Germany from Napoleon to Bismarck: 1800-1866


Thomas Nipperdey offers readers insights into the history and the culture of German nationalism, bringing to light much-needed information on the immediate prenational period of transition. A subject of passionate debates, the beginnings of German nationalism here receive a thorough-going exploration, from the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire to Bismarck's division of the German-speaking world into three parts: an enlarged Prussian state north of the Main, an isolated Austria-Hungary in the south, and a group...

See more details below
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (7) from $95.99   
  • New (6) from $95.99   
  • Used (1) from $95.99   
Sending request ...


Thomas Nipperdey offers readers insights into the history and the culture of German nationalism, bringing to light much-needed information on the immediate prenational period of transition. A subject of passionate debates, the beginnings of German nationalism here receive a thorough-going exploration, from the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire to Bismarck's division of the German-speaking world into three parts: an enlarged Prussian state north of the Main, an isolated Austria-Hungary in the south, and a group of Catholic states in between. This altering of power structures, Nipperdey maintains, was the crucial action on which the future of the German state hinged. He traces the failure of German liberalism amidst the rise of nationalism, turning it from a story of inevitable catastrophe toward a series of episodes filled with contingency and choice.

The book opens with the seismic effect of Napoleon on the German ancien-régime. Napoleon's modernizing hegemony is shown to have led to the gradual emergence of a civil society based on the liberal bourgeoisie. Nipperdey examines the fate of this society from the revolutions of 1848-49 through the rise of Bismarck. Into this story he weaves insights concerning family life, working conditions, agriculture, industrialization, and demography as well as religion, learning, and the arts.

Originally published in 1996.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Nipperdey has produced a history of German unification for the 1980s and 1990s and, one suspects, beyond.... Essential reading."The Times Literary Supplement
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691607559
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/14/2014
  • Series: Princeton Legacy Library Series
  • Pages: 768
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Germany from Napoleon to Bismarck 1800â?"1866

By Thomas Nipperdey, Daniel Nolan


Copyright © 1983 C. H. Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung (Oscar Beck), München
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-691-02636-7


The Great Upheaval

1. The End of Empire: Germany under Napoleon

In the beginning was Napoleon. His influence upon the history of the German people, their lives and experiences was overwhelming at a time when the initial foundations of a modern German state were being laid. The destiny of a nation is its politics, and those politics were Napoleon's — the politics of war and conquest, of exploitation and repression, of imperialism and reform. The nations and the other states were left with no option but to acquiesce or to resist. Rarely have power politics and pressure from without so dominated every sphere of life. The great reforms which so altered the state and society were themselves shaped by these forces. True, it was with the French Revolution that the ideas on which the modern world is based, and which went on to become an integral part of modern consciousness, first came into being. The French Revolution marked a new era in world history. For the Germans, however, the collapse of the old order became a reality only under Napoleon, and in the form of a military imperium. Only those blinded by ideology to the phenomenon of power, those who concentrate all their attention on the movements within society, on 'internal' politics, and on structures, could ignore this basic fact.

The German nation's fate was shaped by the larger political events taking place around it. The revolutionary wars — from 1792 onwards — had ended with the defeat of the German and other European powers. Napoleon, the revolution's general, was also its tamer. His victory was absolutely without precedent. In 1801, the territories on the left bank of the Rhine finally fell under French rule. In 1803, the map of Germany was redrawn; the princeling rulers were to be 'compensated' for their territorial losses. This triggered a revolution from above by the 'old' Germany. The ecclesiastical states were 'secularised'; most of the imperial cities, hitherto 'imperial sovereignties', and a whole series of smaller secular states (including what remained of the Electorate of the Palatinate) were 'mediatised', i.e. dissolved as political unities and absorbed into the large and medium-sized states. The German map was effectively simplified in a settlement agreed to by the Deputation of the Imperial Diet. In general, the new acquisitions heavily outnumbered the losses.

