The Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Enlightenment;in French: le Siècle des Lumières, lit. 'the Century of Lights'; and in German: Aufklärung, 'Enlightenment')was an intellectual movement which dominated the world of ideas in Europe in the 18th century. The Enlightenment included a range of ideas centered on reason as the primary source of authority and legitimacy, and came to advance ideals such as liberty, progress, tolerance, fraternity, constitutional government, and separation of church and state.In France, the central doctrines of les Lumières were individual liberty and religious tolerance in opposition to an absolute monarchy and the fixed dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church. The Enlightenment was marked by an emphasis on the scientific method and reductionism along with increased questioning of religious orthodoxy - an attitude captured by the phrase Sapere aude, "Dare to know".
French historians traditionally place the Enlightenment between 1715, the year that Louis XIV died, and 1789, the beginning of the French Revolution. Some recent historians begin the period in the 1620s, with the start of the scientific revolution. Les philosophes (French for 'the philosophers') of the period widely circulated their ideas through meetings at scientific academies, Masonic lodges, literary salons, coffee houses, and through printed books and pamphlets. The ideas of the Enlightenment undermined the authority of the monarchy and the Church, and paved the way for the political revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. A variety of 19th-century movements, including liberalism and neo-classicism, trace their intellectual heritage back to the Enlightenment.
The Age of Enlightenment was preceded by and closely associated with the scientific revolution.Earlier philosophers whose work influenced the Enlightenment included Francis Bacon, René Descartes, John Locke, and Baruch Spinoza.The major figures of the Enlightenment included Cesare Beccaria, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, Adam Smith, and Immanuel Kant. Some European rulers, including Catherine II of Russia, Joseph II of Austria and Frederick II of Prussia, tried to apply Enlightenment thought on religious and political tolerance, which became known as enlightened absolutism.Benjamin Franklin visited Europe repeatedly and contributed actively to the scientific and political debates there and brought the newest ideas back to Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson closely followed European ideas and later incorporated some of the ideals of the Enlightenment into the Declaration of Independence (1776). Others like James Madison incorporated them into the Constitution in 1787.
The most influential publication of the Enlightenment was the Encyclopédie (Encyclopaedia). Published between 1751 and 1772 in thirty-five volumes, it was compiled by Denis Diderot, Jean le Rond d'Alembert (until 1759), and a team of 150 scientists and philosophers and it helped spread the ideas of the Enlightenment across Europe and beyond.
Other landmark publications were Voltaire's Dictionnaire philosophique (Philosophical Dictionary; 1764) and Letters on the English (1733); Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality (1754) and The Social Contract (1762); Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (1776); and Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws (1748). The ideas of the Enlightenment played a major role in inspiring the French Revolution, which began in 1789. After the Revolution, the Enlightenment was followed by an opposing intellectual movement known as Romanticism.
The American Revolution was a political upheaval that took place between 1765 and 1783 during which colonists in the Thirteen American Colonies rejected the British monarchy and aristocracy, overthrew the authority of Great Britain, and founded the United States of America.
Starting in 1765, members of American colonial society rejected the authority of the British Parliament to tax them and to create other laws affecting them without colonial representatives in the government. During the following decade, protests continued to escalate by colonists (known as Patriots), as in the Boston Tea Party in 1773, during which patriots destroyed a consignment of taxed tea from the Parliament-controlled and favored East India Company. The British responded by imposing punitive laws on Massachusetts in 1774 known as the Coercive Acts, following which Patriots in the other colonies rallied behind Massachusetts. In late 1774, the Patriots set up their own alternative government to better coordinate their resistance efforts against Great Britain, while other colonists, known as Loyalists, preferred to remain aligned to the British Crown.
