New Efforts to Bring Unity

In the 1830s, Prussia created an economic union called the Zollverein (TSAWL fur yn). It dismantled tariff barriers between many German states. Still, Germany remained politically fragmented.

In 1848, liberals meeting in the Frankfurt Assembly again demanded German political unity. They offered the throne of a united German state to Frederick William IV of Prussia. The Prussian ruler, however, rejected the notion of a throne offered by “the people.”

Bismarck Becomes the Architect of German Unity

Where others had failed in uniting Germany, Otto von Bismarck succeeded. Bismarck came from Prussia's Junker (YOONG kur) class, made up of conservative landowning nobles. Bismarck first served Prussia as a diplomat in Russia and France, and then as prime minister to King William I. In 1871, he became chancellor, or the highest official, of a united Germany.

Blood and Iron

In his “blood and iron” speech delivered in 1862, Otto von Bismarck set the tone for his future policies. He wanted Prussian legislators to vote for more money to build up the army. Liberal members opposed the move. Bismarck rose and dismissed their concerns with a speech that has become known as the “blood and iron” speech.

Germany does not look to Prussia's liberalism, but to her power…. The great questions of the day are not to be decided by speeches and majority resolutions—that was the mistake of 1848 and 1849—but by blood and iron!

—Otto von Bismarck, 1862

Master of Realpolitik

Bismarck's success was due in part to his strong will. He was a master of Realpolitik (ray AHL poh lee teek), or realistic politics based on the needs of the state. In the case of Realpolitik, power was more important than principles.

Although Bismarck was the architect of German unity, he was not really a German nationalist. His main goal was to increase Prussia's power, not to fulfill German nationalist aims. Bismarck's primary loyalty was to the Hohenzollerns (hoh un TSAWL urnz), the ruling dynasty of Prussia. Through unification, he hoped to bring more power to the Hohenzollerns.

A map shows how Bismark united Germany, from 1865 to 1871.
Image Long Description

Analyze Maps

By 1871, Germany had been unified. In what year was the North German Confederation formed?


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments