Unification of Germany
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In the 1870's, Germany became a nation. Before this date, thirty-nine different German states existed each with its own rulers and laws. The strongest of these German states were Austria and Prussia. The first step in the unification process was the joining of all of the German states together into a group called the German Confederation. The unification of Germany was made possible by strong feelings of nationalism running through the country at the time.
Otto von Bismarck, the prime minister of the state of Prussia, led the first unification of Germany. According to Bismarck, wars with other nations would be the driving force behind German unification. Winning these wars would require both a strong unified Germany and a strong sense of nationalism. Bismarck led Germans in a total of three wars:
- The first of which was fought by Prussia and Austria against Denmark in 1864. After the Germans won this war, they controlled two Denmark states.
- The next war was fought against Austria in an attempt to get that state to leave the German Confederation. After seven weeks, Prussia won the war and controlled both the two Denmark states as well as small areas of Austria. After the end of the war, Germany was united as a new North German Confederation and Austria became Austria-Hungary.
Still not satisfied, Bismarck then decided that a war against France would unite all Germans.
During 1870, the southern Germans united with the North German Confederation to defeat the French. In 1871, the southern Germans joined the German confederation and one unified Germany was formed and named the German Empire. The new Kaiser of the empire named Bismarck to run the new German government. In his new role, Bismarck demanded that France give up two of its states, Alsace and Lorraine, which were rich with coal and iron. In addition, Bismarck demanded a lot of money from France. For many years afterward, bitter feelings remained between France and Germany.
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