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Bismarck and German Unity

Before 1800, German-speaking people lived in a
number of small and medium-sized states in
Prussia and Austrian Empire. However, when
Napoleon Bonaparte came to power in France,
he took over German speaking states and
distributed them to his family members in power
in different European countries. Because of
Napoleon, German states got divided up between
the different countries in Europe. Many of the
foreign (Not German) countries occupying the
German states forced Germans to change their
religion, pay heavy taxes, adopt different culture
and customs, learn a new language, and serve in
the military. When Bismarck became chancellor
of Germany, he called for a strong, unified
German state. From 1864-1871, Bismarck would
lead Prussia into three wars. Each war increased
German power and paved (led) the way for unity.
Bismarck’s first action was to reclaim (take back)
the provinces (lands) of Schleswig and Holstein
from Denmark. In 1864, Bismarck formed an
alliance with Austria to reclaim these lands. These
lands had German-speaking citizens. Denmark
granted the Germans in these provinces many of the
same rights they granted their own people. United
with the Austrians, the Prussians were able to take
back the two provinces. The whole war with
Denmark lasted approximately seven days. These
two pieces of land was distributed equally between
Austria and Prussia.
In 1866, Bismarck invented an excuse to attack Austria. The Austro-Prussian War
lasted only seven weeks and ended in a decisive (quick) Prussian victory. The Austrians
offered all the areas won in the war with Denmark in return to end the fighting. The
Prussian refused to surrender. Two days later, peace came when the Austrians gave the
Prussians all the land received from the Denmark war, as well as lands in Northern
Austria that contained German-speaking people. Bismarck had won again.
In France, the Prussian victory over Austria worried Napoleon III, the leader of France.
In 1870, Prussian forces began a march west towards France. Their goals were to try to
reclaim (take back) lands Napoleon Bonaparte stole many years ago. The Prussians
main target was the Rhine Land, which contained a major river running north to south.
By summer 1870, a growing rivalry between the two powers led to the Franco-Prussian

War. Bismarck rallied the German soldiers by
retelling the stories of how France and Napoleon
Bonaparte invaded, killed, raped and defeated them
sixty years ago. To instigate the war even further,
Bismarck rewrote and then released to the press and
media a telegram that reported a meeting between the
Prussian King William I and a group of French
ambassadors (representatives). Bismarck edited the
telegram to make it look like King William I had
insulted the French king and the French people.
Furious, Napoleon declared war on Prussia, as
Bismarck had hoped. A larger, more modernized, and
more determined Prussian army smashed the French
Forces, who were disorganized, had poor leadership, and were ill equipped for combat.
Within eight weeks, France surrendered, giving up the Rhine Land and other lands lost
to Napoleon years ago.
Within less than a decade, Bismarck managed to accomplish something German states
have been trying to do for a thousand years. Germans were now united under one
government called Germany.
Part 1 – Draw an arrow and locate and label Germany on the map.

Part 2 – Choose THREE out of the five questions to complete in a response that consists
of AT LEAST SEVEN SENTENCES. EVERYONE must do QUESTION 5. Do more
questions for extra credit!
1) In your own words, discuss how Bismarck united the German states and increased
German power.
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2) Were any of Bismarck’s wars justified (acceptable)? Explain with examples, details,
and opinions that are backed up!
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3) How do you think the rest of the countries in Europe and the world will view and react
to Bismarck and a united Germany? Did Bismarck make more friends? Or more enemies
with his decision making?

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4) Create three questions you would ask Bismarck if he was running for an election to
become president. Think about how Bismarck might answer each question, and answer

each question you asked.

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5) Was Bismarck a good leader for the German people? Was Bismarck’s methods of
unifying Germany worth it? Why or why not?

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