The Defeat of French manhood and the Vichy imagination

Joan Tumblety

in Remaking the Male Body

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199695577
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745072 | DOI:
The Defeat of French manhood and the Vichy imagination

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This chapter outlines how responses to the catastrophic military collapse of 1940 cast it as proof of French physical failure, and considers how the Vichy regime, which invested more resources in sport and physical education than even the Popular Front, sought masculine renewal as part of its anti-republican reordering of French society. It also traces the fortunes of the protagonists examined across the book, showing how the physician-culturists of the 1920s and 1930s often brought their expertise to roles in Vichy administration, if not policy-making. The chapter argues that the regime's sustained engagement with the desire to rebuild French men in the wake of defeat shows — although not nearly so much as previously in the eugenicist language of the ‘regeneration of the race’ — not only a further instance of the political uses of male athleticism, but the purchase of interwar notions of the merits of ‘rational’ physical exercise.

Keywords: Vichy regime; national renewal; masculinity; military defeat; regeneration; expertise

Chapter.  11732 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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