Germany Unification History Timeline Project Due: 3/10/06
German Confederation - 1815
In 1815, at the Congress of Vienna, Klemens von Metternich, a very important diplomat and the leader of the convention, and others set up the loosely organized German Confederation. This united the 39 countries that made up Germany. Every year, the German states would send representatives to a meeting in Frankfurt, called the Federal Diet. Prussia and Austria dominated this meeting, which didn't do anything unless all 39 states agreed. However, Prussia and Austria did not agree frequently and not much was ever accomplished. However, people looked to this meeting as a sign of what could come.
I liked the German Confederation set up by the leader of my arch-rival Austria. It set the stage in the minds of nationalists of a unified Germany. This was one that I hoped to create and have Prussia rule over central Europe. Other then that, nothing much happened in the convention. Austria was the leader at the time in Rine. However their citizens were from many different backgrounds and cultures. Also, we (Prussia) were more industrialized than Austria. We formed a Zollverein trade group with all of the real German nations. You see, "Germany is clearly too small for both of us [Austria and Prussia]".
Wilhelm I becomes king and selects Bismarck - 1861
In 1861, Wilhelm I became the king of Prussia. He was strong minded and wanted to reform and double the army. However, a liberal parliament that was set up by his predecessor refused his reforms. The Junkers, a conservative, wealthy class that supported the king, also opposed the liberal parliament that they believed challenged the authority of the king. In 1862, Wilhelm I appointed Junker Otto von Bismarck to the post of Prime Minister.
That's me! This is the event when I first seriously come into the picture of European history! King Wilhelm I was a really nice guy. He wanted to double the size of the army and set Prussia even farther ahead then others with our industrialization. Of course the parliament wouldn't hear anything about this, (more on that later) so desperate measures had to be taken. The Junkers, which I was a member of, was committed to keeping the conservative values of our country strong. So Wilhelm I picked lots of us for the high posts in the government and in the army. He picked me as his Prime Minister and secretary of foreign affairs to help the country!
Bismarck says he will rule without Parliament - 1862
Otto von Bismarck was a strong and commanding figure. He believed strongly in the the idea of realpolitik. (describe below) The Prussian parliament refused to grant his and Wilhelm I's desires. So Bismarck decided that he would rule without the consent of parliament and defy the budget they had set for him. These acts were in direct violation of the new constitution. In parliament, he told them, "The great questions of the day will not be settled by speeches or by majority decisions - that was the great mistake of 1848 and 1849 - but by blood and iron." Bismarck soundly rejected the idealism of romanticism in favor of a more realistic reality in tune to the here and the now. Blood and iron is in line with this concept. Von Bismarck believed that war and action was the answer, not ideas and words.
So my friend, Wilhelm I, king of Prussia, was having a little trouble with a liberal parliament the previous king foolishly agreed to. They wouldn't accept anything we tried to do. Desperate measures had to be taken, and frankly, I couldn't stand all of those lying liberals. So Wilhelm and I decided that we would announce that we were going forward without that snobby parliament's approval. I don't care if it was in direct violation of the constitution, that Wilhelm I's predecessor was forced to set up. I wanted the power to expand Prussia for the better. To do that, I needed to remove Austria from the equation. And I had the perfect plan ....
Bismarck and Austria fought for Denmark to launch tension - 1864
Bismarck needed to disable Austria if he wanted any hope of truly uniting Germany. In 1864, he came up with a clever plan to harm Austria's feelings and gain land from Denmark at the same time. He forged an alliance with his rival Austria and suggested they attack Denmark. The quick victory rose pride in the country and won Schleswig and Holstein from Denmark. However, Bismarck arranged it so that Prussia would control Schleswig, while Austria controlled Holstein. Bismarck correctly predicted that this would cause tension between the two countries.
Ha, Ha. I had the perfect plan and Austria walked right into my trap. I had set it up that Austria and I would temporally align in order to get land from Denmark. Our stunning plan succeeded and I also managed to boost nationalistic pride in Prussia. But I knew that Austria would not like living right next to me and splitting our shared piece of Denmark. They were getting mad. I perfectly predicted exactly what Austria would do next...
Seven's Weeks War - 1866
In 1866, the border conflict of Denmark land between Austria and Prussia turned to war. Austria couldn't take it anymore and declared war on Prussia. However, that was a big mistake for the Austrians. The Prussians had a highly skilled military and an industrialized support system that led them to a speedy victory in the Seven's Week War. The Austrians lost Venetia to the Italians and a lot of territory to the Prussians. In 1867, the north German states joined the North German Confederation which Prussia controlled completely, practically putting them under the control of Bismarck and Wilhelm I.
Who's the king now? Who? Who? Oh, not me sadly. I'm just the prime minister, but I did manage to orchestrate this grand scheme to get more land. I, me, joined for the first time the eastern and western parts of the Prussian kingdom. I humiliated Austria and increased the pride and nationalistic feelings among my people. I did all this. Of course the superior training of the army and the wonderful, industrialized economy supported my troops very well. I think that is what led my troops to victory, no wait, I think it was my stunning courage and bravery that did it. You decide. (Decide properly or I will hunt you down.)
Franco-Prussian War - 1870
By 1867, a few southern German states remained independent of the growing Prussia. However, these southern Germans were of the Catholic faith and did not want to be ruled by the Protestant Prussia. So Bismarck did what he did best and created another "incident." Bismarck reworded a telegram description of a meeting between Wilhelm I and a French ambassador. In the telegram it sounded as if Wilhelm I had insulted the French. France took offence and attacked Prussia. This again was a dumb mistake made by Napoleon III to try and restore France's glory. Prussia again used their superior training and economy to surround 80,000 prisoners in Sedan, France. Also the Germans sieged Paris for four months until the French food supply ran out. On January 18, 1871, Bismarck captured Versailles and Wilhelm I was crowned kaiser or emperor. This was the end to the Franco-Prussian War. The southern Germans were convinced not to hold out longer. Bismarck has succeeded in taking over Germany with blood and iron. Some people called this empire the Second Reich.
Again, another success. I am doing even better then Napoleon I. He didn't understand the concept and power of nationalism. I, however, have not failed once. Take that, Napoleon. So yes, I was able, again, to trick a country to attack me, and again our superior industrial system wiped them out quickly. It is a perfect system, and guess who came up with it. That's right, me! Now I gained even more land for Prussia. My plan is complete. With only a little bit of help from nationalism, I have united Germany for Prussia! I won! So there you have it. That's the story of the world's greatest (and most successful) political figure, me, Otto von Bismarck!
How did nationalism impact the unification of Germany?
Nationalism greatly helped Bismarck unify Germany, even if he wouldn't admit it in his journal. Nationalism is the feeling that ones greatest loyalty should not be to the king or ruler of the time, but to the people who share a common culture. The common culture and background, as well as the similar geographic regions and resources brought Germans together. Bismarck knew how to exploit these feelings to his advantage. He manufactured a telegram to get the French mad at him. He then used Prussia's superior army and industrial might to end the war in his favor. These incidents persuaded the southern Germans to join him and Prussia into one country.
The North German Confederation united many northern German states. Bismarck got independent states to join under his leadership in order to reach their goals of a unified German states. This was all supposedly through the power of nationalism. I also suspect the nations were threatened by Bismarck and his military might. The entire confederation was ruled by Bismarck and Wilhelm I. Bismarck was able to unite Germany both with nationalism as the starting, beginning force, but then using blood and iron to force people to comply and unite with his wishes.