This article seeks to explore the complex nature of Vichy France's dealings with Fascist Italy between June 1940 and March 1942. At the heart of the inquiry is a seemingly remarkable volte-face by the two governments. The Italian declaration of war in June 1940 was viewed by many in France as an act of betrayal. By December 1941, however, Vichy and Fascist Italy were engaged in secret military collaboration. The first section focuses upon the period after the outbreak of war, seeking to establish the precise character and parameters of the relationship. The second section examines the reasons for the transformation, analysing Vichy's negotiations with Italy and Germany between May 1941 and March 1942. It suggests that the shift in Vichy's approach was in large part motivated by a belief that the weakness of Italy would compel it to make concessions on a scale that the Nazi government would never even consider. Historians of Vichy have often downplayed the significance of Fascist Italy yet, like Nazi Germany, Italy posed a substantial threat to the integrity and sovereignty of France and its colonial empire. Vichy's policy of collaboration was therefore conceived in trilateral rather than bilateral terms.
- Second World War