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Franco-Prussian War

bismarck french spanish napoleon

Franco-Prussian War (July 1870–May 1871), war arising from Prussian premier Otto von Bismarck's desire to unify the German states against a common enemy and Napoleon III's fear of an alliance against him if a Prussian prince succeeded to the Spanish throne. Provoked by the “Ems dispatch” (Bismarck's version of French demands concerning the Spanish question), France declared war; the more efficient Prussians trapped a large French army at Metz, and in Sept. 1870 captured the main French army and Napoleon himself at Sedan. The Second Empire fell, and Paris was besieged; despite vigorous resistance led by Léon Gambetta, the city capitulated in Jan. 1871. William I of Prussia was declared German emperor at Versailles, and Germany was thus unified. In the treaty, France lost Alsace-Lorraine and incurred crushing indemnities.

See also: Bismarck, Prince Otto von; Germany.

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