Napoleon: Battle of Leipzig, Battle of Waterloo and His Demise

Victory belongs to the most persevering.-Napoleon

Napoleon was a man of extraordinary capabilities. He wanted to fulfil the aspirations of French people and himself at the same time. Two contradictories aspirations eventually led to the blunders of Napoleon. We are going to discuss battles fought by Napoleon like Battle of Leipzig, Battle of Waterloo etc. and his demise.

Napoleon’s Dream to Establish Dynasty

Napoleon was having a strange desire to be treated as an equal by the old and effete kings and emperors. He advanced his brothers and sister in almost every field though they were very incompetent. Almost every one of them played him false and deserted him when he was in trouble.

Napoleon’s keen interest was to establish a dynasty. He was very much disappointed by his wife Josephine de Beauharnais, as he did not have children by her. So he decided to divorce Josephine and marry another woman. He wanted to marry a Russian Grand Duchess, but the Tsar would not agree to this. Napoleon was not having the royalty of blood. Napoleon might have become the master of almost entire Europe, but Tsar considered it somewhat presumptuous of him to aspire to marry into the Russian imperial family!

He then more or less forced the Hapsburg Emperor of Austria to give him his daughter Marie Louis in marriage. He had a son by her, but she was dull and unintelligent. She did not like him. When Napoleon was in trouble, she deserted him too.

Napoleon's Dream to Establish Dynasty
Napoleon’s Dream to Establish Dynasty

Tension with Russia: Battle of Leipzig

The difference between Napoleon and Russia had already started on the issue of the marriage proposal. This turned into a rift when Russia decided to leave France on the issue of continental policy. It seems the French and Russian rulers suspected each other of having competing designs on Poland. To irritate Russia Napoleon organised a Grand Darbar in Warsaw. This increased tension between Russia and France.

War with Russia

Napoleon decided to invade Russia. In June 1812, he and his Grand Army marched into Russia. Many of his troops were not French. They had drafted from all over Europe. They felt little loyalty to Napoleon. As his army entered Russia, Alexander pulled back his troops, refusing to be lured into an unequal battle. As the Russians retreated toward Moscow, they practised a scorched-earth policy, burning grain fields and slaughtering livestock so as to leave nothing that the enemy could eat.

Battle of Leipzig

Desperate soldiers deserted the French army to search for scraps of food. On September 7, 1812, the two armies finally clashed in the Battle of Borodino. During the morning, the advantage swung back and forth between the Russians and the French. After several more hours of indecisive fighting, the Russians retreated— giving Napoleon a narrow victory that allowed him to take Moscow.

This attack on Russia proved to be a graveyard for Napoleon. His two-third army was destroyed which became enthusiasm for European rulers. They once again formed United Front and defeated him in the Battle of Leipzig in 1813. After Leipzig, Napoleon was sent to the little island of Elbe in the Mediterranean. Another Bourbon came to the throne of  France. The Bourbons were thus back again, with them came back much of the old tyranny.

Battle of Leipzig: Russian Expedition of Napoleon
Battle of Leipzig: Russian Expedition of Napoleon

Last Days of Napoleon

Battle of Waterloo

In less than a year Napoleon had had enough of Elbe and France had had enough of the Bourbons. He managed to escape in a little boat and landed to Cannes on the Riviera on February 26, 1815. He started pleading to European countries for peace but Europe once again United and defeated him in the Battle of Waterloo, 1815.  Waterloo was a hardly contested battle and victory hung in the balance. Napoleon abdicated for the second time. He handed himself over to the captain of English ship saying that he wanted to live quietly in England.

Napoleon Surrendered

He expected liberal and courteous treatment from Britain or Europe. But frightened Britain and Europe had convinced that Napoleon must be kept as far as possible. So in spite of his protests, he was declared a prisoner and sent with a few companions, to the far-away island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. He died in May 1821. This was the end of Napoleon in France and Europe. He himself was correct when he said afterwards:

No one but myself can be blamed for my fall. I have been my own greatest enemy, the cause of my disastrous fate.


Napoleon was a military genius and a brilliant administrator. Yet all his victories must be measured against the millions of lives that were lost in his wars. Of his many achievements, only his law code and some of his reforms in France’s government proved lasting. A later French statesman and writer, Alexis de Tocqueville, described Napoleon’s character by saying,

He was as great as a man can be without virtue.

His defeat opened the door for the freed European countries to establish a new order. A new order started gaining power in Europe and old order faced problem from new order’s rising.

French Revolution and Napoleon gave momentum to new order which became tension for old order with the defeat of Napoleon old order organised a “Panchayat” in Europe called “Vienna Congress”.

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Congress of Vienna: Principal of Legitimacy and Compensation

Napoleon passed away from the world’s stage. The old order again came into the scene and wanted to establish their hegemony once again over the world. The old monarchs and leaders from different European countries came on one stage and organised a “Panchayat”. This Panchayat was Congress of Vienna of 1814-1815.

