Article

Wars of German Unification

David Wetzel

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online February 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0064
Wars of German Unification

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The German empire came into being as a result of three successful wars fought by Prussia between the years 1864 and 1871, and its creation is widely—and rightly—regarded as the greatest political and diplomatic event of the 19th century. As a result of these three wars, Prussia gained the mastery of Germany and assumed a position of unrivaled domination in the configuration of the great powers of Europe. The question of why Prussia expanded as fast as she did may be discussed in two contexts. The first context emphasizes economic factors and Prussia’s success in this area against the other powers, Austria most of all. By the mid-19th century, the Rhineland provinces given to Prussia in 1815 as a barrier against France had become an industrial powerhouse and the heartland of Germany’s economic strength. The second context stresses the weakness of Prussia and how this weakness was surmounted by very strong leaders who concentrated their attention on centralizing the government and building a strong army, with much of the state’s budget being devoted to its expansion. This army came to be regarded as the foundation of state power, its main line of defense, and its only true frontier. The second of these contexts constitutes the bulk of the literature on the wars of German unification, though the importance of the first cannot be denied.

Article.  10495 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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