The French Army of the Franco-Prussian War

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Once again, republicans and pro-MacMahon conservatives tried to outdo each other in convincing voters that they represented the side for peace.

Telling Tales - The Franco-Prussian War - Open Book Publishers

Copies of the flyer, preserved at the Departmental Archives of the Meurthe-et-Moselle, testify to the public's divergent responses. On one, a royalist supporter wrote, "No confidence - You have to know how to command a division to command a great people," adding, apparently without irony, "Long live King Henry V.

Republican deputies pushing for peace appealed in an open letter to the commercial interests of Lorrainers whose businesses were interrupted by war scares. These deputies promoted their record for peace: they had assuaged any fear that France would become involved in the Russo-Turkish War, and they had resisted conservative efforts to restore the Pope's temporal power. Now they needed votes in order to stay in office and maintain the Republic. One hundred ten men in the Meurthe-et-Moselle, including many municipal councilors and businessmen, signed a response lending their support.

24.4.4: Otto von Bismarck and the Franco-Prussian War

As representatives of industry, commerce, and commercial agriculture, they needed to be assured of reliable transportation, market confidence, uninterrupted productivity, and a steady labor force. They regarded a moderate republic as their best hope for protecting these interests. MacMahon's power play of 16 May had disrupted their business, and they feared a return to rule by one man. In , the populations in the east had been, as they put it, "the first victims of personal government" - not victims of German aggression - "and.

The surprisingly infrequent calls for specific military reform in the legislative campaigns of and reflected this lack of emphasis on revenge within the realm of politics. It was no secret that the army needed to change in order to face the new standard set by Germany. Former officers called for the reform of military service laws, including the implementation of universal service. Another indication that French politicians were not consumed with revenge is that they rarely emphasized their own experiences during the war, whether in military service or in positions of civilian leadership.

Those who campaigned on their service records found that this strategy was by no means a guarantee of success. Candidates very rarely attacked their opponents for their wartime actions or inaction, even though the principle of universal service was gaining momentum. Political affiliation mattered more than military experience or a specific agenda for reform.

By , the republicans had managed to secure their form of government by convincing enough people that they would maintain security and stability in France. However, they achieved this goal by defining the war problem as a political issue, which could be solved by political means. The highly politicized uses of the Franco-Prussian war poorly camouflaged very real issues stemming from the war that continued through the early Third Republic. I have already argued that their discussions lacked serious debate over specific policies concerning military organization and decision-making processes.

In addition, they avoided suggesting that civilians or ordinary soldiers might have acted differently in the field of operations. It was not politically useful to attack the very citizens whose votes they were trying to attract, so they reserved scapegoating for the defeat for politicians and generals.

Ordinary soldiers received little blame for the poor performance of the military, even though drunk, undisciplined career soldiers populated the French regular army at the time. In addition, politicians in the early s rarely asserted that civilians ought to have put up a stronger resistance to the invasion by engaging in guerilla warfare, resisting requisitions, running hospitals, cutting telegraph lines, or passing information.

When these actions occurred, the government and the public praised them, but no politicians in the early s, regardless of political persuasion or region, argued that civilian sacrifice or activity during war should have been greater. This strategy diminished the possibility that citizens might have something to offer the nation in the future.

The French collapse and the siege of Paris

Individual citizens were no longer viewed as the raw material for the next people's army. The wartime Government of National Defense had hoped for a repeat of the victory of the people's army at Valmy, but the improvised volunteers could not match the trained Prussian army. The Paris Commune crushed any lingering desire for an armed citizenry. Furthermore, the government did not envision any non-military role for women or civilian men as charity workers, even though voluntary associations had raised and distributed aid and the Red Cross had treated thousands of wounded soldiers during the war.

Politicians did not expect average citizens to participate actively in the war and did not directly blame them for the invasion and defeat. But despite what the politicians said - or did not say - in their official discourse, many intellectuals and journalists blamed the general French population for its indirect contributions to France's military woes. Men of letters and science, the same men who were more inclined than politicians to promote the cause of revenge, were also more likely to point to the shortcomings of their fellow citizens for the causes of the war and its upheaval.

