Within the Context of 1789-1890, Was the Unification of Germany a Result of Economic, Political or Military Forces?

Topics: Prussia, German Empire, German Confederation Pages: 11 (3897 words) Published: May 30, 2011
Within the context of 1789-1890, was the unification of Germany a result of economic, political or military forces?

Numerous factors have lead to the progressive creation of a unified Germany by 1871; such factors are fundamentally related to economic, political or military origins. To accurately understand the reasoning behind the unification, one must look at the history preceding it – The after-effects of the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire; The significance of the French revolutions and Napoleonic Wars on Germanic national identity; the degradation of Austria’s national power; the introduction of the Zollverein in 1834 and the Prussian economic superiority that followed in addition to the industrialisation of the German states all contribute towards economic and political factors relating to the formation of a unified Germany under Prussia’s direction. Military factors contributing towards the unification of Germany include the defeat and exile of Napoleon Bonaparte; Otto Von Bismarck’s foreign policy based strongly around ‘realpolitik’; the significance of the ‘New Model Army’ on Prussia’s military prominence in addition to the conclusive Franco-Prussian war.

The Germanic region is immersed in a rich cultural heritage extending back, within the context of recorded history to a wild, untamed land coupled with the indomitable spirit of the indigenous people who populated it. Numerous tribes took residence within Germania including but not limited to the Saxons, Franks and Chatti. Several centuries on, the Frankish territories within Germania had spread across the Central European landmass under the tactical prowess of Charlemagne to encompass large parts of Western Europe and Northern Italy, thus forming “Teutonicorum” or “Germanic Realm”. This newly formed empire was later consolidated by Otto the Great to become the Holy Roman Empire and is considered by numerous historians as the formation of the First Reich. The period from 936 C.E onwards saw the further expansion and consolidation of the Holy Roman Empire’s territory; this territory was however still rather localized to the Central European landmass. The conglomeratic nature of the Holy Roman Empire’s territory in addition to Otto the Great’s ecclesiastical reformations and papal disputes provide a poignant appreciation to French philosopher Voltaire’s phrase (1)“This agglomeration which was called and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire“. Nevertheless, the Holy Roman Empire laid immeasurable foundations in the construction of a modern Germanic national identity; this national construct was further built on by the shared linguistic and cultural background of the denizens of Central Europe and as such, the importance of this rich heritage in the creation of a unified Germany must not be neglected. Analysis must be made in order to quantify the involvement economics played in the unification of the German states. The main economic impact on the Germanic states pre-1834 was the French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic Wars, the French Revolution in particular stemmed partly from an economic crisis based in France; although providing unseen benefits that later amalgamated into the creation of a unified Germany, the wars were extremely taxing on the German states, such an economic drain arguably perpetuated the view that the German states would be unquestionably stronger if they were unified economically with consideration to the possibility of a future surge of French imperialism.

After the creation of the German Confederation via the Congress of Vienna, inter-state trade began to increase but was severely limited by individual state tolls on goods passing through their respective territories, as such; Prussia introduced the Trade Reform Act 1818 which effectively removed intrinsic customs tariffs boosting internal trade massively. From this sphere of economic influence, neighbouring states began to...
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