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Unifications on the European Continent

The capital of Prussia, Berlin, would grow in population from 419,000 in 1850 to 1,89,000 in 1900. Naples (on the Italian peninsula) not so much: from 449,000 in 1850 to 564,000. European cities were growing in population as people were migrating from rural areas but also because of falling death rates. Science was being put to war against diseases. Vaccination of Germans became mandatory during a smallpox epidemic in 1870-75, an epidemic that killed more than 500,000 people in Europe.

On the European continent, industrialization had been developing most rapidly in Prussia, and it was to result in a rearrangement of the continent's map, of Europe — a new, unified, Germany. And with industrialization and population growth, Italy became more than a geographical expression.

Political unification for Italy was inspired by an idea called nationalism. In the far northwest (neighboring France) was the region of Piedmont — its capital city Turin. There a wealthy landowner, Count Camillo Cavour, favored unification for Italy. He was a progressive insofar as he saw the benefits of science, modern banking and railroad building. He believed in a free press, free trade and capitalism. He promoted modernisation of industry, development of infrastructure, the use of steamships and railways, which contributed to his seeing the benefits of political unification for Italy. Cavour's call for a "a free church in a free state" persuaded nationalists such as Giuseppe Garibaldi to recognize his Italian leadership. Garibaldi was born in Nice region, which reverted to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia after France's defeat in 1814. Cavour was prime minister of the Piedmont-Sardinia. In what became known as the Second Italian War of Independence, Cavour created an alliance with Britain and Napoleon III of France. Cavour's enemy was the Hapsburg Empire, which had territories in Italy. The Piedmontese-French military liberated the area around Milan in the north. Garibaldi's army defeated Austrian troops farther north at Varese and Como. The war lasted about 2 1/2 months, until 11 July 1859, when the Hapsburg emperor Franz Joseph was facing revolution in Hungary and signed an armistice with Napoleon III.

During the year that followed, the central Italian states — Duchy of Parma, Duchy of Modena, Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Papal States — were annexed by the Kingdom of Sardinia. France would take its deferred reward, Savoy, and Nice. The latter was opposed by Garibaldi, who responded by leading a military expedition of a thousand volunteers to Sicily. With his success, people there in the thousands joined his force, and he moved from control of the whole of Sicily in August to the southern half of the Italian peninsula, and in early September, 1860, Garibaldi and his army triumphantly entered Naples. The French remained with their reward of rule over the city of Rome, but most what was to be called Italy was now unified, although barely 2 percent spoke Italian. Most spoke a local dialect. This led someone to observe that with Italy now in existence it was necessary to invent the Italians.

All this happened around the same time that Romania unified. Since 1829, the Romanian lands of Moldavia and Wallachia had been ruled nominally by the Ottoman sultan but dominated by Russia as a protectorate. In 1859, the Crimean War settlement compelled the Ottomans to grant the two principalities autonomy, and the two united under the rule of Prince Ioan Cuza. In 1877, the year Romanians joined the Russians in another war against the Ottoman Empire, Their independence was recognized and Moldavia and Wallachia were to be called Romania.

Meanwhile, there was the unification that was to be called the German Empire. It agent was Prussia. In the 1850s Prussia was rapidly industrializing and rapidly growing in population. Its capital city, Berlin, was an economic center in Germany at the hub of rail traffic on the European continent, beginning to take trade away from British merchant ships. The Germans were changing from what the British had thought of as tinkering clockmakers. Germans were becoming more urban and middle-class.

Prussia was a member of the German Confederation, an association of 39 German kingdoms, principalities, duchies and four free cities (Bremen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Lübeck) that had replaced the Holy Roman Empire in 1815, an association that a included Bavaria, Saxony, Czech lands that were a part of the Hapsburg Empire and Austria. There was a Federal Assembly where all these political entities met, in Frankfurt. Prussia and other states had one vote. But after 1850 it was a defunct institution — without challenges to any status quo.

Prussia's King William (or Wilhelm I), King since 1861, was a constitutional monarch. He promised to preserve the constitution as "solid and inviolable." in 1862 he appointed an aristocrat, Otto von Bismarck, as the Minister President of Prussia. Bismarck favored expanding Prussia's influence and removing Austria's influence within the Confederation of German States. He looked toward stealing the issue of German nationalism from the liberals who dominated the lower house of Prussia's parliament. The liberals disliked the expenses of war and tended to be opposed to militarism. Bismarck countered that "the great questions of the day will be decided not by speeches and resolutions ... but by blood and iron." The liberals denounced Bismarck for believing that "might makes right."

