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Was Germany any closer to being unified by 1849? The period from 1815-1849 is often described as “time period where nothing happened” in terms of unification, this can be seen with Germany remaining divided by 1849. However, throughout this period there was significant steps that both enhanced, and hindered how close Germany was to being unified, these include economic changes with the Prussian customs union, political changes within the congress of Vienna and social changes through the 1848-49 revolutions. There were significant economic changes throughout the period from 1815-1849, most importantly the creation of the Prussian customs union in 1818 that then went on to become the Zollverein in 1834. This was done after the Napoleonic war and the following peace brought fierce competition from British goods and the poor harvest of 186-17, it was intended to develop trade in the post war slump with neighbouring states by linking the German key rivers with the Rhine, Main and Danube. The states were also linked with the building off 2,800km of new road. “Prussia’s policy was deliberately aggressive and designed to enrich itself” this led to a trade war which Prussia soon won, and by 1834 rival trade zones joined with the customs union to create the single Zollverein. It can be argued that this brought Germany close to unification as it gave Prussia, the only nation capable of overcoming Austria’s opposition to unification economic power. The Zollverein also brought Germany closer to unification as it included every German state but Hannover, Oldenburg, Mecklenburg, Hanseatic towns and Austria were not members. Tis isolated Austria and was a factor in their gradual economic decline and eventual loss of power, this brought German closer to unification as it Austria who were the main opponents of unification, if their power was reduced and Prussia’s was increased then Germany was closer to unification. The Zollverein was made up of over 35 states and 25 million German people, this brought Germany closer to unification as the majority of the German states were linked together in an economic union along with measures and currency begging to become the same. The main thing that the Zollverein did to bring Germany closer to Germany is it provided a template for the ‘Klein- Deutschland’ without an Austria and allowed Prussia to appear the natural leader of Germany This was the first time Prussia began to defy Austria ‘it was the first break in German settlement of 1815’ and led to it being described as ‘the mighty lever of German unification” However, it could also be argued that the Zollverein did not bring Germany closer to unification but in fact prevented it as it can be argued that princes of the smaller states accepted this loss of sovereignty as they feared that if the growing industrial middle class were restricted by internal tariffs they would be angered and cause revolution and become a republic therefore by joining the Zollverein they were not encouraging unification, they were preventing it. It also highlighted the difference in political views between the nations as any state member could VETO a proposal at the Zollverein congress as some decisions were either held up or not made at all this evident in the Prussia v Austrian war in 1866, every member of the Zollverein opposed Prussia’s actions. The Zollverein did bring Germany closer to unification in an economic sense and set up the framework for a united Germany however the political differences were still evident and the princes were still desperate to keep hold of as much power as possible. There were also significant developments in the economies of German states concentrated in specific areas. The exploitation of Germany’s vast raw materials brought wealth for an emerging middle class the state which benefitted most was Prussia, which was granted control of industrial land on the River Rhine in 1815. There was also a significant rise in the urbanisation of the working class from the country side into the towns as people moved to work in the new industries, the population rose and people living in such close proximity meant there was potential for uprisings therefore bringing Germany closer to unification. The industrialisation took place throughout Germany, coal production increased from 1.2 million tonnes in 1815 to 6.1 millions of tonnes in 1848 along with woollen textiles went from 12.7 thousands of tonnes to 28.2 in the same amount of time. This industrialisation and economic growth along with the zollverein arguably brought Germany closer to unification as it increased the wealth and power of the middle class and took away power from the individual rulers, it also brought the working class in greater proximity to each other raising the chances of revolution, this view is supported by British economist JM Keynes who stated German unification was achieved through “coal and iron rather than blood and iron”
The economy was not the only factor that brought Germany closer to unification, there was also a significant amount of political changes throughout this period that brought Germany closer to unification such as the rise of nationalism and liberalism however there were also Significant changes that ensured Germany remained divided in particularly the actions of Austrian foreign minister Metternich. After the freedom from French occupation, the allied forces decided to dissolve the Confederation of the Rhine as they wanted to eradicate the memory of French Occupation, the German states now formed the German Confederation at the congress of Vienna, also known as the Bund or the ‘diet. ‘It aimed to protect its members and give them a stronger voice in Europe.