Tensions escalated to the outbreak of fighting between Patriot militia and British regulars at Lexington and Concord in April 1775. The conflict then developed into a global war, during which the Patriots (and later their French, Spanish, and Dutch allies) fought the British and Loyalists in what became known as the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). Patriots in each of the thirteen colonies formed Provincial Congresses that assumed power from the old colonial governments and suppressed Loyalism, and from there built a Continental Army under the leadership of General George Washington. The Continental Congress determined King George III's rule to be tyrannical and infringing the colonists' "rights as Englishmen", and declared the colonies free and independent states in July 1776. The Patriot leadership professed the political philosophies of liberalism and republicanism to reject monarchy and aristocracy, and proclaimed that all men are created equal. Congress rejected British proposals requiring allegiance to the monarchy and abandonment of independence.
The British were forced out of Boston in 1776, but then captured and held New York City for the duration of the war. They blockaded the ports and captured other cities for brief periods, but failed to defeat Washington's forces. A British army was captured at the Battle of Saratoga in late 1777 after a failed patriot invasion of Canada, following which the French openly entered the war as allies of the United States. The war later turned to the American South, where the British captured an army at South Carolina but failed to enlist enough volunteers from Loyalist civilians to take effective control. A combined American–French force captured a second British army at Yorktown in 1781, effectively ending the war in the United States. The Treaty of Paris in 1783 formally ended the conflict, confirming the new nation's complete separation from the British Empire. The United States took possession of nearly all the territory east of the Mississippi River and south of the Great Lakes, with the British retaining control of Canada and Spain taking Florida.
Among the significant results of the revolution was the creation of a new Constitution of the United States. The 'Three-Fifths Compromise' allowed the southern slaveholders to consolidate power and maintain slavery in America for another eighty years,but the elected government became responsible to the will of the people through the expansion of voting rights and liberties over subsequent decades.The new Constitution established a relatively strong federal national government that included an executive, a national judiciary, and a bicameral Congress that represented states in the Senate and population in the House of Representatives.
The French Revolution (French: Révolution française [ʁevɔlysjɔ̃ fʁɑ̃sɛːz]) was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France that lasted from 1789 until 1799, and was partially carried forward by Napoleon during the later expansion of the French Empire. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, experienced violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon that rapidly brought many of its principles to Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies.Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.
The causes of the French Revolution are complex and are still debated among historians. Following the Seven Years' War and the American Revolutionary War, the French government was deeply in debt and attempted to restore its financial status through unpopular taxation schemes. Years of bad harvests leading up to the Revolution also inflamed popular resentment of the privileges enjoyed by the clergy and the aristocracy. Demands for change were formulated in terms of Enlightenment ideals and contributed to the convocation of the Estates-General in May 1789. The first year of the Revolution saw members of the Third Estate taking control, the assault on the Bastille in July, the passage of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in August, and a women's march on Versailles that forced the royal court back to Paris in October. A central event of the first stage, in August 1789, was the abolition of feudalism and the old rules and privileges left over from the Ancien Régime. The next few years featured political struggles between various liberal assemblies and right-wing supporters of the monarchy intent on thwarting major reforms. France rapidly transformed into a democratic and secular society with freedom of religion, legalisation of divorce, decriminalisation of same-sex relationships, and civil rights for Jews and black people.The Republic was proclaimed in September 1792 after the French victory at Valmy. In a momentous event that led to international condemnation, Louis XVI was executed in January 1793.
