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"Supreme opportunism was the key to unification" How far would you agree with this statement in reaction to Bismarck and Germany?

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Introduction

"Supreme opportunism was the key to unification" How far would you agree with this statement in reaction to Bismarck and Germany? The Prussian leader Otto Von Bismarck is often singularly credited with uniting Germany. However, there is much historical debate over whether this is well deserved or not, as it is argued that unification would have happened anyway, regardless of Bismarck, because of the pressures that were increasing in the 19th century. For example, Germany had the shame of the Frankfurt parliament collapse in 1849 which was brought on by the Revolutions in Germany; the first attempts to challenge Austria's power in Germany. The Parliament broke down due to it's divided leadership and inexperience. It was called 'a layers parliament' meaning that it was too divided and 'talked too much and did too little'. This also led to Frederick William IV refusing to lead a united Germany, then the fail of the Erfurt Parliament and the 'Humiliation of Oldmutz' which had all recently taken place. Therefore, there was much pressure on Germany and it's military leader to thrive and prove to its people and the other nations that it was still a powerful country. Nevertheless, the key debate is how skilled Bismarck was in uniting Germany, or whether he was mainly being opportunistic. There were many factors which contributed to Bismarcks successes in unifying Germany, such as the Military, the Economic factors, the Political factors, and the Personality of Bismarck. ...read more.

Middle

The Polish rebellion in 1863 meant that Bismarck could gain Russia's friendship. He helped Poland (which was then a part of Russia) in the round-up of rebels by closing the border to Prussia to stop the refugees escaping. Bismarck was then secure in the knowledge that Russia was now less likely to take sides against Prussia in any future conflict between Austria. France was easy to maintain. In 1865, Bismarck arranged a meeting with Napoleon III in Biarritz to secure extra territory for France if they pledged to stay out of Prussia's war with Austria. Bismarck also made an alliance with Italy to help Prussia fight the war against Austria, promising them the land around Venice, called Venetia, if they helped. Italy agreed, and Bismarck proposed that Italy attacked from the south, and Prussia attacked from the north, meaning that Austria would have to split its armies. Bismarck had now set the diplomatic scene and was ready to fight. Germany complained that Austria was not running Holstein properly after gaining it's control in the Convention of Gastein agreement and claimed that Austria was creating disorder in Schleswig, stirring up anti-Prussian feelings. Prussian troops marched into Holstein and won the war in seven weeks. However, fair terms were created in the Treaty of Prague 1866 and is a good demonstration of Realpolitik, Bismarcks's policy which was a way of thinking politically, which placed the state higher than the individual. ...read more.

Conclusion

He was a diplomat also, and bought off all the potential friends of Austria. Despite this, Bismarck was more of an opportunist than a planner as he used people and events to his advantage and kept his options open. In conclusion, Germany became more Prussianised than 'unified' as Bavaria was bribed by Bismarck to join the new Germany and many smaller states still believed they had been defeated and absorbed by Prussia, rather than choosing to unify. Furthermore, the Prussian king became the German Kaiser and Bismarck became the German Chancellor whilst Prussian taxes and laws became German taxes and laws. Such evidence suggests that the German states had been 'Prussianised' rather than unified. However, the fact remains that an independent German Empire existed from 1871. Certainly, without a reformed army, a revived economy, nationalist enthusiasm and several coincidental pieces of good fortune like the Spanish revolution to find a new ruler, Bismarck could not have unified Germany, and would not have been so successful without these events. It is clear that he was very aware of circumstances, coincidences and other factors that helped him to achieve his aims, and that he was not just lucky. Bismarck has been likened to a card player who played his hand very well, even though he did not deal the cards. He was a catalyst in German unification, and he had the ability to use the opportunities that events presented. Therefore, to a large extent, I would agree with the statement that "Supreme opportunism was the key to unification", however, it took some degree of skilful planning and preparation, for Bismarck's actions to be achieved. ...read more.

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