History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 1995: Q.6

History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 1995: Q.6

Q 6. The unification of Italy and that of Germany constituted a contrast in respect of the ways they were affected and impact they left on later international politics. Elucidate. (60 marks)


Contrast in respect of the ways the unification of Italy and Germany were affected:

Contrast in geographical challenges

In Italy it was much easier to set the borders during the unification because it is surrounded by high mountains and seas. But in Germany it was really hard to set geographical borders because of geographical features of having endless plains and not having much land opened to sea.

Contrast in the economic factor

In Germany the leading power Prussia’s status was raised with the success of the Zollverein which was a German customs union found in 1834 by Prussia. Zollverein made German  people to realize the economic benefits after unification and paved the way for the unity in Germany.


But in Italy there was no such economic union like Zollverein which affected the unification. Only in Piedmont there were some economic policies were performed by Cavour which made the state economically developed state in Italy.

Contrast in the result of 1848 Revolutions

In 1848, revolts broke out in every Italian state for the sake of liberty and unity. Germany was equally affected by the great revolutionary tide. As such, the 1848 revolution failed to bring liberty or unity to Germany and Italy. Only in Prussia did the king grant a constitution, but it was far from what the liberals had wanted.

As a result of 1848 Revolutions, Piedmont’s prestige among Italians had been raised which later led Italy to unification. But no state in Germany increased her prestige in the eyes of liberals and nationalists.

Contrast in the internal conflict about ways of unification

In Italy there was no conflict about the way of unification and it was clear which states must  be unified. But in Germany there was conflict between Grobdeutsche (Greater Germany solution) and Kleindeutsche (Lesser Germany solution). Grobdeutsche is way of unification which favoured unifying all German speaking states including Austria and it was promoted by Austria. Kleindeutsche is way of unification that favoured unifying only northern German states and not include by Austria and it was promoted by Prussia. This conflict between ways of unification went on until Prussia unified all German speaking states except Austria.

Austria had much longer connection with Germany than Italy and so was more deeply entrenched than Italy. Hence her expulsion from Germany was more difficult than expulsion from Italy.

Italy was divided into much smaller states and there was no organisation in them at all. In many Italian states foreign rulers were ruling. In Germany there were no foreign rulers to be overthrown and also no problem of Pope.

In Italy, Austria had her control over major part whereas in Germany Austria was only the formal head of German confederation.


German particularism was more deep rooted than Italian which made Italian unification easier in this particular aspect.

Contrast in the foreign intervention factor

In Italian unification foreign intervention played a big role under the Realpolitik of Cavour. Cavour’s state of Piedmont was not really in a situation where it could unify Italy by force. Therefore, Cavour had to find other ways to unify Italy. He took part in Crimean War to win the sympathy of European Powers. Cavour made political deals with other, stronger countries. For example, he used diplomacy to get Napoleon III of France to support his aims.


By contrast, in Germany, it was Bismarck and Prussia’s military power which played the main role and there was no foreign intervention.

Contrast in the leadership’s approach to the unification

In both countries certain people played main roles in unification. In Germany, Bismarck as the chancellor of Prussia, played the biggest role. He played Realpolitik and used the phrase “Blood and iron” as the description of his foreign policy because he saw war as the solution to German unification. His crucial leadership brought Germany victory in 1864 Schleswig-Holstein war, 1866 Austro-Prussian war and 1870 Franco Prussian war which would result in German unification.


In Italy Mazzini, Garibaldi and Cavour are known as the three great architects of unification. Cavour as the Prime Minister of Sardinia played a tough realpolitik like Bismarck through Piedmont constitution. Cavour had the help of Garibaldi and Mazzini whereas Bismarck had no such help.

Although Bismarck and Cavour had similar goals (to unify their respective countries) they pursued their goals in relatively dissimilar ways.  Bismarck used aggression and force, while Cavour used diplomacy and moderation. Cavour was liberal and took help of plebiscites but Bismarck was reactionary and hated parliaments. Cavour looked to Piedmont’s liberalism and enlightenment for attracting other Italian states. Bismarck proclaimed: Germany is looking not to Prussia’s liberalism but to her power.

Bismarck cared little for public opinion, and was inclined to accomplish his goals by military means if need be. His primary aim was to unite Germany under Prussian leadership and exclude Austria from the new German nation. He did so by provoking a war with Austria after first securing France’s neutrality. He offered Austria generous terms at the end of the war, and then attacked France.

Cavour was an Italian first then a Sardinian. But Bismarck was first Prussian and then a German. He was not prepared to merge Prussia in Germany but in other way around.

Contrast in respect of impact the unification of Italy and Germany left on later international politics:

Unified Italy could not become politically or economically powerful like unified Germany. hence, its impact on international politics was limited.

End of French involvement

Italian unification ended hundreds of years of French involvement with the politics on the peninsula. On the other hand, there was no French involvement in Germany.

Overturning balance of power in Europe

A massive change and overturn in the balance of power occurred in Europe as Bismarck made Germany the strongest military power on the European continent after its unification in 1871. Italy on the other hand did not become any influential power in Europe.

Bismarck had to be sure no country would attack Germany. This caused him to create a secret alliance with Austria-Hungary and a triple treaty including Russia, Austria and Germany: otherwise known as the Alliance of three Emperors.

Colonial expansion

Though Bismarck had been opposed to the colonies, canvassing the idea that Germany should acquire colonies had begun soon after the unification of Germany. It translated the desire to make Germany’s recent gain in international importance into the then generally current political demand for territorial acquisitions. Also, the desire for colonies was a reflection of the prospective economic potential of the regions under consideration. Germany thus acquired colonies in Africa, Kiaochow in China, the Carolines and half of Samoa in 1900. Germany was a major force during the Scramble for Africa.

Italy also attempted to gain new colonies but the vigour and leadership of Germany was absent in her case. She had suffered defeat at the hand of Ethiopia while attempting to colonise her.

Mutual suspicion and conflict in Europe and the World War I

Bismarck wanted to preserve German Empire by saving Germany from any future war. But the long term impact of German unification was the World War I. To preserve German Empire and to isolate her arch enemy France, Germany had formed several security alliances and signed treaties, for example: Triple Alliance in 1882.  This led to the counter alliances and entente. These alliances and treaties created tension within the continent and allowed Europe to get into several international conflict which finally led to the World War I.

Search of new colonies after German unification was also  one of the reasons of the international tension, conflict and finally the Word War I.

Italy also took part in the alliance system like Triple Alliance in 1882 but Italian public opinion remained unenthusiastic about their country’s alignment with Austria–Hungary, a past enemy of Italian unification, and whose some of the Italian populated districts were seen as occupied territories by Italian nationalists. Italy’s adherence to the Triple Alliance was always doubted and she broke up from the Triple Alliance in the event of the World War I. Hence, the Italian unification did not cause as much tension and conflict as the German unification.



3 Comments Add yours

  1. Anand more says:

    Sir please if you could classify these answers under the syllabus headings so it will be easy approach to study point wise


    1. Yearwise classification is already done. Topicwise will follow soon


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