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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
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
Austria, France, and Russia
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
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
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.
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
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
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 Prussiancontrolled 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
 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
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
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-militaristicmonarchic parties that practiced realpolitik and militarism. This struggle would end in the outbreak of
World War I.