Objective of Vienna Congress

Congress of Vienna of 1814-1815 was mainly concerned with the monarchs and provided them quite a security. The French Revolution had given them the fear of their lives. After Napoleon, these old leaders wanted to presume the power in their hands. Their motive was to maintain the balance of power in Europe. European powers collectively defeated Napoleon, so now they wanted to distribute the achievement among themselves.

The Tsar of Russia, Castlereagh of Britain, Metternich of Austria and Prussia were the principal powers. These leaders redrew the map of Europe as per their wish. It did not matter what the people wanted, nor did it matter what the natural and linguistic boundaries of a country were. The monarchs at the Congress of Vienna did not like republics. So they took important decisions at Vienna Congress.

Principal of Legitimacy

Monarchy was the representative of old order. Napoleon via his 40 wars in Europe destroyed the most of the states of Europe. Monarchy was thus weakened in the Europe at that time.

under the Principal of Legitimacy, the states returned back to their old masters. Like:

  • Louis XVIII, the Bourbon was thrust back in France.
  • The old Dutch Republic in Holland and Belgium lumped in one kingdom of the Netherlands (Orange Dynasty).
  • Poland disappeared again as a separate country and swallowed up by Prussia, Austria and chiefly Russia.
  • Venice and North Italy went to Austria.
  • A bit of Italy and a bit of France, between Switzerland and the Riviera, became the part of the kingdom of Sardinia.
  • The Pope became the authority of Papal states again.

Principal of Compensation

Under it, defeated powers bore the compensation of war. The real motive was to distribute the achievements among victorious states. The main beneficiaries were:

  • Apart from Poland, Russia got control on Finland.
  • Venice was in the hand of Austria and now addition was Lombardy plains. Austria became the leader of German states.
  • The Italian and German states whose rulers were not known were given to Prussia. This increased their status and played important role in unification of Germany and Italy.
Congress of Vienna: Principal of Compensation
Congress of Vienna: Principal of Compensation

Formation of Alliance

Congress of Vienna decided to form the alliance among European Nations so that they can collectively deal with any kind of revolutionary activity. Important alliances were:

  • Holy Alliance, proposed by Tsar Alexander-I. The intention of Tsar was unity of all Christian rulers to protect their state and religion. Austria and Britain did not take it seriously. So the next development was
  • Quadruple Alliance, which included Prussia, Austria, Britain and Russia.
  • Later on, when France paid off its compensation, it was given the place in the group and then it was called as Concert of Europe.

Suppression of Nationalism in Europe

Nationalist activities became the target of Congress of Vienna. Nationalism was acting as the unifying force for the people. Example:

  • Suppression of Naples in 1820, for the unification of Italy.

The other political changes took place in the Europe in 1830. France fed up by the Bourbon kings and once again overthrown them out. But instead of a republic, another king Louis Philip, who behaved in little better manner came to the throne. He became the constitutional king.

In Belgium also there was a revolt in 1830. This resulted in the separation of Belgium and Netherlands. European powers strongly disapproved of a republic. So they presented a German prince to Belgium and made him king there.

The year 1830 was a year of revolts in many other places in Europe also. In Germany, Italy and especially in Poland. But these revolts were crushed by the kings. There was a great deal of cruel repression in Poland by the Russians. Even the use of Polish language was forbidden.

Long-Term Legacy

The Congress of Vienna left a legacy that would influence world politics for the next 100 years. But with the passage of time interest of Nations started changing. This led to the change in the relation between European countries. Nationalism began to grow in Italy, Germany, Greece, and other areas that the congress had put under foreign control. Eventually, the nationalistic feelings exploded into revolutions. The year 1848 is called the year of revolutions in Europe. This gave momentum to the new order in Europe after the 1850s. In which important developments were the unification of Italy and unification of Germany.

We will discuss year of Revolutions of the 1830s and 1848 in next coming post.

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Year of Revolutions in Europe 1830s and 1848

The 1830s and 1848 are called as the year of revolutions in Europe. There were rising in many countries, some partly successful, but mostly ending in failure.

Greek War of Independence

An event that mobilised nationalist feelings among the educated elite across Europe was the Greek war of independence. Greece had been part of the Ottoman Empire since the fifteenth century. The growth of revolutionary nationalist ideas in Europe led to a struggle for independence amongst the Greeks in 1821.

Nationalists in Greece got support from other Greeks living in exile. They also got support from the European powers because of their ancient Greek culture and European ethnicity. Poets and artists lauded Greece as the cradle of European civilisation. They mobilised public opinion to support its struggle against a Muslim empire. Finally, the Treaty of Constantinople of 1832 recognised Greece as an independent nation.

The 1848 year of Revolutions

With the coming of Industrial Revolution, a vast change occurred in the field of transport, communication. These all changes made the life of people much swifter. The new order of people came in front and became wealthy. A new industrial working class arose, very different from the artisans and field-labourers. All this required a new economic arrangement and political changes.

When a revolution does break out, the veil that hides actual conditions from the people is removed. People starts to understand the conditions soon. That is why during revolutionary periods people go forward with tremendous energy. Thus revolution is the inevitable result of conservatism and holding back.

