Germany Unification


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German Unification
Background
Otto von Bismarck was the not the first to suggest the unification of the German states
The German parliament was first established in Frankfurt in 1848
German leaders faced a dual threat ­ they were vulnerable from a foreign invasion (such as
from France) and also from the radical demands of their own subjects.
Economic issues also suggested that unity would be beneficial.
German manufacturers and merchants had appreciated the relaxation of customs duties and
other restrictions.
Prussia would benefit in particular as she was economically very strong
Some economic unity had been achieved since 1834 in the form of the Zollverein
1848 revolutions illustrated that the middle class nationalists assembled in Frankfurt lacked
the political means to change/influence the powerful German princes
The Future lay with the king of Prussia or the Emperor of Austria
Austria initially was the stronger both militarily and diplomatically.
Neither Austria nor Prussia was particularly concerned with the `national question': Austria
focused on maintaining her empire; Prussia was concerned with northern Germany and for
maintaining the political and economic interests of its Junker governing class.

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However, in the 1850s the European context altered as Austrian credibility as the leader and
defender of the German princes was reduced dramatically; her failure to resist France in Italy
in 1859 showed her weakness whilst exposing Napoleon III as a new threat.
At the opening of the 1860s there was not only a power vacuum in the politics of German
leadership, but an urgent and widespread desire that it should be filled.…read more

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The Europe of the 1860s, 70s and 80s is one dominated by the Prussia M-P and the German
chancellor, Otto von Bismarck.
Historians usually regard the year that Bismarck left office, 1890, as the end of an era in European
history.…read more

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Why was Prussia not able to extend its Political influence within Germany in
the aftermath of the 48 revolutions?
Post 48, the stature of the Prussian state was higher than it had been in conservative circles. Austria was
pre-occupied with its Empire and the German confederation was obsolete. There was now a vacuum in
princely German politics that Baron Josef von Radowitz (Prussian King's advisor) tried to answer in his
proposals presented to the German states at Erfurt in March 1850.…read more

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Italy. Austria did not want to see Russia in control of Moldavia, Wallachia and the mouth of the
Danube river. This required an understanding with Prussia ­ Prussia could not attempt to benefit in
Germany from Austria's preoccupation (as Prussia had done previously in 1850). Prussia was divided ­
Conservatives were pro Russia and Liberals were pro Britain and France. Friedrich Wilhelm made the least
controversial choice ­ neutrality. Thus, neither of the German powers took part militarily.…read more

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The army and technology
Prussia was more advanced in using modern industrial developments in its military than any other European
state. Railways were specifically planned for troop transport from border to border: there was a specific
military department dedicated to the study of rail transport. Therefore, in 1866 Prussia's five railway lines
assembled her troops on Austria's northern frontier in 5 days ­ the Austrian's took 45 days! In 1870 troops
were transported from East Prussia to Lorraine in 36 hours.…read more

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In what respects did Prussia's economy provide a basis for its dominance
within Germany
Prussia's resources and government policy
Prussia had remarkable natural resources especially with the newly acquired Rhineland. The Ruhr and the
Rhineland had considerable coal and iron ore deposits, and the Saar had coal. Prussian Silesia and Upper
Silesia had coal, zinc and iron. The Prussian government actively helped the development of
industries. Friedrich von Motz, Finance Minister, contributed with tax reforms and a road building
programme.…read more

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Why was there a constitutional crisis in Prussia in 1860-62 and why did it
bring Otto von Bismarck to power?
The ascension of King Wilhelm I
In October 1858 the mental illness of Friederich Wilhelm required the appointment of his brother, Prince
Wilhelm, as regent. Friedrich Wilhelm died in 1860. Prince Wilhelm had a reputation as a strict conservative
(not necessarily true).…read more

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