Bismarck and German Unification Summary



Bismarck and German Unification Summary


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Bismarck and German Unification Summary


German Unification Course Summary up to 1871 (1871-90 still to come!):


Section 1: The German Confederation, 1815-48

Section 2: Revolutions in Germany, 1848-9

Section 3: The rise of Prussia, 1850-62

Section 4: Diplomacy and War, 1862-71

Section 5: The role of Bismarck in unification


1. The German Confederation, 1815-48

Key questions to think about when revising:

- (a) Why was German unification unlikely in 1815?
- (b) What were the forces for change (which made unification MORE likely) from 1815-48?

(a)Why was German unification unlikely in 1815?

*Because of the way the German Confederation was set up at the Congress of Vienna (1815):

-Independence of individual German states: Confederation divided into 39 separate states ruled by individual princes each of whom was concerned with maintaining sovereignty over his own state.

-The set up of the DIET of the Confederation (which met permanently in Frankfurt):
~was attended by representatives CHOSEN BY THE INDIVIDUAL PRINCES
~had the Austrian ambassador as President of the Diet
~laws had to be passed unanimously (or at least by 2/3 majority) by the INNER COUNCIL and then the PLENARY SESSION
~lacked an army or civil service to put its decisions into practice.
~Was regularly subject to the influence of Metternich who, for example, pressured it into passing the Carlsbad Decrees of 1819 (following the murder of the reactionary writer Kotzebue) and the Six Articles of 1832 (following the nationalist Hambach Festival) which strictly limited the freedom of the press and of associations and protest etc within the states of the Bund (German Confederation).

-Domination of Austria and Prussia
~Metternich’s setting up of the Congress System, to stamp out revolution and maintain the power of ‘legitimate’ rulers throughout Europe, which saw the setting up of the Troppau Protocol / Holy Alliance between Austria, Russia and Prussia. This ensured that, until international relations began to change with the Crimean War of 1854-6, Prussia was tied into a reactionary alliance with Austria.
~The Austrian Habsburg Empire, with its population of 25 million, was immensely powerful
~Austria acted as a deterrent to Prussia uniting the smaller states. Austria favoured a loose Confederation of states dominated by the Habsburg Emperor.
~Prussia was given land to the west in the Rhineland (rich in raw materials and thus possessing great industrial potential) and in the east in Posen and on the Russian border and its population was increased from about 5 million to 10 million. Prussia itself, however, suffered a West-East divide with the traditional Junker-dominated east lacking affinity with the more modern, liberal-minded and industrialised West.

Cultural/national disunity within the Confederation
*Many non-Germans lived in the Confederation
*some of the Confederation states were ruled by non-German governments (e.g. Hanover - Britain, Luxemburg - Netherlands, Schleswig and Holstein - Denmark etc.)

Catholic/Protestant divide
-There was a religious divide between the Catholic states (mainly in the South who looked to Austria for support) and the Protestant states (mainly in the North who looked to Prussia for support).

Junker dominance
-German society was dominated by the JUNKERS (landowning aristocrats who were against change and loyal to the individual Monarchs).

Conservative army and civil service
-Army and civil service/bureaucracy were mainly aristocratic and loyal to the monarchy

Lack of industrialisation / urbanisation
-Only 10% of the population lived in the towns which were not nearly as industrialised as the towns in, for example, Britain.


(b) What were the forces of change (which made unification MORE likely) between 1815 and 1848?

The Zollverein
-Grew out of Prussian Customs Union (set up in 1818) regulating the Prussian economy and getting rid of all customs barriers within Prussia.
-In 1830 Hesse-Cassel left the rival Middle Customs Union and joined the Prussian Customs Union leading to the collapse of the Middle Union and 18 states (including Prussia) joining the Prussian Customs Union to form the Zollverein in 1834.
-By 1844 only Austria, Hanover, Oldenburg, Mecklenburg and the Hanseatic towns were NOT in the Zollverein.
-The Zollverein encouraged cooperation and boosted trade between the German states by abolishing customs barriers and unifying the currency and system of weights and measures within the states of the Zollverein.

The growth of German Nationalism:
-Students and other educated middle class people began studying the writings of Fichte, Arndt and Jahn (see Shreeves, pp.109-112). Students formed themselves into nationalist organisations called Burscherschaften. The Burscherschaften were, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, at their height when Bismarck and other eventual leaders of German unification were at university.
-Nationalist demonstrations organised by Burscherschaften took place at Wartburg (1817) and Hambach (1832) (see Shreeves, p.112). These, whilst impressive, involving feasting, throwing reactionary books onto huge bonfires and speeches regarding the ‘German Fatherland’, lacked focus on exactly what a united Germany might be and were of more a romantic rather than a practical nature.
-The focus of German nationalists was sharpened firstly in 1840, when French foreign policy turned from global imperialism (as a rival to Britain) to European expansion, and secondly in 1846 when the King of Denmark tried to fully incorporate his territories of Schleswig and Holstein (part of the German Confederation) into the Kingdom of Denmark.


The growth of liberalism:
-As with many states which had been subject to the control of Napoleon I in the years leading up to 1815, the German middle classes, especially those directly ruled from France as the Rhineland Confederation, had been given a taste of power in legal, governmental and military circles, which was then taken away in Metternich’s drive for reaction throughout Europe. They were thus particularly receptive to the writings of men like Goethe and Schiller who argued that the rule of monarchs should be subject to constitutions in the form of parliaments containing educated men able to advise him.
-Liberalism gained sharper focus in the years leading up to 1848 when the rule of the South-Western state of Baden was forced in 1846 to accept a constitution based on by far the widest electoral franchise (biggest number of people able to vote for MPs) ever known in any German state. Following this success in Baden an Assembly of South Western States (with representatives from six South West German States) met in 1847 and declared that the problems facing the states of the Bund needed to be brought about by the setting up of a ‘German Republic’ (i.e. a united Germany without a king). In the same year, King Frederick William IV allowed a meeting of the Estates-General in Prussia. 
2. Revolutions in Germany 1848-9.

Key questions to think about when revising.

(a)Why did revolutions break out throughout Germany in 1848? (long-term and short-term reasons)
(b)What were the main developments of the revolution in Germany?
(c)Why did the Frankfurt Parliament (May, 1848 – June 1849) fail?
(d) What was the impact of the Frankfurt Parliament/revolution in Germany?
(e) What was the impact of revolution on who controlled the German Confederation?


Why did revolutions break out throughout Germany, 1848-9?

-rising middle class demanding political representation [see also growth of Liberalism in Section 1]

-growing population throughout Europe leading to a scarcity of food

-industrialisation leading to a shift of population to towns leading to poor living and working conditions in the towns as well as the skilled Handwerker feeling that their trade was being undermined by the increasing use of factory machines and the cheap unskilled labour it took to run them.


-harvest failures throughout Europe in 1845-6 followed by an outbreak of potato blight in 1847(see Wilmot, pp.68-9).

-resultant trade recession in Europe, 1847 as rising food prices in the towns led to a dramatic fall in demand for consumer (factory-produced) goods  (See Wilmot, p.69).

-Sharpening focus of nationalism and liberalism from 1846 (SEE ABOVE IN THE SECTIONS ON ‘THE GROWTH OF LIBERALISM’ AND ‘THE GROWTH OF NATIONALISM’)

- inspiration from revolutions in other European countries: e.g. Paris, February 1848; Hungary, March 1848 (against imperial Habsburg rule); Vienna, March 1848 etc.

(b) What were the main developments of the Revolutions in Germany?:

-The setting up of the FRANKFURT PARLIAMENT – a liberal dominated assembly of 596 men from all the German states given the task of drawing up a constitution for a united Germany – in May 1848.
[*set up by a Vorparlament at Heidelberg in March 1848)] SEE STILES, PP.32-9.


-The Revolution in Prussia:

*demonstrations and riots in Berlin, 13th-19th March 1848 led Frederick William IV (draped in the German colours of red, black and gold and declaring ‘I want liberty: I will have unity in Germany’) to accept the following on 21st March:
-election of an assembly to draw up a new liberal constitution for Prussia; -the appointment of a new liberal ministry (set of ministers).
(After Frederick William had left Berlin, however, he told his army in Potsdam how he felt ‘humiliated’ at the ‘concessions’ he had made to his people).

The Failure of the Revolution in Prussia

*The assembly spent March-December 1848 trying (and failing) to agree on the new Prussian constitution, largely due to the liberal/radical divide within the Assembly. It did, however, declare war on Denmark over Schleswig-Holstein and abolish many of the feudal, legal and financial privileges of the Junkers. On the other hand, it was notably moderate using middle class Civic guards to bring workers’ demonstrations under control and remaining avowedly opposed to social revolution.

*August 1848 Prussian landowners and nobles set up The League for the Protection of Landed Property in Berlin – known by its enemies as ‘The Junker Parliament’ – which aimed to abolish the Prussian Assembly and dismiss the Liberal Ministry. ALSO Junkers throughout Prussia got the peasants on their side by freeing them from several of their feudal obligations.

*By August 1848, Frederick William IV regaining control: -F.W.IV resumed control of foreign policy, concluding a peace with the Danes to the disgust of the Frankfurt Parliament; -riots by workers in Berlin in October 1848 persuaded many of the middle classes to switch their support to the king; -October 1848: successes of Emperor Franz Josef in Austria encouraged FW IV to dismiss the Liberal Ministry and appoint his uncle Count Brandenburg as the head of a new Ministry; -December 1848: the Prussian Assembly was dissolved by royal decree.

*December 1848: Frederick William IV granted HIS OWN constitution (something he did not mind as long as it was him who set it up). The constitution consisted of:
- a lower and upper house – the lower house voted for by full manhood suffrage (all adult men) in Prussia
-freedom of press, religion, association and a free legal system
Limitations: -the king could alter the constitution at any time he wanted; - in an emergency the king could suspend civil rights and collect taxes without the permission of parliament; -the king appointed his own ministers; -the king had control of the army.

