chapter  3
8 Pages

Economic Factors connected with the Collapse of France in 1940

The defeat of France in 1940, in spite of the impressive size of her fighting forces, and the collapse of her official resistance to the enemy when she had lost (as General de Gaulle said) " one battle, but not the war," will occupy historians for a long time to come. An important part of the explanation of the military defeat-though it, in its turn, requires to be explained-is the inadequacy of French (and of British) armament expenditure in the years when Germany and the U.S.S.R. were devoting such large amounts of their resources to military preparation. In the background of the psychological factors to which a large part, both of the defeat and of the collapse, must be attributed, moreover, there is a further element which admits of being assessed in economic terms ; those sections of French opinion which accepted defeat soonest were largely influenced by the view that the balance of warpotential in Europe was finally tilted decisively in favour of Germany, so that any attempt to redress it was hopeless, and could only be disastrous. This view was based, of course, upon the underestimate of British sea-power (and of the air-power which, since it was largely untried, there was more excuse for underestimating) of which Continental soldiers have, to their cost, so often been guilty. It erred, too, in its view of the U.S.S.R.Js role in European affairs, and of the probability of United States intervention. Leaving this aside, however, one may find plenty of evidence that, as between France and Germany, the balance of power has long been weighted in favour of the latter.