General de Gaulle is supposed once to have said, ‘Resistance was a bluff, but it came off.' Certainly, during and shortly after the Second World War, a widespread popular belief grew up, both in France and outside it, that there were teams of heroic underground workers beavering away to bring down the Nazi colossus that dominated France from the summer of 1940 to the summer of 1944. Now and again there were spectacular bangs to give substance to the story, and dreadful countermeasures were taken by the occupiers. In this later and more disillusioned age the belief has got weaker; academic historians have been chipping away at it for decades. There have been spells when resisters have been shrugged off as a tiresome minority of troublemakers, of no strategic or historical importance.
Matthew Cobb's lively and interesting book goes through the story again, in fluent English from a French perspective (he has lived for several years in Paris, and commands the French sources easily). He shows how very few resisters there were in the earliest stages, when the bulk of