CHAPTER TWELVE: THE UNIFICATION OF ITALY AND GERMANY
Louis Napoleon Bonaparte
Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia
Victor Emmanuel II
Count Camillo di Cavour
Otto von Bismarck
Blood and Iron Speech
Prussian General Staff
Helmuth von Moltke
Third French Republic
To what degree does the history of France’s transitions from Republic, to Empire, then back to Republic represent French attitudes toward democratic governance?
How did the events leading to Italian Unification in 1861 resemble the events of 1848 in Italy?
How did the events leading to German Unification in the 1860s and 1870s resemble the events of 1848 in Germany? How did they differ?
The Wake of the 1848 Revolutions.
“Spring” turns to Summer.
In 1850 Austria, Great Britain, France, and Russia, were the major European powers. However, the eventual unification of Italy and Germany in the 1860s shifted the balance of power in Europe and dramatically altered the international scene. At the same time, rising national consciousness in the Hapsburg Empire set the stage for further conflict in Europe.
Today, we are discussing the Unification of Italy and Germany. If you remember from Chapter Eleven, we talked about the Revolutions of 1848, which occurred across Europe. These revolutions were distinct events in different European countries, but they were motivated by the new and popular ideologies of the nineteenth century. Liberalism played a major role in nearly every case, but so too did conservatism and, to a lesser extent, socialism. Yet, in both Italy and Germany, the role of nationalism loomed larger than nearly everything else. Before we return to the ruins of the medieval Holy Roman Empire (i.e. Italy and Germany), however, we need to look at France to take note of some developments there in the years following 1848, that will be important later on.
France: From Republic to Empire, and back to Republic.
If you remember, the 1848 February Revolution in France against Louis-Philippe led to his abdication and the establishment of the Second Republic.
The Second Republic.
Characteristics of the Republic:
The Second Republic was characterized by its emphasis on universal manhood suffrage, a unicameral legislature, and a popularly elected president.
Louis Napoleon Bonaparte as President of the Republic:
Well the French people in December of 1848 elected as their President, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the nephew of Napoleon I.
Term limits put into effect:
When the Second Republic was established, before Louis Napoleon was elected President, the Chamber of Deputies (the French legislature at this time) had decreed that the President could only serve for one term of four years.
Ambitions to follow in his uncle’s place:
Well, Louis Napoleon had ambitions to follow in his uncle Napoleon’s footsteps and saw this as an obstacle he had to get over.
Coup d’état of December 2, 1851.
After three years of a four-year term as President, Louis Napoleon put forth a proposed amendment to the constitution that would allow him to be elected for another term. When the Chamber of Deputies rejected his amendment, Louis Napoleon executed a coup d’état on the eve of December 2 1851(December 2nd was the anniversary of Napoleon’s coronation as Emperor in 1805), in which he arrested and expelled all the deputies in the Chamber that opposed him. Three weeks later, French voters ratified Louis Napoleon’s actions in a national plebiscite by more than 90%.
Louis Napoleon restricted the powers of the Chamber of Deputies and extended his term to ten years- however even this would not satisfy the ambitions of a Bonaparte.
Coup d’état of December 2, 1852
Exactly one year following his coup of 1851, on December 2nd, 1852, Louis Napoleon stages another coup of sorts and changes the Second Republic into the Second Empire -- recreating his Uncle Napoleon’s Empire. He then takes the name Napoleon III.
Second Empire (1852-70) under Napoleon III:
Napoleon III would rule France as Emperor from 1852 until 1870, when he was defeated by the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian War. That defeat would usher in the French Third Republic (1870-1940).
PAUSE for 60-second Quiz #1. To what degree does the history of France’s transitions from Republic, to Empire, then back to Republic represent French attitudes toward democratic governance? Which statement is not true?
The Second Republic relied upon universal manhood suffrage to elect a unicameral legislature and a popularly elected president.
In December of 1848, voters in France elected as their President Louis Napoleon Bonaparte
The Chamber of Deputies of the French Second Republic decreed that the President could only serve for one term of four years.
When Louis Napoleon illegally extended his presidential term longer than allowed by law in 1851, French voters soundly rejected his actions in a national plebiscite, voting by more than 90% to reject his authority.
Unification of Italy
Lessons from 1848.
Well, the Revolutions of 1848 had been popular revolutions that were for the most part spontaneous uprisings, with little leadership and with no organized military support. In both Italy and Germany, those who desired national unification in 1848 were hoping for a mass popular revolt that could unite these areas. However, the lesson from 1848 was that it would take more than mass popular revolts to unify Italy and Germany- it would take leadership organized from a high level, it would take diplomacy, and it would take military force of some sort.
Idealistic nationalism versus “Realistic” nationalism:
The Nationalism that was displayed by the Revolutionaries of 1848 is what we call “idealistic nationalism” whereas the nationalism held by those who would finally unite the Italian states into Italy and the German states into Germany was “realistic nationalism.” There were Conservatives in both Italy and Prussia who maybe really didn’t care that much for the ideas of nationalism, but they saw the power that it possessed, which could be used by shrewd political officials to be able to accomplish their own goals and add to their own power. Therefore, these conservatives adopted the language of nationalism for their own ends. The two main Conservatives that took on the trappings of Nationalism for their own profit was Cavour in Italy and Bismarck in Germany. These men combined skilled diplomacy with powerful armed forces and remade the map of Europe.
Failed insurrections of “liberal” Italian nationalists in 1820, 1831, and 1848.
