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. The thesis of 'The Austro-Prussian War' was that the Prussians beat the Austrians because the Lorenz rifle was outclassed by the Dreyse needle gun, although Austrian artillery is recognised as being very good, and Prussian poor. In 'The Franco Prussian War' Wawro now has to explain how the Prussians using the same rifle defeat the French who now have a far superior rifle (the Chassepot)AND good artillery! He manages, by treating Bazaine in the same way he treated Benedek in the previous book. I am left feeling that a deeper analysis is still needed.
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.
on 22 March 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.
on 28 September 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.
on 13 July 2015
Having read a very good book on the reasons and start of the first world war, I was intrigued by the references back to this particular war.
Excellent book! It tells everything one would want to know, from the background (usually the most interesting topic in historical wars) to how the war was carried-out, both politically and in practice. Comprehensive, informative and very well written.
on 15 February 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.
on 27 November 2007
Much better than his book on the Austro-Prussian war this book is very interesting, if still a little dry.
It covers the war broadly in chronological order including the lead in and the compaign itself.
Wawro is at his best as he details the movements of the armies, their battles and their tactics -- basically as he answers the "what happened?" question. By the end of the book I knew exaclty what had happened where, when and who was involved. That was really interesting and added enormously to my understanding of European History.
Nevertheless I find some of his explanations less convincing. To me Wawro is too critical of the losers -- an all to easy thing to do in hindsight. As one example I was left thinking that the French should have won as they had the better rifle!
on 21 June 2010
This is both a comprehensive and scholarly book which deserves careful reading. It reveals a number of issues on the military conflict which challenge many of the less thorough histories of this period. Mr. Wawro not only gives us a considerable amount of detail on specific military battles, but sets them in the context of the political and diplomatic background that led to the war (and its conclusion) along with some heart breaking little insights into the personal catastrophe of war. If I have a quibble it is over maps.The battlefieldmaps themselves are unsurpassed, but I found that the "gaps" between some of the battlefelds were not covered by the larger maps of the theatre of war. For example, some of the hideous forced marches of both armies are not always readily followed by using the larger maps. It's always difficult to decide what to include or exclude without cluttering up with too much detail, and I managed by using other maps from other sources. However, this does not detract from what is a monumental piece of scholarship written in a lucid and unaffected style. If you read no other history of this conflict then I seriously recommend that it's this one.