Otto von Bismarck’s successful unification of Germany is one of the most important events in European history. Unifying over thirty principalities and other smaller states within the geographical vicinity of modern day Germany is, by far, Otto von Bismarck’s greatest achievement. Starting as a Prussian statesman, Bismarck eventually rose to the title of Minister President. At this point, Bismarck was beginning to make his move to unify. In 1866, he had the states of Germany attack Austria.
Within the “Documents of German Unification”, Otto von Bismarck reviews his victory over Austria. He interestingly notes that he wanted to “avoid wounding Austria too severely; we had to avoid leaving behind in her any unnecessary bitterness of feeling or desire for revenge”. He continues, stating that he sees Austria as a future ally, and simply cannot afford to have a hostile nation to his east when he attacks France. Additionally, Bismarck states that this conflict also enabled the German states to obtain more feelings of unity and nationalism under Prussia.
While still serving the Prussian crown, Bismarck already begins to create a collective German state. Bismarck’s uses the cover of war to covertly instill nationalism within the citizens. A brilliant albeit brutal move, Bismark will eventually utilize the tactic of using war to force unification when he attacks France.
Was Bismarck wrong to use war to create more German nationalism? What would you have done differently?