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

In This Review

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

By Geoffrey Wawro
Cambridge University Press, 2003
344 pp. $35.00
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Michael Howard's account of the Franco-Prussian War, published in 1961, was so definitive that it seemed to deter others from telling the same story. Wawro has at last taken up the challenge, drawing on a wide range of sources to offer a brisk, readable, and sharp account. The war marks a pivotal point in history, when a united Germany undermined the old European balance of power by taking on a French army whose reputation outstripped its capabilities. Wawro conveys the battles particularly well, along with the surprising ineptitude of the French army (exemplified by Marshal Achille Bazaine's conspicuous failure to seize any opportunity to turn a battle). The Franco-Prussian War is widely thought to have set in motion the events that led to World War I; Wawro stresses the boost to German militarism more than he does the French desire to retake the annexed Alsace-Lorraine.

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