Benedikt at the time which was the case because

Benedikt Trinn

Grade 10 History Wade

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                  German unification in 1871 was a moment of
great importance in European history. While Wilhelm I of Prussia became the
first German emperor, the man behind this unification was Otto von Bismarck.

Bismarck was instrumental to the creation and preservation of a united Germany. Without him, unification would never have happened, or only many years later.

Bismarck was the only person
capable of achieving such things at the time which was the case because of his
personality and skills in negotiation, his success with the military and the
creation of the “Friedenskurs” and other such treaties to protect and sustain

von Bismarck’s personality and decision making were instrumental to the
creation of a unified Germany. For many of the states that then formed Germany,
unification was previously unthinkable. Convincing them was no easy feat, and
certainly not everyone could have accomplished this. Bismarck used two main
approaches to convince states to join him. Firstly, he created a sense of
patriotism in the minds of the German people. While Germany may not have been
united, the German states were still quite similar, meaning they shared many
ideals. Bismarck made the Prussian army seem like protectors of the German
people and these ideals. (BBC) This was an important step in the unification of
Germany as through this Bismarck gained support and liking of many states who
would later join him in the unification. Because of patriotism these states
rather wanted to save their German ideals than not join the Prussians. A second
way Bismarck brought states onto his side is the way he negotiated. Rather than
forcing states to join the unification, he convinced states with benefits a
unification would give. Bismarck’s decision to not use his strong army to
pressure states into joining him, but instead to use words is part of the
reason as to why this unification worked. Bavaria showed reluctance to join the
unification and Bismarck used benefits that Bavaria would receive to argue for
unification. “Six votes in the Bundesrat, the vice presidency, a new railway
and postage system which they had control over and finally financial benefits”
(Chronik der Deutschen 597) If Bismarck would have used his army to invade Bavaria,
he would not have had the people nor the government on his side. While many
historians argue that unification would have happened anyway due to trade and
general cooperation between states, (BBC) this is not the case. While
eventually a unification may have happened, it needed a man like Bismarck to
connect all the dots. By giving states advantages and inviting them to join the
unification instead of forcing them, and by creating a sense of patriotism
Bismarck ensured that many German states were on his side. This is of great
importance as only through this type of approach real unity was possible. This
certainly would not have happened automatically and certainly not everyone
could do such a thing. This once again highlights Bismarck’s importance to the
unification of Germany.

reason as to why Bismarck was so important to the unification was his success
with the military. A unification of Germany was clearly not in the interest of its
European neighbors as unity would create another large European powerhouse resulting
in another possible opponent during war. Bismarck knew of this, so he realized
the only way unity could be achieved is by military action. Bismarck soon had
his eye on two major targets, Austria and France. Austria was his first target
as both Austria and Bismarck’s Prussia wanted leadership of the German
confederation. Before unity Austria had most of the power over the German
states, and it feared that a unification would change this. (Encyclopedia
Britannica 7 weeks war) If Bismarck wanted to gain power over Germany, war was
inevitable. He formed an alliance with Italy and promptly invaded Holstein in
1866, which was under control of the Austrians at the time. This resulted in
immense outrage in Austria. Because of Bismarck’s diplomacy Prussia had not
only Italy and a few north German states on their side, but Bismarck also
convinced other European countries not to intervene in the war. This meant that
Bismarck’s army had an advantage going into the war and ultimately won in only
seven weeks. (Encyclopedia Britannica 7 weeks war) Bismarck’s second target was
the at the time dominant power in Europe, France. Bismarck encouraged a
Prussian prince by the name of Leopold to try for the Spanish throne. This alarmed
France who feared a Prussian and Spanish alliance. France tried to stop the Prussians
from trying for the Spanish throne but the Prussian King Wilhelm I rejected
this request. Bismarck, who was unsure if this would anger the French enough to
start a war, edited Wilhelm’s letter so that it threatened the French. The
French declared war soon after and Bismarck’s plan was unfolding. (Encyclopedia
Britannica Franco-German war) Bismarck used this imminent threat of war to
convince the rest of the German states, which were nearly all in the south, to
join his alliance. While not yet unification, a unified army was a big step
towards Bismarck’s final goal. This alliance also meant that “Germany” had a larger
amount of soldiers resulting in a German advantage. Bismarck was also very
smart in the choosing of his Generals, as he felt that he was not the best to
lead an army. Bismarck hired generals like Helmut von Moltke, who ultimately
were a big reason Germany were so successful in the war of 1871. (Howard, 9)
Shortly after all members of the alliance agreed to join Bismarck in creating a
unified Germany. These wars did not only take out the major opponents of a
unification, but also brought together the people of Germany. Certainly not
everyone would have thought of that, and certainly not everyone could have
executed the idea so well showing once again the strategic importance of
Bismarck to the creation of a unified Germany.

