The Catholics and German Unity, 1866-1871

The Catholics and German Unity, 1866-1871

The Catholics and German Unity, 1866-1871

The Catholics and German Unity, 1866-1871

Excerpt

The following pages present the results of an investigation into the role of Catholicism in the political history of Germany during the critical interval between the destruction of the German Confederation in 1866 and the formal establishment of the Bismarckian Reich in 1871. Particularly the book attempts to trace the origins and development of Catholic political movements, and to explore their relationship to other parties and to the major events of the period.

In pre-1866 Germany the political center of gravity had been Catholic Austria; the new Empire was to revolve about Prussia, long regarded as the shield of Protestantism in Central Europe. The intervening years saw a bitter struggle throughout Germany which brought about a profound shift in the balance of political forces within the country as a whole and within many of the individual states -- a shift which obviously affected the status of the Catholic Church and, in turn, the attitudes and actions of its German members. But, specifically, how did Catholics react to the sweeping changes ushered in by the War of 1866? And what influence did they exercise on the complex events of the following years?

Superficially, it appeared that the answer to the second of these questions was "Very little." In comparison with the well-known importance of the Prussian Zentrumsfraktion before, and the even greater fame of the imperial Zentrumspartei after, this period, it seemed that Catholics were relatively apathetic politically. Investigation revealed, however, that this impression of passivity was a result of the erroneous assumption that the absence of a large-scale organization denoted lack of activity. It became apparent that Catholics, organized or unorganized, exercised a tremendous influence upon the political . . .

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