Despite the limitations, most liberals and nationalists preferred Frederick William’s constitution as a means of uniting Germany (through Prussian domination) to the Frankfurt Parliament.


(c) Why did the Frankfurt Parliament fail?

-Lack of practical power: The Parliament, which lacked an army or civil service, had no real power over the individual states. An attempt was made to persuade the armies of each state to fight under the command of the Prussian Commander-in-Chief but none of them, not even the Prussian Commander-in-Chief, would agree to this. 

-The Parliament members found it very difficult to reach any agreements:
*couldn’t decide whether to set up a Kleindeutschland or a Grossdeutschland and whether to set up a monarchy or a republic. This is why Karl Marx described the Frankfurt Parliament as a ‘talking shop’.
*it took until March 1849 to decide on a constitution (although many consider the fact that they succeeded on setting up the Frankfurt Parliament and reaching a decision at all was impressive. They also managed to agree on The Fifty Articles of fundamental rights of the German citizens by December 1848).

-The Parliament lacked the support of the masses:
*the peasants were granted additional rights and freedom by the Junkers early in the revolution which left them satisfied and unwilling to take any further part in the revolution
*the Parliament failed to listen to the concerns of the Handwerker (skilled craftsmen) by refusing to allow a guild system to operate in the German towns after an assembly of Handwerker meeting in Frankfurt had sent representatives to request this from the Frankfurt Parliament. The ‘Junker Parliament’ in Prussia DID allow the Prussian Handwerker a guild system (see Carr, pp.55-6)
*ALSO: The princes, who the Parliament hoped would support it, failed to offer their support: in April 1849 Frederick William IV refused to accept the crown of a united German Empire directly from the Frankfurt Parliament, or ‘from the gutter’ as he put it, saying he would only do so if the offer came from the princes. Soon afterwards the rulers of Bavaria, Saxony and Hanover rejected the united German constitution being suggested by the Frankfurt Parliament [this led most of the members of the parliament to give up and return to their individual states before the rest of the members were forcibly dispersed by Frederick William IV’s soldiers in June 1849].

-The international situation changed: In Austria, for example, Emperor Franz Josef had dissolved the Austrian Constituent Assembly (set up to limit his rule in March 1848) and had regained control of the whole Austrian Empire except Hungary by March, 1849. The Austrian Chief Minister Schwarzenberg even felt strong enough to suggest absorbing the German Confederation into the Austrian Habsburg Empire. This is largely what persuaded the princes to stand up so strongly against the Frankfurt Parliament.


(d) What was the IMPACT of the revolution in Germany, 1848-9?:

-Demonstration that liberal methods would not unite Germany: The failure of the Frankfurt Parliament proved (as Bismarck pointed out in his ‘blood and iron’ + ‘avoiding the mistakes of 1848’ speech of September 1862) that industry and war, and not liberal methods, were needed to achieve German unification. Later liberal nationalists would come round to the idea that, although for many of them it was not ideal, they should rally together behind the idea of uniting Germany under the guidance of the dominant Prussia. For this reason they would set up the German National Association in 1859.

-Greater political awareness: The experiment with the Frankfurt Parliament made more of the German middle class politically aware and caused the spread of nationalist ideas throughout Germany.

-Made ruling classes more liberal:  It demonstrated to the conservative ruling classes that they needed to introduce SOME liberal reforms to keep the population happy (e.g. F.W.IV setting up a Prussian constitution in December 1848; the Junkers allowing extra rights to the peasants).


(e) What was the impact of the revolution on who controlled the Confederation?

-The Erfurt Union: Following the failure of the Frankfurt Parliament, and the power vacuum its collapse left in the Confederation (remember the Diet had also been dissolved previously when the Frankfurt Parliament replaced it in March 1848), the Prussian army general von Radowitz proposed the setting up of the ERFURT UNION – a Kleindeutschland led by Prussia with ‘special links’ to Austria – which, when it was first set up in May 1850, had a membership of 28 states.

-Austrian Chief Minister Schwarzenberg, who saw the Erfurt Union plan as a thinly veiled attempt to achieve Prussian dominance in Germany, got the support of several of the larger states for a Grossdeutschland and then summoned a meeting of the old Confederation Diet at Frankfurt in May 1850.

-The Hesse-Cassel Crisis: a dispute broke out over who (the Erfurt Union or the Frankfurt Diet) should sort out a revolution in Hesse-Cassel which led to small scale fighting between Prussia and Austria in October 1850.

-The Olmutz Declaration:  Anxious to avoid war, the Prussian Minister President Manteuffel agreed to abandon the Erfurt Union at OLMUTZ ON 29TH NOVEMBER 1850. Many German nationalists would subsequently look back on the Olmutz declaration as a disgrace but Bismarck, showing his characteristic cautiousness regarding war, praised it as a very sensible act of ‘state egoism’ as, in his (probably correct) opinion, Prussia was not, at that stage, ready to wage war on Austria.

-Prussia was, however, able to confirm its economic dominance when the other states ignored the following:
*an Austrian attempt in 1849 to set up an economic alliance between Austria and the Zollverein which was to have been know as the ZOLLUNION.
*an Austrian attempt in 1851 to set up a rival Customs Union to the Zollverein.
3. The Rise of Prussia, 1850-62

Key questions to consider when revising.

-(a)What were the main economic developments in Prussia, 1850-62?
-(b)What were the main political developments in Prussia, 1850-62?


(a) What were the main economic developments in Prussia, 1850-62?:

-Rapid industrialisation in Prussia due to the effective use of Prussia’s huge supply of raw materials in the Saar, Ruhr Valley and in Silesia. From being forced to import raw materials from industrialised countries such as Britain prior to the 1850s, Prussia was both self-sufficient and able to export abroad coal, iron and oil by the 1860s.

-Increase in the length of the railways: -1845: 3,280 km; 1860: 11,633 km:
*helped trade throughout Prussia
*would later help the Prussian army move quickly around Germany during the wars of 1864-71.

-Austria experienced a period of economic stagnation. As war approached with Austria in 1865, for example, it has been calculated that, despite possessing only ½ Austria’s land and population, Prussia had a bigger grain harvest as well as producing three times as much coal and having eight times as much steam engine horse power as Austria.

-Development of banking in Prussia.


(b) What were the main political developments within and without(!) Prussia, 1850-62?:

-Austria upset Russia over the CRIMEAN WAR (1854-6) by suggesting, in the Diet, that the Prussians and Austrians set up an alliance Vs. the Russians, leading to the END OF THE HOLY ALLIANCE. Prussia refused this suggestion, remaining neutral (due largely to the obstinacy of her representative in the Diet, Otto von Bismarck) during the Crimean war. The ending of the Holy Alliance further confirmed Prussia’s shift away from being Austria’s natural ally in international affairs.

-1858: Frederick William IV was declared insane and so was replaced by his much more militaristic (war-favouring) brother William I. William I kept the Prussian Constitution and dismissed the very conservative Prime Minister Manteuffel, replacing him by a ministry of conservative and liberal ministers.

-1859: Austria was heavily defeated in war with France and Piedmont, losing control of Lombardy following the battles of Magenta and Solferino. Although the Prussian army’s attempt to get involved in this war was a disaster (it did not even manage to mobilise before the fighting was over), the defeat of Austria represented a severe blow to her prestige and weakened her army and economy.

-1859: the Liberals in Parliament set up the Nationalverein (The German National Association)– an organisation which was designed to promote the idea of national unity THROUGH PRUSSIAN LEADERSHIP. This had a big effect on public opinion, especially with regard to uniting nationalists THROUGHOUT Germany who previously had not been able to agree on what kind of united Germany they should try to achieve.

-1860-2: The new Minister for War – General von Roon – started trying to get a bill to reform the Prussian army (suggesting an increase in conscription time from 2 to 3 years, doubling the size of the army and reducing the role of the middle class ‘Landwehr’ (or Civilian Militia) in the army) passed.

-1860-2: Parliament repeatedly refused to allow von Roon’s army reforms through parliament.

-June 1861: radical liberals in the Prussian parliament set up The Progressive Party – which was determined to have a people’s army run by parliament rather than a strong, professional army controlled by the king and von Roon. The Progressives gained 110 seats in the December 1861 elections and an overall majority in the May 1862 elections.

-The Progressive majority in parliament meant that William I and von Roon were unlikely to EVER get the army reforms through parliament as the liberals did not want control of the army to pass out of their hands and solely into those of the king – this was a CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS. TO SORT OUT THIS PROBLEM VON ROON PERSUADED WILLIAM I TO APPOINT OTTO VON BISMARCK (who was famous for his conservatism and views on strengthening Prussia) MINISTER PRESIDENT OF PRUSSIA. Having begun his political as an Ultra Conservative Deputy in the Prussian Diet in 1847 and as a counter-revolutionary in 1848, he had made a name for himself as an aggressive defender of the interests of the Prussian monarchy (especially against Austria) as Prussian representative in the Federal Diet between 1851 and 1859, before acting as Prussian ambassador to Russia 1859-62 and Prussian Special Envoy to France (briefly in 1862).

- Bismarck solves the Constitutional Crisis: In order to get the army reform bill passed through parliament, Bismarck overrode parliament, declaring that he did not need the permission of parliament to bring in the army reforms. When the liberals told the people not to pay any taxes to help put the army reforms into effect, Bismarck simply replied that he had 200,000 soldiers ready to persuade them to pay!
Bismarck then implemented and collected taxes for the new and improved army and its campaigns for the next four years without even consulting parliament.

 [try and organize the above developments into internal and external factors]

Later, after the Prussian victory over Austria in 1866, Bismarck got the Prussian Parliament to pass an INDEMNITY BILL which forgave him any actions he had taken during the previous 4 years without the consent of parliament – See Stiles, page 73 (under section (c) Popular Support for Bismarck). They were happy to do this by this stage due to the great victory at Sadowa and the setting up of a North German Confederation dominated by Prussia in August 1866, which also saw Prussian territory expanded by a population of about 4 million with the annexation of Hesse-Cassel, Nassau, Hanover and Frankfurt. These successes led the liberals who had opposed Bismarck to lose credibility in Prussia, further strengthening Bismarck’s position.

