German Unification – UPSC GS1

Germany Unification
  • 18th Century: Germany was divided into number of states (some very small)
  • By the end of Napoleonic wars 38 independent states remained including Prussia, Wurttemberg, Bavaria and Saxony.

  • Biggest, most powerful and reactionary state was Prussia. Big landlords known as Junkers were the dominant section of Prussian society. Prussia was also Leader of Holy Alliance (formed to curb peoples attempt to overthrow ruler)
Problems of Divided Germany
  • Division hampered Economic growth
  • Social and political backwardness
  • Growth of national consciousness, particularly after French Revolution, led to demand of unification, establishment of democratic government, and socio-political reforms
  • 1815 à German states along with Austria formed Germanic Confederation. However each state tried to preserve independence and its oppressive socio-political system
  • 1848 à Revolt à Rulers forced to grant democratic constitutions
  • Constituent Assembly in Frankfurt: To unite Germany and frame a constitution for united Germany à Constitutional Monarchy with King of Prussia as Emperor of Germany à He refused to accept the crown from elected representatives à Repression à German revolutionaries fled the country
Bismarck – Policy of Blood and Iron
  • Revolt of 1848 failed à Germany to be united into Militaristic state by rulers (and not into democratic state by revolutionaries)
  • Bismarck, a Prussian Aristocrat, wanted to preserve the predominance of the landed aristocrats and the army in the united German state and to achieve the unification of Germany under the leadership of the Prussian monarchy. For this He gave Policy of Blood and Iron (meant policy of war)
  • First aim he pursued was to eliminate Austria from confederation. He first aligned with Austria to fight with Denmark. After defeating Denmark Bismarck allied with Italy and defeated Austria.
  • In 1866 Bismarck united 22 states of old confederations to form North German Confederation. The constitution of this Confederation made the King of Prussia the hereditary head of the Confederation.
  • German unification completed as a result of war between France and Germany à defeated Louis Bonaparte, this war enabled Bismarck to absorb the remaining  German states into united Germany
  • After her unification, Germany emerged as a very strong power in Europe. It underwent heavy industrialization in a very short period and soon joined the scramble for colonies.
Birth of newly industrialized nations in Europe which started changing the political equation in Europe
  • Situation: IR of 1750 started creating new changes in polity, economy and society. Despite German states fulfilling all the conditions for IR, it was still lagging behind Britain, France etc.
    Exploitation: by the neighboring countries acted as a catalytic force to desire to be united and was hindrance for emerging capitalists, industrialists and nationalists.
  • German states were divided on lines of polity, but united on concept of German race and language
    Napoleon’s role:
      • Destroyed Holy Roman Empire, which controlled German states, and this fall of non-German leaders strengthened the path of unity of Germany
      • Abolished small states in Germany and established new states of Westphalia (practical taste of unity)
      • Napoleon, in short, ignited fire of unity among Germans.
  • Role of Personalities:
      • Like in any revolution, including American and French revolution role of personalities is quintessential and indispensable
      • Because without participation of common people will not participate till they have faith in an ideal, which can be understood and clarified by intellectuals only.
        • Bismarck : Chancellor of Prussia
        • Hudror, Fickte prompted concept of German race and language through their writing
Phases of German Unification
  • German Diet: Seed of GU
    • Austria formed confederation of German states, leading to origin of German diet ( for better management)
      Though no formal relation, GD was beginning of Modern Political structure in Germany
      • General resolutions can be passed by 2/3rd majority only
      • Fundamental/Constitutional changes, the acceptance of every state is mandatory
  • Zollverine
    • Prussia took advantage of provisions of German diet and implemented Zollverine, a customs union among German states, leading to economic union of German states.
    • Always in world history, if economic unification happens, it is the most critical step and political union is not far behind. Revolution of 1830 in France ended the principle of divine rights of the kings, declaring that king cannot rule on his whims and fancies, but will have to rule according to will of people, leading to ground for framing of constitution
    • Socialist movement of 1848 activated the labour class of entire Europe including Germany, leading to Heidelberg convention where liberals and intellectuals of Germany decided to frame the new constitution
  • 2nd Frankfurt Parliament
    • This led to 2nd Frankfurt parliament, where representative of the people declared that Germany will unite under leadership of Prussia, finally leading to framing of new constitution
      Prussia out rightly refused ( and this big step of German unification went in vain) because:
      • Proposal was not initiated by king but by representative of people
      • Prussia did not want the status of superficial head
    • Olmutz Convention: Austria threated Prussia against accepting German offer
    • This, although was a setback to German unification, but also it was absolutely clear that war with Austria is inevitable if German unification is to become reality
  • Bismark
    • Economic empowerment of Prussia which lead to strengthening of its military
      B recognized that war with Austria was destined. So for economic empowerment:
      • Establishment of modern economic institutions in Germany. Ex. Imperial Banks
        • Reforms in Infrastructure like roads and railways
        • Production under control of state
        • Emphasis on principal of state socialism, guaranteeing rights and protection to labour class
    • This economic empowerment lead to military strengthening
      Entrapment Policy: Denmark became the pawn, Austria the victim and France was deceived by Bismarck
    • By London agreement of 1852, Schleswig  and Holstein were kept under Denmark’s protection. Later Denmark violated the agreement and incorporated both territories which led to war between Denmark and combined armies of Austria and Prussia
      Bismarck learned the strength and weaknesses of Austrian army during the war
    • In 1865, by convention of Gaustein, Schleswig to Austria, Holstine to Prussia
      After this, Bismarck took steps to alienate Austria from its allies
      • Adopted pro-russian attitude in Poland
      • Promised Italians help in their unification
      • Made commitments to Napoleon III of big rewards
    • He incorporated Holstine provoking Austria and in Battle of Sadowa in 1866, Austria was defeated, completing the first phase of German unification
    • With defeat of Austria, France became next target, Napoleon III was deceived into giving written demands
    • It was France who was defeated at Battle of Sadowa
    • Bismarck exposed written proposals of France’s ruler embodying his demand for compensations, where France came across as an aggressor with insatiable territorial appetite
    • This alienated France from its allies in Europe
    • Benedetti episode: He was French ambassador in Prussia, he was insulted by Bismarck
    • These two reasons provoked France, leading to its defeat in Battle of Sedan, completing goals of GU
    • B never let his ambitions known to outside world, and he achieved his goal irrespective of all odds, so he deserves all the laurels and respect that European and world history has bestowed upon him.

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