Compare and Contrast the Unification of Germany, Italy, and the United States
From the 1790s to 1814 French troops successively conquered and occupied the area that later constituted the German Empire. French domination helped to modernize and consolidate Germany and -- toward the end -- sparked the first upsurge of German nationalism. In different ways the French emperor Napoleon I helped German unification. It was important that he encouraged many of the middle-sized German states to absorb huge numbers of small independent territories, mostly bishoprics, church lands, and local principalities.
This consolidation process, called mediation, led to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and brought the same French legal codes, measurements, and weights to most German-speaking areas, thus helping to modernize them. In 1806 Napoleon defeated the last independent and defiant German state, Prussia. The Prussians, quite naturally, were concerned about their defeat and started a thorough reform and modernization of the state and army (they "reinvented government"). Reformed Prussia became the hope of many other Germans who started to suffer increasingly under French occupation (which turned more repressive and exploitative) and their often forced cooperation with France.
The Congress of Vienna in 1814-15 created the so-called German Confederation under Austrian and Prussian hegemony, but this unit disappointed the dreams of nationalists. The rivalry of Austria and Prussia paralyzed it in a way comparable to the effects of Soviet-American dualism on the United Nations during the Cold War. Almost everywhere, the old rulers repressed the nationalist movement after 1815. The German princes realized that nationalism required a reform. In a united Germany the princes would have had to cede some rights to a central authority. That the nationalists often voiced liberal demands, such as the granting of constitutions and parliaments, further alarmed the princes and their aristocratic supporters.
After 1850 the industrial revolution in Germany entered its decisive phase. New factories were built at a breath-taking rate, the production of textiles and iron soared, railroads grew and started to connect many distant regions, and coal production and export reached record levels every year. These advances profited from a high level of education, the result of an advanced school and university system. For a long time Prussia had the highest literacy rate and exemplary schools.
Economic progress was most powerful in Prussia and less impressive in Austria. Through the Vienna peace settlement Prussia had received areas that turned out to be enormously precious for industrialization (the Ruhr district, the Rhineland, and parts of Saxony - all with rich coal deposits). Prussia now started to dominate many of the smaller German states economically, and the smaller states -- often hesitantly -- adapted their economies to Prussia. Decisive for this...