Conditions in Europe of the 1850s

There were rising in many countries. A suppressed nationalism was at the back of the rising in Poland, Italy, Bohemia and Hungary. The Polish revolt was against Prussia, the Bohemian and the North Italian against Austria. The authorities brutally suppressed the revolts in these states.

European Revolutions of 1848
European Revolutions of 1848

Hungarian Revolt

The Hungarian revolt against Austria was the biggest of all. Its leader was Lajos Kossuth, who is famous in Hungarian history as a patriot and a fighter for freedom. In spite of two years of resistance, authorities suppressed this revolt.

Some years later Hungary succeeded by a different method of fighting under another great leader, Deak. Deak’s methods of resistance were of passive in nature. In 1867 Hungary and Austria were joined together, more or less on an equal basis to form what was called a “dual monarchy” under the Hapsburg Emperor, Francis Joseph. Deak’s methods of passive resistance became a model half a century later for the Irish against the Britain.

Revolt in France

In France, there was a big change. In 1830 Louis Philippe became the king, a kind of semi-constitutional monarchy was there. By 1848 the people grew weary of him and he abdicated from France. A republic was set up again. Taking advantage of the confusion, a nephew of Napoleon, named Louis Bonaparte, came to Paris. He became the president of the republic.

This was just a pretence to obtain power. Then Louis Bonaparte gained control of the army, and in 1851 there was a coup d’etat. He overawed Paris by his soldiers, shot down many people and terrorised the assembly. In 1852, he made himself emperor of the France calling himself Napoleon-III. So ended the republic after a brief and inglorious career of a little over four years.

Disturbance in Britain

In Britain, there was no revolt in 1848 but there was a great deal of trouble and disturbance. About 1848 great agitation shook the Britain. This was Chartist Agitation. It proposed a monster petition to Parliament containing a “People’s Charter” demanding various reforms. The authorities successfully suppressed this movement. There was a great deal of distress and discontent among the working classes in the factories.

About this time some labour laws began to be passed and these slightly improved a lot of the worker’s condition. Britain was making money fast by its rising trade. It was becoming the “workshop of the world”. Most of these profits went to the owner of the factories. But a small part of them trickled down to the workers. All this helped in preventing a rising in 1848.

The next important development in Europe was the Unification of Italy and Unification of Germany. We will discuss this topic in next coming post.

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Italian Unification: Role of Mazzini, Garibaldi and Cavour

We have discussed the revolts that shocked the European countries in the 1850s. So, now we will discuss the unification of Italian states and role of Mazzini, Garibaldi and Cavour in this.

The Italian States After Napoleon

After coming into power Napoleon unified smaller states of Italy. But after the defeat of Napoleon in Battle of Waterloo, these unified states reverted to their previous state. They were in worse condition because victorious allies at the Congress of Vienna of 1815 divided the country among themselves.

  • Austria took Venice and territory around it.
  • The Pope came back to Rome and the states adjoining it called the Papal States.
  • Naples and the south formed the kingdom of the two Sicilies under a Bourbon king.
  • To the north-west, near the French frontier, there was a King of Piedmont and Sardinia.

All these rulers ruled in an autocratic manner. Because of the oppressive and exploitative policies of the kings in these states, people started forming secretive societies.

Italy After Napoleon
Italy After Napoleon

Italian Unification: Common Ground of Culture

Italian states were having the common bond of unity on the ground of culture, language and ethnicity. But the victorious powers divided these states in accordance to their will. So, this was the cause of pain for the Italian people. Italian nationalists established Carbonari i.e. secret organisations.

The objective of these secret societies was to overthrow the rulers. So, they wanted to unify the Italian states. In the lack of mass support and international support, Carbonari did not get the required popularity among the people. Therefore Carbonari was immediately crushed by the Austrian Powers.

Italian Unification: Emergence of Mazzini

Soon there emerged an extraordinary young man who came to be known as the leader of the movement for freedom. This was Giuseppe Mazzini, the prophet of Italian nationalism. So, he established a society, Giovane Italia- Young Italy- with the aim of an Italian Republic.

For many years he worked for this cause. Many of his writings became classics in the literature of nationalism. Mazzini made two proposals:

  • Without international support unification of Italy is difficult.
  • Austria is a big hurdle in Italian unification.

In 1848, revolts were breaking out all over the North Italy. Mazzini took the advantage of the circumstances. So, he came to Rome and drove out the Pope. And established Republic in Rome.

Then he formed a committee of three- Triumvirs. Mazzini was one of these Triumvirs. But this young Republic was attacked on all sides: by the Austrians, Neapolitans and the French.

Italian Unification: Role of Garibaldi

All the three major powers surrounded and attacked the Roman Republic. The chief fighter on the side of the Roman Republic was Garibaldi. He held the Austrians and defeated the Neapolitan armies. He even stopped the French. All this was done with the help of volunteers.

The bravest and best of the youth of Rome gave their lives in defence of the Republic. Mazzini and Garibaldi carried on their work in different ways. Mazzini was a thinker and an idealist. Garibaldi was a soldier with a genius guerilla warfare.

