The Social and Political Conflict in Prussia, 1858-1864

The Social and Political Conflict in Prussia, 1858-1864

The Social and Political Conflict in Prussia, 1858-1864

The Social and Political Conflict in Prussia, 1858-1864

Excerpt

The present study developed out of a desire to understand the character of liberalism and conservatism in Prussia on the eve of German unification. Who were the liberals? Who were the Conservatives? What were their ideals and how did they conduct themselves in public? How powerful was each group in the state? In conflict throughout the Nineteenth Century, the opponents reached the peak of their antagonism in the years between 1858 and 1866, the the years of the New Era, the constitutional conflict, and the first two wars of German unification. Fundamental social, economic, and political ideals were at stake. One group would have aligned the country with the West; the other sought to preserve the Old Regime. Since the story of Bismarck's crushing defeat of the liberals by his Realpolitik after 1864 is well known, the present analysis concentrates upon the internal crisis of 1858 to 1864 within Prussia; and in keeping with the nature of the subject, the method of treatment is topical rather than chronological.

Analyses of social and institutional forces in conflict in the past century and a half should be made for each of the European countries. The Old Regime survived over much of the continent well into the Twentieth Century, and controversies like the one in Prussia occurred in every state. The present study can be justified not merely as a treatment of a crucial period in German history but as an essential chapter in the history of modern Europe. It should help toward making possible a comparative analysis of society and institutions in the modem world, by means of which we should, for example, be able to explain the remarkable difference between the course of development of Europe and that of the United States.

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