France's main goal was to remain one of the largest European powers.

Important Leaders

Military Conflicts

The Franco-German War, also known as the Franco-Prussian War, began on July 19, 1870. The war began when Prussia defeated Austria in the Seven Weeks' War, and France felt that its control was being threatened. The Spanish leader at this time was Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, but he was related to the Prussian house. The French emperor Napoleon III believed that Prussia and Spain would team up and remove France from power. Otto Von Bismark, Prussian chancellor, wanted to go to war with the intentions of creating a unified German empire out of the Southern German states and the Northern German Confederation. Napoleon III declared war on Prussia in 1870, and the country, blinded by nationalism, was confident it would be victorious as it now had early rifles and machine guns. They were wrong, and were forced to surrender after several defeats in battle. On September 4, 1870, the French people decided to switch tactics and deposed of the emperor in exchange for a government of national defense, the Third Republic, which was led by Léon Gambetta. Germany took the French city of Metz on October 27, and Paris surrendered on January 28, 1871.


On January 18, 1871, King William I of Prussia was declared German emperor at Versailles, the former palace of the kings of France. The same day France surrendered, they were allowed to create a French National Assembly, which had the authority to confirm a definite peace. This was called the Treaty of Frankfurt, which was ratified on March 1, 1871. This harsh treaty allowed Germany to annex Alsace, Metz, and half of Lorraine. Additionally, France was required to pay five billion Francs and cover the cost of Germany occupying France's northern provinces until this was payed.

Long-Term Results

This conflict resulted in the end of French control in Europe (French Third Republic) and created a unified Germany, the German empire. Additionally, without Napoleon III to protect them, the Papal States were annexed by Italy, completing their unification. Germany's victory over France confirmed their faith in Prussian militarism, which remained a dominant force until 1945. Most importantly, Germany's annexation of Alsace-Lorraine caused a very unstable peace from 1871-1914, as the French were searching for revenge. This eventually become one of the factors leading up to World War I.

Personal Commentary

France has had many problems leading up to this conflict, which we believe put an end to them. Germany removed them from power, but also became a new European force.

Multiple Choice Questions

1. What city was under siege in 1870?

a) Niece

b) Metz

c) Paris

d) Nancy

2. What was the end result of the Franco-German War?

a) The end of French hegemony

b) Germany becoming unified

c) All of the above

d) None of the above

3. Why did the Franco-German war start?

a) Germany and Prussia were fighting for control

b) Prussia wanted more influence over Europe

c) The north and south German states didn't want to unite

d) France believed that its control was being threatened