The Unification of Germany

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The Unification of Germany

Name: _____________________________ Date: ________________
Rise of Bismarck, the "Iron Chancellor" (1815-1898)

Consider timeframes he's born in, Junker aristocrat, conservative-monarchist; much of this based on his university experiences (50 duels!), revolutions of 1820's and 30's.

Elected to Prussian Parliament; in 1848-49 Prussian revolts, was part of the group that put down the liberals.

Diplomat extraordinaire- ambassador to Russia, 1858

Master of realpolitik, used alliances and counter-alliances to achieve unification of the German state





SITUATION in 1850's

Prussia-German states were in central Europe

Strategy of Bismarck

Why conservative-militarism instead of liberalism?

Use of nationalism to manipulate Germans to achieve goals

- Romantic Nationalism

- role of German mythology

- German music: OPERA and LITERATURE

: Richard Wagner

: Ring of the Nibelung, Der Ring des Nibelungen

Obstacles – Austria, France, Russia, and the other princes that rule within the many German petty states

1.      Austria, France, and Russia
2.      Princes/rulers of German states
Manipulation of players, deceitful realpolitik
Three wars



Austria and Prussia

Map of the German States, 1815

During the early 19th century, Prussia was the only German state that could match the power and influence of the Austrian Empire. Comparable:

Austria opposed the idea of German unification as it saw this as a threat to its own empire. Although they were a minority, there was a significant percentage of German-speakers in the empire. If their German minorities broke away to join a unified Germany, Austria would be ____________ and _____________. To this end, Prussia and Austria were rivals.

Austrian Problems

Ethnic unrest
Loss of influence
Crimean War
War of Italian Unification

Prussian Ascendancy

  • Prussia was producing more key resources such as ______ and ______ than Austria and it had surged ahead of its rival in building ______ and _______networks to help promote trade.

  • Prussia had successfully set up an economic alliance (_____________________) with other German states that made trade between states easier and more profitable.

Bismarck's master plan?

  • ___________ the north German states under Prussian control

  • __________________ Prussia's main rival, Austria, by removing it from the Bund

  • make _____________ the center of German affairs - not

It is important to note that there is much debate about Bismarck's aims to unify all German states under Prussian rule. Some historians argue that Bismarck only intended to unify the north German states but the strength of nationalist feelings after 1866 led to German unification under its own steam.

KEY characteristic of Bismarck's success:

Congress of Princes 1863

To counter Prussia's growing influence, Austria tried to strengthen its position in the Bund. Since it was in theory the leading member of the Bund, an increase in the power of the Bund would strengthen Austria.

Bismarck's Response:

Isolating Austria

Bismarck knew Austria was a major obstacle to unification. To succeed in his aims war seemed inevitable. Before he fought the powerful Austrian empire, however, he needed to isolate its position in Europe.

  • Prussia refused to help Poland when it revolted against Russian control. Bismarck then formed a powerful alliance with Russia.

  • Bismarck then formed another key alliance with France. In a meeting with Napoleon III, he promised to support France in its plans to occupy and control Belgium.

  • Bismarck also struck a deal with Italy. Italy promised to help Prussia in any war against Austria, providing Austria were the aggressor and Italy gained Venetia in return.

Schleswig-Holstein 1864 - 65

Bismarck got his excuse for a war against Austria during a territorial dispute over two small German states, Schleswig and Holstein. They were controlled by Denmark but not technically a part of it.

  • 1863

  • 1864

The Seven Weeks War (Prusso-Austrian War)

Bismarck then engineered a treaty with Austria (the Treaty of Gastein) which he knew was unlikely to work.



Nationalist issues

  • The Austrians tried to use their influence in the German Bund to pressure Prussia to address the Schleswig-Holstein issue, and back away from occupying it.

  • The Bund backed Austria in the dispute over Schleswig-Holstein.

  • In response, Prussia said that the Bund was invalid, declared war on Austria and invaded Austria, as well as the German states of Hanover, Hesse and Saxony.

  • The Austrians were quickly defeated by the Prussian army during the Seven Weeks War, with the help of Italy.

  • REASONS FOR SUCCESS: railroads, a new type of breech-loading rifle which could be fired much more quickly than the Austrian muskets, and the telegram. In the end, Prussia's buildup of new military technology, or the innovative use of technology for military uses gave them a decisive advantage

The Treaty of Prague

Bismarck's plan to isolate Austria was working. As a result of the Seven Weeks War:

  • Prussia kept all the territories it had captured, including Saxony.

  • A North German Confederation was set up under the control of Prussia.

  • A federal Diet was established for the states in this North German Confederation. The Diet would be elected and each state could keep its own laws and customs.

  • The southern German states formed their own independent confederation.

  • Austria promised to stay out of German affairs.

