The Siege of Strasbourg

The Siege of Strasbourg

by Rachel Chrastil


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When war broke out between France and Prussia in the summer of 1870, one of the first targets of the invading German armies was Strasbourg. From August 15 to September 27, Prussian forces bombarded this border city, killing hundreds of citizens, wounding thousands more, and destroying many historic buildings and landmarks. For six terror-filled weeks, "the city at the crossroads" became the epicenter of a new kind of warfare whose indiscriminate violence shocked contemporaries and led to debates over the wartime protection of civilians.

The Siege of Strasbourg recovers the forgotten history of this crisis and the experiences of civilians who survived it. Rachel Chrastil shows that many of the defining features of "total war," usually thought to be a twentieth-century phenomenon, characterized the siege. Deploying a modern tactic that traumatized city-dwellers, the Germans purposefully shelled nonmilitary targets. But an unintended consequence was that outsiders were prompted to act. Intervention by the Swiss on behalf of Strasbourg's beleaguered citizens was a transformative moment: the first example of wartime international humanitarian aid intended for civilians.

Weaving firsthand accounts of suffering and resilience through her narrative, Chrastil examines the myriad ethical questions surrounding what is "legal" in war and what rights civilians trapped in a war zone possess. The implications of the siege of Strasbourg far exceed their local context, to inform the dilemmas that haunt our own age—in which collateral damage and humanitarian intervention have become a crucial part of our strategic vocabulary.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674728868
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 04/08/2014
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,142,063
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Rachel Chrastil is Associate Professor of History at Xavier University.

Table of Contents

Note to the Reader ix

Introduction 1

1 The Grey Areas 16

2 Insiders and Outsiders 41

3 Every Twenty Seconds 66

4 Victims in the Eye of the Beholder 102

5 Carrying On 128

6 A Fraternal Hand 150

7 Heroic Measures 176

8 Strassburg 203

Conclusion 234

Abbreviations 245

Notes 247

Acknowledgments 293

Index 295

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