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Unification of Germany. Napoleon Impacts Germany:.

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Napoleon Impacts Germany:

Between 1807 and 1812, Napoleon made major changes to the territorial states of Germany. He gained a number of European lands and put many German -speaking states under French rule. (In red) Many Germans welcomed him because they liked his policies. But soon, extreme German nationalism arose!!!

nationalism comes to germany
Nationalism Comes to Germany
  • France and Russia had long-standing policy of keeping Germany weak and divided
  • Nationalism came to Germany, but different from Italy
    • Superiority to Slavs
    • Independent of West – own particular way of life and political system
    • There were not widespread ideas of individual liberty – tended to glorify the state

Congress of Vienna:

  • People began to demand a unified German state more and more as German Nationalism increased due to Napoleon’s invasion.
  • Many German Nationalists brought demands to the Congress of Vienna. But Metternich, opposed these demands and stated that joining the governments of the many separated states would be extremely tricky.

Instead, the group formed a German Confederation, which was a very weak body headed by Austria.


Prussia Enters the Picture:

Prussia, took over control of the German states in the 1830’s from Austria. Trying to create an economic union, they took away borders between the German states. They still remained politically separate though.

  • At the Frankfurt Assembly in 1848, liberals offered the throne to a united Germany to the Prussian king, but they were refused. Germany remained divided but still had a desire for unity.

German Unification and Bismarck

German confederation made up of 39 separate principalities– all German speaking


Set up powerful trade federation (customs union) with other German provinces – led to prosperity and being seen as dominant German state.

Prussian Junker class – Bismarck on the left

frederick william iv of prussia 1840 1861
Frederick William IV of Prussia(1840-1861)
  • Mad as a hatter!
  • Anti-liberal, but an ‘Arthurian’ medieval romantic.
    • Agricultural romantic.
  • Relied on Junker support. (Junkers were members of the landed nobility of Prussia
  • Prussia in the mid-19c:
    • Efficient.
    • Good economy.
    • Strong military.

-The Prussian King in 1861was Wilhelm I, the brother of Frederick William.

-Wilhelm was an ultraconservative who believed in the Divine Right of Kings.

-King Wilhelm I’s prime minister was a good friend of his, a conservative noble named Otto Von Bismarck.


Wilhelm I

bismarck and realpolitik
Bismarck and ‘Realpolitik’
  • Realistic Politics based on the needs of the state
    • Whatever actions necessary to achieve his desired goals.
  • Power more important than principles
  • “Blood and Iron” Philosophy
    • He wanted to eliminate Austrian influence and bring about unification on Prussian terms.
    • Expand Germany’s Economy and Industrial base with use of its resources.
    • Do not make the same mistakes that were made by the French in 1848-1849.

Prussia was famous for its powerful military.

Voltaire once said:

“Prussia is not a country with an army, but an army with a country!”

Bismarck wanted to use this army to unite the German people under Prussian leadership.


Schleswig and Holstein:

  • Bismarck thought becoming allied with Austria would be a good idea. In 1864, Prussian armies under Bismarck’s leadership took over the provinces of SchleswigandHolstein from Denmark rule. Bismarck gave the province of Holstein to Austria and kept Schleswig under Prussian rule in hopes of an alliance.

The Austro-Prussian war of 1866

The Austro-Prussian war of 1866


Prussia wins war in 7 weeks.

  • Shortly following the victory of Prussia, Otto von Bismarck eliminated the Austrian led German Confederation.
  • The ruler then established a new North German Confederation which was ruled by Prussia.
southern states
Southern States..
  • Four southern states remained independent and not part of the North German Confederation - Hesse-Darmstodt, Bavaria, Wurtemberg and Baden.
  • Bismarck knew that he could not simply annexe these states.
  • He also knew, however, that a potential threat from France would stir up German nationalism in the southern states and that these states, deprived of Austria, would then look to Prussia as a ‘big brother’.
  • Bismarck engineered secret alliances between Prussia and the four southern states before the Treaty of Prague had been signed at the end of the Austro-Prussian War.
  • These alliances stated that in the event of war the south German states would fight with Prussia and also place their armies under direct Prussian control.
tension after 7 weeks war prussia v austria 1866
Napoleon III (France) was shocked by speed of Bismarck’s victory against Austria

Bismarck excluded Napoleon III from treaty negotiations (between Prussia and Austria)

Napoleon was looking for territory in the Rhineland as reward for staying neutral while Prussia fought Austria

Tension After 7 Weeks’ War - Prussia v Austria, 1866
the spanish candidacy
The Spanish Candidacy
  • In 1868, Queen Isabella of Spain was deposed and the Spanish parliament sought to appoint a new monarch.
  • Wilhelm I’s nephew – Leopold Hohenzollern was proposed as a potential candidate by Bismarck.
  • Bismarck knew that France would not accept this proposal as it would threaten French security, so he hoped to have the proposal approved before the French found out.
  • The French did find out, however, and were outraged.

