Otto von Bismarck was born at Schoenhausen in Brandenburg-Prussia on April 1, 1815, during the Hundred Days, and he died at Friedrichsruh near Hamburg, on July 30, 1898, while the European powers were partitioning Africa and extending their dominion over large parts of Asia. His life spanned almost a century, an important period in the development of modern Europe and a crucial one for Germany. To understand the changes which occurred during Bismarck's lifetime, it is necessary to consider the European situation at the time Napoleon was sent to his first exile.
The Congress of Vienna ( September 1814-June 1815) settled the political upheavals which followed the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars; in the process, the Congress created a new order in central Europe which survived for almost half a century. This order was based primarily on a new political and territorial arrangement in which the Austrian Empire predominated, and the Kingdom of Prussia (enlarged in the west to form a barrier against France) became the second largest power. Austria, Prussia, thirty-three other principalities, and four free cities formed the German Confederation. Of these thirty- three states, Bavaria, Wuerttemberg, Baden, Hanover, and Saxony were the most important, and these states were usually called the "lesser German states" or the "Third Germany."1 The confederation was a loose grouping of sovereign states which had its permanent meeting place in the Federal Diet at Frankfurt. The architect and leader of the confederation was the Austrian chancellor, Prince Clemens von Metternich, who lent his name to this system and the period during which it operated.
Napoleon's defeat brought little change in the economic and social conditions in central Europe, though the revolution in France, the French occupation of large parts of Germany,2 and the wars of liberation had left their marks. What changes occurred were uneven, and