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German Unification

The emergence of a unified German Empire in 1871 was one of the most significant developments of the 19th century European history. The emergence of this unified German empire opened a new chapter in European history and character of the European politics was completely transformed. The emergence of unified Germany was not the result of any sudden development but it was the culmination of a long process that continued for more than the decades and number of internal and external factors played important role in the process of unification. In the pre Napoleon era, Germany was a part of Holy Roman Empire. The ruler of Austria was the political head of this empire and Pope was the religious head. This empire consisted of Austria, Prussia and more than 300 smaller German states. Germany was just a geographical entity at the time of beginning of 19th century. The military campaigns of Napoleon initiated large-scale changes in Germany. He defeated the absolute monarchs of Austria and Prussia on number of occasions. Napoleon swept aside the feudal elements from Germany successfully and in this way his military successes weakened the foundation of all reactionary elements in Germany. Napoleon propagated the idea of French Revolution of 1789 in Germany. The ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity were in accordance with the urges and aspirations of common masses. These ideas left deep impact on the minds of German people. Napoleon initiated political and economic reforms in Germany. It initiated the process of economic growth and freed the common masses from the exploitation of the old order. The treaty of Pressburg (December 1805) imposed on Austria and Prussia after their defeat in the battle of Austerlitz also initiated a number of important changes in Germany. By this treaty the holy roman empire was dissolved and this gradually weakened the Austrian influence over other states of Germany.Napolean carried out territorial reorganization of Germany and more than 300 smaller states of Germany were amalgamated to form the Rhine Confederation of the States.

This territorial reorganization carried out by Napoleon was one of his most important contributions to the cause of German unification. Napoleon developed new means of communication in German lands and new roads were constructed for the benefit of economy and fulfilling military objectives. This communication networks also contributed to the cause of German unification by bringing the people living in difficult areas closer. When the Napoleon’s rule turned despotic during later stages the spirit of German nationalism emerged and this German nationalism also contributed significantly in the process of German unification. In 1815 the German students established Burschenshaft organization to arouse and strengthen the spirit of nationalism among masses in Germany. This organization was aimed at highlighting the common elements of various German cultures and to inculcate the consciousness about the common heritage of whole of German land. The student organization was inspired by the liberal ideas of French Revolution and because of this it was against the hereditary despotic rule. In 1870 the German student organization organized popular demonstration at Wartburg to demand liberal administrative reforms. The popular reactions emerged in various parts of Germany simultaneously. But Metternich suppressed these demonstrations ruthlessly. The German philosophers like Harder, Fitche and Hegel etc. also played important role in the growth of popular awakening in Germany and prepared an intellectual environment for the cause of German unification. German historians and poets also contributed to the cause of German unification by highlighting the common elements of German culture and by retracing the roots of diverse regional cultures of Germany to one single point of origin.