Science was being put to war against diseases. Vaccination of Germans became mandatory during a smallpox epidemic in 1870-75, an epidemic that killed more than 500,000 people in Europe. But overall in Europe death rates were falling. Populations were increasing. And with migrations from rural areas, cities were growing. The population of Berlin (Prussia's capital) more than quadrupled from 1850 to 1900: 419,000 1,890,000 in 1900. Naples (on the Italian peninsula) not so much: from 449,000 to 564,000. The growth of industry had also been more rapid in Germany.
Industrialization and population growth on the Italian peninsula was accompanied by Italy becoming than a geographical expression. The political unification of Italy was inspired by the idea called nationalism. In the far northwest (neighboring France) was the region of Piedmont — its capital city, Turin. There a wealthy landowner, Count Camillo Cavour, favored unification for Italy. He was Prime Minister for a progressive monarch, Victor Emmanuel II of Piedmont-Sardinia. Cavour was progressive insofar as he saw the benefits of science, modern banking and railroad building. He believed in a free press, free trade and capitalism. He promoted modernization of industry, development of infrastructure, the use of steamships and railways, which contributed to his seeing the benefits of political unification for Italy. Cavour's call for "a free church in a free state" persuaded Italian nationalists such as Giuseppe Garibaldi to recognize Cavour's leadership. In 1859, in what became known as the Second Italian War of Independence, Cavour created an alliance with Britain and Napoleon III of France. Cavour's enemy was Austria — the Hapsburg Empire having territories in Italy. The Piedmontese-French military liberated the area around Milan in the north. Garibaldi's Italian army defeated Austrian troops farther north, at Varese and Como. The war lasted about 2 1/2 months, to 11 July, when the Hapsburg emperor Franz Joseph, facing revolution in Hungary, signed an armistice with Napoleon III.
During the year that followed, the central Italian states — Duchy of Parma, Duchy of Modena, Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Papal States — were annexed by Piedmont-Sardinia. France would take its deferred reward, Savoy, and Nice. The latter was opposed by Garibaldi, who was from the Nice area. He responded by leading a military expedition of a thousand volunteers to Sicily. With his success, people there in the thousands joined his force, and he moved from control of the whole of Sicily in August to the southern half of the Italian peninsula, and in early September, 1860, Garibaldi and his army triumphantly entered Naples. The French remained with their reward of rule over the city of Rome, but most what was to be called Italy was now unified, although barely 2 percent spoke Italian. Most spoke a local dialect. This led someone to observe that with Italy now in existence it was necessary to invent the Italians.
All this happened around the same time that Romania unified. Since 1829, the Romanian lands of Moldavia and Wallachia had been ruled nominally by the Ottoman sultan but dominated by Russia as a protectorate. In 1859, the Crimean War settlement compelled the Ottomans to grant the two principalities autonomy, and the two united under the rule of Prince Ioan Cuza. In 1877, the year Romanians joined the Russians in another war against the Ottoman Empire, Their independence was recognized and Moldavia and Wallachia were to be called Romania.
Meanwhile, there was the unification that was to be called the German Empire. Its agent was Prussia. In the 1850s Prussia was rapidly industrializing and rapidly growing in population. Its capital city (Berlin) was an economic center at the hub of rail traffic on the continent — rail traffic that was taking trade away from British boats moving from port to port.
Prussia was a member of the German Confederation, an association of 39 German kingdoms, principalities, duchies and four free cities (Bremen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Lübeck) that had replaced the Holy Roman Empire in 1815, an association that a included Bavaria, Saxony, Czech lands that were a part of the Hapsburg Empire and Austria. There was the confederation's Federal Assembly where all these political entities met — in Frankfurt. Prussia and other states had one vote.
Prussia's king since 1861, William (or Wilhelm I), was a constitutional monarch. He promised to preserve the constitution as "solid and inviolable." In 1862 he appointed an aristocrat, Otto von Bismarck, as the Minister President of Prussia. Bismarck favored removing Austrian influence within the Confederation of German States. He looked toward stealing the issue of German nationalism from the liberals who dominated the lower house of Prussia's parliament. The liberals disliked the expenses of war and tended to be opposed to militarism. Bismarck countered that "the great questions of the day will be decided not by speeches and resolutions ... but by blood and iron." The liberals denounced Bismarck for believing that "might makes right."
