Germany's Strong Economic Growth After 1871

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Germany's Strong Economic Growth After 1871

In January of 1871 Wilhelm of Prussia was proclaimed Emperor of

Germany. The many German states had been unified with Prussiaat their

head, the second Reich began. This unification of Germany and the

'iron chancellor' Otto Von Bismarck then lead Germany through a period

of huge economic growth. In the space of 50 years Germany grew from a

feudal simplicity to the great power which terrorised Europe

throughout the First World War.

We must first enquire into the reasons behind the unification of

Germany. A gradual process of economic interdependence from the early

stages of the Industrial Revolution saw the Germanic states move

towards economic unification, before they engaged in political

unification. This economic growth became increasingly reliant upon the

strong bonds throughout the Germanic states. This illustrated an

emerging identity of a strong Germany separate form Austria.

Schleswig and Holstein are two German duchies (remains of old German

tribes) that were under Danish rule. In the 1840's the Danes attempted

to claim Schleswig and Holstein as being part of Denmark, rather than

them remaining as semi-independent Germanic tribes. This resulted in

uproar from German nationalists and demands for the two duchies to be

fully incorporated into the German Confederation. The confederation

consisted of thirty-eight sovereign states and four free cities and

included the five large kingdoms of Austria, Prussia, Saxony, Bavaria,

and Württemberg. In 1848, this had led to a brief war for control of

the two duchies. Christian IX of Denmark formally incorporated

Schleswig and Holstein into the Danish state; breaking the terms of

the Treaty of London, the result of the previous war. Once more this

led to an outcry amongst German nationalists and the German

Confederation mobilized an army and invaded the duchies. Following the

victory it was agreed that Austria would manage the duchy of Holstein

and that Prussia would be in charge of the day to day running of


In 1866 further arguments about the administration of

Schleswig-Holstein led to war breaking out between Austria and

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