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A Duel of GiantsA Duel of Giants

Bismarck, Napoleon III, and the Origins of the Franco-Prussian War

David Wetzel

Narrated by Jim D. Johnston

Available from Audible

Book published by University of Wisconsin Press

Combining impeccable scholarship and literary elegance, David Wetzel depicts the drama of machinations and passions that exploded in a war that forever changed the face of European history.

The clash of two extraordinary personalities—Otto von Bismarck and Napoleon III—drives this engrossing account of the events leading up to the Franco-Prussian War, one of the most momentous and decisive conflicts in the history of Europe.

An accomplished and eloquent historian, David Wetzel tells how this utterly avoidable war unfolded in the brief, eventful days of July 1870, ushering in an era of power politics that would reach its apocalyptic climax in World War I. Hotheaded militarists, high-minded statesmen, scheming opportunists, impassioned nationalists, and sensationalist newspapers all played their part as the European powers of the era—France, Germany, England, Austria, Spain, Italy, and Russia—jockeyed for advantage. Amidst this swirl of national and personal ambitions Wetzel brings Bismarck, Napoleon III, and their intimate circles to life, depicting for present-day readers the tremendous strains working upon them, their preoccupations, motives, judgments, and their ultimate decisions.

Indispensable reading for every student of the nineteenth century, A Duel of Giants offers a wealth of telling detail drawn from personal memoirs, official records, cabinet minutes, journalistic accounts, private notes, and public statements, presented in dramatic and enjoyable style.

David Wetzel is the author of The Diplomacy of the Crimean War, editor of From the Berlin Museum to the Berlin Wall, and, with Theodore S. Hamerow, of International Politics and German History.


“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

“This is diplomatic history with a difference. Out of the dry bones of the diplomatic documents David Wetzel has created a fascinating story that illustrates the supreme importance of personalities in the making of politics and, more important, the making of wars.”

—Sir Michael Howard, Regius Professor of Modern History, emeritus, Oxford University

“David Wetzel provides a clear narrative of the diplomatic background to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War.... the book can be recommended as a useful introduction to a major theme in European history which, because of changes in historiographical fashion, has suffered from neglect for some forty years.”

Times Literary Supplement

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