The Franco Prussian War

The Franco Prussian war of 1870 was one of the pivotal European  events of the second half of the 19th century. It resulted in the creation of a new country, Germany , a weakening of France and the overthrow of its Government and the rise of a dominate new European statesman, Prussia’s Count Otto Von Bismarck.

Until the war, The Second French Republic had been led by the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte , Louis Napoleon , who had been crowned Napoleon III . He had presided over a rapidly growing laissez faire French economy following the 1848 Revolution and encouraged French empire building abroad which included its colonies in North Africa and failed efforts to establish French influence in Mexico.

Napoleon III also saw France as the dominant European power and when Prussia under Bismarck defeated Austria and sought to combine German states into a single entity controlled by Prussia , France invaded.

However in the short war, the better organised , armed and and mechanised Prussian troops easily defeated the less equipped French forces – winning a number of key battles and occupying and annexing French territory in the east of the country .For four months the Prussians besieged Paris.

It was a humiliating defeat for the French. They suffering 750,000 thousand casualties including 140,000 dead  versus 40,000 for their opponents . Nearly half a million more French were captured.

Napoleon IIII himself was captured , forced to abdicate and sent into exile  to England from where he never returned . The victorious Prussian and German forces then occupied. Paris .Riots and revolution known as the Paris Commune then broke out before being suppressed two months later .Defeat would greatly affect the policies of the new Third Republic.

For the victors , Germany was united as one nation tor the first time. The Prussian Chancellor Bismarck became Chancellor of Germany. And the Prussian King, Wilhelm I, became the first Kaiser of the new nation  . Bismarck who became known as the Iron Chancellor of his rapidly industrialising country ,would became the dominant political figure in Europe tor the next 20 years.


Destination – France and Germany