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2.4: Unification of Germany

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    An important change in the world system was the unification of Germany in 1871. Under Otto von Bismarck’s leadership, Prussia engaged in a policy of realpolitik (national interest) diplomacy to set up a web of alliances, used railroads to move troops quickly, and used new tactics and weapons to win three short, sharp wars against Denmark, Austria and France. The last of these, the 1871 Franco-Prussian War, resulted in the unification of Germany for the first time in history.

    The unification of Germany totally changed the balance of power in Europe. Germany was the most populous and one of the most advanced countries in science, industry, railroads and military technology. Furthermore, in 1890 Kaiser Wilhelm II dismissed Bismarck and began to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy. Germany already had the most powerful army in Europe. Now the Kaiser also tried to overtake Britain in naval power, increasing friction between the two.

    Meanwhile, the modernization and rise of Japan shifted the balance of power in Asia. It defeated China in 1895 and Russia in 1905, took Korea and Taiwan as colonies, and signed an alliance with Britain.

    This page titled 2.4: Unification of Germany is shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Lawrence Meacham.

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