Italy had not been ruled by a single government for over 1500 years, since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, AD. Since then it had been a hodgepodge of small regional- and city-states, many of whom had recently come under the thumb of the Austrians. Well, Italian nationalism can really be said to have originated with Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872), who was an idealist. He established the Young Italy movement in 1831. Mazzini was a radical who wants to see a republic formed. He was very egalitarian, and he saw mass uprisings as the way for the people of Italy to revolt against their oppressors- mainly the Austrians and form their own nation.
Italy on the Road to Unity
1815 Congress of Vienna
Restore old regimes to local Italian states and gives Lombardy and Venetia to Austria. New nationalism leads to the Risorgimento (“Resurgence!”)
Carbonari (“charcoal burners”) 1820-1830s:
These are southern Italian secret society engaged in terror against Austrians and Italian authorities. The Austrians outlaw them organization and pass a death sentence against all members. Revolt in Kingdom of Two Sicilys in 1820 and are crushed by Austrians. Revolt in Naples in 1821 is crushed by the Austrians. This is a movement of poorer people or working-class people.
Young Italy (“La Giovine Italia”), Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872):
This is a Romantic-Republican middle-class intellectual movement in Genoa and northern Italy. Inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution. Motto of “God and the People.” Mazzini arrested in 1830 and spends a year in prison in Genoa. In 1831 he and they revolt to get Austrians out of Italy and establish a republic. This middle-class revolt is crushed, and Mazzini flees for his life.
Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882).
Garibaldi is from Nice in the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia in the north. He leads a revolt in Sardinia in 1834, is arrested, sentenced to death, and escapes. He fights as a soldier in the wars of South American independence in the 1830s-1840s. He returns to Italy in 1848 and joins Mazzini in the 1848 Revolt. They temporarily win control of Rome and declare a Roman Republic. The Republic is crushed by French troops after a 2-month siege at the behest of Pope Pius IX. Garibaldi flees to NYC in 1850 then returns to lead a guerilla war in the 1850s.
However, the lesson learned from the 1848 revolution, was that Mass uprisings were not enough. No army of civilians without leadership could stand up and fight the highly trained Austrian army. The Austrians were able to crush the 1848 revolution without any problem. So, if Italy was to be united, it needed a strong, independent Italian state to lead the charge and push the Austrians out of Italy and unite the country under its leadership. There was only one state that fit this description- the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. Piedmont-Sardinia had taken the field against the Austrians in 1848- and had been defeated, but this gave it great credibility among the other Italian states because they dared to stand up to the Austrians. However, another lesson from this was that Piedmont-Sardinia was not strong enough to take on the mite of Austria alone- so another thing she needed was foreign support.
Creation of Italy.
Piedmont-Sardinia under Victor Emmanuel II (1849-1878):
Piedmont-Sardinia was a North Italian state that was ruled by a monarch: King Victor Emmanuel II.
Count Camillo di Cavour (1810-1861)—foreign minister in 1852:
The real person in Italy who would lead the push for the unification of Italy under Piedmont-Sardinia’s leadership was the Prime Minister of Piedmont-Sardinia, Count Camillo di Cavour.
Cavour was a Liberal-minded nobleman who had made a lot of money in railroads and shipping. He wanted Piedmont-Sardinia to unite Italy and for it to be established as a constitutional monarchy, with Victor Emmanuel II and the King of the united Italy. He knew that first the Austrians had to be driven once and for all out of Italy.
Cavour was not moved by the sentiments of nationalism and he did not really care about the rest of Italy. His motivation in wanting to unify Italy was to expand the power of his own state of Piedmont-Sardinia and by extension, his own personal power.
The first part of Cavour’s plan was the adoption of a policy of economic expansion: He wanted to strengthen Piedmont-Sardinia economically, which would then allow for more money to be pumped into the army to strengthen it. He reformed the taxation system to bring in more revenue and borrowed money from abroad to stimulate the economy and to equip a large modern army.
Cavour realized that Piedmont-Sardinia had little chance of defeating Austria alone and that if they were to achieve victory over the Austrians, that they would need the help of a great power. So, the second part of Cavour’s plan was to work diplomatically to gain Piedmont-Sardinia the alliance of a great power. Cavour found his ally in Napoleon III, who wanted to disrupt the balance of power in Europe as much as possible so that he might increase the size and power of France (which was limited by the Concert of Europe that was put into place after the defeat of Napoleon I). Napoleon III had also lived in Italy while in exile from France in his youth and he was very fond of the Italians.
July 1858: Plombieres conference between Cavour and Napoleon III
Cavour met with Napoleon III in July 1858 to form an alliance between Piedmont-Sardinia and France designed to drive Austria out of Italy. Napoleon agreed to help Piedmont-Sardinia under the condition that Austria attacked first. Under their agreement, Piedmont-Sardinia would get Lombardy & Venetia. France would get Nice and Savoy from Piedmont. The alliance was sealed by the marriage of Napoleon III’s son, Prince Napoleon to Princess Clotilde, the daughter of Victor Emmanuel II (King of Piedmont-Sardinia).
Cavour tricked Austria into declaring war by ostentatiously building up and mobilizing Piedmont-Sardinia’s army. When the Austrians sent Cavour an ultimatum to demobilize and disband its army, it gave Cavour the chance he needed- because it made the Austrians look like the aggressors and Piedmont-Sardinia look like the innocent victim.
Napoleon III upheld his treaty obligations and sent French troops in to help Piedmont-Sardinia. However, he began to have second thoughts and began to worry that he might be helping to set up Piedmont-Sardinia as a state that might rival France, instead of being a satellite state to France, which is what he had in mind. Therefore, he asked Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria for an armistice and the two Emperors ended the war. In the peace settlement, Piedmont-Sardinia got Lombardy, but the Austrians kept Venetia.
1860 revolutions in Parma, Modena, Tuscany, and Romagna.
