Important Topics: World History (Unification of Germany)

World History

(Unification of Germany)

What is the background of German Unification


Preface: Birth of newly industrialised nations (like France, Britain, Spain) in Europe which started changing the political equation in Europe.

Main Reasons:

  • Situation: Industrial Revolution of 1750 started creating new changes in polity, economy and society. Despite German states fulfilling all the conditions for industrial revolution, it was still lagging Britain, France etc.

  • Exploitation: by the neighbouring countries acted as a catalytic force to desire to be united and was hindrance for emerging capitalists, industrialists and nationalists.

  • German states were divided on lines of polity, but united on concept of German race and language.

Napoleon's Role: Destroy Holy Roman Empire, which controlled German states, and this fall on non-german leaders strengthened the path of unity of Germany. Abolished small states in Germany and established new states of Westphalia (practical taste of unity). Napoleon, in short, ignited fire of unity among Germans.

Role of Important Personalities: Like in any revolution, including American and French revolution, role of personalities is quintessential and indispensable. Because without participating of common people, not revolution can be successful and common people will not participate till they have faith in an ideal, which can be understood and clarified by intellectuals only.

Bismarck: Chancellor of Prussia. Hudror, Fickte promoted concept of German race and language through their writing.

Phases of German Unification


  • German Diet: Seed of German Unification
  • Zollverine
  • 2nd Frankfurt Parliament (1st was demolished before 1850)
  • Bismarck

German Diet: Austria formed confederation of German states, leading to origin of German diet (for better management). Though no formal relation, GD was beginning of Modern Political structure in Germany. General resolutions can passed by 2/3rd majority only. Fundamental / Constitutional changes, the acceptance of every state is mandatory.

Zollverine: Prussia took advantage if provisions of German diet and implemented Zollverine a customs union among German states, leading to economic union of German states.

Always in world history, if economic unification happens, it is most critical step and political union is not far behind. Revolution of 1830 in France ended the principle of divine rights of kings, declaring that king cannot rule on his whims and fancies, but will have to rule according to will of people, leading to ground for framing of constitution.

Social movement of 1848 activated the labour class of entire Europe including German, leading to Heidelberg convention where liberals and intellectuals of Germany decided to frame the new constitution. This lead to 2nd Frankfurt parliament, where representative of the people declared that Germany will unite under leadership of Prussia, finally leading to framing of new constitution.

Prussia outrightly refused (and this big step of German unification went in vein) because:

  • Proposal was not initiated by king but by representative of people
  • Prussia did not want the status of superficial head

Olmutz Convention: Austria threatened Prussia against accepting German offer. This although was a setback to German unification, but also it was absolutely clear that war with Austria is inevitable if German unification is to become reality.

Role of Bismarck


Economic empowerment of Prussia which leas to strengthening of its military and recognised that was with Austria was destined. So far economic empowerment.

  • Establishment of modern economic institutions like Imperial Banks in Germany.
  • Reform in infrastructure like roads and railways.
  • Production under control of state.
  • Emphasis on principal of state socialism, guaranteeing rights and protection to labour class.

The economic empowerment lead to military strengthening.

Bismarck's Entrapment Policy: Denmark became the pawn, Austria the victim and France was deceived by Bismarck. By London agreement of 1852, Schleswig and Holstein were kept under Denmark's protection. Later Denmark violated the agreement and incorporated both territories which let to war between Denmark and combined armies of Austria and Prussia. Bismarck learned the strength and weakness of Austrian army during this war. In 1865, by convention of Gaustein, Schleswig to Austria, Holstein to Prussia.

After this, Bismarck took steps to alienate Austria from its allies.

  • Adopted pro-russian attitude in Poland
  • Promised Italians help in their unification
  • Made commitments to Napoleon III of big rewards

He incorporated Holstein provoking Austria and in Battle of Königgrätz and Sadowa (Sadová) in 1866, Austria was defeated, completing the first phase of German unification with defeat of Austria, France became next target, Napoleon III was deceived into giving written demands. It was France who was defeated at Battle of Sadowa.

Bismarck exposed written proposals of France's ruler embodying his demand for compensations, where France came across as an aggressor with insatiable territorial appetite.

  • This alienated France from its allies in Europe.
  • Benedetti episode: He was French ambassador in Prussia, he was insulted by Bismarck.

These two reasons provoked France, leading to its defeat in Battle of Sedan, completing goals of German unification. Bismarck never let his ambitions know to outside world, and he achieved his goal irrespective of all odds, so he deserves all the laurels and respect that European and world history has bestowed upon him.