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This chapter explores the question of whether and in what way French warfare after the defeat at Sedan was regarded as a step on the way to total war. The point is not so much to determine whether the people's war (Volkskrieg) organized by the French leader Leon Gambetta between September 1870 and January 1871 objectively represents a new type of war but, rather, to ask the question of whether and in what way the année terrible (terrible year) and the people s war represented a milestone in German and French memory and military theory between 1871 and 1914. In what way was Gambetta's warfare considered exemplary; how was it adopted in later war theory? Did his contemporaries already consider it a step toward the “war of the future?” The following reflections are a first step onto previously neglected research terrain. There is a dearth of research on the Gambetta myth in the Third Republic, which is somewhat astonishing considering the obvious significance of this politician in French history. Likewise, little is known of how French military history and theory were received in Wilhelmine Germany.
Military science began to explore the people's war of Gambetta's armies soon after the end of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Interestingly, this reflection began much sooner in Germany than in France. Colmar von der Goltz, certainly the most prolific representative of the "official" school of military history in Imperial Germany, published a study in 1877 on Leon Gambetta und seine Armeen (Leon Gambetta and his armies). The study was based on essays by the same author in the Preussischejahrbucher (Prussian yearbooks) of 1874-75.
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