Unification of Germany After Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, many Germans wanted an independent Germany. Germany was a confederation of 39 small states, led by Austria and Prussia. These states were always at war with one another, deterring the economic progress of Germany. The King of Prussia, Kaiser William I, chose a Prime Minister Bismarck to unify Germany under the rule of Prussia, and excluding Austria and France completely. Bismarck was fearless and believed in the urgent need for unification in Germany. He started with the modernization of the army, defying the parliament in collecting taxes. His policy came to be known as ‘Blood and Iron’ policy and earned him the nickname of the ‘Iron Chancellor’.
With this improved army, Bismarck encouraged the German population of Schleswig and Holstein to revolt against their ruler Denmark. In 1864, Bismarck joined hands with Austria against Denmark. Bismarck’s next target was Austria. Prussia defeated Austria and formed the North German Confederation. Bismarck promised the province of Venice to Italy and kept her out of the war. Austria was forced to give Venice to Italy, ending the Austrian control in Italy. He also promised territorial compensation to Napoleon III of France and kept it out of the war. He had already secured Russia’s support by helping them in suppressing a revolt in Russian controlled Poland.
The only obstacles to Prussian dominance of Germany were four small German states in Southern Germany and the disapproval of Napoleon III of France. But a disagreement between the two countries led France to declare a war on Prussia. The Franco-Prussian War was quite short. Prussia invaded France in 1871 and defeated the French. Napoleon III abdicated the throne and France was forced to give up Alsace and Lorraine. The remainder of the German states, except Austria, were annexed and joined with Germany. The unification of Germany was complete under Kaiser William I. Soon Germany emerged as the leading power in Europe, building a colonial empire to further German economic interest and increase German influence in the world.
In the 18th century, Italy was a collection of states, each having its own monarch and traditions. Some of them were Venetia, two Sicilies, Papal States, Sardinia, Tuscany, etc. During the Middle Ages, the Pope increased their influence in both religious and political matters. The Pope established their own political rule in what were called the Papal States. Soon Italy began to grow in importance. They became centers of political life, banking and foreign trade. During the Renaissance, Italy became even more important than the other states, For many years, France and the Holy Roman Empire fought for the control of Italy. The French Revolution of 1789 played an important role in the history of Italy. The Italian rulers sensing danger in their own country drew closer to the European kings who opposed France. After France became a republic, secret clubs favoring an Italian Republic was formed throughout Italy. From 1796 till 1814, when Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by the European powers many Italians had started seeing the possibility of a united Italy free from foreign control.
Many revolutionaries like Mazzini and Garibaldi along with some secret societies kept spreading the idea of an independent unified republic among the Italians. From 1849 onwards, the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia which was a monarchy under Victor Emmanuel took an active role in this unification. It was significant that the Italian unification was headed by a monarch. Under his leadership, Cavour the Prime Minister ousted the Austrians form Lombardy, Tuscany, Modena, etc. Garibaldi led the revolt and liberated Sicily and Naples. He handed over the charge of the two states to Emmanuel and declared him the King of Italy. Later, Rome and Venetia joined the Federation of Italian states. The process of unification of Italy began with the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and ended with the Franco-Prussian War in 1871.