The Expectation of Justice

France, 1944–1946

The Expectation of Justice

Book Pages: 368 Illustrations: 6 b&w photographs, 7 maps Published: January 2000

Author: Megan Koreman

European Studies > History of Europe, History > European History, Politics > Political Science

In The Expectation of Justice Megan Koreman traces the experiences of three small French towns during the troubled months of the Provisional Government following the Liberation in 1944. Her descriptions of the towns’ different wartime and postwar experiences contribute to a fresh depiction of mid-century France and illustrate the failure of the postwar government to adequately serve the interests of justice.
As the first social history of the “après -Libération” period from the perspective of ordinary people, Koreman’s study reveals how citizens of these towns expected legal, social, and honorary justice—such as punishment for collaborators, fair food distribution, and formal commemoration of patriots, both living and dead. Although the French expected the Resistance’s Provisional Government to act according to local understandings of justice, its policies often violated local sensibilities by instead pursuing national considerations. Koreman assesses both the citizens’ eventual disillusionment and the social costs of the “Resistencialist myth” propagated by the de Gaulle government in an effort to hold together the fragmented postwar nation. She also suggests that the local demands for justice created by World War II were stifled by the Cold War, since many people in France feared that open opposition to the government would lead to a Communist takeover. This pattern of nationally instituted denial and suppression made it difficult for citizens to deal effectively with memories of wartime suffering and collaborationist betrayal. Now, with the end of the Cold War, says Koreman, memories of postwar injustices are resurfacing, and there is renewed interest in witnessing just and deserved closure.
This social history of memory and reconstruction will engage those interested in history, war and peace issues, contemporary Europe, and the twentieth century.


“[A] model of local and comparative history. Clearly written, extensively researched, and deeply reflective, the book assesses the experience of three provincial towns in the wake of France’s liberation . . . . Part of this work’s fascination lies in the details that distinguish the experiences of these communities from one another.” — Robert Zaretsky, H-France, H-Net Reviews

“[A] well-researched contribution to the history of the post-Liberation period in France. . . . The Expectation of Justice is required reading for historians of twentieth-century France.” — Michael Scott Christofferson , History: Reviews of New Books

“[Koreman] offers interesting insights and makes use of the growing body of literature on French occupation.” — Choice

“[O]ne can only admire Koreman’s achievement. This work combines detailed research with an imaginative use of secondary literature, on subjects ranging from the construction of memory to early modern food riots. It is also engagingly written, providing a wealth of detail on life at the community level. Historians of modern France, and all those interested in the social upheaval caused by the Second World War, will benefit greatly from reading it.” — Sean Kennedy , Canadian Journal of History

“A splendid contribution to the literature on post-Liberation France.” — Foreign Affairs

“Megan Koreman’s absorbing and well-documented study examines the ‘politics of justice’ in three small market towns between 1944 and 1946. . . . The Expectation of Justice strongly underlines the variety of experiences of ordinary Frenchmen and women in these difficult years.” — Sudhir Hazareesingh , TLS

“Megan Koreman’s comparative, local research lends her work an originality and depth missing in national studies of the postwar purges. . . . Koreman’s book helps us understand the still-sensitive nature of the Vichy years in France, a reaction historian Henry Rousso labels ‘the Vichy Syndrome.’ Her impeccably researched and gracefully written book goes beyond national generalizations about France, breaks down simple categories like resistance and collaboration to present a finely shaded picture of life, restores the voices of everyday people, and details the impact of national policy on people’s lives. Koreman, by denying that war comes to a clear, simple end, encourages us to pay closer attention to this and all transitions to peace.” — Sarah Fishman , The Historian

Koreman effectively presents the growing tensions between the operations of the national purge courts and local conceptions of justice. She uses newspaper articles and editorials from the time to provide a vivid account of how the French in the post-war period dealt simultaneously with food shortages, vigilante violence against alleged collaborators, and the return of deportees, and decisions on how to memorialize the dead. . . . Koreman’s book reminds us how variable and deeply felt are local community demands for justice, and ultimately, how inadequate are courts in dispensing justice when millions share collective guilt.” — Philip Kronebusch , Law and Politics Book Review

“An original study of an important and understudied topic. The Expectation of Justice is the result of exemplary research and brings to life the hopes and frustrations of an incredibly significant, fascinating, and wrenching period of French history.” — John Merriman, author of A History of Modern Europe: From the Renaissance to the Present

“This engaging, lively, and thoughtful analysis of the post-Liberation period in France fills a glaring gap in the relevant historiography by focusing on that forgotten period between World War II and the Fourth Republic.” — Nancy L. Green, author of Ready-To-Wear and Ready-to-Work: A Century of Industry and Immigrants in Paris and New York


Availability: In stock
Price: $28.95

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Megan Koreman is an independent scholar living in Michigan.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2373-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2352-5
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