THE career of a historical personality, observed Wilhelm Dilthey, is marked by reciprocating influences. In his early years such an individual is molded by forces the course of whose development he himself later helps to determine. Because of this interaction the biographer of Schleier-macher was compelled to broaden his subject to include the intellectual history of a whole epoch. What was true of Schleiermacher, the theologian, is also true of Bismarck, the statesman. The customary biographical form cannot capture the significance of a political figure of his stature. As important as the man himself were the many forces—social, political, intellectual, and institutional—which shaped his environment and with which he dealt. This work is concerned with the interaction between these forces and the will of a political genius. It is a study of the effect of one man of extraordinary talent upon the historical process. Hence the more personal and anecdotal aspects of Bismarck's life are included only where they indicate attitudes or affected policy and events. The purpose is to expose the elements of thought and outlook which determined his political aims, the techniques of strategy by which he strove for their achievement, and the ultimate consequences of both for German political development.
Usually the period of German unification has been studied from the standpoint of foreign affairs. Such an orientation gives to the year 1871 the appearance of an end rather than a beginning. This book seeks to relate the story of diplomatic maneuver, war, and victory to the greater problem of Germany's internal political growth. The concentration is upon the internal consequences of both domestic and foreign policy and events. Seen from this viewpoint, the period of unification was one of revolution and reconstruction which established the character of German political attitudes and institutions until recent times. The subsequent period of consolidation, including the domestic history of the North German Confederation, has been reserved for a sequel volume.
During the years of research consumed by this project I incurred personal debts of many kinds. By far the greatest is that howed to Hajo Holborn of Yale University. It was he who more than a decade ago first pointed out to me the need for a fresh approach to the Bismarck problem. Without his advice, support, and encouragement along the way this volume would never have been completed. I am also deeply grateful to Herbert Kaplan and Theodore Hamerow, who read the entire manuscript and were responsible for many improvements; to Walter Steiner, my research assistant, for his patient help on many boring tasks; to Lawrence Steefel for graciously permitting me to profit from the manuscript of his work on the war of 1870; to Frank Rodgers and the library staff of the University of Illinois for much technical assistance; and to my wife, Hertha Haberlander Pflanze, whose keen literary sense pruned away many stylistic errors. In 1951-1952 I was aided by a research grant from the American Council of Learned Societies and during 1955-1957 by a United States government grant under the Fulbright act for research in Germany. The Universities of Massachusetts and Illinois also provided financial assistance. To the history department of the University of Minnesota I am particularly indebted for the recognition accorded the manuscript.
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