German Unification

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“The Second Reich was proclaimed in 1871. It was war – nothing more and nothing less – that was responsible for its creation”

In January 1871 King William first of Prussia became Kaiser William the first of the new German empire. The creation of the empire was one of the most important developments of the nineteenth century. However, the process by which Germany came to be unified has been and area of heated historical debate ever since. There are many people and events to consider in weighing up contributions to unification, but no one man was more central to the process of unification than Otto Von Bismarck. Bismarck became chancellor of Prussia in 1962 and his main aim was to unify the 39 German states under Prussian rule. Some historians believe that Bismarck realized his goal of a Kleindeutsch German empire by taking advantage of skilful diplomacy and clever manipulation of situations that presented themselves to him between 1862 and 1871. Others believe that German unification was inevitable and that “Bismarck’s’ task was made easier by circumstance”. There were many more significant factors before Bismarck’s time and indeed during his time out with his influence that contributed greatly to the eventual unification in 1871. 

German nationalism grew and grew throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It had its roots in all sorts of cultural, political and intellectual developments that had nothing to do with the ‘Iron chancellor’. The development of German arts in the eighteenth century stirred national consciousness a great deal. While the invasion of Napoleon made the inhabitants of the 39 German states very aware of their military weakness as independents, and the effort to eventually drive the French armies out drew the German people together. Together these factors began to generate pressure for unification even before Bismarck became involved in politics in any serious way. 

Another hugely significant factor contributing to...
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