The Unification of Germany
In 1871 the thirty-eight states of what was once the Holy Roman Empire,
re-united to become what was known in the early twentieth century as simply, The German Empire, united under the rule of the German Emperor, or Kaiser. There are many factors which led to the unification of the German states; liberalism, nationalism, Otto Von Bismarck, fear of ‘another Napoleon’, the Prussian King William I, and the three wars Prussia fought.
One of the key factors which led to the Unification was nationalism. Nationalism is the idea that certain things such as race, culture, religion, language or territory set them apart from those around them, and they could identify their interests with a group of people not just a local monarch. This idea created the belief that one’s loyalty was first to the ‘nation’ not the monarch. On 23 February 1848, there was a demonstration in Paris that resulted in the abdication of King Louis Philippe. Then on 13 March students in Vienna staged a rebellion which later that day forced Prince Metternich to resign as Austrian Foreign Minister. Prussian King, Frederick William IV, stood against reform and used troops to break up demonstrations. But on hearing of Metternich’s resignation he lost his nerve and called together a Diet, granting a constitution. When a crowd gathered at the Palace in Berlin the royal guard opened fire. The resulting revolution ended by November of that year as the people began to fear the consequences of prolonging it. The failure of this revolution, and the failure to achieve national unity, broke the link between liberalism and nationalism. In the end it was the nationalistic ideals of the German aristocracy, not the general populace that brought about the Unification of the German States in 1871.
(1) ** I remember to have been so entirely absorbed by what was happening that I could hardly turn my thoughts to anything else. Like many of my friends, I was dominated by the feeling that at last the great opportunity for giving the German people the liberty which was their birthright and to the German fatherland its unity and greatness, and that it was now the first duty of every German to do and to sacrifice everything for this sacred object. We were profoundly, solemnly in earnest. **
Liberalism was an important factor of the German Unification. Liberalism, the philosophy which promotes the idea of leaving an individual as unrestricted as possible in terms of self-expression and self-fulfilment, was more important in terms of the monarchs wanting to crush this idea than in terms of the importance of the idea itself. It was the main reason for the aforementioned 1848 Revolution and although it was separated from nationalism after the revolution, the aristocracy still feared any possible threat to their remaining in power. As a result any form of liberalism that began to form was quickly and decisively crushed, and the unification...