Book Review: Three German Invasions of France, The Summer Campaigns of 1870, 1914, and 1940


by Douglas Fermer

Barnsley, S. York.: Pen & Sword / Havertown, Pa.: Casemate, 2013. Pp. xiv, 274. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 1781593547

A comparative look at the opening phases of the German invasions of France in of 1870, 1914, and 1940.

Fermer, author of several books on the 1870-1871 Franco-German War, opens with a short look at what he calls the “Era of French Ascendancy,” the period of French military dominance on the Continent that ended in 1870.  The balance of the book then looks at each campaign, two of which ended disastrously for France while that of 1914 led to the endless agony of the Western Front.  His account tends to look at events primarily from the French side, perhaps appropirate given it was their country being invaded. 

Fermer’s treatment is rather uniform, as he sees the campaigns as being interconnected, and certainly they fit could easily within the lifetime of a single person.  Each section opens with a chapter on the causes of the war.  There follows a look at the armies, primarily concentrated on the French, then three (1914) or four (1870, 1940) chapters on the events as they unfolded. 

Fermer moves with considerable ease back and forth from cabinet rooms to the man in the street to general headquarters to the front lines, which at times reveals surprising similarities and notable differences in the course of events.  Despite the fact that much of this ground has been gone over before, Fermer frequently manages to throw fresh light on how or why things took place as they did, such as how the harvest influenced the timing of the outbreak of war in 1914 or the often unheralded importance of the many fortresses in that campaign. 

Three German Invasions of France is excellent book for anyone who knows little about these campaigns, this can also be read with profit by the seasoned of the subject. 
Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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