The penultimate novel of the Rougon-Macquart cycle, La Debacle (1892) concerns the dramatic events of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune of 1870-71. During Zola's lifetime it was the best-selling of all his novels, praised by contemporaries for its epic sweep as well as its attention to historical detail. The novel seeks to explain why the Second Empire ended in crushing military defeat and revolutionary violence. It focuses on ordinary soldiers, showing their bravery and suffering in the midst of circumstances they cannot control. Often War and Peace, La Debacle skilfully integrates the narrative of events and the fictional lives of characters to provide the finest account of this tragic chapter in French history.