History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 1995: Q.5 (c)
Q.5 (c) At the end of the battle of Sedan (1870), “Europe lost a mistress and gained a master.” Comment.
Battle of Sedan was decisive battle in the Franco-Prussian War, where the whole French army surrendered to Prussia and French Emperor Napoleon III became a prisoner.
France was totally isolated during the war due to master diplomacy of Prussian Prime Minister Bismarck and neither Austria-Hungary nor Italy came to France’s aid.
French sea power proved totally ineffective. Prussian army proved indisputably superior in arms, tactics and mobilisation.
After disaster of Sedan, the French people declared France a republic and freshly organised French republican forces resisted for another few months but the Germans finally besieged Paris.
The war came to an end with the Treaty of Frankfurt (1871). The main provisions of the treaty were:
(a) King of Prussia was accepted as the ruler of Germany and Southern states of Germany was to be part of German Confederation.
(b) France agreed to give Alsace and Lorraine to Germany.
(c) France agreed to pay to Prussia heavy was indemnity.
Bismarck had imposed severe peace on France. She had to accept German occupation of France untill heavy indemnity was paid. France lost two important provinces, Alsace and Lorraine in its eastern border to Germany. As an ever more humiliating for France was when Prussian king William was proclaimed German Emperor in the French royal palace of Versailles.
The important consequence of the battle of Sedan was the completion of the unification of Germany under the leadership of Prussia and the creation of the German Empire which lasted till the Second World War.
The triumph of Prussia-Germany was not only a triumph of its military system. Germany was already superior in the continent in almost every area of advancement but disunity of Germany before the war with France had concealed this.
Germany was already a nation much better equipped and prepared for the conditions of modern warfare than any other in Europe. In 1870, the German states combined possessed a larger population than France, and only disunity had disguised that fact. Germany had more railway lines and its gross national product and iron – steel production were overtaking the French totals. Its coal production was two and a half times larger than France. The Industrial Revolution in Germany was creating many more large-scale firms, which gave the Prusso-German state both military and industrial muscle. The army’s short-service system and the manpower of the nation for warlike purposes were highly effectively. Behind all this was a people possessing a far higher level of primary and technical education, an unrivaled university and scientific establishment, and chemical laboratories and research institutes without an equal in the European continent. Once German states were unified, it became the master of Europe.
In conclusion, it can be said that Europe’s balance of power was changed, with Germany replacing France in position as the most powerful nation of the Continent of Europe. The glory of France of Napoleonic era passed into oblivion after the battle of Sedan.
A British jounalist had rightly said: Europe had lost a mistress (France) and gained a master (Germany).