Garibaldi’s leadership gave strength to the young volunteers. Volunteers poured in and they marched enthusiastically. They often marched singing Garibaldi’s hymn. Garibaldi and Mazzini both were fiercely devoted to Italian unification. The third player in this game was Cavour.

Italian Unification
Italian Unification

Italian Unification: Cavour the Clever

Cavour, the Prime Minister of Victor Emmanuel, King of Piedmont. He wanted to make Victor Emmanuel as the King of Italy. As this involved the suppression and removal of many of the petty princes, he took advantage of Mazzini’s and Garibaldi’s activities.

Cavour was clear that Italy required international support. In this circumstances, the Crimean war of 1854 broke out. In this war, Cavour sent Italian forces to assist Britain and France against Russia. Due to the contribution of troops sent by Cavour Britain and France won. So Cavour got the reward of it. This was a diplomatic victory of Cavour.

Cavour: French defeated Austrians

Now Cavour intrigued with the France. Then he involved them in a war with his enemies the Austrians. When the French defeated Austrians, taking advantage of condition Garibaldi went for an extraordinary expedition on his account against the King of Naples and Sicily.

This was the famous Garibaldi’s expedition in which his soldiers won the war. The fame of Garibaldi Spread. It was a difficult battle to win. Though many a time Garibaldi and his volunteers were on the verge of defeat. But even in the hour of defeat fortune smiled upon him. And he turned defeat into victory.

Military Leadership of Garibaldi and Diplomatic steps of Cavour

Soon Garibaldi and his troops landed in Sicily. As he marched through the villages of South Italy, Garibaldi appealed for volunteers:

Come! He who stays at home is a coward. I promise you weariness, hardship and battles. But we will conquer of the die. Nothing succeeds like success.

Garibaldi’s early success whipped up the spirit of nationalism of the Italians. So, Cavour took advantage of Garibaldi’s successes.

The result of all this was that Victor Emmanuel of Piedmont became King of Italy in 1861. Rome was still under French troops. Venice under Austrians. Within 10 years both Venice and Rome joined the rest of Italy. So, Rome became the capital.

Italian Unification: Constitutional Monarchy

At last Italy was a united nation. The new Kingdom was a constitutional one. So an Italian Parliament met at Turin immediately after Victor Emmanuel became king. So Italy became an independent nation. Though all the people of Italy sacrificed to gain this freedom but three men planned for it wisely. Though Mazzini, Garibaldi and Cavour perhaps of any one of these had not been there. But the freedom would have been longer in coming.

George Meredith, the English poet and novelist, wrote many years afterwards:

Who blew the breath of life into her frame:

Cavour, Mazzini, Garibaldi: three:

Her Brain, her Soul, her Sword; and set her free

From ruinous discords, with one lustrous aim.

Cavour, Mazzini and Garibaldi
Cavour, Mazzini and Garibaldi

This was all about the Italian Unification. In the next coming post, we will discuss German Unification.

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The Unification of German States

We will now discuss the making of another great modern nation- Germany.

Rise of Germany
Rise of Germany

Situation of German States

The German States have a common bond of unity on the basis of language, race and culture. They were also rich in resources like coal and iron. In spite of this cultural and linguistic unity German States were exploited because of lack of unity among Germans. This was the reason of pain for the German nationalists.

Coal and Iron Reserves
Coal and Iron Reserves

Exploitation by Non-Germans

For many centuries Austria of the Hapsburgs was the leading German Power. Then Prussia came to the front. There was a conflict between these two for the leadership of the German States. Actually, from ancient time German States were having non-german leadership. Example: Holy Roman Empire.

It was the union of German and Italian States. In which the rulers of these states elected their leader who was guided by the Pope. As Pope was under the influence of European powers like Austria and France etc. So, he rarely bothered about the interest of German States.

Napoleon destroyed the Holy Roman Empire. But after Conference of Vienna, Austria became the leader of German States. This non-German leadership was the cause of frustration for German Nationalists.

Promotion of Trade and Commerce

Napoleon humbled both Austrians and Prussian Leaders. Napoleon not only destroyed Holy Roman Empire but in western Germany, he unified the many smaller states. He then established a single state of Westphalia.This gave promotion to trade and commerce.

This also gave the message that political unity would lead to the economic empowerment of German States. Thus both in Italy and Germany Napoleon, unconsciously and without wishing it, gave an impetus to the spirit of nationalism and idea of freedom.

Role of Intellectuals

Eventually, Napoleon prepared the ground for German unification. In this intellectuals played an important role. One of the leading German nationalists of the Napoleonic period was Fichte, a philosopher, but also an ardent patriot who did much to rouse up his people. Fichte gave the concept of German idealism, glorifying German culture, race. This ideology was taken to its peak by Fredrick William Nietzsche, who gave the concept of superman and also declared God is Dead.