Well, even though Napoleon III and Francis Joseph had ended the war, the spirit of revolution and nationalism was in the air in Italy. Revolutions occurred in the central Italian states of Parma, Modena, Tuscany, and Romagna in which the traditional rulers were overthrown. In these states, plebiscites were held, and the people overwhelmingly voted to join Piedmont-Sardinia. Although Napoleon III did not like this, because it would greatly strengthen Piedmont-Sardinia, there was little he could do. He approved of the annexation of these areas by Piedmont-Sardinia in return for the cession of Nice and Savoy to France.
So, by early 1860, the Northern Half of Italy was united.
Southern Italy and the Red Shirts.
The liberation of Southern Italy would not be undertaken by Cavour or Piedmont-Sardinia, but by a single-minded Italian patriot named Giuseppe Garibaldi. Garibaldi and his “Thousand Red Shirts” invaded Sicily in May 1860, which was in rebellion against its king, probably with Cavour’s encouragement. Garibaldi took Sicily and then Naples.
Garibaldi wanted to march on Rome, which was controlled by the Pope, but Cavour afraid that if Garibaldi captured Rome, Napoleon III might intervene on behalf of the Pope. Cavour therefore sent a Piedmont-Sardinian army to head off Garibaldi.
Garibaldi submitted and signed a decree proclaiming that all his conquests should become part of Italy under its constitutional monarch, Victor Emmanuel II. Garibaldi then retired to his farm.
March 1861: Proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy.
On March 17th, the new Italian Parliament representing all the areas under the control of Piedmont-Sardinia proclaimed the Kingdom of Italy under Victor Emmanuel as its King. Centralized government.
The Kingdom of Italy contained all of Italy except for Venetia and Rome. Italy would get Venetia in 1866 because of the Austro-Prussian War. Rome would be taken in 1870 after France was defeated by Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War and could not defend Rome. The Pope did not accept the new Italian state and they would be bitter foes until Mussolini’s time, when he made peace with the Church.
PAUSE for 60-second Quiz #2. How did the events leading to Italian Unification in 1861 resemble the events of 1848 in Italy? How did they differ? Which statement is not true?
Italian nationalists in 1848 and 1861 wanted to end rule over Italian by non-Italian (foreign) monarchs
Italian nationalists in 1848 and 1861 wanted to unite all of Italy into one nation-state
Italian nationalists in 1848 and 1861 launched aggressive military campaigns under the leadership of the Kingdom of Piedmont/Two Sicilys
Italian nationalists in 1861 enjoyed much greater military successes than in 1848
Unification of Germany
Holy Roman Empire
The small states of Germany had for centuries been loosely united (and, at times, lumped together with parts of Italy) by the Holy Roman Empire on-and-off across the Medieval period and into the Early Modern era. But as we saw, the Holy Roman Empire was destroyed by Napoleon. After the defeat of Napoleon, the German states were again loosely united in the German Confederation- but still for the most part the German states were independent.
There was great competition between Austria and Prussia in the German Confederation over control after 1815. Austria had traditionally been the post powerful country and it dominated the German Confederation at first.
Economic unification under Prussia in 1834 (Zollverein):
However, Prussia eventually began to dominate Germany and would play the same role in unifying Germany that Piedmont-Sardinia did in Italy. One way that Prussia came to dominate Germany was economically. Prussia established a protective tariff union in 1834 known as the Zollverein.
The Zollverein stimulated trade and economic growth and it effectively unified Germany economically. By 1853, every German state except for Austria was a member and Prussia were the acknowledged leader. The economic union of Germany in the Zollverein fostered the desire of many for a political union as well. And Prussia was the state that most Germans looked to lead this union.
Failure of the Frankfurt Parliament in 1848:
We saw last time how the Frankfurt Parliament in 1848 had tried to unify Germany and give the crown to King Frederick William IV of Prussia, who refused. Frederick William did not want to be made monarch by a revolutionary body.
Bismarck & Co.
Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) is the single individual most responsible for the successful unification of the German states into the German Empire in the 1860s and 1870s. His role was akin to that of Cavour in Italy. However, due to the short- and long-term outcomes of German Unification on the rest of Europe and the world, as well as the weightier role played by Germany (as compared to, say, Italy), Bismarck usually gets more time allotted in textbooks. Let us take a short overview of who he was before we look at some other important players in the process of German Unification.
Bismarck: A Closer Look:
Bismarck was the Minister-President of Prussia from 1862 to 1890, meaning he functioned as prime minister of the government, who ultimately answered to the Prussian King. From 1867 to 1871, Bismarck was also the Chancellor of the North German Confederation, which was an in-between stage, bridging the years of the German Confederation to the Empire. Again, he functioned as the chief officer of the civilian government but still answered to the King of Prussia. (Prussia was the head of the North German Confederation.) Once Germany was unified into an empire, called the Second German Empire in English but the Kaiserreich in German (meaning “the emperor’s empire” but understood to be this period of 1871-1918), Bismarck served as the Chancellor here from 1871 to 1890.
Bismarck was known in his day as the “Iron Chancellor” (in German, “der Eiserne Kanzler”). He was a member of the Prussian nobility (which is what the “von” in his name denotes). The Prussian nobility was called the Junker class, and they were wealthy landowners in Eastern Prussia who also had served as the officer corps in the Prussian army. So, Bismarck had a military background, even though he was most famous as a skilled diplomat. Politically, Bismarck was a conservative, so he supported a strong monarchy and was suspicious of increased democratic governance.
