Timeline of World History TIMELINE OF WORLD HISTORY
 
 

TIMELINE OF WORLD HISTORY
 

Loading
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
     
     
 
1800 - 1899
 
 
1800-09 1810-19 1820-29 1830-39 1840-49 1850-59 1860-69 1870-79 1880-89 1890-99
1800 1810 1820 1830 1840 1850 1860 1870 1880 1890
1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891
1802 1812 1822 1832 1842 1852 1862 1872 1882 1892
1803 1813 1823 1833 1843 1853 1863 1873 1883 1893
1804 1814 1824 1834 1844 1854 1864 1874 1884 1894
1805 1815 1825 1835 1845 1855 1865 1875 1885 1895
1806 1816 1826 1836 1846 1856 1866 1876 1886 1896
1807 1817 1827 1837 1847 1857 1867 1877 1887 1897
1808 1818 1828 1838 1848 1858 1868 1878 1888 1898
1809 1819 1829 1839 1849 1859 1869 1879 1889 1899
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
CONTENTS
  BACK-1870-1879 NEXT-1870 Part II    
 
 
     
An Unfortunate Experiment
1870 - 1879
YEAR BY YEAR:
1870-1879
History at a Glance
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1870 Part I
Alfonso XII
Leopold of Hohenzollern
"Ems Telegram"
Franco-Prussian War
BATTLE OF SEDAN
Lenin Vladimir
Vladimir Lenin
Smuts Jan
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1870 Part II
Adler Alfred
Keble College
Papal infallibility
Ludwig Anzengruber: "Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld"
Bunin Ivan
Disraeli: "Lothair"
Kuprin Aleksandr
Ivan Goncharov: "The Precipice"
Jules Verne: "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea"
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1870 Part III
Barlach Ernst
Ernst Barlach
Corot: "La perle"
Dante Gabriel Rossetti: "Beata Beatrix"
Borisov-Musatov Victor
Victor Borisov-Musatov
Benois Alexandre
Alexandre Benois
Denis Maurice
Maurice Denis
Soldiers and Exiles
Impressionism Timeline (1863-1899)
Delibes: "Coppelia"
Tchaikovsky: "Romeo and Juliet"
Wagner: "Die Walkure"
Lehar Franz
Franz Lehar - Medley
Franz Lehar
Balfe Michael
Michael Balfe - "The Bohemian Girl"
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1870 Part IV
Biogenesis
Przhevalsky Nikolai
Peaks and Plateaus
Johnson Allen
Gloucestershire County Cricket Club
Luxemburg Rosa
Standard Oil Company
Lauder Harry
Lloyd Marie
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1871 Part I
Siege of Paris
Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Frankfurt
Paris Commune
Treaty of Washington
Law of Guarantees
British North America Act, 1871
"Kulturkampf"
Ebert Friedrich
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1871 Part II
Old Catholics
Charles Darwin: "The Descent of Man"
Jehovah's Witnesses
Russell Charles Taze
John Ruskin: "Fors Clavigera"
Lewis Carroll: "Through the Looking Glass"
Crane Stephen
Dreiser Theodore
George Eliot: "Middlemarch"
Mann Heinrich
Morgenstern Christian
Ostrovsky: "The Forest"
Proust Marcel
Valery Paul
Zola: "Les Rougon-Macquart"
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1871 Part III
Gabriele Rossetti: "The Dream of Dante"
White Clarence
History of photography
Clarence White
Rouault Georges
Georges Rouault
Feininger Lyonel
Lyonel Feininger
Balla Giacomo
Giacomo Balla
Sloan John
John Sloan
The 'Terror'of the Commune
Impressionism Timeline (1863-1899)
Royal Albert Hall
"The Internationale"
Verdi: "Aida"
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1871 Part IV
Schweinfurth Georg August
Quotations by Georg August Schweinfurth
Stanley Henry
Henry Morton Stanley
Further Exploration of the Nile
Heinrich Schliemann begins to excavate Troy
Ingersoll Simon
Rutherford Ernest
The Industrialization of War
The Industrialization of War
Bank Holiday
Great Chicago Fire
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1872 Part I
Third Carlist War
Carlist Wars
Burgers Thomas Francois
Ballot Act 1872
Amnesty Act of 1872
Blum Leon
Coolidge Calvin
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1872 Part II
Russell Bertrand
Klages Ludwig
Beerbohm Max
Samuel Butler: "Erewhon, or Over the Range"
Alphonse Daudet: "Aventures prodigieuses de Tartarin de Tarascon"
Alphonse Daudet
"Tartarin de Tarascon"
Diaghilev Sergei
Duse Eleonora
Thomas Hardy: "Under the Greenwood Tree"
Turgenev: "A Month in the Country"
Jules Verne: "Around the World in 80 Days"
Lever Charles
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1872 Part III
Bocklin: "Self-Portrait with Death"
Whistler: "The Artist's Mother"
Mondrian Piet
Piet Mondrian
Beardsley Aubrey
Aubrey Beardsley
The Rise of Durand-Ruel
Impressionism Timeline (1863-1899)
Scriabin Alexander
Scriabin - Etudes
Alexander Scriabin
Williams Vaughan
Williams - Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Vaughan Williams
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1872 Part IV
Bleriot Louis
Tide-predicting machine
Westinghouse George
Elias Ney
Hague Congress
Scotland v England (1872)
Scott Charles Prestwich
Nansen Ski Club
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1873 Part I
First Spanish Republic
Mac-Mahon Patrice
Financial Panic of 1873
League of the Three Emperors
Bengal famine of 1873–1874
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1873 Part II
Moore G. E.
Barbusse Henri
Ford Madox Ford
Maurier Gerald
Reinhardt Max
Rimbaud: "Une Saison en enfer"
Tolstoi: "Anna Karenina"
Bryusov Valery
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1873 Part III
Cezanne: "A Modern Olympia"
Gulbransson Olaf
Manet: "Le bon Bock"
Gathering of the Future Impressionists
Impressionism Timeline (1863-1899)
Bruckner: Symphony No. 2
Carl Rosa Opera Company
Caruso Enrico
Enrico Caruso - Pagliacci No!
The greatest opera singers
Enrico Caruso
Chaliapin Feodor
Feodor Chaliapin - "Black Eyes"
The greatest opera singers
Feodor Chaliapin
Reger Max
Max Reger - Piano Concerto in F-minor
Max Reger
Rachmaninoff Sergei
Rachmaninoff plays Piano Concerto 2
Sergei Rachmaninov
Rimsky-Korsakov: "The Maid of Pskov"
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 2
Slezak Leo
Leo Slezak "Wenn ich vergnugt bin" 
The greatest opera singers
Leo Slezak
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1873 Part IV
James Clerk Maxwell: "Electricity and Magnetism"
Euler-Chelpin Hans
Frobenius Leo
Payer Julius
Weyprecht Karl
Franz Josef Land
Cameron Verney Lovett
E. Remington and Sons
Remington Eliphalet
Hansen Gerhard Armauer
World Exposition 1873 Vienna
Wingfield Walter Clopton
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1874 Part I
Anglo-Ashanti Wars (1823-1900)
Brooks–Baxter War
Swiss constitutional referendum, 1874
Colony of Fiji
Hoover Herbert
Weizmann Chaim
Churchill Winston
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1874 Part II
Berdyaev Nikolai
Cassirer Ernst
Chesterton Gilbert
G.K. Chesterton quotes
G.K. Chesterton 
Flaubert: "La Tentation de Saint Antoine"
Frost Robert
Robert Frost
"Poems"
Thomas Hardy: "Far from the Madding Crowd"
Hofmannsthal Hugo
Hugo von Hofmannsthal
"Poems"
Victor Hugo: "Ninety-Three"
Maugham Somerset
Stein Gertrude
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1874 Part III
Roerich Nicholas
Nicholas Roerich
Max Liebermann: "Market Scene"
Renoir: "La Loge"
The Birth of Impressionism
Impressionism Timeline (1863-1899)
Schmidt Franz
Franz Schmidt "Intermezzo" Notre Dame
Franz Schmidt
Schoenberg Arnold
Schoenberg: Verklarte Nacht
Arnold Schoenberg
Holst Gustav
Gustav Holst - Venus
Gustav Holst
Ives Charles
Charles Ives - Symphony 3
Charles Ives
Moussorgsky "Boris Godunov"
Johann Strauss II: "Die Fledermaus"
Verdi: "Requiem"
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1874 Part IV
Bosch Carl
Marconi Guglielmo
Curtius Ernst
Shackleton Ernest
Stanley: Expedition to the Congo and Nile
Still Andrew Taylor
Bunker Chang and Eng
Universal Postal Union
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
Gerry Elbridge Thomas
Outerbridge Mary Ewing
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1875 Part I
Guangxu Emperor
Herzegovina Uprising of 1875–77
Public Health Act 1875
Congregations Law of 1875
Theosophical Society
Jung Carl
Congregations Law of 1875
Buchan John
Deledda Grazia
Mann Thomas
Rejane Gabrielle
Rilke Rainer Maria
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1875 Part II
Bouguereau William-Adolphe
William-Adolphe Bouguereau
Monet: "Woman with a Parasol"
An Unfortunate Experiment
Impressionism Timeline (1863-1899)
Bizet: "Carmen"
Brull Ignaz
Ignaz Brull - Das goldene Kreuz
Coleridge-Taylor Samuel
Coleridge Taylor Samuel - Violin Concerto
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Karl Goldmark: "Die Konigin von Saba"
Ravel Maurice
Ravel - Rapsodie espagnole
Maurice Ravel
Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No.1
Boisbaudran Lecoq
Gallium
Schweitzer Albert
Webb Matthew
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1876 Part I
Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876
Ethio-Egyptian War
April Uprising
Batak massacre
Murad V
Abdulhamid II
Serbian–Ottoman War (1876–78)
Montenegrin–Ottoman War (1876–78)
Colorado
Tilden Samuel Jones
Hayes Rutherford Birchard
Ottoman constitution of 1876
Groselle Hilarion Daza
Adenauer Konrad
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1876 Part II
Bradley Francis Herbert
Trevelyan George Macaulay
Pius XII
Felix Dahn: "Ein Kampf um Rom"
London Jack
Mallarme: "L'Apres-Midi d'un faune"
Mark Twain: "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"
Modersohn-Becker Paula
Paula Modersohn-Becker
Renoir: "Le Moulin de la Galette"
THE SECOND IMPRESSIONIST EXHIBITION
Impressionism Timeline
(1863-1899)
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1876 Part III
Brahms: Symphony No. 1
Casals Pablo
Leo Delibes: "Sylvia"
Falla Manuel
Manuel de Falla - Spanish dance
Manuel de Falla
Ponchielli: "La Gioconda"
Wagner: "Siegfried"
Walter Bruno
Wolf-Ferrari Ermanno
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari - "Intermezzo"
Alexander Bell invents the telephone
Johns Hopkins University
Hopkins Johns
Bacillus anthracis
Macleod John James Rickard
Brockway Zebulon Reed
Centennial International Exhibition of 1876
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1877 Part I
Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78
Siege of Plevna
Satsuma Rebellion
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1877 Part II
Granville-Barker Harley
Hesse Hermann
Hermann Hesse
"Siddhartha"
Ibsen: "The Pillars of Society"
Henry James: "The American"
Zola: "L'Assommoir"
Praxiteles: "Hermes"
Dufy Raoul
Raoul Dufy
Winslow Homer: "The Cotton Pickers"
Kubin Alfred
Alfred Kubin
Manet: "Nana"
THE THIRD IMPRESSIONIST EXHIBITION
Impressionism Timeline (1863-1899)
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1877 Part III
Brahms: Symphony No. 2
Dohnanyi Ernst
Erno Dohnanyi - Piano Concerto No. 1
Camille Saint-Saens: "Samson et Delila"
Tchaikovsky: "Francesca da Rimini"
Ruffo Titta
Titta Ruffo: Di Provenza
Aston Francis William
Barkla Charles
Cailletet Louis-Paul
Pictet Raoul-Pierre
Liquid oxygen
Schiaparelli observes Mars' canals
Martian canal
German patent law
Madras famine of 1877
Maginot Andre
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1878 Part I
Umberto I
Ten Years War 1868-1878
Battle of Shipka Pass
Jingoism
Epirus Revolt of 1878
Treaty of San Stefano
Treaty of Berlin 1878
Anti-Socialist Laws
Italian irredentism
Stresemann Gustav
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1878 Part II
Buber Martin
Leo XIII
Romanes George John
Treitschke Heinrich
Stoecker Adolf
Christian Social Party
Thomas Hardy: "The Return of the Native"
Kaiser Georg
Masefield John
Sandburg Carl
Sinclair Upton
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1878 Part III
Malevich Kazimir
Kazimir Malevich
Kustodiev Boris
Boris Kustodiev
Petrov-Vodkin Kuzma
Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin
Multiple Disappointments
Impressionism Timeline (1863-1899)
Ambros August Wilhelm
Boughton Rutland
Boughton: The Queen of Cornwall
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1878 Part IV
Mannlicher Ferdinand Ritter
Pope Albert Augustus
Watson John
Blunt and Lady Anne traveled in Arabia
Blunt Anne
Benz Karl
New Scotland Yard
Deutscher Fussballverein, Hanover
Paris World Exhibition 1878
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1879 Part I
Anglo-Zulu War
Alexander of Battenberg
Second Anglo–Afghan War (1878-1880)
Treaty of Gandamak
Tewfik Pasha
Alsace-Lorraine
Stalin Joseph
Joseph Stalin
Trotsky Leon
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1879 Part II
Beveridge William
Henry George: "Progress and Poverty"
Giffen Robert
Forster Edward Morgan
Ibsen: "A Doll's House"
Henry James: "Daisy Miller"
Meredith: "The Egoist"
Stevenson: "Travels with a Donkey"
Strindberg: "The Red Room"
Valera Juan
 
YEAR BY YEAR:
1879 Part III
Picabia Francis
Francis Picabia
Steichen Edward Jean
Edward Steichen
Cameron Julia Margaret
Cameron Julia
Klee Paul
Paul Klee
Renoir: "Mme. Charpentier"
THE FOURTH IMPRESSIONIST EXHIRITION
Impressionism Timeline (1863-1899)
Suppe: "Boccaccio"
Tchaikovsky: "Eugene Onegin"
Respighi Ottorino
Respighi - Three Botticelli Pictures
Ottorino Respighi
Bridge Frank
Frank Bridge - The Sea
Einstein Albert
Albert Einstein
Aitken Maxwell
 
 
 

French reservists responding to the call.
 
 
 
 
 HISTORY, RELIGION, PHILOSOPHY, ART, LITERATURE, MUSIC, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, DAILY LIFE
 
 
 
 
YEAR BY YEAR:  1800 - 1899
 
 
 
1870 Part I
 
 
 
1870
 
 
Baden decides to join North German Confederation
 
 

The North German Confederation (borders in red; Kingdom of Prussia in blue).
 
