The best French Resistance books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about the French Resistance and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of An American Heroine in the French Resistance: The Diary and Memoir of Virginia d'Albert-Lake

Edited by historian Judy Barrett Litoff, who wrote a comprehensive introduction outlining Virginia d’Albert-Lake’s war, this memoir recounts the dramatic experience of a rare American woman resistance agent in occupied France. Working with the legendary Comet escape line, she and her French husband helped shelter and move 66 Allied airmen to safety. But in 1944, a German question answered in her American accent got her sent straight to the Gestapo and then to Ravensbrück concentration camp. Virginia d’Albert-Lake tells her amazing story of life on the edge from the pages of her diary.

An American Heroine in the French Resistance

By Virginia d'Albert-Lake,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An American Heroine in the French Resistance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This fascinating book tells the remarkable story of an ordinary American woman's heroism in the French Resistance. Virginia Roush fell in love with Philippe d'Albert-Lake during a visit to France in 1936; they married soon after. In 1943, they both joined the Resistance, where Virginia put her life in jeopardy as she sheltered downed airmen and later survived a Nazi prison camp. After the war, she stayed in France with Philippe, and was awarded the Legion d'Honneur and the Medal of Honor. She died in 1997.
Judy Barrett Litoff brings together two rare documents-Virginia's diary of wartime France until her…


Who am I?

I was fortunate enough to meet a dozen Rochambelles while I was working on a PhD in history, and leapt at the chance to interview them and write their story. I had moved to Paris after a decade of journalism that included some war reporting, and while the conflicts of Central America were a snippet compared to WWII, I had a sense of the environment and the personal testing war invoked, especially for their generation. I’ve been working recently on a book about the Nazi Occupation of France, and while many great resources are in French, the following English-language books offer insight, detail, and fine writing about that momentous time.


I wrote...

Women of Valor: The Rochambelles on the World War II Front

By Ellen Hampton,

Book cover of Women of Valor: The Rochambelles on the World War II Front

What is my book about?

Women in an armored division! General Leclerc had never heard of it. But if he wanted the brand-new Dodge ambulances, he would have to take the women drivers, too. Florence Conrad, who began organizing the Rochambeau Group in New York City in 1943, was adamant. Thus the women trained in North Africa, landed at Utah Beach, and joined the brutal campaign to liberate France from the Nazi occupier. Nicknamed the Rochambelles, the women soon earned the respect and admiration of their male comrades – even those who believed war was no place for a woman. They picked up wounded soldiers under fire, pulled men out of burning tanks, even talked their way out of German custody. The Rochambelles’ courage, audacity, and determination broke through barriers and set a template for women to serve.

Sisters in the Resistance

By Margaret Collins Weitz,

Book cover of Sisters in the Resistance: How Women Fought to Free France, 1940-1945

Margaret Collins Weitz interviewed more than 80 women (and some men) who worked in the French Resistance during the Nazi Occupation. From this foundation, she brings forth the detailed accounts of a variety of women, from the well-known Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, to rarely heard students, nurses, and even a nun. Their stories are told through their own voices, framed by the author in a well-researched context. Danger, tension, conflict, and loss echo through the pages, but at the core of it also is the courage the women found in themselves when their nation was in need.

Sisters in the Resistance

By Margaret Collins Weitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sisters in the Resistance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Critical acclaim for Sisters in the Resistance "Often moving ...always fascinating ...women in the French Resistance is a key subject. Margaret Weitz has gathered personal testimonies ...and set them in an intelligible context that helps us understand how all French people--men and women--experienced the Nazi occupation." --Robert Paxton, Mellon Professor of Social Sciences, Columbia University, and author of Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940-1944. "Compulsive reading ...a valuable book which vividly portrays the intricacies of resistance within France, written in an easy but serious style." --Times Literary Supplement (London). "An absolutely stunning and compelling chronicle of dauntless courage…


Who am I?

I was fortunate enough to meet a dozen Rochambelles while I was working on a PhD in history, and leapt at the chance to interview them and write their story. I had moved to Paris after a decade of journalism that included some war reporting, and while the conflicts of Central America were a snippet compared to WWII, I had a sense of the environment and the personal testing war invoked, especially for their generation. I’ve been working recently on a book about the Nazi Occupation of France, and while many great resources are in French, the following English-language books offer insight, detail, and fine writing about that momentous time.


