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Q1) Among the manifold factors behind the unification of Germany, the realpolitik of Bismarck stands out. Evaluate.


The unification of Germany refers to the political and administrative integration of Germany into a nation-state under Prussian influence (18 January 1871). Realpolitik refers to political principles based on practicality rather than ideological considerations. The manifold factors behind the unification of Germany are:

  1. Increased cooperation/coordination: Adoption of free trade, uniform currency, weights and measures, abolition of tariffs, etc., enhanced the cooperation between various German states.
  2. Role of Zollverein:
  3. Zollverein, through tariffs on raw materials, protected German businesses from foreign influence.
  4. It also had a political effect of isolating Austria.
  5. Connectivity/communication:
  6. Rapid development of infrastructure like inland transportation, railways, etc. significantly enhanced the connectivity between the states.
  7. The railways helped with the spread of the German press, and with-it ideas, cultures etc., too got dispersed.
  8. Natural resources: The availability of natural resources such as coal and Iron was a major reason behind the economic integration of the region, which in turn facilitated the unification of German states.
  9. Sense of empowerment: Economic forces shifted power from individual rulers of states to the middle classes who realized that power and money could be gained from unification.

Even though the above factors were seminal in unification of Germany, it was in effect the realpolitik of Bismarck which eventually led to German unification:

  1. Diplomacy:
  2. Bismarck used his diplomatic skills to form alliances with other European powers, such as Austria and Russia.
  3. These alliances helped to prevent other countries from intervening in Germany’s unification process, and they also helped to ensure that Germany would have strong allies in the event of war.
  4. Military strategy (Blood & Iron):
  5. As the first war of unification (1863-64), Bismarck (joint Prussian and Austrian armies) defeated Denmark. Schleswig and Holstein came under Prussian and Austrian control respectively.
  6. In the second war of unification (1866), Bismarck went to war with Austria over the

dispute over the control of Holstein. Defeated and humiliated, Austria was kept out of

the newly formed North German Confederation.

  1. In the final war of unification (Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71), Bismarck defeated

French army under Napoleon III, and brought all Southern German states together to

form an integrated German state.

  1. Strategic maneuvering:
  2. He limited the power of the Catholic Church as he believed that it could be a potential source of opposition to his plans for unifying Germany.
  3. Bismarck implemented social welfare programs to gain the support of the working class.
  4. Nationalism: Bismarck capitalized on the rising nationalist sentiment among the German people, particularly after the failed revolution of 1848.

An exponent of realpolitik, Bismarck was able to create a united Germany under the leadership of the Prussian monarchy through his strategic alliances, military victories, and appeals to nationalism


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