The best books on Charles de Gaulle

He is the man of appeal on June 18, the leader of Free France, the founder of the Fifth Republic… Charles de Gaulle is one of the emblematic figures of the 20th century, in the same way as his “companion in adventure” Winston Churchill. Inseparable from the collective memory, the one who spent his life defending “a certain idea of ​​France” caused as much ink to flow as Napoleon. From de Gaulle in text to texts on de Gaulle, here are some suggested readings.

Memories – Charles de Gaulle

Let’s start from the beginning with Memories by Charles de Gaulle. This volume brings together three volumes of War memoriesThe call (1940-1942), unity (1942-1944) and The Salvation (1944-1946) –, as well as two parts of Memories of HopeRenewal (1958-1962) and The effort (1962-…) –, the statesman’s returns to political affairs in 1958, unfortunately remained unfinished, after the death of the General in 1970.

Of course, the historical and documentary value of these writings is inestimable, as well as the Commentsmatches and other speeches of Julius Caesar. But more than that, the literary breath that flows through them makes it an extraordinary work. A classic into which we dive as in an exciting epic. Or when the wisdom of words comes to amplify ideas. In the prestigious La Pléiade collection at Gallimard, these Memories stands out as a benchmark in the publishing world.

The Edge of the Sword – Charles de Gaulle

This inspired pen, Charles de Gaulle took it seriously before delivering his Memories. Especially in the 1930s when he was assigned to the General Secretariat of National Defense in Paris. An important period in which the then commander was initiated on the one hand in state affairs and on the other hand developed his military theories.

In The Edge of the Sword published in 1932, Charles de Gaulle revealed his views on history and war, as well as on what he believed a good military leader should be. A thought that the future will be made visionary, where we can already see it “definite idea of ​​France” dear to the future founder of the Fifth Republic.


Charles de Gaulle – Eric Roussel

Right after Charles de Gaulle, Éric Roussel is certainly one of the most knowledgeable connoisseurs of the career of the military leader as well as the politician. In his book Charles de Gaulle released in 2020 – we then honor the 50th anniversary of the General’s death – it tackles the historical legend with an impressive sense of detail. It combines the main historical events – from military training with Pétain to his return in 1958 as head of government, including the withdrawal in 1940, the creation of the National Council of the Resistance or even the RPF – with closer secrets. and (always wrong) harmless.

A remarkable work has been made possible in particular by opening a certain number of unpublished archives, French and foreign, between interviews, declarations, quotations and confidences. A new and rich raw material put into perspective here with great precision, for the sake of truth and balance about the life of the person of June 18.

Charles de Gaulle

The World According to de Gaulle, Volumes 1 & 2 – François Kersaudy

Between confidences, reflections, satires and prophecies, the words of General de Gaulle are compiled, organized, contextualized and commented on: this is the approach chosen by François Kersaudy, renowned expert on contemporary diplomatic and military history, for his book The World according to de Gaulle unfolded in two volumes, The General discovered again and The Universal Open Book.

An unmissable guided journey into the heart of Gaullist thought, its formation and its evolution throughout the General’s career and throughout history. The pen is brilliant and the picture of de Gaulle that emerges from it, original and surprising: often funny and sarcastic, sometimes crisp, but always brilliant.


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De Gaulle and Churchill – Francois Kersaudy

De Gaulle and Churchill or the fascinating story of a “cordial misunderstanding”. The meeting of the two “monsters” of the history of the 20th century, led to combine their visions of a world at war.

Based on almost twenty archival funds and many interviews, François Kersaudy gives us the secrets, the shards and the untold of this bubbling relationship that, from the French campaign of 1940, linked the British Prime minister and head of Free France. Through more than thirty reconstructed encounters, the book reflects the incredible charisma of these two men of extraordinary destiny. Two charismatic warlords whose exchanges are as chaotic as they are polite, despite their differing interests, know how to combine their talents as leaders of men.

An essential book to understand the ins and outs of World War II on the Western front.


DeGaulle. A certain idea of ​​France – Julian Jackson

Let’s go some distance by leaving the strict Franco-French prism with it DeGaulle. A certain idea of ​​France signed by British historian Julian Jackson.

A biographical reference for a new portrait of Charles de Gaulle, stripped of some of the myths that sometimes characterize legend at the expense of historical fact. A legend that the main interested party, through his mastery of the verb, will largely participate in the formation and which the many published biographies are, according to Julian Jackson, sometimes too impregnated. As an “offbeat observer”, he therefore dwells more than his predecessors on the General’s formative years and his writings of the interwar period, such as Discord with the Enemy (1924), The blade of the sword (1932) or even Towards the professional army (1934). A way of focusing less on the theoretician than on the analyst and leader de Gaulle, and thus better account for his high intellectual dimension.

Ultimately, a portrait full of finesse, complexity and nuance.

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De Gaulle, 1969, another revolution – Arnaud Teyssier

To finish this selection, DeGaulle, 1969 by Arnaud Teyssier, a reconsideration of Charles de Gaulle’s last “moments” in power before he abdicated in 1969, following his political defeat in the April 27 referendum.

The time had come for the General to retire from the political field to join Colombey and write his Memories of Hope. But not like a General who falls “shit” The 68-year-old Arnaud Teyssier, by contrast, paints a picture of a “revolutionary” de Gaulle who, before bowing before a modern society he feels too much for, tries to end his had begun: the construction and consolidation of a Fifth Republic whose weaknesses he still feared.

A very interesting reflection hypothesis, very generously documented and very “written”.


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