[PART 2] REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT IN EUROPE: German Unification
In the 18th century, Germany was divided into a number of states. By the end of the Napoleonic wars, many states ceased to exist, but still, some 38 independent states remained in Germany. Prussia, Wurttemberg, Bavaria and Saxony were the larger states. The politically divided Germany was an obstacle for its economic development. The social and economic system was also backward.
Prussia was the most powerful state. It was reactionary, and dominated by a class of big landlords, called Junkers. Prussia was also an important leader of the Holy Alliance.
After the French Revolution, people in Germany began to demand national unification, establishment of democratic government, and socio-economic reforms. In 1815, the German states and Austria were organized into a Germanic Confederation. However, each state tried to protect its independence and interest.
In 1848, revolts occurred in every German state, and the rulers were forced to grant some democratic constitutions. Also, a Constituent Assembly met at Frankfurt, to unite Germany and frame a constitution. The Frankfurt Assembly decided to make Germany a Constitutional Monarchy, under the King of Prussia, who would become the Emperor of Germany.
However, the King of Prussia declined to accept the position of a constitutional monarch. He was not ready to accept the crown from the elected representatives of the people. Repression followed and people lost the rights, that they have secured for themselves in the initial stages of the revolution.
Bismarck: Policy of Blood and Iron
Failure of the 1848 revolution ended the dream of making Germany a democracy. Now the unification of Germany was to be attempted by the militaristic rulers. The leader of this regime was Bismarck, who belonged to a Prussian aristocratic family. He 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. He described his policy as one of Blood and Iron.
Blood and Iron meant a policy of War. The first step in this was the elimination of Austria from the Germanic Confederation. Bismarck aligned with Austria in a war against Denmark over the possession of Schleswig and Holstein. After Denmark’s defeat, he entered into an alliance with Italy against Austria, defeated Austria and dissolved the Germanic Confederation. Thus, Austria was separated from other German states.
Later, he united the 22 states of Germany into North German Confederation in 1866. The constitution of this confederation made the king of Prussia the hereditary head of the Confederation. The Unification of Germany was completed as a result of a war between Prussia and France.
Fall of Louis Bonaparte
In 1870, Louis Bonaparte of France, whose power had begin to collapse, declared war on Prussia, in order to maintain his empire through a military victory. The war was partly provoked by Bismarck. But it proved disastrous for the empire of Bonaparte. French armies were defeated and the French Emperor was captured. After this defeat, France finally became a republic. Germany’s unification was completed as a result of the war which enabled Bismarck to absorb the remaining German states into a united Germany.
King William I of Prussia took the title of German’ Emperor at Versailles, in France, in the palace of the French kings. After her unification, Germany emerged very strong in Europe. It underwent heavy industrialization in a very short period and soon joined the scramble for colonies.
Part 3 on Unification of Italy coming soon…
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