Academic journal article Military Review

THE BATTLE OF KÖNIGGRÄTZ: Prussia's Victory over Austria, 1866

Academic journal article Military Review

THE BATTLE OF KÖNIGGRÄTZ: Prussia's Victory over Austria, 1866

Article excerpt

THE BATTLE OF KÖNIGGRÄTZ: Prussia's Victory over Austria, 1866, Gordon A. Craig, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2003 (first printing 1964), 224 pages, $14.95.

In 1866, news of Prussia's dramatic victory over Austria at Königgrätz caused the papal secretary to exclaim "Casca il mondo!" (the world is collapsing). After the Battle of Königgrätz, nothing would be the same again. Suddenly, the balance of power in Central Europe was overthrown; Germany unified itself around upstart Prussia, and the old Austrian empire began its long skid to the trash heap of history. In time, Königgrätz would be seen as the beginning of Europe's "German problem," a problem that needed two world wars to resolve.

The battle changed power relationships and warfare itself. With each combatant deploying a quarter-million soldiers, the Battle of Königgrätz became the largest battle to that time in history. Helmuth von Moltke, the architect of victory, showed the world that an elite group of highly educated officers could guide. The group became the modern general staff. And, by overthrowing the Austrians in a brilliant, 7-week campaign, chief of staff Von Moltke developed a military system that became the model for the rest of the world's armies.

Given the importance of the events of 1866, the story of the "Seven Weeks War" deserves the scholarship and writing skills of a first-rate historian. For that reason, military history students will be gratified with the reprint of Gordon Craig's Königgrätz, Prussia's Victory over Austria, 1866. When the book first appeared in 1964, it became the standard English-language work on the subject. Since then, others have offered new, more-detailed interpretations of the campaign, most conspicuously Geoffrey Wawro's 1996 book, The Austro-Prussian War: Austria 's War with Prussia and Italy in 1886 (Cambridge University Press, New York, 1997), but Craig's account still represents the best entry point for readers new to the wars of German Unification. …

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