4. Diplomacy and War, 1862-71

Key question to consider when revising:

-How much was the unification of Germany, 1862-71 down to: (a) Bismarck’s diplomacy;(b) the actions/mistakes of others;(c) Prussia’s economy and new-found strength as a military power; (d) the rise of German Nationalism from the 1850s; or (e) changing international relations? etc.

This section will not be organised thematically, like the others, but in chronological order. As you read through it, however, do keep the question to consider at the front of your mind.


Forcing through of Von Roon’s army reforms in 1862:

-See above in section 3 under the heading ‘Bismarck solves the constitutional crisis’. ALSO BEAR IN MIND, however, that the military reforms strengthening the army were designed and put into practice by Von Roon, the minister for war, just as the later victories over Denmark, Austria and France were largely down to the tactical genius of the Prussian army’s Commander-in-Chief, von Moltke.


The Polish Revolt of 1863

Cause: -After the partition of Poland between Russia, Austria and Poland in the 18th Century, many Poles wished for independence from foreign rule. The Polish revolt of 1863 broke out as a result of the Russian Poles wanting independence from the absolutist rule of the Russian Tsar.

Events: -Bismarck offered the Tsar military assistance against the Russian Poles, which the Tsar actually turned down, claiming his armies could deal with the rebellion unaided. At the Alvensleben Convention, however, it was agreed that the Prussians would hand over to the Tsar and Russian Poles  who escaped across the border into Prussia.

-Austria and France publicly condemned the actions of Russia and Prussia at Alvensleben leading Bismarck to deny the importance of the Alvensleben agreement as the agreement had not been formally signed.

Results: -Russia was angered by the Prussian denial of the Fimportance of the Alvensleben Convention but more upset by the Austrian condemnation of Russia’s attack on the Russian Poles (remember the Austro-Russian friendship had already been badly damaged by Austria’s actions during the Crimean War, 1854-6).

War with Denmark, 1864:

Cause: -King Frederick VII of Denmark, who ruled the North German states of Schleswig and Holstein died leaving no heir and, as a result, a disputed succession between the German Prince of Augustenburg and the Danish Christian of Glucksburg arose.

Events: -Tapping into the clamour among German nationalists that the Prince of Augustenburg should succeed, Bismarck announced Prussia’s intention to fight for the Prince if necessary. Austria, worried about the prospect of Prussia appearing to the other German states as a defender of German interests, offered to join Prussia in an invasion of Schleswig and Holstein on the Prince of Augustenburg’s behalf.
-The Prussian and Austrian armies quickly defeated the Danes. At the Treaty of Vienna in October 1864 Prussia and Austria agreed to jointly govern Schleswig and Holstein. Tension, however, was caused because Prussia wanted to annex the territories of Schleswig and Holstein for herself while Austria supported the claim of the Prince of Augustenburg to rule.
-the deteriorating relations between Prussia and Austria led to an agreement at the Convention of Bad-Gastein, August 1865, whereby it was decided that Prussia should govern Schleswig (the territory which did not border Prussia) and Austria should govern Holstein (the territory which did!).

Results: -The deteriorating relations between Austria and Prussia eventually led to the outbreak of the Seven Weeks’ War between Austria and Prussia in June 1866.


The Seven Weeks’ War between Austria and Prussia, June-July 1866:

Cause: -The tension between the two states built up over the Schleswig-Holstein affair.
-Prussia made a secret alliance with Italy in April 1866 whereby Prussia promised to declare war on Austria within 3 months and hand Venetia over to Italy in the event of victory in this war in return for Italian support in the war.

Events: -Bismarck met Napoleon III at Biarritz in October 1865 to try to obtain a promise of French neutrality in the event of an Austro-Prussian war. Beside the fact that Napoleon III’s promise of neutrality was only verbal, it is unclear exactly what was agreed at Biarritz but it seems likely that France was promised Venetia (to be handed over to the Italians) in return

-Bismarck put forward plans for reform of the German Confederation which would put Prussia in a position to dominate the Confederation and also created tension by bringing up the issue of potential Prussian annexation of Holstein. The Austrians reject this suggestion and, in anticipation of the trouble this was likely to cause, mobilised their army in April 1866 as they knew their bigger but much less well drilled troops would take far longer to mobilise than the Prussians now very well organised forces. This gave the Prussians the excuse to declare war. In May 1866 Prussia invaded Holstein.

-The Prussian troops took over Hanover, Hesse-Cassel and Saxony and, with the help of the Italian army (as promised in April 1866), decisively defeated the Austrian army at Sadowa on 3rd July 1866. It is worth noting that the Austrian defeat was far from inevitable. Their army outnumbered the Prussians by 400,000 to 300,000. The decisive factors, however, were Prussia possessing five railway lines to Austria’s one running to Bohemia (the area of the Battle) and Moltke’s bold strategy of splitting his troops (for greater speed) among these lines and advancing quickly over the border into Bohemia and cutting Austria’s northern army (which had just defeated the Italians) off from their reinforcements in the south. 

-William I, von Roon and the other leading Prussian army general von Moltke wanted to march on Vienna and bring the already weak Austria to its knees. However, Bismarck advised against this and instead advised that the Prussians should bring an end to the war (principally because of the risk of the French becoming involved and so that Austrian favour might later be gained if they were shown mercy by Prussia) and organised for the Prussians and Austrians to meet at Prague in August 1866.

Results: -As a result of the TREATY OF PRAGUE (August, 1866): The NORTH GERMAN CONFEDERATION was set up – this was dominated by an enlarged Prussia, which directly annexed the northern territories of Hesse-Cassel, Hanover, Frankfurt, Nassau and Schleswig-Holstein (combined population about 4 million) but allowed some independence (outside of the Bundesrat and Reichstag – the two houses of the Confederate Parliament, in which Prussia was never outvoted) to the remaining state rulers. Four south German states – Bavaria, Wurrtemberg, Baden and Hesse Darmstadt – and, of course, Austria remained outside this Confederation. Venetia was also handed from Austria to France and then from France to Italy.   

-Although they were kept apart from the North German Confederation, Bismarck made secret military alliances with the Southern states whereby the Southern States promised to fight with Prussia, under the command of the head of the Prussian army, in the event of war with another country. In 1867 the Zollverein was remodeled to include a Zollparlament – whose job it was to discuss Zollverein policy – of which the southern states were members.

-By ending the war after only seven weeks, Bismarck successfully managed to avoid the risk of France joining the Austro-Prussian war.

-Austria was militarily and economically crippled by her defeat in the Seven Weeks’ War.


The Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1:

The Luxemburg Crisis (1866-7): Following the great Prussian gains made by the Treaty of Prague, Napoleon III felt pressured by his chief ministers, his wife and the French public into demanding some territory in compensation for the shift in the balance of power in Prussia’s favour. He initially asked for territory in the Prussian Rhineland but was persuaded by Bismarck to turn his attention instead towards Belgium and Luxemburg. Bismarck, at first, assisted Napoleon with this, persuading the King of the Netherlands to hand Luxemburg over to France. After Napoleon unwisely fuelled the fire of German nationalists by stirring up demonstrations in Luxemburg against ‘the hated domination of Prussia’, however, Bismarck latched onto the wave of German nationalism to claim that Luxemburg was German and declare that to lose it to France would be ‘a humiliating injury to German national feelings’. He did not, however, choose to go to war with France over the issue at this stage, although it did worsen relations between the two countries.

-The Hohenzollern Candidature Crisis: In 1868 revolutionaries drove the queen of Spain out of the country leading to a Spanish succession crisis. In February 1870 the Spanish Parliament offered the throne to Leopold of Hohenzollern, who was related to the Prussian royal family. This gave the Prussians an interesting choice – to accept the throne would give them a very useful alliance with Spain BUT would also be viewed with great concern by France (as they would then be sandwiched by two powerful allies – Spain to the West/South and Prussia/Germany to the east). At first the candidature was viewed as too risky by both William I and Leopold – even Bismarck was furiously denying rumours about the throne being offered to Leopold in May 1869. When, however, the offer was officially made by the Spanish government to Leopold, Bismarck began persuading William I that it would be ‘in Germany’s interest’ for the Hohenzollern line to accept the Spanish throne. Leopold, however, still refused the offer. In order to change this, Bismarck sent secret envoys and large sums of money as bribes to the Spanish parliament as well as putting pressure on the Hohenzollern family. Eventually, therefore, William I and Prince Leopold were reluctantly persuaded to accept the offer. 

-The Ems Telegram: When the news of the Hohenzollern acceptance of the Spanish throne reached Paris on 3rd July 1870, Napoleon III, spurred on by his aggressive new foreign minister Gramont, instructed the French Ambassador in Berlin, Count Benedetti, to go to William I at Ems to demand whether he knew about Leopold’s candidacy and that, if he did, to further demand that he forbid it immediately. As soon as Benedetti had made these demands, William I apologetically forbade Leopold from accepting the candidature. As a result, on 12th July 1870 Leopold of Hohenzollern’s father withdrew his son’s candidature for the Spanish throne. On hearing this, Bismarck flew into one of his characteristic (door-handle wrenching!) rages and threatened to resign.

Things might, of course, have turned out very differently had Bismarck carried out his threat. Luckily, by overplaying his hand (trying to gain too much from a diplomatic situation which was already going well), Napoleon III stopped Bismarck from having to go through with his threat. Spurred on by French foreign minister Gramont and his (Napoleon’s!) wife the Empress Eugenie, Napoleon III sent Benedetti again to Ems this time to demand that William I renounce the Hohenzollern claim to the Spanish throne FOR ALL TIME. As this was not in keeping with the way international diplomacy was usually conducted, William I, quite reasonably, refused to give this permanent assurance. William I then sent a telegram to Bismarck describing the talks he had had with Benedetti at Ems and gave Bismarck permission to release the telegram to the European press. Bismarck did just this with his own edited version of the telegram (SEE WILMOT PAGE 260 SOURCES C and D FOR THE TWO VERSIONS OF THE EMS TELEGRAM). This edited version angered the French people, the government and Empress Eugenie to the extent that Napoleon III felt pressured to declare war on Prussia on 19th July 1870. Moltke, on seeing Bismarck’s version of the Ems Telegram, described it as having been changed from being ‘a parley’ to looking like ‘a parley in answer to a challenge’. William I simply held his head in his hands and declared ‘this is war’. Bismarck, once again taking advantage of the tide of German nationalism the German National Society was encouraging in answer to the French declaration of war, condemned it as ‘a grevious sin against humanity’ thus convincing the four southern states of the need to join Prussia and the rest of the North German Confederation in war against France.