This geographical reform took place under the auspices of the two major continental powers, France and Russia, and in accordance with the plan and model laid down by them. Many personal alliances and a good deal of corruption played a significant role. France's dominant position and her interests were politically decisive for this revolution from above. France was now the puppet-master of German affairs, a fact which had two direct consequences. First, it caused the dissolution of the old Empire, which had relied on the imperial church and the aristocracy outside the larger territories for its power and legal system. Secondly, unified medium-sized states (Mittelstaaten) capable of supporting themselves were created or consolidated in the south and south-west by the enormous territorial expansion. Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse–Darmstadt and the Nassau principalities were the big winners in this reorganisation. Both the princes and the chief ministers of these states seized the opportunity for expansion with both hands, guided by an almost undiluted pragmatism, and allowing no legitimistic, patriotic or nationalist scruples to deter them.

The medium-sized states now found themselves squeezed between the major German powers of Prussia and Austria, and they became fierce opponents of the old imperial structure. This was their first taste of genuine sovereignty, and no Kaiser or Empire was going to get in their way. Individual states which had aspired to full sovereignty during the early modern era in the development of the German state now attained their goal. This new sovereignty, however, was not viable in itself. It relied on France for its political legitimacy and power, and it was in the interests of Napoleonic France to uphold them, thereby making impossible any other form of national organisation of Germany, whether of the older or the newer variety. In this respect, the medium-sized states were not simply a result of German history, but, first and foremost, the product of the policies through which Napoleon had sought to establish his hegemony. Thus, the pragmatism of the princes and ministers was inevitably linked to a need to fall into line with French policies.

Last-ditch attempts to reform the Reich either remained futile or came to grief — like that of the Imperial Chancellor and sole remaining ecclesiastical Elector, Dalberg. It was he who tried to consolidate the imperial church and the Empire by means of a Reich Concordat — with the Kaiser, the new sovereigns or the Pope. The Reich was on the brink of bankruptcy, with only a shadow existence. When Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of the French in 1804, the German Kaiser Franz II renounced his imperial title and became Emperor of Austria, seeing this as the only office which would grant him a semblance of parity.

Yet the issue of France's supremacy in Europe remained unresolved. Austria and Prussia appeared powerless, but by 1803 England was again at war with Napoleon. He wasted no time in taking possession of Hanover, which was bound by personal union to England. This signalled the end of north German neutrality, which had been maintained under Prussia's protection. A new alliance was formed between the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy, the powers on the flanks of England and Russia. This "Third Coalition' aimed at resisting Napoleon's galloping expansionism, ending the economic war and putting a stop to his despotism (exemplified in the kidnapping and subsequent shooting of Due d'Enghien in Baden in 1804). The objectives of the Third Coalition were to contain France, reverse her military conquest and to re-establish the balance of power in Europe. Austria, though still seriously weakened after its earlier revolutionary wars, and less decisive and astute in its political decisions, joined this alliance in 1805. An excuse for hostilities was provided by ever-increasing French expansionism in Italy, which went so far as to establish a Napoleonic kingdom of Italy. Napoleon had assembled his troops near Boulogne, either to prepare for an invasion of England or a continental war against the Eastern powers. In September 1805, he surprised the Austrians by sending his troops, not to Italy, but to southern Germany with breathtaking speed. Once there, he forged alliances with the south German states, and on 17 October 1805 forced an Austrian army under the incompetent Supreme Commander Mack to capitulate at Ulm. His request to Austria on 21 October to stop fighting England's war — in defence of its monopoly of the seas, colonies and trade — fell on deaf ears, and Nelson's rout of the French fleet at Trafalgar left Napoleon no other option but to fight a continental war. The Austrians were ill-prepared. The coalition was uncoordinated and they lost the initiative right from the start. Before the Russian troops were ready, Napoleon had marched into Vienna on 13 November. He won a brilliant victory at Austerlitz on 2 December (the Battle of the Three Emperors), partly because the ambitious Tsar had launched his attack too early, before all the troops of the coalition could be assembled. The Russians beat a hasty retreat. Austria had to make peace at Pressburg. She lost the Habsburg dependencies of the Upper Rhine and Upper Swabia to Baden and Württemberg. Tyrol, Lindau and Vorarlberg went to Bavaria, while Venice, Istria and Dalmatia were lost to Napoleonic Italy. Austria was reduced to owning only the territories along the Danube and was, furthermore, left with an enormous reparations bill of forty million francs.

