Douglas Johnson

Douglas Johnson, who died in 2005, was a professor of French history at UCL and the author of books on Guizot and France and the Dreyfus Affair. He did much to further Franco-British relations and was an officier of the Légion d’honneur.

Too Much Gide: French writers (1940-53)

Douglas Johnson, 15 November 2001

The historians who have argued that the continuities of French history count for more than its ruptures and revolutions have tended to avoid examining the disastrous year of 1940, when the Third Republic came to a bad end and the German Occupation began. These four books suggest that even this cataclysm can be fitted into the pattern of continuity.

In her long and detailed examination of the...

From 1830, when it was conquered, until 1962, when the Evian Agreements made it into an independent state, Algeria was said to be French. Since 1962, because of French investment there, and government loans, as well as the presence on French soil of large numbers of Algerians, France and Algeria have continued to form a strange but inseparable duality. Lionel Jospin, sending his good wishes to Abdelaziz Bouteflika, after his election to the Algerian Presidency on 15 April, spoke of the intimate knowledge that each country had of the other, and said that relations with Algeria were fundamental for France.


Prussian Blues

17 October 1996

David Lodge tells us (Letters, 2 January) that the Paternoster lift in the fictional University of Rummidge, which so fascinated Morris Zapp, is inspired by the Paternoster in the Muirhead Tower of Birmingham University. I think I know how this ‘wonderfully suggestive’ machine came to be installed.It was in 1964, or possibly a little later. The late Sir Ellis Waterhouse was dean of the Faculty...

The Paris Strangler

17 December 1992

Further to the discussion as to why Althusser killed his wife (Letters, 11 February) there are two additional theories now receiving attention. One is that he could not bear to think that she was actively preparing to leave him. While his mentally depressive condition was important, his act nevertheless becomes a more ordinary crime of jealousy and passion. The other arises from the fact that they...

Counting their rosaries

Douglas Johnson, 14 May 1992

Just after 8 o’clock on the morning of Wednesday, 24 May 1989, a special unit of gendarmes entered the priory of Saint François at Nice in search of a certain Paul Touvier, who was living there under the name of Paul Lacroix. An arrest was made and within half an hour Touvier was on his way to Fresnes prison in Paris. He was eventually installed in its hospital. The gendarmes had been searching monasteries in Northern and Central France on the two preceding days and, worried lest their man should get away, had travelled through the night. They were right to be worried: the object of their search, then a man of 74, had been on the run for some forty-five years. The facts were simple enough. Touvier came from a very Catholic, right-wing family in Chambéry in Savoy. He had been discharged from the Army and, on its formation by the Vichy Government in 1943, joined the Milice – a paramilitary force charged with maintaining order, putting down the Resistance and persecuting the Jews. It took over these duties from the regular French Police, whose resolve was supposedly flagging, and from the too easily outwitted Germans. Touvier rapidly reached a position of some administrative authority in the organisation and was allegedly prominent in a number of well-known cases involving the murder and deportation of Jews and Resistance fighters in the Lyons region. When the Liberation came, his name was included on the list of those who were to be brought to justice, but he always got away – even when he was arrested in Paris he succeeded, mysteriously, in walking out of the police headquarters in the Rue des Saussaies.


Paul Driver, 9 October 1986

From the general reader’s point of view, this tome – a scrupulous, detailed inventory of Beethoven’s pocket and desk sketchbooks, locating every extant leaf – is about as...

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