Notes: Episode 5, The Unification Of Germany (Part 1)

As with every show, I’ll list any corrections or clarifications here. If there’s anything I’ve overlooked, please contact me by email or in the comments and I’ll edit the notes to reflect the new information.


1:37 – The American countries newer than Germany are Antigua, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic), Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Nothing nearly as game-changing for Central and South America on that list as Germany was for Europe.


13:11 – Switzerland was indeed made up of a number of old German cantons which began uniting in 1291 under the Old Swiss Confederacy, beginning with Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden and growing from there. They managed to gain limited independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499 and have always stood apart from the herd a bit, practicing armed neutrality for hundreds of years. Fun fact: Switzerland isn’t part of the European Union, and only joined the United Nations in 2002. 


13:53 – “A prince is also respected when he is either a true friend or a downright enemy, that to say, when, without any reservation, he declares himself in favour of one party against the other; which course will always be more advantageous than standing neutral; because if two of your powerful neighbours come to blows, they are of such a character that, if one of them conquers, you have either to fear him or not. In either case it will always be more advantageous for you to declare yourself and to make war strenuously; because, in the first case, if you do not declare yourself, you will invariably fall a prey to the conqueror, to the pleasure and satisfaction of him who has been conquered, and you will have no reasons to offer, nor anything to protect or to shelter you. Because he who conquers does not want doubtful friends who will not aid him in the time of trial; and he who loses will not harbour you because you did not willingly, sword in hand, court his fate[…] Thus it will always happen that he who is not your friend will demand your neutrality, whilst he who is your friend will entreat you to declare yourself with arms. And irresolute princes, to avoid present dangers, generally follow the neutral path, and are generally ruined. But when a prince declares himself gallantly in favour of one side, if the party with whom he allies himself conquers, although the victor may be powerful and may have him at his mercy, yet he is indebted to him, and there is established a bond of amity; and men are never so shameless as to become a monument of ingratitude by oppressing you. Victories after all are never so complete that the victor must not show some regard, especially to justice. But if he with whom you ally yourself loses, you may be sheltered by him, and whilst he is able he may aid you, and you become companions in a fortune that may rise again.” – Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter XXI. It was too apropos not to include here.


20:48 – Clausewitz worked on Vom Kriege (On War) between 1816 and 1830.


25:06 – Charlemagne was Holy Roman Emperor beginning in the year 800, and was succeeded by his son, grandson, and great-grandson; then the Empire fell apart again in 888. For this reason while some historians point to 800 as the founding year of the Empire, others point to the revival of the title in 962 with the crowning of Otto I as the “true” start of the Holy Roman Empire as a political institution.


31:00 – Okay, so let’s talk about naming conventions in the Holy Roman Empire. With so many territories breaking apart, joining together, fighting, invading, and generally carrying on, names get really confusing. Prussia is one of the worst offenders. So technically I’m both right and wrong to say that Prussia was part of the HRE; it was both. The Duchy of Prussia was definitely part of the HRE; however, in 1618, Duke Albert Frederick died without any male heirs, leaving the Duchy to join with the Margraviate of Brandenburg, ruled by his son-in-law (a Margrave, of course). Brandenburg-Prussia made off with a number of territories outside of the Holy Roman Empire during negotiations at Westphalia in 1638, and as these territories made Brandenburg-Prussia both inside and outside the Empire, Frederick III very cheekily promoted himself and his country to king and kingdom, respectively, making him King Frederick I with the title “King in Prussia” (but not King of Prussia, due to the partial allegiance to the HRE). They dropped the Brandenburg part of the state’s title, making it a province. So no, the Kingdom of Prussia wasn’t technically part of the Holy Roman Empire when Napoleon invaded in 1805, but part of it sort of was. I trust this is all clear to you now.


37:53 – Queen Elizabeth? No. Queen Victoria. Come on. That’s unforgivable.


45:29 – It wasn’t Napoleon III that was deposed during the February Revolutions in Paris, but rather Louis Philippe, one of France’s ill-fated attempts at re-establishing the Bourbon monarchy after Napoleon’s jaunt through Europe.


55:30 – Wilhelm I’s father wasn’t Friedrich IV, but rather Friedrich Wilhelm IV. Those extra names will get you every time.


1:06:09 – After the Austro-Prussian War, Austria lost Venetia to Italy, and Holstein to Prussia. Prussia also took Hanover, Hesse-Darmstadt, Nassau, Hesse-Kassel, and Frankfurt. These states were independent from Austria, but had sided with them during the conflict. As stated in the show, very little of the fallout from this war bespoke a lust for conquest or expansion. The states that were rolled into Prussia were a way for Prussia to neutralize independents that proved more loyal to Austria than Prussia, except for Holstein, which was annexed because it was the reason for the conflict in the first place.


1:08:26 – While Prince Leopold was a member of House Hohenzollern, the same House as Wilhelm I, he was a member of the Swabian Branch, which split off in the 12th century. They’re definitely cousins, and maybe closer cousins than that split indicates thanks to European nobility’s marrying practices, but he wasn’t third in line for the Prussian throne or anything.

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