I wrote...

Women of Valor: The Rochambelles on the World War II Front

By Ellen Hampton,

Book cover of Women of Valor: The Rochambelles on the World War II Front

What is my book about?

Women in an armored division! General Leclerc had never heard of it. But if he wanted the brand-new Dodge ambulances, he would have to take the women drivers, too. Florence Conrad, who began organizing the Rochambeau Group in New York City in 1943, was adamant. Thus the women trained in North Africa, landed at Utah Beach, and joined the brutal campaign to liberate France from the Nazi occupier. Nicknamed the Rochambelles, the women soon earned the respect and admiration of their male comrades – even those who believed war was no place for a woman. They picked up wounded soldiers under fire, pulled men out of burning tanks, even talked their way out of German custody. The Rochambelles’ courage, audacity, and determination broke through barriers and set a template for women to serve.

Army of Shadows

By Joseph Kessel, Rainer J. Hanshe (translator),

Book cover of Army of Shadows

Usually known in its film adaptation, Army of Shadows is certainly the most comprehensive novel about the French Resistance. Written in 1943 by one of the best novelists and journalists of the twentieth century, based on facts, it offers a kaleidoscopic view of the diverse participants of a movement sometimes considered as a monolithic entity. All of the veteran Resistance fighters I have had the chance to meet agreed that it was their favorite novel about the Resistance.   

Army of Shadows

By Joseph Kessel, Rainer J. Hanshe (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Army of Shadows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THIS IS THE TRUTH, THOUGH THE FORM IS FICTION…

The terrible and inspiring truth about the French underground, the way it’s men and women operate, fight, die, a story full of nobility, heroism, and brutal violence.

First published in its English translation in 1944, this is the fictionalized account of French writer Joseph Kessel’s own experiences as a member of the French Resistance in World War II.


Who am I?

My grandfather joined the French Resistance in his early twenties in 1942. He told me his story when I was a teenager, which has had a lasting effect on me. I have since taught college students about the French Resistance and published on the way it has been depicted in films, TV series, novels, and comics since 1942. My book Revisiting the French Resistance will appeal to those interested in the relationship between history and fiction, and/or who enjoy stories of ordinary, yet exemplary individuals who at some point of history have felt compelled to say “no” to a situation deemed unacceptable.  


I wrote...

Revisiting the French Resistance in Cinema, Literature, Bande Dessinée, and Television (1942–2012)

By Christophe Corbin,

Book cover of Revisiting the French Resistance in Cinema, Literature, Bande Dessinée, and Television (1942–2012)

What is my book about?

This book examines the relationships between popular culture and collective memory to offer a key to understanding France’s national identity and psyche. Themes discussed include the making of the myth of an honorable country united against a common enemy, comedies satirizing this mythology and fictional works debunking it, the invisibility and resurfacing of women in films and novels, as well as contemporary depictions of the Resistance on television. Case studies include sometimes forgotten or lesser-known works such as Aragon’s wartime poetry, early films such as Mr. Orchid or Casablanca-inspired Fortunat, iconic films and novels such as The Silence of the Sea or Lacombe Lucien, but also contemporary fictional works such as In Our Strange Gardens and A Self-Made Hero, and the popular TV series A French Village

Outwitting the Gestapo

By Lucie Aubrac, Konrad Bieber (translator), Betsy Wing (translator)

Book cover of Outwitting the Gestapo

The memoirs of freedom fighter Lucie Aubrac were written in a form of a diary kept during the nine months of her pregnancy during which, in addition to teaching history and raising her first child, the Resistance heroine managed to free her husband from the hands of the “Butcher of Lyons,” Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie, before flying to London to join the French Free Forces. A beautiful love story of a couple caught in the meshes of history and one of the very few personal accounts by and about a woman to shed light on a blind spot of history

Outwitting the Gestapo

By Lucie Aubrac, Konrad Bieber (translator), Betsy Wing (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Outwitting the Gestapo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lucie Aubrac (1912-2007), of Catholic and peasant background, was teaching history in a Lyon girls' school and newly married to Raymond, a Jewish engineer, when World War II broke out and divided France. The couple, living in the Vichy zone, soon joined the Resistance movement in opposition to the Nazis and their collaborators. Outwitting the Gestapo is Lucie's harrowing account of her participation in the Resistance: of the months when, though pregnant, she planned and took part in raids to free comrades-including her husband, under Nazi death sentence-from the prisons of Klaus Barbie, the infamous Butcher of Lyon. Her book…


Who am I?

