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The Franco-Prussian War 1870-71 was one of the most significant wars of the Nineteenth century. It changed the balance of power in Europe and resulted in the relative decline of France and confirmed the rise of a United Germany as the major power on the continent. This was to have great implications for international relations not only in Europe but around the Globe. The Franco-Prussian War was to lay the foundation for the First World War.<ref>Wentzel, David (2003) ''A Duel of Giants: Bismarck, Napoleon III, and the Origins of the Franco-Prussian War'', p. 12 Background.</ref> In 1870, France was regarded as the most powerful country in mainland Europe. It was ruled by the authoritarian Emperor Napoleon III. He had actively sought to expand French influence in Europe and around the world. Napoleon III inspired by his grandfather Napoleon I, sought to make France the greatest nation in Europe. He had fought wars against the Russian Empire in the Crimea and in Italy against the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Emperor was also acquiring colonies in Asia and Africa .<ref>Wetzel, p. 6.</ref>
[[File:577px-Franz_Xaver_Winterhalter_Napoleon_III.jpg|thumbnail|Franz Napoleon III of France|300px150px]]
Germany at this time was still divided among various, often small principalities and dukedoms. Prussia was the most powerful German state and under the leadership of Chancellor Otto Bismarck, it sought to unify Germany under its leadership. Bismarck had cleverly engineered wars with Denmark and Austro-Hungary, which resulted in Prussian coming to dominate the Northern German States. Bismarck sought to unite the Southern German states under the leadership of Germany. However, Bismarck, knew that France would resist this, as Napoleon III, did not want a strong and united Germany on its borders.<ref> Taylor, A.J.P. (1987). ''The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848–1918'', p. 345.</ref>

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