In the 18th century, Enlightenment theories of representative government inspired a desire for national unification and liberal reform among some Germans. In the 19th century, France’s expansion after the French Revolution (1789-1799) and especially under Napoleon I had the unintended effect of pushing Austria and Prussia together and arousing a sense of German national identity.
The success of the French Revolution greatly alarmed Austria and Prussia. Fearing that revolutionary ideas would spread and jeopardize their own governments, the two countries signed the Pillnitz Declaration in 1791, which offered to intervene militarily on behalf of the French king. This declaration only served to anger the French, and in April 1792 France declared war on Austria and Prussia, defeating them soundly at Valmy in September. For the next 20 years, the German states engaged in five wars of defense against the well-trained and unified armies of revolutionary and Napoleonic France (see Napoleonic Wars). The first war resulted in the French occupying all German territory west of the Rhineland by 1794, an event that would have profound consequences for all Franco-German relations thereafter. A second war from 1799 to 1802 also ended in German defeat.
In 1806, to compensate the western German states for their losses, Napoleon reorganized them into the Confederation of the Rhine, at the same time greatly reducing their number. The 17 members of the confederation broke away from the Austrian Holy Roman Empire, effectively dissolving it. Prussia then declared war on France.
On October 14, 1806, a combined Prussian-Austrian army was decisively routed by Napoleon at the Battle of Jena. The next year, Napoleon conquered Prussia, and in the crushing Treaty of Tilsit, he forced it to cede all land west of the Elbe and to pay enormous war indemnities. In 1809 Austria led a fourth German war against France while Napoleon was occupied in Spain, but in the process lost even more land. In all, almost two-thirds of the German population changed rulers during this period.
Finally, Napoleon’s disastrous 1812 retreat from Moscow encouraged the allies to make another effort. Frederick William III of Prussia, joined by Austria and Russia, led the so-called War of Liberation, in which Napoleon was ultimately defeated at Leipzig in 1813. All French territory in Germany was “liberated” and the Confederation of the Rhine was dissolved. After much bloodshed, the allies took Paris in April 1814.
TAt the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815), the victors redrew the map of Europe. Austria gave up the Austrian Netherlands and its Swabian lands in the west, but was compensated by receiving Salzburg, Tirol, Lombardy, Venice, and Illyria and Dalmatia on the Adriatic Sea. Prussia lost most of its Polish territory but gained much of Saxony and Swedish Pomerania, as well as land in the Rhineland and Westphalia, including the undeveloped iron and coal resources of the Ruhr and Saar areas. Encarta "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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