Events: -Taking advantage of the six railway lines (to France’s two) which ran to the border territory of Alsace-Lorraine, the Prussian/German army quickly mobilised, and, using the advantage offered to them by Krupp’s breech-loading needle gun, soon gained the upper hand in this region, forcing the French army to withdraw to the fortress town of Metz. By cutting this section of the army off from the rest of the French troops in the west, Moltke soon gained the surrender of the 180,000 soldiers at Metz. On 2nd September 1870 the Prussian/German army decisively defeated the remainder of the French army at the battle of Sedan. On 2nd September 1870 the French surrendered to the Prussians – Napoleon III was taken prisoner and held in Cassel until the Spring of 1872 before he fled to England and died the following year. The Prussians/Germans kept advancing on the French until, in January 1871, they took control of Paris and, on 18th January humiliated the French by proclaiming a fully united German Empire led by King William I at Versailles.



(5)Bismarck’s role in German unification:

Questions to consider to consider when revising:

-(a) Did Bismarck have a masterplan for unification?
-(b) What other factors were involved in bringing about the unification of Germany?
-(c) To what extent were the actions of others responsible for the unification of Germany?

What was Bismarck’s ‘masterplan’?:

-Obtain Russian neutrality for a future war with Austria by making an agreement with the Russians at the Alvensleben Convention of 1863.

-Find a way of tricking Austria into war with Prussia: by setting up an argument over Schleswig and Holstein.

-Ensure French neutrality for the Austro-Prussian war by making an agreement with Napoleon III at Biarritz in October 1865.

-Ensure Austrian neutrality in the future Franco-Prussian war by treating Austria leniently at the Treaty of Prague (August 1866).

-Manipulate France into declaring war on Prussia thus encouraging the remaining German states to unite behind Prussia. Bismarck claimed he achieved this by following his “plan” to antagonise the French over the Hohenzollern Candidature Crisis and the Ems Telegram.

WHO SUPPORTS THE MASTERPLAN VIEW?: Bismarck himself!; Early German historians.

WHO THINKS BISMARCK WAS MORE AN OPPORTUNIST WHO TOOK ADVANTAGE OF FAVOURABLE CIRCUMSTANCES?: A.J.P. Taylor, W.E. Mosse (1958) – ‘If Bismarck played his hand with great skill, it was a good hand in the first place’.


What other factors were involved in bringing about the unification of Germany?:

-Building up of the Prussian army: *by the reforms of General von Roon and General von Moltke; *by the increase in the length of the railways; *by the growth of industry – more iron and steel etc. for making arms, the development of the needle gun (which was put on show at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851)

-Building up of the Prussian economy: *Prussian dominance and Austrian exclusion from the Zollverein; *increased industry allowing Bismarck to fund his wars without having to ask for taxes in parliament (e.g. in the case of the Danish War) etc.

-favourable international situation: *Holy Alliance between Austria and Russia destroyed by Austria’s suggestion for an alliance against Russia during the Crimean War (1854-6) and her condemnation of Russia’s attack on the Russian Poles in 1863; *Britain not interested in becoming involved in wars on the European continent. *The pressure Napoleon III felt from the French public to acquire some territory in compensation for what they saw as a Prussian diplomatic victory in 1866 leading him to adopt an aggressive approach towards Prussia leading up to 1870.

-rise of NATIONALISM. The growth in political awareness of the German middle class after the failure of the Frankfurt Parliament and the creation of the Nationalverein in 1859.


To what extent were the actions of others responsible for the unification of Germany?

- ACTIONS OF THE RUSSIAN POLES: How could Bismarck have known in advance the Russian Poles would rebel? (it’s more likely the help he offered the Russians was because of his fear that the Prussian Poles would also be encouraged to rebel – in 1861 he wrote to his sister ‘Strike the Poles so that they despair for their lives…if we want to survive we cannot but exterminate them’.)

- ACTIONS OF NAPOLEON III: It was Napoleon III, not Bismarck, who started the tension between France and Prussia by demanding Luxemburg in 1866. It was also aggressive French diplomacy over the Hohenzollern issue (Benedetti demanding that William I PERMANENTLY ban his Hohenzollern cousin from accepting the Spanish throne) which allowed Bismarck to spark trouble off with the Ems Telegram.


Mr. Pearson’s interpretation:

-Bismarck was NOT a German nationalist but a PRUSSIAN SUPREMACIST (i.e. he mainly wanted PRUSSIAN dominance of Germany rather than German unification) – see the presentation handouts we did on Bismarck’ early career and his aims in 1862.

-Bismarck WAS a skilful diplomat who reacted cleverly to situations to help bring about unification: eg.
*He did persuade William I and von Roon NOT to march on Vienna to cripple the Austrians after the victory at Konnigratz/Sadowa, which did ensure the French did not get involved in the war. By the Treaty of Prague he was also able to unite MOST of the German states behind Prussia in the North German Confederation by the Treaty of Prague.
*After the Treaty of Prague, he did bring the 4 southern states closer to Prussia by making secret military agreements with them and including them in the Zollparlament. This did make them more prepared to join Prussia in the Franco-Prussian war.
*Bismarck did finally spark off the Franco-Prussian war with his skilful editing of the Ems Telegram.

-Bismarck was using hindsight when he claimed all his diplomacy 1862-71 was preplanned and geared 100% towards unification:

*How could Bismarck have known in advance about the rebellion of the Russian Poles [see above]? ALSO: the main reason for Russia staying out of the Seven Weeks’ War was not because of the Alvensleben Convention but because of Russian anger at Austrian diplomacy during the Crimean War and in reaction to Russia’s attack on the Russian Poles.

*Throughout the Schleswig-Holstein affair, Bismarck seemed determined to settle the dispute with Austria through diplomacy rather than war. Even after it was announced in the Prussian Parliament (February 1866) that war with Austria looked inevitable, Bismarck still seriously entertained a suggestion for a peaceful situation put to him by the Austrian ambassador as late as May 1866. For a cautious and skilled diplomat like Bismarck, moreover, war was always a last resort as it had ‘too uncertain an outcome’.

*Bismarck could not have known in advance about either Napoleon III’s aggressive behaviour in relation to Luxemburg or the Hohenzollern Candidature Crisis. Also, if he had been so determined for war with France from the outset, would he not have worked harder to persuade Leopold of Hohenzollern to ACCEPT the Spanish throne? It is also worth noting that he said to a British journalist in 1867 that ‘there is nothing in our attitude to annoy France…there is nothing to prevent the maintenance of peace for ten or fifteen years, by which time the French will have become accustomed to the idea of German unity and will have ceased to care about it’ – it has, however, been suggested that this was just another example of Bismarck clever diplomacy in ensuring that the British would not try to intervene in Germany.


Bismarck and German Unification Summary.

Writing an essay on this topic can be difficult, as it is a big topic.  Exam essays therefore have to include only the ‘bare essentials’. 



  • German Unification had been unsuccessful before the 1860s.
  • 1861 William I became Prussian King and following year appointed Otto Von Bismarck as Prussian
  • Minister-President.
  • Many would argue that Bismarck was the architect of German Unification, which was complete by 1871 after three wars with Denmark, Austria and France.
  • (This is due to many factors – of course a growing desire for unification in the German states, Bismarck’s planning, but also his opportunism and Realpolitik, the character of William I, the decline of Austria as a ‘German’ power and Prussian Economic and military strength.) But only if the question is about why Unification was achieved.  If it is about whether Bismarck was an opportunist or a planner, this bit will be slightly different.



Background – Constitutional Crisis of 1862 and Bismarck’s appointment as Minister-President.

  • William I’s determination to strengthen the Prussian army – why?
  • Planned army reforms (don’t list, keep it simple, say - The planned reforms were to extend army training, introduce new weapons, increase the standing army and create an extra 49 regiments.  Crucially, however, £1.5m per annum would be needed to cover the cost of these reforms.)
  • Constitutional Crisis – Liberal-dominated Prussian parliament refuses to fully agree the budget for William’s army reforms, King determined to carry out the reforms.
  • Bismarck appointed as Prussian Minister President – collects taxes to fund the cost of the army reforms without the consent of parliament.





Prusso-Danish War (1864)

  • First international crisis Bismarck had to face, just three years after taking office, some would argue, first step on the road to German Unification.
  • How the crisis developed:

1863, new Danish king (who was also the Duke of Schleswig and Holstein) agrees to a plan to annexe Schelswig and rule Holstein more closely.
Angers German nationalists as all of Holstein and southern-part of Schleswig German-speaking.
This plan also breaks the 1852 London Protocol, which guaranteed the independence of the two Duchies.

  • Opportunities Bismarck saw in Prussian involvement in the crisis.
  • Unlikely that France, Russia or Britain would get involved because ….
  • The war: Jan 1864, Prussia and Austria signed an alliance, presented Danes with ultimatum to withdraw from Duchies, Danes did not, Prussians and Austrians invaded, Danes defeated by August.
  • Treaty of Vienna – Danes gave up all claims to Duchies, future to be decided by Austrians and Prussians.
  • Convention of Gastein – 1865.  After initial disagreements of future of Duchies, Austria and Prussia decided that …..

