured to the present. During the years that he dominated his country’s political life – 1958-1969 – he charted an independent foreign policy, tied neither to the US nor the USSR, and strove to make France the preeminent nation in Europe. Like other great historical figures, he was hated as well as revered. He was the target of more than two dozen serious assassination attempts, two of which nearly succeeded.

Julian Jackson, a professor of history with the University of London and a well-regarded specialist of modern French history, has produced a biography worthy of such an extraordinary man.

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