Franco-Prussian War  

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The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli
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The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli

The Franco-Prussian War (19 July 1870 – 10 May 1871), was a significant conflict pitting the Second French Empire against the Kingdom of Prussia and its allies in the North German Confederation, as well as the South German states of Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse-Darmstadt.

The conflict emerged from tensions regarding the German unification. A war against France was deemed necessary to unite the North German Confederation and the independent southern German states, while France was preoccupied by the emergence of a powerful Prussia. Napoleon III seized on a supposed insult in the Ems Dispatch to declare war, which most French leaders expected to win.

The German coalition quickly took charge. Its forces were superior, due to much better training and leadership, and more effective use of modern technology. A series of swift Prussian and German victories in eastern France culminating in the Battle of Sedan, saw Napoleon III and his whole army captured on 2 September. Yet this did not end the war, as the Third Republic was declared in Paris on 4 September 1870 and French resistance continued under the Government of National Defence and Adolphe Thiers. Over a five-month campaign, the German forces defeated the newly recruited French armies in a series of battles fought across northern France. Following a prolonged siege, Paris fell on 28 January 1871. The German states proclaimed their union as the German Empire under the Prussian king, Wilhelm I, uniting Germany as a nation-state. The final Treaty of Frankfurt of 10 May 1871 gave Germany most of Alsace and some parts of Lorraine which became the Imperial territory of Alsace-Lorraine.

Following defeat, a left-wing revolt broke out in Paris against the new French republic. Known as the Paris Commune, it was a landmark event in the revolutionary seizure of power by the masses, but it was harshly crushed. The unification of Germany into an empire in its own right, with the new industrialization of the nation, shifted the European balance of power and Otto von Bismarck maintained great authority in international affairs for two decades. France's determination to regain Alsace-Lorraine would subsequently be a major factor in France's involvement in World War I.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Franco-Prussian War" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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