The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871

The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871

by Geoffrey Wawro


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The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 violently changed the course of European History. Alarmed by Bismarck's territorial ambitions and the Prussian army's crushing defeats of Denmark in 1864 and Austria in 1866, French Emperor Napoleon III vowed to bring Prussia to heel. Digging into many European and American archives for the first time, Geoffrey Wawro's Franco-Prussian War describes the war that followed in thrilling detail. While the armies mobilized in July 1870, the conflict appeared "too close to call." Prussia and its German allies had twice as many troops as the French. But Marshal Achille Bazaine's grognards ("old grumblers") were the stuff of legend, the most resourceful, battle-hardened, sharp-shooting troops in Europe, and they carried the best rifle in the world. From the political intrigues that began and ended the war to the bloody battles at Gravelotte and Sedan and the last murderous fights on the Loire and in Paris, this is the definitive history of the Franco-Prussian War. Dr. Geoffrey Wawro is Professor of Strategic Studies at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Wawro has published two books: The Austro-Prussian War (Cambridge, 1996) and Warfare and Society in Europe, 1792-1914 (Routledge, 2000). He has published articles in The Journal of Military History, War in History, The International History Review, The Naval War College Review, American Scholar, and the European History Quarterly, and op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, New York Post, Miami Herald, Hartford Courant, and Providence Journal. Wawro has won several academic prizes including the Austrian Cultural Institute Prize and the Society for Military History Moncado Prize for Excellence in the Writing of Military History. He has lectured widely on military innovation and international security in Europe, the U.S., and Canada and is host of the History Channel program Hardcover History--a weekly book show with leading historians, pundits, critics, statesmen and journalists.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780521584364
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 08/25/2003
Pages: 344
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.13(h) x 1.14(d)

About the Author

Geoffrey Wawro is Professor of Strategic Studies at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. His previously published books include The Austro-Prussian War (Cambridge, 1996) and Warfare and Society in Europe, 1792-1914 (2000). He is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, including the Austrian Cultural Institute Prize and the Society for Military History Moncado Prize for Excellence in the Writing of Military History. In 2002, he shared a New Orleans Press Club Award for the live NBC/History Channel coverage of the parade and opening of the D-Day Museum Pacific Wing. He is also the host and anchor of the History Channel's Hardcover History, a weekly interview show with leading historians, statesmen, and journalists.

Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Causes of the Franco-Prussian War; 2. The armies in 1870; 3. Mobilization for war; 4. Wissembourg and Spicheren; 5. Froeschwiller; 6. Mars-la-Tour; 7. Gravelotte; 8. The road to Sedan; 9. Sedan; 10. France on the brink; 11. France falls; 12. The peace.

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Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France In 1870-1871 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book for anyone who wants to know about the Franco-Prussian War. It is readable and covers the war very well. The biggest difference between this one and Michael Howard's is that Wawro spends less time on the campaigns after the fall of Sedan. Wawro places greater emphasis on the failure and successes of the various staffs to mobilize and conduct the campaign. The book is good for both the general public and academicia. Does it supplant Howard's? Having read both I would have to say no, though it does stand equal to Howard's.
glauver More than 1 year ago
The Franco-Prussian War is a somewhat neglected conflict but, as Wawro points out in his somber, well written, absorbing account, it was very important. The history of Europe was affected by the result for the next 75 years. Wawro explains the causes of the war and outlines the main battles and campaigns. He is at his best telling the stories of war and its horrors through the eyes of generals, NCOs, and enlisted men. He also gives a well reasoned summary of what the war did to the psyche of both France and Germany and his final thoughts on how military strategists overlooked the tactical lessons of the fighting are sobering.
wildbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a well written military history of the most significant war in late 19th century Europe. The war led to the unification of Germany in a ceremony in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. The balance of power established in 1815 was irrevocably changed by Prussia's creation of a German Empire.In 1870 the Prussians were enjoying the fruits of their victory over Austria in 1866. Napoleon III had been in power since 1848 and he no longer inspired enthusiasm in the hearts of the French people. Count Otto von Bismarck was at the height of his powers. A meeting between the Kaiser and the French ambassador was described in a document known as the Ems Dispatch. Bismarck's editing of the document and a poor translation made the content very offensive offensive to the French. Napoleon III over reacted and ordered mobilization. Napoleon's actions helped to isolate France and deprive her of allies in the war.After setting forth the causes of the war the author does an informative sketch of the two armies at the beginning of the war. The French army was an all volunteer army professional army of 400,000 men. The Prussians had an army of almost one million men based upon conscription and the use of reserves on the front line. The French rifle was superior in all respects but this was balanced out by the superiority of the Prussian artillery. The Prussian artillery was breech loading while the French was muzzle loading. When the fighting started the Prussian artillery ruled the battlefield foreshadowing the tactics of World War I.The critical difference between the two armies was their leadership. The Prussian General Staff had great planning capabilities and had developed superior tactics. The French relied on the Napoleonic system of Marshals, great generals who controlled whole armies. In 1870 their generals fought defensively and were enveloped by the Prussians.The author's use of primary sources provides insight into two major factors that led to France's complete defeat. The rank and file of the French Army had no desire to fight. The French soldier had little confidence in their generals and was not motivated to make sacrifices for victory. The Prussians and soldiers from other German states were young and confident. They had been trained to follow orders and to think on the battlefield.The morale of the French generals was no better than the rank and file. They were defeatist and steeped in defensive tactics. The Prussians were supremely confident after their victory over Austria in 1866.The great battle of Sedan where the French army was defeated and Napoleon III captured effectively ended the war. The great victories of the Prussian armies fueled German militarism which contributed to World War I. These victories were as much the product of the incompetence of French leadership as the efficiency of the Prussian armies.I was interested to learn that Phil Sheridan was an observer of the war for the United States. The author's quotes from Sheridan and the British observer provide some interesting insights into the conduct of the war.The author picked out a very interesting quotation from a German officer's diary, " every battle is a skein of personal crises only loosely joined by a plan of operations." He is reminding the reader that there is a temptation in looking back on something as helter skelter as a military battle in 1870 to see patterns and order that was not there in the event.I had started this book about five years ago and couldn't get through it. It seems that all of my reading about the American Civil War has changed my attitudes about military history. It is a good book but not excellent and I would limit my recommendation of the book to those interested in military history.
Shrike58 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you're looking for one book to read about this conflict, this is certainly the one you want to read. Besides deploying all the newest thinking about the period, Wawro spends rather more time than I recall Michael Howard doing on the sheer misery of the tail-end of the conflict. This is while finishing with a consideration of the grim irony of this conflict, as to how the often derided French Third Republic became something of a phoenix while the German Second Reich seems to have been congenitally deformed; not the usual conclusion that is drawn about these events.About the only thing I have to criticize about this book is that it wouldn't have been that big a deal to include some formal order of battle information.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago