German Unification

Events in history often become associated with single individuals, such as Hitler and World War II, or Cavour, Mazzini and Garibaldi with Italian unification. The same seems to be true for German unification, with which Prince Otto Edward Leopold von Bismarck is generally associated. It is often argued that it was due to Bismarcks foresighted and planed actions that Germany became unified. Although Bismarcks action undoubtedly played a most fundamental role in German unification, it would give a distorted picture of history to assume that Bismarck had planned these from the beginning of his courier. It would also be false, to state that Bismarck achieved ultimate German unification for although he was able to unite much of German territory, this was by no means a full-fledged unification. Even before the Vienna Settlement in 1815, Germany was divided. With the Vienna Settlement, the German Confederation came into existence, being made of 39 states including Austria and Prussia. This confederation was basically little more that an alliance between independent states, each determined to keep their sovereignty. The Diet which met in Frankfurt, was a assembly with delegates from each of the members of the confederation. Head of the Diet was Austria. This, and the fact that virtually all leaders of the members states wished to keep there independence made a unified German seem unlikely. Although politically, unification seemed unlikely, it should be considered that the Zollverein (customs union) provided a economic backbone for the unification that would follow. The Zollverein was initially only established under Prussian territory but by 1834, it included 17 members and in the next ten years nearly all other members joined. Most notable of those not to join was Austria. This would play a major role later. In 1848, a tide of nationalist movements swept through Europe including Germany. Although the uprisings failed, …

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