How Significant Was Bismarck In Securing the Unification of Germany 1862-1871?

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Bismarck was minister-president of Prussia from 1862 to 1871. He was brought into power in 1862 by king William of Prussia to try to resolve various conflicts, which were happening at the time. He was still in power in 1871 when Germany was finally unified. Bismarck was a significant factor in the Unification of Germany but this essay will try to asses to what degree he was responsible for the unification of Germany.  The key word in the title of the essay is “securing”. When this is taken to mean, “to succeed in obtaining or achieving” it is clear that Bismarck was very significant in securing the unification of Germany. However some historians may interpret the word “securing” differently. Bismarck claimed in his memoirs that he was planning all along to unify Germany. However many historians such as Lee argue that he didn’t, but instead manipulated events to his advantage. Some historians like M. John believe that the unification of Germany was nothing to do with Bismarck.

Prior to Bismarck’s appointment Prussia was already growing as a European power. By 1815 Prussia had started to become a more powerful country and the second most powerful in the German confederation after Austria. From 1815 onwards Prussia was becoming more powerful and beginning to become a threat to Austria. The Zollverein was set up in 1818 and it was a customs union within Prussia’s own territories. However by 1834 an all-German customs union had been established under Prussian leadership. The Zollverein allowed trade between 39 German states by lowering tax. This excluded Austria, which meant that Prussia had influence in the German states and Austria, were cut-off.

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In the 1850’s and 1860’s Prussia went through an industrialisation, which led to further growth. In the 1860’s about two thirds of Germanys ironworks lay in Prussian territory. The balance of economic power was shifting in favour of Prussia. Railways were also built for transport of goods and future movements of troops. During the industrialisation Prussia’s exports increased whilst Austria’s decreased. This indicates that even before the appointment of Bismarck, Prussian leadership was successful in increasing the economy. Prussia’s military was also ever increasing and by 1860 Prussia already had the edge over Austria with more reserves in the army ...

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