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

Geoffrey Wawro
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Feb 2005
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871 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 The 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 overwhelmingly outnumbered 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. 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 a stunning, authoritative history of the Franco-Prussian War.

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The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871 + The Franco-Prussian War: The German Invasion of France 1870-1871 + The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-71
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Product details

  • Paperback: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; New Ed edition (21 Feb 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052161743X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521617437
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 141,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'… a clear reminder that military history still needs lively and well researched accounts of wars and campaigns … what Wawro has done is to provide a history of the war which exploits to the full the available archive material. With consummate skill he has woven together diplomatic developments before and during the war, the decisions and motives of the key political and military figures on both sides, and military operations with detailed accounts of the fighting in the different battles … Part of the value of this book is that the movements of hundreds of thousands of troops are explained clearly, while the battles are brought to life through the diary and memoir material the author exploits … In addition to its highly readable style, another merit of The Franco-Prussian War is that its author has managed to pack so much material into the 314 pages of text without ever slackening the pace of his narrative … Wawro has written not only an extremely good book, but one which will quickly take its place as the standard single-volume account … university teachers will probably prefer to recommend Wawro's book to their undergraduates. Geoffrey Wawro is to be congratulated on his Franco-Prussian War. It deserves to be in the library of everyone interested in German, French, and European military history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.' German Historical Institute London

'His skills as a battle historian are patent. He has a grasp both of detail and outline. His prose is crisp and clear. He constantly enlivens the technical analysis with the worm's-eye perspectives of the soldiers - a great attraction of the book.' Time Literary Supplement

'Wawro's account of the conflict is brief, to the point and extremely well written … While not neglecting the general picture, Wawro obviously enjoys presenting details of battlefield events, and this is also where his account really adds a new twist that was largely missing from earlier histories of the war … Wawro's history of The Franco-Prussian War has all the ingredients to make it the relevant account of this conflict for the English-speaking world for some decades …'. War in History

Book Description

The Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 violently changed the course of European History. 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, from political intrigues to the bloody battles at Gravelotte and Sedan.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent successor to Michael Howard 16 Oct 2003
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Wawro is the author of a very good book on the 1866 campaigns. This book is if anything better and it receives the imprint of Sir Michael Howard who has written the best detailed history. Wawro's book is both military and diplomatic but it is set one level of detail up from Sir Michael's book and includes rather more epigrammic or anedoctal material. Although the book is not as long as Michael Howard's (which all should get as well) it provides a very good narrative even though its strength is its analysis.

The War was full of issues that returned to haunt Europe and Wawro is very good at pointing out how close (for example) France came to not losing Alsace-Lorraine. How different history might have been.

Wawro's particular strength is to remember that even if the French are in chaos things may not be good on the German side. And so it transpires. Again and again as we marvel at the French mishandling he notes how it could have gone right for them. The ferocious power of the Chassepot and the might of the German gunlines are all sketched out well. Wawro's level of research reminds me of J.R.Hale's books on the Renaissance/Reformation. I can give no higher compliment.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing 1 Aug 2010
By Enquirer VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very well delivered narrative history. I can only agree with other reviewers. To say that it is 'well-written is perhaps an overstatement though. There is a tendency towards odd repetition. One war 'sputtered' on page 10 and another did the same on page 11, for instance. Occassionally whole sentences seem to mean the exacy opposite of their context. I still cannot decide whether he wrote them like that or whether there are typographical errors. Both are signs of weak editing. Whenever Wawro wishes to stress a point he takes an important individual and tells us how amazed, surprised, or stunned they were by the event he wishes to emphasise. You will find that the Prussian King, Gambetta, Bismark and several others are all prey to this tendency. (In fact I now dare you to read the book without this method becoming irritatingly noticeable.)

Wawro still seems to have problems with military terminology that were visible in his 1866 book. A particularly glaring one is to say that Prussian lancers carried 'pikes'! He shows an acute understanding of combat at a Corps or Army level - world class in fact. Divisions seem beneath his notice. Battalion and company action gets substantially better coverage than in the previous book. The individual eye witness reports are skilfully woven in. Several times I did note though, that the source of the anecdote was Michael Howard!

There are a number of quite useful battle maps (at the top level). The illustrations are interesting and not just the 'usual'. The pacing and exegesis are superb.

Finally, I just have to note a pattern of inconsistency. Several other 'four star' reviewers have picked this one up too.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant introduction to the period 9 Sep 2004
I read military history books all the time, and I have to say this is one of the best I have ever come across. Lucid prose describes the lead-up to the war and the actual campaign in an detailed but accessible fashion. The account is very balanced between French and Prussian perspectives, between tactical and strategic narrative, between the military and the political spheres. I have rarely read a more polished account of a military campaign.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent !! 22 Mar 2006
This is truly a very good account of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 – 71.
Wawro takes a very impartial view of both sides.
De opening battles of the war and its pivotal battles at Sedan, Gravelottes and Metz are described in fascinating detail. De many maps are excellent and very helpful.
Completely new to me was Wawro’s conclusion that it wasn’t the Prussians who were that good but much more the French commanders making capital mistakes. The misinterpretation of the Prussian victory by military experts all around lead to the assumption that massive attack was preferable to defensive positions, which was to have tragic consequences in 1914-1918.
My only (small) complaint is that some skirmishes or battles of lesser importance (like the taking of Strasbourg) are briefly mentioned without any further detail. I would have liked to know more about those incidents as well.
Otherwise, an excellent book which I highly recommend.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative Account 28 Sep 2003
This book is a "must have" for anyone wanting to know more about the period.Wawro's account clearly goes under the surface of the
war,and in particular gives an evocative account that allows understanding of what the men of all levels felt about the war and how they were effected.This adds to the understanding of the the entire war.A fantastic read,I only put it down once and read it all the way through.For military historians,and for wargamers alike (such as myself) this is a fabulous book.I'd recommned it to anybody.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Framco-Prussian War 15 Feb 2009
I decided to buy this book after comparing it with others on the same theme since my knowledge of this part of history was confined to one book on the subject that was entirely from the french point of view.
This book was an eye opener as it dealt not only with the weaknesses and coruption in the French Army but also the inadequaties of the Prussian System and on some occassions of the half-hearted efforts of the other german states whose troops sometimes refused to advance.
I found the book well written, well laid out and easy to follow all the events that happened. It was also easy and enjoyable to read without being light weight which is why I gave it five stars.
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