Rémy Davison reviews 'A Certain Idea of France: The life of Charles de Gaulle' by Julian Jackson

Rémy Davison reviews 'A Certain Idea of France: The life of Charles de Gaulle' by Julian Jackson

A Certain Idea of France: The life of Charles de Gaulle

by Julian Jackson

Allen Lane, $69.99 hb, 928 pp, 9781846143519

There is a scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail outside a castle, brimming with French men-at-arms, who taunt King Arthur and his knights remorselessly, while the Britons are convinced that the Holy Grail lies behind the drawbridge. The Grail was, of course, membership of the Common Market, to which President Charles de Gaulle had denied Britain entry for a decade. It was the Gallic ‘Non’ of 1963 that merely continued the thousand-year war between France and England. But it was not the first time de Gaulle had had ‘trouble with Anglo-Saxons’.

De Gaulle dominated French politics for almost thirty years, from the fall of France in 1940 to (barely) surviving the post-1945 political wilderness, multiple assassination attempts, and the 1968 student revolution. He is inseparable from France’s modern political history. But was he a liberator, an imperialist, or a fascist? Perhaps all three. Historian Réne Rémond regarded Gaullism as forms of Bonapartism and Boulangisme. Franklin Roosevelt detested de Gaulle’s ‘fascism’. De Gaulle himself was influenced by Charles Maurras’s Catholic integralism, while Maurras, an ardent monarchist, praised de Gaulle early in the war. The best-known contemporary admirer of Maurras’s philosophy is Steve Bannon, the architect of Donald Trump’s 2016 victory.

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Rémy Davison

Rémy Davison

Rémy Davison is Jean Monnet Chair in Politics and Economics at Monash University. He gained his Ph.D. at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Foreign Policies of the Great and Emerging Powers (2008), The Political Economy of Single Market Europe (2011) and co-author of The New Global Politics of the Asia-Pacific: Conflict and Cooperation in the Asian Century (2018). He covered the Eurozone crisis for The Conversation throughout 2011–15.  He regularly advises governments on trade, security, industry and monetary policy issues. His forthcoming book is The Political Economy of the Eurozone Crises.

Published in March 2019, no. 409

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