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Western Europe’s Forgotten Nightmare

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It is a common marketing strategy to tell readers that an author will change their perception of the world. So we have titles such as How the Irish Saved Civilization Thomas Cahill How the Scots Invented the Modern World (Arthur Herman), Cod: The Fish That Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky (an author who’d already written another book offering similarly earth-shattering claims about the history of salt). As an avid reader of the history genre, I’ve learned to scan such titles with considerable skepticism.

Rachel Chrastil’s newly published work, Bismarck’s War: The Franco-Prussian War and the Making of Modern EuropeThis is one rare history book that delivers on its ambitious promises. In her telling, the oft-forgotten War of 1870 (as it’s commonly known in France) didn’t just fundamentally reshape European political geography and power relations, as the book’s title accurately suggests, but also the nature of modern warfare.

Western Europe’s Forgotten Nightmare

In large part, this is because the war sat at a cleft point in military history—between the passing European world of aristocratic parade-ground generals in plumed helmets, and the…



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