Bismarck could also shift his positions on issues, based on which direction he perceived the tide to be turning. Later in his career, he would associate with liberals, for example. Similarly, when it came to international affairs, he was cautious (but usually willing) to go to war inside of Europe but much more relaxed about the prospect of war and conquest outside of Europe (that is, in colonial adventures). Bismarck was also not a nationalist his entire career. He appears to have changed his view, from skeptical to supportive of the prospect of German unification, while he served as the Prussian Ambassador to the German Confederation from 1852 to 1858. Once he took up the cause of German nationalism, he understood it as a means for Prussia to increase its own power and prominence.
You might be wondering about the King of Prussia, Frederick William IV, who was not supportive of unification in 1848. As it turns out, Frederick suffered a stroke in 1858 and was unable to exercise the duties of his office afterwards. So, Frederick’s brother, William (“Wilhelm” in German) became the regent, and it was William who would go on to embrace unification. We should point out that Bismarck and William did not act alone; two other key players in the process of unification were Helmut von Moltke, Chief of the Prussian General Staff (more on that below), as well as Albrecht von Roon, the Prussian War Minister. However, equally important as these actors was the context of frustrated German nationalists.
In the early 1860s, Prussia faced a political crisis. The king wanted to embark on a program to expand the Prussian army but the Prussian parliament, which was controlled by liberals, did not want to vote to approve the funds to pay for this military program. Remember, liberals usually supported checks on monarchs’ power and laissez-faire economics (which often translated into skepticism regarding tax levies). So, the Prussian Diet (the legislature) refused to vote for the funds. Bismarck adopted a novel reading of the Prussian constitution, and suggested that, while it would be illegal for the king to adopt a new military budget without parliamentary authorization, nothing said that the king could not continue to collect taxes and operate under the old budget that had been approved in the past. This was a loophole and not a popular move with the influential liberal party.
However, Bismarck knew that these liberals were also incredibly sympathetic to the idea of German nationalism and a German nation-state. So he started signaling his support for such a course of events, most famously in his “Blood and Iron Speech” in 1862, where he declared that “The great questions of the day will not be settled by speeches and resolutions of majorities, that was the mistake in 1848 and 1849, but by blood and iron!” As it turns out, Bismarck was right to think that nationalism could bridge the political divide. This was more pressing, since the king dissolved the parliament in 1863, called for new elections, and the new parliament was 2/3 full of liberals who did not like the king and/or Bismarck very much.
The Prussian General Staff (“der Grosser Generalstab”): A Closer Look
As Bismarck had already hinted, the road to German unification would lead through war. Therefore, it is also worth our while to take a closer look at the Prussian army and what allowed it to enjoy such success and lead Prussia to rule over its peers. Key to understanding the advantages and success of the Prussian army is the Prussian General Staff.
The General Staff is a unit of educated, professional soldiers (here, senior officers) who draw up timetables, recruiting schedules, locations for weapons or other supply depots, and plan the strategic and operational steps for going to war in any number of contingencies. So, they were constantly planning scenarios for all possible situations and opponents, to reduce the uncertainty of battle. First created in 1806 following defeat at the hands of Napoleon, the Prussian Army built a Kriegsakademie (Prussian War College), the first in Europe, and set out to train the smartest and most capable officers, to elevate them to this new strategic planning role. Military philosopher (and Prussian Army officer) Karl von Clausewitz was one of the earliest students to study there.
The General Staff had the reputation of being a unique military fraternity. Officers were selected for their intelligence and merit and underwent a rigorously structured training program which weeded out the incompetents and those less motivated. This training regimen also produced a body of professional military experts with common methods, outlooks, and an almost monastic dedication to their profession. Within the Prussian Army’s chain of command, the General Staff officers had greater freedom from political control than their foreign contemporaries. In fact, General Staff officers would alternate between line (that is, field command) and staff appointments. When on the General Staff, officer would wear the symbol of command -- a double-wide, crimson trouser stripe, which was s symbol of high respect. When in the field, these officers had the right to disagree, in writing, with plans or orders of the commander of the formation, and even appeal to the next highest authority. Only the most stubborn commanders would not give way.
Beginning in 1857 (shortly before Bismarck arrives on the scene above), Prussian Field Marshall, Count Helmuth von Moltke takes over the Prussian General Staff and proceeds to further refine the process of selecting and training these elite officers. Essentially, it becomes harder and harder for officers to gain admittance into the training academy and then, to graduate from the academy. The (much smaller) cohort that remains undergoes training in, among other things, theoretical military studies, military maneuvers (issuing commands to move troops around the field in an orderly fashion), war games (practicing what might happen in certain situations and what outcomes would follow), studying and using maps. This common training protocol helps ensure the rapidity of response in the event of an actual war, since staff officers serving all across the army (either in the field or in staff units) would all know to react to a given situation in the same way. This meant that senior commanders needed to only issue brief directives to Prussian General Staff officers, whereas Prussia’s enemies would be expected to be bogged down in paperwork and issuing complex orders to various levels of command. Essentially, the Prussian Army could “get its boots on” first and gain the upper hand on its enemies. There are also special unites (Abteilungen) devoted to railroads, telegraph usage, and science-technology. So, again, all this combined to lead to swift and decisive victories when Bismarck needs to use force.
The Krupp Dynasty: A Closer Look
Another piece of the puzzle, in terms of explaining German Unification, as it was accomplished by the Prussian Army, is the Krupp Dynasty. The Krupp family was a 400-year old industrial family dynasty, centered on Essen in the Ruhr Valley. Friederich Krupp (1787-1826) launched the family’s metal-based activities with a small steel foundry at Essen in 1811. His son, Alfred Krupp (1812-1887), known as “Cannon King” or “Alfred the Great” invested in new technology and led the way in the German states, manufacturing railway material and locomotives.
