Thirty-three months of war have brought forth a stream of books concerned with the problem of reconstructing a shattered Europe. Most of these works have been devoted to the questions of whole continents, and have therefore suffered from sketchiness once the author has passed beyond the bounds of his own special field. That Professor Guerard has confined his contribution to the one nation which he knows most intimately is evidence of a modesty only too rare among America's latter-day Nostradamuses.
Most interesting and significant of the three parts of the volume is the second, for it contains observations on French politics which deviate sharply from the accepted portrait. France, according to Professor Guerard, never was a democracy, but rather a dictatorship of the middle class. It has always been governed by a bureaucracy which since Napoleon has clung leek-like to the tenets of bourgeois liberalism. The author favors a cold-blooded recognition of the fact that Parliamentarianism is not a French idea, and that government by a score of parties without a strong executive is impossible. These observations may be sound political theory, but the reader is left in doubt as to the possibility of their acceptance by Frenchmen inured to the traditions of the Third Republic.
The other two divisions of the book are equally challenging. In the first part the author provides a competent and interesting survey of French cultural and political history vis-a-vis Germany. Only in the final section is there a consideration of France in her relations with the remainder of the continent. Professor Guerard's analysis here is clear and thorough, but the suggestion of a Pan-Europa based on regional divisions with cultural autonomy but political dependence upon the whole cannot be called thoroughly realistic. There are in Europe so many nationalistic egos that it will certainly be difficult to wipe out the national units at one fell swoop.
Scattered throughout the volume are short vignettes of men and institutions which are well worth reading even without regard for the general context. Professor Guerard has the advantages of a Gallic mind thoroughly at home in the English idiom, and his sparking deftness of phrase makes him delightful reading. However much one may disagree with his conclusions, the author has proved himself competent to handle his subject matter, and has done it in a most entertaining manner.