10 July 1940: the Vichy regime is established in France

A nominally neutral puppet government was set up in the southern French town of Vichy on this day 1940, to administer the part of France not under Nazi occupation.


Ptain makes a short-lived deal with Hitler

After invading Poland in September 1939, Nazi forces turned their attention westwards. However, the German high command vetoed Hitler's plans for an immediate attack on France, pointing out that the army and airforce weren't big enough. Instead, they focused their efforts on further armament.

Meanwhile, British and French forces did not directly engage the Germans, apart from a brief invasion of the Saar for a few weeks in 1939. Instead, the French placed their hopes on a series of fortifications called the Maginot Line, and were content to let the Germans make the first move.

On 10 May 1940 Germany launched a series of simultaneous attacks on Belgium, Holland and France. By focusing their forces on small areas, and by outmanoeuvring the French, they were able to achieve huge success within a matter of weeks. Not only did they invade the Low Countries and force the British to evacuate, they also forced the Frenchto agree an armistice. This allowed Germany to occupy northern France. The rest of France was administered by a new government set up on 10 July and headed by field marshal and World War I war hero Henri Philippe Ptain.

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While this new government, which was run from the town of Vichy, would be technically neutral, it would pay large sums of money to Germany to "cover the costs of occupation". It also collaborated with Nazi efforts to round up Jews and send them to concentration camps. However, this wasn't enough to prevent Germany invading Vichy France in November 1942.

Also on this day

10 July 1946: Hungary suffers the world's worst hyperinflation

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Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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