Crisis not initiated by Bismarck, but Bismarck exploited it to his own advantage …..
Other reasons ……. (Army, Wilhelm etc. Be SPECIFIC about what the contributions of the other factors were to THIS war)



Austro-Prussian War – 1866 (Seven Weeks War)

  • Bismarck’s politics were anti Austrian, even before appointment as Minister President.
  • He wanted to remove Austrian influence from German states and knew that to do so would probably mean war.
  • Saw potential in S-H question to pick a quarrel with Austria, but first had to make sure that Austria would fight alone.
  • French Neutrality/Alliance with Italy
  • Outbreak of war:

Italians panic Austrians into mobilising.
Austrians aggravate Prussians by putting the question of S-H in front of Bund, breaking convention of Gastein.
Austrians ask Bund to send forces against Prussia – Prussia takes as declaration of war.

  • The war: Lasted seven weeks, stunning success for Prussians.  Northern states that had opposed Prussia defeated very quickly.  Italians tied up Austrians in south, decisive battle and defeat of Austria 3 July at Konnigratz.
  • Why Bismarck wanted to treat Austria leniently.
  • Treaty of Prague (significance of its terms)/Creation of the North German Confederation – Germany now unified except 4 southern states ……


  • Bismarck planned for war – French neutrality/ Italian alliance
  • But not all down to Bismarck – victory would not have been achieved without the strength of the Prussian army – leadership of Von Moltke and Von Roon. (Be specific about what the role of the army was here)
  • Bismarck seemed to have done all he intended to in 1866 as far as the unification of Germany was concerned – ‘we have done enough for our generation’.  Did not plan war with France.  This occurred because of unwise French actions, which Bismarck exploited.



Franco-Prussian War 1870-71

  • How France was isolated in 1870.
  • Why a war with France would mean that it was likely that the four southern states would unite with the N.G.C.
  • Hohenzollern candidature and its withdrawal by Prussians at French request.
  • French insistence that the candidature never be renewed and William’s refusal.
  • The Ems telegram and how Bismarck altered it to provoke the French.
  • Why the southern states joined the N.G.C.
  • The war: Quick German mobilisation, French on defensive, French armies defeated, Napoleon III overthrown, Paris besieged, over by Jan 1871.
  • Treaty of Frankfurt and significance of its harsh terms.
  • German Unification complete - formation of German Empire when 4 southern states join.
  • Proclamation of German Empire in Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles 18 Jan 1871.



  • Bismarck did, to an extent engineer the Hohenzollern crisis, as he persuaded Cortes and Leopold to accept, but this was done to strengthen Prussia.
  • War broke out because of unwise French actions – which Bismarck exploited.
  • Again – strength of Prussian army crucial (Be specific about why)
  • Although Bismarck asserted later in his memoirs that he had planned war with France to complete German Unification, this is extremely unlikely.



Summary and Conclusion

Overall factors contributing to Unification.  Summarise, but don’t list.  Which one or ones was/were most important?  A nice quote too please.


Opportunist or Planner?
His contribution to the Unification of Germany by 1871
The years 1870 and 1871 were dramatic for Bismarck and Europe, with France defeated, Germany united as an Empire and the balance of power in Europe totally altered. How much was this due to Bismarck?
It is possible to argue that Bismarck did not make Germany: rather Germany made Bismarck.
A variety of factors - German nationalism, Prussian economic growth, the international situation in the 1860s, the Prussian army - were such that Bismarck was able to gain the credit for bringing about a unification which may well have developed natu­rally, whoever had been in power.
However, whatever view is taken about the 'inevitability' of German unification, it is clear that it hap­pened as it did and when it did largely as a result of Bismarck's actions.
His precise aims baffled contemporaries and continue to baffle histo­rians. It is difficult to disentangle his motives and to decide how far he planned ahead. While it is probably wrong to believe he came to power in 1862 with a master plan for German unification, it is equally wrong to imagine that he had no long-term objectives and fumbled his way through events simply by good luck.
He manipulated situations even if he did not always create them. He had clear aims but the exact means of achieving them were left to short-term decisions based on the situ­ation at the time.
Perhaps his main skill as a diplomat lay in his ability to isolate his enemy. He was not essentially a warmonger. For Bismarck, wars were a risky means to an end.
However, confident in the strength of the Prussian army, he was prepared in 1866 and in 1870 to engineer war to achieve his end.
Having created a united Germany, the main question now was whether he would be able to deal with the domestic and foreign problems resulting from the unification process.
The Unification of Germany 1815 – 90, Andrina Stiles and Alan Farmer, Access to History Series, Second Edition 2001; page 95


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Bismarck and German Unification Summary


German Unification (1850-1871) 



Whereas Camillo di Cavour directed Italian unification, a Junker (the Prussian name for an aristocratic landowner from old Prussia in the east) named Otto von Bismarck pushed German unification through "blood and iron" and skillful understanding of realpolitik. As the map of central Europe stood in 1850, Prussia competed with Austria for dominance over a series of small principalities fiercely keen on maintaining their independence and distinctive characteristics. Prussia proper stretched from modern-day Lithuania to central Germany. Prussia also controlled the German lands around the Rhine River in the west. In between, from Denmark to Switzerland, lay small provinces that Bismarck needed to incorporate under the Prussian crown to create a viable German Empire.

In 1862, Bismarck reorganized the Prussian army and improved training in preparation for war. In 1864, he constructed an alliance with Austria to fight Denmark over Denmark's southern provinces of Schleiswig and Holstein. Prussia received Schleiswig while Austria administered Holstein. That situation, however, could not stand for long, as Austrian Holstein was now surrounded by Prussian lands. Bismarck provoked a conflict with Austria over an unrelated border dispute and in the subsequent Seven Weeks' War--named for its brevity--Prussia crushed the collapsing Austrian army. The peace settlement transferred Holstein to Prussia and forced Austria to officially remove itself from all German affairs.

With Austria out of Bismarck's way, his next obstacle was the skepticism of the southern provinces. Overwhelmingly Catholic and anti-militaristic, the southern provinces doubted Prussia's commitment to a united Germany of all provinces. Prussia's Protestantism and historic militarism made the gulf between north and south quite serious. Therefore, Bismarck turned to realpolitik to unite the Germanic provinces by constructing a war against a common enemy. In 1870, Bismarck forged a note from the French ambassador, implying that the ambassador had insulted the Prussian king. After he leaked this letter to both populations, the people of France and Prussia, roused by nationalist sentiment, rose up in favor of war. As Bismarck hoped, the southern provinces rallied to Prussia's side without any hesitation. In July 1870, France declared war on Prussia. Within a matter of weeks of fighting in Alsace-Lorraine, France lost this Franco-Prussian War. Alsace-Lorraine was transferred to Germany in the peace settlement, allowing Prussia to declare the German Empire, or Second Reich, on January 21, 1871.



Like Italy, Germany had quite a few serious issues to resolve once unification took place. Regional differences, developing since the first settlement of the Germanic tribes during the Roman Empire, were distinct, and local princes refused to give up substantial power to the central government. The Berlin assembly, therefore, was kept weak. Germany, like the United States under the Articles of the Confederation, seemed merely a loose of confederation of autonomous states. In Germany's case, one state, Prussia, was absolutely dominant due to its size, power, and military strength. This, combined with Bismarck's skillful conduct in international and national affairs as chancellor, kept the empire together until 1914.

However, the creation of a unified Germany in central Europe marked one of the greatest revolutions in the history of international relations. Since the establishment of nation-states in Europe, France, under the Valois-Bourbon royal line, dedicated its foreign policy to the weakening of Habsburg (Austrian and Spanish royal families) and the continued disunity of the Germanic provinces. Now that central Europe was united into two major powers--Germany and Italy--Europe was quite a different place. What would now become of the traditional balance of power in place since the defeat of Napoleon? The whole point had been that no one nation should gain excessive power and strength on the Continent. With the unification of Germany in central Europe--an essential economic and strategic region--was the balance of power doomed?


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Bismarck and German Unification Summary


1.The unification of Germany 1871
 (See Kitson schoolbook, pp.10-27)

What was Bismarck’s attitude towards Austria / war?

At a meeting of the Prussian Crown Council Bismarck clarified that war with Austria was inevitable due to the fact that “Germany is too small for us both”.  With “us both” Bismarck was referring to Prussia and Austria. Anyhow he had no interest in annexing Austrian territory because he was afraid that Austria might ally with France to gain back its lost territory.

Austro-Prussian dualism:
Austria and Prussia were the two largest individual states in the rag rug (this terms refers to the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation, not to the German Confederation) which formed the German Confederation. Prussia’s aim was so unify Germany but Austria wanted to stay independent and opposed Prussia’s movements towards the German unification.  (not really… dualism refers to the question which of the two – Prussia or Austria – would gain predominance).

Was it a unification “by blood and iron”?

The annexation (after the Austro-Prussian and Danish War) of most of the German states was carried out in a brutal fashion. Without the wars it would have been impossible to unify Germany in such a short period of time. Therefore Bismarck called up for using “blood and iron” instead of using peaceful measures because according to Bismarck violence was necessary in order to unify Germany.

“Blood and Iron” 1862
“Blood and Iron” was a speech by Bismarck to the budget commission of the Prussian Landtag. Bismarck was talking about Prussia being too educated and about the individuals in Prussia being too independent to put up with the constitution. Moreover he explained that Germany does not look to Prussia’s liberalism but to its power and this power must be gathered and consolidated. Bismarck said that Prussia had learned from its mistakes and would not try to achieve their goals by means of speeches and majority verdicts but by blood and iron. ( in contrast to 1848!)

Wars of Unification
The wars of the German unification are including the German- Danish war, the Austro- Prussian war and the war with France.

German- Danish War
Schleswig- Holstein was governed by two autonomous duchies under Danish sovereignty.  Holstein was part of the German confederation, while Schleswig was a mixture of Germans and Danes who were not in the Confederation. After Demark’s king died there were no immediate heirs and the new king who was only distantly related was refused by Holstein. The new king annexed Schleswig to Denmark. As a reaction Bismarck called for cooperation between Prussia and Austria to defeat the Danes, which happened in 1864. Bismarck’s intention was to annex the gained territories to Prussia but Austria preferred autonomous duchies. They agreed in the Gastein Treaty in 1865 that Holstein was going to be controlled by Austria and that Schleswig was going to be governed by Prussia.


