Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Die Vereinigung Deutschlands

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Die Vereinigung Deutschlands

Deutschland war ein der allerletzten europaischen Staaten zu vereinigen. Waehrend der ganze Rest von Europa hat sich in Staaten in den thousand Jahren bevor 1860, Deutschland ist in kleinen Fuerstentumer geblieben. Bis der Zeit in der Napoleon wichtig wuerde, war es auch nicht wichtig, dass die Deutschen keine verbindungen mit einander hatten. Aber Napoleon hat das alle veraendert, als er den Confederation of the Rhine gegrundet hat, und nachdem war die Zeit richtig fuer ein deutsches Land befunden zu werden. Nach der Besiegung Napoleons, hatten die andere maechtige europaische Laender einen Konferenz in Wien. Zwischen dem Konferenz und 1860 gab es ganz wenig wichtiges in dem zukunftigen Deutschland. Mit dem climb to power Kaiser Wilhelm I und sein Kanzler Otto von Bismark war alles bereit fuer Deutschland aufzutauchen.

Napoleon was the first person to unify the individual German states under one flag. After assuming control of France, he set out to create a French empire. To do this, he had to conquer Europe, and with the German states lying directly to the east, they were prime targets. Most of these states belonged to the Holy Roman Empire, despite the fact that this empire no longer had any real power in Europe. After defeating the Holy Roman Empire, Napoleon created the Confederation of the Rhine. It was comprised not only of most of Germany, a few sections of which the French had claimed as their own, but also of parts of Poland and Austria. This confederation was not limited, however, to Napoleon’s reign over Europe. The Congress of Vienna, a meeting of the European powers who had defeated Napoleon, decided to keep the confederation. They renamed it the German Confederation, and reduced its size to include only central Germany, Warsaw and part of Austria. Western Germany remained in the hands of the French, while Prussia stayed an independent state. Southern Germany was to become another amalgamation altogether. The German Confederation was formed primarily to make up for the loss of the Holy Roman Empire, which Napoleon had dissolved upon his conquering of it. This is how Germany stood at the end of the Napoleonic wars.

During the next forty years, between 180 and 1860, more happened inside these fledgling countries to promote the founding of the future German state than happened to them from outside influences. This was due in large part to its position in central Europe, where the territory of the future Germany was subject to influence from all sides, even if this influence came more in the form of ideas than from anything else. Despite this influence, Germany would never have become a sovereign country if the Germans themselves had continued to live as they always had. The Germans had never known rule by bureaucracy, at least not on the level they were subjected to by this new government. They had always had some form of monarchical government. This new government consisted of a Diet (a form of congress) and a president, appointed by Austria. The Germans quickly adapted their political thinking to this new form of rule. The introduction of a large government, rather than simply the local noble, would provide the foundation for a larger Germany. One of the other important ideas introduced into Germany at this time was that of industrialization.

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Germany was one of the last major European powers to reach the industrial revolution, only beginning to do so in the 1840s. The lack of centralized power had prevented enough wealth to be accumulated to make industrialization feasible. It had also been against a monarch’s interests to industrialize. Factories meant creating a middle class, which gave the people more power than they had previously had. The institution of the German Confederations, with their new political structures, made industrialization possible. No longer did any single person have power over all the other people in the land. Instead, the establishment of a congress promoted the empowerment of the middle class. With the industrialization of the two confederations, Prussia had to follow suit, or be left behind. The peace following the Napoleonic Wars also made industrialization possible, since large parts of Germany had to be rebuilt.

Now people were not only able to see the world in a new way, but they could also produce more than they had ever thought possible. Previous ideas had been limited by what the local lord had dictated, and by worry as to how one would survive the upcoming winter. Everything changed because of industry. Industry brought people to the cities, to work the factories. Industry made agriculture easier. It invented new ways of cultivating earth requiring less energy and less people, freeing even more people to move to cities and providing more food for people to eat. Industry changed the army, changing muskets to rifles, giving one person more killing power than had been reached previously. All these changes brought more and more political power to the cities, paving the way for a full-fledged country to be born.

These changes also, however, led to unrest among the citizenry. People flocked to the cities seeking better living conditions than they had out in the country. Unfortunately, too many people came to the cities, driving labor wages far too low, forcing many people to live in squalor. These people eventually became discontented, providing one of the catalysts for the revolutions of 1848. These revolutions happened all over Europe, but were especially important in Germany. The revolutions consisted mostly of speeches and proclamations by average citizens. They went largely ignored by the people in power, excepting when they became violent, at which point the revolts were violently crushed with the use of military forces. These revolts did serve the purpose, however, of showing the aristocracy some changes which needed to be made if the Germany was going to progess.

