To what extent was German Unification driven by primarily economic forces?

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To what extent was German Unification driven by primarily economic forces?

        When Germany was formally united in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles on 18th January 1871. She was united through three short but effective wars with Prussia being victorious. At face value, it could be argued that the Second German Reich was created through warfare and the strong diplomacy of Otto von Bismarck, on the contrary economic forces made the unification of Germany possible because it enabled the series of wars and made Bismarck's Realpolitik style of diplomacy viable.  

        There are many things to consider in this investigation, for example did the economic decline of Austria and the growth of Prussia drive the unification of Germany? Did the Zollverein stimulate unification vision through economics? To gain an interpretation of what extent economics played a part in German unification, one must asses these factors along with others.         

        J.M Keynes, a leading economist of the 20th century, commented that, “The German Empire was created more by coal and iron than by blood and iron.” This demonstrates that Keynes believes that economic forces, coal and iron, drove the German states towards unification. Does the history support Keynes conclusion? To what extent was German Unification driven by economic forces?  

        The Zollverein demonstrates to some extent that the unification of Germany was driven by economic means. It shows that Prussia began to take a lead in Germany as early as 1834 as Prussia is the main architect to German Unification this is important because it is the first indication of Prussian dominance. The Zollverein was a customs union that began its existence in Prussian territories. A series of Prussian ministers in the early nineteenth century wanted to unite economically the Rhineland territories and the Prussian heartland in the east. The Zollverein was formed in Prussian territory in 1818 and formed a single system of tariffs and made the movement of goods easier throughout the Prussian Kingdom. This linked the Rhineland with the rest of Prussia economically because the Rhineland could send goods easily to the rest of Prussia and it was using the same taxes and monetary units as the rest of Prussia.

        The Zollverein was very successful in Prussian territory and contributed healthily to the Prussian economy. Prussia began to negotiate for an extension of the Zollverein to other German states and by 1834 the Zollverein included many of the states present in the German Confederation. As the Zollverein was dominated by Prussia, it meant that Prussia had significant sway over the economies of states present in the Zollverein. Throughout the Bund, the German states we using Prussian set currencies and tariffs. This shows that Prussia was economically dominant in the Bund from 1834 up until the formal unification in 1871. There were a few states that were excluded by the Zollverein, and these states tried to form rival customs unions to the Zollverein, all ultimately failed and every state apart from one ceded to join the Zollverein. Austria was refused to join the Zollverein when it was created and continued that policy until the 1850’s when she applied to join, Prussia blocked this entry and so Austria remained isolated in the economic decisions of the German states because she was not in the Zollverein.

        In regard to the Zollverein, this shows that Prussia is beginning to dominate the Bund in 1834 this domination increases until she is able to challenge Austria in 1866. The Zollverein gives Prussia experience in dominating the German states and so she is more able to control Germany politically when the task arises. The Zollverein shows one way in which unification was linked to economic forces because it makes Prussia considerably richer, powerful and more respected. This is fundamental reason why the Zollverein is important in this question, because as Prussia unites Germany through war and diplomacy, neither of these things would be possible is Prussia wasn’t rich. The Zollverein provides a useful base as an economic force and a template for a later political union.

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        Austria was decreasing in power from the years 1840-1870; there is considerable evidence to show this. For example Prussia’s key output of Coal in 1870 was 23.3 whilst Austria’s was considerably lower at 6.3. Also Austria’s decrease in power can be seen in military numbers in 1850 the Austrian military numbered 434,000 but by 1870 it had dwindled to 252,000. These historical statistics show the Austria had fallen behind Prussia in terms of wealth and Austria’s military output was decreasing whilst Prussia’s was increasing. The decline of Austria is driven by the empires failure in economics throughout the 19th century ...

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