Monday, November 16, 2015

A Warning on Gilmore and Sugrue

By David Gordon

These United States: A Nation in the Making, 1890 to the Present, was published last month, and already it has attracted attention and acclaim. The book was written by two eminent historians, Glenda Gilmore of Yale and Thomas Sugrue of NYU. According to one reviewer, the book “wears its leftist politics on its sleeve.”  Whether one likes such politics or not—-I confess that I don’t—, readers should approach the book with caution. In a discussion of the isolationists and their opponents before World War II, Gilmore and Sugrue point to the danger to America that would have resulted if Nazi Germany, after defeating Britain,  took over the British Commonwealth. Americans would be aware of this possibility because Germany took over the administration of the French colonies after the fall of France. (p.230)  That would have been news to the French colonial administrators: the statement is of course false. A little later, Gilmore and Sugrue tell us that after the German declaration of war against the US in December 1941, Vichy France joined the Axis Powers. (p.243) This is also false. Although the Vichy government collaborated with Germany, it was officially neutral; and the US maintained diplomatic relations with France until November 1942. This is hardly an obscure detail: America’s policy toward the Vichy government aroused much controversy. William Langer, Our Vichy Gamble (1947), is a well-known account of the topic, and itself generated controversy. Evidently the entire matter escaped Gilmore and Sugrue’s attention.

The above originally appeared at

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