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The Impact of Economic Factors on the Development of German Nationalism Between 1789 and 1919

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It is unquestionable that economic factors aided the unification of Germany. The debate however, lies in the significance of the economy in unifying Germany in comparison to other factors such as the political position of Germany, Prussian dominance, the decline in Austrian power and the overall German nationalist feeling. Historian Gordon Crain, in his recent book, Germany 1866-1945 clams that the economic factors made German union likely but not inevitable. This opinion enforces us to consider other, perhaps more prominent factors which led to the eventual unification of Germany.

In 1800 23 million Germans were divided into 314 states. These states were loosely united under the nominal rule of the Holy Roman Emperor.

The emergence of Prussia after 1848 as the dominant German state is a primary factor that led to the unification of all the German states. The image of Prussia as a leading economic and later military power is closely connected to the creation of the Zollverien. By 1836, 25 out of the 39 German states were members of this free trade area, already showing an improvement in unity. This was of great benefit to Prussia economically. By the middle of the 19th century Prussia was a major industrial power. The growth in Prussia's strength came at the same time as a weakening of Austria. Austria was never a member of the Zollverien which undoubtedly held back economic growth. The creation of the Zollverien encourages support of German nationalism, who hoped to see economic union lead on to full political unification. Significantly however the nationalists were divided along political lines as well as on whether a united Germany would include Austria or not (Kleindeutschland or Grossdeutchland.) this was clearly demonstrated in the failure of the 1848-9 revolutions in Germany.

The 1850s saw a growth in industry of Germany specifically in Prussia. Prussia's natural resources of coal and iron were vast. Through mines, steel work and furnaces Prussia gained its power. John Keynes quotes that 'German economy has been built more truly upon coal and iron than blood and iron.' After 1871 only the USA had a faster rate of growth. In 1914 Germany was Europe's industrial superpower, as a result of coal and iron. Germany had almost caught up with Britain's level of coal production and exceeded their level of iron production. It was two German firms- AEG and Siemens- who dominated world electrical industry and by 1914 half of the world's electrical products were from Germany. The growth of the economy provided many jobs and also rallied a sense of unity. Everybody was working for the same thing, an increased economy and the majority of people were benefiting from the economy growth, improving their quality of life. The increased quality of life meant people were happy with Germany giving a sense of patriotism. Germany realised they needed to be unified to carry on boosting the economy with the aim of becoming a superpower. A key unifier was the railways. By 1860 Prussia had 5,600km of railways within her extensive territories and this tripled to 17,000km on the foundation of the German Empire in 1871. The German railway was the second in Europe and it soon overtook Britain's. The expensive railways needed capital therefore it was vital Germany had an efficient banking system. The German banks were generous giving long term credits for industrial firms. Close partnership between banking and commercial sectors. The railways had an enormous effect on the unification of Germany. People could now travel further, the railways brought the country closer and people could see the rest of their country. The railways also made it possible to mobilise the army. Therefore, patriotism increased because of a better, stronger army which could fight against a common enemy. Moreover, the railways certainly aided the unification of Germany.

Despite this point of view the changing economy also created problems, hindering the unification of Germany. The effects of industrialisation created division in wealth. In 1879 0.5% of tax payers owned 1/7 of the nations wealth but by 1894 o.75 owned 1/5. The industrialisation caused urbanisation and the migration of peasants to the city meant they left pervious bonds of conservatism and conformity and became a group needing management by ruling order in a way that the peasantry did not. Nationalism was however, one of the tools used to manage this class. Although conditions of the people improved in the towns and cities the population remaining in the countryside continued to have a hard life, highlighting further divisions. Despite this, it demands to be considered that for most the standard of living was increasing; between 1885-1913 unemployment didn't exceed 3% also, the length of the average working week was falling. This helped unify the country as the majority of the working class saw improvements in their life and country.

The fact that the change in economy in many ways hindered unification could be used to contest that Bismarck's policy had a larger impact on the unification of Germany than economic factors alone. Bismarck's rule was a strong and arguably the strongest factor that led to the unification of Germany. He used Realpolitik, ruthless politics that puts the goals of the state ahead of any other concern as well as manipulating his way into wars nationalism so he could accomplish unification. Bismarck also used the policy of Kulturkampf. This is a struggle for culture. He did so by attacking the Catholic Church, which creates a common enemy among the North Germans. He eventually fails, but this common enemy helps to unify Germany. He emphasized a common history amongst the Germans. He used Brothers Grimm, which were two brothers that wrote a collection of German fairytales including Rapunzel, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, and Snow White,

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