As with the motivations behind the unification of most modern nations, the unification of Germany in 1871 can be attributed to many varied causes, of which the following three must be said to be among the most important. The populist forces of nationalism and liberalism, the military conquests of Prussia and its territories and lastly the economic, commercial and industrial benefits that it brought to the entire country.
The ideas of nationalism and liberalism were essential in the stimulation of the middle and lower classes of society towards the goal of unification. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, a time marked by the French Revolution, the populist ideals of liberalism and nationalism were starting to take hold in continental Europe (they had been present in Britain for at least a century before this).
By 1816, they had become established in Germany in the form of the Burschenschaften , a fraternity of university students from the various german states, who were attempting to persuade their respective leaders into liberal reforms and eventually german unification.
Although the Burschenschaften was forced to disperse in 1819, because of the Carlsbad decrees (a series of decrees agreed to by all the german princes that specifically ordered the dispersal of the Burschenschaften, censorship of the press and the crushing of political debate), nationalistic and to a much lesser extent liberalistic feeling still ran high among the general population, especially the bourgeoise.
After the failure of the revolts of 1848 , liberalism waned in popularity, but nationalism remained strong. The victory of Prussia over Austria in 1866 established in the German states who would lead this unified Germany, and to who their nationalistic ambitions would reside in. This new found allegiance of the German states to Prussia because of a common cause allowed the Prussian high...