Phases of German Unification

Phases of German Unification
Phases of German Unification

German Diet

In Congress of Vienna, Austria was declared as leader of German States. There were 39 states. It was not possible for Austria to individually handle all the states. Therefore, Austria formed Parliament of German States called German Diet. This Parliament had certain rights,

  1. General resolution can be passed by two-third of the majority.
  2. Constitutional and fundamental changes require acceptance from all the states. (which was not feasible without political unity among 39 states)

Although Austria denied any type of unity among the German States but the system of German Diet eventually provided formal political unity for the German States. This got strengthen by economic unity created by Prussia through Zollverein.


German nationalists and intellectuals had already got the practical taste of political unity.  In 1834, Prussia formed a customs union or Zollverein. They joined by most of the German states. The union abolished tariff barriers and reduced the number of currencies from over thirty to two.

The network of railways further stimulated mobility, harnessing economic interests to national unification. A wave of economic nationalism strengthened the wider nationalist sentiments growing at the time. In this, the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 proved to be a turning point in European and German history.

Second Frankfurt Parliament

Revolution of 1830 activated middle class which wanted the constitution. While revolution of 1848 ignited labour class who wanted a change in political order. The Monarchs of Europe feared the unity among the middle class and labour class. So they decided to go for the constitutional arrangement for the people.

In the German regions, a large number of political associations whose members were professionals, businessmen and prosperous craftsmen came together in the city of Frankfurt. On 18 May 1848, 831 elected representatives marched in a festive procession to take their places in the Frankfurt parliament.

They drafted a constitution for the German nation with the provision of constitutional monarchy. When the deputies offered the crown on these terms to Friedrich Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia, he rejected it because of two reasons:

  • The representatives of different states gave the proposal. The kings did not accept this proposal. The Prussia did not want to be a nominal head of German Federation.
  • In Olmutz Convention, Austria warned Prussia that if Prussia got involved in activities against Austria, it should ready for the consequences.

Finally, this ended peaceful path of German Unification. It made clear that war with Austria was the demand of that time to become an independent nation. At this stage, about the middle of the century, there rose a man in Prussia who was to dominate for many years not only Germany but European politics. This man was Otto von Bismarck, a junker- that is a landowner in Prussia. We will discuss this personality in next coming post.

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Germany Unification: Bismarck and His Blood and Iron Policy

The Otto von Bismarck was born in the year of waterloo. He served for many years as a diplomatic envoy in various Courts. In 1862 Friedrich Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia appointed him as the Prime Minister of the Prussia. Bismarck began to make his influence in Prussia. Within a week of his becoming Prime Minister he said in the course of a speech:

The great questions of the time will be decided, not by speeches and resolutions of majorities, but by iron and blood.

Unification of Germany under Bismarck
Unification of Germany under Bismarck

Bismarck: Economic Policies

He came to the power with clear ideas as to what he was to do and a carefully worked-out plan. Bismarck wanted to make Germany. Through Germany, Prussia he wanted to dominant in Europe. He came with some economic reforms:

  1. Established modern financial institution like Imperial Banks to strengthen the currency system.
  2. Emphasised to promote trade and commerce.
  3. Infrastructural Developments.
  4. Promotion of industrialisation in which production was controlled by the states.

He turned Prussia into an economic power and quietly perfected his military machine.

Bismarck: Policy of Blood and Iron

Blood and Iron! Bismarck hated democracy. He treated Parliaments and General Assemblies with least courtesy. He was so able and influential that he made people bend according to his will. The Germany of philosophers and scientists retired into the background. The new Germany of blood and iron, of military efficiency, began to dominate the European continent.

A prominent German of his day said:

Bismarck makes Germany great and the Germans small.

His policies of making Germany great pleased the Germans. The glamour of a growing national prestige made them put up with all manner of repression from him. Bismarck played with the all European powers. When Napoleon-III attacked and defeated Austria, Garibaldi’s campaign in south Italy resulted in the freedom of Italy. All this suited Bismarck and he played with the European powers according to his wish.

War with Denmark

By the London agreement of 1852, Schleswig-Holstine, the territories of conflict between Denmark and Duke of Augusten Berg kept under the protection of Denmark. After some time, Denmark violated the agreement and incorporated Schleswig-Holstine in Denmark.

In this response, combined forces of Austria and Prussia attacked Denmark. In this war, Austria and Prussia defeated Denmark. This led to Gaustein Agreement of 1865. By this agreement, Schleswig came under the protection of Austria and Holstine under the protection of Prussia. This war proved beneficial for Bismarck.

After defeating Denmark, he soon turned on Austria, having taken care to obtain the support of France and Italy. He treated Austria with great generosity. The way was now clear for the creation of a North German Federation under the leadership of Prussia.

Relationship with European Powers

Policy of Entrapment
Policy of Entrapment

The war with Denmark proved beneficial for Bismarck because in this war Bismarck understood the weakness and strength of Austrian army. After this, he started alienating Austria from European allies. A national revolt occurred in Russian Poland. He offered his help to the Tsar to shoot down the Poles if necessary. Though this was a disgraceful offer but it served its purpose. He actually wanted to gain the goodwill of the Tsar in any future complications in Europe. He did commitments to Italians to help them in their unification and humbled France.