The war had finally cleared the way for Napoleon to extend his hegemony over central Europe. France, no longer satisfied with her so-called natural boundaries and her satellite states (the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy), began to construct a 'Great Empire' which would dominate the continent of Europe. Bavaria and Württemberg became kingdoms, Baden and Hesse–Darmstadt grand duchies. Napoleon wanted the Holy Roman Empire, now only a shadow, erased once and for all; strictly speaking, no one had any genuine or effective interest in preserving that antiquated order, not even imperial Austria. Dalberg's plan to combine the old Roman Empire with that of Napoleon in order to keep it independent from Austria and Prussia (he even appointed Napoleon's uncle as his co-regent and successor) was a lost cause. On 16 July 1806, Napoleon amalgamated the south German states in a defensive and offensive alliance called the Confederation of the Rhine. Napoleon himself was the supreme 'Protector' of this confederation, and the affiliated states were forced to provide him with troops. Once again, a whole range of smaller imperial sovereignties, including those of the Imperial Knights, were demoted and absorbed by the medium-sized states. The larger states of south Germany would have preferred to forge only military alliances with France, but Napoleon forced them to organise into a confederacy. For these states themselves, membership meant on the one hand self-preservation in the face of the strongest power on the continent, especially as Prussia was holding on to its neutrality and Austria remained a threat to at least Bavaria's continued existence as a state. On the other hand, their assertion of sovereignty over the small feudal estates was vital. This required them to renounce finally their old imperial allegiance, which could only be achieved at the price of dependence on the new hegemonial power. It was Napoleon's threat to run these territories along French lines which proved the most effective means of overcoming their objections. Amalgamation into the Confederation of the Rhine met with the approval of all influential as well as popular forces. Only then did south Germany really take shape in the political sense.

French hegemony, the sovereignty of the Mittelstaaten and the dissolution of the old Roman Empire are inextricably linked. The states of the Confederation of the Rhine declared that in their eyes the Empire no longer existed and made a formal withdrawal. The Kaiser eventually relinquished his imperial crown on 6 August 1806, following Napoleon's ultimatum, and, in a rather wooden proclamation, declared the Empire to have ended. It was quietly buried without ceremony and the death certificate issued. Goethe wrote that at the time a quarrel between his coachman and a servant had interested him more than this news.

The Holy Roman Empire, which had lasted for nearly a thousand years, was at an end. Out of date, cumbersome, devoid of any real power, it had not kept pace with the revolutionary changes in European relations. Many things had finally killed it off: the tremendous pressure exerted by the French revolutionary armies; the explosive force of its internal conflicts; the Austro-Prussian dualism and the territorial princes' struggle for sovereignty; the outmoded and fragmented ruling imperial orders of church, aristocracy and cities. The Empire had long maintained the balance of power in Europe and the coexistence of the individual sovereign powers in Germany, whose conflicts it regulated or checked. A bastion of the status quo, it had retained the feudal system and social hierarchy. All of this now disappeared. The new agenda was for sweeping changes, reorganisation, the end of the existing order. 'Germany' was relegated for die time being to a mere geographical concept.

The political demise of this old Empire had a very odd long-term effect. The concept of the Empire was exported from the real world to a world of dreams and symbols. Hie dream of the 'Reich' has since developed a dynamic all of its own in the history of the German people. A phantom, an unreality, had the power to change reality.

Prussia had made territorial gains during its ten years of neutrality between 1795 and 1805, but it had suffered a decisive loss of power and the capacity to act. In 1805 Prussia's politics, tied to the illusion of neutrality, were hesitant. Napoleon's march through Ansbach brought it closer to a coalition, but Napoleon stalled Prussia's initial attempt at mediation until after the battle of Austerlitz. Then, submitting to the dictates of Napoleon, Prussia took control of Hanover from the English as compensation for Kleve and Ansbach. A potential enemy had been turned into a rather weak-kneed ally, an accomplice of the Emperor. Prussia was forced to align itself with the anti-English front, against its best political and economic interests. England declared war on Prussia and started a blockade. At the same time, Prussia was almost helplessly at the mercy of every threat and exhortation from Napoleon, having lost practically all freedom of action. In 1806, Prussia was negotiating both with Napoleon's last continental opponent, Russia, as well as with Napoleon, on matters such as a Prussian-led north German empire. In August 1806, the news broke that Napoleon had offered Hanover back to the English, jeopardising Prussia's reward for submission to French continental policy. While the king and his foreign minister were reeling from the pressure of an anti-French 'patriotic' opposition movement among the people and the ruling classes, Prussia mobilised its armies. When Napoleon demanded they be sent back to the barracks, Prussia issued an ultimatum at the end of September for the withdrawal of French troops from south Germany and the formation of a north German confederation. Prussia was taking the offensive out of desperation, although it was by no means determined to enter into a war in which there was little prospect of victory.

