The Fall of Paris : The Siege and the Commune 1870-71, Paperback Book

The Fall of Paris : The Siege and the Commune 1870-71 Paperback

5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Alistair Horne's The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune, 1870-71 is the first book of Alistair Horne's trilogy, which includes The Price of Glory and To Lose a Battle and tells the story of the great crises of the rivalry between France and Germany. The collapse of France in 1870 had an overwhelming impact - on Paris, on France and on the rest of the world.

People everywhere saw Paris as the centre of Europe and the hub of culture, fashion and invention.

But suddenly France, not least to the disbelief of her own citizens, was gripped in the vice of the Prussian armies and forced to surrender on humiliating terms.

Almost immediately Paris was convulsed by the savage self-destruction of the newly formed Socialist government, the Commune. In this brilliant study of the Siege of Paris and its aftermath, Alistair Horne researches first-hand accounts left by official observers, private diarists and letter-writers to evoke the high drama of those ten tumultuous months and the spiritual and physical agony that Paris and the Parisians suffered as they lost the Franco-Prussian war. 'Compulsively readable' The Times 'The most enthralling historical work' Daily Telegraph 'Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the civil war that still stirs the soul of France' Evening Standard One of Britain's greatest historians, Sir Alistair Horne, CBE, is the author of a trilogy on the rivalry between France and Germany, The Price of Glory, The Fall of Paris and To Lose a Battle, as well as a two-volume life of Harold Macmillan.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 480 pages, None
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: European history
  • ISBN: 9780141030630

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English historian Alistair Horne (A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 (New York Review Books Classics)) tells the story - really two stories - of the Franco-Prussian War's impact on Paris. First came the siege of Paris, a valiant struggle in its own right. A then after the downfall of Paris and the Prussian (partial) withdrawal came the Commune. Horne does an excellent job telling these fascinating stories. I was surprised to learn that prior to this war the Prussians were somewhat lightly regarded as a military force - seen almost as a caricature of itself. The French under Louis-Napoleon (Napoleon III) expected to win the war and instead lost Alsace-Lorraine. As Horne emphasizes, this annexation planted the seeds for continued warfare between France and Germany. Bismarck opposed the annexation on those grounds, but lost the argument to the generals. The war culminated with the unification of Prussia and Germany into the new German Empire. In a scene foreshadowing Hitler's 1940 visit to Paris, the unification ceremony and elevation of King Wilhelm of Prussia to Emperor Wilhelm of the German Empire took place at the Versailles. Louis-Napoleon and his Second Empire were given the boot in September 1870 even before the final surrender and the Third Republic was born. The Prussians kept coming and put Paris under a siege that lasted some 120 days. About two months later the Commune came into being as the first workers' republic (albeit small and short-lived). The establishment of the Commune led to a Parisian civil war. Horne makes good use of the available source to bring the despair, hunger, terrors, thrills, and heroics to life. My only quibble is Horne's clear antipathy to the leftists; he assigns more derogatory terms to the Communards than the forces of reaction despite the fact that those forces certainly executed far more Parisians than the Communards. Still, his bias don't seem to interfere with his objectivity and his writing made the book a joy to read.

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