19th-Century Politics: Germany
This was a period where people were feeling lots of nationalism, and that didn’t mean just pride in their country; it meant a pride in their shared languages, traditions, culture, and history. The people who were living in what was now known as Germany were very proud of all those things, and they were very much a close-knit group and they wanted to keep their country their country. But the Prussian Otto von Bismarck suppressed some of that nationalism so that he could unite Germany with the rest of the nation that used to be the German Empire.
Bismarck’s unification of Prussia was mainly aimed at defeating the rival Hapsburgs, who controlled Austria. He wasn’t just doing it for Germany’s sake, he was doing it because he wanted to defeat his rivals. Bismarck wanted to defeat Austria, and unite Prussia, Austria, Germany all together into the German Empire, which had been united under Charlamagne’s empire long before now.
In 1871, after Prussia won the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussia wars in quick succession (the wars between Prussia and Austria and Prussia and France), Bismarck declared that he had achieved his ends and united the German empire. He had gotten all of these countries under one ruler again. Under Bismarck’s rulership, he actually did do some good things for Germany. He promoted a balance of power, such as was set up during the Congress of Vienna between European nations, which meant that they wouldn’t try to take over other nations. Even though he did kind of take over Austria and unite Prussia, Austria, and Germany together, he was promoting a balance of power political system between European nations. He said he wasn’t going to go after any other land, other nations shouldn’t try to go after any other nation’s land, and everyone should just kind of keep their power balanced as it is now.
Promoting this, he was able to keep peace in Europe from 1817, which lasted until 1914. Now, he didn’t rule that whole time, but peace did last that long, though it wasn’t all due to Bismark. The other rulers of nations had to agree to this balance of power as well. If any one of them had said “Oh no, actually I want to take this land over here,” then the balance of power would have shifted and people wouldn’t have been happy. Someone somewhere would have been contesting that.
Bismarck also oversaw the creation of the Reichstag, which was a legislative body similar to Britain’s Parliament. This legislative body provided representation for the middle and lower classes. You had your ruler and the group that surrounded the ruler, the king of Germany (or the Emperor as they were calling it in the German Empire), and then you had the Reichstag, which was the body that was giving a voice to the middle and lower class citizens.
So Bismarck did promote a balance of power between other European nations, which kept peace between European nations after 1871 until around 1914, and he also created the Reichstag to give the lower and middle classes a voice. After Bismarck united the German Empire once again, Germany then threw itself into the project of industrialization.
Germany was a little bit behind in the Industrial Revolution, but after Bismarck united Germany with Prussia and Austria, creating or recreating the German Empire, they then did begin to industrialize, develop factories, have more of a shift to people living in urban areas to help support the rising industrialization in those cities. 19th-century politics started off with a little bit of rockiness in Germany until it was united and stabilized in 1871, and from that time on the Reichstag was developed, peace was kept in Europe, and industrialization finally began and really started to move quickly within Germany.