Wall, Irwin M. 1940-
Wall, Irwin M. 1940-
University of California, Riverside, professor of history, 1970—.
Western Society of French History (president, 1994-95).
French Communism in the Era of Stalin: The Quest for Unity and Integration, 1945-1962, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1983.
France, the United States, and the Algerian War, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2001.
Also contributor of numerous book chapters and articles on French history and politics.
Historian Irwin M. Wall's area of interest centers on modern France, especially the era of the 1950s and 60s that saw the breakup of the nation's colonial empire and its relationship with leftist politics. In The United States and the Making of Postwar France, 1945-1954, Wall argues that France's experience of being occupied by the Nazis during World War II—combined with the expenses involved in rebuilding its ravaged infrastructure—made the nation dependent on American aid. The French, however, came to resent American attempts to influence their foreign policy and, under the leadership of Prime Minister Pierre Mendès-France and President Charles de Gaulle, reasserted their national identity by defying American-led initiatives. "In 1954," explained Melvyn P. Leffler in the American Historical Review, Mendès-France "rejected the European Defense Community (EDC) and withdrew French troops from Indochina, thereby defying the wishes of the Eisenhower administration and setting patterns that would characterize the strained relationship between Charles de Gaulle and the United States after 1958." "Ultimately, the lost war in Indochina provoked a crisis in Franco-American relations as a deluge of American aid and advice failed to avert the victory of the exponents of national independence," John S. Hill stated in the Journal of American History. "Out of this crisis there emerged in France a politics characterized by a personalized style of leadership and a neutralist nationalism." In other words, France moved out of the American sphere of influence into a position as a non-aligned leader during the Cold War, being neither part of the American camp nor the Soviet camp.
Both The United States, Algeria, and the Fall of the Fourth Republic and France, the United States, and the Algerian War deal with the loss of France's most important colony, the North African state of Algeria. By the late 1950s France had occupied Algeria for over one hundred years. Following the end of World War II the United States pressed both Great Britain and France for the eventual elimination of their colonial empires—pressure that France in particular resisted and resented. But the cost of maintaining the empire proved too great. In Vietnam, for instance, a nationalist uprising led by the Communist leader Ho Chi Minh forced the French colonial army to surrender at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. When a revolt broke out in French Algeria the same year, the French government made a concerted effort not to lose its grip on the colony. The struggle for Algerian independence went on for the next eight years, causing international turmoil and hastening the collapse of the French government. The historical mainstream holds that the Algerian crisis was resolved when World War II hero Charles de Gaulle came to power and brought the contest to a close. "Wall's book," on the other hand, stated Don Holsinger in his International Journal of African Historical Studies review of France, the United States, and the Algerian War, "approaches the war as an ongoing international diplomatic crisis whose dynamics and outcome were shaped above all by relations between France and the United States." "Whilst the actual extent of American involvement in the collapse of the regime is difficult to quantify," Stephen Blackwell declared in a Middle Eastern Studies review of the same book, "Wall presents convincing evidence that Washington was prepared to take a chance on de Gaulle as a strong man who would restore coherence to French external policy and thus bolster the Western Cold War effort." "Wall's study not only forces the reader to rethink central issues of the French-Algerian war," Holsinger concluded, "it raises profound sociological, historical, and moral questions about justice, freedom, security, and violence that resonate powerfully in a post-September 11 world."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, October, 1984, Robert Wohl, review of French Communism in the Era of Stalin: The Quest for Unity and Integration, 1945-1962, pp. 1087-1088; June, 1992, Melvyn P. Leffler, review of The United States and the Making of Postwar France, 1945-1954, pp. 960-961.
Economic History Review, August, 1993, F.M.B. Lynch, review of The United States and the Making of Postwar France, 1945-1954, pp. 623-624.
English Historical Review, November, 1994, Sian Reynolds, review of The United States and the Making of Postwar France, 1945-1954, pp. 1345-1346; November, 2002, Stephen Tyre, review of France, the United States, and the Algerian War, p. 1297.
History: Review of New Books, spring, 2002, John E. Dreifort, review of France, the United States, and the Algerian War, p. 112.
International Affairs, July, 1992, Brian Holden Reid, review of The United States and the Making of Postwar France, 1945-1954, pp. 541-542.
International Journal of African Historical Studies, Volume 35, numbers 2-3, Don Holsinger, review of France, the United States, and the Algerian War, pp. 512-513.
Journal of American History, September, 1992, John S. Hill, review of The United States and the Making of Postwar France, 1945-1954, pp. 724-725.
Journal of Military History, April, 2002, Anthony Clayton, review of France, the United States, and the Algerian War, pp. 621-623.
Journal of Modern History, June, 2004, William I. Hitchcock, review of France, the United States, and the Algerian War, p. 428.
Middle East Journal, winter, 2002, Phillip Naylor, France, the United States, and the Algerian War, p. 151.
Middle Eastern Studies, April, 2002, Stephen Blackwell, review of France, the United States, and the Algerian War, p. 213.
Slavic Review, autumn, 1984, Alfred J. Rieber, review of French Communism in the Era of Stalin, p. 483.