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To Lose a Battle: France, 1940 Paperback – 28 Jun 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Reprint edition (28 Jun. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141030658
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141030654
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 45,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

One of Britain's greatest historians, Sir Alistair Horne, CBE, is the author of several famous books on French history as well as a two-volume life of Harold Macmillan.


Inside This Book

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Victory was to be bought so dear as to be almost indistinguishable from defeat. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By James Gallen TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 6 Mar. 2003
Format: Paperback
In "To Lose A Battle" Alastair Horne tells the story of the Fall of France in 1940 in great detail. Beginning with the political and military background which lead to French weakness, the reader is carried through to the final collapse and its aftermath.
The parts of the book which I liked the best were the beginning and the end. In the early parts we read how the tragedy of World War I set France up for failure in World War II. France had been badly divided politically for generations, a heritage which contributed to the disaster of 1940. The massive kill-off of 1914-18 followed by the low Depression-era birthrate left France with a much smaller manpower pool than had existed in 1914. The memory of World War I, along with the long-standing divisions in the French body politic prevented the French form preparing an army which could maintain the distinguished French military tradition.
During the reading of this book, I gained a deeper appreciation of the role played by the Maginot Line. I has always heard that it was the last stand of fixed fortifications. In this book we see how the costs of the Line and its personnel demands drained money and resources which would have been more productively devoted to other units. During the "Phony War" the only effective relief that France could have provided to embattled Poland would have been an invasion of Germany. The ultimate irony is that the impregnable Maginot Line formed a barrier, not only to German invasion, but also to a French advance into enemy territory.
The massive middle of the book explains the facts of the defeat of France in agonizing detail.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback
Alistair Horne has drawn three intense, beautifully detailed portraits of the tragedy that befell the "children of Charlemagne," the Germans and the French, which occurred over a 75 year period; three wars, both the ones that claim "World" status, as well the war of 1870. His book on the later is entitled The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-71; he covers the First World War by focusing on its cataclysmic battle, in The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 (Penguin History); and "To Lose a Battle, France 1940" is on the Second. The particular battle that is the centerpiece of the book is the breakthrough at Sedan, the exact same place the Germans broke through in 1870. In 1940, it took only six weeks after the breakthrough until France capitulated. Horne has also written a truly excellent account of the war of Algerian independence, entitled A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954-62 Although he has written other historical accounts, it is these four books that have established his reputation as one of the preeminent historians of the 20th Century. I have reviewed the other three, and will now conclude with this one.

In all Horne's works he manages to master an immense amount of historical facts, and then write a fluid, moving account that ranges back and forth from the salons of power, where the personalities interact, and make their decisions, to individual stories of the "grunts" upon whom the ramifications of those decisions fell.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chris in Paris on 28 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a superb account of the Battle of France. I was particularly struck by the long account of the lead-up to the Battle of France itself. Making up something like a third to half of the book you might expect this material to be less interesting than the part dealing with the fighting itself but in fact Horne's account of the pre-war period makes truly fascinating reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By George on 4 Nov. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An excellent account of the fall of France, including the social and political divisions in the country post the First World War, the personality clashes between politicians and soldiers, and the military campaign. The military angle is particularly well covered, from the evolving German strategy right down to the tactical shortcomings of the French defence lines around Sedan. The complexities of Anglo-French relations that are described surely have relevance today.
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Format: Paperback
Not many books have jaw dropping sentences but this one did. It'll give new perspective on the invincibility of the German attack on France in 1940 and the utter incompetence of the French defense of their country at almost all levels. The German attack was clearly extremely well planned and implemented but it also had significant weaknesses that this book made clear and which made it far from a sure thing. To quote from the book regarding the gap between the rapidly advancing tanks once they'd broken through the French defenses and were charging through France, and their support troops and materials - 'The Official History of the 1st Panzer tells us - hardly a single German soldier to be found, up to 25 - 30 miles behind the 1st and 2nd Panzer divisions. Munitions and petrol were brought up over a single very thin, almost unprotected supply road. They (the tanks) were also tanked up from petrol dumps and public petrol stations captured from the French'.
Astounding.

Overall the book is extremely detailed but with relatively poor maps. Also the writer frequently used French and occasionally German expressions that are not always guessable and that broke the flow somewhat. But the content is 5 stars.
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