18 JANUARY 1871In a France defeated and invaded after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Chancellor Bismarck proclaimed the German Empire in the Hall of Mirrors. This was Germany’s revenge for the humiliations imposed by Louis XIV and Napoléon I.

On 19 July 1870, France declared war on Prussia. It capitulated at Sedan on 2 September. Prussia then invaded France. On 19 September, it besieged Paris and the first Prussian troops arrived in Versailles. On 5 October, William I and Bismarck moved into the town to prepare the proclamation of the German Empire from the Château.

In 1848, Frédéric Sorrieu, a French artist, prepared a series of fourprints visualising his dream of a world made up of ‘democraticand social Republics’, as he called them. The first print (Fig. 1) of theseries, shows the peoples of Europe and America – men and womenof all ages and social classes – marching in a long train, and offeringhomage to the statue of Liberty as they pass by it. As you wouldrecall, artists of the time of the French Revolution personified Libertyas a female figure – here you can recognise the torch of Enlightenmentshe bears in one hand and the Charter of the Rights of Man in theother. On the earth in the foreground of the image lie the shatteredremains of the symbols of absolutist institutions. In Sorrieu’sutopian vision, the peoples of the world are grouped as distinctnations, identified through their flags and national costume. Leadingthe procession, way past the statue of Liberty, are the United Statesand Switzerland, which by this time were already nation-states. France
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