Alfred acquired mines in Germany and France, an early example of vertical integration in industry. He subsidized housing for the workers while providing health and retirement benefits. He built company towns with schools, parks, and recreation areas. He established widows’ and orphans’ funds. In exchange he demanded complete loyalty and issued proclamations telling the workers not to concern themselves with national politics. His controlling nature led to rules requiring workers to obtain written permission for restroom breaks from their foremen.
By the 1840s the company started manufacturing steel cannons for the Prussian, Russian, and Turkish armies. Low non-military demand led to more and more emphasis on arms production. The Prussian government helped subsidize this production in the national interest. By the 1880s 50% of the company’s business was in arms. When Alfred started with the firm, it had 5 employees. At his death in 1887, the company employed 20,000 people, in Essen and 75,000 worldwide, making it the largest company in the world at the time.
One of the most famous episodes involving the Krupp company was at the Great Exhibition in London, in 1851. In 1847, Krupp had only just started producing steel cannon, and by 1851 they had had created a 6-pounder cannon that was made of cast steel and a solid, flawless ingot of steel, weighing 2,000 pounds (more than twice as much as any model before). Political and military leaders were enthralled, orders for this new gun soared. Krupp also manufactured steel wheels for railroad cars and was most interested in developing breech-loading steel cannon, but he would sell guns and equipment to whoever had the money to pay. This means that, on the eve of war between Prussia and Austria (see below), Krupp would sell cannons to the Austrians, which would only be used to lob shells back and the Prussians.
When Alfred died in 1887, Friedrich Alfred (“Fritz”) Krupp (1854-1902), took control. He was far different from his father and became a philanthropist, although oriented towards eugenics. He was a schmoozer, becoming a close associate of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Under Fritz, the company achieved global reach as well as new products. Fritz licensed production of the Maxim gun, Rudolph Diesel’s engine, and started the project that led to the first U-boats. He met a bad ending on the Isle of Capri. Although married and the father of two daughters, at his Capri villa he engaged in pederasty (child sexual abuse) and suffered a stroke or suicide after several weeks of bad press. Bertha Krupp, his daughter inherited the company. She married Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach (1870-1950), a minor career diplomat, at the urging of the Kaiser. Bertha and Gustav had many children and continued the male line.
During World War I, the company produced seven Paris Guns, all called “Big Bertha.” Alfred Krupp (1907-1967) helped Hitler re-arm Germany prior to World War II. Krupp works became the center for German re-armament, including the largest guns ever: two 800 mm railway guns called “Schwer Gustav” and “Dora.” They could fire a 7-ton shell over 37 km. and were used at Sevastopol. During the period 1939-1945 the company produced tanks, artillery, munitions, and moved factories from occupied territories back into Germany during the last years of the war. Their best product proved to be the 88mm anti-aircraft gun: The Flak Model 37. (More on this later.)
The Road to a Second Reich.
As noted above, Frederick William’s successor as King of Prussia was his brother William I (1861-1888). He set about strengthening Prussia and he relied on the Army Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke to improve the army and to double its size. Von Moltke improved not only the size of the army, but also improved its training and its equipment. Moltke implemented many of the new developments coming out of the US Civil War, such as the use of the telegraph to pass information and the use of railroads to quickly move troops.
Moltke knew that the two great opponents of German unification under Prussian leadership would be Austria and France, so he began a systematic building of railroads up to the borders of Austria and France so that Prussian troops could be quickly massed along the borders. Another technological innovation that the Prussian’s had was the breech-loading needle gun (so named because it had a long-firing pin that resembled a needle). The needle gun was highly accurate and probably its greatest advantage was that because it was breech loading (i.e. the soldier loaded a cartridge into the barrel from the breech, the back end of the barrel), so it allowed the infantry to reload lying down. Of course, the older practice was to use muzzle-loading rifle, which the soldier had to stand up to load, because the powder and bullet had to be inserted into the far end of the barrel (the “muzzle”), which was much more conducive to getting shot. The Prussian army was also equipped with a primitive machine gun known as the Gatlin Gun (seen them in John Wayne movies).
The problem was that all this cost a lot of money and in 1862, liberals in the lower house of parliament, the Reichstag, refused to approve the state budget. This was part of an ongoing struggle in Prussia between the King and the legislature over who was really in power. Well, to deal with the impasse in the legislature, William I turned to Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898). Bismarck’s job was to gain control over the parliament, drive out the liberals, and collect taxes without parliamentary approval. Bismarck was appointed Prime Minister in 1862 and he became the prime mover behind German unification. After the unification of Germany, he became Germany’s first Chancellor in 1871 a post he held until 1890. He was a member of the Junker class, which was the old Prussian ruling class- they were great landowners. He was conservative, anti-democratic and anti-Austrian.
Bismarck was the undisputed master of what is known as Realpolitik, the politics of reality. Realpolitik is just being willing to do anything to achieve your ends. The end justifies the means. He became known as the “Iron and Blood” Chancellor, because of a statement he made that “the questions of the day will not be settled by speeches and majority decisions—that was the mistake of 1848 and 1849—but by blood and iron.”
For Bismarck, German nationalism was an integral part of Realpolitik. Like Cavour in Italy, Bismarck was not moved by nationalism, he didn’t believe in it, but he saw it as a tool to be harnessed in order to meet his goal, which was the strengthening of Prussia, which of course would mean the more power for him. So, big point here- Bismarck did not believe in German nationalism as an ideology- he wasn’t motivated by a desire to bring all the German peoples together for the greater good- but he sought to harness and use nationalism to achieve his own results.