In 1863 Denmarks's new king annexed the Duchy of Schleswig, a duchy with a mixed German and Danish population. Bismarck opposed the annexation. A nine-month war by Bismarck was successfully concluded in 1864. Next he won French neutrality for a war he wanted with Austria's Hapsburg Empire. That war, fought in 1866, lasted seven weeks. The Austrians were using muskets which required soldiers to remain standing while loading and firing — at a rate of only 2 to 3 times per minute. The Prussians were using rifles called needle guns (with firing pins) that allowed shooting at 12 times per minute and allowed from the less-exposed prone position. The Germans had learned something from the US Civil War, and its officers were better educated in the arts of war. Their promotions had been based on ability. And Prussia's superior rail network allowed its army to concentrate its forces more rapidly than the Austrians.
The Hapsburg Empire signed a peace treaty mediated by Napoleon III. Prussia won the creation of the North German Confederation. The old German Confederation was dissolved. The North German Confederation excluded Austria from the federation's affairs. Following its victory over the Habsburg Empire, Prussia won Schleswig and Holstein (at the bottom of the Danish Peninsula). Prussia annexed its former allies: the Kingdom of Hanover, the Duchy of Nassau, the Free City of Frankfurt and various other German territory. With these gains, Prussia's territory in the Rhineland and Westphalia were connected to the rest of the kingdom. Prussia stretched uninterrupted across the northern two-thirds of Germany. Prussia — which was Lutheran — was the most influential member of the North German Confederation. Catholic states in southern Germany (which had sided with Austria during the war), including the Kingdom of Bavaria, Baden, and Württemberg, remained independent.
Prussia's middle-class (liberal) politicians were swayed by Bismarck's successes. They were delighted that Bismarck was willing to cooperate with them, and they swung their support in his direction. The French were not happy, facing as they did an enhanced Prussia. The French government wanted compensation for its role in the Austro-Prussian war. Bismarck wanted to complete the unification of Germany and calculated that a war against France would arouse a nationalistic fervor in the independent states in southern Germany and swing these states toward unification with Prussia. Bismarck refused the compensation wanted by France, and Napoleon III (Emperor of the French since 1852) wanted to teach Prussia a lesson. Napoleon and his Prime Minister hoped that a war with Prussia war would arouse patriotism and reduce the political disunity that had arisen within France. On 16 July 1870, France's parliament voted to declare war, and the war began three days later. Britain, Russia and Italy remained neutral. Believing that France was the aggressor, Germans in the southern independent states sided with their fellow Germans to the north, as Bismarck had hoped.
The war lasted barely six months. It was the last major war in Europe before 1914, leaving people with the impression that wars in this new industrial age would be short. In late January 1871, France's Government of National Defence in Paris began negotiating an armistice with the Prussians. Prussia was besieging Paris. Paris was starving, and Bismarck agreed to end the siege and to allow food convoys to immediately enter the city (including trains carrying millions of German army rations). In May, France's government accepted Bismarck's terms for ending the war: a one billion dollar indemnity to be paid to Prussia within three years and France ceding to Germany most of Alsace and a large part of the region of Lorraine. Bismarck had been unenthusiastic about taking these areas, wanting to avoid a lasting and unnecessary enmity between the Germans and French, but his fellow Germans were aroused by victory and believed Alsace and Lorraine should be German. Germany, moreover, gained coal mines, iron ore deposits and some military advantages: higher ground, a shorter western border and a greater distance from a new western border to its heartland.
The French were forced to give up Rome, which reverted to Italy. A new German Empire (Deutsches Reich) had been declared in January, replacing the North German Confederation. Its motto: "God with us." It's anthem. "Hail to Thee in the Victor's Crown" (the tune the same as the British know as "God Save the Queen" and Americans know as "My Country 'Tis of Three.) Baden, Württemberg, and Bavaria agreed to be a part of the new Germany. Germany had become a nation-state. Under a new federal constitution, King William (Wilhelm) was the head of state, also known as President, with the title Emperor. Bismarck became Foreign Minister. German's Parliament (the Reichstag) was to be elected by Universal Male Suffrage (all males over 25 could vote) and secret ballot. And Parliament's consent was needed for all legislation.
The empire's king (kaiser) since 1888, William II (Wilhelm II), didn't like competing with Bismarck's prestige, and he dismissed Bismarck in 1890. Bismarck had tried to keep France isolated while maintaining good relations with Austria and Russia (and these two at peace with each other). Bismarck had been trying to keep Germany's neighbors reassured that the new Germany was a "satisfied" power, and he had wanted to keep Russia and Austria and at peace with each other. The old believer in "blood and iron" wanted balance and peace. William II thought he could handle foreign policy better than Bismarck, but it wouldn't work out well for him.
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Copyright © 2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.