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France at Three Global Wars

The Franco-Prussian War was a conflict between the Kingdom of Prussia and the Second French Empire. This war was a great chance for Germany to be united under the king Wilhelm l of Prussia. It also caused the end of the Second French Empire under the direction of Napoleon lll. More than that, the territory of Alsace and part of Lorraine became the part of Prussia until the end of World War l (Celestin, p. 89). What was the reason of breaking out the war and such great changes on the map? The video item under discussion is devoted to the main preconditions of the Franco-Prussian War casts lit upon this question (The Franco-Prussian War).

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The conflict between two nations was boiling up during many years. The deposition of Isabella ll in 1868 made the Spanish throne vacant for Leopold, Prince of Hohenzollern. As it is stated in the video item, the French ambassador was sent to the Prussian King, Wilhelm, to express the dissatisfaction of Napoleon lll by this throne candidate. Wilhelm had to come to terms wanting to avoid the impending war. He convinced Leopold Hohenzollern to stop pretending to the throne. But the conflict was not exhausted. The Minister President of Prussia, Otto von Bismarck, was outraged by such a behavior of Napoleon lll. On the other hand, Napoleon lll was satisfied with the diplomatic victory over Prussia, but French nation was in tune for a war.

Otto von Bismark hoped to provoke France to levy war. It was not enough for France that Leopold abdicated the crown temporarily; new Napoleon’s demand was completely abdication of Hohenzollern. It was inadequate demand that broke the rules of the diplomatic etiquette. As a result, an irritated Wilhelm refused to accept such agreement. Unsatisfied Paris set up a new claim for Wilhelm. He must promise not to encroach on France. Wilhelm reported about such provocative behavior of France to Otto von Bismarck, and he was disappointed by Wilhelm’s concessions for the benefits of France. Bismarck had no attention of giving the French such a satisfaction. When the French ambassador came for the answer, Wilhelm stated that he had nothing new for him (The Franco-Prussian War).

When Otto von Bismarck sent ‘EMS telegram’ to Paris on July 13, 1870, most French politicians voted for the war. The war was declared on July 19. Having watched this video, the following conclusions may be drawn. The Franco-Prussian War was inevitable. The fate of France was predetermined. The ineptitude of the French commanders contrasted sharply to the professionalism and brilliance of the Prussian generals (The Franco-Prussian War).

During World War l, French troops demonstrated a great courage and fearlessness. France held the Western Front and counterattacked on the Eastern Front during the war. During a wide range of fierce fighting, France sacrificed a lot of people for the sake of victory. The main battles were the Battle of the Frontiers, the Battle of Verdun, the First Battle of the Marne and the Second Battle of the Aisne. This video item is devoted to the brutal and bloody Battle of Verdun (The Battle of Verdun).

This battle was fought between the French and German armies from 21 February – 18 December 1916. It was the longest and one of the bloodiest battles of World War l. Two million people were engaged there. The German Commander-in-Chief General Erich von Falkenhayn considered England to be the most serious Germany’s enemy. He believed England would collapse as soon as France, their most important ally, was defeated. He chose the most important territory of France as his main target. The French were ready to sacrifice their entire army to protect this important land. The aim of the German army was not to win, but to weaken the power of the French army. Verdun was an important stronghold at the Eastern border. On the one hand, it played an important role in the line of defense. On the other hand, it was the Northern gate to the Champagne plain and, therefore, Paris.

The Germans under the direction of Crown Prince Frederick William launched a massive offensive against Verdun. The German attack and the subsequent battle were to last over 300 days. Verdun was not prepared for the initial bombardment on the morning of February 21, 1916. On February 25, the Germans occupied Fort Douaumont. A series of counter-attacks under the direction of General Petain managed to slow the German advance. He also tried to make sure that the Bar-le-Duc road into Verdun was still open. It was known as ‘the Sacred Way’ which continued to carry reinforcements and vital supplies into the Verdun front despite constant artillery attacks (The Battle of Verdun). The Germans continued their attacks in June, but they became slowly. They took Fort Vaux on June7. On June 23, they reached the Belleville heights, the last stronghold before Verdun itself. Petain decided to clear the east bank of the Meuse when the Allies’ attacks on the Sommer River broke out on July 1, partly to relieve the French. The video item demonstrates the running of the fights on the map more vividly (The Battle of Verdun).

