Coal and Iron and the Unification of Germany in 1871 Essay

Coal and Iron and the Unification of Germany in 1871 Essay

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Coal and Iron and the Unification of Germany in 1871


In 1862, Bismarck said that ‘the great questions of the day will be
settled by blood and iron.’ Although there is undoubtedly some degree
of accuracy in this statement, the most important reason for the
unification of Germany, which ended ‘the great questions of the day,’
was ‘coal and iron.’ This is a quote from British economist John
Maynard Keynes, who argued that the industrial and economic
preparation before the wars, which united Germany, were more
important. This is because the economic strength created by the rapid
industrialisation enabled the creation of a powerful Prussia. It was
under this powerful Prussia, with some skilful diplomacy and
opportunism, that Germany was successfully united in the wars of
German Unification. Without such economic development and prosperity,
it is questionable whether Germany would have been united by 1871.

The main reason for the unification of Germany by 1871 was ‘coal and
iron.’ This includes important factors such as the presence of raw
materials in Prussia, the development of the railways and the
Zollverein in Germany, and the industrialisation, which took place in
Prussia, particularly in the 1850s. This economic strength, stems back
to the Congress of Vienna, where Prussia was given mineral rich land.
It gave Prussia the coal and iron producing areas of the Rhineland,
and the mineral rich Ruhr and Saar. The availability of such natural
resources created an economic take off in Prussia in the 1850s. As a
result, Germany became Europe’s largest producer of key industrial
commodities, such as coal and iron. New mines and iron works w...


... middle of paper ...


...d, stable financial environment. This enabled a strong
and successful Prussia to emerge. Prussia was then able to progress to
unite Germany. This was because the strong economy permitted the
establishment of a strong military force. This strong military force
was then able to go forward and unite Germany by ‘blood and iron.’
This process was undoubtedly assisted by the skilful negotiation and
opportunism of Bismarck. The longer-term factors – the economic and
industrial factors – enabled the shorter-term reasons for unification
to occur. Without a strong financial backdrop, Prussia would not have
had such a powerful and efficient army, which was clearly important in
the unification of Germany. It was ‘iron and coal’ that enabled the
new German Reich to be proclaimed in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles
on 18th June 1871.

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