War with Austria

As Bismarck was well doing with his plans to isolate Austria from rest of the Europe so Prussia violated Gaustein agreement. This led to war between Austria and Prussia. In the Battle of Sadowa, 1866 he defeated Austria. Austria then lost the support of eastern German States. This defeat incorporated all the eastern states in Prussian Federation. Bismarck became the Federal Chancellor.

He dictated the new constitution for the German Federation in five hours. And this with few alterations continued to be the German constitution for fifty years. This completed the first phase of German Unification.

War with France

France was under the leadership of Napoleon-III. Britain was the historical rival of France because it faced a hard time when France was under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte. So Britain looked with great suspicion on Napoleon-III’s ambitious schemes. Bismarck followed the principal of enemy’s enemy is a friend. So Bismarck was quite sure to have the goodwill of Britain in any struggle against France.

When he was fully prepared for war against France, he played his Master card. It was Napoleon-III who actually declared war on Prussia in 1870. The Prussian Government seemed to Europe the innocent victim of aggressive France. Bismarck trained his army so well that French army crumpled up under the Prussian army. This was the battle of Sedan. Within a few weeks, at Sedan, the Emperor Napoleon-III and his army were made prisoners by the Germans.

Results of Battle of Sedan

So ended the second Napoleonic age in France. A republican government was immediately established in Paris. The new republican government of France offered peace to Prussia, but Bismarck set up very humiliating terms for France. So instead of moving out with peace republican government accepted the hardship of war. There was a long siege of Paris with the German armies at Versailles and all round the city.

At last Paris yielded and new Republic accepted defeat and hard terms of Bismarck. Finally, Bismarck took a huge war booty from France. The provinces of Alsace and Lorraine had to be given up to Germany. France recovered from the German war of 1870-71 and paid the huge indemnity, but in the heart of her people was anger. At the humiliation, they had been made to suffer.


In Germany Bismarck was now the all-powerful Imperial Chancellor. The policy of blood and iron had succeeded for the time being. The then Germany accepted it and liberal ideas were at a discount. Bismarck’s skill in diplomacy did not leave him to the end. He played a great game in the international politics of his day.

Bismarck made a new alliance with Austria and Italy, Triple Alliance. As now he was beginning to fear the revenge of the French. In 1888 a young man became the German Kaiser or Emperor Wilhelm-II. He fell out with Bismarck. And he dismissed Bismarck from his office. In the old age of Bismarck he said to a friend:

I took up office equipped with a great fund of royalist sentiments and veneration for the king; to my sorrow, I find that thus fund is ever more and more depleted!… I have seen three kings naked, and the sight was not always a pleasant one!

In this way irrespective of all odds, Bismarck succeeded in unifying Germany and because of this, he deserves the important place in the history of Germany.

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The Rise of Capitalism, Nationalism, Socialism and Imperialism

We know that the nineteenth century saw the many changes in the old order. There was an infant new order which was thriving in the lap of many new emerging ideologies. These new ideologies made the ground for the rise of nationalist ideas among masses.

Rise of Capitalism

One extraordinary book came out in Britain in the second half of the 18th century. It was “Wealth of Nations”. Adam Smith was the author of this book. It was an amazing book on the political economy. Adam Smith in his book Wealth of Nations tried to find natural laws which governed economics.

Economics deals with the management of the income and expenditure of the people or a country as a whole. It analyses what are the exports of country or imports of the country. It also deals with the relations between the different countries.

Rise of Capitalism
Rise of Capitalism

Laissez-Faire Doctrine

Adam Smith was of the opinion that all these above-complicated relations took place according to the natural law. This natural law was laissez-faire. According to this law, he stated:

Full liberty should be given for the development of industry so that these laws might not be interferred with. 

Actually, the doctrine of the laissez-faire was based on the philosophy of mercantilism. The philosophy of mercantilism meant to have profit for mother country at any cost. This eventually led to the strengthening of capitalistic ideology.

Adam Smith was the father of the science of economics. He inspired many British economists of the nineteenth century. This science of economics was new to the many people. Only a few professors and well-read men understood this doctrine.

Results of Capitalism

Capitalism resulted in more and more production. Because of the huge production, the population grew with enormous speed. Huge businesses were building up and little businesses were totally crushed out. Wealth was poured into the industrialised countries but much of this wealth went into the starting of new factories or railways.

The success of capitalism dazzled people. People were not happy at its cut throat competition. The rise of capitalism by no means gave the birth to the idea of another extreme ideology of communism.

Ideas of Democracy

In the early and late eighteenth century and beginning of the nineteenth century flourished the democratic ideas among the people. There was great excitement among the democrats. Democracy was not to say that all men were, in fact, equal but was going to make everyone a free and equal citizen. The democratic ideas were the intellectual reaction against the autocracy.

The idea of democracy was good and is good but it always takes the time to adopt change for the masses. It is very difficult for the people to give up their old ideas and adopt new ones. Democracy was carrying on the traditions and ideas of the French Revolution. It failed to adopt new conditions and this led to the weakening of the democracy.

