The Customs Union between the states of the German Confederation (Zollverein), promoted in 1834 by Prussia, had favored the economic development of the whole area of the Confederacy. The most dramatic results happened, however, since the 50s of the XIX century, when the leverage effect of the steel and mechanical began to reduce the glaring gap that divided the German economy from the one of France and also from that of Great Britain. The steel industry, in particular, grew at an average rate of 10 per cent per annum throughout the years 1850-70. This growth imposed considerable resources needed for investment, large companies and a close symbiosis with the financial system, as well as a government entity careful use the products of heavy industry. On the other hand, to bridge the gap with the UK, Germany could not really leave, as was the case at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, the textile industry, a low level of initial investment: it was necessary to immediately start with the most advanced and most modern industry.
But it lacked even a unitary state. And here came into play again the great stage of international politics. In 1861, when William I ascended the throne of Prussia, Russia was partially paralyzed by the Peace of Paris and Austria was weakened by the Italian war of independence. So, in 1862 Bismarck was appointed Chancellor of a state in which, thanks to the electoral system, the landed aristocracy of the Junkers had the upper hand. The "caesar’s model", indirectly suggested by Napoleon III, in this case, could operate and the process was extremely rapid. It was clear that Germany could blown away what remained of the order instituted in 1815 better if starting from conservative positions than from the revolutionary one. So Bismarck did just what 1848 had not done, just by realizing the program of national unity, and not the Democratic and Republican one. On a social level, even managed to get the complicity of the labor movement by Ferdinand Lassalle, reaching even to grant universal suffrage, however, difficult to use the popular forces with an electoral system like the German one.
The war of the Duchies against Denmark (1864), although conducted against Austria, actually sharpened the contrast with the Habsburg Empire, whose weakness was also concerned France and Russia, rival of Austria in the Eastern regions. Post of the conflict of interest between the Hapsburg Empire and the hegemony of Prussia was on the control of Germans. In 1866 the Austro-Prussian War, the first major German movement war, with the battle of Sadowa, sanctioned the triumph of Prussia. Austria, from territorial point of view, lost only Venetia to Italy, an ally of the Prussians and actually defeat by the Hapsburg on the field, but on the political-diplomatic point of view, lost forever all influence in central and northern Europe. Central and southern Europe remained under the Austrians, but then appear a future deepening of the rivalry with Russia. The situation constituted with the Congress of Vienna in 1815, now its finally destroyed. In 1867, while there was the German Confederation in the north, the realistic metamorphosis took place in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a political multinational entity not German.
The last obstacle on the road for Bismarck was now France, which had underestimated Prussia, thinking rather to use it anti-Austrian function. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 led to the victory of Prussia, to the proclamation of the German Empire (Kaiserreich), and the humiliation of France, who lost with Napoleon III, not only the chance of hegemony on the continent, but even Alsace and Lorraine that the Congress of Vienna had not dared steal to France just after the defeat of Napoleon I. France had again become a republic, but did not hide, however, the intentions of revenge against the German Reich: despite the diplomatic skill of Bismarck, had laid the foundations for other conflicts in Europe.
16-18 August 1870
The tactics inability of General Bazaine cost to France a fatal blow in the war against the Prussians. Interposing itself between the army of Bazaine and Paris, Moltke complicated the movements of French troops that will prove to be decisive factor during the entire Franco-Prussian War.