 
 
1870
 
 
End of Red River Rebellion; Manitoba becomes Canadian province
 
 

Canada after the creation of Manitoba by the Manitoba Act of 1870
 
 
 
1870
 
 
Isabella of Spain (Isabella II) abdicates in favor of Alfonso XII
 
 

Isabella II of Spain
 
 
 
Alfonso XII
 

Alfonso XII (Alfonso Francisco de Asís Fernando Pío Juan María de la Concepción Gregorio Pelayo; 28 November 1857 – 25 November 1885) was King of Spain, reigning from 1874 to 1885, after a coup d'état restored the monarchy and ended the ephemeral First Spanish Republic.

Having been forced into exile after the Glorious Revolution deposed his mother Isabella II from the throne in 1868, Alfonso studied in Austria and France. His mother abdicated in his favour in 1870, and he returned to Spain as king in 1874 following a military coup. Alfonso died aged 27 in 1885, and was succeeded by his unborn son, who became Alfonso XIII on his birth the following year.

 

Alfonso XII
  Alfonso XII, (born November 28, 1857, Madrid, Spain—died November 25, 1885, Madrid), Spanish king whose short reign (1874–85) gave rise to hopes for a stable constitutional monarchy in Spain.

The eldest surviving son of Queen Isabella II and, presumably, her consort, the duque de Cádiz, Alfonso accompanied his mother into exile following her deposition by the revolution of September 1868.

He received his education at the Theresianum in Vienna and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, England.

Isabella abdicated her rights in his favour in June 1870, but it was not until four years later (December 29, 1874) that Alfonso was proclaimed king of Spain. He returned to his country early in January of the following year.

For most of Alfonso’s reign Spain enjoyed an unaccustomed tranquillity.

The pattern of political life was determined by Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, Alfonso’s prime minister from 1875 to 1881 and again from 1884 to 1885.

The two most urgent problems—ending the civil war unleashed by the Carlists, the partisans of the successors to the Spanish throne in the male line, and drafting the constitution—were both settled in 1876.

In addition, the Convention of Zanjón established peace in Cuba after the Ten Years’ War.

In January 1878 Alfonso married María de las Mercedes, daughter of the duc de Montpensier.

 
 
She died six months later, and the following year the king married a daughter of the archduke Charles Ferdinand of Austria, María Cristina, by whom he had two daughters and a son, who became Alfonso XIII.

Although politically inexperienced, Alfonso XII demonstrated great natural tact and sound judgment, qualities that gave rise to hope that the monarchy would not suffer if the constitution enacted in 1876 were fully implemented.
 
 

Funeral procession of Alfonso XII, from the 5 December 1885, issue of L'Illustration
 
 
Attempts on the king’s life (October 1878 and December 1879) and a military pronunciamiento against the regime (1883) were not indicative of any general discontent with the restored monarchy; on the contrary, Alfonso enjoyed considerable popularity, and his early death from tuberculosis was a great disappointment to those who looked forward to a constitutional monarchy in Spain.

Encyclopædia Britannica

 
 
 
1870
 
 
Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern accepts Spanish throne but is forced to withdraw by the head of the House of
Hohenzollern, King William I, following Fr. protests
 
 
Leopold of Hohenzollern
 

Leopold, Prince of Hohenzollern (German: Leopold Stephan Karl Anton Gustav Eduard Tassilo Fürst von Hohenzollern) (22 September 1835 – 8 June 1905) was the head of the Swabian branch of the House of Hohenzollern, and played a fleeting role in European power politics, in connection with the Franco-Prussian War.

 

Leopold, Prince of Hohenzollern
  He was born into the dynasty's surviving Sigmaringen branch, which inherited all the dynasty's Swabian lands when the Hohenzollern-Hechingen branch became extinct. Leopold's parents were Josephine of Baden and Karl Anton, Prince of Hohenzollern. Leopold was the older brother of King Carol I of Romania and father of the future King Ferdinand of Romania. Carol ascended the Romanian throne in 1866, and Leopold renounced his rights to the Romanian succession in favor of his sons in 1880.

Entry into European Controversy

After the Spanish Revolution of 1868 that overthrew Queen Isabella II, Leopold was offered the Spanish Crown by the new government. This offer was supported by the Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck, but opposed by the French Emperor Napoleon III on the grounds that the installation of a relative of the Prussian king would result in the expansion of Prussian influence and the encirclement of France. Leopold was forced to decline the offer.
Additional demands made by the French government heightened diplomatic tensions between Paris and Berlin; deliberate or accidental mistranslations of a diplomatic communique, the Ems Telegram, also known as the Ems Dispatch, led to the declaration of war by France. Prussia's speedy mobilization, with the support of the other members of the North German Confederation, resulted in French defeat, the capture of Napoleon and collapse of his government, loss of Alsace and part of Lorraine and huge compensation to Germany and the institution of the French Third Republic, and the creation of the German Empire.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 


William I, Deutscher Kaiser in Generalsuniform

 
 
 
1870
 
 
"Ems Telegram"
 

Ems telegram, report of an encounter between King William I of Prussia and the French ambassador; the telegram was sent from Ems (Bad Ems) in the Prussian Rhineland on July 13, 1870, to the Prussian chancellor, Otto von Bismarck(Bismarck Otto). Its publication in a version edited by Bismarck so as to purposely offend the French government precipitated the Franco-German War.

 

William I of Prussia in Ems
 
 
Early in July, the candidacy of Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a relative of the Prussian king, for the Spanish throne had alarmed the French, who feared that the extension of Prussian influence into Spain would threaten France. Leopold’s candidacy was withdrawn on July 12; the following day, the French ambassador to Prussia, Count Vincent Benedetti, approached King William at Ems to request an assurance that no member of his family would again be a candidate for the Spanish throne. The king politely refused Benedetti’s demand, and their discussion ended.

A telegram describing the incident was sent to Bismarck. Bismarck’s edited version, which he published the next day, omitted the courtesies in the two men’s exchange and instead made it seem that each man had insulted the other. This touched off an intensified demand for war in Paris and Berlin, and France declared war on July 19. The incident provided the excuse for a trial of strength that was sought by both France and Prussia, but because of Bismarck’s dishonest editing of the Ems telegram, it was France that was the first to declare war. This circumstance helped enlist the southern German states to Prussia’s side in the ensuing war, which resulted in the unification of all the German states (except Austria) into modern Germany.

Encyclopædia Britannica

 
 
 
1870
 
 
Franco-Prussian War
 

The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War (German: Deutsch-Französischer Krieg, lit. German-French War, French: Guerre franco-allemande, lit. Franco-German War), often referred to in France as the War of 1870 (19 July 1870 – 10 May 1871), was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the German states of the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia. The conflict was caused by Prussian ambitions to extend German unification. Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck planned to provoke a French attack in order to draw the southern German states—Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse-Darmstadt—into an alliance with the North German Confederation dominated by Prussia.

 
Bismarck adroitly created a diplomatic crisis over the succession to the Spanish throne, then rewrote a dispatch about a meeting between King William of Prussia and the French foreign minister, to make it appear that the French had been insulted. The French press and parliament demanded a war, which the generals of Napoleon III assured him that France would win. Napoleon and his Prime Minister, Émile Ollivier, for their parts sought war to solve their problems with political disunity in France. On 16 July 1870, the French parliament voted to declare war on the German Kingdom of Prussia and hostilities began three days later. The German coalition mobilised its troops much more quickly than the French and rapidly invaded northeastern France. The German forces were superior in numbers, had better training and leadership and made more effective use of modern technology, particularly railroads and artillery.

A series of swift Prussian and German victories in eastern France, culminating in the Siege of Metz and the Battle of Sedan, saw the army of the Second Empire decisively defeated (Napoleon III had been captured at Sedan on 2 September). A Government of National Defence declared the Third Republic in Paris on 4 September and continued the war and for another five months, the German forces fought and defeated new French armies in northern France. Following the Siege of Paris, the capital fell on 28 January 1871 and then a revolutionary uprising called the Paris Commune seized power in the capital and held it for two months, until it was bloodily suppressed by the regular French army at the end of May 1871.

The German states proclaimed their union as the German Empire under the Prussian king, Wilhelm I, uniting Germany as a nation-state. The 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 (Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen). The German conquest of France and the unification of Germany upset the European balance of power, that had existed since the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and Otto von Bismarck maintained great authority in international affairs for two decades. French determination to regain Alsace-Lorraine and fear of another Franco-German war, along with British apprehension about the balance of power, became factors in the causes of World War I.

 
 
Causes
The causes of the Franco-Prussian War are deeply rooted in the events surrounding the unification of Germany. In the aftermath of the Austro–Prussian War of 1866, Prussia had annexed numerous territories and formed the North German Confederation. This new power destabilized the European balance of power established by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon III, then the emperor of France, demanded compensations in Belgium and on the left bank of the Rhine to secure France's strategic position, which the Prussian chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, flatly refused. Prussia then turned its attention towards the south of Germany, where it sought to incorporate the southern German kingdoms, Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden and Hesse-Darmstadt, into a unified Prussia-dominated Germany. France was strongly opposed to the annexation of the southern German states, which would have significantly strengthened the Prussian military.

In Prussia, some officials considered a war against France both inevitable and necessary to arouse German nationalism in those states that would allow the unification of a great German empire. This aim was epitomized by Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck's later statement: "I did not doubt that a Franco-German war must take place before the construction of a United Germany could be realised." Bismarck also knew that France should be regarded as the aggressor in the conflict to bring the southern German states to side with Prussia, hence giving Germans numerical superiority. Many Germans also viewed the French as the traditional destabilizer of Europe, and sought to weaken France to prevent further breaches of the peace.

The immediate cause of the war resided in the candidacy of a Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a Prussian prince, to the throne of Spain.
France feared encirclement by an alliance between Prussia and Spain.

  The Hohenzollern prince's candidacy was withdrawn under French diplomatic pressure, but Otto von Bismarck goaded the French into declaring war by altering a telegram sent by William I. Releasing the Ems Dispatch to the public, Bismarck made it sound as if the king had treated the French envoy in a demeaning fashion, which inflamed public opinion in France.

Some historians argue that Napoleon III also sought war, particularly for the diplomatic defeat in 1866 in leveraging any benefits from the Austro-Prussian War, and he believed he would win a conflict with Prussia. They also argue that he wanted a war to resolve growing domestic political problems. Other historians, notably French historian Pierre Milza, dispute this. On 8 May 1870, shortly before the war, French voters had overwhelmingly supported Napoleon III's program in a national plebiscite, with 7,358,000 votes yes against 1,582,000 votes no, an increase of support of two million votes since the legislative elections in 1869. The Emperor had no need for a war to increase his popularity.

The Ems telegram had exactly the effect on French public opinion that Bismarck had intended. "This text produced the effect of a red flag on the Gallic bull", Bismarck later wrote. Gramont, the French foreign minister, declared that he felt "he had just received a slap". The leader of the monarchists in Parliament, Adolphe Thiers, spoke for moderation, arguing that France had won the diplomatic battle and there was no reason for war, but he was drowned out by cries that he was a traitor and a Prussian.
Napoleon's new prime minister, Emile Ollivier, declared that France had done all that it could humanly and honorably do to prevent the war, and that he accepted the responsibility "with a light heart." A crowd of 15–20,000 people, carrying flags and patriotic banners, marched through the streets of Paris, demanding war. On 19 July 1870 a declaration of war was sent to the Prussian government. The southern German states immediately sided with Prussia.

 
 

French reservists responding to the call.
 
 
Opposing forces
The French Army consisted in peacetime of approximately 400,000 soldiers, some of them regulars, others conscripts who until 1869 served the comparatively long period of seven years with the colours. Some of them were veterans of previous French campaigns in the Crimean War, Algeria, the Franco-Austrian War in Italy, and in the Franco-Mexican War. However, following the "Seven Weeks War" between Prussia and Austria four years earlier, it had been calculated that the French Army could field only 288,000 men to face the Prussian Army when perhaps 1,000,000 would be required. Under Marshal Adolphe Niel, urgent reforms were made. Universal conscription (rather than by ballot, as previously) and a shorter period of service gave increased numbers of reservists, who would swell the army to a planned strength of 800,000 on mobilisation. Those who for any reason were not conscripted were to be enrolled in the Garde Mobile, a militia with a nominal strength of 400,000. However, the Franco-Prussian War broke out before these reforms could be completely implemented. The mobilisation of reservists was chaotic and resulted in large numbers of stragglers, while the Garde Mobile were generally untrained and often mutinous.

French infantry were equipped with the breech-loading Chassepot rifle, one of the most modern mass-produced firearms in the world at the time. With a rubber ring seal and a smaller bullet, the Chassepot had a maximum effective range of some 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) with a short reloading time. French tactics emphasised the defensive use of the Chassepot rifle in trench-warfare style fighting—the so-called feu de bataillon. The artillery was equipped with rifled, muzzle-loaded La Hitte guns. The army also possessed a precursor to the machine-gun: the mitrailleuse, which could unleash significant, concentrated firepower but nevertheless lacked range and was comparatively immobile, and thus prone to being easily overrun. The mitrailleuse was mounted on an artillery gun carriage and grouped in batteries in a similar fashion to cannon.

  The army was nominally led by Napoleon III, with Marshals Francois Achille Bazaine and Patrice de Mac-Mahon in command of the field armies. However, there was no previously arranged plan of campaign in place. The only campaign plan prepared between 1866 and 1870 was a defensive one.

The Prussian Army was composed not of regulars but conscripts. Service was compulsory for all of men of military age, and thus Prussia and its North and South German allies could mobilise and field some 1,000,000 soldiers in time of war. German tactics emphasised encirclement battles like Cannae and using artillery offensively whenever possible. Rather than advancing in a column or line formation, Prussian infantry moved in small groups that were harder to target by artillery or French defensive fire. The sheer number of soldiers available made encirclement en masse and destruction of French formations relatively easy.

The army was still equipped with the Dreyse needle gun of Battle of Königgrätz fame, which was by this time showing the age of its 25-year-old design. The rifle had a range of only 600 m (2,000 ft) and lacked the rubber breech seal that permitted aimed shots. The deficiencies of the needle gun were more than compensated for by the famous Krupp 6-pounder (3 kg) steel breech-loading cannons being issued to Prussian artillery batteries. Firing a contact-detonated shell, the Krupp gun had a longer range and a higher rate of fire than the French bronze muzzle loading cannon, which relied on faulty time fuses.

The Prussian army was controlled by the General Staff, under Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke. The Prussian army was unique in Europe for having the only such organisation in existence, whose purpose in peacetime was to prepare the overall war strategy, and in wartime to direct operational movement and organise logistics and communications. The officers of the General Staff were hand-picked from the Prussian Kriegsakademie (War Academy). Moltke embraced new technology, particularly the railroad and telegraph, to coordinate and accelerate mobilisation of large forces.

 
 

Map of German and French armies near their common border on 31 July 1870
 
 
French Army incursion
Preparations for the offensive

On 28 July 1870 Napoleon III left Paris for Metz and assumed command of the newly titled Army of the Rhine, some 202,448 strong and expected to grow as the French mobilization progressed. Marshal MacMahon took command of I Corps (4 infantry divisions) near Wissembourg, Marshal François Canrobert brought VI Corps (four infantry divisions) to Châlons-sur-Marne in northern France as a reserve and to guard against a Prussian advance through Belgium.

