History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2012: Q.7 (b)

History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2012: Q.7 (b)

Q.7 (b) Was German unification achieved more by ‘coal  and iron’ than by ‘blood and iron’?


Prussian Prime Minister and great diplomat had once said that the unification of Germany would to acheieved through ‘blood and iron’.
The great British economist of 20th century John Maynard Keynes had observed that the German Empire was not founded on ‘blood amd iron’ but on ‘coal and iron’.
‘Coal and iron’ refers to economic ties and economic strength unifying Germany and ‘blood and iron’ refers to the unification of Germany through force.

German unification was achieved through ‘coal and iron’ because:

(1) Adopting free trade, the same currency, weights and measures allowed more cooperation between German states who became member of the Prussian Customs Union (Zollverein) increased their dependence on each other. Zollverein strived to protect German business from foreign influence by introducing tariffs on raw materials. These tariffs coupled with free trade inside the union meant wider markets for home-produced goods at cheaper prices. This broke down regional barriers and rivalry between German states shifting the emphasis from pride in one’s state to pride in a greater entity, a greater Germany.

(2) As Zollverein was founded and ran by Prussia it firmly established her as the economic leader in Germany and many states also regarded Prussia as the natural leader of a united Germany.

(3) The Zollverein also a political effect in isolating Austria who was at the time had larger possibility to be the leader of unified Germany. By 1851 all the states had joined the Zollverein and only Austria was left out. This increased Prussian power in the confederation and paved the way for German unification under Prussia.
This indicates that even before the appointment of Bismarck, Prussian leadership was successful in stimulating the economy.

(4) Economic forces like the Zollverein shifted power from individual rulers of states to the middle classes who realised power and money could be gained from unification.

(5) Blood and Iron policy of Bismarck lay in Prussia’s military strength which would not have been possible without her economic strength (ie. ‘coal and iron’) providing resources and technology for military.

(6) Due to expansion of communication system like railways between the states increased greatly and now not only were economic barriers broken down but also physical ones. The railways helped with the spread of German press. Now state news would become a national affair.

(7) Keynes argued that the industrial and economic preparation before the wars, which united Germany, were more important. This is because the economic strength created by the rapid industrialisation enabled the creation of a powerful Prussia. It was
under this powerful Prussia, with some skilful diplomacy and
opportunism by Bismarck, that Germany was successfully united in the wars of German Unification.

German unification was achieved through ‘blood and iron’ because:

The role of Bismarck in the unification of Germany was a key factor. There were attempted unifications through ‘coal and iron’. Bismarck realised that economy was not going to unify Germany so he used force to achieve this.

Attempt to unify Germany failed in 1848 and 1851 which showed that economy was still not enough. Even though the states were economically unified under Prussia through the Zollverein they still turned to Austria when it came to political matters. Bismarck realised that however much Germany was economically unified, it would take a lot more to unite them politically under Prussia. Bismarck adopted method of ‘blood and iron’ and he waged three wars with Denmark, Austria and France, before German unification was achieved.

Second war was with Austria in which Austria was badly defeated and Prussia now gained political dominance as she was to dictate the terms of the peace treaty. This treaty abolished the Bundstag and Austria was excluded from the North German Confederation. War with France completed the German unification.


The base for German unification was prepared by ‘coal and iron’ on which Bismarck policy of ‘blood and iron’ built upon. Hence, both had played its role in the unification with different degree of impact at different time.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Please upload the policies of bismark- part 5 at the earliest


    1. Remind next month first wk


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