In 1863 Denmarks's new king annexed the Duchy of Schleswig, a duchy with a mixed German and Danish population. Bismarck opposed the annexation. A nine-month war by Bismarck was successfully concluded in 1864. Next he won French neutrality for a war he wanted with the Austria (the Hapsburg Empire). That war lasted seven weeks. The Austrians were using muskets which required soldiers to remain standing while loading and firing — at a rate of only 2 to 3 times per minute. The Prussians were using rifles called needle guns (with firing pins) that allowed them to reload and fire up to 12 times per minute and allowed this in the less-exposed prone position. The Germans had learned lessons from the US Civil War. Its officers were better educated in the arts of war, and their promotions had been based on ability. The better Prussian rail network allowed the Prussian army to concentrate more rapidly than the Austrians.

The Hapsburg Empire signed a peace treaty mediated by Napoleon III. Prussia won the creation of the North German Confederation. The old German Confederation was dissolved. The North German Confederation excluded Austria from the federation's affairs.

Prussia acquired Schleswig and Holstein at the bottom of the Danish Peninsula. It annexed its former allies: the Kingdom of Hanover, the Duchy of Nassau, the Free City of Frankfurt and various other German real estate. With these gains in territory, Prussia's territory in the Rhineland and Westphalia were connected to the rest of the kingdom. Prussia stretched uninterrupted across the northern two-thirds of Germany. Prussia — which was Lutheran — was the most influential member of the North German Confederation. Catholic states in southern Germany, which had sided with Catholic Austria during the war), including the Kingdom of Bavaria (Munich), Baden and Württemberg (Stuttgart), remained independent.

North German Confederation was a conservative-liberal cooperation, integrated with the Prussian state, with a constitution that maintained a constitutional monarchy with the Prussian king as the head of state.

Prussia's middle-class (liberal) politicians were swayed by Bismarck's successes. They were delighted that Bismarck was willing to cooperate with them, and they swung their support in his direction. The French were not happy, facing as they did an enhanced Prussia. The French government wanted compensation its role in the Austro-Prussian war.

Bismarck wanted to complete the unification of Germany and calculated that a war against France would arouse a nationalistic fervor in the independent states of southern Germany and swing these states toward favoring unification with Prussia. France wanted something for its cooperation concerning the victory over Austria. Bismarck refused, and Napoleon III wanted to teach Prussia a lesson. Napoleon and his Prime Minister hoped that war would arouse patriotism reduce political disunity that had arisen within France. On 16 July 1870, France's parliament voted to declare war, on Prussia, and the war began three days later. Britain, Russia and Italy remained neutral. And, believing that France was the aggressor, Germans in the southern independent states sided with their fellow Germans to the north, as Bismarck had hoped.

The war was short. It was the last major war in Europe before 1914, giving the impression that wars in this new industrial age would be short — more assumption leaders based on the previous war. In late January 1871, France's Government of National Defence in Paris began negotiating an armistice with the Prussians. Prussia had Paris besieged, and Paris was starving. Bismarck agreed to end the siege and allow food convoys to immediately enter Paris (including trains carrying millions of German army rations). In May, France's government accepted Bismarck's terms for ending the war: a one billion dollar indemnity to be paid within three years and France ceding to Germany most of Alsace and a large part of Lorraine. Bismarck had been unenthusiastic about taking the two provinces, wanting to avoid a lasting and unnecessary enmity between the Germans and French, but with Alsace and Lorraine the newly unified German state gained coal mines, iron ore deposits and some military advantages: higher ground, a shorter western border and a greater distance from its western border to its heartland.

The French were also forced to give up Rome, which reverted to Italy. And seeing Prussia as having won the war, Germans were filled with pride. A new German Empire was declared, and in this age of social Darwinism victory reinforced the view of some Germans that they were the fittest of people, and some saw victory as reason to respect the authoritarianism of Bismarck's government.

A German Empire (Deutsches Reich) had been declared in January, replacing the North German Confederation. Its motto: "God with us." It's anthem. "Hail to Thee in the Victor's Crown" (the tune the same as the British know as "God Save the Queen" and Americans know as "My Country 'Tis of Three.) In the south, Baden, Württemberg, and Bavaria, (to the east of Alsace-Lorraine), had supported Prussia against the French, and they had agreed to be a part of the new Germany.

Germany had become a nation-state. Under a new federal constitution King William (Wilhelm) was the head of state, also known as President, and he held the title Emperor. Bismarck became Germany's Foreign Minister. The Parliament or Reichstag was elected by Universal Male Suffrage (all males over 25 could vote) and Secret Ballot. Parliament's consent was needed for all legislation.

Bismarck continued as foreign minister until he was dismissed in 1890 by Wilhelm II (r. 1888-1918). His strategy was to keep France isolated while maintaining good relations with Austria, intending to keep Germany at peace with its neighbors.


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