However irresolute and foolish Prussia's politics were — it had not even waited for concrete coalition agreements with Russia — war was inevitable, especially since Napoleon's claims to hegemony and Prussia's demands for some semblance of an independent role as partner in an alliance were irreconcilable. Napoleon gave the order to march; Prussia declared war on 9 October. The Prussian army was badly equipped, ill-prepared, devoid of fighting spirit, and above all lacking in mobility. Led by ageing and incompetent generals lacking in initiative, it was smashed without trace Napoleon at Jena and Auerstedt on 14 October. Most of the remaining forces and fortresses also capitulated quietly and most of the civilian authorities surrendered. Some fled, some abandoned their positions, while others co-operated with the occupying forces. The old Prussian state collapsed. The public notice pinned up by the Berlin Chief of Police captures the mood perfectly: "The king has lost a battle. The citizen's first duty now is to remain calm.' Even on its knees, the regime stubbornly persisted in the strict separation of dynastic and military politics from that governing the fate of its subjects. There were a few exceptions, however. For example, Blücher and Scharnhorst made it to Lübeck; Gneisenau, together with Major Schill and the burgher Joachim Nettelbeck, masterminded the successful defence of Kolberg. Nevertheless, die king, under pressure from opponents of his previous course of action, came down against the armistice which had already been initialled, and decided to continue the war in alliance with Russia. It was astonishing, after such a collapse, to hear the first rumblings of a decisive policy of resistance. Hardenburg became chief minister, but Stein was dismissed because of his obstinate disagreement with the rest of the royal cabinet.


Excerpted from Germany from Napoleon to Bismarck 1800â?"1866 by Thomas Nipperdey, Daniel Nolan. Copyright © 1983 C. H. Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung (Oscar Beck), München. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

List of Tables
I The Great Upheaval 1
1 The End of Empire: Germany under Napoleon 1
2 The Great Reforms 19
3 The Great War and a Difficult Peace 67
II Life, Work, Business 85
1 Population 85
2 Family, Gender, Generations 97
3 Everyday Life 111
4 Agriculture and Rural Society 125
5 Industrialisation 155
6 Crafts 182
7 The Lower Classes, Factories, Industrial Workers, Social Problems 191
8 The Problem of Minorities: the Jews 217
9 Bourgeois Society 223
III Restoration and Vormarz, 1815-48 237
1 The End of the Reforms: Constitutions and Restoration 237
2 The Great Movements 250
3 The State and the States 280
4 German and European Politics 313
5 The Effects of the July Revolution 323
6 The Formation and Restructuring of the German Political Parties 333
7 Vormarz 350
IV Faith and Knowledge; Education and Art 356
1 Religion, Church, De-Christianisation 356
2 Education: School and University 398
3 The Sciences 428
4 Aesthetic Culture: Music, Art and Literature 472
5 The Reading Revolution and the Rise of the Press 520
V The Revolution of 1848-49 527
1 The March Revolution 527
2 The Road to the Paulskirche 537
3 Extraparliamentary Movements: Denominational and Social Problems 547
4 Germany and Europe 553
5 Between Radicalisation and Counter-Revolution 560
6 The Imperial Constitution and the Empire 579
7 The End 588
8 The Failed Revolution 590
9 Epilogue: Germany as a Union of the States? 595
VI Between Reaction and Liberalism: Bismarck and the Problem of German Unity, 1849-66 599
1 Reaction in Germany, 1849-59 599
2 German Policy in the 1850s 608
3 Germany in Europe: From the Crimean War to the Italian War 612
4 The New Era 620
5 The German Question, 1859-63 627
6 Politics and Society: Changes in the Parties 636
7 The Constitutional Conflict in Prussia and Bismarck's Minister-Presidency 667
8 The Decision concerning Germany: German and European Politics, 1863-66 684
9 Consequences 704
Epilogue 716
Index 717
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)