Bismarck and German Unification

An assessment of Otto von Bismarck’s contribution to German unification.

This paper discusses Otto von Bismarck, the prime minister of Prussia from 1862-73 and 1873-90 and founder and first chancellor of the German Empire from 1871-90. It looks at how, having established the empire, Bismarck actively and skillfully pursued pacific policies in foreign affairs, succeeding in preserving the peace in Europe for about two decades. It examines the part he played in the eventual unification of Germany through his efforts to unify the country using nationalistic sentiment.
His biographers consistently report a background that would contribute to his sense of nationalism. For instance, at school he was exposed to German national sentiment. In Gottingen he toyed briefly with the Burschenschaft, but objected to the extravagance of their political views and their unwillingness to give satisfaction by dueling. Further, his sense of German patriotism was limited to the spirit of 1812, as the conservative nobility had understood it. Most of the Junkers who went to war in 1812 did so to liberate German soil from the foreigner, not to unify Germany. hat men of this conviction wished was the solidarity of Germany’s princes, rather than the sovereign union of its peoples” (Pflanze 1963:73). ”