An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding Rural Resistance in Nazi-Occupied France

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: School of Modern Languages


Research Proposal Summary October 2020 (may be updated on beginning PhD in October 2021)
This project aims to better understand the drivers behind wartime resistance at the level of the individual. It aspires to investigate the puzzle of why some people in a given circumstance decide to resist while others do not. More specifically, it analyses the choices and behaviours of the agricultural working class across a largely rural region of France during the Occupation and builds a sociological profile of a rural contributor to the Resistance. In June 1940 a defeated France, deprived of 1.6 million prisoners of war, was led by Marshal Philippe Pétain who promised continuity and a return to greatness. However rural populations were unsettled by the arrival of refugees and programmes requisitioning agricultural produce and forced labour for the Reich. Underground armed resistance groups or maquis emerged who relied heavily on the local peasant communities for food, shelter, and equipment, but the level to which support was forthcoming varied from locality to locality.

This project interrogates the variety of responses these populations made to these changed contexts of their daily lives during the Occupation by focusing on two case studies, the Limousin and Dordogne. Both areas were largely rural, close to the demarcation line between the occupied zone and the unoccupied zone and under the administration of the Vichy regime until November 1942 when the Germans took full occupation of France. The overarching research question is 'what prompted the decision of some members of certain rural communities to become involved in partisan action against the Vichy government and the Occupier?' In order to answer this, this study focuses on several sub questions. How did gender and ethnicity intersect with decisions? How central were socio-economic factors to decision-making? To what extent was the location of these areas influential? What role did external factors such as the course of the war and Vichy policies play as the nature of collaboration changed and the region became occupied?


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2430046 Studentship ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Robert Malcolm Pike