  • Austria paid compensation to Prussia but did not lose land to it. Prussia did not want to weaken Austria too much since it might be a valuable ally in the future against Prussia's enemies.

North German Confederation 1867 - 1871

Isolating France

Austria weakened: Bismarck now turned his attention to the other great stumbling block to unification - the French Empire of Napoleon III. France had watched Prussia's growing power with alarm. As with Austria, Bismarck tried to isolate France as much as possible before war started.

  • Officially, Russia was an ally of France but Bismarck used diplomacy to make sure Russia stayed out of the up-coming war, reminding them of his support of Russia in Poland.

  • Bismarck also made sure Italy stayed neutral and wouldn't fight for France, by reminding them who had ensured they gained their northern territories back from A-Hungary..

  • Bismarck gambled that the British would stay out of the war since it didn't want France to become any more powerful than it already was.

Franco-Prussian War 1870 - 71- Bismarck found his excuse for war when Spain offered its vacant crown to a relative of the Prussian King, William I.

  • France was outraged since it didn't want Prussia becoming more powerful. The French insisted King William make his relative refuse the crown. King William refused to guarantee this.

  • Bismarck used the King's refusal as a way to provoke the French. He published a heavily edited and provocative telegram, known as The Ems Telegram, of the King's refusal, making it seem he had insulted the French ambassador. The French Emperor, responding to fury from the French press and public, declared war on Prussia.

In the Franco-Prussian war, France was heavily defeated and its ruler, Napoleon III, was overthrown by a French rebellion, ushering in the brief government called the Commune. Additionally, when the German army had surrounded Paris, the Germans offered to end the war, but the French radical Commune government refused. This refusal caused a great deal more bloodshed, which the Germans did not forget, accusing the French or prolonging unnecessary suffering.

Unification achieved - German Empire 1871

In the build up to war, the southern confederate German states voluntarily joined the Prussian-controlled Northern German Confederation, fearing a French invasion. Germany was thus unified.


May 1871: the southern German states, the North German Confederation, and Prussia join together, unifying, and proclaiming the German Empire at the Treaty of Frankfurt (May 1871).The victorious Germans demand:

  • reparations of £200 million in compensation from France, and gain two important border provinces: ALSACE and LORRAINE, both important sources of coal, iron, and agricultural products.

  • a military OCCUPATION of Paris and some parts of France due to the "unnecessary resistance"

Before the French had entirely surrendered, at the French palace of Versailles, to the humiliation of the French, King William I of Prussia became emperor (Kaiser) of all Germany, and:

  • a federal constitution was written, pretty much the same one used to form the North German Confederation

  • bicameral legislature kept; Bundestag and Recihstag

  • Otto Von Bismarck was named CHANCELLOR of Germany, second only to the king in power

A summary of Bismarck's contribution to German unification includes:

  • Economic co-operation meant that unification may have happened eventually anyway, but Bismarck made sure that it happened.

  • He made sure that the army reforms took place.

  • He successfully isolated other countries by making them look like aggressors.

  • He made Prussia appear to be the defender of the German states and protector of their rights.

  • Used military force and "realpolitik" to achieve his ends; started three wars to achieve unification: Schleswig – Holstein War

Austro – Prussian War (also called the Seven Weeks War)

Franco – Prussian War

but.... the humiliation the French suffered was never forgotten by the French people.....
Previous relationship: the French and the German peoples had always worked through their differences, and the German people had looked to the French as a source of ideas and culture. The growing militarism of Prussia had now absorbed the German states, all Germans, into one empire, that was bound on a course of becoming a great power. The occupation and reparations sought by the Germans (read Prussian government) was not in keeping with any previous historical contexts; a new context was set.
Revanche: the official policy of the French became revanche, French for revenge, for their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. The French would become the de facto enemy of the German Empire, and vice versa.
Perception and role of the French Army in society: the French, even after their loss in 1870-71, came to see the military as their only hope of regaining the prestige they had lost over time. The French Army, its generals, and its bureaucracy were viewed by most of French society as the ultimate expression of what it meant to be a French citizen, a reversion to militarism on the part of their nation.
Realpolitik: this political philosophy came to dominate relationships between the nation-states of Europe; if only one of the actors (principal governments) of Europe crafted its foreign policy in this fashion, it remains that every other one was forced to do the same thing, so that mutual trust was almost an impossibility. Only mutually beneficial alliances built on armed strength would count.
Success of militarism over liberalism philosophies: the success of Prussian militarism, of "blood and iron," meant that governments would see a struggle between, Liberals, Socialists, and Center political parties that represented the older philosophies of mutual diplomacy, and the conservative-militaristic-monarchic parties that practiced realpolitik and militarism. This struggle would end in the outbreak of World War I.

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