External threats closely shaped the course of the Revolution. The Revolutionary Wars beginning in 1792 ultimately featured French victories that facilitated the conquest of the Italian Peninsula, the Low Countries and most territories west of the Rhine – achievements that had eluded previous French governments for centuries. Internally, popular agitation radicalised the Revolution significantly, culminating in the rise of Maximilien Robespierre and the Jacobins. The dictatorship imposed by the Committee of Public Safety during the Reign of Terror, from 1793 until 1794, established price controls on food and other items, abolished slavery in French colonies abroad, dechristianised society through the creation of a new calendar and the expulsion of religious figures, and secured the borders of the new republic from its enemies. Large numbers of civilians were executed by revolutionary tribunals during the Terror, with estimates ranging from 16,000 to 40,000.After the Thermidorian Reaction, an executive council known as the Directory assumed control of the French state in 1795. The rule of the Directory was characterised by suspended elections, debt repudiations, financial instability, persecutions against the Catholic clergy, and significant military conquests abroad. Dogged by charges of corruption, the Directory collapsed in a coup led by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799. Napoleon, who became the hero of the Revolution through his popular military campaigns, went on to establish the Consulate and later the First Empire, setting the stage for a wider array of global conflicts in the Napoleonic Wars.
The modern era has unfolded in the shadow of the French Revolution. Almost all future revolutionary movements looked back to the Revolution as their predecessor. Its central phrases and cultural symbols, such as La Marseillaise and Liberté, égalité, fraternité, became the clarion call for other major upheavals in modern history, including the Russian Revolution over a century later.
The values and institutions of the Revolution dominate French politics to this day. The Revolution resulted in the suppression of the feudal system, the emancipation of the individual, the greater division of landed property, the abolition of the privileges of noble birth and the establishment of equality. The French Revolution differed from other revolutions in being not merely national, for it aimed at benefiting all humanity.
Globally, the Revolution accelerated the rise of republics and democracies. It became the focal point for the development of all modern political ideologies, leading to the spread of liberalism, radicalism, nationalism, socialism, feminism, and secularism, among many others. The Revolution also witnessed the birth of total war by organising the resources of France and the lives of its citizens towards the objective of military conquest.Some of its central documents, like the Declaration of the Rights of Man, expanded the arena of human rights to include women and slaves, leading to movements for abolitionism and universal suffrage in the next century.
The Haitian Revolution (French: Révolution haïtienne [ʁevɔlysjɔ̃ ajisjɛ̃n]), was a successful anti-slavery and anti-colonial insurrection that took place in the former French colony of Saint Domingue that lasted from 1791 until 1804. It impacted the institution of slavery throughout the Americas. Self-liberated slaves destroyed slavery at home, fought to preserve their freedom, and with the collaboration of mulattoes, founded the sovereign state of Haiti.It led to the greatest slave uprising since Spartacus, who led an unsuccessful revolt against the Roman Republic nearly 1,900 years prior.
The Haitian Revolution was the only slave uprising that led to the founding of a state free from slavery and ruled by non-whites and former captives.With the increasing number of Haitian Revolutionary Studies in the last few decades, it has become clear that the event was a defining moment in the racial histories of the Atlantic World.The legacy of the Revolution was that it challenged long-held beliefs about black inferiority and of the enslaved person's capacity to achieve and maintain freedom. The rebels' organizational capacity and tenacity under pressure became the source of stories that shocked and frightened slave owners.
he Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major global conflicts pitting the French Empire, led by Napoleon I, against an array of European powers formed into various coalitions. They revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly owing to the application of modern mass conscription. The wars were a continuation of the Revolutionary Wars, which broke out in 1792 during the French Revolution. Initially, French power rose quickly as the armies of Napoleon conquered much of Europe. In his military career, Napoleon fought about 60 battles and lost seven, mostly at the end of his reign.The great French dominion collapsed rapidly after the disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. Napoleon was defeated in 1814, and sent into exile on the island of Elba; he then escaped and returned to power, only to be defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, and was exiled again, this time to Saint Helena.
During the successive conflicts, also known as the Coalition Wars, France defeated five consecutive coalitions arrayed against it, before suffering defeat against the sixth and seventh. The first two coalitions were defeated during the French Revolutionary Wars, while the third (at Austerlitz), the fourth (at Jena, Eylau, and Friedland) and the fifth coalition (at Wagram) were fought under the leadership of Napoleon. These victories gave Napoleon's Grande Armée a sense of invulnerability, especially when it approached Moscow and occupied it after the Russians abandoned it. After the retreat from Russia, the French forces were defeated by Russian winter weather and by the sixth coalition at Leipzig and in France itself, and by the seventh coalition at Waterloo. Following Napoleon's final defeat, the Allies then reversed all French gains outside its 1789 borders at the Congress of Vienna.