Each state sent one delegate to the diet however how many votes the delegate was worth was based on population, this allowed the bigger states such as Austria, Prussia and Bavaria to dominate as together they had 24/69 votes in parliament meaning they could VETO important decisions. At this point German unification did not look likely as Prussia, the only state that could realistically catalyse the unification of Germany, was happy to support Austria as they offered them the best chance of security. The Vienna settlement did not enhance the chance of unification as it failed to recognise the growing nationalist feelings amongst many middle class Germans mainly in universities where ‘political professors’ such as Dahlmann and Grimm could utilise their students into protest groups to stir up nationalist feelings. The growing nationalist feelings made Metternich determined to supress any semblance of nationalism as Austria was vulnerable to unrest from minorities inside its own frontiers. Consequently, the diet was used to suppress nationalism rather than embrace it. This is evident after the ‘Wartburg Festival’ which celebrated Martin Luther’s ‘ninety-five theses’ which was his defiance of the pope’s authority, a life sized model of Metternich was thrown onto a fire to show the hatred of him among nationalists. The result of this was Metternich looking for an excuse to pass legislation to repress nationalism, this came after the assassination on a Russian secret agent at the university of Jena which gave him is chance to pass the ‘karslbad decrees’ which aimed at cutting back political rights in Germany. These decrees did not brig Germany closer to unification as it aimed to stop the growing nationalism and liberalism a source, the decrees included strict press censorship a law commission in Mainz to monitor political activity. As a result of these decrees the foundations of nationalism were crushed. From then up to 1849 a few incidents of rising nationalism stand out. Nationalism did begin to rise however when France tried to retake land on the west bank of the River Rhine in 1840, this raised anger all over Germany and prompted composition of patriotic songs such as Deutschland uber alles (now the national anthem.) This suggested that nationalism did exist among Germans it just took a incident that would create a common goal for all Germans for it to have an impact
This brought Germany closer to unification as it showed there was underlying patriotism within Germany however It just needed a catalyst to stir up these feelings. However, by 1849, the Karlsbad decrees however took away the foundations for the growth of nationalism which did not bring Germany closer to unification as any rise was suppressed by Metternich.

There was also a significant rise in liberalism throughout this period, Liberalism brought Germany closer to unification as it wanted to gain freedom for the whole country and grant political freedom to the German people by removing the elites from power. This can be first seen in the south west where liberalism was at its strongest. In 1832 unrest around Europe spread to Germany and gave further support for a constitutional movement, Duke Karl of Brunswick was deposed and a constitution was granted, the same happened in Hanover, Saxony and Hesse Casse; between 1833-37. The most evident example of growing liberalism can be seen as the Hambach festival in 1832 which took place in the south west of Germany, 25,000 students gathered as speeches praising the constitutional movement, amidst the crowds there was revolutionary flag waving and called for a single united German Republic. This can be further seen in significant cultural changes throughout this period, Germany's different states began to realise that culturally, they were very similar. This led many to believe that the German people should be united politically. German Romanticism begin flourish artists and writers looked to the inner life of individual Others evoked the idea of a national spirit or "volk" was something that had existed in the past but been suppressed under Napoleon's rule. A culture emerged that encouraged people of the subjugated states to consider their identity and their roots this can be seen in paintings such as The wanderer above the sea of Fog, 1818 by Caspar David Friedrich This evidence of growing romanticism, nationalism and liberalism suggests that Germany was gradually moving closer to unification by 1849.

The consequences of this however arguably set the nationalist and liberalist movements in a much worse place than they were before 1830. Metternich passed the ‘6 articles’ via the Frankfurt diet in 1832 which banned all political movements, universities supervised and the wearing a black red and golf scarves was forbidden. This again shows the effect of Metternich and other elites on why Germany was not very close to unification by 1849 as none of them wanted to hand their power over to the people in a unified state. Without the 6 articles and Karlsbad decrees German unification would have been a lot closer by 1849.