A pre-war plan laid out by the late Marshal Niel called for a strong French offensive from Thionville towards Trier and into the Prussian Rhineland. This plan was discarded in favour of a defensive plan by Generals Charles Frossard and Bartélemy Lebrun, which called for the Army of the Rhine to remain in a defensive posture near the German border and repel any Prussian offensive.

As Austria along with Bavaria, Württemberg and Baden were expected to join in a revenge war against Prussia, I Corps would invade the Bavarian Palatinate and proceed to "free" the South German states in concert with Austro-Hungarian forces. VI Corps would reinforce either army as needed.

Unfortunately for Frossard's plan, the Prussian army was mobilizing far more rapidly than expected. The Austro-Hungarians, still smarting after their defeat by Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War, were treading carefully before stating that they would only commit to France's cause if the southern Germans viewed the French positively.

This did not materialize as the South German states had come to Prussia's aid and were mobilizing their armies against France.

  Occupation of Saarbrücken
Napoleon III was under immense domestic pressure to launch an offensive before the full might of Moltke's forces was mobilized and deployed. Reconnaissance by Frossard's forces had identified only the Prussian 16th Infantry Division guarding the border town of Saarbrücken, right before the entire Army of the Rhine. Accordingly, on 31 July the Army marched forward toward the Saar River to seize Saarbrücken.

General Frossard's II Corps and Marshal Bazaine's III Corps crossed the German border on 2 August, and began to force the Prussian 40th Regiment of the 16th Infantry Division from the town of Saarbrücken with a series of direct attacks. The Chassepot rifle proved its worth against the Dreyse rifle, with French riflemen regularly outdistancing their Prussian counterparts in the skirmishing around Saarbrücken. However the Prussians resisted strongly, and the French suffered 86 casualties to the Prussian 83 casualties. Saarbrücken also proved to be a major obstacle in terms of logistics. Only one railway there led to the German hinterland but could be easily defended by a single force, and the only river systems in the region ran along the border instead of inland.[33] While the French hailed the invasion as the first step towards the Rhineland and later Berlin, General Le Bœuf and Napoleon III were receiving alarming reports from foreign news sources of Prussian and Bavarian armies massing to the southeast in addition to the forces to the north and northeast.

Moltke had indeed massed three armies in the area—the Prussian First Army with 50,000 men, commanded by General Karl von Steinmetz opposite Saarlouis, the Prussian Second Army with 134,000 men commanded by Prince Friedrich Karl opposite the line Forbach–Spicheren, and the Prussian Third Army with 120,000 men commanded by Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, poised to cross the border at Wissembourg.

 
 

French soldiers in the Franco-Prussian War 1870–71
 
 
Prussian Army advance
Battle of Wissembourg

Upon learning from captured Prussian soldiers and a local area police chief, that the Prussian Crown Prince's Third Army was just 30 miles (48 km) from Saarbrücken near the town of Wissembourg, General Le Bœuf and Napoleon III decided to retreat to defensive positions. General Frossard, without instructions, hastily withdrew the elements of the Army of the Rhine in Saarbrücken back to Spicheren and Forbach.

Marshal MacMahon, now closest to Wissembourg, spread his four divisions over 20 miles (32 km) to react to any Prussian invasion. This organization of forces was due to a lack of supplies, forcing each division to seek out basic provisions along with the representatives of the army supply arm that was supposed to aid them.

What made a bad situation much worse was the conduct of General Auguste-Alexandre Ducrot, commander of the 1st Division. He told General Abel Douay, commander of the 2nd Division, on 1 August that "The information I have received makes me suppose that the enemy has no considerable forces very near his advance posts, and has no desire to take the offensive".

Two days later, he told MacMahon that he had not found "a single enemy post ... it looks to me as if the menace of the Bavarians is simply bluff". Even though Ducrot shrugged off the possibility of an attack by the Germans, MacMahon tried to warn the other divisions of his army, without success.

  The first action of the Franco-Prussian War took place on 4 August 1870. This battle saw the unsupported division of General Douay of I Corps, with some attached cavalry, which was posted to watch the border, attacked in overwhelming but uncoordinated fashion by the German 3rd Army.

During the day, elements of a Bavarian and two Prussian corps became engaged and were aided by Prussian artillery, which blasted holes in the defenses of the town. Douay held a very strong position initially, thanks to the accurate long-range fire of the Chassepots but his force was too thinly stretched to hold it. Douay was killed in the late morning when a caisson of the divisional mitrailleuse battery exploded near him; the encirclement of the town by the Prussians threatened the French avenue of retreat.

The fighting within the town had become extremely intense, becoming a door to door battle of survival. Despite a never-ending attack of Prussian infantry, the soldiers of the 2nd Division kept to their positions. The people of the town of Wissembourg finally surrendered to the Germans. The French troops who did not surrender retreated westward, leaving behind 1,000 dead and wounded and another 1,000 prisoners and all of their remaining ammunition. The final attack by the Prussian troops also cost c. 1,000 casualties. The German cavalry then failed to pursue the French and lost touch with them. The attackers had an initial superiority of numbers, a broad deployment which made envelopment highly likely but the effectiveness of French Chassepot rifle-fire inflicted costly repulses on infantry attacks, until the French infantry had been extensively bombarded by the Prussian artillery.

 
 

Map of Prussian and German offensive, 5–6 August 1870
 
 
Battle of Spicheren
The Battle of Spicheren, on 5 August, was the second of three critical French defeats. Moltke had originally planned to keep Bazaine's army on the Saar River until he could attack it with the 2nd Army in front and the 1st Army on its left flank, while the 3rd Army closed towards the rear. The aging General von Steinmetz made an overzealous, unplanned move, leading the 1st Army south from his position on the Moselle. He moved straight toward the town of Spicheren, cutting off Prince Frederick Charles from his forward cavalry units in the process.

On the French side, planning after the disaster at Wissembourg had become essential. General Le Bœuf, flushed with anger, was intent upon going on the offensive over the Saar and countering their loss. However, planning for the next encounter was more based upon the reality of unfolding events rather than emotion or pride, as Intendant General Wolff told him and his staff that supply beyond the Saar would be impossible. Therefore, the armies of France would take up a defensive position that would protect against every possible attack point, but also left the armies unable to support each other.

While the French army under General MacMahon engaged the German 3rd Army at the Battle of Wörth, the German 1st Army under Steinmetz finished their advance west from Saarbrücken.

  A patrol from the German 2nd Army under Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia spotted decoy fires close and Frossard's army farther off on a distant plateau south of the town of Spicheren, and took this as a sign of Frossard's retreat. Ignoring Moltke's plan again, both German armies attacked Frossard's French 2nd Corps, fortified between Spicheren and Forbach.

The French were unaware of German numerical superiority at the beginning of the battle as the German 2nd Army did not attack all at once. Treating the oncoming attacks as merely skirmishes, Frossard did not request additional support from other units. By the time he realized what kind of a force he was opposing, it was too late. Seriously flawed communications between Frossard and those in reserve under Bazaine slowed down so much that by the time the reserves received orders to move out to Spicheren, German soldiers from the 1st and 2nd armies had charged up the heights. Because the reserves had not arrived, Frossard erroneously believed that he was in grave danger of being outflanked as German soldiers under General von Glume were spotted in Forbach. Instead of continuing to defend the heights, by the close of battle after dusk he retreated to the south. The German casualties were relatively high due to the advance and the effectiveness of the chassepot rifle. They were quite startled in the morning when they had found out that their efforts were not in vain—Frossard had abandoned his position on the heights.

 
 

Aimé Morot's La bataille de Reichshoffen, 1887
 
 
Battle of Wörth
The Battle of Wörth (also known as Fröschwiller or Reichshoffen) began when the two armies clashed again on 6 August near Wörth in the town of Fröschwiller, about 10 miles (16 km) from Wissembourg. The Crown Prince of Prussia's 3rd army had, on the quick reaction of his Chief of Staff General von Blumenthal, drawn reinforcements which brought its strength up to 140,000 troops. The French had been slowly reinforced and their force numbered only 35,000. Although badly outnumbered, the French defended their position just outside Fröschwiller. By afternoon, the Germans had suffered c. 10,500 killed or wounded and the French had lost a similar number of casualties and another c.9,200 men taken prisoner, a loss of about 50%. The Germans captured Fröschwiller which sat on a hilltop in the centre of the French line. Having lost any hope for victory and facing a massacre, the French army disengaged and retreated in a westerly direction towards Bitche and Saverne, hoping to join French forces on the other side of the Vosges mountains. The German 3rd army did not pursue the French but remained in Alsace and moved slowly south, attacking and destroying the French garrisons in the vicinity.
 
 

The Prussian 7th Cuirassiers charge the French guns at the Battle of Mars-La-Tour, 16 August 1870.
 
 
Battle of Mars-La-Tour
About 160,000 French soldiers were besieged in the fortress of Metz following the defeats on the frontier. A retirement from Metz to link up with French forces at Châlons, was ordered on 15 August and spotted by a Prussian cavalry patrol under Major Oskar von Blumenthal. Next day a grossly outnumbered Prussian force of 30,000 men of III Corps (of the 2nd Army) under General Konstantin von Alvensleben, found the French Army near Vionville, east of Mars-la-Tour.

Despite odds of four to one, the III Corps launched a risky attack. The French were routed and the III Corps captured Vionville, blocking any further escape attempts to the west. Once blocked from retreat, the French in the fortress of Metz had no choice but to engage in a fight that would see the last major cavalry engagement in Western Europe. The battle soon erupted, and III Corps was shattered by incessant cavalry charges, losing over half its soldiers. The German Official History recorded 15,780 casualties and French casualties of 13,761 men.

On 16 August, the French had a chance to sweep away the key Prussian defense, and to escape. Two Prussian corps had attacked the French advanced guard, thinking that it was the rearguard of the retreat of the French Army of the Meuse. Despite this misjudgment the two Prussian corps held the entire French army for the whole day. Outnumbered 5 to 1, the extraordinary élan of the Prussians prevailed over gross indecision by the French. The French had lost the opportunity to win a decisive victory.

 
 

The "Rifle Battalion 9 from Lauenburg" at Gravelotte, painting by Ernst Zimmer
 
 
Battle of Gravelotte
The Battle of Gravelotte, or Gravelotte–St. Privat (18 August), was the largest battle during the Franco-Prussian War. It was fought about 6 miles (9.7 km) west of Metz, where on the previous day, having intercepted the French army's retreat to the west at the Battle of Mars-La-Tour, the Prussians were now closing in to complete the destruction of the French forces. The combined German forces, under Field Marshal Count Helmuth von Moltke, were the Prussian First and Second Armies of the North German Confederation numbering about 210 infantry battalions, 133 cavalry squadrons, and 732 heavy cannons totaling 188,332 officers and men. The French Army of the Rhine, commanded by Marshal François-Achille Bazaine, numbering about 183 infantry battalions, 104 cavalry squadrons, backed by 520 heavy cannons, totaling 112,800 officers and men, dug in along high ground with their southern left flank at the town of Rozerieulles, and their northern right flank at St. Privat.

On 18 August, the battle began when at 08:00 Moltke ordered the First and Second Armies to advance against the French positions. By 12:00, General Manstein opened up the battle before the village of Amanvillers with artillery from the 25th Infantry Division. But the French had spent the night and early morning digging trenches and rifle pits while placing their artillery and their mitrailleuses in concealed positions. Finally aware of the Prussian advance, the French opened up a massive return fire against the mass of advancing Germans. The battle at first appeared to favor the French with their superior Chassepot rifle. However, the Prussian artillery was superior with the all-steel Krupp breech-loading gun. By 14:30, General Steinmetz, the commander of the First Army, unilaterally launched his VIII Corps across the Mance Ravine in which the Prussian infantry were soon pinned down by murderous rifle and mitrailleuse fire from the French positions. At 15:00, the massed guns of the VII and VIII Corps opened fire to support the attack. But by 16:00, with the attack in danger of stalling, Steinmetz ordered the VII Corps forward, followed by the 1st Cavalry Division.

 
 

Prussian Guards at the Battle of Gravelotte
 
 
By 16:50, with the Prussian southern attacks in danger of breaking up, the Prussian 3rd Guards Infantry Brigade of the Second Army opened an attack against the French positions at St. Privat which were commanded by General Canrobert. At 17:15, the Prussian 4th Guards Infantry Brigade joined the advance followed at 17:45 by the Prussian 1st Guards Infantry Brigade. All of the Prussian Guard attacks were pinned down by lethal French gunfire from the rifle pits and trenches. At 18:15 the Prussian 2nd Guards Infantry Brigade, the last of the 1st Guards Infantry Division, was committed to the attack on St. Privat while Steinmetz committed the last of the reserves of the First Army across the Mance Ravine. By 18:30, a considerable portion of the VII and VIII Corps disengaged from the fighting and withdrew towards the Prussian positions at Rezonville.

With the defeat of the First Army, Prince Frederick Charles ordered a massed artillery attack against Canrobert's position at St. Privat to prevent the Guards attack from failing too. At 19:00 the 3rd Division of Fransecky's II Corps of the Second Army advanced across Ravine while the XII Corps cleared out the nearby town of Roncourt and with the survivors of the 1st Guards Infantry Division launched a fresh attack against the ruins of St. Privat. At 20:00, the arrival of the Prussian 4th Infantry Division of the II Corps and with the Prussian right flank on Mance Ravine, the line stabilised. By then, the Prussians of the 1st Guards Infantry Division and the XII and II Corps captured St. Privat forcing the decimated French forces to withdraw. With the Prussians exhausted from the fighting, the French were now able to mount a counter-attack. General Bourbaki, however, refused to commit the reserves of the French Old Guard to the battle because, by that time, he considered the overall situation a 'defeat'. By 22:00, firing largely died down across the battlefield for the night. The next morning, the French Army of the Rhine, rather than resume the battle with an attack of its own against the battle-weary German armies, retreated to Metz where they were besieged and forced to surrender two months later.

The casualties were horrible, especially for the attacking Prussian forces. A grand total of 20,163 German troops were killed, wounded or missing in action during the August 18 battle. The French losses were 7,855 killed and wounded along with 4,420 prisoners of war (half of them were wounded) for a total of 12,275. While most of the Prussians fell under the French Chassepot rifles, most French fell under the Prussian Krupp shells. In a breakdown of the casualties, Frossard's II Corps of the Army of the Rhine suffered 621 casualties while inflicting 4,300 casualties on the Prussian First Army under Steinmetz before the Pointe du Jour. The Prussian Guards Infantry Divisions losses were even more staggering with 8,000 casualties out of 18,000 men. The Special Guards Jäger lost 19 officers, a surgeon and 431 men out of a total of 700. The 2nd Guards Infantry Brigade lost 39 officers and 1,076 men. The 3rd Guards Infantry Brigade lost 36 officers and 1,060 men. On the French side, the units holding St. Privat lost more than half their number in the village.

 
 

Surrender of Metz.
 
