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Unification of Germany

This map is part of a series of 24 animated maps showing the history of Europe and nations, 1815-1914.

The Congress of Vienna of 1815 created the German Confederation. But this political construct, lacking any real power, fails to meet the wishes of German patriots who hope to see their dream of national unity fulfilled.

In fact, there are two concurrent unification projects: the “Greater Germany” project, which includes Austria and would be dominated by it, and that of the “Little Germany,” which excludes Austria, and would be formed around Prussia.

On the economic plane, in Germany, Prussia pursues a voluntarist customs union policy: the Zollverein.

In 1828, the Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt joins Prussia, and is soon followed by Bavaria and Württemberg. At the beginning of 1834, the Zollverein unites the greatest part of central and southern Germany.

Progressively, the last German states join the customs union, up to the entry of the two Mecklenburgs in 1867.

This enlargement of the Zollverein results in a de facto Little Germany. Prussian chancellor Bismarck then labors to bring about the project of a political Little Germany.

Political unification works by excluding Austria. The “Affair of the Duchies” serves as a pretext for Bismarck to provoke conflict, and Prussia wins over the Austrian armies at the Battle of Sadowa on July 3, 1866.

The peace of Prague consecrates the Prussian victory. The German Confederation is dissolved, which excludes Austria from German affairs. Then, with the states located north of the Main, Prussia forms the Confederation of northern Germany.

Bismarck finishes the unification of Germany following another war, in 1870, against France. The Prussian victory leads to the rallying of the last German states, and on January 18, 1871, William I is crowned “German Emperor” in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles.

As of the treaty of Frankfurt, signed in the month of May, France must surrender possession of Alsace and the north of Lorraine, which become part of the empire.