The idea of democracy was confined to the intellectuals and industrialists only. So it gave water to the seeds of socialism. As the nineteenth century grew older it saw various working class movements and rise of socialism.

Rise of Socialism


The old democratic idea powerfully affected the common people and proletariat class. Because the growth of the industries led to the snatching of the land of the people. An industrial working class was growing and unsanitary factory towns were developing near the coalfields.

As the Britain was leading the industrial revolution, so it was the first country to develop the industrial working class. The conditions of these workers were worse. There was great misery among them. Little children and women worked incredibly long hours.

The Britain was so feared by the French Revolution and American revolutions that they made laws such as to prevent the poor workers to meet and discuss their pain. The condition of workers was made extremely disastrous from these laws. This led to the formation of secret associations among the workers.

Coming of Trade Unions

The year 1825 saw the abolition of the certain restrictions on the workers. This led to the formations of trade unions. The better-paid skilled workers were the only members of these trade unions. The majority of unskilled workers remained unorganised for a long time.

This led to the worker’s movement all around the European industries. The objective of these movements was to bettering the condition of workers. They were doing their job with the means of collective bargaining. The only effective weapon of these workers was the right of strike, that is to stop doing work and thus bringing the factory to a standstill.

Though this was certainly a good weapon, but the owner of factories had an even more powerful weapon of suppression. So the struggle of the working class went on with great sacrifices on the part of the workers.

Role of Robert Owen

There was a continuous struggle between the owners and workers. Meanwhile, there rose a man among the factory owners of Manchester. This man was Robert Owen. He was a humanitarian. He also felt the pain of workers. Finally, he came out with some reforms in his own factories. He emphasised to improve the condition of the workers.

Partly because of him British Parliament came out with the Factory act of 1819. This act laid down that,

Little children of nine should not be made to work more than twelve hours a day!(it was rather a terrible act. 🙁 )

It was Robert Owen, who first used the word “socialism”. Of course, the idea of a levelling-up between rich and poor was not a new one.

Many people had advocated the idea of socialism in the past. In the early communities, there had been a kind of communism, the whole community or village holding land and other property in common. This is called primitive communism.


But the new socialism was something much more than a vague desire of equalising people. Owen’s idea was to have workers’ cooperative societies. He was of the opinion that workers should have a share in the factories.

Socialism in other European Powers

The workers’ trade-union movement developed on different lines for a while, merely seeking higher wages and better conditions. Gradually all theses movements watered the ideology of socialism. In each of the three leading industrial countries of Europe- Britain, France and Germany- socialism developed somewhat differently. It developed in accordance with the character and strength of the working class in each country.

British socialism was conservative whereas continental socialism was more radical and revolutionary. In America conditions were different, so no strong working-class movement grew up for a ling time.

The capitalism eventually led to the exploitation and suppression of the various common masses. Finally, the extreme rise of capitalism was imperialism and this gave birth to the Nationalism.

Nationalism and Imperialism

The various revolutions like American Revolution, French Revolution, Revolutions of the 1830s and 1848 etc. made the ground for the new order. The Unification of Italy and Unification of Germany made this ground stronger.

The last quarter of nineteenth-century saw that nationalism no longer retained its idealistic liberal-democratic sentiment. Now it became a narrow creed with limited ends. The nationalist groups became intolerant of each other and ever ready to go to war.

The newly built nations further fought for the great territorial and economic expansion. This eventually led to the imperialism. Each power – Russia, Germany, Britain, Austro-Hungary – was keen on countering the hold of other powers.

They were trying to extend their control over the world map. This led to a series of wars in the world scenario. This culminated in the First World War, which was rather an imperialistic war.

Rising Nationalism
Rising Nationalism

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First World War: Rise of Germany

We have seen in our last post how the new ideologies were growing in the world. The west had been facing many revolutions since seventeenth (Glorious Revolution of 1688), eighteenth (American Revolutionary War, 1776; French Revolution, 1789) and nineteenth (The year of revolutions in Europe 1830s and 1848, American Civil Warcentury.

There was a rise in the nationalistic feeling among the masses. This led to the birth of new nations like Italy, Germany, Greece etc. Many leaders came in front of the world politics like Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, the trio of Mazzini-Garibaldi-Cavour, Otto Von Bismarck etc.

We have discussed that the new order (Rise of Germany, Birth of Italy, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina etc.) was emerging and the old order (Britain, France, Austria, Russia, Ottoman Empire etc.) was not happy with this. This unhappy relationship between these two different orders finally culminated in First World War.

First World War: Reasons

We have seen that there were lots of events taking place simultaneously on the global forum. Science, industry, politics, economics, abundance, poverty, capitalism, nationalism, socialism, imperialism, battles and treaties- they all had their place in the strange fabric. They each acted and reacted on the other.

World War-I Pretext: Europe 1914-15
World War-I Pretext: Europe 1914-15

Exploitive Capitalism led to the Rise of Nationalism

The growth of the capitalistic industry by large-scale power production went blindly forward. Many industrialised nations went for imperialism. So, there was cut-throat competition among the industrialised powers. Every master was exploiting subjects irrespective of knowing their pain.