Prusso-Danish War (1864)
The road to German Unification began with a war against Denmark, over two duchies (small territories) in Northern Germany: Schleswig and Holstein. These areas were predominantly German but had long been under the influence of the King of Denmark. The King or Denmark tried to formally annex them into Denmark in 1863, under a new Danish constitution. However, they were members of the German Confederation and they appealed to Prussia and Austria for help.
In January 1864, Prussia and Austria presented an ultimatum to Denmark, calling for them to annul their new constitution and forgo the annexation of Schleswig and Holstein within 48 hours. The Danes refused. So, on January 21, 1864, Prussian and Austrian troops advanced on Denmark, who was unable to resist. The Danes did not receive any foreign aid and because the Prussian and Austrian armies were so powerful. Unsurprisingly, Denmark lost the war.
Schleswig was placed under Prussian administration and Holstein was put under Austrian control. However, due to the geography, to get to Holstein the Austrians had to pass through Schleswig (the Prussian-controlled territory). So, with the Austrians in control of Holstein and it surrounded by Prussian troops this was sure to led to problems between Austria and Prussia, which was most probably Bismarck’s goal all along.
Austro-Prussian War (1886)
Bismarck knew his next move in his plan to unify Germany was to inflict a military defeat on Austria and end their meddling in German affairs. He started by getting a guarantee of both French and Russian neutrality (he promised control of Belgium to France, which suited Napoleon III, although how Bismarck was to deliver was another subject.) Austria had not counted on such Prussian military power in the defeat of Denmark.
Just as Bismarck had foreseen, there were disagreements and incidents between Austria and Prussia over Schleswig-Holstein. There were disagreements over how Austria would administer Holstein and how Prussia would administer Schleswig. Bismarck incited the disagreements with Austria over Schleswig-Holstein to goad Austria into declaring war, which is just what happened.
The Austro-Prussian War, or the Seven Weeks War, began in June of 1866. On July 3rd, 1866, the Prussians soundly defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Sadowa in Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic). Moltke had already built a railroad to the border and they were able to quickly move troops down there. The Prussian Needle Guns were deadly against the Austrians, who were still using muzzle-loaders. While Prussia was fighting the Austrians in Bohemia, Garibaldi in Italy was leading forces against the Austrians at Trentino, putting additional pressure on the Austrians. The war quickly ended, leaving the two sides to come to the peace table in August 1866, signing the Treaty of Vienna.
In the Treaty of Vienna, Prussia lets the Austrians off easily. No territory changes hands between these two (although Italy gets Venetia), and Austria is forever banished from taking part in pan-German questions. Prussia is now the unquestioned leader of the German territories and is formally at the head of the North German Confederation in 1867. This North German Confederation was created by the peace treaty, uniting all the German states north of the Main River. In this arrangement, each state maintained a separate government, but the military units of each state were unified under the head of the King of Prussia. This ensured Prussia’s influence and power.
Along the way, Prussia outright annexed the (here-to-for independent) territories of Hanover, Hesse-Cassel, and Frankfurt, because they had sided with Austria.
But you may be wondering, how did Bismarck get away with all of this? Skirting the constitutional rules regarding budgets and parliamentary oversight, launching two (unnecessary) wars, spending lives and treasure? Where was the liberal opposition in the Prussian parliament? The answer is that Prussian liberals were so happy with Bismarck’s success that they gave up on aspirations for liberal reform. In fact, the Prussian parliament retroactively approved all the taxes that Bismarck had collected since 1862. The reason for this was that enough of these liberals were now more animated by their German nationalism than their political liberalism. Put differently, they sacrificed their principles on government and individual rights, in exchange for the realization of their long-hoped-for nation-state.
Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871)
Bismarck knew that, before he could unify all of Germany under Prussian leadership, there was one final obstacle in his way: France. He knew that France out of all of Europe was most opposed to a united Germany, which could possibly overshadow it in European affairs and strength. He knew that a defeat of France would clear the path for the complete unification of Germany.
In 1870, Bismarck got his wish with the beginning of the Franco-Prussian war. The war began over the issue of whether Prince Leopold Hohenzollern,1 a cousin of King William I would accept the Spanish throne, which he was offered after a revolution there. The French were vehemently opposed to this, because this would almost certainly align Germany and Spain, which would leave France in a bad position.
The French ambassador went to see William I, who was relaxing at Ems (a resort), and demanded that William publicly announce that Leopold would not, after all, be a candidate for the Spanish throne, and that William furthermore publicly apologize to France for the incident. William refused and instead drafted a telegram to Bismarck, in which he explained the situation. Bismarck misleadingly edited the telegram in such a way as to make the French seem more in the wrong and had this (disingenuously) edited version of the Ems Dispatch published. Following this, the French declared war on Prussia on July 15, 1870.
Moltke had again been busy building railroads up to the French border and Prussian troops were able to pour into France very quickly after the beginning of the war. From here, the events of the war against France played out similarly to the war against Austria. The first phase, from July 31, 1870 to September 1, 1870, saw the Prussians rapidly mobilize by train and have their Krupp artillery ready to bombard the French. The French plan was to take offensive into the Rhineland at Saarbrucken, with Army of the Rhine of 100,000 men. This was abandoned when, on August 3, 1870, the Prussian Army amassed 320,000 men on border of France. The French retreated from Saarbrucken and awaited allies (Austria), meaning they had little choice but to go on defensive. The Prussians besieged the fortress of Metz, which fell in October and led to the surrender of 184,000 Frenchmen.
Napoleon III and Marshal McMahon took the Army of Chalons, 120,000 men, to relieve Metz.
