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The Significance of Otto Von Bismarck on German Unification

Many Historians agree with the view that Otto Von Bismarck was the most significant factor in German Unification, but is this really so. Over time a new group of Historians have developed the theory that Bismarck was not as significant as was once thought. There is no question as to the significance of German Unification, across time or over time. The question is what was the factor that caused German Unification, it is accepted that there are multiple factors which lead to the unification of Germany, but it is highly debated to what extent these factors cause the unification of Germany. At the time many contemporaries and associates of Otto von Bismarck attributed the whole of German Unification to his efforts, this can be found in the hundreds of biographies that were written about Bismarck soon after his death. Otto von Bismarck is commonly mistaken as being a champion of Unification, but when the idea of Unification first came about it was born of the growing Liberalism in the German States, and if there was one thing that Bismarck was not it was Liberal, he outright fought against Unification to begin with as he could only see it as leading to the downfall of Prussia, in 1848 during the Berlin Riots Bismarck stated Only two things matter to Prussia, to avoid an alliance with democracy and to secure equality with Austria. Historians who support the view that Bismarck was the most significant factor in German Unification will often use his memoirs as source for evidence of his great planning in advance of unification as in his memoirs he says that he had been working for German Unification since the beginning of his political career. There are then some who believe that Bismarck was the key factor in unifying Germany, but did not seek a democratic German Unification, but more so a Prussification of Germany. Evidence for the theory of Prussification includes the following quote made from Bismarck to Disraeli in 1862, As soon as the army shall have been brought into such a condition to command respect, then I will take the first opportunity to declare war with Austria, to burst asunder the German Confederation, bring the middle and smaller states into subjection and give Germany a national union under the leadership of Prussia, this source obviously supports the theory of Prussification as it states through the use of war the rest of the German states will become subjects under Prussia, although the source can be called into question as this quote was written down years after the conversation and this has been done by the historian A.J.Taylor who believes Bismarck was a mere opportunist. A.J.Taylor believes that Bismarck did steer Germany to Unification but it was not his aim and that he only exploited situations which came along to suite his own needs which were usually the interests of Prussia. Other factors which had influence on German Unification are normally regarded as factors that helped Bismarck, which shows how many people believe Bismarck to be the most significant factor of German Unification but most of these factors have significance of German Unification in their own right. In 1818 Rhineland manufacturers began complaining about the internal tariffs and multiple customs they had had to pay whilst imported products had to pay none, so the Prussian King passed the Prussian Tariff Reform Law which got rid of almost all internal tariffs and set up the Prussian Customs Union, this led to a great increase in Prussian economic power, and by 1824 many smaller German States were so impressed by this many had their own Customs Unions. Then by 1930 many smaller northern German States had joined the Prussian Customs Union and were enjoying the same success Prussia was, in 1930 Hesse-Cassel of the Middle Union ran into severe economic trouble and so joined the Prussian Customs Union for help and soon after the rest of Middle Union collapsed, and soon one by one joined the Prussian Customs Union, this was highly significant in the Unification of Germany as across time it resulted in major change as nearly all the German States were working together for mutual prosperity. With the Middle Union joining the Prussian Customs Union it became

known as the Zollvieren which had its own parliament working on regulations and laws for the greater good of the Zollvieren, some of the changes that came about because of the Zollvierens efforts were the exponential expansion of the German railway systems, the fact that the Austrian Empire was losing political influence over German matters as it had nothing to do with the Zollvieren and at this time the Zollvieren was the most influential tool Prussia had over German inter-state relations and policies.

At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the German Confederation was created which joined all the smaller German States and parts of Austria and Prussia to coordinate their economies more easily, this is what began the process of German Unification but the various Princes, Dukes, Kings and Statesman of the different States, wanted to retain their power and so refused to any further joining than the Confederation. The years of 1848 and 1849 were of revolution and attempted progression in Germany, the largest success was the establishment of the Frankfurt Parliament, which had representatives from all the German States and from mainly the growing middle classes, they sought to have King Frederick William IV as their head of state, and so offered him the crown to become the Kaiser of Germany, but he declined it not wanting to accept such a title from common men and in doing so upset the other Princes and inevitably cause bloodshed. So by the summer of 1849 the Frankfurt Parliament no longer existed. Much of the Austrian Empire was outside of the German Confederation and consisted of nonGerman people, so Austria was reluctant to give this up to become part of a unified Germany, plus it was also in Austrias interest to keep Germany un-unified as to keep the separate state individually weak as to pose no threat to Austrian power.

Across Time: Remarkable Remarked as an amazing Politician Resulted in Change Led to the Unification of Germany

0ver Time: Resulted in Change Germany as a powerful state Resonant RealPolitik, Similarities to Hitler in how he handled policies

Remembered Thousands of books written about him and still being written