                   A reason why Bismarck was of such great
importance to the preservation of German unity were his ideas and visions just
after unity. Bismarck was faced with the challenge of maintaining the unity of
Germany, and he did so through several ideas. The first thing Bismarck did after
German unification was the creation of the “Friedenskurs”. The Friedenskurs was
a plan developed by Bismarck to stop an alliance of several European countries
and a resulting invasion of Germany. He did so by forming multiple alliances
while also completely isolating France. Bismarck formed alliances with Austria-Hungary,
Italy and Russia making Germany safe from invasions, meaning the new unified
Germany could not be taken over by other European countries. (cpw) Another one
of Bismarck’s plans to preserve unification were additional benefits for being
part of the German unity. While Bismarck stuck to his initial promises he added
more and more benefits of being German. For example, Bismarck introduced multiple
insurances against accidents, sickness, disability and old age. (Holborn,
291-293) This further increased his popularity with the German people who were
now overcoming cultural differences for a shared goal of unity. A final thing
Bismarck did to preserve German unity was the fighting off of socialists. Initially
Bismarck wanted to fight the Catholics, but as they grew in size and popularity
he joined their newly formed central party before they could overthrow him. He
made a deal with the Catholics who, in the majority, supported unification.

This meant similar interests made negotiations fast and Bismarck was soon head
of the central party. (Planet Wissen) This meant he could stay in power and fight
off another threat to his position, the socialists. At the time there had been an
increase in socialists in Germany, especially because of Karl Marx’s works. Bismarck
realized this from an early stage though, and managed to destroy any
revolutions before they could really get started. (cpw) This was of great
importance to German unity as without a real leader like Bismarck some, if not
many, states would have left unity as they were only in it for Bismarck. Bismarck’s
ideas and visions once again demonstrated his Importance to the preservation of
German unity as they ensured he remained popular with his people, stopped any
possible invasions from happening and that he remained in the position as
chancellor of Germany.

conclude one could say that Bismarck was absolutely instrumental to the creation
and preservation of German unity, and that no one else could have achieved what
he has. This was the case because of his ability to negotiate and his
personality, his ability with the army and his ideas to remain in power and to
stop invasions. It was because of Bismarck that one of the most important
moments in European history occurred. Bismarck created not only a European
powerhouse, but also one of the countries responsible for the outbreak of WWI. If
it weren’t for Bismarck, the modern world would sure look different.



(Word count: 1483 words)




Works Cited

“Bismarck and Unification.” BBC Bitesize, BBC,

Accessed 14 Jan. 2018.

Detsch, Roland. “Otto von Bismarck.” Context Politik: Wissenschaft: Kultur cpw
Medien- und Publikationsdienste, cpw online, 2007, Accessed 15 Jan. 2018.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Franco-German
War.” Encyclopædia Britannica,
Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 11 Dec. 2015, Accessed 15 Jan. 2018.

—. “Seven Weeks’ War.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 4 Feb.

2016, Accessed 15 Jan. 2018.

Harenberg, Bodo, and Brigitte Beier. “Der Weg zum Deutschen
Reich.” Chronik Der Deutschen,
Dortmund, Chronik Verlag, 1983, p. 597.

Holborn, Hajo. A History of
Modern Germany. Princeton, Princeton UP, 1982.

Howard, Robert, Lord. Origins
of the War of 1870. Cambridge, Harvard Univ Press, 1924.

Schmitz, Alfred. “Kulturkampf – Bismarcks Streit mit dem
Papst” “Culture war – Bismarcks fight with the pope”. Planet Wissen, ARD, 21 Mar. 2017,

Accessed 15 Jan. 2018.