Moltke intercepted them and, after a skirmish, Napoleon III retreated into Sedan where he and his army were surrounded. On September 1, 1870, the French tried to break out three times; General Marguerite led French cavalry in the first attack against the Prussian XI Corps at Floing and was killed. By the end of the day, Napoleon III called off the attacks. He had lost 17,000 dead and wounded, versus 8,000 for the Prussians. On September 2, 1870, Napoleon III surrendered himself and 104,000 men to the Prussians.
On September 4, 1870, the news reached Paris and there was a bloodless coup. Napoleon gives up power and goes into exile in Great Britain. This was the beginning of the Third French Republic (1870-1940). The new leaders are Adolph Thiers (Prime Minister), Jules Ferry (President), and Leon Gambetta (Minister of War). Bismarck, who does not want to occupy the country, called for peace negotiations. He offered moderate terms: give up Alsace (taken by Louis XIV-1681) and pay moderate reparations. On September 6, the French refused, so the Prussians decide to lay siege to Paris (which lasts from October 1870 to January 1871.
Siege of Paris (October 1870-January 1871)
While Paris was enduring siege, Garibaldi was leading the only effective force left, the Army of the Vosges, against Prussians. It will never be defeated. The French decided to raise up provincial armies to defeat the Prussians. Gambetta left the city by balloon to raise them. Francs-tireurs (irregular, or guerilla, soldiers) attacked behind the Prussian lines to frustrate the Prussian occupation. The Prussian press and public grew frustrated and called now for the permanent crippling of the French nation. Pressure on Bismarck mounted.
Gambetta helped organize 500,000 men into new armies in the south. The Loire campaign fought there resulted in their (the French forces’) complete defeat by December. Gambetta moved north to meet with General Faidherbe and the Army of the North, with 100,000 men, at Lille. The city was protected by a ring of fortresses and had the only fully functioning arms factories left for France. Faidherbe was ill (malaria in W. Africa) and Gambetta browbeat him into moving out from behind the protection of the fortresses and attacking the Prussians. French morale was low, supplies difficult to get, winter weather setting in, and the quality of France’s soldiers dwindling.
The final phase of the war saw the Army of the North defeated at the Battle of St. Quentin, and the Army of the Vosges retreat across the border into Switzerland. At this point, the Prussians were outside of Paris, in Versailles and on January 18, 1871, France officially surrenders. The official surrender terms were signed on January 28, and at this ceremony, Bismarck proclaims the creation of the Second German Empire. Prussian King William I was crowned William I, Emperor of Germany in the famous Hall of Mirrors in Versailles – making this loss more humiliating for France. In the treaty, France lost their territories of Alsace and Lorraine, which had many German speakers residing there. They also had to pay an indemnity of 5 billion dollars for the costs of the war. The French were irate about their loss of war and the loss of territory. This anger would fuel a long-standing German French rivalry in the coming years.
German victory, French humiliation
All the German states (aside from Austria) were now united into one nation-state. William I, King of Prussia, was now William I, Emperor of Germany. The political structure was a federal system, whereby the 25 German states were more-or-less able to govern as they wish on local affairs but must follow Prussia’s lead in national affairs. German-speakers now had one country, one military, one domestic trade area, but still had work to do when it comes to building one national identity.
France has lots of fall-out to deal with. Paris was starving and, although Bismarck allowed food assistance into the city, when the Prussians held a victory parade in February, 200,000 bourgeois Parisians left, rather than watch. National elections led to a conservative, middle-class government. The government was moved to Versailles, as Paris was considered too dangerous. The French Assembly passed the Law of Maturities, meaning that all rents and debts that were postponed in September 1870 now had to be paid in full, with interest, within 48 hours. They also voted to pay 5 Billion Francs in reparations to Germany that were linked to new law. Parisians were not happy, and this led to a left-wing urban uprising.
While the national government of France sued for peace with the Prussians, angry working-class crowds in Paris were not content to do so. There a group of radicals took control of the city and formed the Paris Commune, governing the city independently for several months, until violently put down by military forces of the French national government.
Creation of the Second German Reich (1871-1918)
Alsace and Lorraine go to Germany.
The creation of the new German Empire is detailed above, but here we should pause to point out that the transfer of the territories of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany were cause for continued tension and desire for revenge among conservatives in France. Bismarck against but the General Staff and Moltke dig in their heels = keep France on the defensive.
Conscription; general staff; war academies in Europe and US.
In many European countries, political and military leaders watched with amazement at what the Prussian Army showed itself able to accomplish. This led to many countries undertaking programs of military reform, updating their weapons and training methods but also adopting a General Staff type of strategic planning body.
Prince von Bismarck, First Chancellor of the German Empire
In the new Germany: Bismarck quickly undertook a program to quell dissent and mold domestic opinion. This program is called the Kulturkampf (“culture wars”). One of Bismarck’s chief targets was the Catholic Church:
The Reichstag expelled Jesuits from the country, and the German government took on the power of supervising Catholic Clergy. Therefore, the power of the Catholic hierarchy was restricted. The reason for this action was ultramontanism, the fear that Catholics would be more loyal to the Church and the Pope than they would to their own government. This concern was not specific to Germany but was a common anti-Catholic prejudice.
Bismarck’s moves largely failed and led to a strengthened Catholic Center Party in the Reichstag. Bismarck did, however, gain the support of the National Liberal Party. After he failed to suppress the Catholic Church, he targets Socialists.
In 1878 the Reichstag passed Anti-Socialist Laws, which banned meetings among Socialist parties, banned them from circulating their literature, and led to the arrest of their leaders. Individual Socialists could still run for office as individuals without party support and some candidates gain seats in the Reichstag with this tactic.
