|Demand of the question Introduction. Contextual introduction. Body. Discuss the role of Bismarck in state building in Germany. Conclusion. Way forward.|
The formation of Germany as a nation state was one of the most important events in the history of the world. Napoleon Bonaparte first sowed the seeds of nationalism in Germany. But it was the rise of Otto Von Bismarck and his diplomacy that led to the unification of Germany as a nation state.
Role of Bismarck in state building in Germany:
- Military reforms: Bismarck initiated many military reforms that allowed successful wars in later time. In the 1850s, Bismarck wanted to build up Prussia’s army to be ready if war broke out with the other German states or Austria. To do this Bismarck collected money for military reforms through direct taxation. These reforms included:
- An increase in army conscription from two to three years.
- The introduction of new battle tactics.
- The introduction of weapons such as the needle gun.
- Speeches: Bismarck made numerous speeches in public to rattle the feeling of nationalism inside the German people. This was done in order to arouse a sense of nation among people.
- Isolation of countries: He successfully isolated other countries by making them look like aggressors. He made following efforts for this:
- 1st War of Unification (Schleswig-Holstein): The first diplomatic step of Bismarck was the intervention of the Schleswig-Holstein. These two duchies were under the Denmark in 1850 by the London Protocol. At this time the combined army of Austria and Prussia under the leadership of Bismarck attacked Denmark in 1864. This was the first diplomatic step of Bismarck against Austria.
- Elections: To counter Prussia’s growing influence, Austria tried to strengthen its position in the German Federation. Bismarck thwarted Austria’s plans by insisting on popular elections to the Diet (the Federation’s Parliament). Bismarck had successfully ruined Austria’s plans.
- 2nd War of Unification, 1866 (Austro-Prussian War): Bismarck knew Austria was a major obstacle to unification. To succeed in his aims, Bismarck declared war against Austria in 1866. This War led to the defeat of the neighbouring States of Austria like Bavaria, Saxon etc. and then Austria. To isolate Austria, Bismarck built up alliances with other major powers- Russia, France and Italy.
- The Treaty of Prague and formation of Germany: After the Austro-Prussian War, the ‘Treaty of Prague’ was concluded between Austria and Prussia in 1866. According to this treaty Austria was expelled from Germany. After the treaty of Prague the formation of Germany was started.
- With Austria weakened, Bismarck now turned his attention to the other great stumbling block to unification- France. France had watched Prussia’s growing power with alarm. France was heavily defeated in the Franco-Prussian War. The circumstances leading to the war caused the southern German states to support Prussia. This alliance led to the unification of Germany.
- Annexation: The states of Schleswig, Holstein, Hanover, Nassaa and Frankfort were annexed to Prussia. The States north to May River were annexed to Prussia and the North German Confederation was formed.
- Unification: In the build up to war, the southern confederate German states voluntarily joined the Prussian-controlled Northern German Confederation. Germany was now unified.
Unification of Germany was not one single event but a process which occurred in phases. Bismarck had played a major role in unification and nation building of Germany through his policies, military reforms, speeches and isolation strategies.