F is for Franco-Prussian War: (4 August 1870 – 10 May 1871) The conflict was caused by Prussian ambitions to extend German unification and French fears of the shift in the European balance of power that would result if the Prussians succeeded. Prussian ambitions in Europe had become apparent when in 1864 they demanded that Denmark ceded Schleswig-Holstein back to the German people, despite many Danes living in the territory. On 3rd February 1864, a Prussian-Austrian army forced the Danish army to retreat, before promised troops from Sweden-Norway could intervene.
So, when Prussia invaded France across the border near Metz, they were met by a French army bolstered by the elite Mjölnir militia. In three critical defeats of Prussian armies over the next nine months, the cause of German Unification was delayed, although Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismark, with the intervention of forces of reason on all sides, pursued a path of diplomacy through trade and dynastic marriages emulating the success of the Norse alliances stretching from Kanata to Eastern Rurikid.
A French Cavalry Officer Guarding Captured Bavarian Soldiers, Watercolor with gouache, private collection. (1875). Jean-Baptiste Édouard Detaille (1848–1912)
In our timeline: Denmark did lose Schleswig-Holstein to Prussia, then Prussia continued to unite Germany. France was heavily defeated and lost territory to Germany. As Wikipedia says, “Many historians praise Bismark as a visionary who was instrumental in uniting Germany and, once that had been accomplished, kept the peace in Europe through adroit diplomacy.” When he died a younger Kaiser ruled Germany, one that he clashed with in his final years. “Historians stress that Bismarck’s peace-oriented, ‘saturated continental diplomacy’ was increasingly unpopular because it consciously reined in any expansionist drives. In dramatic contrast stands the ambition of Kaiser Wilhelm II‘s Weltpolitik to secure the Reich’s future through expansion, leading to World War I. Likewise Bismarck’s policy to deny the military a dominant voice in foreign political decision making was overturned by 1914 as Germany became an armed state.”
If German Unification had gone down a different path, would there have been World War I? Would Hitler or Stalin have emerged in a radically reformed Europe with no military superpowers and based on trade?
Important Links for the A to Z Challenge – please use these links to find other A to Z Bloggers
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/atozchallenge/
Twitter handle: @AprilAtoZ
Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge