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France at Bay 1870-1871 (Hardback)

The Struggle for Paris

Military Biographies Military

By Douglas Fermer
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 280
ISBN: 9781848843257
Published: 22nd March 2011



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The Franco-Prussian War did not end with the catastrophic French defeat at Sedan on 1 September 1870 when an entire French army surrendered, the Emperor Napoleon III was captured and his regime collapsed. The war went on for another five agonizing months, and resolved itself into a contest for Paris - for while Paris held out, France was undefeated. The story of this dramatic final phase of the war is the subject of Douglas Fermer’s masterly account, the sequel to his Sedan 1870. He weaves this story of military victory and defeat into a gripping narrative and it sets the extraordinary events of nearly 150 years ago in the wider context of European history.

France at Bay, Douglas Fermer's second volume on the Franco-Prussian War, takes up the eclipse of France following Napoléon III's surrender at Sedan on Sept. 2, 1870. Upon reaching Paris, news of the emperor's capitulation prompted the overthrow of the Second Empire and the formation of the provisional Government of National Defense.

The author describes, step by step, the military reorganization of a new French army by the republican government. The architects of that resurgence were Léon Gambetta, a statesman of Italian origin from the city of Nice, and his deputy, Charles de Freycinet, an engineering genius.


The author has done a great service in compiling this volume. He has conducted first class research and he not only presents the hard facts of the campaign but he also intertwines vivid eyewitness accounts from both combatans and non-combatans.

Dr Stuart Blamk - Military Archive Research

France at Bay is the follow-up volume to Fermer's well-received Sedan, 1870: the eclipse of France (2008), and as such, completes his magisterial treatment of the Franco-Prussian War.

Fermer's meticulously researched account does not skimp on the detail of the various personalities on both sides- the chapter on the Army of the Loire is particularly fine.

Fermer's absolute mastery of the sources, both primary and secondary, combined with the liveliness of his writing, make this an important work that will be read and enjoyed for years to come.

Military Times by Toby McLeod
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