In This Review

Strange Victory: Hitler's Conquest of France
Strange Victory: Hitler's Conquest of France
By Ernest R. May
Hill & Wang, 2000, 384 pp.

This book shows how a campaign scrutinized by scores of highly competent historians can nonetheless yield fresh insights to a scholar of the first rank. Drawing on primary and secondary sources from both sides, May argues that the fall of France resulted neither from the supposed rot of French society nor from the uniform military superiority of Germany. Instead, a variety of contingent causes were to blame for France's catastrophe in 1940: the conjunction of governmental crises, misperception of Hitler by English and French politicians, a few poor military decisions, and sheer bad luck. Unlike most historians, May does not hesitate to draw lessons -- most notably, the fearful consequences of military hubris that stalked victim and (later) victor alike.