The effect of Prussia on liberalism and nationalism remained very little until the death of King Fredrick William IIII in 1840, his son King William IV aspired to a liberal reputation and granted an end to censorship, release of political prisoners and appointed a liberal, united diet. This was a big step towards unification as the most economically powerful state had a liberal constitution, this would have brought Germany even closer to a unified nation, however King Fredrick was mentally unwell and abolished the united diet three weeks after its introduction and was quoted “never will I consent that a written paper should intrude between Lord our God in Heaven and this country. This suggests that the elites were never really serious about forming a united, liberal Germany as it would mean handing over more of their power therefore from a nationalist and liberalist point of view, unification was not very close by 1849.

The revolutions that’s occurred in 1848-9 however was the closest Germany had come to unification and Germany should have become united as a result. The revolutions were ignited from the overthrowing of King Louis in France, it called upon the rest of Europe to question authority. In Vienna, Metternich was forced to flee and the army was withdrawn from the capital. Metternich’s fall had a profound effect upon the rest of Germany, Landlords were attacked, castles and feudal records were destroyed. Rulers across Germany gave in early with very little fight, representative governments were set up, elections were held, liberal ministries were appointed and the old feudal order began to be abolished. In March 1848 at meeting in Heidelberg 51 representatives form 6 states and discussed changes to Germany’s political institutions and agreed to form the ‘Vorparlament’ where a constitution for the unification of Germany would be drawn up.

The national constitution hoped to agree on a new united constitution along with basic rights and demands including freedom of the press and fair taxes. It was at this stage that Germany was at its closest to unification than It had ever been, however by June 1849, the Frankfurt parliament had been moved to Stuggart then dispersed. This was down to a number of factors. The first problem was the people that had been elected into it, it was dominated by liberal minded, middle class professionals who were not used to political power, the parliament as also made up of moderate supporters of the monarchy along with radical republicans, there was also confusion over a Gross Deutschland (with Austria) or a Kleindutschland (without.) These conflicts in the parliament took time, during this time if gave the German princes time to recover and start asserting themselves against the liberals as they had military power behind them, the parliament did not. The ending of the parliament came from the refusal of Fredrick William IV to accept the crown of German emperor, he described it as a “a diadem moulded out of the dirt and dregs of revolution” . This suggests that Germany had not come any closer to unification then it had in 1815 as the elite rulers were still not accepting to unify the country however if the Frankfurt parliament would have been experienced, like minded individuals with popular support Germany would have been extremely close to unification in 1849.

The social structure of Germany throughout this period also effected two close it was to unification. The evidence suggests that the nation was split with the urban middle classes taking a very active political role whereas in the rural areas the mood towards unification was very apathetic, this was highlighted in the 1815 revolutions.

There was a big split between the social groups of Germany, as “once middle class liberals secured election of their own assemblies, most were as afraid as social revolution as the conservatives”
This suggests that because of the split in the social groups the upper classes would never be removed from power therefore unification would be less likely. The split within society was also down to working class apathy as all they wanted better wages and living conditions, unification did not bother them as a whole. This can be further seen in the Rural areas where after reasonably good harvest in the 1847-8 the rural population was not in a desperate economic way therefore had no need to call for revolution. This was crucial into why the revolutions and the attempt at unification failed. The social factors suggest that Germany was not close to being unified by 1849.

In conclusion, by 1849 Germany had certainly missed the opportunity to become unified after the 1848 revolutions however due to the failures of the Frankfurt parliament it allowed a restoration of the German confederation with the elites back in power and it appeared Germany was back to how it was in 1815, “the careful, steady process of the liberal’s constitutional movement was lost in the radicalism that followed” this suggests that the revolutions severely dented the nationalist movement meaning Germany was not any closer to being unified in 1849 than it had been in 1815.

[ 1 ]. Tim Chapman. The congress of Vienna 1998.
[ 2 ]. WG shreeves, nation making in the 19th century 1984..
[ 3 ]. William The origins of the wars of German unification 1991.
[ 4 ]. William The origins of the wars of German unification 1991.
[ 5 ]. Tim Chapman. Congress of Vienna 1998.
[ 6 ]. Modern history review article sep 2000. Graham Goodlad.
[ 7 ]. The unification of Germany, Farmer and Stiles.
[ 8 ]. Tim Chapman. Congress of Vienna 1998

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