The most remarkable thing about this was that it produced extreme contrasts. The more it grew the greater were the contrasts: extreme poverty and extreme wealth; Slum and skyscraper; empire state and dependent exploited colony. Europe was the dominant continent and Asia and Africa the exploited ones.

Colonialism of Africa
Colonialism of Africa

The capitalistic industry created a ground for the socialistic and communistic ideas. Finally, Nationalism grew in the exploited areas as a challenge to the imperialism of the west. So, with the growth of nationalism the idea of “my country right or wrong” developed. So, the national rivalry was really an unavoidable result of the growth of the capitalistic industry.

A recent author has written:

Civilisation has become a device for delegating the vices of individuals to larger and larger communities.

Economic Causes: Rise of Germany

In the 1750s, Industrial Revolution took place with its hypocentre at Britain. Till 1850 Britain occupied a large share of the world’s economy. So, Britain was ruling over the one-fourth of the total population of the world in Africa, Indian Subcontinent, Australia etc.

Over the rest of the population of the world, France, Spain, Portugal were the dominating powers. In the 1870s after the battle of Sedan, Germany came into existence. So, under the leadership of Bismarck, Germany became a military power. Eventually, this vast progress in the field of science, education and industry led to the Rise of Germany. 

Rise of Germany as industrial, economic and military power

The world was largely occupied by the other imperialist powers. So when Germany came on the scene the destinations of exploitation were limited. By the hard work and self-discipline, Germany became the strongest and most efficient power of the age of industrial capitalism.

Rise of Germany
Rise of Germany

Till the end of the 20th century, Germany turned into an industrial, economic and military power. Example:

  • German merchant ships were to be seen in every port, its own ports Hamburg and Bremen were among the greatest of the world ports.
  • Karl Benz and Nicholas Otto invented four-stroke combustion engine. Germany became a pioneer in the automobile industry. In the beginning of the 20th century, Germany was producing approximately 1000 cars per year.
  • Germany had a good reservoir of iron and coal. So, this gave promotion to iron and steel industry. 
  • Germans also led the chemical industry. One of the important contributions of this chemical industry was the artificial dye, which hurt the indigo business of the British East India Company. (Champaran Satyagraha, 1917)

Rise of Germany became the tension for other European Powers

An ever-growing demand for markets and raw materials made the capitalist powers race around the world for Empire. Although Britain was ruling over a one-fourth of the population of the world still Britain was not satisfied. For the more one has the more one wants. So, various methods came to expand the British Empire from the brains of “Empire-Builders”.

Britain was having an Empire whose Sun never sets. But the rise of Germany was a cause of concern for the Britain. So, at this time, Germany was making manufactured goods cheaper than the Britain. Thus Germany was stealing Britain’s markets. Because of this rise of Germany’s economy, led to the economic rivalry between the newly industrialised countries and old masters.

Political Causes

The economic rivalry led to the new political developments. Germany moved from cautious continentalism to aggressive imperialism.

Rise of Germany: Policy of Cautious Continentalism

With the birth of Germany in 1871, Bismarck was clear that the infant Germany requires peace and stability for its growth and development. So, he designed a policy of cautious continentalism. In which, the objective was to maintain a friendly relationship with most of the powers in Europe. So, according to it the important developments were,

  1. Dual alliance treaty (7th October 1879)- Between Germany and Austro-Hungarian Empire, to protect each other if any attack took place on Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  2. Triple alliance (1882)- Germany, Austria and Italy.
  3. Friendly relations with Russia. Germany would not interfere in the affairs of eastern Europe.
  4. Good relations with Britain. On the grounds of matrimonial alliance and balance of power. According to Bismarck Britain was a naval power and Germany was a land power.
Rise of Germany: Political Alliances
Rise of Germany: Political Alliances

Alliance among other European powers

Other European Alliances
Other European Alliances
  1. Treaty of London, 1839- Britain, to protect the neutrality of the Belgium.
  2. Franco-Russian military convention, 1892- Military assistance between France and Russia because of the common fear of Germany.
  3. Entente Cordial, 1904- Between Britain and France.
  4. Triple Entente, 1907- Britain, France and Russia.
  5. Anglo-Russian convention, 1907- Between Russia and Britain.

Role of Kaiser Wilhelm-II

Germans were aggressive and very pride race. With the arrival of Kaiser Wilhelm-II on the throne of Germany in 1888, the spirit of Germans was at its peak. Although the Kaiser Wilhelm-II was young, dynamic ruler but he was of low temperament and impatient. So, he proclaimed that Germany was going to be the leader of the world.

Once the Kaiser said for Germany what many Britishers had claimed for Britain. So Kaiser’s bombastic utterances greatly irritated the British. In 1890, Kaiser Wilhelm-II removed Bismarck on very superficial grounds. Kaiser Wilhelm-II came out with his policy of aggressive imperialism. In which he emphasised on Welt Politik i.e. World Politics.

We will read about Kaiser Wilhelm-II and his imperialistic expeditions in our next coming post. Till then, have a good day. 🙂

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