Bismarck. - Hunter Starr Professor Green POSC 409 Spring...

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Hunter Starr Professor Green POSC 409: Spring 2008 April 29, 2008 Otto von Bismarck and the 2 nd Reich I once heard it said that with the exception of Napoleon, no other figure in modern European history has been the focus of as much fascination as Otto von Bismarck. Since my first attempt to understand the man and his political career, I have been attracted to the personality of the Junker genius. His political career of almost half a century was one of the longest in the historical annals of statecraft. For nearly three decades of that time he was the dominant figure in German and European politics. Bismarck was a towering figure who, as Luther and Metternich had done, put his stamp on his age. In 1862, when Bismarck was appointed prime minister of Prussia, the kingdom was internationally considered to be the weakest of the five major powers in Europe. In less than nine years, Prussia had proven victorious in three separate wars, and a unified German empire had emerged in the heart of Europe. It is hard to overstate the reasons why one should study the life and accomplishments of a man, whose varied legacy is as complex as it is enduring. I. The Iron Chancellor Otto von Bismarck was not only a Prussian statesman, he was the architect behind German unification, and was the first chancellor of a united Germany. Through his efforts, Germany was transformed from a loose-knit patchwork of small principalities into the German Empire, the most powerful industrialized nation on the European continent at the end of the 19 th century. A united Germany changed the balance of power on the European continent forever. Bismarck’s
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Starr 2 career is characterized by a series of paradoxes, which is interesting, considering his domination of German and European politics for thirty years. Although he was an ultraconservative, he initiated both social and welfare reform in Germany. He despised political parties and the German parliament, but was a master politician. A patriot of his native Prussia, he unified Germany, creating a German empire. II. Prussia: Monarchal Nationalism Throughout his life, Bismarck was an ardent supporter of the Prussian monarchy. He held that the Hohenzollern dynasty ruled Prussia by divine right and that the state was in turn part of a divine plan. Bismarck is renowned for his ambition that drove his career, but he never sought power for its own sake, nor for his own advantage. He used the power that he gained responsibly. He believed that the foreign policy of a state should be fashioned from the rational interests of that state, not a personal crusade for personal power and fame. Wanting to improve the position of Prussia in European and world affairs, he did not pursue domination of the international system (“Prince Otto Edward Leopold von Bismarck”). Overtime, Bismarck began to view himself as an objective arbiter between conflicting groups and parties. Because he believed that these groups would never compromise, he thought that if they were left to their
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Bismarck. - Hunter Starr Professor Green POSC 409 Spring...

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