UCSB > History Dept. > Prof. Marcuse > Courses > Hist 133a > Lecture 15: Otto von Bismarck

UCSB Hist 133A, Fall 2006 (133a homepage)
19th Century Germany, Nov. 3, 2006

Prof. Marcuse (homepage)

Lecture 15:
Otto von Bismarck and German Unification
(previous lecture, next lecture)


  • Guest lecture by Laurence Christian
  • Q5 due

Guiding Question

  • Who was Bismarck, and how did he come to play the role that he did in Prussian/German history?


  • 1815: Bismarck born in Brandenburg, NW of Berlin
  • studied law at Göttingen and Berlin
  • 1848 urged Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV to suppress uprising
  • 1849 elected to Prussian Assembly
  • 1851 Prussian representative to the Diet of the German Confederation
  • 1859 Prussian ambassador to Russia
  • 1862 Prussian ambassador to France
  • 1862 Appointed Minister President of Prussia
  • 1864-1870 Wars of Unification
  • 1871 Appointed Imperial Chancellor of German Emperor Wilhelm I and given title of prince
  • 1890 Released from service by Germany’s third emperor
  • 1898 Died. Requested that his tomb be inscribed "A true German servant of the Emperor William I"

Bismarck’s Domestic and Foreign Policy Influences

  1. Germany’s new Federal System gave each of the twenty-five states one vote. Prussia had a significant number of votes, which means they could prevent a majority decision. King of Prussia was the president.
  2. May Laws (1871) restricted the church’s authority within the Empire, the state began to supervise the clergy and punished those who refused to cooperate. Marriages could only be performed through civil ceremonies.
  3. Anti-Socialist Laws (1878) did not exactly ban the Social Democrats, but aimed to cripple the organization. Banned groups/meetings who attempted to spread socialism, outlawed trade unions and closed 45 or 47 newspapers considered to lean toward socialism.
  4. Germany’s Social Welfare State introduced health and disability insurance, accident insurance, a pension plan, and placed restrictions on women and children in the workplace.
  5. League of Three Emperors (1873) established a conservative alliance with Russia and Austria, which was designed to isolate France and keep Russia on Germany’s side.
  6. Congress of Berlin (1878) gathered major European powers to discuss the Russo-Turkish War and reorganize conditions in the Balkans. Bismarck’s leadership is elevated.
  7. Dual Alliance (1879) established with Austria and Hungary, and later included Italy.

Quotations from Laurence's powerpoint (back to top)

  • 1862: "Prussia’s borders according to the Vienna Treaties [of 1814-15] are not favorable for a healthy, vital state.  The great issues of the day will be settled not by speeches and majority resolutions—that was the great mistake of 1848-49—but by iron and blood."
  • 1864, eve of Danish war: "They [the people of Schleswig-Holstein] must become Prussians. This is the goal for which I strive, though whether I shall be successful or not rests in God's hand. I do not wish to be held responsible, however, for spilling Prussian blood solely in order to create another minor state which would join the others in the Confederation in always voting against us."
  • 1866, eve of Austrian war: "Austria's rivalry with us is no more culpable than ours with her. Our task is the creation and/or preparation of German national unity under the leadership of the King of Prussia."
  • August 1867: "Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war."
  • 1868: "War with France is inevitable, the French Emperor will force it upon us. Louis Napoleon has lost much of his prestige for two reasons: first his adventure in Mexico.[and] secondly, the fact that he allowed Prussia to become so powerful without exacting any 'compensation for France." He continued, "We of course must be prepared [for war]-and that we are. We shall emerge victorious, and the outcome will be the opposite of what Napoleon seeks: the complete unification of Germany."

Links (back to top)

prepared for web by H. Marcuse on Nov. 6, 2006, updated: 11/9/06
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