Really Old News: Unification of Germany

Under the rule of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm, the kingdom of Prussia managed to unite the Germanic nations of Europe under one flag through a series of successful military campaigns and political action. The formation of the German empire happened in early 1871 and ussured in a period known as the second reich.

For centuries prior, the German region was filled with a multitude of nations of varying power and size. Two of the most powerful were Austria and Prussia. Although Austria isn’t a part of Germany, it was considered a Germanic nation. From medieval times up until the conquests of Napoleon, the German area was controlled by the Holy Roman Empire. Despite the name, the Holy Roman Empire wasn’t actually an empire. It’s leader was elected by the Germanic member states and then crowned by the pope. The crown of the Holy Roman Empire sat firmly in Vienna, the Austrian capital, for the majority of its existence. While the empire didn’t exist in the period of German unification, Vienna still remained a political powerhouse of the region.

One of Bismarck’s primary goals when he took power was to remove Vienna as the center of affairs in Germany, and make Berlin the seat of power. Following the Austrian and Prussian invasion of Schleswig-Holstein against Denmark, Prussia and Austria began the Seven Weeks War. The war resulted in a decisive Prussian victory and Austria was excluded from German affairs. In doing so, Bismark secured Prussia’s position as the dominant power in Germany.

.At the time of the war, France was weary of a unified Germany, believing that the new empire would threaten French military dominance in the region. This fear was especially validated as Leopold von Hohenzollern, a member of the Prussian royal family, was offered the throne of Spain following the abdication(a ruler stepping down from the throne) of queen Isabella. France pressured the Prussian royals into declining and latter sent an ambassador to get a guarantee that Leopold’s candidacy would not be renewed. Kaiser Wilhelm refused to do so and relations between France and Prussia became very tense. Bismarck gave a choice retelling of events to the press to make it seem as though the Kaiser had insulted the ambassador. The French could not ignore such an insult (even though it never happened) and declared war on Prussia. The war lasted less than a year and resulted in a Prussian victory. During the war, the king of Prussia  was crowned the emperor of Germany and thus Germany was unified.

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