My grandfather joined the French Resistance in his early twenties in 1942. He told me his story when I was a teenager, which has had a lasting effect on me. I have since taught college students about the French Resistance and published on the way it has been depicted in films, TV series, novels, and comics since 1942. My book Revisiting the French Resistance will appeal to those interested in the relationship between history and fiction, and/or who enjoy stories of ordinary, yet exemplary individuals who at some point of history have felt compelled to say “no” to a situation deemed unacceptable.  


I wrote...

Revisiting the French Resistance in Cinema, Literature, Bande Dessinée, and Television (1942–2012)

By Christophe Corbin,

Book cover of Revisiting the French Resistance in Cinema, Literature, Bande Dessinée, and Television (1942–2012)

What is my book about?

This book examines the relationships between popular culture and collective memory to offer a key to understanding France’s national identity and psyche. Themes discussed include the making of the myth of an honorable country united against a common enemy, comedies satirizing this mythology and fictional works debunking it, the invisibility and resurfacing of women in films and novels, as well as contemporary depictions of the Resistance on television. Case studies include sometimes forgotten or lesser-known works such as Aragon’s wartime poetry, early films such as Mr. Orchid or Casablanca-inspired Fortunat, iconic films and novels such as The Silence of the Sea or Lacombe Lucien, but also contemporary fictional works such as In Our Strange Gardens and A Self-Made Hero, and the popular TV series A French Village

A Train in Winter

By Caroline Moorehead,

Book cover of A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France

This fascinating book follows 230 women, some more in-depth than others, who were imprisoned outside Paris for crimes of resistance activities. I began reading it as research and became captivated by the stories, especially the devotion the women developed for one another. I felt a deep connection to each of the prisoners as I climbed into their shoes, cheering for them to survive while fearing they would not. (The Appendix lists the 49 who survived if you want to know in advance. I didn’t.) It’s difficult to grasp what they endured over an unimaginable period of time. Just the sheer depth of their hunger is something I’ve never come close to experiencing. Moorehead keeps the tone intimate and compassionate. Yes, their suffering could be hard to read, but at the same time, I found inspiration as if they spoke to me from the past of the power of mutual dependency-…

A Train in Winter

By Caroline Moorehead,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Train in Winter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A moving and extraordinary book about courage and survival, friendship and endurance - a portrait of ordinary women who faced the horror of the holocaust together.

On an icy morning in Paris in January 1943, a group of 230 French women resisters were rounded up from the Gestapo detention camps and sent on a train to Auschwitz - the only train, in the four years of German occupation, to take women of the resistance to a death camp. Of the group, only 49 survivors would return to France.

Here is the story of these women - told for the first…


Who am I?

Susan Tate Ankeny left a career in teaching to write the story of her father’s escape from Nazi-occupied France. In 2011, after being led on his path through France by the same Resistance fighters who guided him in 1944, she felt inspired to tell the story of these brave French patriots, especially the 17-year-old- girl who risked her own life to save her father’s. Susan is a member of the 8th Air Force Historical Society, the Air Force Escape and Evasion Society, and the Association des Sauveteurs d’Aviateurs Alliés. 


I wrote...

The Girl and the Bombardier: A True Story of Resistance and Rescue in Nazi-Occupied France

By Susan Tate Ankeny,

Book cover of The Girl and the Bombardier: A True Story of Resistance and Rescue in Nazi-Occupied France

What is my book about?