 
Siege of Metz
With the defeat of Marshal Bazaine's Army of the Rhine at Gravelotte, the French were forced to retire to Metz, where they were besieged by over 150,000 Prussian troops of the First and Second Armies. Napoleon III and MacMahon formed the new French Army of Châlons, to march on to Metz to rescue Bazaine. Napoleon III personally led the army with Marshal MacMahon in attendance. The Army of Châlons marched northeast towards the Belgian border to avoid the Prussians before striking south to link up with Bazaine. The Prussians, under the command of Field Marshal Count Helmuth von Moltke, took advantage of this maneuver to catch the French in a pincer grip. He left the Prussian First and Second Armies besieging Metz, except three corps detached to form the Army of the Meuse under the Crown Prince of Saxony. With this army and the Prussian Third Army, Moltke marched northward and caught up with the French at Beaumont on 30 August. After a sharp fight in which they lost 5,000 men and 40 cannons, the French withdrew toward Sedan. Having reformed in the town, the Army of Châlons was immediately isolated by the converging Prussian armies. Napoleon III ordered the army to break out of the encirclement immediately. With MacMahon wounded on the previous day, General Auguste Ducrot took command of the French troops in the field.
 
 

A mural painted in 1884 by Carl Steffeck depicts General Reille delivering Napoleon's letter of surrender to King William I at the Battle of Sedan in September 1870. It was at the former Ruhmeshalle in Berlin and was destroyed by bombs during World War II
 
 
Battle of Sedan
On 1 September 1870, the battle opened with the Army of Châlons, with 202 infantry battalions, 80 cavalry squadrons and 564 guns, attacking the surrounding Prussian Third and Meuse Armies totaling 222 infantry battalions, 186 cavalry squadrons and 774 guns. General De Wimpffen, the commander of the French V Corps in reserve, hoped to launch a combined infantry and cavalry attack against the Prussian XI Corps. But by 11:00, Prussian artillery took a toll on the French while more Prussian troops arrived on the battlefield. The French cavalry, commanded by General Marguerite, launched three desperate attacks on the nearby village of Floing where the Prussian XI Corps was concentrated. Marguerite was killed leading the very first charge and the two additional charges led to nothing but heavy losses. By the end of the day, with no hope of breaking out, Napoleon III called off the attacks. The French lost over 17,000 men, killed or wounded, with 21,000 captured. The Prussians reported their losses at 2,320 killed, 5,980 wounded and 700 captured or missing. By the next day, on 2 September, Napoleon III surrendered and was taken prisoner with 104,000 of his soldiers. It was an overwhelming victory for the Prussians, for they not only captured an entire French army, but the leader of France as well. The defeat of the French at Sedan had decided the war in Prussia's favour. One French army was now immobilised and besieged in the city of Metz, and no other forces stood on French ground to prevent a German invasion. Nevertheless, the war would continue.
 
 

BATTLE OF SEDAN

1 September 1870

Forces Engaged

Prussian: 200,000 men. Commander: Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, the elder.
French: 120,000 men. Commander: Emperor Napoleon III.

Importance

Prussian victory spelled doom for the French army in the Franco-Prussian War, leading to consolidation of Germanic states into one country, as well as long-standing hostility between France and Germany to serve as one causal factor in the outbreak of World War I.

 
Historical Setting

Prussia was the dominant state of Germany in the middle 1800s. It rose to prominence mainly through the quality of its military. Ever since its defeat at the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte at Jena and Auerstadt in 1806, the Prussian military had dedicated itself to becoming the best in the world, both to return to the glory days of Frederick the Great and to ensure that no such embarrassment as that at the hands of die French was ever repeated. They developed the world's first General Staff, promoting excellence in all phases of military activity. The system proved itself in 1866 when Prussia easily defeated their former ally Austria in a dispute over the provinces of Schleswig and Holstein; that war seemed almost a tune-up for a return match with France. Under the leadership of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Prussia gathered the lesser German states around itself in a North German Confederation and aimed toward the unification of all Germanic principalities into one nation. A war with France would serve as a focus for that German nationalism.
In France, Napoleon III had reigned as head of state since the revolution of 1848. The Second Empire was a shadow of the First Empire established by Napoleon Bonaparte, but France hoped to maintain a major role in world affairs, even if it could not return to the earlier heights of grandeur. During the Austro-Prussian War, Napoleon III had given Prussia tacit support in return for generalized promises of reward. France had hoped to gain borderlands along the western Rhine after that war, but Bismarck refused to cede any such territory to non-Germans. He then stood in the way of a proposed French purchase of Luxembourg from Holland. When Napoleon hoped to expand into Belgium via heavy French investment in that country's rail system, Bismarck reminded England of possible French control of the English Channel coast, and English opposition halted French aims. In the face of these French ventures, Bismarck convinced the southern German state of Bavaria to join in a defense pact. The question of a new heir to the Spanish dirone brought Franco-Prussian difficulties to a head. After Queen Isabella was deposed in 1868, the Spanish government reorganized itself as a constitutional monarchy, but they were in need of a monarch. They secretly appealed to Prince Leopold of the House of Hohen-zollern, a distant cousin of Prussian King Wilhelm. Negotiations for offering the crown to Leopold were conducted between the Spanish government and the Prussian court. Although Wilhelm had little interest in the matter and occasionally spoke against the scheme, Bismarck pushed Leopold's cause. When the French learned of the negotiations, they feared being surrounded by Hohenzollerns. The French ambassador to Prussia met with Wilhelm in Holland and secured the wididrawal of Prussian support for Leopold, but then pressed his luck by demanding that no future claimant would ever come from the Hohenzollem dynasty. When Bismarck received word of diis demand in a telegram, he doctored the communication in such a way as to make it appear that the French were rude to Wilhelm and the Kaiser had dismissed the ambassador. This provoked French public opinion to die point of war and Napoleon, frustrated by Prussia at every turn, complied.

The Prussian military was ready, with the states of Bavaria, Baden, and Wiirttemberg mobilizing their armies in support. In less than 3 weeks, Prussia and its allies had almost half a million troops on the frontier, more than the French would muster in the entire war. The French mobilization was totally disorganized, with men arriving at their rendezvous points and at the front badly underequipped. The Prussian General Staff showed its competence by employing the rails for transport, a lesson that they had learned from observing the American Civil War. Their contingency planning for the campaign was ready for employment, whereas Napoleon III hastily threw together a strategy just before riding out to join his troops. He hoped to gain an early victory in southern Germany and bring Austria and Italy into the war on his side. Oddly, for all the chaos, it got off to a good start.
 
 

Karte zur Schlacht bei Sedan (01.09.1870)
 
 
The Battle

On 30 July 1870, four French corps advanced out of the fortress city of Metz against Prussian forces just across the border at Saarbriicken. On 2 August, they easily scattered the small force defending the city, but then, through want of organization and decision, failed to occupy it. It would be one of their few bright spots in the entire conflict.
The Prussians launched a counteroffensive just to the south, driving French forces back toward Strasbourg. In an attempt to slow their advance, French General Maurice MacMahon on 6 August threw a cavalry charge at them near the town of Worth; the French force was slaughtered. A second Prussian offensive to the north was also victorious at Spicheren. With two rapid defeats, the demoralized Napoleon ordered Metz abandoned and the French army to retreat. Somewhat reluctant to start the war, the emperor now became completely demoralized, and that spirit spread through the ranks. Knowing he could command neither the army's movements nor its respect, he conceded command to Marshal Francois Bazaine, only slighdy more aggressive in his nature than Napoleon. Napoleon left for Chalons to raise another army.
The French retreat toward Verdun found itself cut off by rapidly advancing Prussian troops. Prussian commander Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke ordered the French destroyed while on the march, but, in the ensuing battle at Vionville, the French soldiers gave a good account of themselves in a bloody encounter. It bolstered their confidence somewhat, but Bazaine ordered the army to face bout and return to Metz. On the way, the Prussians attacked again at Gravelotte and suffered a terrible defeat, but this did nothing to encourage Bazaine. His return to Metz ended in a siege.





Marshal MacMahon was ordered to lead the newly formed Army of Chalons to relieve Metz, and he marched his 130,000 men out of that city on 21 August. His army, made up primarily of refugees from Parisian jails, was even less disciplined than Bazaine's force. The dispirited Napoleon rode with them. Learning of die movement, Moltke ordered a holding force to stay at Metz while the bulk of his army turned to face MacMahon. When the two forces ran into each other on 30 August at Beaumont, just west of the Meuse River, MacMahon ordered a retreat into the town of Sedan. It seemed a good defensive position to reorganize and launch a new attack. He deployed his men in a triangle around the town, digging them in on high ground. Moltke's men quickly marched to surround the town, cutting it off from any possible reinforcement. Unfortunately for the French, the Germans occupied even higher ground and by evening on 31 August were lobbing artillery shells into the city.

Early on 1 September, Napoleon decided that his time had come for glory or infamy. Apparently accepting his fate, he became eerily calm. Although he was suffering immensely from kidney stones, he mounted his horse and rode out to battle. The morning started with a Prussian cannonade, followed by an attack on the oudying village of Bazeilles. The fighting there was intense throughout the morning and early afternoon. MacMahon was wounded and turned command over to General Auguste Ducrot. Ducrot immediately ordered an attempt to break out of the encirclement to the west. As the troops were responding to that decision, he was faced by General Emmanuel de Wimpffen, who had just arrived from a command in Morocco. Waving orders from die War Minister, he took charge, countermanding the retreat order and directing die troops to recapture Bazeilles.

Napoleon had spent the day riding near the heaviest action, courting danger and possible death, his new demeanor imparting some confidence to the French soldiers. He returned to Sedan to confer with MacMahon. While there he was informed of a Prussian success at Floing, about a mile north of Sedan. A French cavalry charge there had proved fatally futile and, coupled with the constant pounding of Prussian artillery and the chaos within Sedan, convinced Napoleon to call it quits. Watching soldiers and civilians desperately trying to enter the city, at 1630 he ordered a white flag to be raised. Wimpffen at first refused to allow his emperor to surrender, but when Moltke sent forward two officers under a flag of truce, Napoleon ordered that they be received. The Prussians had no hint, until that moment, that the French emperor was actually in the city.
 
 

Napoleon III surrenders his sword
 
 
Results

Negotiations lasted through the night, and on 2 September Napoleon ordered that Wimpffen sign the surrender document. The entire remnants of the Army of Chalons, including more than 100,000 men, 6,000 horses, and 419 artillery pieces, fell into Prussian hands. Emperor Napoleon III turned himself over to Prussian Kaiser Wilhelm, who had been on the scene to watch Mokke's victory. Napoleon spent a few months in Germany and then went into exile in England.
The Prussian victory at Sedan did not end the war, but it broke the French army. Bazaine held out in Metz until 27 October, but with no hope of relief. With the bulk of the French army captured in two battles, the Prussians and their allies faced little opposition as they marched on Paris. The citizens of the French capital put up a valiant defense, but they could not possibly succeed. On 19 January, they also capitulated.

The Prussians, who had dominated the lesser Germanic states throughout the century, now seized the opportunity to unite them. On 18 January, at the French palace of Versailles, Wilhelm oversaw the creation of the state of Germany. He became its king, and his Chancellor Bismarck led the new German government. They imposed a harsh peace on France: cession of the valuable border provinces of Alsace and Lorraine and an indemnity of five billion francs (roughly $3 billion).



Napoleon III having a conversation with Bismarck after being captured in the Battle of Sedan (1878 painting by Wilhelm Camphausen)



France's defeat ended Napoleon's Second Empire, ushering in the Second Republic. France was at one of the lowest points in its entire history. After die Prussians withdrew, a revolutionary government in Paris was bloodily suppressed by the remains of the French army. Whatever dreams of glory there may have been in the revival of empire in 1854 were long since forgotten. There was only the future to look forward to, and the French army set about making sure that the next time that they faced the Germans the outcome would be different. They created their own General Staff, which oversaw the creation of Plan XVII, the strategy for Germany's defeat in the next war.

Remaining hostile to Germany, the French challenged its eastern neighbor in international affairs, primarily in die acquisition of colonies around the world, mainly in Africa. Allying itself with Great Britain, which feared the increasing size of die German navy, France rebuilt itself into a colonial power, a strategy that aided in restoring the nation's morale at the end of die century.

Prussia, now Germany, emerged from the war die most powerful nation on the Continent. Its military was unchallengeable, and its industry soon rivaled that of Great Britain. That growing rivalry proved another of the many reasons for die First World War. The German military learned that artillery once again proved the upper hand in battle. That was confirmed by observers of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, so, when World War I broke out, no nation could match Germany in firepower. The military use of railroads, already proven in die United States, gained priority in Europe. The German General Staff proved itself the true instrument of victory, and not only France but every major power soon copied the format. Although Moldce and his subordinates made some glaring mistakes, as at Gravelotte, victory overshadowed them. The wars of the future would be fought not just by soldiers, but by planners and managers.

References: Aronson, Theo. The Fall of the Third Napoleon. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970; Carr, William. The Origin of the Wars of German Unification. London: Longman, 1991; Forster, Stig, and Jorg Nagler. On the Road to Total War: The American Civil War and the Franco-German War. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997; Fuller, J. F. С A Military History of the Western World, vol. 3. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1956; Howard, Michael. The Franco-Prussian War. New York: Collier, 1961.

 
 
 
The war of the Government of National Defence

Government of National Defence
When the news arrived at Paris of the surrender at Sedan of Napoleon III and 80,000 men, the Second Empire was overthrown by a popular uprising in Paris, which forced the proclamation of a Provisional Government and a Third Republic by general Trochu, Favre and Gambetta at Paris on 4 September, the new government calling itself the Government of National Defence. After the German victory at Sedan, most of the French standing army was either besieged in Metz or prisoner of the Germans, who hoped for an armistice and an end to the war. Bismarck wanted an early peace but had difficulty in finding a legitimate French authority with which to negotiate. The Government of National Defence had no electoral mandate, the Emperor was a captive and the Empress in exile but there had been no abdication de jure and the army was still bound by an oath of allegiance to the defunct imperial régime.

The Germans expected to negotiate an end to the war but immediately ordered an advance on Paris; by 15 September Moltke issued the orders for an investment of Paris and on 20 September the encirclement was complete. Bismarck met Favre on 18 September at the Château de Ferrières and demanded a frontier immune to a French war of revenge, which included Strasbourg, Alsace and most the Moselle department in Lorraine of which Metz was the capital. In return for an armistice for the French to elect a National Assembly, Bismarck demanded the surrender of Strasbourg and the fortress city of Toul. To allow supplies into Paris, one of the perimeter forts had to be handed over. Favre was unaware that the real aim of Bismarck in making such extortionate demands was to establish a durable peace on the new western frontier of Germany, preferably by a peace with a friendly government, on terms acceptable to French public opinion. An impregnable military frontier was an inferior alternative to him, favoured only by the militant nationalists on the German side.

 
 
While the republican government was amenable to war reparations or ceding colonial territories in Africa or in South East Asia to Prussia, Favre on behalf of the Government of National Defense, declared on 6 September that France would not "yield an inch of its territory nor a stone of its fortresses." The republic then renewed the declaration of war, called for recruits in all parts of the country and pledged to drive the German troops out of France by a guerre à outrance. Under these circumstances, the Germans had to continue the war, yet could not pin down any proper military opposition in their vicinity. As the bulk of the remaining French armies were digging-in near Paris, the German leaders decided to put pressure upon the enemy by attacking Paris. By September 15, German troops reached the outskirts of the fortified city. On September 19, the Germans surrounded it and erected a blockade, as already established at Metz.

