The Franco-Prussian War arguably set the conditions for the First World War in Europe because it signified the final consolidation Prussian King Wilhelm I’s power over the disparate principalities and kingdoms that constituted the collection of German nations into a single, unified German Empire. This achievement altered the balance of power in Europe, providing the Prussian leader (now an Emperor of the German people) with more wealth, manpower and natural resources to support his strategic goals and elevate Germany to the first rank of world powers. It additionally cost the French the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, which compromised the French Eastern frontier and led to a desire for revenge to avenge the loss among the French people and their leaders. Stephen Badsey accomplishes a remarkable feat in producing a small, easily read book that manages to convey the background of this conflict, analyze its major operational movements and battles and discuss its consequences for the future of Europe as it approached the 20th century, all in less than 150 pages.
Badsey shines when he discusses the critical battles of the war, again providing context, analysis, and impact without getting bogged down in details that do not affect the narrative. He covers the major actions on the eastern frontiers of France in the summer of 1870, and then goes on the highlight the battles at Mars-La-Tour, Gravelotte–St. Privat, Metz, Sedan, and the subsequent siege of Paris. Badsey further does an excellent job explaining the confusing rise of the Paris Commune in the wake of the siege and the fighting between its members and the French regular army throughout the fall and winter of 1870-1871, a tragic coda to the fighting between the French and Prussians the previous summer.
As readers can expect from an Osprey publication, this book contains excellent illustrations, dispersed throughout the text. The selections are expertly paired with the narrative, relying heavily on contemporary editorial cartoons and period paintings of battles and leaders. The illustrations convey a sense of period and place and go a long way to enhance the reading experience. The book also contains with numerous, easily understood maps that allow readers to follow the evolution of the campaign.
Doctor Stephen Badsey is the ideal author for this subject, as he is a widely respected historian and professor of conflict studies. He currently teaches at the University of Wolverhampton, having previously worked at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the Imperial War Museum and for the British Broadcasting Corporation.
This book is available at Osprey Publishing and from a variety of retailers.