Otto von Bismarck

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Otto von Bismarck

Otto von Bismarck (Otto Eduard Leopold Fürst von Bismarck, Herzog von Lauenburg, Graf von Bismarck-Schönhausen) (April 1, 1815–July 30, 1898) served as the minister president of Prussia (1862–71) and the first chancellor of the German Empire (1871–90). Known as the "Iron Chancellor," Bismarck was the dominant political leader of Europe in the late 19th century. He was a unifier who brought together the various Germanic states into a unified Germany, under Prussian leadership. His capital was Berlin, but his base of power were the rich landowning "Junkers" of the eastern part of Prussia. He was fiercely patriotic and believed in realpolitik (the use of power to get practical results).

Bismarck entered Prussian politics in 1847. He first served as ambassador to Russia and France, and became the minister president and foreign minister in 1862. He supervised the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the Austro-Prussian War and annexed or coerced neighboring states into the North German Federation. He supervised the defeat of the French in the Franco-Prussian War and the creation of the new German Empire (the "Second Reich"); Bismarck was made its imperial chancellor and prince in 1871 and dominated the political system.

In domestic affairs, Bismarck was an arch-conservative Protestant and Lutheran who strengthened the economy, fought both the Catholics (in the "Kulturkampf" or "culture war") and the anti-clerical socialists. The Catholics and socialists reorganized and were more powerful at his death than when he attacked them. Bismarck began the German welfare state as a way to gain support for the national government while weakening the socialists.

He played a major diplomatic role in world affairs, from leading the war against France in 1870-71 to balancing the major nations against each other so as to prevent war. This was the "Bismarck System," but he was dismissed in 1890 by an arrogant new emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II who was oblivious to Bismarck's great achievements.


Though probably apocryphal, Prince Bismarck is credited with saying: To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.[1]

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See also


  • Craig, Gordon A. Germany, 1866-1945 (1978) online edition
  • Crankshaw, Edward. Bismarck. (1981).
  • Eyck, Erich. Bismarck and the German Empire. (1964).
  • Feuchtwanger, Edgar. Bismarck (Routledge Historical Biographies) (2002) 276 pp, basic starting point
  • Garr, Lothar. Bismark: The White Revolutionary (1986) 2 vol
  • Kent, George O. Bismarck and His Times 1978 online edition
  • Lerman, Katharine Anne. Bismarck: Profiles in Power, 2004. ISBN 0-582-03740-9.
  • Palmer, Alan. Bismarck, (1976)
  • Pflanze, Otto. Bismarck and the Development of Germany. 3 vols. (1963–90). the standard scholarly biography
  • Pflanze, Otto. Bismarck and German Nationalism, American Historical Review, Vol. 60, No. 3 (Apr., 1955), pp. 548–566 in JSTOR
  • Sheehan, James J. German History, 1770-1866 (1989), dense, thorough political history
  • Sheehan, James J. German liberalism in the nineteenth century 1978. online at ACLS e-books
  • Stern, Fritz. Gold and Iron: Bismarck, Bleichröder and the Building of the German Empire. (1977).
  • Taylor, A.J.P. Bismarck: The Man and the Statesman (1955). online edition

Primary sources



External links