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Unification of Germany

Like Italy, Germany was also divided into a number of independent principalities ruled by princes. The French Revolution stirred the revolutionary ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity. Napoleon Bonaparte simplified the politicial system of Germany by reducing the number of states from 360 to 39. Some of the principalities were Prussia, Saxony, Frankfort, Wurtemburg, Baveria, West Phalia and others.
In the Vienna Settlement (1815), Prince Metternich, the Chancellor of Austria, crushed the nationalistic movements and the agitations for the unification of Germany. Metternich passed a series of laws, known as Carlsbad Decrees, to punish the agitators.
Prussia, one of the German states, launched an economic movement in 1818, known as the ‘Zollverein’ (customs Union). According to this, all the German states, except Austria, agreed to trade without paying tariffs or customs duties between them. This was the first step towards the unification of Germany.
Otto von Bismarck, the Chancellor to King William I of Prussia, took the task of unifying Germany. He believed in the policy of ‘Blood and Iron’. He fought three wars to achieve unification of Germany. They were as follows:
  1. War with Denmark (1864)—He fought this war to annex Schleswig and Holstein provinces with Germany.
  2. Austro-Prussian war (1866)—This war is also known as Seven Weeks War. Austria and Prussia fought over the division of the Schleswig and Holstein provinces. Bismarck diplomatically eliminated Austria at Sadowa. The treaty of Prague was signed. Bismarck organised Northern German Confederation.
  3. The Franco-Prussian war (1870–1871)—The war broke out primarily to recover the two richest provinces Alsace and Lorraine from the French domination and a dispute over the succession to the Spanish throne. Prussia supported Prince Leopold, a Hohenzollern relative of William I of Prussia, while France objected to this. France declared war on Prussia. Prussian troops defeated Napoleon III of France at Sedan. The Treaty of Frankfort was signed in 1871. With this, German unification was completed.

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