Germany, a country hundreds of years in the making, was unified in 1871. After years of being separate states and loose confederations, Germany became a whole, unified nation through Prussian strength in the economy and more importantly strength in the military. The might of the Prussia’s military was in its army, which it used in wars to bring together the separate German states into a unified Germany. The Seven Weeks War against Austria was the first example of this. When Prussia won that war, the Northern German Confederation was formed with Prussia at the head and Austria not included, thus creating the first unified Germany, even if not completely, and changing war and politics of Europe forever.
In 1818 Prussia established the Zollverein, a free trade agreement between German states. Quickly many other states joined the Zollverein, including twenty-five of the northern German states. As a result of the Zollverein, common customs were adopted, internal boarders abolished, and a common currency and weights system were used. The internal customs duties were replaced by a single tariff charge at the Prussian State frontier, and a customs union was established with Prussia at the head. The Zollverein opened up the many different independent German states to each other, making them economically dependent on each other and Prussia. One reason Germany was unified under Prussia was partially because of the economic power and control granted it through the Zollverein.
In 1863 the Danish king tried to annex Schleswig, which has been a duchy of Denmark along with Holstein for some time. Since the Danish king was duke of Schleswig he was not supposed to annex it. As a result of his actions both Prussia and Austria responded by declaring war on Denmark. Denmark had hoped for help from Britain or France, but neither came forcing Denmark to stand alone against both Prussia and Austria. After three months of fighting Denmark had lost, and was forced turn over Schleswig-Holstein to Prussia and Austria.
After the war was over Prussia and Austria had to decide what to do with Schleswig-Holstein. Austria wanted it to become another separate German State, while Prussia wanted to annex all the territory. In a compromise, Prussia received Holstein and Austria received Schleswig. The war with Denmark had brought Prussia and Austria together, but Schleswig-Holstein would either be a step to a peaceful German unity or a step closer to a war between the German Powers. A war that was to decide the fate of the Germanic people for some time.
Prussia needed a war with Austria in order to convince the German states to unify under Prussia’s leadership instead of Austria’s. This war presented itself with Schleswig-Holstein, and Prussia used the tense situation to goad Austria into a war . There would be a war that would not only give Prussia control of Schleswig-Holstein but also would destroy Austrian control in German affairs.
Prussia wanted a war with Austria, but believed it wasn’t strong enough to fight both Austria and an ally. So Prussia sought to isolate Austria politically leaving her without an ally. To do this Prussia received a promise from France to stay out of a war between Prussia and Austria, and made a secret alliance with Italy against Austria giving Italy Venetia if they won the war. Russia was plagued with internal problems and wouldn’t interfere and Britain practiced a pacifist policy and would also remain neutral. When the war began Prussia had Italy and a few northern German states as allies while Hanover, Electoral, Hesse, Nassau, Saxony, Baden, Wurttemberg, and Bavria joined Austria against Prussia .
Prussia mobilized its army and was able to quickly move by using the railroads. The armies from Hanover, Saxony, and Hesse were caught off guard by how quickly the Prussian army arrived that the Saxon and Hesse armies retreated and Hanoverian army was disarmed and sent home at Langensalza. Two armies entered Bohemia without resistance and a third army followed the retreating Saxon army. Forced to fight on two fronts from the Italian and Prussian alliance, Austria only won at Trauenau. After the decisive battle of Koniggratz Austria surrendered. The superior numbers, organization, and use of technology enabled Prussia to defeat Austria, which was thought to be stronger, in only seven weeks.
The Treaty of Prague ended the Seven Weeks War. In it Prussia was very lenient towards Austria, so no bitter feelings towards Prussia would be created after the war that might cause problems. Austria only lost Venetia to the Italian, but it also signaled Austria no longer being involved in German affairs. Prussia annexed Schleswig-Holstein, Heese-Cassel, Hanover, Nassau, and Frankfort. The old Austria dominated confederation was abolished was replaced by the Northern German Confederation by Prussia. Although the states south of the Main River stayed independent, they did sign military treaties with Prussia.
After Austria was defeated in the Seven Weeks War it was seriously weakened. Internal revolts erupted in the country; the Hungarian uprising led to the renaming of the empire to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867. More importantly though Austria was defeated by a power thought to be lesser than it was, and removed from German affairs.
Prussia, now the head of the Northern German Confederation, was strengthened by the Seven Weeks War. Now the dominant power in Germany, Prussia would unify Germany under its rule without interruption from Austria. Since Prussia was the only strong power in the area they could bully the other smaller nations within or without the Confederation. For the first time in history, a strong single German state was connected in the north because of the Northern German Confederation.
The unification of Germany wasn’t complete yet, Southern states were unwilling to join Prussia under the Northern German Confederation. These states were allies of Austria during the war and distrusted Prussia. Even though they still signed military treaties with the Confederation out of fear of Prussia. This would eventually lead to a war with France in order to get the southern states to join the Confederation.
After centuries of separation, there was finally a single strong German State. Through Prussian economic influence and military power a strong state was formed out of many smaller ones. Though not completely unified, Germany was one important step closer. This was achieved through war where a weaker power beat a stronger to bring about a unified state in Germany. Proving that new technology and tactics were stronger than the old countries unable to change.
“German Unification, covering 1805-71” n. pag. Online. Internet. 26 Jan. 2000. Available http://www.argonet.co.uk/user/mseaborn/hist/germany/notas.html, 1-3
“German Unification”, 1-3
“An Investigation into the role of Bismarck and the Zollverein in German Unification” 10 Nov. 1999: n. pag. Online. Internet. 13 Feb. 2000. Available www.hogarth.demon.co.uk/Euro/Germany6.html
“German Unification”, 3-3-2
Fritz Stern, Gold and Iron: Bismarck, Bleichroder, and the Building of the German Empire (New York: Knopf, 1977) 48
“The Road to National Unification” 1 March 1997: n pag. Online. Internet. 26 Jan 2000. Available www.mcps.k12.md.us/schools/churchillhs/sslwpimants/unification.html, War with Denmark and Austria
“The Road to National Unification”, War with Denmark and Austria
Ph.D. Francis M. Schirp, Short History of Germany (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1915) 223-224
“An Investigation into the role of Bismarck and the Zollverein in German Unification” 10 Nov. 1999: n. pag. Online. Internet. 13 Feb. 2000. Available www.hogarth.demon.co.uk/Euro/Germany6.html-This site explained in more detail the importance of the Zollverein, and how it influenced other smaller states.
“German Unification, covering 1805-71” n. pag. Online. Internet. 26 Jan. 2000. Available http://www.argonet.co.uk/user/mseaborn/hist/germany/notas.html-This site put the information in chronological order and under headings giving a greater understanding of when and how events happened.
Menzel, Wolfgang Germany: From the Earliest Period. New York and London: the Co-operative Publication Society, 1978. Vol. 4 of 4- this book laid the information out in an easy to understand format, giving a general background to find more books from.
Schirp, Francis M. Ph.D. Short History of Germany. St Louis: B. Herder, 1915- this book, although before 1955, gave the movements of armies and information on the armies and fighting that surpassing that of the later books.
Stern, Fritz Gold and Iron: Bismarck, Bleichroder, and the Building of the German Empire. New York: Knopf, 1977- this book about Bismarck supplied background, and helped in my understanding of the workings of the unification, from money, to some of Bismarck’s thoughts, and the working of the Prussian government.
“The Road to National Unification” 1 March 1997: n pag. Online. Internet. 26 Jan 2000. Available www.mcps.k12.md.us/schools/churchillhs/sslwpimants/unification.html – this site gave the best information on what was going on in the world outside of Germany that related Germany.