Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 7

Although the unification of Germany as a nation-state for

principally a political act forged largely through war, yet it was


not solely those who held political power that formed the new
state. The idea of a united German nation-state and a united
German people struck chord with many and concerned all
levels of society. The task of creating the German nation-state
was one that required the belief in a German people who
transcended separate territories and different cultural norms.
The primary tool for creating this identity was nationalism, and
some of the great carriers of nationalistic ideas were
academics, particularly historians. Those who embraced the
idea of a unified German culture relied heavily upon the
celebration of the study of German history
Two of these Historians like Heinrich von Treitschke and Heinrich
von Sybel, both members of what was known as the small
German school of historiography in the nineteenth century,
were romantics who wrote histories of the events of nineteenth
century German history for the purpose of promoting the
German nation-state, its government's actions, and the
nationalist pride that they believed should accompany such
support. They were very much products of their time, and as
such, worked within the Hegelian academic tradition.
Historians of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries sought to
understand the powerful and complex events of the nineteenth
century including the roles that the historians of the nineteenth
century played. Historians that have examined and analyzed
the writings of Heinrich von Treitschke and Heinrich von Sybel
have primarily concluded that the enormous bias of these
historians towards support of Germany as a unified nation-state
before and after the unification makes them far better
rhetoricians than historians. Furthermore, examinations of what
Treitschke and Sybel were specifically arguing have often been
overshadowed by the argument that their works are so biased
that they are hardly history at all and therefore should not be
studied when attempting to attain an accurate picture of what
nineteenth century Germany was like. Smith's German

Nationalism and Religious Conflict: Culture, Ideology, and


Politics, 1870- 1914 and Green's Fatherlands: State-building
and Nationhood in Nineteenth-Century Germany are both works
that take this stance on Treitschke and Sybel.
One of the biggest trends in modern historiography when
examining the nineteenth century has been to point to the
events that caused and surrounded unification as being directly
traceable sources of National Socialism and the Third Reich.
This is decidedly problematic, as in order to do this the
historian must examine first Germany's history in the 1930s
and 1940s before looking into Germany's history in the
nineteenth century, coming to the subject with strongly fixed
preconceptions of which similarities between the two eras to
look for in order to argue that the rise of Nazism was the
natural evolution of the German nation-state. Arguments such
as this can be found in Hughes' National Socialism and Society:
Germany 1800-1945 and in Geoff Eley's From Unification to
Nazism: Reinterpreting the German Past.
Another trend that has arisen in historiography when examining
nineteenth century German history, particularly German
unification, is that of focusing on a specific aspect of the events
surrounding unification as being its primary cause. These
theses point to the political and military actions of the Prussian
government as being deliberate motions intended to bring
about unification, an autocratic monarchy acting to create a
German Empire with minimal influence from the larger German
society. Despite taking into account religious and sociocultural
factors, these arguments focus primarily on Germany as an
imperial, expanionisitc polity, very often focusing on the
personality and actions of Otto von Bismarck as being the man
without whose deeds unification could not have been achieved.
Mommsen's Imperial Germany 1867-1918: Politics, Culture, and
Society in and Authoritarian State, Abrams Bismarck and the
German Empire, 1871-1918, and Feuchtwanger's Bismarck, are
examples of this method of examining and analyzing German
unification.

A final historiographical trend is to reverse this emphasis,


arguing that although it was indeed political action that
officially created the country of Germany for the first time, the
sociocultural and religious factors that contributed to that
unification were more significant than the political unification
itself. The argument from this approach is that the cause of
unification was due to either an imagined or desired
sociocultural German identity which was finally able to coincide
with the intentions of the political realm in 1871. Schulze's The
Course of German Nationalism: From Frederick the Great to
Bismarck, 1763-1867, Blackbourn's The Long Nineteenth
Century: A History of Germany, 1780-1918, and Berger's
Inventing the Nation: Germany, are works that focus heavily on
sociocultural factors as being the primary igniters that sparked
German unification.
None of these approaches can be counted as being incorrect.
All have added to the historical conversation in an attempt to
understand a people and an era which have been marked by
nationalism and fierce competition at nearly every turn.
The 1815 Congress of Vienna had established five Great Powers
in Europe Britain, France, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, which
were nearly equal in strength. Beginning in 1815, 39 German
states formed a loose grouping called the German
Confederation as a result of the declaration of the congress of
Vienna. The Austrian Empire dominated the confederation.
However, Prussia was ready to unify all the German states. It
enjoyed several advantages that would eventually help it forge
a strong German state. Add Meryman. First of all, unlike the
Austro -Hungarian Empire, Prussia had a mainly German
population. As a result, nationalism actually unified Prussia. In
contrast, ethnic groups in Austria-Hungary tore the empire
apart. Moreover, Prussias army was by far the most powerful in
central Europe
The first broadly popular expression of the impulse for German
national unification came during the revolutions of 1848. These

