The unification of Germany in 1871 was a major historical event. The process of unifying the many German states was by no means a straightforward or rapid one. Ultimately unification was only possible due to the common race of German people within the German states. Early steps towards the unification of Germany were the formation of the German confederation, the Zollverein and the 1848 revolutions. Bismarck, who became Minister President of Prussia in 1862, introduced a violent foreign policy through a series of wars of unification with neighbouring countries Austria and France to pave the way for unification.
The single most important driving force towards a unified Germany was a common German people and culture across the many German states. Throughout the Middle Ages and right up to the early nineteenth century, Germany comprised of hundreds of independent states, ranging from tiny city states to large and powerful kingdoms such as Prussia and Austria. Although under Napoleon the number of states was significantly reduced from over 390 to 39, most German people still felt it illogical and impractical to have a common people scattered and restricted in so many states. They longed for a sense of national identity and pride, and felt that they deserved a fatherland just as the British and French had theirs. Economically, the drawbacks of the great number of states were more than apparent. Each state had its own system of customs and tariffs, thus making trade between states difficult and inefficient.
The German Confederation or Bund was established in 1815, with the aim of â€˜maintaining the external and internal security and the independence and integrity of individual statesâ€™ This loose union of German states promised mutual assistance during times of danger. Although the aim of the confederation was not to promote a united Germany, the links established by it would prove beneficial to the unification process in the future.