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Nation States - Germany, Italy and Britain

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Nation States - Germany, Italy and Britain - Lesson Summary

After 1848, the conservatives began to use nationalist ideas to strengthen the monarchy. The unification of Italy and Germany came about through this process.

In 1848, the German middle class - professionals, businessmen, wealthy artists and artisans - joined to vote for an all-German National Assembly. They convened at the Frankfurt Parliament. The members of the parliament offered the crown to Friedrich Wilhelm the fourth, King of Prussia, who rejected.

After the Frankfurt Parliament, Prussia became the leader of German unification. The man who played a crucial role in the unification was the Chief Minister of Prussia, Otto Von Bismarck. Bismarck was supported by the bureaucracy and the army. For German unification, three wars were fought over seven years - between 1864 and 1870 with Denmark, France and Austria. 

On 18 th January, 1871, the King of Prussia, Kaiser William the first, was proclaimed the German Emperor at the Mirror Hall in Versailles. In newly formed Germany a lot of emphasis was placed on modernising the currency, and the banking, legal and judicial systems.

During the middle of the 19 th century, Italy was divided into seven states.  Northern Italy was ruled by the Austrian part of the Habsburg Empire, Central Italy by the Pope, while the southern part and Parma by the Bourbon kings of Spain. Only one state, Sardinia Piedmont, was ruled by an Italian princely house.

Mazzini was the leader of the Republican Party. He had formed secret societies like Young Italy to regenerate Italy by education. The rebellions staged by the revolutionaries in 1831 and 1848 failed. The responsibility of unifying Italy came to Victor Emmanuel the II, King of Sardinia Piedmont. The chief minister of Piedmont, Count Camillo di Cavour, helped the king in forming an alliance with France, and they defeated the Austrian in 1859.

Giuseppe Garibaldi played an important role in the unification of Italy. He joined the war along with his armed volunteers called the ‘Red Shirts’. In 1860, Garibaldi and his troops marched into Southern Italy and the kingdom of two Sicilies. In 1861, Victor Emmanuel the second was announced King of united Italy. In 1867, Garibaldi and his volunteers attacked the French troops stationed in the Papal states.

Britain has a different history of how it consolidated as a nation state without uprisings and revolutions. The British Isles was inhabited by ethnic English, Welsh, Scots and Irish. The English nation grew more in power and wealth, and it began to exert influence over the other nations of the island.

The concept of nation states, with England as the centre, came in 1688 after the parliament snatched power from the monarchy. In 1707, the Act of Union between England and Scotland resulted in the formation of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain.

To ensure the growth of British identity, Scotland’s cultural and political institutions were suppressed. The British imposed control over Ireland as well. Ireland had two dominant groups, Catholics and Protestants. The English favoured the protestants, and the British helped them to dominate a largely catholic Ireland.

In 1801, Ireland was forcibly incorporated into the United Kingdom after a failed Irish revolt. The symbols of new Britain were the English language, the Union Jack, and the British national anthem.


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