It was no secret that the chances of surviving a full twenty-five mission tour as a B-17 bombardier were minimal, and on February 8, 1944, Dean Tate’s luck ran out when his Flying Fortress was shot down in flames over northern France. But that wasn’t the end―Tate was one of four men from his aircraft who not only survived but were saved by the French resistance from capture. Tate spent thirty-seven days being sheltered in enemy-occupied France, passed from person to person until he was finally brought back to England by the escape line later known as Shelburn. What makes this book special is that Tate not only kept in touch with his helpers long after the war ended, but also wrote a personal and highly detailed account of his experiences, and it is that account, together with several years of research, that Tate’s daughter has used to such great effect in producing this highly readable true story. ―Keith Janes, author of They Came from Burgundy and Express Delivery

Book cover of The Historian’s Craft

Apology of History, or the Historian’s Craft is the exact translation of the French title of this book, written in 1941-42 by Marc Bloch, a great historian who was executed in 1944 as a member of the French Resistance. In his testament, Marc Block wished two words to be incised on his tombstone: dilexit veritatem (‘he loved the truth). The book is about the technique of understanding the present by means of studying the past. The fact that Apology of History, or the Historian’s Craft was written in the midst of the war explains the original title. The ultimate defense of history is that proper research allows comprehension of complex human situations, such as wars, therefore every detail of the historian’s craft is of profound importance.

The Historian’s Craft

By Marc Bloch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Historian’s Craft as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work, by the co-founder of the "Annales School" deals with the uses and methods of history. It is useful for students of history, teachers of historiography and all those interested in the writings of the Annales school.


Who am I?

Doing historical research and thinking about history is an essential part of my personality. During my life, many things changed: the language I speak most of the time, the country where I live, people closest to me, my views, tastes, and habits. Ancient history and its research remain my vocation, job, and place of safety from early youth till nowadays. I am grateful to all people, long dead and living, whose insights on the study of the human past have taught me not only how to do research, but first and foremost how to live.


I wrote...

Book cover of Divine Mania: Alteration of Consciousness in Ancient Greece

What is my book about?

Ancient Greek mania presents a fascinating array of diverse conditions. Any deviation from ordinary state of consciousness, voluntary or involuntary, intense or mild, could be labelled mania. Diverse altered states of consciousness were commonly known: initiates underwent alteration of consciousness during mystery rites; sacred officials and inquirers experienced them in oracular centres; possession by various deities was recognized; finally, some sages and philosophers practiced manipulation of consciousness.

Greece was unique in its attitude to these phenomena. From the perspective of individual and public freedom, the importance of mania in the Greek society reflects its openness and acceptance of the human proclivity to experience alterations of consciousness, which were interpreted as god-sent. These mental states were treated with cautious respect; they could be harnessed to a certain extent, but never suppressed or pushed to the cultural and social periphery, in contrast to the majority of other complex societies, ancient and modern.

The Black Terrorist

By Tierno Monénembo, C. Dickson (translator),

Book cover of The Black Terrorist

The Black Terrorist recounts the singular trajectory of Addi Bâ from French Guinea who arrived in France in 1938, enlisted in 1939, was taken prisoner almost immediately, escaped in 1940 and joined the Resistance in the Vosges mountains. One of the very few books or films to focus on the role played by a colonized person fighting for the colonizing power that had subjugated his people. A journey between the small-mindedness and cowardice of some and the humanity and courage of others. 

The Black Terrorist

By Tierno Monénembo, C. Dickson (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Black Terrorist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Black Terrorist is a fictional account built around the true, extraordinary, but little-known story of Addi Bâ. Addi Bâ was born in Guinea about 1916, brought to France in the late 1930s, and became a riflemen in the Twelfth Regiment de Tirailleurs Sénégalais (African soldiers from French colonies) fighting for France during World War II. Captured after the Battle of the Meuse, Addi escapes from German forces, wanders in the forests, before finding refuge in a village in the Vosges, where he encounters the French Resistance and becomes a leader of a Resistance network. However, Addi is captured, tortured,…


Who am I?

My grandfather joined the French Resistance in his early twenties in 1942. He told me his story when I was a teenager, which has had a lasting effect on me. I have since taught college students about the French Resistance and published on the way it has been depicted in films, TV series, novels, and comics since 1942. My book Revisiting the French Resistance will appeal to those interested in the relationship between history and fiction, and/or who enjoy stories of ordinary, yet exemplary individuals who at some point of history have felt compelled to say “no” to a situation deemed unacceptable.  


I wrote...