Austro- Prussian War
The tension over the duchies of Holstein and Schleswig continued and Bismarck was certain that war with Austria was necessary. The Prussian army was well prepared and Bismarck was sure that Britain and Russia would stay out of the conflict. Moreover he negotiated a secret alliance with Italy. He proposed a new constitution to provoke Austria knowing that the constitution was unacceptable for them. Most of the smaller German states were afraid of Prussia’s domination and therefore rallied to Austria. In June 1866 the Gastein Treaty was broken by Austria by placing the Schleswig- Holstein question under the control of the federal diet. Thinking that an occupation of Holstein would lead to a declaration of war by Austria, Bismarck was surprised when Austria remained calm and he presented his proposal to reform the Federal Constitution. Austria then wanted the members of the Confederation to mobilize their troops and Prussia declared the end of the German confederation.

Battle of Königgrätz
After the German troops had advanced the Austrian army was defeated at Königgrätz within seven weeks. Bismarck had no intention to move any further. He even appeased the king who wanted to gain Austrian territories because he was afraid that Austria might ally with an enemy of Prussia, e.g. France.
A peace settlement was agreed in Prague, Venetia was annexed by Italy and Prussia annexed Schleswig-Holstein, Hanover, Hesse-Kessel, Nassau and Frankfurt. The dualism in Germany was over and Austria had to accept the dominance of Prussia.

North German Confederation 1867
Prussia controlled four- fifths of the population and most of the territory north of the Main. Still some states in north Germany like Saxony remained independent. The North German Confederation under Prussia’s control covered whole Germany by forcing the independent states to become its member. The North German Confederation treaty ensured Prussian dominance and prevented a system of parliamentary rule. In the new constitution the King of Prussia was also the President, who had control over the armed forces, foreign affairs, dismissal of ministers and the declaration of war. The Federal Council states allotted votes according to their size. Furthermore it initiated laws and was led by the chancellor. The Reichstag was voted by all men over 25 and it could veto legislation. The budget was outside its control.

Was it a unification “from above”?

Due to the fact that Schleswig-Holstein, Hanover, Hesse-Kessel, Nassau and Frankfurt supported Austria in the Austro- Prussian war I would say that it was unification “from above”. These states would have preferred to stay independent than to be controlled by Prussia. The majority of the German population had no intention to unify Germany (??? NO!!!). The North German Confederation shows that the independent states had to be forced from the “people above” to accept Prussia’s dominance. So one might argue that it was not a unification but a conquest. ??? “from above” = without the involvement of the PEOPLE!


Franco- Prussian War
Some southern states were still independent and there was little support in these states for Prussian dominance because they wanted to remain the right of independence. This is called particularism. New laws that in case of were? the armies and railways were under Prussia’s control were passed. These states were no longer a threat because due to the treaty of Prague in case of war they were not allowed to support Austria or France. What does that have to do with the Franco-Prussian War?

Customs Union Parliament
The southern states were allowed to become members of the Zollverein. They were forced by Bismarck to accept the Customs Union Parliament. This organisation was dominated by Prussia and it included members of the North German Reichstag and some members of the southern states. Election for the Customs Union Parliament created a majority of deputies who were against a political union in the southern states. This showed that Germany was still far away (na ja) from unification.

Napoleon III wanted to gain back territory on the west bank of the River Rhine. Bismarck was trying to avoid war and pointed towards Luxembourg which was part of the German Confederation.
Napoleon persuaded the King of Holland who was in control of Luxemburg to give it to him. Even though some Germans were angry about the French annexation of Luxemburg, Bismarck still had no intention to fight against France.  In London the Great Powers decided that Prussia should withdraw its troops from Luxemburg and that the duchy of Luxemburg should remain independent from France.
In 1869 the Spanish queen had to abdicate. The king of France persuaded Leopold (a member of the Prussian royal family the crown had been offered to) to step down, which was against Bismarck’s will. (???)

Hohenzollern Candidature
France did not want a prospect (?) of the Hohenzollern on the Spanish throne because France was scared to face a two front war. The Hohenzollern were a dynasty which had ruled Prussia from 1701 to 1918 and the German Empire from 1871 to 1918. The French Foreign Minister wanted Wilhelm to renounce Leopold’s claim but the Prussian King refused to do so.

Ems Telegram/ Dispatch
Bismarck received the telegram from Wilhelm explaining his meeting with the French Ambassador to Prussia. The ambassador had been sent by the French foreign minister to put pressure on Wilhelm (in how far?). Bismarck edited words out so that the impression of an insult from the French to the German king aroused (NO! vice versa!). Then Bismarck published the manipulated telegram to make sure that the southern states would support him.

Battle of Sedan
Napoleon III declared war on 15 July 1870.  After some victories by the Germans, Sedan was surrounded. France lost more than twice as many soldiers as Germany and Napoleon III was caught.
In January 1871 there was the fall of Paris.

Treaty of Frankfurt
The treaty was a settlement for France (???). Alsace-Lorraine was annexed by Germany and France had to pay five billion francs for four years. AND German troops were to be stationed in France until the reparations were paid!
What impact did the Treaty of Frankfurt have on Franco-German relations?
The treaty was very harsh on France. For the next thirty- eight years the French wanted to take revenge on Germany. They wanted to regain the lost territory and the rivalry and hatred between Germany and France continued and became even worse. The (alleged!) hereditary enmity between these two countries was put forward. Another impact of the treaty is probably the First World War in which France tried to gain back its territory (na ja). The Treaty of Versailles also might be an impact because it seems like the response to the harsh treaty of Frankfurt by doing exactly the same to Germany.


How did the other European nations react to the “rise of Germany”?
The other European nations were not happy about the “rise of Germany”. They were afraid that the balance of power was endangered because Germany had annexed so much territory and had all of the sudden become one of Europe’s biggest countries.


Max Grauert
Forging an Empire: Bimarck’s domestic policy

Key terms

  • Second Empire
    • Prussian dominance
    • Constitutional Monarchy
    • formed after the “Smaller German” solution
    • founded after the Franco- German War
  • 1871 Constitution

Features of a Constitutional Democracy

Features of an Authoritarian Monarchy

Devolution of some responsibility to local government

Heavily-centralized government, little scope for regional initiative

Elected parliament responsible for central government, foreign policy, the army, defence

Monarch in direct control of major state responsibilities, e.g. foreign policy, the army, government

Broad electorate- acceptance of universal manhood suffrage and periodic elections

Restricted electorate (if any), no place for universal manhood suffrage

State legislation is the product of parliamentary process

State legislation derives from monarch and advisor

The government and government ministers answerable to parliament

Monarch not required to justify or explain actions

  • These are general criteria! How about features of the 1871 Constitution???



political parties (Social Democratic Party, National Liberal Party, Centre Party etc.)


The National Liberals

Supporters: educated protestant middle class and industrial upper class
Aim: creation of a strong nation-state and the encouragement of a liberal constitutional state

The Centre Party

Supporters: Catholics worried about the predominance of protestants in the new state and the non socialist lower class
aim: defend the interests of the Catholic Church

The Social Democratic Party

Supporters: socialist groups with links to trade unions, working class
aim: democracy in Germany, social reforms in the interests of the Working-Class

The German Conservative Party

Supporters: landowners sceptical of German unification
Aim: preserve separate states

The Free Conservatives

Supporters: landowners, industrialists
aim: acceptance of Bismarck's unification and constitution

The Progressives

Supporters: Liberals, opposed to strong nation- state
Aim: attainment of parliamentary Government

  • enemies of the state (Reichsfeinde)
    • The Catholic church
    • Social Democrats
    • minorities such as Poles and Jews


 ‘carrot and stick’ policy (Zuckerbrot und Peitsche): Anti-Socialist Laws (Sozialistengesetze) // poor relief, health care, social insurance

Anti-Socialist Laws

social insurance, poor relief, health care

Social-democratic, communist or socialist organisations are prohibited

Used to bind workers to the state so Bismarck could pursue his anti-Socialist policy

The state is allowed to monitor these organizations

States influence on insurances was limited

The state takes charge of the organizations funds

Financed by membership fees (membership was mandatory)

The law backfired: it strengthened the feeling of commitment within the Social Democratic Party

Elaboration needed!


          Struggle for Culture/of Civilizations (Kulturkampf)

    • Kulturkampf relates to Bismarcks fight against the Catholic church
    • why? Catholics were caught between 2 authorities, the Kaiser and the Pope
    • threat of southern Catholic states leaving the Empire
  • Papal Infallibility (Unfehlbarkeit)
    • everything the pope says is to be made a doctrine


  • Falk Laws
    • passed in 1883
    • placed the responsibility for training and appointment of clergy under state authority
    • led to disassembly of church ministries
    • also called “May Laws”
  • Pulpit and School Law

The Pulpit Law (1871)

School Laws (1872)

No member of the church is allowed to talk about political topics in front of a crowd, if he does so, imprisonment of up to two years is possible.

1. Supervision of schools falls under state authority

  • (political) anti-Semitism // “Germanisation”
    • eliminating foreign languages from schools and public life and force foreigners to abandon their national identity
    • Jews as a symbol of capitalism and modernity
    • Jews not allowed to be officers in the army or to teach at a university about German literature and language


  • school reform
    • creation of public schools to teach a common language (Hochdeutsch)
    • strengthening of national identity


Key Questions

  • The 1871 Constitution – A fig leaf for absolutism?



Kaiser can dissolve the Reichstag

Elected Reichstag, controlling the chancellor

Prussia is the major party in the Bundesrat (has 17 seats, needs 14 votes to veto)

Bundesrat has to agree to decisions of the Reichstag

Kaiser is commander-in-chief of the armed forces


The Reichstag has no real control over the chancellor

Elaboration needed!


