Thursday, April 07, 2022

German Unification, Prussia, and Napoleon


Following on my earlier posts on Prussia and Napoleon this video on German unification from 1805-1918 ties those together and hints at how unbelievably chaotic that part of the world was throughout the 19th century.

As with all History Matters videos, it throws a lot of details at you very quickly, so on first viewing it’s more important to absorb the major themes, which the narrator provides in a helpful summary at the end.

For me, growing up the United States in the latter half of the 20th century, it’s nearly impossible to comprehend how tribal and fractured Europe has been since … well since forever really.

The path to The Great War (WWI) always seemed so haphazard and indecipherable to me, before learning about this backstory of near-constant war, tribal, national and religious alliances, shifting kingdoms and borders, treaties signed and violated every 20 years, culture shocks from the American and French Revolutions, and regional power struggles.

This video lays it all out — the stage for WWI was set for decades, if not centuries. 

The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was more a symptom of all the prior conflict than a cause of the conflict that followed, and the messy balance of power that existed after the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 turned into absolute German dominance by the 1870s and 1880s. At that point it was just a matter of time.

My earlier posts on Napoleon and Prussia: