The Industrial Revolution in Prussiaby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Describe the impact of the Industrial Revolution in Prussia.
The Industrial Revolution drastically changed not only the economics, but also the politics of Prussia. New industries and technology allowed Prussia to conquer parts of Denmark, Austria and France in a series of wars, as well as allowing it to unite with the rest of Germany for the first time. The Industrial Revolution also brought about changes in Prussia's government. By industrializing and modernizing, Prussia experienced a period of growth and innovation that allowed it to become one of the strongest powers in Europe.
Before the Industrial Revolution came to Germany, Prussia consisted of many feudal states. These states constantly warred with each other, which is why so many castles exist in the region today. The economy was based on agriculture, making the region relatively weak and liable to conquest. In 1701, Elector Frederick III crowned himself as the King of Prussia, and named himself King Frederick I. He remained as a prince of the Holy Roman Empire while becoming the King of Prussia, because Prussia was out of the boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire at the time. The fact that the kings of Prussia did not have to answer to the Emperor gave them independence the other princes of the empire did not have. Although Prussia became a single political unit for the first time, it stayed relatively poor. Frederick I's successor, William Frederick I, created a strong army to protect Prussia's scattered lands. During this time, Prussia's efficient and well-trained army became feared throughout Europe. William Frederick's successor, Frederick II or Frederick the Great, used the strong military his father created to conquer more land for Prussia. In the War of Austrian Succession, and the Seven Years War, Prussia doubled its size and came out as the strongest military power in Europe.
The Industrial Revolution officially began in Prussia and the rest of Germany around 1815. This marked the beginning of a new era for Prussia where industry replaced agriculture. The coal and steel industries boomed, and new railroads were created to transport raw materials. In addition, thousands of former agricultural workers flocked to work at factories. The Kings and nobles still controlled the government at this time, although that was quickly changing because of a rising middle class. In 1848, " Tensions between the remains of the old order and an increasingly powerful middle class rose to the breaking point," as it says in the document, "1848: Revolution and Reaction." The rising population of middleclass people which the new industries created, wanted equal rights as the nobility. They demanded rights that their American and French counterparts enjoyed such as universal suffrage, trial by jury and a national assembly. They forced the Prussian government to grant them these rights, although the nobility maintained their authority to a certain degree. Farmers and factory owners now owned their own land, whereas before the aristocrats controlled it. As a result, there were incentives for farmers and factory owners to maximize their production, making Prussia much wealthier. Another effect of the Industrial Revolution was Zollverein. In the year 1818, Prussia got rid of all taxes on goods traded within the country. This customs union became known as Zollverein. Zollverein eventually expanded into other parts of Germany and led to the economic unification of Germany with Prussia leading the way.
The Industrial Revolution first started in England and a little bit later in Prussia and the rest of Germany. Why did the Industrial Revolution start in those two countries? A possible reason for this is the Protestant work ethic. While Catholics believed that is was evil to accumulate wealth in this world, Protestants tried to be as productive as possible, thinking God would be pleased with their industry. This is a possible explanation of why the relatively weak Protestant Prussia was able to beat the army of the much stronger French Republic; The Prussians simply industrialized their country faster.
In 1861, King William I named Otto Von Bismarck prime minister of Prussia. This decision, perhaps was the best decision William I made as king. Although he came right after the French and American Revolutions, Bismarck remained very conservative in his political views, using, "King and Country" as his motto. He was also a strong supporter of industry and war to achieve his goals as he declared in his famous, "Blood and Iron" speech. Upon ascending to the position of prime minister, Bismarck promptly modernized the Prussian army. He then successfully played his opponents to take parts of Denmark, Austria and France. The main reason he was able to do this was because of the technologies and weaponry that the Industrial Revolution created. In the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871, Prussia defeated the finest army in the world and humiliated France by stripping it of its land, making it pay heavy reparations and crowning William I as the German Emperor in the Palace of Versailles. By doing this, Bismarck intended to prevent France from ever fighting Germany again, but it proved just the opposite in World War I.
The Industrialization of Prussia caused bad results as well as good. The rapid urbanization of cities in Prussia resulted in thousands of people living in dirty slums. They worked long hours in unsafe conditions, and got paid very little. Malnutrition, poor safety and unemployment also became problems. Like any revolution, the Industrial Revolution had its negative side as well.
The Industrial Revolution drastically altered both the politics and the economics of Prussia. Prussia transformed from a poor, agricultural society to a modern industrialized nation as well as from a monarchy where kings and nobles ruled to a democratic country where every man had the right to vote for himself.
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