How Accurate is it to Summarise the Period Before 1848 as:
‘The Time when Nothing Happened’?
Bismarck described the era before 1848 as ‘the time when nothing happened’ and to a certain degree it is true, however, a number of key events did occur that had long lasting effects on Germany that would come to hinder, advance and affect the pace and direction of unification.
Friedrich I established Prussia as a kingdom, independent of its previous association as a Polish fief, Prussia expanded its borders massively into neighbouring states. Under Friedrich I Prussia emerged as one of the strongest military and economic powers in Europe proper. The strong economy and growing military ...view middle of the document...
The Holy Roman Empire remained a target to aim for in regards to attempts to unify for many years after its demise, with artists and proponents of unity portraying its existence as a force for good and prosperity and as a result pride in ‘Germany’ as a whole increased.
Notwithstanding with the relatively recent failures and ineffectiveness of the Empire, the Napoleonic occupation resulted in a wave of nationalism that pushed for a new united Germany, a common hatred of the French was begun, Germans began to think of the war as Germany versus France rather than individual, small states against France- the idea that Germany would be stronger if all states worked together aided with this and the growing sense of hope in response to the ersatz unity left the concept of permanent unification more accessible and possible. In addition to a strong hatred of anything French, A strong sense of xenophobia began, furthering individual national identities.
The breaking-down of social infrastructure amid the chaos led to new ideas of liberalism, nationalism and further ideas of equality. The growth in liberal and almost-socialist ideas resulted in changing attitudes and opportunistic vilification of the outdated feudal-like system of hereditary land ownership and serfdom. The ‘October Edict’ of 1807 freed the Prussian serfs almost 60 years before the Russian Empire did so, with the other German states imitating Prussia after 1815. The acceptance and adoption of these reforms allowed for new levels of liberalism to present themselves and allowed further reforms to be passed later, people were more able to present ideas that would have been dangerous before the Napoleonic invasion.
A great reorganisation and restructuring of the general administration and territorial boundaries of the German states during the Napoleonic occupation, previously consisting of up to 300 free-states, Duchies, Principalities, Kingdoms and groupings of larger states, such as Prussia (itself a union of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg), the Kingdom of Bavaria and the Austrian Empire, resulted in a province more closely resemblant to modern Germany of 39 states and a federal administration system more efficient and modern in nature. After the Napoleonic wars had ended the new system was retained and nationalistic feelings persisted, albeit in a smaller and more suppressed fashion, some small communities like the Burschenschaften wholeheartedly supported a large-scale unification and persistently pushed for such a unification until 1871, they were not hindered by the memories of the failure of the Holy Roman Empire and youthful optimism allowed for the past to be seen through rose-tinted spectacles.
The German Confederation that existed from 1815 until 1848, was established to administrate the newly-freed German states, it helped with the rebuilding and acclimatisation to a Europe that had been broken by Napoleon. The Confederation was represented and led...