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Why was Prussia able to win the war with Austria in 1866?

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Introduction

Why was Prussia able to win the war with Austria in 1866? 1866 saw a complete change in the political structure of the German speaking nations, Prussia finally broke free of the shackles imposed on her by a dominant Austria. Since the 15th century, Austria had always been considered the natural leader of the German states. The Habsburg family had always been accustomed to ruling and dominating, Habsburgs had been Kings or Dukes of Austria, Hungary, Spain, Italian States, France. It can be seen here that the Habsburg family and therefore Austria (Franz Joseph I, was a Habsburg) had a traditional role as head of the German states. Throughout the 19th century, Austria had always been ultra-conservative, Metternich is a prime example of 19th century ultra- conservatism. Austria aimed to keep power and continue to dominate despite the role of an increasing powerful Prussia. Someone once said, "The one thing people in power are afraid of is losing that power," the ultra-conservative policies of Metternich and the Habsburg government in the Vormarz period shows this point perfectly. They censored newspapers in order to silence liberals and nationalists, they created the Bund out of the ashes of the Holy Roman Empire and they refused to acknowledge the power of Prussia. Even up to 1866, these conservative attitudes lingered throughout the Habsburg empire. Prussia, on the other hand, was always accustomed to following Austria's lead. Prussia grew significantly from 1848 to 1866 but until Bismarck the King Fredrick William IV, always took the traditionalist approach rather than breaking away from a weakened Austria. ...read more.

Middle

Some nations were very quick to employ this new technology notably Britain, France and Prussia but others were more concerned with other matters other than war e.g. Austria. The countries who did not have this new weapon technology relied on weapon designs that were over 50 years old so they were at an obvious disadvantage. Prussia was able to win the Seven Weeks War because of military strength because she had instituted reforms which made the army more fluid and larger, through advanced tactics and strategy she had developed a comprehensive plan to defeat Austria. Prussia was equipped with new Dreyfus needle guns (breech loading) while the Austrians were still using flintlock muskets. So it could be said that the Prussian were much more prepared for war than Austria due to the actions of Von Roon and Molke and so were easily able to win a war when it finally came. Prussia was also able to win the Seven Weeks War because of the international situation of the 1860's. In 1854, Russia had aimed for territory conquest and aimed her sights on Ottoman territory in the Balkans, the Ottomans and Russians entered into a state of war which reached a stalemate. Britain and France did not want Russia to become too powerful so entered the war on the Ottomans side, Russia called upon its ally Austria to join the war on her side but she refused because she would have no support from the Bund, Bismarck had made sure of that. Without any allies Russia was forced to surrender after the Allies attacked the Crimea. ...read more.

Conclusion

Without Bismarck's vision then the diplomatic side of the planning may never had gone ahead and no matter how brilliant a general Molke was he would be unlikely to win against a coalition against Prussia. Prussia was able to win the Seven Weeks War because due to Bismarck's vision the conditions for war were set perfectly in Prussia's favour through diplomacy and intelligence. Bismarck had correctly calculated Austria's actions and it had paid off, but would this have happened without Bismarck? To conclude, there are a number of reasons why Prussia won the war of 1866, perhaps the most significant is the economic conditions of both Austria and Prussia, Austria was weak and was getting weaker and Prussia was becoming richer and more powerful, through powerful economics Prussia was able to build a modern powerful army while Austria couldn't afford to reform its own, therefore Prussia's army would be stronger and therefore there is one reason why Prussia won the Seven Weeks War. Another significant reason is the diplomatic situation partly due to Bismarck and partly due to Austria's selfishness, Bismarck had engineered a war on two fronts for Austria whilst securing Prussia against the same thing. Austria had alienated herself and so she had no friends to count on when Prussia attacked whilst Prussia had Italy. The Seven Weeks War of 1866 is a turning point in German history it marks a point where Prussia takes over from Austria as the dominant power in Germany. It puts Prussia into the saddle of a united Germany and therefore puts Germany into the saddle of Europe. David Ireland L6PDB Acknowledgements Germany 1848-1914 Whitfield Europe Reshaped 1848-78 Grenville The Unification of Germany 1815-90 Stiles and Farmer Europe: A History Davies ...read more.

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