When the war had begun, European public opinion heavily favored the Germans; many Italians attempted to sign up as volunteers at the Prussian embassy in Florence and a Prussian diplomat visited Giuseppe Garibaldi in Caprera. Bismarck's demand for the return of Alsace caused a dramatic shift in that sentiment in Italy, which was best exemplified by the reaction of Garibaldi soon after the revolution in Paris, who told the Movimento of Genoa on 7 September 1870 that "Yesterday I said to you: war to the death to Bonaparte. Today I say to you: rescue the French Republic by every means." Garibaldi went to France and assumed command of the Army of the Vosges, with which he operated around Dijon till the end of the war.

 
"The War: Defence of Paris—Students Going to Man the Fortifications"—one of the iconic images of the Siege of Paris.
 
 
Siege of Paris
Prussian forces commenced the Siege of Paris on 19 September 1870. Faced with the blockade, the new French government called for the establishment of several large armies in the French provinces. These new bodies of troops were to march towards Paris and attack the Germans there from various directions at the same time. Armed French civilians were to create a guerilla force—the so-called Francs-tireurs—for the purpose of attacking German supply lines.

These developments prompted calls from the German public for a bombardment of the city. von Blumenthal, who commanded the siege, was opposed to the bombardment on moral grounds. In this he was backed by other senior military figures such as the Crown Prince and Moltke.

 
 
Loire campaign
Dispatched from Paris as the republican government emissary, Léon Gambetta flew over the German lines in a balloon inflated with coal gas from the city's gasworks and organized the recruitment of the Armée de la Loire. Rumors about an alleged German "extermination" plan infuriated the French and strengthened their support of the new regime. Within a few weeks, five new armies totalling more than 500,000 troops were recruited.

The Germans dispatched some of their troops to the French provinces to detect, attack and disperse the new French armies before they could become a menace. The Germans were not prepared for an occupation of the whole of France.

On 10 October, hostilities began between German and French republican forces near Orléans. At first, the Germans were victorious but the French drew reinforcements and defeated the Germans at the Battle of Coulmiers on 9 November. After the surrender of Metz, more than 100,000 well-trained and experienced German troops joined the German 'Southern Army'. The French were forced to abandon Orléans on 4 December, and were finally defeated at the Battle of Le Mans (10–12 January). A second French army which operated north of Paris was turned back at the Battle of Amiens (27 November), the Battle of Bapaume (3 January 1871) and the Battle of St. Quentin (13 January).

 
 

The Battle of Bapaume (1871) took place from 2–3 January 1871, during the Franco-Prussian War in and around Biefvillers-lès-Bapaume and Bapaume. The Prussian advance was stopped by Genéral Louis Léon César Faidherbe at the head of the Armée du Nord.
 
 
Northern campaign
Following the Army of the Loire's defeats, Gambetta turned to general Faidherbe's Army of the North. The army had achieved several small victories at towns such as Ham, La Hallue, and Amiens and was protected by the belt of fortresses in northern France, allowing Faidherbe's men to launch quick attacks against isolated Prussian units, then retreat behind the fortresses. Despite access to the armaments factories of Lille, the Army of the North suffered from severe supply difficulties, which depressed morale. In January 1871, Gambetta forced Faidherbe to march his army beyond the fortresses and engage the Prussians in open battle. The army was severely weakened by low morale, supply problems, the terrible winter weather and low troop quality, whilst general Faidherbe was unable to command due to his poor health, the result of decades of campaigning in West Africa. At the Battle of St. Quentin, the Army of the North suffered a crushing defeat and was scattered, releasing thousands of Prussian soldiers to be relocated to the East.

Eastern campaign
Following the destruction of the French Army of the Loire, remnants of the Loire army gathered in eastern France to form the Army of the East, commanded by general Charles-Denis Bourbaki. In a final attempt to cut the German supply lines in northeast France, Bourbaki's army marched north to attack the Prussian siege of Belfort and relieve the defenders.

In the battle of the Lisaine, Bourbaki's men failed to break through German lines commanded by General August von Werder. Bringing in the German 'Southern Army', General von Manteuffel then drove Bourbaki's army into the mountains near the Swiss border. Facing annihilation, the last intact French army crossed the border and was disarmed and interned by the neutral Swiss near Pontarlier (1 February).

  Armistice.
On 28 January 1871 the Government of National Defence based in Paris negotiated an armistice with the Prussians. With Paris starving, and Gambetta's provincial armies reeling from one disaster after another, French foreign minister Favre went to Versailles on 24 January to discuss peace terms with Bismarck.

Bismarck agreed to end the siege and allow food convoys to immediately enter Paris (including trains carrying millions of German army rations), on condition that the Government of National Defence surrender several key fortresses outside Paris to the Prussians. Without the forts, the French Army would no longer be able to defend Paris.

Although public opinion in Paris was strongly against any form of surrender or concession to the Prussians, the Government realised that it could not hold the city for much longer, and that Gambetta's provincial armies would probably never break through to relieve Paris.

President Trochu resigned on 25 January and was replaced by Favre, who signed the surrender two days later at Versailles, with the armistice coming into effect at midnight. Several sources claim that in his carriage on the way back to Paris, Favre broke into tears, and collapsed into his daughter's arms as the guns around Paris fell silent at midnight.

At Tours, Gambetta received word from Paris on 30 January that the Government had surrendered. Furious, he refused to surrender and launched an immediate attack on German forces at Orleans which, predictably, failed. A delegation of Parisian diplomats arrived in Tours by train on 5 February to negotiate with Gambetta, and the following day Gambetta stepped down and surrendered control of the provincial armies to the Government of National Defence, which promptly ordered a cease-fire across France.

 
 

French warships at sea in 1870
 
 
The war at sea

Blockade

When the war began, the French government ordered a blockade of the North German coasts, which the small North German navy (Norddeutsche Bundesmarine) with only five ironclads could do little to oppose. For most of the war, the three largest German ironclads were out of service with engine troubles; only the turret ship SMS Arminius was available to conduct operations. By the time engine repairs had been completed, the French fleet had already departed.

The blockade proved only partially successful due to crucial oversights by the planners in Paris. Reservists that were supposed to be at the ready in case of war, were working in the Newfoundland fisheries or in Scotland. Only part of the 470-ship French Navy put to sea on 24 July. Before long, the French navy ran short of coal, needing 200 short tons (180 t) per day and having a bunker capacity in the fleet of only 250 short tons (230 t).

A blockade of Wilhelmshaven failed and conflicting orders about operations in the Baltic Sea or a return to France, made the French naval efforts futile. Spotting a blockade-runner became unwelcome because of the question du charbon; pursuit of Prussian ships quickly depleted the coal reserves of the French ships.
  To relieve pressure from the expected German attack into Alsace-Lorraine, Napoleon III and the French high command planned a seaborne invasion of northern Germany as soon as war began. The French expected the invasion to divert German troops and to encourage Denmark to join in the war, with its 50,000-strong army and the Royal Danish Navy. It was discovered that Prussia had recently built defences around the big North German ports, including coastal artillery batteries with Krupp heavy artillery, which with a range of 4,000 yards (3,700 m), had double the range of French naval guns. The French Navy lacked the heavy guns to engage the coastal defences and the topography of the Prussian coast made a seaborne invasion of northern Germany impossible.

The French Marines and naval infantry intended for the invasion of northern Germany were dispatched to reinforce the French Army of Châlons and fell into captivity at Sedan along with Napoleon III. A shortage of officers, following the capture of most of the professional French army at the Siege of Metz and at the Battle of Sedan, led naval officers to be sent from their ships to command hastily assembled reservists of the Garde Mobile. As the autumn storms of the North Sea forced the return of more of the French ships, the blockade of the north German ports diminished and in September 1870 the French navy abandoned the blockade for the winter. The rest of the navy retired to ports along the English Channel and remained in port for the rest of the war.

 
 
Pacific and Caribbean
Outside Europe, the French corvette Dupleix blockaded the German corvette SMS Hertha in Nagasaki and the Battle of Havana took place between the Prussian gunboat SMS Meteor and the French aviso Bouvet off Havana, Cuba, in November 1870.
 
 

German uhlans and an infantryman escorting captured French soldiers
 
 
Aftermath
Analysis

The quick German victory over the French stunned neutral observers, many of whom had expected a French victory and most of whom had expected a long war. The strategic advantages possessed by the Germans were not appreciated outside Germany until after hostilities had ceased. Other countries quickly discerned the advantages given to the Germans by their military system, and adopted many of their innovations, particularly the General Staff, universal conscription and highly detailed mobilization systems.

The Prussian General Staff developed by Moltke proved to be extremely effective, in contrast to the traditional French school. This was in large part due to the fact that the Prussian General Staff was created to study previous Prussian operations and learn to avoid mistakes. The structure also greatly strengthened Moltke's ability to control large formations spread out over significant distances. The Chief of the General Staff, effectively the commander in chief of the Prussian army, was independent of the minister of war and answered only to the monarch. The French General Staff—along with those of every other European military—was little better than a collection of assistants for the line commanders. This disorganization hampered the French commanders' ability to exercise control of their forces.

In addition, the Prussian military education system was superior to the French model; Prussian staff officers were trained to exhibit initiative and independent thinking. Indeed, this was Moltke's expectation. The French, meanwhile, suffered from an education and promotion system that stifled intellectual development. According to the military historian Dallas Irvine, the system "was almost completely effective in excluding the army's brain power from the staff and high command. To the resulting lack of intelligence at the top can be ascribed all the inexcusable defects of French military policy."

Albrecht von Roon, the Prussian Minister of War from 1859 to 1873, put into effect a series of reforms of the Prussian military system in the 1860s. Among these were two major reforms that substantially increased the military power of Germany. The first was a reorganization of the army that integrated the regular army and the Landwehr reserves. The second was the provision for the conscription of every male Prussian of military age in the event of mobilization. Thus, despite the population of France being greater than the population of all of the German states that participated in the war, the Germans mobilized more soldiers for battle.

  At the outset of the Franco-Prussian War, 462,000 German soldiers concentrated on the French frontier while only 270,000 French soldiers could be moved to face them, the French army having lost 100,000 stragglers before a shot was fired through poor planning and administration. This was partly due to the peacetime organisations of the armies. Each Prussian Corps was based within a Kreis (literally "circle") around the chief city in an area. Reservists rarely lived more than a day's travel from their regiment's depot. By contrast, French regiments generally served far from their depots, which in turn were not in the areas of France from which their soldiers were drawn. Reservists often faced several days' journey to report to their depots, and then another long journey to join their regiments. Large numbers of reservists choked railway stations, vainly seeking rations and orders.

The effect of these differences was accentuated by the pre-war preparations. The Prussian General Staff had drawn up minutely detailed mobilization plans using the railway system, which in turn had been partly laid out in response to recommendations of a Railway Section within the General Staff. The French railway system, with multiple competing companies, had developed purely from commercial pressures and many journeys to the front in Alsace and Lorraine involved long diversions and frequent changes between trains. Furthermore, no system had been put in place for military control of the railways, and officers simply commandeered trains as they saw fit. Rail sidings and marshalling yards became choked with loaded wagons, with nobody responsible for unloading them or directing them to the destination.

Although Austria-Hungary and Denmark had both wished to avenge their recent military defeats against Prussia, they chose not to intervene in the war due to a lack of confidence in the French. Napoleon III also failed to cultivate alliances with the Russian Empire and the United Kingdom, partially due to the diplomatic efforts of the Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and thus faced the German states alone.

The French breech-loading rifle, the Chassepot, had a far longer range than the German needle gun; 1,500 yards (1,400 m) compared to 600 yd (550 m). The French also had an early machine-gun type weapon, the mitrailleuse, which could fire its thirty-seven barrels at a range of around 1,200 yd (1,100 m). It was developed in such secrecy, that little training with the weapon had occurred, leaving French gunners with no experience; the gun was treated like artillery and in this role it was ineffective. Worse still, once the small number of soldiers who had been trained how to use the new weapon became casualties, there were no replacements who knew how to operate the mitrailleuse.

 
 
The French were equipped with bronze, rifled muzzle-loading artillery, while the Prussians used new steel breech-loading guns, which had a far longer range and a faster rate of fire. Prussian gunners strove for a high rate of fire, which was discouraged in the French army in the belief that it wasted ammunition. In addition, the Prussian artillery batteries had 30% more guns than their French counterparts. The Prussian guns typically opened fire at a range of 2–3 kilometres (1.2–1.9 mi), beyond the range of French artillery or the Chassepot rifle. The Prussian batteries could thus destroy French artillery with impunity, before being moved forward to directly support infantry attacks.
 
 
Effects on military thought
The events of the Franco-Prussian War had great influence on military thinking over the next forty years. Lessons drawn from the war included the need for a general staff system, the scale and duration of future wars and the tactical use of artillery and cavalry. The bold use of artillery by the Prussians, to silence French guns at long range and then to directly support infantry attacks at close range, proved to be superior to the defensive doctrine employed by French gunners. The Prussian tactics were adopted by European armies by 1914, exemplified in the French 75, an artillery piece optimised to provide direct fire support to advancing infantry. Most European armies ignored the evidence of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05 which suggested that infantry armed with new smokeless-powder rifles, could engage gun crews effectively. This forced gunners to fire at longer range using indirect fire, usually from a position of cover.

At the Battle of Mars-la-Tours, the Prussian 12th Cavalry Brigade, commanded by General Adalbert von Bredow, conducted a charge against a French artillery battery. The attack was a costly success and came to be known as "von Bredow's Death Ride", which was held to prove that cavalry charges could still prevail on the battlefield. Use of traditional cavalry on the battlefields of 1914 proved to be disastrous, due to accurate, long-range rifle fire, machine-guns and artillery. Von Bredow's attack had succeeded only because of an unusually effective artillery bombardment just before the charge, along with favorable terrain that masked his approach.

 
Areas of France occupied until the war reparations were paid.
 
 
Subsequent events

Prussian reaction and withdrawal

The Prussian Army, under the terms of the armistice, held a brief victory parade in Paris on 17 February; the city was silent and draped with black and the Germans quickly withdrew. Bismarck honoured the armistice, by allowing train loads of food into Paris and withdrawing Prussian forces to the east of the city, prior to a full withdrawal once France agreed to pay a five billion franc war indemnity.[86] At the same time, Prussian forces were concentrated in the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. An exodus occurred from Paris as some 200,000 people, predominantly middle-class, went to the countryside.
 
 
The Paris Commune
During the war, the Paris National Guard, particularly in the working-class neighbourhoods of Paris, had become highly politicised and units elected officers; many refused to wear uniforms or obey commands from the national government. National guard units tried to seize power in Paris on 31 October 1870 and 22 January 1871. On 18 March 1871, when the regular army tried to remove cannons from an artillery park on Montmartre, National Guard units resisted and killed two army generals. The national government and regular army forces retreated to Versailles and a revolutionary government was proclaimed in Paris. A Commune was elected, which was dominated by socialists, anarchists and revolutionaries. The red flag replaced the French tricolour and a civil war began between the Commune and the regular army, which attacked and recaptured Paris from 21–28 May in La Semaine Sanglante (Bloody week).

