While sequestration in one’s house for weeks and months at a time is certainly frustrating, it does give us a rare opportunity to expand our knowledge of the world. Taking a break from the discussion of German history for a day, I wanted to offer up some books on the subject that I have read that I think are interesting and informative.
While researching the Franco-Prussian War, I read a great many books on the conflict and the years before it. The most significant of these was The Franco-Prussian War by Michael Howard. The book provides an unbiased, accurate, and very detailed analysis of the Franco-Prussian War. It analyzes the military and political situations of both nations, but spends the vast majority of its time on the course of the war, going into detail on even the most minor of conflicts. For those who are not looking for such an esoteric analysis of the war, but still significant detail and depth, there is the similarly named The Franco-Prussian War by Geoffry Wawro. This book is about half as long but is still very informative and an interesting and challenging read. If one wants to learn about the diplomacy of the war, A Duel of Nations: Germany, France, and the Diplomacy of the War of 1870-1871 provides in-depth analysis of the diplomatic factors that caused the war and also France’s attempts to bring other nations in on her side and Germany’s efforts to keep nations like Italy and Great Britain neutral.
The war itself is only one part of German and French history in the 19th century. For information on the leaders of the nations at that time, I suggest The Long Nineteenth Century, the History of Germany from 1780-1918, by David Blackbourn. The book explains many of the trends in Germany history and details the events that determined the course of the nation from Napoleon to its unification to its defeat in the First World War. For France, there is Napoleon the Third and His Carnival Empire by John Bierman or The French Second Empire, an Anatomy of Political Power by Roger Price. The latter book goes into astounding detail on the way that Napoleon the Third’s France worked and how it developed over its twenty year existence. Finally, the leaders of the two nations are themselves very interesting. Bierman’s book provides a lot of good information on Napoleon, but his Prime Minister, Emile Oliver, is also important. Emile Oliver and the Liberal Empire of Napoleon the Third discusses who Oliver was and Napoleon’s use of him as a tool to unify France. For Bismarck, there is Bismarck: Profiles in Power, which examines the course of Bismarck’s life. Finally, for the military commanders I recommend the writings of Helmuth von Moltke, the Prussian commander during the war, and The Two Marshalls for French Marshal Bazaine. I hope that the reader will look into these books and give one of them a read. If you do, please tell me what you thought of it and maybe recommend to me some books that you like.