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.
Minneapolis March 1, 1962