Why did France and Prussia go to war in 1870?

  • Created by: becky.65
  • Created on: 16-05-18 14:58

The international situation in 1866 was far better than Bismarck might have expected:

  • Britain welcomed Prussian's dominant position as it was a counterweight to France and Russia
  • Russia was pleased it had a reliable partner against Austria 
  • Austria was absorbed with nationalist uprisings 
  • The only threat was France 

Napoleon III wanted to restore France to a position of influence in Europe, through peaceful means if possible 

He showed great sympathy for nationalist movements in Italy and Poland buut this sympathy did not extend to Germany 

Napoleon was not a strong leader and Bismarck outplayed him at his own game 

1855 - Bismarck and Napoleon first met in Paris 

October 1865 - they met again at Biarritz; French neutraility in Austro-Prussian War that was left on good terms 

Napoleon remained neutral in Austro-Prussian war as he hoped to gain terriotry by mediating between the two countries, however the speed of the war dashed these hopes 

Division of Germany was presented as France's reward for neutraility 

After 1866 Napoleon was concerned by the situation in Germany 

After the Treaty of Prague, Bismarck extended the Zollverein to include the four southern states and involved them in the new Zollparlament - this seemed to be a step towards full unity 

However, the four southern states were not united and did not trust Bismarck

They also distrusted Napoleon as they believed, correctly, he wanted their territory as a reward for his neutrality 

July 1866 - French ambassador in Berlin presented detailed plans for France to acquire part of the Rhineland 

Bismarck rejected this idea, however he did not want to alienate Napoleon yet, so he suggested he looked to expand to Luxemburg or Belgium 

The Luxemburg crisis:

  • Bismarck persuaded the King of the Netherlands to relinquish Luxemburg - he agreed 
  • However, Prussia had the rights to garrison the fortress in Luxemburg 
  • end of 1866 - Bismarck no longer felt the need to be friendly to Napoleon, who was stirring up anti-Prussian demonstrations in Luxemburg 
  • Bismarck began to refer to Luxemburg as German 
  • Anti-French sentiment increased throughout Germany 
  • Bismarck encouraged this nationalism to:
    • allow the Prussia army to recover from 1866
    • NGC was still fragile and needed it to stabilise 
    • drive Napoleon to war by provoking him
    • he may have been led by nationalism 
  • March 1867 - Bismarck released texts of the secret military alliances he had with…


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