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How significant was Bismarck in securing the unification of Germany 1862-71?Bismarck's significance in securing the unification of Germany can be measured by looking at his individual role

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Introduction

AS Coursework How significant was Bismarck in securing the unification of Germany 1862-71? Bismarck's significance in securing the unification of Germany can be measured by looking at his individual role and all other factors that contributed to unification. Through his influence over King William, his control over the media and the people of Prussia, and his engineering of the famous Ems telegram there is no doubt that Bismarck had an enormous part to play in German unification. However, other factors such as the fortunate international situation, strength of Prussia (economically & militarily), increasing nationalism, and the decline of Austria show that Bismarck was in no way the sole contributing factor as to why German unification occurred. My view is that because of the existing forces for unification, Bismarck's role can be limited to how much he manipulated the main driving forces for an arguably inevitable unification. With the ever-changing international situation, it can be safely said that Bismarck never had complete control over the events securing the unification of Germany. With Austrian power open to question after her defeat in Italy, Bismarck's aim for Prussian expansion came at a perfect time when Austria's power was declining and Prussia's was on the rise. In August 1863, when the Austrian emperor called all the German princes to a congress at Frankfurt, to discuss a possible loose unification, Prussia was nearly lured into unity. ...read more.

Middle

This is a clear showcase of Bismarck preparing the way internationally, and due to the strength of Prussia militarily and Bismarck's aggressive statesmanship the North German confederation was formed. He had succeeded in uniting a large part of Germany under a Prussian Monarchy through force of arms. Bismarck is very significant here in the type and timing of unification. Perhaps Bismarck's most significant role towards securing the unification of Germany was his tactical manoeuvring in the summer of 1870. With Napoleon seeking territory on the West bank of the Rhine. Bismarck was able to use his demands to pressurise the south German states into signing secret military alliances with the North German Confederation. Effectively Bismarck had set the base for political unification by integrating the militaries of the North & South of Germany. With France isolated, war with Prussia was looking like a very distinct possibility. The event which turned out to be the spark for the Franco-Prussian war was the engineering of the Ems Telegram by Bismarck. When a demand was made to Prince Leopold (a relative of King William of Prussia), the French decided this was unacceptable. Fearing that it would place a Prussian puppet on the throne of their southern neighbour and this would further shift the balance of power in Europe to Frances disadvantage, Napoleon demanded assurances from William that he would never accept the candidacy. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although Bismarck influenced many situations, there are many examples where he relied on luck and chance. The Polish revolt is a clear example where Bismarck was reacting to events rather than controlling them. Due to sheer luck, after the Polish revolt a coalition between France-Austria-Russia was now unlikely, meaning these 3 threats to German unification could not work together. Another example of luck was the marginalisation of Russia. With Russia being such a potentially powerful country and a major power in Europe, if they had a strong economy and a stable social position, it is safe to say they would have prevented Prussia expanding and ultimately German unification. There is no doubt that Bismarck had a huge part to play in German Unification. This is obvious through his aggressive statesmanship, and his excellent political manoeuvring in such instances as the Austro-Prussian war, the Schleswig-Holstein affair, and the Hohenzollern Candidacy the result of which was the Franco-Prussian war which ultimately led to German Unification on 18th January 1871. However, Bismarck's significance can be measured by looking at certain circumstances surrounding German Unification. It can be said that Prussian strengths both militarily and economically coupled with a fortunate international situation meant that the foundations for some sort of unification were already set. Through his utilisation of Prussian strengths in the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars, his pragmatic approach, strong conviction and excellent diplomatic skills, Bismarck merely solidified the cause of German Unification in its final form and timing (under Prussia). ...read more.

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