During the fighting, the Communards killed c. 500 people, including the Archbishop of Paris, and burned down many government buildings, including the Tuileries Palace and the Hotel de Ville.[89] Communards captured with weapons were routinely shot by the army and Government troops killed from 7,000–30,000 Communards in the fighting and in massacres of men, women, and children during and after the Commune. More recent histories, based on studies of the number buried in Paris cemeteries and in mass graves after the fall of the Commune, put the number killed at between 6,000 and 10,000. Twenty-six courts were established to try more than 40,000 people who had been arrested, which took until 1875 and imposed 95 death sentences, of which 23 were inflicted. Forced labour for life was imposed on 251 people, 1,160 people were transported to "a fortified place" and 3,417 people were transported. About 20,000 Communards were held in prison hulks until released in 1872 and a great many Communards fled abroad to England, Switzerland, Belgium or the United States. The survivors were amnestied by a bill introduced by Gambetta in 1880 and allowed to return.

 
 

Proclamation of the German Empire, painted by Anton von Werner
 
 
German unification and power
The creation of a unified German Empire ended the balance of power that had been created with the Congress of Vienna after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Germany had established itself as the main power in continental Europe with the most powerful and professional army in the world. Although Great Britain remained the dominant world power, British involvement in European affairs during the late 19th century was very limited, allowing Germany to exercise great influence over the European mainland. Besides, the Crown Prince's marriage with the daughter of Queen Victoria was only the most prominent of several German–British relationships.

Poland
The neutrality of this article is disputed. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until conditions to do so are met. (November 2014)
In the Prussian province of Posen, with a large Polish population, there was strong support for the French and angry demonstrations at news of Prussian-German victories—a clear manifestation of Polish nationalist feeling. Calls were also made for Polish recruits to desert from the Prussian Army—though these went mainly unheeded. An alarming report on the Posen situation, sent to Bismarck on 16 August 1870, led to the quartering of reserve troop contingents in the restive province. The Franco-Prussian War thus turned out to be a significant event also in German–Polish relations, marking the beginning of a prolonged period of repressive measures by the authorities and efforts at Germanisation.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
1870
 
 
Lenin Vladimir
 
Vladimir Ilich Lenin, original name Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov (born April 10 [April 22, New Style], 1870, Simbirsk, Russia—died January 21, 1924, Gorki [later Gorki Leninskiye], near Moscow), founder of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), inspirer and leader of the Bolshevik Revolution (1917), and the architect, builder, and first head (1917–24) of the Soviet state. He was the founder of the organization known as Comintern (Communist International) and the posthumous source of “Leninism,” the doctrine codified and conjoined with Marx’s works by Lenin’s successors to form Marxism-Leninism, which became the Communist worldview.

If the Bolshevik Revolution is—as some people have called it—the most significant political event of the 20th century, then Lenin must for good or ill be regarded as the century’s most significant political leader. Not only in the scholarly circles of the former Soviet Union but even among many non-Communist scholars, he has been regarded as both the greatest revolutionary leader and revolutionary statesman in history, as well as the greatest revolutionary thinker since Marx.

 

Lenin
  Early life
The making of a revolutionary

It is difficult to identify any particular events in his childhood that might prefigure his turn onto the path of a professional revolutionary. Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov was born in Simbirsk, which was renamed Ulyanovsk in his honour. (He adopted the pseudonym Lenin in 1901 during his clandestine party work after exile in Siberia.) He was the third of six children born into a close-knit, happy family of highly educated and cultured parents. His mother was the daughter of a physician, while his father, though the son of a serf, became a schoolteacher and rose to the position of inspector of schools. Lenin, intellectually gifted, physically strong, and reared in a warm, loving home, early displayed a voracious passion for learning. He was graduated from high school ranking first in his class. He distinguished himself in Latin and Greek and seemed destined for the life of a classical scholar. When he was 16, nothing in Lenin indicated a future rebel, still less a professional revolutionary—except, perhaps, his turn to atheism. But, despite the comfortable circumstances of their upbringing, all five of the Ulyanov children who reached maturity joined the revolutionary movement. This was not an uncommon phenomenon in tsarist Russia, where even the highly educated and cultured intelligentsia were denied elementary civil and political rights.

As an adolescent Lenin suffered two blows that unquestionably influenced his subsequent decision to take the path of revolution. First, his father was threatened shortly before his untimely death with premature retirement by a reactionary government that had grown fearful of the spread of public education.

 
 

Second, in 1887 his beloved eldest brother, Aleksandr, a student at the University of St. Petersburg (later renamed Leningrad State University), was hanged for conspiring with a revolutionary terrorist group that plotted to assassinate Emperor Alexander III. Suddenly, at age 17, Lenin became the male head of the family, which was now stigmatized as having reared a “state criminal.”

Fortunately the income from his mother’s pension and inheritance kept the family in comfortable circumstances, although it could not prevent the frequent imprisonment or exile of her children. Moreover, Lenin’s high school principal (the father of Aleksandr Kerensky, who was later to lead the Provisional government deposed by Lenin’s Bolsheviks in November [October, O.S.] 1917) did not turn his back on the “criminal’s” family. He courageously wrote a character reference that smoothed Lenin’s admission to a university.

In autumn 1887 Lenin enrolled in the faculty of law of the imperial Kazan University (later renamed Kazan [V.I. Lenin] State University), but within three months he was expelled from the school, having been accused of participating in an illegal student assembly. He was arrested and banished from Kazan to his grandfather’s estate in the village of Kokushkino, where his older sister Anna had already been ordered by the police to reside. In the autumn of 1888, the authorities permitted him to return to Kazan but denied him readmission to the university. During this period of enforced idleness, he met exiled revolutionaries of the older generation and avidly read revolutionary political literature, especially Marx’s Das Kapital. He became a Marxist in January 1889.

 
 

Lenin, c. 1887.
  Formation of a revolutionary party
In May 1889 the Ulyanov family moved to Samara (known as Kuybyshev from 1935 to 1991). After much petitioning, Lenin was granted permission to take his law examinations. In November 1891 he passed his examinations, taking a first in all subjects, and was graduated with a first-class degree. After the police finally waived their political objections, Lenin was admitted to the bar and practiced law in Samara in 1892–93, his clients being mainly poor peasants and artisans. In his experience practicing law, he acquired an intense loathing for the class bias of the legal system and a lifelong revulsion for lawyers, even those who claimed to be Social-Democrats.

Law proved to be an extremely useful cover for a revolutionary activist. He moved to St. Petersburg (from 1914 to 1924 known as Petrograd; from 1924 to 1991 known as Leningrad) in August 1893 and, while working as a public defender, associated with revolutionary Marxist circles. In 1895 his comrades sent him abroad to make contact with Russian exiles in western Europe, especially with Russia’s most commanding Marxist thinker, Georgy Plekhanov. Upon his return to Russia in 1895, Lenin and other Marxists, including L. Martov, the future leader of the Mensheviks, succeeded in unifying the Marxist groups of the capital in an organization known as the Union for the Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class. The Union issued leaflets and proclamations on the workers’ behalf, supported workers’ strikes, and infiltrated workers’ education classes to impart to them the rudiments of Marxism. In December 1895, the leaders of the Union were arrested.

 
 

Lenin was jailed for 15 months and thereafter was sent into exile to Shushenskoye, in Siberia, for a term of three years. He was joined there in exile by his fiancée, Nadezhda Krupskaya, a Union member, whom he had met in the capital. They were married in Siberia, and she became Lenin’s indispensable secretary and comrade. In exile they conducted clandestine party correspondence and collaborated (legally) on a Russian translation of Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s Industrial Democracy.

Upon completing his term of Siberian exile in January 1900, Lenin left the country and was joined later by Krupskaya in Munich. His first major task abroad was to join Plekhanov, Martov, and three other editors in bringing out the newspaper Iskra (“The Spark”), which they hoped would unify the Russian Marxist groups that were scattered throughout Russia and western Europe into a cohesive Social-Democratic party.

Up to the point at which Lenin began working on Iskra, his writings had taken as their focus three problems: first, he had written a number of leaflets that aimed to shake the workers’ traditional veneration of the tsar by showing them that their harsh life was caused, in part, by the support tsarism rendered the capitalists; second, he attacked those self-styled Marxists who urged Social-Democrats and workers to concentrate on wage and hour issues, leaving the political struggle for the present to the bourgeoisie; third, and ultimately most important, he addressed himself to the peasant question.

 
 

Lenin in December 1895
  The principal obstacle to the acceptance of Marxism by many of the Russian intelligentsia was their adherence to the widespread belief of the Populists (Russian pre-Marxist radicals) that Marxism was inapplicable to peasant Russia, in which a proletariat (an industrial working class) was almost nonexistent. Russia, they believed, was immune to capitalism, owing to the circumstances of joint ownership of peasant land by the village commune. This view had been first attacked by Plekhanov in the 1880s. Plekhanov had argued that Russia had already entered the capitalist stage, looking for evidence to the rapid growth of industry. Despite the denials of the Populists, he claimed, the man of the future in Russia was indeed the proletarian, not the peasant. While attempting to apply the Marxist scheme of social development to Russia, Plekhanov had come to the conclusion that the revolution in Russia would have to pass through two discrete stages: first, a bourgeois revolution that would establish a democratic republic and full-blown capitalism; and second, a proletarian revolution after mature capitalism had generated a numerous proletariat that had attained a high level of political organization, socialist consciousness, and culture, enabling them to usher in full Socialism.

It was this set of principles that Lenin adhered to after he read Plekhanov’s work in the late 1880s. But, almost immediately, Lenin went a step beyond his former mentor, especially with regard to the peasant question. In an attack on the Populists published in 1894, Lenin charged that, even if they realized their fondest dream and divided all the land among the peasant communes, the result would not be Socialism but rather capitalism spawned by a free market in agricultural produce.

 
 

The “Socialism” put forth by the Populists would in practice favour the development of small-scale capitalism; hence the Populists were not Socialists but “petty bourgeois democrats.” Lenin came to the conclusion that outside of Marxism, which aimed ultimately to abolish the market system as well as the private ownership of the means of production, there could be no Socialism.

Even while in exile in Siberia, Lenin had begun research on his investigation of the peasant question, which culminated in his magisterial Development of Capitalism in Russia (published legally in 1899). In this work, a study of Russian economics, he argued that capitalism was rapidly destroying the peasant commune. The peasantry constituted for the Populists a homogeneous social class, but Lenin claimed that the peasantry was in actuality rapidly stratifying into a well-off rural bourgeoisie, a middling peasantry, and an impoverished rural “proletariat and semi-proletariat.” In this last group, which comprised half the peasant population, Lenin found an ally for the extremely small industrial proletariat in Russia.

Iskra’s success in recruiting Russian intellectuals to Marxism led Lenin and his comrades to believe that the time was ripe to found a revolutionary Marxist party that would weld together all the disparate Marxist groups at home and abroad. An abortive First Congress, held in 1898 in Minsk, had failed to achieve this objective, for most of the delegates were arrested shortly after the congress. The organizing committee of the Second Congress decided to convene the congress in Brussels in 1903, but police pressure forced it to transfer to London.

The congressional sessions wore on for nearly three weeks, for no point appeared too trivial to debate. The main issues, nevertheless, quickly became plain: eligibility for membership and the character of party discipline; but, above all, the key questions centred around the relation between the party and the proletariat, for whom the party claimed to speak.

 
 

V. I. Ulyanov among the members of the Petersburg
"League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class".
In group from left to right: standing — A.L. Malchenko, P. K. Zaporozhets, A. A. Vaneyev;
sitting — V. V. Starkov, G. M. Krzhizhanovsky, V. I. Ulyanov, Y. O. Martov - Tsederbaum.
1896
 
 

In his What Is To Be Done? (1902), Lenin totally rejected the standpoint that the proletariat was being driven spontaneously to revolutionary Socialism by capitalism and that the party’s role should be to merely coordinate the struggle of the proletariat’s diverse sections on a national and international scale. Capitalism, he contended, predisposed the workers to the acceptance of Socialism but did not spontaneously make them conscious Socialists. The proletariat by its own efforts in the everyday struggle against the capitalist could go so far as to achieve “trade-union consciousness.” But the proletariat could not by its own efforts grasp that it would be possible to win complete emancipation only by overthrowing capitalism and building Socialism, unless the party from without infused it with Socialist consciousness.

In his What Is To Be Done? and in his other works dealing with party organization, Lenin articulated one of his most momentous political innovations, his theory of the party as the “vanguard of the proletariat.” He conceived of the vanguard as a highly disciplined, centralized party that would work unremittingly to suffuse the proletariat with Socialist consciousness and serve as mentor, leader, and guide, constantly showing the proletariat where its true class interests lie.

At the Second Congress the Iskra group split, and Lenin found himself in a minority of opinion on this very issue. Nevertheless, he continued to develop his view of “the party of a new type,” which was to be guided by “democratic centralism,” or absolute party discipline. According to Lenin the party had to be a highly centralized body organized around a small, ideologically homogeneous, hardened core of experienced professional revolutionaries, who would be elected to the central committee by the party congress and who would lead a ramified hierarchy of lower party organizations that would enjoy the support and sympathy of the proletariat and all groups opposed to tsarism. “Give us an organization of revolutionaries,” Lenin exclaimed, “and we will overturn Russia!”

Lenin spared no effort to build just this kind of party over the next 20 years, despite fierce attacks on his position by some of his closest comrades of the Iskra days, Plekhanov, Martov, and Leon Trotsky. They charged that his scheme of party organization and discipline tended toward “Jacobinism,” suppression of free intraparty discussion, a dictatorship over the proletariat, not of the proletariat, and, finally, establishment of a one-man dictatorship.

Lenin found himself in the minority in the early sessions of the Second Congress of what was then proclaimed to be the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (RSDWP). But a walkout by a disgruntled group of Jewish Social-Democrats, the Bund, left Lenin with a slight majority. Consequently, the members of Lenin’s adventitious majority were called Bolsheviks (majoritarians), and Martov’s group were dubbed Mensheviks (minoritarians). The two groups fought each other ceaselessly within the same RSDWP and professed the same program until 1912, when Lenin made the split final at the Prague Conference of the Bolshevik Party.

 
 

Lenin in disguise, Finland, August 1917
  Challenges of the Revolution of 1905 and World War I
The differences between Lenin and the Mensheviks became sharper in the Revolution of 1905 and its aftermath, when Lenin moved to a distinctly original view on two issues: class alignments in the revolution and the character of the post-revolutionary regime.

The outbreak of the revolution, in January 1905, found Lenin abroad in Switzerland, and he did not return to Russia until November. Immediately Lenin set down a novel strategy. Both wings of the RSDWP, Bolshevik and Menshevik, adhered to Plekhanov’s view of the revolution in two stages: first, a bourgeois revolution; second, a proletarian revolution (see above). But the Mensheviks argued that the bourgeois revolution must be led by the bourgeoisie, with whom the proletariat must ally itself in order to make the democratic revolution. This would bring the liberal bourgeoisie to full power, whereupon the RSDWP would act as the party of opposition. Lenin defiantly rejected this kind of alliance and post-revolutionary regime. Hitherto he had spoken of the need for the proletariat to win “hegemony” in the democratic revolution. Now he flatly declared that the proletariat was the driving force of the revolution and that its only reliable ally was the peasantry. The bourgeoisie he branded as hopelessly counterrevolutionary and too cowardly to make its own revolution.

