The Unification of Germany, by Michael Gorman, is a short yet precise and detailed book which outlines the events surrounding and influencing the German Unification of 1870-71. This book tells the history of Germany during the 19th century, focusing on details which help the reader understand the causes for revolution in 1848, the conflict between central European states, and the eventual unification of Germany as a nation-state. To powerfully illustrate the changes and the preventions during this time, this book is packed full of translated primary sources, political cartoons, charts and graphs, and commentary from the author.
To help the reader understand the purpose of the book, the author includes a chapter by chapter synopsis of the book in the introduction. Covering all of the key elements of the book, the author makes an effective effort to summarize German Unification. As one reads throughout the rest of the book, the introduction serves as a sort of stabilizer by helping the reader keep in mind why this event in history is important. Gorman does such a good job of gathering information and commenting on the singular importance of each piece, but sometimes fails to tie it all together. The introduction lashes all the bits and pieces into one coherent chapter.
As I previously stated, many of these bits and pieces consist of primary sources which have been translated. Many major treaties like the, Treaty Establishing the Zollverein, even constitutions, like the Act of German Confederation, and extracts from personal letters like that of the, Letters from Metternich, all provide the reader with a real sense of the circumstances in 19th century Germany. Before each piece there is a brief introduction to what is about to be read. Sometimes there are several pages of text which tell the story of the event at hand, other times just a paragraph. Either way the author provides enough information for the reader to both remain interested and understand what is being read as it applies to German unification. After each translation there is a set of questions which one should either be able to answer after having read the piece or be able to better understand the significance of the piece by keeping that question in mind on a second reading.
Maps and charts are also heavily used in this book. Most of the maps and charts concentrate on three fields: economics, politics, and state boundaries. The use of maps are very helpful for seeing the geography of mineral resources and industry which affect the economics of central Europe which help make clear why some places were fought over and desired to be included in the new German state, while other places were left out. Maps are also used to show the location of different dialects as well as treaty boundaries and trade zones very effectively. Graphs are used for comparison of industrial production between years more than anything else, but there are a few that indicate political preferences via voting comparison in different governmental bodies.
Finally, the use of political cartoons depicts some aspects of European culture during the era. One can get a sense of humor as well as high tensions with the selection of cartoons which I found to be extremely helpful in discovering the tone in which this book should be read.
In Conclusion, Michael Gorman’s, The Unification of Germany, gets two thumbs up for being detailed but not long winded, for having extensive primary resources, the clear presentation of charts and maps, and for packing all this information into fewer than 110 pages. This book should be high on anyone’s list who is interested in the unification of Germany or seeking information about Germany in the 19th century.
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