  • Was Bismarck’s rule at home a “chancellor-dictatorship”?
    • Bismarck had full authorization from the Kaiser, he could decide on his own
    • the Reichstag had almost no influence on him
    • He supported whichever party suited his aims best (what does that have to do with the question?)


  • What was Bismarck’s attitude towards political parties?
    • Bismarck saw the parties as a tool in his political play. He changed his mind on who to cooperate with frequently, e.g. cooperating with the Centre Party to push through a new economic policy. He never pledged to one party, but chose the one best suiting his aims at that time. Bismarck also realized that an autocratic form of government was impossible.


  • What were the aims of and how successful was Bismarck’s domestic policy?
    • The creation and consolidation of Germany
      • successful in the Smaller German solution (without Austria) (domestic policy?)
      • Prussia as dominant power in ???
    • to destroy the influence of Catholicism on the population
      • failed, because Centre party stayed biggest party in the Reichstag
      • Catholics loyal to the Pope
    • destruction of the Social Democratic Party
      • “carrot and stick” policy failed, all restrictions against Social Democrats lead to an increase in their feeling of commitment, party grew

3. Forging an Empire II: Bismarck’s foreign policy
(see Kitson schoolbook, pp. 40-45)

What were the aims of and how successful was Bismarck’s foreign policy?

SUMMARY: After German unification: creating peace to strengthen Germany

Bismarck’s immediate aim was building up the economy and stabilizing Germany. Because of that, he wanted to avoid war (“saturated Empire”) and isolate France so that Germany would not have to fight a two-front war against both Russia and France. (“nightmare of coalitions”)

By making an alliance with Russia and Austria and by excluding France, he made sure that France could not find allies to wage a war against Germany. Through his system of alliances, Bismarck prevented a big European war and could build up the German economy. However, the alliances only worked because of his clever manipulation and his making use of certain situations. Therefore, he constantly had to renew or change the alliances, and when he resigned, the alliances broke down.

SUMMARY: The Balkan crisis (1878) – A war threat to Europe that was well-handled by Bismarck

Ottoman Empire: (German: Osmanisches Reich)
The Ottoman Empire was an Empire with power over the current Turkey and the Balkans. It ruled from the 13th to the 19th century, being at the height of its power in the 17th century. When multiple Balkan nations declared their independence and the Ottoman Empire lost a war against Russia in the 1870s, the Ottoman Empire lost influence in Europe and the newly founded countries in the Balkan region were not very stable. In 1923, the Ottoman Empire was replaced by the present-day Turkey.

Congress of Berlin (Summer 1878): (German: Berliner Kongress)
Meeting between Bismarck and other European leaders to stabilize the Balkan region. Bismarck called himself (gained the title) an “honest broker” (German: ehrlicher Makler): His neutrality (since Germany was not affected by the decisions) and his diplomacy allowed him to change the borders of the countries in order to ease the tensions and to prevent a war. The leaders of the smaller countries were excluded from the talks, and Russia was angry afterwards because it had lost much land, while Austria gained land. Bismarck tried to negotiate so that the Three Emperors’ League would not be damaged by the outcome of the talks.

SUMMARY: Bismarck’s System of Alliances – Preventing a two-front war through secret treaties and the isolation of France

“Nightmare of coalitions” (two-front war): (German: Alptraum der Koalitionen)
Because of Germany’s central position in Europe, Bismarck feared that if France allied with Austria or Russia, Germany could not win a war on two fronts. Therefore, he tried to build up a relationship with Austria and Russia so that they would not ally with France. See also the Kissinger Diktat where Bismarck noted his aims to prevent a two-front war.


Three Emperors’ League: G+A+R (1873 + 1881): (German: Dreikaiserabkommen)
Bismarck’s first alliance consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia: three countries who still had Emperors, hence the title. However, these three countries did not work well together and Bismarck could not convince the other Emperors to support his views. Therefore, the alliance was renewed in 1881 but Austria and Russia were both interested in the Balkan region and an alliance between them did not go too well.

Dual Alliance: G+A (1879): (German: Zweibund)
With the relationship between German and Russia deteriorating (because of Russia’s unfair treatment at Congress of Berlin), Bismarck wanted to make an alliance with only Austria. Both countries would unite in case of a Russian attack.

Triple Alliance: G+A+I (1882): (German: Dreibund)
Italy wanted to join the Dual Alliance so that it would have allies in case of a war with France. This created the Triple Alliance in 1882. The alliance did not bring big benefits for Bismarck but at least he got another ally and further isolated France.

Reinsurance Treaty: G+R (1887): (German: Rückversicherungsvertrag)
When war broke out between Bulgaria and Serbia in 1885, a war between Austria and Russia became likely. To reinsure himself that Russia would be his ally in case of war, he signed the Reinsurance Treaty with only Russia in 1887.

Mediterranean Agreement: G+A+I+B (1887): (German: Mittelmeerabkommen)
Because Bismarck had built up such a good relation to Russia, he wanted to make sure that he did not neglect Austria. In the Mediterranean Agreement, the Triple Alliance and Great Britain made sure that Russia could not get control over the Balkans.

Bismarck’s system of alliances:

What was Bismarck’s attitude towards the acquisition of colonies (= imperial policy)?
SUMMARY: Germany: First only caring about Europe, and then a latecomer to the colonial scramble

“saturated Empire”: (German: saturiert/gesättigt)
When Germany was unified into the German Reich, the European countries feared that Germany would want to expand even more. To refute these claims, Bismarck declared that the German Empire was saturated and would not interfere in other countries but look for peace, especially through alliances with other countries.
However, in 1884 he wanted to get colonies for Germany; this marked a shift in Bismarck's foreign policy. While Bismarck’s real motivation is unknown, historians have developed multiple theories for the change, including that time was running out and that Germany had to act fast to get a colony, and that Bismarck wanted to divert the attention from problems in Germany. (conflict => periphery; social imperialism)
German colonies included Cameroon, Togoland, German East Africa and German South Africa. While Britain was at first suspicious of Germany, they had their own problems and eventually accepted the German colonies. Unfortunately, the colonies were very expensive for Germany, which is why Bismarck did not want any more colonies in 1888.

4. “Dropping the pilot”: The fall of Bismarck
(see Kitson schoolbook, pp. 47-49)

Why was Bismarck dismissed / why did he resign in 1890?
SUMMARY: With two old Emperors dying, Bismarck can no longer control the new, young Emperor
The old Emperor, Wilhelm I, gave Bismarck a free rule; he could do nearly everything he wanted in politics. This worked to Bismarck’s advantage since he could do anything he wanted without the Emperor interfering.
Three-Emperors-Year (1888): (German: Dreikaiserjahr)
In 1888, however, Wilhelm I died. The next Emperor, Friedrich, died three months after being in office, and the third Emperor, Wilhelm II, was a very young Emperor. Therefore, the year 1888 was unusual because there were three Emperors ruling in that year.
For Bismarck, however, the new Emperor was a problem because he was much more socialist (na ja) than Bismarck and did not give Bismarck so much freedom. In 1890, Bismarck resigned and was replaced by General von Caprivi.

How important was Bismarck in the process of German unification
from 1862 to 1890?
Historians are divided over Bismarck’s legacy. While his system of alliances died with his resignation, his social insurances still exist today. Some even credit Bismarck with allowing Hitler to come to power. (WHY??? Elaboration needed!! Special path?)
However, while the economy recovered under Bismarck, he could have been more democratic and could have allowed more reforms.


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Bismarck and German Unification Summary

The Heritage of Bismarck

One man is usually associated with the creation of the great German state of the last half of the nineteenth century. And that is as it should be. Otto von Bismarck was, as much as any one man can be responsible for any historical event, the architect of a united Germany.

I. The Man
"My highest ambition is to make the Germans a nation," he said on several occasions before 1871, and he succeeded. He was responsible for the political strategy that led to unification, and he guided the united Germany during its first twenty years.

Bismarck stamped the new national German state with its own political principles, and he marked the character of the people within the state. He was born at Schönhausen in Brandenburg in 1815, the year of Waterloo. Schönhausen was situated a short distance east of the Elbe, and Bismarck was a man who looked both to the German east and the German west. He knew the world of the Prussian Junker, the landowning military caste, that stretched eastward into Pomerania and Silesia. But he was not a Junker, nor a narrow provincial who knew nothing of or cared nothing for what lay beyond the confines of Prussia. He was a cosmopolitan, a man of the world, who had an understanding of European life.

II. Theory of Government
The empire which Bismarck created was organized from the top down. The emperor was a hereditary leader who was responsible only to God and was the source of all executive power. His was a form of transcendental authority. As a practical matter the emperor expressed his leadership through a single minster, the Reich Chancellor. From 1871 to 1890 this was Bismarck. The German state was not a despotism, and the German citizen was not terrorized.

The emperor voluntarily imposed upon himself certain restrictions in his relations with his subjects, and there was widespread belief in Germany that emperor and citizens were united in pursuing common goals. The government was to provide security, order, and a direction in which Germany would move. The citizen were to use this security and this order to develop their talents. The government was to ensure the unified integration of all social will and action with a view to preserving the social whole and all its essential parts. By such an arrangement, "the whole nation achieves unity and individuality." Bismarck himself, and there is no reason to doubt his sincerity, expressed the argument in these words: "I am convinced that it is the duty of any honest government always to strive for the greatest measure of popular and individual freedom which is compatible with the security and common welfare of the state."

Bismarck assumed, and so did many other Germans, that within the German Empire there could be no meaningful conflict between the rights of the citizen and the rights of the state. The aims of the individual and the state were the same, and any dispute was artificial. There was thus no need for any separation of powers within the state, each watching and checking on the other. There was no reason to distrust the state, for the emperor, the government, the bureaucracy, and the army marched with the people and expressed the aspirations and goals of the people themselves.