The wars resulted in the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and sowed the seeds of nationalism that led to the consolidations of Germany and Italy later in the century. The global Spanish Empire began to unravel as French occupation of Spain weakened Spain's hold over its colonies, providing an opening for nationalist revolutions in Spanish America. As a result of the Napoleonic wars and the losses of the other great powers, the British Empire became the foremost world power for the next century,thus beginning Pax Britannica.
Scholars disagree about when the French Revolutionary Wars ended and the Napoleonic Wars began. Bonaparte's coup seizing power in France was on 9 November 1799, and 18 May 1803 was when renewed war broke out between Britain and France, ending the year-old period of general peace following the Treaty of Amiens. Most fighting ceased following Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo on 18 June 1815, although skirmishing continued as late as 3 July 1815 at the Battle of Issy. The Treaty of Paris ended the wars on 20 November 1815.
The Louisiana Purchase (French: Vente de la Louisiane "Sale of Louisiana") was the acquisition of the Louisiana territory (828,000 square miles) by the United States from France in 1803. The U.S. paid fifty million francs ($11,250,000 USD) and a cancellation of debts worth eighteen million francs ($3,750,000 USD) for a total of sixty-eight million francs ($15,000,000 USD, or around a quarter of a billion in 2016 dollars). The Louisiana territory included land from fifteen present U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The territory contained land that forms Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; the portion of Minnesota west of the Mississippi River; a large portion of North Dakota; a large portion of South Dakota; the northeastern section of New Mexico; the northern portion of Texas; the area of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; Louisiana west of the Mississippi River (plus New Orleans); and small portions of land within the present Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Its population was around 60,000 inhabitants, of whom half were African slaves.
The Kingdom of France controlled the Louisiana territory from 1699 until it was ceded to Spain in 1762. Napoleon in 1800, hoping to re-establish an empire in North America, regained ownership of Louisiana. However, France's failure to put down the revolt in Saint-Domingue, coupled with the prospect of renewed warfare with the United Kingdom, prompted Napoleon to sell Louisiana to the United States. The Americans originally sought to purchase only the port city of New Orleans and its adjacent coastal lands, but quickly accepted the bargain. The Louisiana Purchase occurred during the term of the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Before the purchase was finalized, the decision faced Federalist Party opposition; they argued that it was unconstitutional to acquire any territory. Jefferson agreed that the U.S. Constitution did not contain explicit provisions for acquiring territory, but he asserted that his constitutional power to negotiate treaties was sufficient.
The Mexican War of Independence (Spanish: Guerra de Independencia de México) was an armed conflict, and the culmination of a political and social process which ended the rule of Spain in 1821 in the territory of New Spain. The war had its antecedent in the French invasion of Spain in 1808; it extended from the Grito de Dolores by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla on September 16, 1810, to the entrance of the Army of the Three Guarantees led by Augustín de Iturbide to Mexico City on September 27, 1821. September 16 is celebrated as Mexican Independence Day.
The movement for independence was inspired by the Age of Enlightenment and the liberal revolutions of the last part of the 18th century. By that time the educated elite of New Spain had begun to reflect on the relations between Spain and its colonial kingdoms. Changes in the social and political structure occasioned by Bourbon reforms and a deep economic crisis in New Spain caused discomfort among the Creole (native-born) elite.
Political events in Europe had a decisive effect on events in most of Spanish America. In 1808, King Charles IV and Ferdinand VII abdicated in favor of French leader Napoleon Bonaparte, who left the crown of Spain to his brother Joseph Bonaparte. The same year, the ayuntamiento (city council) of Mexico City, supported by viceroy José de Iturrigaray, claimed sovereignty in the absence of the legitimate king. That led to a coup against the viceroy; when it was suppressed, the leaders of the movement were jailed.
