Notes and exercises – see sections 1-5
Section 4 – The Unification of the German states 1815-1871
Probably the best way to understand the complex background of German unification (which is the section of German history we are most interested in, is to read something that outlines the big picture of German history and then explore the period between 1815 and 1848. A good introduction is provided by Bob Whitfield:
Background to Bismarck
Bismarck dominates the 19th century perhaps even more than Napoleon Bonaparte. His impact was longer lasting and influenced the development of Europe well into the 20th century, both for worse and for better.
How Bismarck might look if he had lived in the 21st century:
I would recommend that you read Jonathan Steinberg’s Bismarck: A life, (Oxford, 2011) or failing that, his article in History Today – How DID he do it?.
But at the very least I would recommend that you watch the following videos as an introduction.
Biographics on Bismarck
This provides an excellent introduction to Bismarck and covers just about everything.
A slightly more animated account of his early life:
Part 1 – The Mad Junker
Bismarck as hell raiser as a young man, fighting duels, drinking a lot, getting into debt before eventually retiring to his family estates to manage the farm.
There followed a number of romantic episodes which ended in his brief conversion to Christianity and (as a result) his engagement to Johanna von Puttkamer – which was his entree into the world of evangelical conservatism. Despite his reputation as a wild man or ‘mad Junker’, he was elected by the Magdeburg estates to represent them as their first deputy in the Landtag. This was Bismarck’s entry into politics.
Part 2 – 1848 and all that
Towards the end of this video, Bismarck is described as going against war with Austria. There is a great quotation from Bismarck, but it isn’t clear what war is being discussed. It is in fact that conflict over the Erfurt Union proposed by Joseph Radowitz in 1850 which leads eventually to the so-called ‘punktation’ of Olmutz a convention signed by Schwarzenburg of Austria and Manteuffel of Prussia in which the latter withdrew her troops from the Electorate of Hesse and abandoned the Union project. It was a humiliation for Prussia and even the opponents of the scheme within Prussia demanded war.
Bismarck was not one of them and on December 3, 1850, he made what Steinberg describes as one of the most important speeches of his entire career, to the Prussian Landtag. It is this that is quoted towards the end. As a result of the Punktation of Olmutz, the Minister-President Manteuffel appointed Bismarck to the post of Prussian envoy to the Bund, the German Confederation in Frankfurt.