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Was Nationalism the most Important cause of German Unification? Discuss

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Introduction

Alex Mansfield 13/2 Was Nationalism the most Important cause of German Unification? Discuss Many historians have disputed how important Nationalism was in the unification of Germany. Some believe that nationalism was the most important cause, others believe that it was Prussia's economic power that caused eventual unification. However, other historians believe that it was a combination of factors that led to the unification of Germany in 1871. Nationalism was part of the cause for German unification. In 1848 revolutions that swept through Europe established the first elected parliament, the Vorparliament although this did discuss the possibility of unity through the declaration of Heidelberg it should not be overemphasised. Indeed, it was the diverging ideologies of Nationalists that contributed to the collapse of the Vorparliament in late 1848. Hence nationalism was not the most important cause of German Unification. The principal goal of all German Nationalists was to unite "Germany". However there were two contrasting parties, Kleindeutschland and Grossdeutschland. ...read more.

Middle

However, the main cause of German unification was Prussia's economic dominance of the confederation. In 1818 at the behest of the industries in the Rhineland the Prussian Tariff reform law was initiated. This removed all domestic trade barriers and increased railway production, bringing the scattered German states closer together, thus increasing the chances of national unity. Although the Zollverein brought economic unity it should not be over emphasised as a force for political unity as many people at the time still saw this as undesirable. The basis of Prussian power, to a great extent was its domination of the Zollverein and its rapidly developing economy, Prussia was an established economic power in Europe outstripping both Austria and France economically. Perhaps recognising the need to unify Germany by force Prussia's military chiefs saw the potential in the railways to mobilise their troops. The Zollverein, although not directly responsible for the unification of Germany played an important part in Prussia's victory over Austria in 1866 and France in 1870, eventually leading to national unity. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, it is clear that in the war against France in 1870 he used nationalism to his advantage. Bismark doctored the Ems telegram to incite the French public opinion against Prussia, many "Germans" still viewed France as the "old enemy" so when France declared war on Prussia the Nationalistic feeling in the southern German states led them to fight alongside Prussia. However, these states were already obliged to fight for Prussia due to their military alliances Bismark, implied that the war was not an attack on Prussia, but on the Fatherland, on all Germans. He persuaded the southern states that to join with Prussia would ensure their safety against an aggressive France. Although Nationalism contributed to German unification it would be incorrect to say that it was the most important cause. The historian EJ Feuchtwanger pointed out "1848 demonstrated crushingly the impotence of ideas without power". Prussian Patriotism was the driving force behind unification combined with Prussia's growing economy ensured national unity under Prussian leadership. Otto Von Bismark described it best "Germany doesn't look to Prussia's Liberalism, but to its power." ...read more.

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