The Ems Telegram

  • The Ems telegram was sent in 1870 from the Prussian King to Bismarck informing Bismarck about his meeting with French Ambassador.
  • The eager Bismarck was waiting for his opportunity to strike and when the king left it up to him to let the press know about the meeting, he took advantage of the situation.

The Ems Telegram Cont’d

  • Bismarck manipulated the situation by making the Prussian king look as if he was more hostile towards towards the French then he really was.
  • This provoked chaos in both France and Prussia and eventually led to the Franco-Prussian War.

Franco-Prussian War

  • Otto von Bismarck wanted to achieve unity within south Germany states under Prussian rule.
  • Bismarck wanted to eliminate French influence on the country.
  • The war lasted from 1870-1871 and resulted in the loss of France to the German States.
  • "I knew that a Franco-Prussian War must take place before a united Germany was formed."[
why did the french fight alone
Why did the French fight alone?
  • Once again, Bismarck made sure that his enemy was isolated.
  • The Austrians were grateful for the lenient Treaty of Prague.
  • The British were hostile to the French because Bismarck had leaked details of Napoleon’s interest in Belgium.
  • The Italians were happy with their territorial gains at the end of the Franco Prussian War. They were also hostile to the French because of the presence of a French army in Rome, which was preventing Italian unification.
why did the prussians win the war
Why did the Prussians win the war?
  • The Southern states fought with the North German Confederation, because of Bismarck’s secret alliances.
  • The German armies mobilised in 18 days and the Germans invaded France, so the French were always fighting a defensive war.
  • Once again the Prussian military proved to be decisive.
  • Prussian technology (especially breech-loading rifle) and tactics were far superior.
  • Prussia used 6 railway lines, France had 2
  • The French suffered heavy defeats at Metz and Sedan. Napoleon’s government was overthrown and a republic was declared.
  • Paris was besieged for several months until the French surrendered in January 1871.
the treaty of frankfurt
The Treaty of Frankfurt
  • This was far harsher than the peace treaty with Austria had been.
  • France was forced to pay an indemnity of £200 million within 4 years.
  • Territory was annexed, most notably Alsace and Lorraine. (buffer-zone – contained fortresses of Metz and Strasbourg + rich in iron ore)
  • The German army triumphantly marched through Paris.
  • Von Moltke: “What we have gained by arms in half a year, we must protect by arms for half a century”.

The German Empire

A United Germany

  • After the defeat of both Austria and France, Germans persuaded William I from Prussia to take the title Kaiser, or emperor.
  • In January of 1871, Germans celebrated their empire known as the Second Reich which had in the past been taken over by Napoleon of France.
wilhelm crowned emperor
Wilhelm Crowned Emperor
  • The German Emperor had considerable powers. He had personal control of the armed forces. He appointed and dismissed all ministers including the Chancellor (Bismarck 1871-1890).
  • Crowned in the hall of mirrors in Versailles outside Paris, on January 18, 1871

A constitution proposed by Bismarck and a two house legislature was set up for the Second Reich.

  • The two houses were made up of the Bundersat (upper house) and the Reichstag (lower house).
  • The houses were elected by rulers of German states and universal male suffrage.

Otto von Bismarck, 1886.


A Growing Economy

  • After the unification of Germany, it rose to be the Industrial giant of the Europe.
  • Germany’s chemical and electrical industries were beyond any other industries in the world.
  • Germany’s coal and iron resources resulted in massive growth of the economy.
  • A work force and rapidly growing population also aided in the development of the economy.
german unification timeline
German Unification Timeline

1862 – William I



Head of cabinet

1818 – Prussia eliminates tariffs

1866- 7 Weeks’ War;

German Confederation

Dissolved; Prussia takes Schleswig & Holstein

1848 – Revolution &

Frankfurt Parliament

1870 - Franco-Prussian War;

France loses



1864 – Austria &

Germany defeat Denmark:

Austria takes Schleswig,

Prussia takes Holstein

1871: German






1819 - Carlsbad Decrees

1844 – Zollverein includes

Almost all German states