The Origins of the War of 1870: New Documents from the German Archives

The Origins of the War of 1870: New Documents from the German Archives

The Origins of the War of 1870: New Documents from the German Archives

The Origins of the War of 1870: New Documents from the German Archives

Excerpt

The Franco-German War of 1870, like the World War of 1914, was preceded by a diplomatic battle lasting barely twelve days -- from the "bursting of the Spanish bomb" at Paris on July 3, down to the virtual declaration of war in the French Chambers on July 15. The French side of the history of those agonizing twelve days is now comparatively well known, even in its details, thanks to the publications of Gramont, Benedetti, Ollivier, La Gorce, and others. But the German side is still bristling with unsolved problems. Bismarck's statements in his memoirs and oral reminiscences are notoriously unreliable and misleading; and the other sources hitherto available -- chiefly the diaries of Busch, Abeken's papers, Keudell's memoirs, and the letters of King William and Prince Karl Anton of Hohenzollern -- offer most imperfect clues to the mazes of this labyrinth. Hence, while imaginative writers have found here free scope for all manner of conjectures and hypotheses, numerous historians have longed for the day when the German government would at last consent to open its archives on a subject of such exceptional interest both to the German people and to the outside world.

Since the World War this aspiration has, in large measure at least, been satisfied. The archives of the German Foreign Office are now opened to historians to a degree, and with a liberality, that one would like to see emulated in every other country. In the past year I have had the privilege of using and of transcribing in full the seven volumes of documents which contain the German official record of the diplomatic crisis leading up to the outbreak of the War of 1870. As these documents have never hitherto been printed (with very few exceptions), and have been seen by only a few investigators, it has seemed worth while to publish them, as a contribution to the history of a period so pregnant with fateful consequences.

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