Revisiting the French Resistance in Cinema, Literature, Bande Dessinée, and Television (1942–2012)

By Christophe Corbin,

Book cover of Revisiting the French Resistance in Cinema, Literature, Bande Dessinée, and Television (1942–2012)

What is my book about?

This book examines the relationships between popular culture and collective memory to offer a key to understanding France’s national identity and psyche. Themes discussed include the making of the myth of an honorable country united against a common enemy, comedies satirizing this mythology and fictional works debunking it, the invisibility and resurfacing of women in films and novels, as well as contemporary depictions of the Resistance on television. Case studies include sometimes forgotten or lesser-known works such as Aragon’s wartime poetry, early films such as Mr. Orchid or Casablanca-inspired Fortunat, iconic films and novels such as The Silence of the Sea or Lacombe Lucien, but also contemporary fictional works such as In Our Strange Gardens and A Self-Made Hero, and the popular TV series A French Village

In Our Strange Gardens

By Michel Quint,

Book cover of In Our Strange Gardens

A clown shows up at the trial of Maurice Papon for crimes against humanity. What is he doing there? Written half a century after WWII, In Our Strange Gardens invites its readers to go beyond a black-and-white tinted version of the German Occupation of France. Heroes are not heroic, and the enemy is not always a villain. The story of a man who was embarrassed by his clowning father as kid before learning about his past during the war, In Our Strange Gardens is also a lesson of the power of derision in the face of tragedy. 

In Our Strange Gardens

By Michel Quint,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Our Strange Gardens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Our Strange Gardens was named a BookSense 76 Recommended Pick for January 2002!

Michel has a story to tell. It's about his father, an exquisitely common man whose very ordinariness is a source of grave embarrassment for the boy. It's also the story told to him by his uncle, who shared a family secret with the child in the flickering black and white images of a Sunday matinee.

Years before, in the bitter years of World War II, during the Nazi occupation of France, two brothers found themselves at the mercy of a German guard following an explosive act…


Who am I?

My grandfather joined the French Resistance in his early twenties in 1942. He told me his story when I was a teenager, which has had a lasting effect on me. I have since taught college students about the French Resistance and published on the way it has been depicted in films, TV series, novels, and comics since 1942. My book Revisiting the French Resistance will appeal to those interested in the relationship between history and fiction, and/or who enjoy stories of ordinary, yet exemplary individuals who at some point of history have felt compelled to say “no” to a situation deemed unacceptable.  


I wrote...

Revisiting the French Resistance in Cinema, Literature, Bande Dessinée, and Television (1942–2012)

By Christophe Corbin,

Book cover of Revisiting the French Resistance in Cinema, Literature, Bande Dessinée, and Television (1942–2012)

What is my book about?

This book examines the relationships between popular culture and collective memory to offer a key to understanding France’s national identity and psyche. Themes discussed include the making of the myth of an honorable country united against a common enemy, comedies satirizing this mythology and fictional works debunking it, the invisibility and resurfacing of women in films and novels, as well as contemporary depictions of the Resistance on television. Case studies include sometimes forgotten or lesser-known works such as Aragon’s wartime poetry, early films such as Mr. Orchid or Casablanca-inspired Fortunat, iconic films and novels such as The Silence of the Sea or Lacombe Lucien, but also contemporary fictional works such as In Our Strange Gardens and A Self-Made Hero, and the popular TV series A French Village

Silence of the Sea / Le Silence de la Mer

By James W. Brown (editor), Lawrence D. Stokes (editor), Cyril Connelly (translator)

Book cover of Silence of the Sea / Le Silence de la Mer

An iconic Resistance novel today, The Silence of the Sea was written at a time when the French Resistance was yet to be invented, and was published clandestinely in 1942. The first work of fiction ever written about the Resistance, and one of the most beautiful, without a doubt. The story of a forbidden love between a German officer and a French woman who was forced to house him, Vercors’ story was meant to entice his fellow citizens to refuse a situation deemed unacceptable. There is no sabotage, explosions, or as traditionally understood acts of heroism, only an invitation to save whatever could be saved. A story of honor and dignity, universal and timeless. 

