Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Napoleon III in exile

Camden Place, Chislehurst at the time of Napoleon III
I have been given the link (thanks, Caryl) to Frances Foster's MA thesis on Napoleon III. It's very scholarly, and well worth a read with lots of local information.


Before 1867
In 1806 the Holy Roman Empire was brought to an end following Napoleon’s victories over the Austrians. The last of the Holy Roman Emperors, Francis II, was now Francis I of Austria. After the fall of Napoleon (1814-15), Austria became once more the leader of the German states but following the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 she was expelled from the German Confederation.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Russia in the nineteenth century

The extent of the country
At the beginning of the nineteenth century Russia was geographically the world’s most extensive country and its empire was expanding. From 1809 Russia controlled Finland and in 1815 the Grand Duchy of Warsaw was subsumed into Russia. In 1800 Georgia was annexed. In 1859 the rest of the Caucasus was conquered and the Chechen hero Imam Shamil (right) captured. In 1860 the Amur and Maritime provinces were acquired from China and Turkestan from Persia in 1875. Turkmenistan was annexed in 1881. The Pacific port of Vladivostok was founded in 1860. The only territory lost was Alaska, which was sold to the United States in 1867 for $8 million.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

In Our Time: the Dreyfus Affair

Click here to listen to the excellent discussion on the Dreyfus affair on Melvyn Bragg's 'In Our Time' programme.

The Man on Devil's Island

Go here for the Telegraph's review of the excellent Ruth Harris's book on the Dreyfus case.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Postcards from the battle

Martine has drawn my attention to this site which shows a fascinating series of postcards depicting the battle of Champigny, also known as the battle of Villiers, one of the lesser-known battles of the Franco-Prussian War.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Rat du jour

'Along with the carrier-pigeon, the rat was to become the most fabled animal of the Siege of Paris [1870-1], and from December the National Guard spent much of its time engaged in vigorous rat-hunts. Even so, the number actually consumed was relatively few: according to one contemporary American calculation, only 300 rats were eaten during the whole siege, compared with 65,000 horses, 5,000 cats and 1,200 dogs. The elaborate sauces that were necessary to render them edible meant that rats were essentially a rich man's dish - hence the notorious menu of the Jockey Club, which featured such delicacies as "salmis de rats" and rat pie.'

From Alistair Horne, The Seven Ages of Paris (2002)

The Third Republic

As well as using the standard textbooks I have consulted the Britannica 2001 CD-ROM and my undergraduate copy of my old professor Alfred Cobban's History of Modern France, vol 2, 1799-1945 (Penguin 1961). Still excellent after all these years! I have also used a more modern work, Colin Jones, Cambridge Illustrated History of France (CUP, 1999).

The Republic proclaimed
When the news of the French surrender at Sedan reached Paris on September 4, crowds filled the streets and demanded the proclamation of a republic. The imperial officials put up no serious resistance; the Revolution of September 4 was the most bloodless in French history. For an outline of the Third Republic see here.

New biography of Bismarck

For the Telegraph review of Jonathan Steinberg's new biography of Bismarck, see here

Monday, 7 January 2013

German unification

The picture above is of the proclamation of the German Empire in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles.

As well as the textbooks mentioned in previous posts,  I have used the Britannica CD ROM (2001),  Christopher Clark's excellent Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600-1947 (Allen Lane, 2006), and Jonathan Steinberg's Bismarck: A Life (Oxford University Press, 2011).

Update: Go here for an excellent  discussion on Bismarck in Melvyn Bragg's 'In Our Time'.

King William I
The Italian war provided an impetus for the unification of Germany that was to take place under Bismarck's leadership. There were clear parallels between the perceived predicaments of Germany and Italy and between Prussia and Piedmont, both constitutional monarchies with modernizing agendas. There was also a renewal of the French threat as, like his uncle, Napoleon III had successfully challenged the established European order. His invasion of Italy led to the mobilization of 250,000 men in various German states under the authority of the Confederation Diet and an outburst of patriotic feeling across Germany. But there was a difference from 1848-9. German liberals now realized that unification could only take place under the leadership of Prussia.

In 1858 the 62 year old Prince William of Prussia became regent for his brother, Frederick William IV, who had been incapacitated by a series of strokes. A liberalizing ministry took office inaugurating a new era of ‘parliamentary monarchy, enabling the liberals to win a landslide in the Landtag (upper house) elections of November 1858.