During all this time, Prussia became the most powerful of the German states. It took to heart the lessons learned throughout the rest of Europe. In 1850, Prussia was considered the weakest of the major European powers. Ten years later, Prussian industry and military were among the best in Europe. The providential placement in central Europe provided the Prussian government with much wealth. Frederick William IV spent the 1850s building the railroads and spending money on industry. Railroads, as seen throughout history, have been critical to the industrialization of a country. They provided a means of transportation, which was faster and cheaper than anything previous was. They also required materials, such as iron and coal, in such quantities that it became economically beneficial for a country to industrialize. Frederick William also passed legislation favoring the lower classes, giving them more power and freedom. He suffered from ill health, however, and in 1857 Prussia came into the hands of Wilhelm I. The time was ripe for Prussia to make her mark on history. This was done with the appointment of Otto von Bismarck to the office of Prime Minister.

Skillfully maneuvering Prussia into wars, Bismarck avoided making Prussia look like a warmongering nation. The first war was with Denmark in 1864. The Danish king had died in 186, and the territories of Schleswig and Holstein declared their independence. The new Danish king attempted to bring them back under Danish rule, and Bismarck saw an opportunity. Coercing Austria into an alliance, both the Austrians and the Prussians sent troops into the region. They defeated the Danish army and took the two provinces, splitting administration of them. Prussia gained control of Schleswig, while the Austrians took Holstein. The war had many other outcomes as well. It increased Prussian influence in northern Germany. It tested the Prussian army. By being leader of the alliance, Prussia had gained some power over Austria, which had previously been the primary influence in Germany. The war showed that Britain and Russia, two of the other main powers in Europe, were unlikely to involve themselves German affairs. And, by splitting the territories, it gave Prussia reason to later go to war with Austria, as mostly Germans peopled Holstein.

Bismarck spent the next two years disputing with Austria as to who should be ruling Schleswig-Holstein. Austria brought the dispute before the Diet of the German Confederation. Bismarck used this as reason to declare the Gastein Convention, which had ended the war with Denmark, nullified. After securing Italy as an ally in a war against Austria, he then annexed and invaded Holstein. Austria declared war on Prussia, bringing the German Confederation in as allies. The Prussian army quickly defeated the armies of the German Confederation states, and in only seven weeks defeated the Austrian army as well. The results of this war saw an end to the German Confederation, which had been dominated by Austria. This effectively ended Austrian influence in Germany. Bismarck also annexed several of the northern German states which had been occupied during the war and created a Prussian led Northern German Confederation. This meant that Prussia now controlled northern Germany, leaving only the Southern German Confederation and some territories held by France to still be acquired before the declaration of a unified German state.

After the Austro-Prussian war, Prussia had acquired a lot of territory and power. Then a relative of Wilhelm I made a claim to the Spanish throne in 1870. France, already scared of Prussia, objected, and the relative withdrew his claim. France pressed further, though, and requested further assurances of Prussian good will. Wilhelm I refused, and Bismarck, in an attempt to infuriate the French, made this refusal public. The endeavor was so successful that France declared war. The rest of Europe then saw France as the aggressor, which was exactly what Bismarck wanted. The Southern German Confederation sided with Prussia, while the other major European nations stayed neutral, leaving Prussia to decide her own fate. The Prussian army was much better prepared than the French, and in early 1871 the war was over. The end of the war brought southern Germany under Prussian rule, as well as the territories of Alsace and Lorraine. It also resulted in the founding of the German state as such, with the crowning of Wilhelm I as Kaiser.

Having been the primary instigator of the unification of Germany, Bismarck’s participation was essential. No previous Prussian Prime Minister had even attempted to create a single German state. The revolutions of 1848 had taught him that it was not going to be talking which would bring about change. Military power and diplomacy were going to be the keys, explaining why Germany’s union required so many wars. England and France both required wars as well, but these were different. England warred within itself, until one noble was able to accumulate enough power and territory to call himself king. French unity required one noble being able to conquer others, finally ending with his ability to force others to recognize his superiority. France then expanded based on the king’s power to conquer and hold land. Consolidation of the German states came about through entirely different means. Prussia had to go to war to win territory, but it was not against local tribes or against lesser nobles. Territory was gained either by fighting wars against other nations or through diplomacy.

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