The University of Wisconsin Press

A Duel of Nations
Germany, France, and the Diplomacy
of the War of 1870–1871
David Wetzel

“Wetzel’s praiseworthy and nuanced work reminds us that individuals and their personalities matter a great deal in the making of diplomacy and wars.”
—Herbert F. Ziegler, University of Hawaii at Manoa

On July 19, 1870, Emperor Napoleon III of France declared war against the Prussia of King William I and Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck. A Duel of Nations dramatically depicts the world in which that war took place. In this, the first book in English to study in totality the diplomatic history of the Franco-Prussian War, David Wetzel draws extensively on private and official records, journalistic accounts, cabinet minutes, and public statements by key players to produce a book that is unmatched in the range and clarity of its analysis, its forceful characterizations, and its vivid language.

“The history of Europe after Sedan was the struggle for stability in the face of rising German power, and 1870–71 was the cockpit of that struggle. In A Duel of Nations, David Wetzel puts us there in gripping detail: a preemptive war, a rapid battlefield defeat, regime change, an insurgency, atrocities, sweating statesmen, an indignant international community, and all of the auguries of 1914—German pride, French revenge, Russian fear, and British tentativeness.”—Geoffrey Wawro, Military History Center, University of North Texas

David Wetzel is lecturer in history at University of California, Berkeley. He is author of A Duel of Giants: Bismarck, Napoleon III, and the Origins of the Franco-Prussian War, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press, and of The Crimean War: A Diplomatic History.


“The work is carefully researched and is further enhanced by an extensive bibliographical essay. . . . This will likely become one of the main references of this brief but significant period in the birth of modern European history. Highly recommended.”

“Fills an important gap in the literature, which has not seen such a lucid and well-composed case study on nineteenth-century war and diplomacy in many years.”
American Historical Review

“The book is an impressive piece of scholarship. Well written and incisively argued, it is based on a clear command of the available secondary literature and printed primary sources, as well as vast multinational archival research.”
German Studies Review

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Of Related Interest:
cover of A Duel of Giants is an old photograph of two war generals seated beside each other.A Duel of Giants
Bismarck, Napoleon III, and the Origins of the Franco-Prussian War
David Wetzel
"David Wetzel's study is an extremely well-crafted analysis of this dramatic episode of European history, and it is a pleasure to read."—International History Review

September 2012
LC: 2012010178 DC
326 pp.   6 x 9   25 b/w illus.
Paper ISBN 978-0-299-29134-1
eBook ISBN 978-0-299-29133-4

For rights and permissions inquiries, contact

“Wetzel’s presentation is so riveting as to make the work a page-turner even for specialists who know what comes next.”
—Dennis E. Showalter, Colorado College

“David Wetzel has written a great book about one of the most important, yet oddly neglected, events in European history. The Franco-Prussian War comes alive in Wetzel’s hands thanks to his deft portaits of key figures like Otto von Bismarck, acute analysis, and deep research in multiple languages.”
—Eric D. Weitz, City College, City University of New York

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Updated 12/16/2014

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