 
 

Thus, unlike the Mensheviks, Lenin henceforth banked on an alliance that would establish a “revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.”

Nor would the revolution necessarily stop at the first stage, the bourgeois revolution. If the Russian revolution should inspire the western European proletariat to make the Socialist revolution, for which industrial Europe was ripe, the Russian revolution might well pass over directly to the second stage, the Socialist revolution. Then, the Russian proletariat, supported by the rural proletariat and semi-proletariat at home and assisted by the triumphant industrial proletariat of the West, which had established its “dictatorship of the proletariat,” could cut short the life-span of Russian capitalism.

After the defeat of the Revolution of 1905, the issue between Lenin and the Mensheviks was more clearly drawn than ever, despite efforts at reunion. But, forced again into exile from 1907 to 1917, Lenin found serious challenges to his policies not only from the Mensheviks but within his own faction as well. The combination of repression and modest reform effected by the tsarist regime led to a decline of party membership. Disillusionment and despair in the chances of successful revolution swept the dwindled party ranks, rent by controversies over tactics and philosophy. Attempts to unite the Bolshevik and Menshevik factions came to naught, all breaking on Lenin’s intransigent insistence that his conditions for reunification be adopted. As one Menshevik opponent described Lenin: “There is no other man who is absorbed by the revolution twenty-four hours a day, who has no other thoughts but the thought of revolution, and who even when he sleeps, dreams of nothing but revolution.” Placing revolution above party unity, Lenin would accept no unity compromise if he thought it might delay, not accelerate, revolution.

Desperately fighting to maintain the cohesion of the Bolsheviks against internal differences and the Mensheviks’ growing strength at home, Lenin convened the Bolshevik Party Conference at Prague, in 1912, which split the RSDWP forever. Lenin proclaimed that the Bolsheviks were the RSDWP and that the Mensheviks were schismatics. Thereafter, each faction maintained its separate central committee, party apparatus, and press.

 
 

Bolshevik political cartoon poster from 1920, showing Lenin sweeping away monarchists and capitalists; the caption reads, "Comrade Lenin Cleanses the Earth of Filth"
  When war broke out, in August 1914, Socialist parties throughout Europe rallied behind their governments despite the resolutions of prewar congresses of the Second International obliging them to resist or even overthrow their respective governments if they plunged their countries into an imperialist war.

After Lenin recovered from his initial disbelief in this “betrayal” of the International, he proclaimed a policy whose audacity stunned his own Bolshevik comrades. He denounced the pro-war Socialists as “social-chauvinists” who had betrayed the international working-class cause by support of a war that was imperialist on both sides. He pronounced the Second International as dead and appealed for the creation of a new, Third International composed of genuinely revolutionary Socialist parties. More immediately, revolutionary Socialists must work to “transform the imperialist war into civil war.” The real enemy of the worker was not the worker in the opposite trench but the capitalist at home. Workers and soldiers should therefore turn their guns on their rulers and destroy the system that had plunged them into imperialist carnage.

Lenin’s policy found few advocates in Russia or elsewhere in the first months of the war. Indeed, in the first flush of patriotic fervour, not a few Bolsheviks supported the war effort. Lenin and his closest comrades were left an isolated band swimming against the current.

Lenin succeeded in reaching neutral Switzerland in September 1914, there joining a small group of anti-war Bolshevik and Menshevik émigrés. The war virtually cut them off from all contact with Russia and with like-minded Socialists in other countries.

 
 

Nevertheless, in 1915 and 1916, anti-war Socialists in various countries managed to hold two anti-war conferences in Zimmerwald and Kienthal, Switzerland. Lenin failed at both meetings to persuade his comrades to adopt his slogan: “transform the imperialist war into civil war!” They adopted instead the more moderate formula: “An immediate peace without annexations or indemnities and the right of the peoples to self-determination.” Lenin consequently found his party a minority within the group of anti-war Socialists, who, in turn, constituted a small minority of the international Socialist movement compared with the pro-war Socialists.

Undaunted, Lenin continued to hammer home his views on the war, confident that eventually he would win decisive support. In his Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1917), he set out to explain, first, the real causes of the war; second, why Socialists had abandoned internationalism for patriotism and supported the war; and third, why revolution alone could bring about a just, democratic peace.

War erupted, he wrote, because of the insatiable, expansionist character of imperialism, itself a product of monopoly finance capitalism. At the end of the 19th century, a handful of banks had come to dominate the advanced countries, which, by 1914, had in their respective empires brought the rest of the world under their direct or indirect controls. Amassing vast quantities of “surplus” capital, the giant banks found they could garner superprofits on investments in colonies and semi-colonies, and this intensified the race for empire among the great powers. By 1914, dissatisfied with the way the world had been shared out, rival coalitions of imperialists launched the war to bring about a redivision of the world at the expense of the other coalition. The war was therefore imperialist in its origins and aims and deserved the condemnation of genuine Socialists.

Socialist Party and trade-union leaders had rallied to support their respective imperialist governments because they represented the “labour aristocracy,” the better paid workers who received a small share of the colonial “superprofits” the imperialists proffered them. “Bribed” by the imperialists, the “labour aristocracy” took the side of their paymasters in the imperialist war and betrayed the most exploited workers at home and the super-exploited in the colonies. The imperialists, Lenin contended, driven by an annexationist dynamic, could not conclude a just, lasting peace. Future wars were inevitable so long as imperialism existed; imperialism was inevitable so long as capitalism existed; only the overthrow of capitalism everywhere could end the imperialist war and prevent such wars in the future. First published in Russia in 1917, Imperialism to this day provides the instrument that Communists everywhere employ to evaluate major trends in the non-Communist world.

 
 

Vladimir Ilich Lenin, 1918
 
 
Leadership in the Russian Revolution
By 1917 it seemed to Lenin that the war would never end and that the prospect of revolution was rapidly receding. But in the week of March 8–15, the starving, freezing, war-weary workers and soldiers of Petrograd (until 1914, St. Petersburg) succeeded in deposing the Tsar. Lenin and his closest lieutenants hastened home after the German authorities agreed to permit their passage through Germany to neutral Sweden. Berlin hoped that the return of anti-war Socialists to Russia would undermine the Russian war effort.

First return to Petrograd
Lenin arrived in Petrograd on April 16, 1917, one month after the Tsar had been forced to abdicate. Out of the revolution was born the Provisional Government, formed by a group of leaders of the bourgeois liberal parties. This government’s accession to power was made possible only by the assent of the Petrograd Soviet, a council of workers’ deputies elected in the factories of the capital. Similar soviets of workers’ deputies sprang up in all the major cities and towns throughout the country, as did soviets of soldiers’ deputies and of peasants’ deputies. Although the Petrograd Soviet had been the sole political power recognized by the revolutionary workers and soldiers in March 1917, its leaders had hastily turned full power over to the Provisional Government. The Petrograd Soviet was headed by a majority composed of Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary (SR), or peasant party, leaders who regarded the March (February, O.S.) Revolution as bourgeois; hence, they believed that the new regime should be headed by leaders of the bourgeois parties.

On his return to Russia, Lenin electrified his own comrades, most of whom accepted the authority of the Provisional Government. Lenin called this government, despite its democratic pretensions, thoroughly imperialist and undeserving of support by Socialists. It was incapable of satisfying the most profound desires of the workers, soldiers, and peasants for immediate peace and division of landed estates among the peasants.

Only a soviet government—that is, direct rule by workers, soldiers, and peasants—could fulfill these demands. Therefore, he raised the battle cry, “All power to the Soviets!”—although the Bolsheviks still constituted a minority within the soviets and despite the manifest unwillingness of the Menshevik–SR majority to exercise such power. This introduced what Lenin called the period of “dual power.” Under the leadership of “opportunist” Socialists, the soviets, the real power, had relinquished power to the Provisional Government, the nominal power in the land. The Bolsheviks, Lenin exhorted, must persuade the workers, peasants, and soldiers, temporarily deceived by the “opportunists,” to retrieve state power for the soviets from the Provisional Government. This would constitute a second revolution. But, so long as the government did not suppress the revolutionary parties, this revolution could be achieved peacefully, since the Provisional Government existed only by the sufferance of the soviets.

Initially, Lenin’s fellow Bolsheviks thought that he was temporarily disoriented by the complexity of the situation; moderate Socialists thought him mad. It required several weeks of sedulous persuasion by Lenin before he won the Bolshevik Party Central Committee to his view. The April Party Conference endorsed his program: the party must withhold support from the Provisional Government and win a majority in the soviets in favour of soviet power. A soviet government, once established, should begin immediate negotiations for a general peace on all fronts. The soviets should forthwith confiscate landlords’ estates without compensation, nationalize all land, and divide it among the peasants. And the government should establish tight controls over privately owned industry to the benefit of labour.

From March to September 1917, the Bolsheviks remained a minority in the soviets. By autumn, however, the Provisional Government (since July headed by the moderate Socialist Aleksandr Kerensky, who was supported by the moderate Socialist leadership of the soviets) had lost popular support. Increasing war-weariness and the breakdown of the economy overtaxed the patience of the workers, peasants, and soldiers, who demanded immediate and fundamental change. Lenin capitalized on the growing disillusionment of the people with Kerensky’s ability and willingness to complete the revolution. Kerensky, in turn, claimed that only a freely elected constituent assembly would have the power to decide Russia’s political future—but that must await the return of order. Meanwhile, Lenin and the party demanded peace, land, and bread—immediately, without further delay. The Bolshevik line won increasing support among the workers, soldiers, and peasants. By September they voted in a Bolshevik majority in the Petrograd Soviet and in the soviets of the major cities and towns throughout the country.



Vladimir Ilich Lenin, 1921
 

Decision to seize power
Lenin, who had gone underground in July after he had been accused as a “German agent” by Kerensky’s government, now decided that the time was ripe to seize power. The party must immediately begin preparations for an armed uprising to depose the Provisional Government and transfer state power to the soviets, now headed by a Bolshevik majority.

Lenin’s decision to establish soviet power derived from his belief that the proletarian revolution must smash the existing state machinery and introduce a “dictatorship of the proletariat”; that is, direct rule by the armed workers and peasants which would eventually “wither away” into a non-coercive, classless, stateless, Communist society. He expounded this view most trenchantly in his brochure The State and Revolution, written while he was still in hiding. The brochure, though never completed and often dismissed as Lenin’s most “Utopian” work, nevertheless served as Lenin’s doctrinal springboard to power.

Until 1917 all revolutionary Socialists rightly believed, Lenin wrote, that a parliamentary republic could serve a Socialist system as well as a capitalist. But the Russian Revolution had brought forth something new, the soviets. Created by workers, soldiers, and peasants and excluding the propertied classes, the soviets infinitely surpassed the most democratic of parliaments in democracy, because parliaments everywhere virtually excluded workers and peasants. The choice before Russia in early September 1917, as Lenin saw it, was either a soviet republic—a dictatorship of the propertyless majority—or a parliamentary republic—as he saw it, a dictatorship of the propertied minority.

Lenin therefore raised the slogan, “All power to the Soviets!”, even though he had willingly conceded in the spring of 1917 that revolutionary Russia was the “freest of all the belligerent countries.” To Lenin, however, the Provisional Government was merely a “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie” that kept Russia in the imperialist war. What is more, it had turned openly counterrevolutionary in the month of July when it accused the Bolshevik leaders of treason.

From late September, Lenin, a fugitive in Finland, sent a stream of articles and letters to Petrograd feverishly exhorting the Party Central Committee to organize an armed uprising without delay. The opportune moment might be lost. But for nearly a month Lenin’s forceful urgings from afar were unsuccessful. As in April, Lenin again found himself in the party minority. He resorted to a desperate stratagem.

Around October 20, Lenin, in disguise and at considerable personal risk, slipped into Petrograd and attended a secret meeting of the Bolshevik Central Committee held on the evening of October 23. Not until after a heated 10-hour debate did he finally win a majority in favour of preparing an armed takeover. Now steps to enlist the support of soldiers and sailors and to train the Red Guards, the Bolshevik-led workers’ militia, for an armed takeover proceeded openly under the guise of self-defense of the Petrograd Soviet. But preparations moved haltingly, because serious opposition to the fateful decision persisted in the Central Committee. Enthusiastically in accord with Lenin on the timeliness of an armed uprising, Trotsky led its preparation from his strategic position as newly elected chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. Lenin, now hiding in Petrograd and fearful of further procrastination, desperately pressed the Central Committee to fix an early date for the uprising. On the evening of November 6, he wrote a letter to the members of the Central Committee exhorting them to proceed that very evening to arrest the members of the Provisional Government. To delay would be “fatal.” The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, scheduled to convene the next evening, should be placed before a fait accompli.

On November 7 and 8, the Bolshevik-led Red Guards and revolutionary soldiers and sailors, meeting only slight resistance, deposed the Provisional Government and proclaimed that state power had passed into the hands of the Soviets. By this time the Bolsheviks, with their allies among the Left SR’s (dissidents who broke with the pro-Kerensky SR leaders), constituted an absolute majority of the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets. The delegates therefore voted overwhelmingly to accept full power and elected Lenin as chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, the new Soviet Government, and approved his Peace Decree and Land Decree. Overnight, Lenin had vaulted from his hideout as a fugitive to head the Revolutionary government of the largest country in the world. Since his youth he had spent his life building a party that would win such a victory, and now at the age of 47 he and his party had triumphed. “It makes one’s head spin,” he confessed. But power neither intoxicated nor frightened Lenin; it cleared his head. Soberly, he steered the Soviet government toward the consolidation of its power and negotiations for peace.

 
 

Vladimir Ilich Lenin, prime minister of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
  Saving the Revolution
In both spheres, Lenin was plagued by breaks within the ranks of Bolshevik leaders. He reluctantly agreed with the right-wingers that it would be desirable to include the Menshevik and Right SR parties in a coalition government—but on Lenin’s terms. They must above all accept the soviet form of government, not a parliamentary one; they refused. Only the Left SR’s agreed, and several were included in the Soviet government. Likewise, when the freely elected Constituent Assembly met in January 1918, the Mensheviks and Right SR majority flatly rejected sovietism. Lenin without hesitation ordered the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly.

The Allies refused to recognize the Soviet government; consequently it entered alone into peace negotiations with the Central Powers (Germany and her allies Austro-Hungary and Turkey) at the town of Brest-Litovsk. They imposed ruinous conditions that would strip away from Soviet Russia the western tier of non-Russian nations of the old Russian Empire. Left Communists fanatically opposed acceptance and preached a revolutionary war, even if it imperilled the Soviet government. Lenin insisted that the terms, however ruinous and humiliating, must be accepted or he would resign from the government. He sensed that peace was the deepest yearning of the people; in any case, the shattered army could not raise effective resistance to the invader. Finally, in March 1918, after a still larger part had been carved out of old Russia by the enemy, Lenin succeeded in winning the Central Committee’s acceptance of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. At last Russia was at peace.

