To what extent was Bismarck responsible for the unification of Germany?

1724 Words Feb 14th, 2004 7 Pages
Under the guidance of Bismarck, the Prussian chancellor, the unification of a Kleindeutsch (small Germany) took place in 1871 after Prussia defeated France. There is often historical debate over who was responsible for the unification of Germany. Controversy is caused amongst those who believe that Bismarck was fully responsible for German unification and those who believe other factors played an equally or even more important part. The historian Pflanze is an example of someone who considers Bismarck to be solely responsible, as opposed to Bohme, who gives full credit to economic factors in unifying Germany. However, there is also a middle view, supported by historians such as Medlicott, who argue that Bismarck and other relevant factors …show more content…
At the Convention of Gastein, Austria took over a German state. This bad feeling for Austria made Prussia more popular. Bismarck then isolated Austria by persuading Russia, France and Italy to remain neutral towards her. Prussia then defeated Austria in a war. Afterwards, the Prussian king and generals wanted to finish Austria off, however, Bismarck showed strength and wouldn't let them. Instead he made peace with Austria to ensure her future support. Bismarck stated: "We shall need Austria's strength ourselves". A good example of opportunism is when Bismarck goaded France into declaring war by editing the EMS telegram. Bismarck edited the telegram to make it seem as if Prussia had insulted France. This angered Napoleon and he declared war. This made France seem like the aggressor, which ensured the neutrality of the other powers. Bismarck described it as: "a red rag to a Gallic bull". All of these points show that Bismarck undoubtedly played an important role in unifying Germany.

On the other hand, there were many factors outwith Bismarck's control which were very important in the unification of Germany, for example, the Zollverein. The Zollverein was a voluntary customs union, which encouraged trade between the German states by removing customs duties. It drew the German states closer together and supplied economic unity. Twenty-five of the thirty-nine states were members of the Zollverein - Austria was not a member. As Prussia
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