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The Siege that Changed the World (Hardback)

Paris, 1870–1871

Military 19th Century

By Brig N S Nash CBE
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9781526790293
Published: 1st September 2021


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The Siege of Paris from September 1870 to the city’s capitulation in January 1871 was the result of Louis Napoleon III, Emperor of France’s disastrous decision to declare war on Prussia. The Prussian Army of King William I proved vastly superior to their adversaries.

After victories at Metz and Sedan, the Prussians marched on Paris virtually unopposed. By 19 September the city was encircled with the population discontented, disillusioned and rebellious. Civil disorder was rife as starvation took a grip. On the inevitable surrender in late January and the declaration of the German Empire, France’s humiliation was complete. This in turn led to the temporary establishment of the Paris Commune an embryonic communist government, and civil war.

As well as providing a vivid description of the siege and fighting, the author of this well researched account analyses the long-term effects be they social, military and political both on France and wider Europe. He argues that while the siege was not particularly costly in terms of human life, its legacy was the reduction of French global influence, the growth of German militarism, the evolution of international communism and changes in the world order.

The Siege That Changed the World is a brisk account of events leading up to the Siege, the Siege itself, and what happened when the Commune flourished for a brief spell. There are plenty of notes, appropriate illustrations, and a useful bibliography.

Read the full review here

Penniless Press

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The siege in question is the siege of Paris which was the result of the collapse of Napoleon III's Second Empire as a result of the Franco Prussian War. I have read a number of books on both the war itself and more particularly the resulting siege and rise of the Paris Commune. This book is, by far, one of the best I have encountered. Most books deal with the war and gloss over the civil war it precipitated around the City of Paris or, and this is more common, they gloss over the war and focus almost exclusively on the Commune itself. This approach is refreshing in that context is always key to understanding events in their entirety, and nowhere is this more true than in a conflict like the Franco Prussian War. Here, in one volume, we glimpse the social pressures driving both French policy and French failure, their contrast with the superbly trained and far better led German forces of Prussia and her allies, and the underlying class distinctions which inform the complex relationship of the Municipality of Paris and the rest of France. Since many of these themes will play out well into the twentieth century and beyond, they are well worth the reader's time and contemplation. Insights on modern military structures and war fighting, the growth of communism and some of its underlying pressure points, the origins of the First and Second World Wars as well as the Russian Revolution are all on display here in a well written, thoughtful and readily accessible text. A must read for those interested in modern history and the cataclysmic context of the great imperial clashes of the first half of the last century.

NetGalley, William Harris

About Brig N S Nash CBE

Brigadier N S ‘Tank’ Nash CBE was educated at Latymer Upper School and served in the Honourable Artillery Company (1957-1960) and thereafter in the Army Catering Corps (1960-1991). He was the Bursar of Loretto School (1991-1996). He has an MA in Military History from Birmingham.

For 30 years he wrote humour under the pen name ‘Sustainer’ and his work was published internationally. Three anthologies of his column were published. His books for Pen and Sword include K Boat Catastrophe, ‘Strafer’ Gott – Desert General, Chitral Charlie – The Rise and Fall of Major General Charles Townshend, Valour in the Trenches, Betrayal of an Army - Mesopotamia 1914 -1916 and Logistics in the Vietnam Wars.

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