Soldiers and Civilians in the Franco-Prussian War, 1870–71

One topic that I keep coming back to in my own thinking is the role of civilians in war, in particular relations between soldiers and civilians from opposite sides of a war in a combat zone or occupied territory. This goes back to my MA thesis from 1994, which resulted in a couple articles. I don’t see much more happening on the Franco-Prussian War at the moment, but my ears do perk up when related material comes up, and it won’t surprise me if I end up blogging about it here. To put that in context on this blog, let me reference two other old blog posts from Clio and Me:

One book I need to dig into more deeply is Isabell V. Hull, Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005). While I am skeptical about any special path in this regard, it is interesting how she brings the German military’s treatment of civilians in 1870—71 into a common story with the Schlieffen Plan, among other major events, including the Herero war and genocide.

That might be putting too much of a burden on culture, but it at least helps me to see what I thought were two separate research projects in a larger framework, soldiers and civilians in 1870–71, on the one hand, and Wilhelm Groener, the German officer corps, and German strategy, on the other. The connection was very real in some respects, insofar as a similar image of war informed the Great General Staff’s direction of the German invasions in 1870 and 1914.

I also plan to dig into Alan Kramer, Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), which I will assign for my graduate survey of modern European history this summer, and which directly addresses Hull’s arguments.


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