Otto von Bismarck - The Iron Chancellor

Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck

Otto von Bismarck - The Iron Chancellor

Otto von Bismarck(1815-1898) was a politician and diplomat who is known as the founder of the nation currently known as Germany. Before the mid-1800's, Germany was a collection of small, arguing states. This division of Germany was a leftover of the Holy Roman Empire, which gradually disintegrated into dozens of pieces before it finally disappeared in 1806. Bismarck was able to make these states into a unified whole on behalf of Kaiser Wilhelm I.

Bismarck was the son of a military officer and was born in one of the more powerful German states, Prussia.He went into politics in his thirties, and despite being hesitant initially, he fully embraced the cause of German unification.

He was given the title of Prussian prime minister(or chancellor), and used diplomacy or the threat of force to overcome those who opposed a unified Germany. There was a growing sense of German nationalism which he also encouraged. In 1870 Bismarck provoked a war with France which resulted in many other German states joining with Prussia. After a quick victory over France in 1871 a unified German empire came into being.

This meant Bismarck had the total trust of the Kaiser, and he largely ruled the German empire from then on. Although Bismarck was a conservative, he made several reforms to improve the German state. This included developing a common currency, enacting many administrative reforms, and establishing a single set of laws to strengthen the country's unity.

The new German empire had a short lifespan however. After Wilhelm died, Bismarck was forced to resign by the successor Wilhelm II, shorty after he came to the throne. German foreign affairs went downhill shortly after this. Wilhelm II made the mistake of dragging the German empire into World War I, resulting in the death of the empire. Also, the forces that Bismarck exploited to strengthen nationalism in the 19th century had disastrous consequences in the 20th century.

Interesting facts:

  1. His reputation for toughness and determinism earned Bismarck the nickname of "Iron Chancellor"
  2. Bismarck survived two assassination attempts, in 1849 by a student and in 1874 by a barrel maker.
  3. In a pivotal 1941 World War II naval battle, the British sunk a massive German battleship named after Bismarck.
  4. The capitol of the US state of North Dakota, which is heavily German-American, is also named after Bismarck.

The Bismarck battleship
The Bismarck battleship

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