Week 22

  1. The Siege of Paris
  2. Leon Gambetta
  3. General Louis Trochu
  4. Prime Minister Adolphe Thiers

The Siege of Paris, lasting from September 19, 1870 – January 28, 1871, and the consequent capture of the city by Prussian forces led to French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the establishment of the German Empire as well as the Paris Commune. As early as August 1870 the Prussian 3rd Army led by the Crown Prince (the future Emperor) Frederick III had been marching towards Paris, but was recalled to deal with French forces accompanied by Napoleon III himself. These forces were crushed at the Battle of Sedan and the road to Paris was left open. Personally leading the Prussian forces Wilhelm I of Prussia along with his chief of staff Helmuth von Moltke, took the 3rd Army along with the new Prussian Army of the Meuse under Crown Prince Albert of Saxony and marched on Paris virtually unopposed. In Paris the Governor and commander-in-chief of the city's defenses General Louis Jules Trochu, assembled a force of regular soldiers that had managed to escape Sedan under Joseph Vinoy plus the National Guards and a brigade of sailors which totalled around 400,000. (The above from Wikipedia.)



Alistair Horne,

The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune, 1870-1871,

Penguin Paperback,

ISBN 9780141030630


"This classic work . . . is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the civil war that still stirs the soul of France." -Evening Standard, London

In 1870, Paris was the center of Europe, the font of culture, fashion, and invention. Ten months later Paris had been broken by a long Prussian siege, its starving citizens reduced to eating dogs, cats, and rats, and France had been forced to accept the humiliating surrender terms dictated by the Iron Chancellor Bismarck. To many, the fall of Paris seemed to be the fall of civilization itself. Alistair Horne's history of the Siege and its aftermath is a tour de force of military and social history, rendered with the sweep and color of a great novel.


Paintings, newspaper articles and cartoons, depicting the events and personalities of 1870-1871. Portraits of Gambetta, Trochu, Thiers and others.