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There were so many casualties that the British had to start the Battle of the Somme in an effort to ease the German pressure on the French at Verdun in July, 1916. The Germans could no longer afford to commit new troops to Verdun, and the attack was called off. Germany did not succeed to defeat France, and French offensives regained the forts and the territory they had lost earlier by the end of the year. Falkenhyan was replaced by Hindenburg as Chief of General Staff, and Petain became a hero replacing General Nivelle as French Commander-in-Chief. Taking into account the total casualties, both countries lost thousands of their brave soldiers. 434,000 German soldiers and 550, 000 French soldiers sacrificed their lives during that war.

Philippe Petain was considered to be a national figure after World War l. He was the Chief of State from 1940-1944 of Vichy France. He transformed the French Third Republic into the French State with an authoritarian regime (Celestin, p. 205). The government of Vichy collaborated with Germany. As a result, the Germans occupied France. This video item is devoted to the treason of Philippe Petain. This hero who was well-known by his courage during the Battle of Verdun became a betrayer (WWl – Marshal Petain).

The invading Germans pushed back the French Army on May 24, 1940. General Maxime Weygand expressed his dissatisfaction with the British armies and their retreats. More than that, they unfulfilled their promise to send the British fighter airplanes. Weygand wanted to save the French army and avoid internal troubles. The capitulation of the country to the Germans was Petain’s decision. The government prepared to depart, but some politicians expressed their concern about England. Philippe Petain stated that the interests of France were above all. According to Petain, it was the fault of the English government that France had to be in such a position. Petain lost his respect to the British arms. He was sure in the superiority of the Germans with their powerful weapons and dictatorship (WWl – Marshal Petain). Under the terms of armistice, France was split into two parts. The German run the territory which was occupied during their invasions, and Philippe Petain ruled with his National assembly government in Vichy. In November 1942, Germany fully occupied France. Following the armistice with Germany, Philippe Petain ruled the truncated Republic from the town of Vichy, using emergency powers sanctioned by the Germans (WWl – Marshal Petain). To many, Petain seemed to be a puppet of the Germans who did what he was expected to do.

When the German armies had to withdraw from France in June 1944, Pertain retreated with them. After the war, Pertain tried to save his image of a national hero, but his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment upon the intervention of General De Gaulle (WWl – Marshal Petain). His wish was to be buried at Verdun, the scene of his greatest military glory. But the government ignored this wish.

Was he really a traitor? Who was betrayed by him? He tried to do all his best for the sake of his native country. Phillipre Petain remains a controversial figure. There are different points of view concerning this question nowadays.

These video items are a good opportunity to plunge into the history of France with its brave heroes and courageous battles. Everyone has his/her own point of view concerning these subjects. Was the Franco-Prussian War necessary? Was it possible to avoid this war and thousands of casualties? The development of our civilization is impossible without wars. Do you judge Philippe Petain by his bravery at the Battle of Vedun or his capitulation to the Germans? On the one hand, a person should not be judged by his one deed. On the other hand, a bad deed may cross all the previous good ones. There are a lot of different interpretations concerning this issue.

There are a lot of wars which are faced by such a powerful republic, France. Although some of them are lost, France is a developed republic nowadays. The history of France abounds with victories and defeats. There are a lot of heroes which are remembered by the whole nation. All those people perished not for nothing. The independence and prosperity of their native country cost their lives.

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Works Cited

  1. Celestin, R., and DalMolin, E. France from 1851to the Present: Universalism in Crisis England: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Print.
  2. The Battle of Verdun. YouTube, 2006. Web.
  3. WWl – Marshal Petain. YouTube, 2008. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 26). France at Three Global Wars. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/france-at-three-global-wars/

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"France at Three Global Wars." StudyCorgi, 26 Dec. 2021, studycorgi.com/france-at-three-global-wars/.

1. StudyCorgi. "France at Three Global Wars." December 26, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/france-at-three-global-wars/.


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