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on 29 April 1999
I have read this book twice the during the last 15 years (my 1971 pocket version has broken in half !). It really fills in a gap on france's history, since it is seen through the eyes of a neutral observer. The writing style is sober, but brilliant. To me, the enormously detailed narrative linking French national history during 1870-1940 to Franco-German relations is very convincing. Not focusing on the battles (or wars)itself but on the periods in between, unlike Alistair Horne's trilogy, makes the origins of WWII and France's defeat very understandable. The reason for not giving the book a fifth star are the maps, which - in my pocket version at least - are poorly made.
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on 17 December 1998
In my opinion this is as masterful an exegesis as Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, particularly since it covers such a sweep of European history in excellent detail. The reader is drawn into the myriad of influences beginning with the defeat by Prussia in 1870 through the Dreyfus Affair and WWI and culminating in the resurgence of Germany under Hitler. The evidence is developed showing how and why France failed to meet the challenge posed by Germany; we also learn what befell the principal players after the war. A mesmerizing account: despite its length I found it difficult to put down, wanting to finish it at one sitting. I recommend it very highly indeed.
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on 25 March 2007
William Shirer's book is about a rather difficult period in French history. He starts off with recounting the rise of the third republic from 1871 right up to its finest hour in World War I. That this `fine hour' didn't last very long you can pick up quite well in the second part `Illusions and Realities of Victory'. The third part covers the end of the third Republic right up to 1939 and almost half of the book deals with the war of 1939-40 and France's defeat with a final chapter reserved for Vichy. It is difficult to give a more detailed account of a book, which runs into more than 1,000 pages.

In his foreword, Shirer notes that Politicians of the time when they wrote their memoirs after World War II ran into difficulties because their papers remained secrets of state. This suggests, that Shirer's account of at least the 1919-40 period is more complete than the information released by the French State.

The only complaint I would have is that at times I found the book confusingly detailed. But beyond that this is just excellent stuff.
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on 24 December 2012
It is a well researched account of the internal conflicts of the french social structure between the two wars.
Spellbinding narative language.
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on 27 May 2016
William Shirer had a keen interest in French politics, although he was more remote from France than he was from the rise of Hitler. However this book is full of fascinating facts and cogent summaries. The detail is formidable - even overwhelming, but the longevity of the book is remarkable. It is still essential reading for all who wish to understand what happened in 1940 to France.
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on 28 December 1998
In the opinion of this reader, Shirer has coupled his splendid evocative power of language with a subject worthy of it; the fall of France in 1940 remains one of the greatest defeats ever suffered by the champions of liberty. If you wish you understand the Third Republic with all the depth of complexity that Shirer intended, reading the whole of this admittedly corpulent history will be well worth the effort. However, with a familiarity with the history of France, reading the prologue and the last 50 pages or so will transport you to Paris in spring of 1940, as the government split and the Petain decided that this time, unlike Verdun, "they shall... pass." While typing my tenth-grade history report at 4 in the morning, last May, I can still remember being moved to the depths of my soul by Shirer's eloquent and tragically beautiful portrayal of the fall of Liberty. If you love France, the war between freedom and oppression, or simply the erudite potency of Shirer's writing, "The Collapse of the Third Republic" is utterly indispensable.
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on 5 October 1998
Shirer is certainly the master of details and narrative. A reader's impression of the book, though, is going to be influenced by what one is looking for... The actual events of 1940 do not appear until after 600 pages of French history. The first part of the book sweeps through late 19th century and early 20th century history well, but in my opinion (and given a lack of reading time), the 1930's are covered in excessive detail, bogging down the reader. If you are prepared for 900 pages, go for it. If you are looking for military history or a brief history of France from 1880-1940, look elsewhere first.
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on 21 June 2015
Going back to it after several decades, I found it didn't flow as well as I remembered
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