Silence of the Sea / Le Silence de la Mer

By James W. Brown (editor), Lawrence D. Stokes (editor), Cyril Connelly (translator)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Silence of the Sea / Le Silence de la Mer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This first bilingual edition of France's most enduring wartime novel introduces Vercors's famous tale to a generation without personal experience of World War II who may not be able to read it in its original language. Now available in paperback, readers are assisted with a historical and literary introduction, explanatory notes, a glossary of French terms and a select bibliography.


Who am I?

My grandfather joined the French Resistance in his early twenties in 1942. He told me his story when I was a teenager, which has had a lasting effect on me. I have since taught college students about the French Resistance and published on the way it has been depicted in films, TV series, novels, and comics since 1942. My book Revisiting the French Resistance will appeal to those interested in the relationship between history and fiction, and/or who enjoy stories of ordinary, yet exemplary individuals who at some point of history have felt compelled to say “no” to a situation deemed unacceptable.  


I wrote...

Revisiting the French Resistance in Cinema, Literature, Bande Dessinée, and Television (1942–2012)

By Christophe Corbin,

Book cover of Revisiting the French Resistance in Cinema, Literature, Bande Dessinée, and Television (1942–2012)

What is my book about?

This book examines the relationships between popular culture and collective memory to offer a key to understanding France’s national identity and psyche. Themes discussed include the making of the myth of an honorable country united against a common enemy, comedies satirizing this mythology and fictional works debunking it, the invisibility and resurfacing of women in films and novels, as well as contemporary depictions of the Resistance on television. Case studies include sometimes forgotten or lesser-known works such as Aragon’s wartime poetry, early films such as Mr. Orchid or Casablanca-inspired Fortunat, iconic films and novels such as The Silence of the Sea or Lacombe Lucien, but also contemporary fictional works such as In Our Strange Gardens and A Self-Made Hero, and the popular TV series A French Village

Propaganda

By Jacques Ellul,

Book cover of Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes

This is another classic work in the subfield of propaganda studies, and it’s pretty dense. That said, its arguments on how technology and propaganda come together to enable mediated control of our very thought are powerful. Ellul’s point that propaganda is a sociological phenomenon—something that surrounds us in everything we do, everything we watch, everything we listen to—have also aided me in understanding why experimental or lab-based attempts to understand the specific effects of disinformation and propaganda often come up short. It’s difficult to study these things in a vacuum because they are so contextual, so tied to who is spreading the message, how they are spreading it, what their intentions are, and who they are targeting etc.  

Propaganda

By Jacques Ellul,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Propaganda as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This seminal study and critique of propaganda from one of the greatest French philosophers of the 20th century is as relevant today as when it was first published in 1962. Taking not only a psychological approach, but a sociological approach as well, Ellul’s book outlines the taxonomy for propaganda, and ultimately, it’s destructive nature towards democracy. Drawing from his own experiences fighting for the French resistance against the Vichy regime, Ellul offers a unique insight into the propaganda machine.


Who am I?

I’ve always been intrigued by politics and the tools and tactics people use in attempts to gain and maintain power. Since 2010, I’ve been researching and writing about propaganda and digital media. With collaborators at the University of Washington, the University of Oxford, and—currently—the University of Texas at Austin, I’ve done groundbreaking work on computational propaganda: the use of algorithms and automation in attempts to control public opinion. I’ve also worked with numerous think tanks, news organizations, policymakers, and private firms in efforts to make sense of our current informational challenges. In the summer of 2022 I testified before the U.S. congress on election-oriented disinformation challenges faced by communities of color.   


I wrote...

Manufacturing Consensus: Understanding Propaganda in the Era of Automation and Anonymity

By Samuel Woolley,

Book cover of Manufacturing Consensus: Understanding Propaganda in the Era of Automation and Anonymity

What is my book about?

Until recently, propaganda was a top-down, elite-only system of communication control used largely by state actors. I argue that social media has democratized today’s propaganda, allowing nearly anyone to launch a fairly sophisticated, computationally enhanced influence campaign. I show how social media, with its anonymity and capacity for automation, allows a wide variety of groups to build the illusion of popularity through computational tools and human-driven efforts. They use these technologies and strategies to create a bandwagon effect by bringing the content into parallel discussions with other legitimate users, or to mold discontent for political purposes.

I present an extensive view of the evolution of computational propaganda, offer a glimpse into the future, and suggest pragmatic responses for policymakers, academics, technologists, and others. 

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