Despite the defeat in Mexico City, small groups of conspirators met in other cities of New Spain to raise movements against colonial rule. In 1810, after being discovered, Querétaro conspirators chose to take up arms on September 16 in the company of peasants and indigenous inhabitants of Dolores (Guanajuato), who were called to action by the secular Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo, former rector of the Colegio de San Nicolás Obispo.
From 1810 the independence movement went through several stages, as leaders were imprisoned or executed by forces loyal to Spain. At first they recognized the sovereignty of Ferdinand VII over Spain and its colonies, but later the leaders took more radical positions, including such issues of social order as the abolition of slavery. Secular priest José María Morelos called the separatist provinces to form the Congress of Chilpancingo, which gave the insurgency its own legal framework. After the defeat of Morelos, the movement survived as a guerrilla war under the leadership of Vicente Guerrero. By 1820, the few rebel groups survived most notably in the Sierra Madre del Sur and Veracruz.
The reinstatement of the liberal Constitution of Cadiz in 1820 caused a change of mind among the elite groups who had supported Spanish rule. Monarchist Creoles affected by the constitution decided to support the independence of New Spain; they sought an alliance with the former insurgent resistance. Agustín de Iturbide led the military arm of the conspirators and in early 1821 he met Vicente Guerrero. Both proclaimed the Plan of Iguala, which called for the union of all insurgent factions and was supported by both the aristocracy and clergy of New Spain. It called for monarchy in an independent Mexico. Finally, the independence of Mexico was achieved on September 27, 1821.
After that, the mainland of New Spain was organized as the Mexican Empire. This ephemeral Catholic monarchy changed to a federal republic in 1823, due to internal conflicts and the separation of Central America from Mexico.
After some Spanish reconquest attempts, including the expedition of Isidro Barradas in 1829, Spain under the rule of Isabella II recognized the independence of Mexico in 1836.
The Greek War of Independence, also known as the Greek Revolution (Greek: Ελληνική Επανάσταση, Elliniki Epanastasi; Ottoman: يونان عصياني Yunan İsyanı Greek Uprising), was a successful war of independence waged by the Greek revolutionaries between 1821 and 1832 against the Ottoman Empire. The Greeks were later assisted by the Russian Empire, Great Britain, the Kingdom of France, and several other European powers, while the Ottomans were aided by their vassals, the eyalets of Egypt, Algeria, and Tripolitania, and the Beylik of Tunis.
Even several decades before the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453, most of Greece had come under Ottoman rule. During this time, there were several revolt attempts by Greeks to gain independence from Ottoman control. In 1814, a secret organization called the Filiki Eteria was founded with the aim of liberating Greece. The Filiki Eteria planned to launch revolts in the Peloponnese, the Danubian Principalities, and in Constantinople and its surrounding areas. The first of these revolts began on 6 March 1821 in the Danubian Principalities, but it was soon put down by the Ottomans. The events in the north urged the Greeks in the Peloponnese into action and on 17 March 1821, the Maniots declared war on the Ottomans. This declaration was the start of a spring of revolutionary actions from other controlled states against the Ottoman Empire.
By the end of the month, the Peloponnese was in open revolt against the Turks and by October 1821, the Greeks under Theodoros Kolokotronis had captured Tripolitsa. The Peloponnesian revolt was quickly followed by revolts in Crete, Macedonia, and Central Greece, which would soon be suppressed. Meanwhile, the makeshift Greek navy was achieving success against the Ottoman navy in the Aegean Sea and prevented Ottoman reinforcements from arriving by sea.
