The Unification of Germany Between 1863 and 1871
On the 18th January 1871, Wilhelm 1 was proclaimed Emperor of a united
Germany. The unification of Germany was, like all historical events,
multi- causal, the most influential reasons being the Bismark's
cynical and unscrupulous diplomacy, military superiority of Prussia
and economic power, and lastly, popular nationalist sentiment.
Bismark seems to be the most important factor of these. He was a
successful diplomat with strong anti liberal views. Even though
parliament refused to approve taxes for enlarging the Prussian army,
Bismark simply carried on collecting them, showing his willingness to
go to extreme measures to achieve his aims.
Between 1864 and 1871 Bismark engaged in three wars which brought
about the unification of Germany. Firstly, the Danish war of 1864.
This successful war for Bismark meant that he presented himself as the
champion of German interests. By the convention of Gastein in 1865,
Prussia took Schleswig and Austria took Holstein. This gave Bismark
the chance to pick a quarrel with Austria whenever he saw the need. It
has been argued that Bismark did not deliberately set out for war with
Denmark, but cleverly took advantage of the situation.
Bismark's next war was against Austria, seeming more planned. In 1866
he provoked war by proposing that the German confederation should be
dissolved and a new one set up excluding Austria. Lasting only seven
weeks, this proved a great success as it led to the setting up of the
new 'North German Confederation,' making the unification of Germany
easier as Prussia's main rival was excluded. The 'Peace of Prague'
Treaty was then signed which achieved Bismark's main aims of Prussian
Bismark's third war came over the issue of the succession of the
Spanish throne in 1870. Napoleon III feared the encirclement of France
if a Hohenzollern became king and demanded that Prince Leopold
withdraw. This was agreed but he then demanded guarantees that the
candidature would not be renewed. Bismark altered the Ems telegram so
that the French Government could only take it as a rebuff. The French
public demanded a war which was again a triumph for Prussia, giving
her Alsace and Lorraine and enabled Bismark to complete the
unification of Germany.
Military superiority in Prussia also aided the unification process.
The declaration of a German Reich followed the victories of the
Prussian army over Austria and France. Within a month the French
armies were decisively defeated, the Prussian capturing over 160 000
French soldiers. The Prussian army was able to mobilise at speed
compared to France. The Austrian was lasted only seven weeks as
Austria had to fight on two fronts and Prussia's planning and weaponry
were far superior to that of Austria.
Chief of Staff, Von...