Congress of Vienna - 1815
Following the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte, the major
European powers of the day met in Vienna, Austria to establish
a plan of peace and discuss the realignment of territorial
borders. The European powers present at the Congress of
Vienna included Austria, France, Prussia, Russia, and
England. Headed by Austria's Count Metternich,
the Congress of Vienna attempted to stem the tide of
nationalism sweeping across Europe. Metternich believed
nationalism created disorder because it fostered bloody
revolution. The Congress of Vienna sought to restore
absolutist ruling families to the thrones of Europe and
maintain a balance of power. A balance of power
means that one nation should not be allowed to dominate and
threaten other nations. The Congress of Vienna was
successful in suppressing nationalistic movements from 1815 to
1848 (a period also known as the Metternich Age),
however, nationalism would eventually return to the
Europe. Nationalistic movements in Italy and Germany
would result in unified, sovereign nation-states.
The political structure of the Italian peninsula prior to 1861
was that of a fragmented group of small kingdoms and
principalities, as displayed in the map. There was no political cohesion and
internal fighting and rivalries were hampering any
progress. However, the people of the Italian peninsula,
shared language, culture and a historical background.
Some Italian leaders began calling for nationalism with the
goal of bringing Italy together into a sovereign nation-state
with autonomous rule.
The most famous of Italian nationalistic leaders were Count
Camilo Cavour, Giuseppe Garibaldi, and Giuseppe Mazzini.
Mazzini was instrumental in being the "soul" of
Italian nationalism. He also established the secret
society known as Young Italy, an organization devoted
to a united Italy. Garibaldi was considered to be the
"sword" of Italian nationalism. His band of Red
Shirts conquered forces opposed to unification and forced
southern Italy into a cohesive political unit. Cavour
was the "brain" in his role as a skilled diplomat.
Cavour successfully got the aid of France in a war against the
Austrians and would eventually put Victor Emmanuel II on
the throne of a completely united Italian nation-state in
The Unification of
Germany, during the Metternich Age, was also fragmented as
displayed in the map above. For many of the same
reasons, there was a nationalistic movement calling for the
unification of Germany. Many felt that to be considered
a legitimate nation with political power on the international
scene, Germany would have to have autonomous
sovereignty. Of all the German
states, Prussia was the most powerful, dominating the
other, smaller states. Prussia was ruled by Kaiser
Wilhelm, however, the person with the most power was
Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck, shown here. It would
be Bismarck who would strengthen German unity and power by
calling on the nationalistic tendencies of the German
people. Bismarck was able to unite Germany through his
policy of Realpolitik, or realistic politics, which is
a Machiavellian "end justifies the means" approach
to strengthening and uniting Germany. Bismarck was a
strong proponent of "Blood and Iron".
Blood represented the sacrifices the German people would have
to make in achieving the goal of unification. A culture
of militarism, or the glorification of the military,
was created by the crafty Bismarck. This played out in a
series of wars against the Austrians and the French.
Iron represented the need to industrialize. Bismarck saw
that in order to be a world power, Germany would have to catch
up with much of the rest of Europe in the areas of technology
and factory production. By 1871, Bismarck had succeeded in
placing Wilhelm on the throne of a unified Germany.
German power achieved through nationalism would foster a
period of imperialization and would set the stage for the
outbreak of World War I.