Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Bowen, Ralph Henry, 1919-||Parrini, Carl P.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


France. Arme�e; Great Britain. Army; Military art and science


On May 10, 1990, Germany began her attack on the western democracies and within a few short days, the Nazi Panzer divisions had routed the British and French armies, brought France to her knees by a humiliating armistice, and forced the British to flee at Dunkirk. The Germans made the war look easy; against weak opposition they quickly swept to the Channel, dividing France and capturing Paris. Why had France fallen so easily? Why had the combined Allied armies not been able to stop the German attack? Both Britain and France had been victors in the First World war, and until the beginning of hostilities France was thought to have the strongest army in Europe. It was also believed that the two European democracies, backed by their huge colonial empires, would be able to hold off any aggressor nation in the same manner that had produced victory in the 1919-1918 conflict. But the art of war had changed in the intervening twenty years and the Allies soon found themselves confronted by a batter-armed, quicker adversary. During the '20's' and '30's', Britain and France failed to modernize their armies with tank units, self-propelled artillery, and truck-borne infantry. The reasons ware many and can be found in several areas. Both countries suffered from a lack of top-calibur political and military men; their leaders did not understand modern warfare and hence did not see the need for mechanized armies. Instead they prepared to refight a war that had taken place twenty years earlier by preparing their nations' armies with outmoded strategy and weapons. Economic crises played a role in the story also, for both countries spent all or nearly all of the interwar period trying to overcome the economic and social problems that caught up with them after World War I. Lastly, pacifism, born from the slaughter of the 1914-1918 campaigns, also entered the picture, for in varying degrees, the pacifist movement influenced politicians and their decisions on rearmament policies. This thesis represents an effort to study sash of the above areas and to determine how and to what degree each hindered or blocked the mechanization and modernization of the British and French armies. Thirty to forty years have lapsed since that oonfused, turbulent period; during that time, many of the essential facts have been published by numerous authors, and all that remains is to collect them, tell the story, and evaluate the results.


Includes bibliographical references.


ii, 119 pages




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