France in Asia, and at Home

These books on postwar French history are meritorious and complementary.  Professor Logevall’s effort is a careful military and political history of the French Indo-Chinese war, including three chapters on its aftermath.  Mr. Fenby’s readable biography discusses the major events in De Gaulle’s life and supplies a good introduction to it for the uninitiated.

Both books have defects.  Logevall’s discussion of the transition to American involvement has a rushed quality about it and does not fully mine the available materials.  Fenby portrays De Gaulle as more a man of action than a man of thought, depicts him as time-bound and in some ways anachronistic, and undervalues his intellectual depth while devoting insufficient attention to his considered views as expressed in his writings.

Professor Logevall discusses the Vichy relationship with the Japanese, the ensuing British and Chinese involvement, and the re-entry of the French military and the disastrous bombardment of Haiphong.  His book would have benefited from a fuller exploration of the pre-war experience, the Vietnamese economy, and the achievements and defects of French colonial administration.  It also suffers from insufficient focus on the differences in attitude between the Catholic and Buddhist religious communities, though these were less significant during the French war than...

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