For men who viewed the Franco-Prussian War as a clash of nations, it was persuasive to believe that the weaknesses of the French national character had determined the outcome. In his first lecture at the Faculty of Sciences in Nancy after the war in April , Jules Chautard declared, "Our political faults have basically the same origin; each seeking pleasure in the underworld of material well-being. For some authors, such as historian Gabriel Monod, religious failing was a character flaw that had social and indirect military consequences.


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For others, the lack of religion led directly to war and defeat, as a lesson or punishment from God. All these men believed that the population could indeed make changes that would improve France's military capabilities in a future war. The silences surrounding the political legacy of the Franco-Prussian War are as revealing as the ringing trumpet of peace that the republicans hoped would be heard both in the provinces and in Berlin. French politicians were not interested in pursuing a policy of revenge against Germany. Revanchisme and military reforms very rarely appeared in legislative campaigns.

Instead of focusing on specific policies, politicians attacked each other's political systems. They argued that the form of government was the key to helping France recover and to preventing a future disastrous war. But many observers found the legacy of the war to be much more complicated. For some, the French needed to undergo moral or character change in order to reclaim their former glory. For others, the difficult legacy of Sedan and the Paris Commune complicated the supposed triumph of the Republic. Candidates understood that appealing to the example of the war could be a useful campaign device, especially in areas that had suffered from the war such as the Meurthe-et-Moselle.

However, those French citizens who were inclined to worry that their government was not adequately preparing France for a future war - whether an offensive war of revenge or a defensive war to protect their homes and families - were unlikely to be satisfied by the evidence supplied in legislative campaigns. Many citizens were disillusioned by the improvisation they saw in the National Assembly instead of real reform and plans for future national defense. Many citizens challenged the state to speed the postwar recovery of France, commemorate the soldiers who died, prepare medical service through the Red Cross, or train future soldiers.

Modern History/Franco-Prussian War

From the central government's perspective, however, peace in Europe and the preservation of the Republic remained the primary objectives. Hudon, , Arnold J. Pomerans Westport, CT: Greenwood, A recent exception is Schivelbusch. Few expanded the scope to call into question European values or human nature. Ninety-nine republicans won and only twelve monarchists and three Bonapartists Wright, The phrase popped up in commentaries on the war in the early s, often without explicit reference to Ollivier: A. Paris: L. Le Chevalier, , preface.

Thomas J. Paris: G. Thiers, Paris: Plon, , Reau, [].

24.4.4: Otto von Bismarck and the Franco-Prussian War

Response included in the same document. Chanzy was also elected deputy and senator. Press, ; Wawro, Prussia, on the other hand, believed that a war with France would help strengthen Germany as a whole by ending French influence, and that a victorious Prussia could achieve the ultimate goal of the unification of Germany.

These tensions increased due to a number of diplomatic crises between the two nations in the s, particularly over the Austro-Prussian War and France's attempt to purchase Luxembourg. The war was finally triggered by a dispute over the possible ascension of the German Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen a member of Prussia's Hohenzollern royal family to the Spanish throne, following the abdication of Isabella II in The French government feared that this expansion of Prussian influence would weaken France's position in Europe, not least because it made it probable that any war with Prussia would lead to war with Spain, forcing France to fight on two fronts.

Eager to press their perceived advantage, the French demanded a guarantee that no other Hohenzollern candidates would be put forwards, but the Prussian government refused. French public opinion was inflamed, and France declared war. There were many European nations which had motives to go to war against Prussia alongside France, but Napoleon III's mismanagement of France's foreign policy had led to the diplomatic isolation of France, and at the outbreak of war France was unable to find any allies. France was able straight away to field an army of about , highly trained soldiers, compared to roughly 1.

Franco Prussian War

However, the German soldiers were not regulars and would take some time to train, so the French army had an initial advantage. The Prussian army steamrollered it's way into France, capturing Metz in October after a bloody siege. Although Napoleon III himself surrendered and was taken prisoner following the Battle of Sedan in early September, the war continued to be fought by a French republican government for several months. From Wikibooks, open books for an open world. Category : Book:Modern History.