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Coal And Iron And The Unification Of Germany In 1871

1803 words - 7 pages

Coal and Iron and the Unification of Germany in 1871

In 1862, Bismarck said that ‘the great questions of the day will be
settled by blood and iron.’ Although there is undoubtedly some degree
of accuracy in this statement, the most important reason for the
unification of Germany, which ended ‘the great questions of the day,’
was ‘coal and iron.’ This is a quote from British economist John
Maynard Keynes, who argued that the industrial and economic
preparation before the wars, which united Germany, were more
important. This is because the economic strength created by the rapid
industrialisation enabled the creation of a powerful Prussia. It was
under this powerful Prussia, with some skilful diplomacy and
opportunism, that Germany was successfully united in the wars of
German Unification. Without such economic development and prosperity,
it is questionable whether Germany would have been united by 1871.

The main reason for the unification of Germany by 1871 was ‘coal and
iron.’ This includes important factors such as the presence of raw
materials in Prussia, the development of the railways and the
Zollverein in Germany, and the industrialisation, which took place in
Prussia, particularly in the 1850s. This economic strength, stems back
to the Congress of Vienna, where Prussia was given mineral rich land.
It gave Prussia the coal and iron producing areas of the Rhineland,
and the mineral rich Ruhr and Saar. The availability of such natural
resources created an economic take off in Prussia in the 1850s. As a
result, Germany became Europe’s largest producer of key industrial
commodities, such as coal and iron. New mines and iron works were also
opened in Prussian territory, such as the Ruhr Valley. Looking at
statistics we can see that in 1846, Germany produced only 3.2m tons of
coal, whereas in 1871, nearly 30m tons of coal were produced. The
significance of this is that the economic expansion enabled the
creation of a strong, powerful Prussia. It was under this Prussia that
unification took place, and without such strength, it may never have
succeeded.

Furthermore, the creation of a comprehensive railway system was also
significant in the unification of Germany. It further underpinned the
economic and military strength of Prussia, and this strength was
essential in Prussia success in the wars of German unification. In
1835, there was only 6km of railway track. However, by 1846 there was
more than 2000 km of track. The hub of these railways was in Berlin,
in Prussia. This meant that Prussia reaped the benefits of them. The
building of the railways stimulated work and the growth of towns. The
railways were also good because they allowed goods, particularly heavy
materials, produced in heavy industries since the economic take off,
to be transported. In the event of any conflict,...

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