Austro Prussian Seven Weeks War
The Austro Prussian Seven Weeks war, also known as the German Civil war or the Seven Weeks war was fought between Prussia and its German allies as well as Austrian Empire with its German allies that ended with Prussian dominance in Germany. In Germany, the war is popularly known as the War of Brothers or Deutscher Krieg and the Third Independence War in the unification process of Italy.
Causes of the Austro Prussian Seven Weeks War
For a long time, Germany had been under the rule of Holy Roman Emperors. The noble family maintained a de factor kind of leadership and independence the help of outside powers including France. Prussia as a result became one of the most powerful nations and by nineteenth century, it was a major power in Europe.
After the end of Napoleonic Wars in Europe in 1815, German states were reorganized in the Deutscher Bund, a loose confederation under Austrian leadership. The influence of French in Germany was very weak and as a result, nationalist ideals spread across Europe. Many observers realized and saw that the conditions were developing towards Germany Unification. Two different unification ideas were therefore developed including
- Grossdeutchland involving multiplication of Austria’s national empire and it was an ideal option for Prussia and
- Kleindeutschland excluding Austria and it would be dominated by Prussia
In 1892, Otto von Bismarck, Prussian statesman became the prime minister of Prussia. He immediately began focusing on a policy aimed at uniting Germany as a Kleindeutschland under the rule of Prussia. He further convinced Austria to join him in the second Schleswig war and provoked a fight over administration of the conquered Schleswig-Holstein as it was formulated in the Gastein Convention.
A war was then declared by Austria and it further went to call on military of the minor states in Germany for support. The war was formally a federation action against Prussia to help restore its obedience to the confederation.
Allies during the war
Majority of German states went against Prussia and sided with Austria as the former was seen as an aggressor. They included Bavaria, Saxony, Baden, Hanover, Hesse-Darmstadt and Nassau and Wurttemberg.
Northern states joined Prussia and more specifically Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Oldenburg, Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Brunswick. Italy also joined Prussia because Austria continued to occupy Venetia territory which redentists from Italia wanted to help them complete the unification process.
Other foreign powers however abstained from the war. For instance, Emperor Napoleon III from French decided to stay off the war despite the fact that he highly anticipated an early victory for the Austrians.
Course of the Austro Prussian Seven Weeks War
The Prussian army used breech loading rifles in the war as they could be easily loaded by a soldier while seeking cover on the ground. The main campaign of the fight took place in Bohemia while General Helmuth Karl Bernhard von Moltke planned carefully for the war and ignored minor states that were against Austria.
The two opposing sides, Austrian army and Prussian army met at Battle of Koniggratz on July 3rd and a war was decided by Prussian organization against Austrian numerical superiority. After the battle, Austria rapidly sought peace after the battle.
German states except for Saxony allied with Austria and played a little role in the main campaign. Prussia was defeated by Hanover’s men on 27th June in the Battle of Lissa. Onn 21st of July, Garibaldis at the battle of Bezzecca defeated the Austrians, conquered lower Trentino parts and moved towards Trento. Prussians signed a peace treaty with Hungary forcing Italian government to seek help or armistice with Austria on August 12. Austria then ceded Venetia to France following a treaty signed on October 12th.
Aftermath of the Austro Prussian Seven Weeks War
- The treaty of Prague was signed on 23rd August 1866 leading to dissolution of German Confederation, Russian annexation of Schleswig-HolsteinKassel, Nassau, and Frankfurt, Hanover. There was also permanent segregation of Austria from German affairs.
- Additionally, Prussia dominated Germany and in 1870, many independent states who were loyal to Germany had to join forces with Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War.
- United Germany became a highly powerful state.
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