Tensions soon developed among different Greek factions, leading to two consecutive civil wars. In the meantime, the Ottoman Sultan negotiated with Mehmet Ali of Egypt, who agreed to send his son Ibrahim Pasha to Greece with an army to suppress the revolt in return for territorial gain. Ibrahim landed in the Peloponnese in February 1825 and had immediate success: by the end of 1825, most of the Peloponnese was under Egyptian control, and the city of Missolonghi fell in April 1826 after a year-long siege by the Turks. Although Ibrahim was defeated in Mani, he had succeeded in suppressing most of the revolt in the Peloponnese, and Athens had been retaken.
Following years of negotiation, three Great Powers—Russia, Britain and France—decided to intervene in the conflict and each nation sent a navy to Greece. Following news that combined Ottoman–Egyptian fleets were going to attack the Greek island of Hydra, the allied fleet intercepted the Ottoman–Egyptian fleet at Navarino. The battle began after a tense week-long standoff, ending in the destruction of the Ottoman–Egyptian fleet. By 1828 the Egyptian army withdrew under pressure of a French expeditionary force to which the Ottoman garrisons in the Peloponnese then surrendered, while the Greeks proceeded to the Ottoman-controlled part of central Greece. As a result of years of negotiation, Greece was finally recognized as an independent nation in the Treaty of Constantinople of May 1832.
The Revolution is celebrated by the modern Greek state as a national day on 25 March.
Central America (Spanish: "América Central" or "Centroamérica") is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. Central America is bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The combined population of Central America is between 41,739,000 (2009 estimate) and 42,688,190 (2012 estimate).
Central America is a part of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot, which extends from northern Guatemala through central Panama. Due to the presence of several active geologic faults and the Central America Volcanic Arc, there is a great deal of seismic activity in the region. Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur frequently; these natural disasters have resulted in the loss of many lives and much property.
In the Pre-Columbian era, Central America was inhabited by the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica to the north and west and the Isthmo-Colombian peoples to the south and east. Soon after Christopher Columbus's voyages to the Americas, the Spanish began to colonize the Americas. From 1609 until 1821, most of the territory within Central America—except for the lands that would become Belize and Panama—was governed by the Viceroyalty of New Spain from Mexico City as the Captaincy General of Guatemala. After New Spain achieved independence from Spain in 1821 becoming the First Mexican Empire, the former Captaincy General remained annexed to it, but soon seceded from Mexico to form the Federal Republic of Central America, which lasted from 1823 to 1838. The seven states finally became independent autonomous nations, beginning with Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Guatemala (1838), followed by El Salvador (1841), then Panama (1903), and finally Belize (1981).
Italian unification (Italian: Unificazione italiana), or the Risorgimento ([risordʒiˈmento], meaning the Resurgence or revival), was the political and social movement that consolidated different states of the Italian peninsula into the single state of the Kingdom of Italy in the 19th century. The process began in 1815 with the Congress of Vienna and was completed in 1871 when Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.
Some of the terre irredente did not, however, join the Kingdom of Italy until 1919 after Italy defeated Austria in World War I with the Treaty of Saint-Germain. Some nationalists see the 3 November 1918 Armistice of Villa Giusti as the completion of unification.
The American Civil War was a civil war in the United States fought from 1861 to 1865. The Union faced secessionists in eleven Southern states grouped together as the Confederate States of America. The Union won the war, which remains the bloodiest in U.S. history.
Among the 34 U.S. states in January 1861, seven Southern slave states individually declared their secession from the U.S. and formed the Confederate States of America. War broke out in April 1861 when they attacked a U.S. fortress, Fort Sumter. The Confederacy grew to include eleven states; it claimed two more states and several western territories. The Confederacy was never diplomatically recognized by any foreign country. The states that remained loyal including border states where slavery was legal, were known as the Union or the North. The war ended with the surrender of all the Confederate armies and the collapse of Confederate government in spring 1865.
