German Unification It would be impossible to tell the story of German Unification without
giving Bismarck's role due prominence. Between 1862 and 1871 the map
of Germany was altered radically, and Bismarck played a key role in
the events, which led to the foundation of the new Reich, but his
success was due to a combination of factors, not simply his own skill
and genius as a politician.
Bismarck was a Junker landowner who first made his mark in Prussian
politics as a reactionary defender of the status quo, when he was
elected to the united diet in 1847. During 1848-9 he gained his
reputation as a defender of the old order. Healso learned from the
experiences of 1848 that ideal have to be made practical through
compromises with reality. He was beginning to develop and refine his
own political philosophy, "Realpolitik". The essence of this was
summed up in the statement he made: "The only sound foundation of a
great stateâ€¦ is state egoismâ€¦ and not romanticismâ€¦ it is unworthy of a
great state to fight for something in which it has no interest."
As a Prussian and a loyal servant of the Prussian king, he placed the
interests of the Prussian state at the top of his list of priorities.
His overriding aim throughout the 1850s and 1860s was to establish
Prussian dominance in northern Germany, which would inevitably involve
a struggle with Austria. He was not, however, hell-bent on provoking a
war with Austria. War was always one effective solution, but Bismarck
regarded it as a last resort to be used only when all other options
had been exhausted. Bismarck was recognised in the growth of
nationalism after the setting up of the "Nationalverein" in 1859, a
force, which could be enlisted on the side of Prussian in the
struggles, which lay ahead.
During the 1850s Bismarck served the Prussian state as its
representative at the Confederation Diet and later as ambassador to
Russia. After the Prussian attempt to establish the Erfurt Union and
the humiliation of Olmutz, relations between Prussia and Austria were
severely strained. The Austrians abandoned the policy of close
co-operation with Prussia and opted to reassert their predominance in
Germany. Bismarck's response was to adopt an aggressive policy of
obstructionism towards the Austrians in an attempt to force them to
treat Prussia as an equal. When he was appointed minister president of
Prussian in 1862 it was not his policies which were his main
qualification for the job so much as his reputation as a strong man
who was capable of defying the opposition.
When he took over control of Prussian foreign policy in 1862, there
was no dramatic change of direction. His policies of challenging
Austria, and to establish friendly relations with...