Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Stephen Berk




Germany, economic, nation, trade, boundary


This thesis explores the unification of Germany in 1871 as a case study for successful political border drawing in the modern age. Germany’s rise from 39 separate kingdoms into a single, stable, economic world power is interesting; it reflects a similar environment currently found in the Middle East and Africa. There, too, many smaller ethnic, religious, cultural, or tribal groups are found within a single country. However, why was Germany able to hold together, while many Middle Eastern and African countries struggle with constant internal strife? The rise of Germany into an industrial world power is best analyzed through the inspiration of Friedrich List's three economic stages of development: client state free trade, then, use of industrial tariffs, and last, full scale free trade. Germany's unification through these stages, rather than advancement through nobility or Imperialism, was a key factor in Germany's ability to compete with the more advanced countries of England and France. With no single noble family strong enough to unify Germany during the Middle Ages, Germany remained too economically inefficient to advance as quickly as England and France. However, during this period from 1815-­‐1834 the Germans unknowing began to develop state building by amalgamation. The genius of this strategy was the slow organization into small trade groups, then these small trade groups into larger trade groups, until a single politically sovereign group, known as a state, is formed. This progression from small and medium economic, to large political bodies has several important advantages: reduction of voices in negotiation, increase in economy for all groups involved throughout the process, and, low and compartmentalized risk if a politico-­‐economic strategy fails. List’s second stage of development occurred in Germany between 1834-1871. The 1834 creation of the Zollverein was the first major breakthrough for the economic advancement of Germany. It brought most of the German states into one unified economic zone, which greatly strengthen both internal and, especially, international trade. Centralizing the parameters of trade (measurements, currency exchanges, etc.), was the key factor that created economic growth. The creation of the Zollverein also allowed the political growth of Prussia, which later gained enough power to unify Germany. Effectively, Prussia filled the previous lack of a single powerful noble family in Germany. With economic superiority, came the growth of Prussia’s politico-­‐military power. However, because economic prosperity was brought by the Prussian system, most German states willingly joined. Thus, Prussia mainly had to exert her physical power externally, towards Denmark, Austria, and France. Between 1864-­‐1871 the military benefits of joining Prussia were so great that most German states joined willingly, some grudgingly. Either way, with the foundation of the German Empire in 1871 all members felt great benefits. In the time period between 1871-1914 Germany began the transition from List’s second stage to his third. In one form or another Germany continued to protect her domestic industry during this time period; Otto von Bismarck even extended tariffs to agriculture. However, the growth of Germany’s advanced science-based economy, which was greatly helped by government support and business cartels, gave Germany a competitive foothold in the world economy. In addition, 1871-1914 was a period of huge cultural growth, which later provided the cement to hold the German Kingdoms together. Thus, the slow political progress from 1815-1871 created a culture and economy that held Germany together during the two World Wars.