The war had its origin in the factious issue of slavery, especially the extension of slavery into the western territories. Four years of intense combat left 620,000 to 750,000 soldiers dead, a higher number than the American military deaths of World War I and World War II combined, and destroyed much of the South's infrastructure. The Confederacy collapsed and slavery was abolished in the entire country. The Reconstruction Era (1863–1877) overlapped and followed the war, with its fitful process of restoring national unity, strengthening the national government, and granting civil rights to the freed slaves.
The unification of Germany into a politically and administratively integrated nation state officially occurred on 18 January 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles in France. Princes of the German states gathered there to proclaim Wilhelm I of Prussia as German Emperor after the French capitulation in the Franco-Prussian War. Unofficially, the de facto transition of most of the German-speaking populations into a federated organization of states had been developing for some time through alliances formal and informal between princely rulers—but in fits and starts; self-interests of the various parties hampered the process over nearly a century of autocratic experimentation, beginning in the era of the Napoleonic Wars, which saw the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire (1806), and the subsequent rise of German nationalism.
Unification exposed tensions due to religious, linguistic, social, and cultural differences among the inhabitants of the new nation, suggesting that 1871 only represented one moment in a continuum of the larger unification processes. The Holy Roman Emperor had been often called "Emperor of all the Germanies"; contemporary news accounts frequently referred to "The Germanies", and in the empire, its members of higher nobility were referred to as "Princes of Germany" or "Princes of the Germanies"—for the lands once called East Francia had been organized and governed as pocket kingdoms since times before the rise of Charlemagne (800 AD). Given the mountainous terrains of much of the territory, it is obvious that isolated peoples would develop cultural, educational, linguistic, and religious differences over such a lengthy time period. Germany, or the Germanies, of the nineteenth century enjoyed transportation and communications improvements tying the peoples into a greater, tighter culture, as has the entire world under the influence of better communications and transportation infrastructures.
The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which had included more than 500 independent states, was effectively dissolved when Emperor Francis II abdicated (6 August 1806) during the War of the Third Coalition. Despite the legal, administrative, and political disruption associated with the end of the Empire, the people of the German-speaking areas of the old Empire had a common linguistic, cultural, and legal tradition further enhanced by their shared experience in the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. European liberalism offered an intellectual basis for unification by challenging dynastic and absolutist models of social and political organization; its German manifestation emphasized the importance of tradition, education, and linguistic unity of peoples in a geographic region. Economically, the creation of the Prussian Zollverein (customs union) in 1818, and its subsequent expansion to include other states of the German Confederation, reduced competition between and within states. Emerging modes of transportation facilitated business and recreational travel, leading to contact and sometimes conflict among German speakers from throughout Central Europe.
The model of diplomatic spheres of influence resulting from the Congress of Vienna in 1814–15 after the Napoleonic Wars endorsed Austrian dominance in Central Europe. However, the negotiators at Vienna took no account of Prussia's growing strength within and among the German states and so failed to foresee that Prussia would rise up to challenge Austria for leadership. This German dualism presented two solutions to the problem of unification: Kleindeutsche Lösung, the small Germany solution (Germany without Austria), or Großdeutsche Lösung, the greater Germany solution (Germany with Austria).
Historians debate whether Otto von Bismarck—Minister President of Prussia—had a master plan to expand the North German Confederation of 1866 to include the remaining independent German states into a single entity or simply to expand the power of the Kingdom of Prussia. They conclude that factors in addition to the strength of Bismarck's Realpolitik led a collection of early modern polities to reorganize political, economic, military, and diplomatic relationships in the 19th century. Reaction to Danish and French nationalism provided foci for expressions of German unity. Military successes—especially those of Prussia—in three regional wars generated enthusiasm and pride that politicians could harness to promote unification. This experience echoed the memory of mutual accomplishment in the Napoleonic Wars, particularly in the War of Liberation of 1813–14. By establishing a Germany without Austria, the political and administrative unification in 1871 at least temporarily solved the problem of dualism