Date of Original Version
Abstract or Table of Contents
On July 10, 1940, in the humiliating aftermath of a triumphant German invasion, 570 members of the French National Assembly voted extraordinary powers to the Prime Minister, Philippe Pétain (see Table 1). 1 Although Pétain had been in office less than a month, he enjoyed such universal admiration and esteem that his rapid ascension to power gave hope to the shell‐shocked citizens of the Third Republic.2 For a generation of men who had fought in the trenches of World War I, no man could have been more suitable or worthy of command than Pétain, hero of the Battle of Verdun and one of only two living Marshals of France. Already eighty‐four years old in 1940, Pétain’s life of dutiful service had marked him with a reputation of being just, fair, and, above all, devoted to the French nation.4 Who could be more trusted to use virtually unlimited power for reconstruction and renewal than Pétain, a man known even to his opponents as a veritable “[incarnation] […] [of] traditional French virtues”?