 
 

But Brest-Litovsk only intensified the determination of counterrevolutionary forces and the Allies who supported them to bring about the overthrow of the Soviet government. That determination hardened when, in 1918, Lenin’s government repudiated repayments of all foreign loans obtained by the tsarist and Provisional governments and nationalized foreign properties in Russia without compensation. From 1918 to 1920 Russia was torn by a Civil War, which cost millions of lives and untold destruction. One of the earliest victims was Lenin himself. In August 1918 an assassin fired two bullets into Lenin as he left a factory in which he had just delivered a speech. Because of his robust constitution, he recovered rapidly.

The Soviet government faced tremendous odds. The anti-Soviet forces, or Whites, headed mainly by former tsarist generals and admirals, fought desperately to overthrow the Red regime. Moreover, the Whites were lavishly supplied by the Allies with materiel, money, and support troops that secured White bases. Yet, the Whites failed.

It was largely because of Lenin’s inspired leadership that the Soviet government managed to survive against such military odds. He caused the formation and guided the strategy of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army, commanded by Trotsky. Although the economy had collapsed, he managed to mobilize sufficient resources to sustain the Red Army and the industrial workers. But above all it was his political leadership that saved the day for the Soviets. By proclaiming the right of the peoples to self-determination, including the right to secession, he won the active sympathy, or at least the benevolent neutrality, of the non-Russian nationalities within Russia, because the Whites did not recognize that right. Indeed, his perceptive, skillful policy on the national question enabled Soviet Russia to avoid total disintegration and to remain a huge multinational state. By making the industrial workers the new privileged class, favoured in the distribution of rations, housing, and political power, he retained the loyalty of the proletariat. His championing of the peasants’ demand that they take all the land from the gentry, church, and crown without compensation won over the peasants, without whose support the government could not survive.




Lenin and wife Nadezhda Krupskaya

 

Because of the breakdown of the economy, however, Lenin adopted a policy toward the peasant that threatened to destroy the Soviet government. Lacking funds or goods to exchange against grain needed to feed the Red Army and the towns, Lenin instituted a system of requisitioning grain surpluses without compensation. Many peasants resisted—at least until they experienced White “liberation.” On the territories that the Whites won, they restored landed property to the previous owners and savagely punished the peasants who had dared seize the land. Despite the peasants’ detestation of the Soviet’s grain requisitioning, the peasants, when forced to choose between Reds and Whites, chose the Reds.

After the defeat of the Whites, the peasants no longer had to make that choice. They now totally refused to surrender their grain to the government. Threatened by mass peasant rebellion, Lenin called a retreat. In March 1921 the government introduced the New Economic Policy, which ended the system of grain requisitioning and permitted the peasant to sell his harvest on an open market. This constituted a partial retreat to capitalism.

From the moment Lenin came to power, his abiding aims in international relations were twofold: to prevent the formation of an imperialist united front against Soviet Russia; but, even more important, to stimulate proletarian revolutions abroad.

In his first aim he largely succeeded. In 1924, shortly after his death, Soviet Russia had won de jure recognition of all the major world powers except the United States. But his greater hope of the formation of a world republic of soviets failed to materialize, and Soviet Russia was left isolated in hostile capitalist encirclement.

 
 

Vladimir Ilich Lenin, 1923
  Formation of the Third International
To break this encirclement, he had called on revolutionaries to form Communist parties that would emulate the example of the Bolshevik Revolution in all countries. Dramatizing his break with the reformist Second International, in 1918 he had changed the name of the RSDWP to the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), and in March 1919 he founded the Communist, or Third, International. This International accepted the affiliation only of parties that accepted its decisions as binding, imposed iron discipline, and made a clean break with the Second International. In sum, Lenin now held up the Russian Communist Party, the only party that had made a successful revolution, as the model for Communist parties in all countries. One result of this policy was to engender a split in the world labour movement between the adherents of the two internationals.

The Communist International scored its greatest success in the colonial world. By championing the rights of the peoples in the colonies and semi-colonies to self-determination and independence, the International won considerable sympathy for Communism. Lenin’s policy in this question still reverberates through the world today. And it offers another example of Lenin’s unique ability to find allies where revolutionaries had not found them before. By taking the side of the national liberation movements, Lenin could claim that the overwhelming majority of the world’s population, then living under imperialist rule, as well as the European proletariat, were the natural allies of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Thus Lenin’s revolutionary genius was not confined to his ability to divide his enemies; more important was his skill in finding allies and friends for the exiguous proletariat of Russia.

 
 

 First, he won the Russian peasants to the side of the proletariat. Second, while he did not win the workers to make successful Communist revolutions in the West, they did compel their governments to curtail armed intervention against the Bolshevik Revolution. Third, while the Asian revolutions barely stirred in his lifetime, they did strengthen the Soviet Communists in the belief that they were not alone in a hostile world.

By 1921 Lenin’s government had crushed all opposition parties on the grounds that they had opposed or failed to support sufficiently the Soviet cause in the Civil War. Now that peace had come, Lenin believed that their opposition was more dangerous than ever, since the peasantry and even a large section of the working class had become disaffected with the Soviet regime. To repress opponents of Bolshevism, Lenin demanded the harshest measures, including “show” trials and frequent resort to the death penalty. Moreover, he insisted on even tighter control over dissent within the party. Lenin’s insistence on merciless destruction of the opposition to the Bolshevik dictatorship subsequently led many observers to conclude that Lenin, though personally opposed to one-man rule, nevertheless unwittingly cleared the way for the rise of Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship.

By 1922 Lenin had become keenly aware that degeneration of the Soviet system and party was the greatest danger to the cause of Socialism in Russia. He found the party and Soviet state apparatus hopelessly entangled in red tape and incompetence. Even the agency headed by Stalin that was responsible for streamlining administration was, in fact, less efficient than the rest of the government. The Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies had been drained of all power, which had flowed to the centre. Most disturbing was the Great Russian chauvinism that leading Bolsheviks manifested toward the non-Russian nationalities in the reorganization of the state in which Stalin was playing a key role. Moreover, in April 1922 Stalin won appointment as general secretary of the party, in which post he was rapidly concentrating immense power in his hands. Soviet Russia in Lenin’s last years could not have been more remote from the picture of Socialism he had portrayed in State and Revolution. Lenin strained every nerve to reverse these trends, which he regarded as antithetical to Socialism, and to replace Stalin.

 
 

V.Lenin and I.Stalin
  Illness and death
In the spring of 1922, however, Lenin fell seriously ill. In April his doctors extracted from his neck one of the bullets he had received from the assassin’s gun in August 1918. He recovered rapidly from the operation, but a month later he fell ill, partially paralyzed and unable to speak. In June he made a partial recovery and threw himself into the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the federal system of reorganization he favoured against Stalin’s unitary scheme. However, in December he was again incapacitated by semiparalysis. Although no longer the active leader of the state and party, he did muster the strength to dictate several prescient articles and what is called his political “Testament,” dictated to his secretary between Dec. 23, 1922, and Jan. 4, 1923, in which he expressed a great fear for the stability of the party under the leadership of disparate, forceful personalities such as Stalin and Trotsky.
 
 

On March 10, 1923, another stroke deprived him of speech. His political activity came to an end. He suffered yet another stroke on the morning of Jan. 21, 1924, and died that evening in the village of Gorki (now known as Gorki Leninskiye).

The last year of Lenin’s political life, when he fought to eradicate abuses of his Socialist ideals and the corruption of power, may well have been his greatest. Whether the history of the Soviet Union would have been fundamentally different had he survived beyond his 54th birthday, no one can say with certainty.

Albert Resis

Encyclopædia Britannica
 
 

Vladimir Ilich Lenin, 1924. Death and burial
 
 
     
 
Vladimir Lenin

Joseph Stalin
     
 
 
 
1870
 
 
Smuts Jan
 

Jan Smuts, in full Jan Christian Smuts, Christian also spelled Christiaan (born May 24, 1870, Bovenplaats, near Riebeeck West, Cape Colony [now in South Africa]—died Sept. 11, 1950, Irene, near Pretoria, S.Af.), South African statesman, soldier, and prime minister (1919–24, 1939–48), who sought to promote South Africa as a responsible member of the (British) Commonwealth.

 

Jan Smuts, c. 1914
  Early life and career
Jan Christian Smuts was born on a farm near Riebeeck West in the Cape Colony. His ancestors were mainly Dutch, with a small admixture of French and German but no English, though he was born a British subject.

Until he went to school at the age of 12, Smuts lived the life of a South African farm boy, taking his share in the work of the farm, learning from nature, and developing a life-long love of the land. Many years later, when asked by an American botanist why he, a general, should be an authority on grasses, Smuts replied, “But my dear lady, I am only a general in my spare time.”

At 16 he went to Victoria College (subsequently the University of Stellenbosch), where he studied science and arts and obtained first-class honours in both. At Stellenbosch he fell in love with a fellow student, Isie Krige, whom he later married and who remained a source of strength through the stresses and strains of an eventful life.

In 1891 he obtained a scholarship and entered Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he read law and was generally recognized as one of the most brilliant law students Cambridge had had. He was the first ever to take both parts of the law tripos examinations in the same year, and in both he came first.

From Cambridge he went to London, where he came first in the Inns of Court honours examination and was awarded two prizes. It seemed clear that a distinguished academic career lay ahead of him; nevertheless, Smuts wanted to return to South Africa.

 
 
Apart from law he read widely in philosophy, poetry, and science, and it was at this time that he first read the poems of Walt Whitman. Many years later he compared the effect that Whitman had on him to St. Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus. Whitman’s conception of natural man liberated him, he believed, from the sense of sin induced by a strict Calvinist upbringing. Before he left England he wrote a book about Whitman but failed to find a publisher.

Returning to Cape Town in 1895, Smuts was at once drawn into politics. At first he supported Cecil Rhodes, prime minister of Cape Colony. But the raid of L.S. Jameson on the Transvaal destroyed his confidence in Rhodes, and, finding himself without political attachment and with insufficient legal work, Smuts decided to move to Johannesburg. At the end of 1897 he married Isie Krige, moving to Pretoria a year later when he was appointed state attorney by Pres. Paul Kruger. At the age of 28 he was thus at the centre of Transvaal politics and, in effect, at the centre of South African politics. From then until his death he was continuously involved in South African and world affairs.

 
 

Jan Smuts and Boer guerrillas during the Second Boer War, ca. 1901
 
 
Role in the Boer War
For the first nine months of the South African (Boer) War, which began in October 1899, Smuts was part official and part soldier, moving between Pretoria and the front. When Pretoria was occupied by the British he became a full-time soldier, eventually receiving an independent command. He was an apt pupil in the guerrilla tactics that were so successfully exploited against the overstretched British lines of communication. In April 1902 he invaded the Cape Colony—to within 120 miles (190 kilometres) of Cape Town, but by then his force was too little and too late. When the war ended he had to be recalled, under British escort, to take part in drafting peace terms.

The Boers lost their independent republics, but Smuts remained firm in his belief in the future of a united South Africa. He returned to Pretoria and family life but was inevitably drawn into public affairs. He and Gen. Louis Botha combined to oppose the high commissioner Alfred Milner’s narrow interpretation of the peace terms and to insist on Boer rights. It was a remarkable partnership, in which Smuts supplied the intellectual vigour and Botha a deep knowledge of his fellow men and great wisdom in dealing with them. Their first objective was responsible government for the two former republics; after that would come union of the four colonies. Smuts played a major role in the achievement of responsible government for the Transvaal (1906) and the Union of South Africa (1910).

When Smuts went to England at the end of 1905 to urge the Cabinet to give the Transvaal self-government he came to know a new English world. At Cambridge he had known few Englishmen, and after his return to South Africa he had to devote his energies to fighting the British. But from 1905 his personal friends in England were the intelligent, liberal-minded people whom he now began to meet. To them he escaped from the exacting and exhaustingly boring official social life of London; with them he found the intellectual and spiritual refreshment that, because of long absences, he too seldom enjoyed at home. He had the reputation of being cold and aloof, but among his friends and in his own family circle he was a different man—relaxed and genial, fond of and easy with children.

 
 

Jan Smuts, 1947
  Role in World War I
Just as Smuts was drawn into the public life of his own country, so, after the outbreak of World War I, he was drawn into international affairs. When he and Botha had suppressed rebellion in South Africa, conquered South West Africa, and launched a campaign in East Africa, he went to England for an imperial conference (March 1917). Prime Minister Lloyd George at once recognized his abilities and made him minister of air. From then on he was used in a variety of tasks. He organized the Royal Air Force and was concerned in all major decisions about the war. At the peace conference at Versailles, the English economist J.M. Keynes regarded him as the greatest protagonist of a moderate peace that would not crush Germany, and he may justly be called one of the principal progenitors of the League of Nations.

A few months after their return from Versailles, Botha died, and Smuts became prime minister. Nearly five years later he was defeated by a coalition of the Nationalist and Labour parties and remained in opposition until 1933, when he and J.B.M. Hertzog joined forces against the more extreme nationalists. Smuts was content to serve under Hertzog, but they were in deep disagreement about whether South Africa should go to war if Britain did. When the crisis came in September 1939 Smuts’s view prevailed by a narrow majority of 13 in Parliament. Smuts became prime minister, and South Africa declared war on Germany.

During World War II South Africa played a much greater part than in World War I, but Smuts himself was not as important a figure as he had been during 1914–18.

 
 
He was consulted by Sir Winston Churchill and other Allied leaders, but his main role was to prevent Germany and Italy from conquering North Africa. Once that objective was achieved, he and his country became of relatively minor importance. Smuts represented South Africa at the 1945 San Francisco Conference at which the Charter of the United Nations was drafted.

At the general election of 1948 Smuts’s party was defeated by the Nationalists. D.F. Malan became prime minister, and one of his first acts was to offer Smuts an official airplane to go to Cambridge, where he was to be installed as chancellor, an offer that Smuts accepted. Two years later, at his home near Pretoria, he died.

 
 
Assessment
Despite his great abilities and achievements, Smuts was not a popular leader—he had a subtle and sophisticated mind, was impatient, could not tolerate mediocrity, was immensely hardworking, and had no time for the sociabilities that make for popularity. For almost half his lifetime—from 1912 to 1950—he was derided, mistrusted, reviled, and even hated by an increasing majority of his fellow Afrikaners. He was called a lackey of the empire and a betrayer of his own people. Before and during the South African War he was staunchly anti-British and in favour of a united Afrikaner people.

In 1917 and 1919 he persuaded British statesmen to grant dominion status and (in 1920) to drop the word empire. It was believed by some that Smuts was trying to break up the empire. In fact, he knew that the only way to preserve it was to allow as much independence as possible to its components. Nationalist Afrikaners knew this, too—hence, their detestation of Smuts. He was a great South African; they wanted him to be a great Afrikaner. He wanted an independent South Africa closely linked with the Commonwealth; they wanted an independent republic outside the Commonwealth. Ten years after his death the Nationalists achieved their aim.

Leopold Marquard

Encyclopædia Britannica

 
 
 

 
 
CONTENTS
  BACK-1870-1879 NEXT-1870 Part II