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The Nation in Arms: Germany and France 1789-1939

Omer Bartov asks how the armies of lords and kings became the forces of peoples and nations.

The long history of Franco-German relations, characterised by a perpetual tension between anxiety and admiration, animosity and emulation, insight and misconception, richly illustrates the degree to which mutual influences between European societies have shaped their development throughout the modern era. This is the case in the political just as much as in the cultural sphere. When speaking of the relationship between the evolving concept of national identity and the military, a comparison between France and Germany is highly instructive, for the interplay between army, regime, and society in these two neighbouring countries, and their influence upon each other during a century-and-a-half of conflict, has clearly played a major role in forging their sense of nationhood. Indeed, one may say that at a time when these two powers were at the height of their influence, their respective solutions to the problems arising from civil-military relations had a major impact not only on the European continent, but also on much of the rest of the world, and have left a deep mark on our understanding of the complex issues involved in the creation of the modern nation state.

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