For Bismarck, the health and progress of the state, as he saw it, was the principal purpose of his policy. He was not a man who cared about causes or hypothetical principles. His concern was to make the instrument he controlled-first Prussia and then Germany-as strong as possible. In 1881, in a speech in the Reichstag, the German legislative assembly, he expressed very well his basic political program,

"I have often acted hastily and without reflection, but when l had time to think I have always asked, What is useful, effective, right, for the fatherland. I have never been a doctrinaire. Liberal, reactionary, conservative . . . these, I confess, seem to me luxuries. Give me a strong German state, and then ask me whether it should have more or less liberal furnishings, and you'll find that I answers Yes, I have no fixed opinions, make proposals. Many roads lead to Rome. Sometimes one may rule liberally, and sometimes dictatorially, there are no eternal rules. My only aim has been the creation and consolidation of Germany."

But Germany must exhibit a united will, and there must be agreement on the activities undertaken by the state on behalf of all. Bismarck once asked the rhetorical question, What kind of government would you have if it contained a Catholic, a socialist, and a conservative? At another time be wailed that "political parties will be the ruin of our constitution and our future." Authority must not be fragmented, and this emphasis upon unity forced Bismarck into the attempt to rid Germany of any influence strong enough to compete with him for the allegiance of Germans.

III. Kulturkampf
He engaged in a long and ultimately fruitless attack upon the Catholic church because he believed that German Catholics could give only a fraction of their allegiance to the German state and must reserve some part of their loyalties to a non-German authority. He harassed Catholicism as a "state within a state." In 1873 Bismarck had laws enacted

       1. that reduced the disciplinary powers of the Catholic bishops,
2. brought the education of the Catholic clergy under the supervision of the state,
3. made it easy for congregations to secede from the Catholic church, and
4. provided methods whereby there could be appeals made from ecclesiastical courts
to secular courts of law.

Church leaders who refused to acknowledge the new laws were imprisoned, including the Archbishop of Posen, the Archbishop of Cologne, and the Bishop of Treves. Within Prussia measures were even stricter.

1) All religious orders except those concerned with caring for the sick were ordered
2) the state made appointments to vacant church positions, and
3) civil marriage was made compulsory.

Catholics fought back. Instead of weakening the affection of German Catholics for their church, Bismarck's actions strengthened the Catholic community. Bismarck realized that the policy had been a failure, and he retreated. The election of a new Pope in 1878 provided an opportunity to end the struggle between church and state. The anti-catholic laws were gradually abandoned, and by the latter half of the eighteen-eighties the last legal traces of the struggle had disappeared. But the attempt to suppress Catholic activity had an opposite effect from that desired by Bismarck.

A strong Catholic political party became permanent in Germany, and Catholic political leaders were continual irritants to Bismarck. He never overcame his suspicions. In 1884, in a speech, he argued that the catholic party "has this danger for me. One cannot cooperate with it without selling oneself. One is taken with it completely, and the moment always comes when the question arises: Will you fight now or will you continue to go along with me?" And then he stated the basic problem. One could not trust the Catholics, although many of them were "good honest Germans," because "the center of gravity" of much of Catholic life "lies outside the German Reich."

IV. Anti-Socialist Legislation
As Bismarck attempted to root out Catholic influence in Germany, so he moved for generally similar reasons against the socialists. In the eighteen-seventies the socialist party showed an amazing increase in electoral strength, and Bismarck, who saw socialism as another subversive movement designed to weaken the state, attempted to suppress it. He described the socialists as "robbers and thieves." He accused them of wishing to
"turn everything in Germany upside down, above all the army and compulsory service, not caring if the Reich is left without defense."

In 1878 an anti-socialist law was passed by the Reichstag. The Provisions of the law gave the authorities great discretionary powers:

        * Public meetings were banned,
* political organizations were ordered dissolved,
* books and other publications were suppressed.

Bismarck is reported to have said at the time of the passage of the law, "now for the pig-sticking." The law was applied with severity. Leaders of the party were attacked, over 150 periodicals were suppressed, and over l,500 persons were arrested. The anti-socialist law was renewed at its expiration and again every two years thereafter until 1890.

But, as with the struggle with the Catholics, Bismarck failed. The socialist party continued to grow, and in 1890 the anti-Socialist law was allowed to lapse. By 1912 the socialists were the largest single political party in the Reichstag, supported 110 daily newspapers throughout Germany and had created a nationwide system of fraternal organizations, youth groups, and assorted clubs in which members participated.

As Bismarck bad feared, the socialists did remain an alien group within the society. After Bismarck's death the socialists were still being attacked as "the party of hostility" and as "the deadly enemy of the national state." The socialists were, at least in their doctrine and in their official statements, opposed to Bismarck's Germany. In 1903, a socialist leader said, "I want to remain the deadly enemy of this bourgeois society and this political order so as to undermine it and, if I can, to eliminate it."

V. Resignation
By 1890 Bismarck's relations with the new German emperor, William II, bad become strained. In March of that year he submitted his resignation as chancellor. It was accepted by the emperor, and Bismarck's career as leader of Germany was over. He retired to his estate, where he wrote his memoirs. But more importantly he engaged in a series of rather petty controversies with old and new enemies, and refought old battles for the benefit of the many who came to visit him. In 1898 he died.

VI. Bismarck's Place in History
In nineteenth-century European history only Napoleon can be compared with Bismark as an influential and successful political personality. Bismarck gave political meaning to the idea of being German, and he created a prosperous and respected German state. In 1849 a German historian had written that "the power or weakness of Germany determines the fate of Europe." Bismarck's Germany was an important factor in the international stability that characterized Europe during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

    A. Positive Legacy
Bismarck was not an adventurer. When the unity of Germany was achieved, his efforts in international affairs were largely directed to maintaining the peace of Europe. He brought about a reconciliation of Germany and Austria, he established alliances with Austria and Italy, and he was always careful to avoid any action that would antagonize England. He knew that France remained embittered by the results of the war of 1870-1871, and he attempted to keep her isolated and without powerful allies.

He ridiculed the idea of Germany becoming a colonial power. He would have nothing to do with any suggestion that Germany enter into naval competition with England. He claimed that Germany was satisfied and had no territorial claims on anyone. When Bismarck retired as chancellor, Germany was the greatest military power in the world, her industrial progress was unmatched by any other country, she was a pioneer in social legislation, and her people were healthy, prosperous, and proud members of an orderly and largely admired nation.

    B. Negative Legacy
Yet this Germany contained features that detracted from its accomplishments. Bismarck left Germany saddled with a Junker military aristocracy. This was a violation of Bismarck's own principles of avoiding the creation of "a state within a state." The Junker military aristocracy went its own way with few restraints exercised by the community as a whole. The claim of German military men that they were elevated to austere, dedicated service could not disguise their "hollow greatness," their taste for force and coercion, and their intellectual barrenness. All Western countries faced the problem of civilian political control and military organization. But in Germany the freedom of the military from civilian direction was almost complete.

Bismarck also left the country confronting the perils of political irresponsibility. The emperor was all-powerful. Germany entered the twentieth century with an unrestrained aristocratic ruler who could threaten the welfare and even the existence of the nation through whim and lack of judgment. One non-neutral commentator maintained that
"government by an irresponsible monarchy and an agrarian aristocracy was not enough. Bismarck's magnificently brilliant creation was a structure as ephemeral, as temporary, as the genius that created it. It was, indeed, only a puppet show after all, a magical construction that had no healthy life of its own, and that, once it had escaped from the control of its creator, was doomed to self-destruction. The bureaucracy and the army gave an illusion of order that concealed the strange, arbitrary quality of German leadership."

In 1912 an Englishmen noticed this feature of the German state and said, not without some malice:
"When you mount to the peak of this highly organized people, you will find not only confusion, but chaos."

More important than the organizational problem, however, was Bismarck's legacy of state power and individual weakness. Bismarck did make Germany great and the German citizen small. The German State became a "far-seeing guardian of all the interests of the state and people," but individual Germans failed to develop what could be called civil courage, the courage of one's own convictions as a civilian. As a famous German historian wrote in 1899:

"In my innermost being and with the best that is in me I have always been a political animal and have always desired to be a citizen. In our nation that is not possible, for with us the individual man, even the best among us, never rises above doing his duty in the ranks and above political fetishism."

Bismarck also left Germany with the dangerous belief in power and force. There appeared no limit to what Germany could do if she willed it. But there must be no "cowardly pacifist mooning" or "silly scruples over legality." Germany must always be the hammer and never the anvil, and she must avoid the "poison of sentimental humanitarianism." Thus he "left Germany with a taste for hero-worship, with a tradition of political opportunism and of the unprincipled use of force".

Germany became something of a European bully, and her leaders' habit of speaking in terms of force and power grated upon the nerves of other Europeans. As the Polish-English novelist, Joseph Conrad, wrote,
"The Germanic Tribes had told the whole world in all possible tones carrying conviction, the gently persuasive, the coldly logical, in tones Hegelian, Nietzschean, warlike, pious, cynical, inspired, what they were going to do to the inferior races of the earth, so full of sin and unworthiness."

Although he exaggerated, George Bernard Shaw expressed a common attitude when he wrote that Europe became "sore-headed and fed-up" with Germany.
"We were rasped beyond endurance by Prussian militarism and its contempt for us and for human happiness and common sense, and we just rose up and went for it."

Bismarck must be held at least partially responsible for the German feeling of being unique and separate from the rest of Western society. He stimulated the idea that the German people and German culture must be safeguarded against pernicious influences from abroad. German nationalism turned inward, not out upon the world. As a scholar remarked, the Germans were not prepared to contribute to the
"highest and most sacred values of mankind, the liberty, honor, right, and dignity of the individual, that great central purpose that drew all the vital forces of Western Civilization together."

Perhaps a fitting summary of Bismarck's career is contained in an article by Max Weber, the German sociologist, written in 1917:

"As his political heritage, Bismarck left a nation without political education. Above all, he left a nation without political will, accustomed to permit the great statesman at its head to care for its policy. Moreover, he left a nation accustomed to submit, under the name of constitutional monarchy, to whatever was decided for it, without criticizing the political qualifications of those who now occupied Bismarck's place and who now took the reins of power in their hands."



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