revolutions, happening nearly simultaneously in Western and


Central Europe, were driven by liberal and national ideals,
which were both seen as forces of liberation. Liberalism sought
to overthrow the constraints of the traditional order dominated
by the nobility while introducing constitutional government;
nationalism sought to allow people bound together by common
language and culture to form national states reflecting those
commonalities. Thus, proponents of German nationalism,
lacking a common political experience, defined the nation by its
cultural and ethnic dimensions-a common people, divided into
separate states and principalities, seeking a common national
state. In 1848, Berlin rioters forced a constitutional convention
to write up a liberal constitution for the kingdom, paving the
way for unification. But the revolutions of 1848 failed in
Germany partly because of the conflict between the national
claims of Germans and those of other nationalities within the
boundaries of the German states. Monarchical rule recovered.
In 1861, Wilhelm I succeeded Frederick William to the throne.
The liberal parliament refused him money for reforms that
would double the strength of the army. Wilhelm saw the
parliaments refusal as a major challenge to his authority. He
was supported in his view by the Junkers, strongly
conservative members of Prussias wealthy landowning class. In
1862,Wilhelm chose a conservative Junker named Otto von
Bismarck as his prime minister. Bismarck was a master of
what came to be known as realpolitik. This German term
means the politics of reality. The term is used to describe
tough power politics with no room for idealism.
It was Bismarck's genius to recognize that nationalism was not
inherently connected to liberalism, that it could be detached
from its alliance with liberalism and be put to the service of
conservative ends.
With realpolitik as his style, Bismarck would become one of the
commanding figures of German history. With the kings
approval, Bismarck declared that he would rule without the

consent of parliament and without a legal budget. Those


actions were in direct violation of the constitution. In his first
speech as prime minister, he defiantly told members of the
Prussian parliament, It is not by means of speeches and
majority resolutions that the great issues of the day will be
decidedthat was the great mistake of 1848 and 1849but by
blood and iron.
In 1864, Bismarck took the first step toward molding an empire.
Prussia and Austria formed an alliance and went to war against
Denmark to win two border provinces, Schleswig and Holstein.
A quick victory increased national pride among Prussians. It
also won new respect from other Germans and lent support for
Prussia as head of a unified Germany. After the victory, Prussia
governed Schleswig, while Austria controlled Holstein.
Bismarck purposely stirred up border conflicts with Austria
over Schleswig and Holstein. The tensions provoked Austria into
declaring war on Prussia in 1866. This conflict was known as
the Seven Weeks War. The Prussians used their superior
training and equipment to win a devastating victory. They
humiliated Austria. The Austrians lost the region of Venetia,
which was given to Italy. They had to accept Prussian
annexation of more German territory.
With its victory in the Seven WeeksWar, Prussia took control of
northern Germany. For the first time, the eastern and western
parts of the Prussian kingdom were joined. In 1867, the
remaining states of the north joined the North German
Confederation, which Prussia dominated completely.
By 1867, a few southern German states remained independent
of Prussian control. The majority of southern Germans were
Catholics. Many in the region resisted domination by a
Protestant Prussia. However, Bismarck felt he could win the
support of southerners if they faced a threat from outside. He
reasoned that a war with France would rally the south.

Bismarck was an expert at manufacturing incidents to gain


his ends. For example, he created the impression that the
French ambassador had insulted the Prussian king. The French
reacted to Bismarcks deception by declaring war on Prussia on
July 19, 1870.The Prussian army immediately poured into
northern France. In September 1870, the Prussian army
surrounded the main French force at Sedan. Among the 83,000
French prisoners taken was Napoleon III himself. Parisians
withstood a German siege until hunger forced them to
surrender.
The Franco-Prussian War was the final stage in German
unification. Now the nationalistic fever also seized people in
southern Germany. They finally accepted Prussian leadership.
On January 18, 1871, at the captured French palace of
Versailles, King Wilhelm I of Prussia was crowned kaiser, or
emperor.Germans called their empire the Second Reich. (The
Holy Roman Empire was the first.) Bismarck had achieved
Prussian dominance over Germany and Europe by blood and
iron.
By 1871, Britain and Germany were clearly the most powerful,
both militarily and economically. Austria and Russia lagged far
behind. France struggled along somewhere in the middle. The
European balance of power had broken down. This shift also
found expression in the art of the period.In three successful
wars, 1864, 1866, and 1870-71, Bismark united Germany under
Prussian domination, forcing liberal nationalists to choose
between their liberal ideals and their national ideals. They
accepted national unifications at the expense of a liberal
constitutional government, acceding to a Germany united
under Prussian monarchical authority. The German constitution
provided a parliament, but the Chancellor and other ministers
remained responsible only to the Emperor.
The Nineteenth Century unification of Germany may
consequently be described as a revolution from above. It was
based on a combination of an authoritarian monarchy, illiberal

constitutionalism, German nationalism, and Prussian militarism.


As a result, Germany entered the modern industrial era and
became the dominant economic and military force in Europe
with a social structure that retained a dominant aristocracy and
military caste.