The reason Bismarck took on this action was to get out front on social issues for working class, enabling him to ensure passage of several laws relating to health insurance, accident insurance, pensions, and disability insurance. Bismarck was essentially putting into practice many of the ideas Socialists were calling for, to neutralize their electoral attractiveness.
The Panic of 1873 and the downturn in world trade as a result led to the return of protectionism in economic policy. Bismarck abandoned free trade and enacted tariffs to protect German industry.
The Hapsburg Empire: A Closer Look
While Italy and Germany were unified by astute leaders who mobilized nationalism to their own ends- nationalism threatened the very existence of the Hapsburg monarchy. Ethnic tensions within, what by 1868 was called the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the second largest European state, mirrored those of Europe itself. Meanwhile the unification of Italy and Germany changed the balance of power- elevating the new German Empire to the top spot in Central Europe while the Hapsburgs lost Lombardy and Venetia to the new Italian state.
Twenty nationalities lay within the Hapsburg domain:
Less concentrated were Slovenes, Croats and Serbs to the south, Romanians, Ruthenians, in the southeast, Italians in the Alpine Tyrol, as well as Bulgarians, Turks and Gypsies spread throughout the area. The two largest groups were the Germans, pre-dominantly in Austria at 35%, and the Magyars in Hungary at 23%. Romanians, with 19%, made up the third largest after the Hungarians.
What held it all together for so long?
The Hapsburg monarchy itself was an important force for cohesion for centuries. Support for the monarchy by the German-speaking middle class was very high, as this middle-class comprised the bulk of the giant bureaucracy of the empire. At the same time, urban centers usually supported the monarchy because the empire’s largest towns and cities were largely German-speaking --0 in Prague the Germans outnumbered the Czechs by three to one. Similarly, with the army, German was the official language of the army. To get anywhere in this society you had to be fluent in German!
At the same time, the Hapsburg monarchy enjoyed the support of the Austrian and Hungarian nobles as well as their Croatian, Polish, and Italian counterparts.
Catholicism was the religion of most of the empire and a force for unity. The centuries old support of the Catholic Church for the monarchy undercut nationalist movements in predominantly Catholic areas among the Croats, Slovaks, and Poles.
The army still retained a considerable reputation although it would be severely affected by defeats to the French in 1859, and Prussians in 1866.
In the 1850s and 1860s, nationalism among ethnic minorities was limited to a small number of intellectuals who dreamt of their own state. Yet Italian and German unification weakened the power of the Hapsburg monarchy leading to several changes that weakened the empire, such as the Compromise of 1867.
This Compromise of 1867 led to the creation of the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. The Hungarian Parliament proclaimed Franz Joseph king of Hungary as well as Emperor of Austria. Vienna would still control finance, foreign policy, and defense. Hungarian now became the official language of Hungary and the Magyar domains had their own bureaucracy, parliament, and constitution. Transylvania came under Hungarian control. The two halves of the monarchy would negotiate trade tariffs every ten years. The parliaments of Austria and Hungary would elect representatives to a new Imperial Assembly aka Delegation.
This was a victory for Hungarian liberalism and showed how weak the Hapsburgs were becoming. From this point forward, the smaller ethnic groups increasingly demanded the same deal as the Hungarians received or outright independence. Repression resulted from these demands, violence increased, and tension mounted for decades leading up to World War I.
So, in wrapping up: The Unification of both Italy and Germany was brought about not by liberal and nationalist inspired mass revolts, but by conservative powers employing militarism and using the rhetoric of nationalism to achieve their own goals. Unsurprisingly, the realization of these two nationalist projects led to outcomes that stretched beyond the two states in question.
PAUSE for 60-second Quiz #3. How did the events leading to German Unification in the 1860s and 1870s resemble the events of 1848 in Germany? How did they differ? Which statement is true?
German nationalists in both 1848 and the 1860s-1870s prioritized a liberal-constitutional order over the achievement of a nation-state
German nationalists in both 1848 and the 1860s-1870s relied primarily on warfare to achieve their goals
German nationalists in both 1848 and the 1860s-1870s consciously excluded Austria from their project at all times
German nationalists in both 1848 and the 1860s-1870s ultimately relied on Prussian leadership in their project
Key to 60-second Quizzes:
d. When Louis Napoleon illegally extended his presidential term longer than allowed by law in 1851, French voters soundly rejected his actions in a national plebiscite, voting by more than 90% to reject his authority. No, the French electorate resoundingly *approved* Louis-Napoleon’s coup d’état.
c. Italian nationalists in 1848 and 1861 launched aggressive military campaigns under the leadership of the Kingdom of Piedmont/Two Sicilys. No, they were incredibly disorganized in 1848 and only united under Piedmontese leadership in 1861.
d. German nationalists in both 1848 and the 1860s-1870s ultimately relied on Prussian leadership in their project. Yes, because they eventually rejected the Austrians in each case, as well as looking for a nation-state at the expense of a democratic order, while only prioritizing war in the 1860s-70s.
Primary Source Exercise
After you have read the primary source collection listed above (as well as Chapter 12), answer the following questions, based on what you have learned so far:
What do you think is important to know about the authors of these texts? What can you learn from the words each one wrote on the page? What can you infer or piece together from the background information in the textbook chapter? Why is this important?
What was each author’s goal in writing their text? To whom did each address their ideas? What purpose did each serve? Can you point to one or more examples from each text to support this analysis?
What, if any, hidden assumptions can you detect in each of these texts? That is, can you find word choices, phrasing, innuendo, or other examples of the authors’ (explicit or implicit) bias with regard to the subject matter? Does this bias (or these assumptions) affect how you understand and react to each author’s words? Why or why not?
Hohenzollern was the name of the Prussian royal family.↩