17 Pages

The Prussian Zollverein and the bid for economic superiority

WithHans-Joachim Voth

This chapter revisits the debate in an attempt to demonstrate that there is, in fact, precious little evidence to suggest that the Zollverein strengthened Prussia's position either directly or indirectly with the German Confederation. Austria's repeated attempts to be admitted into the Zollverein became so fierce because the ultimate outcome of the struggle for mastery in Germany was at stake—it was assumed that political union would naturally follow from economic union. The Zollverein, therefore, mattered because it provided Prussia with the economic tools to accomplish unification. Second, the political consequences of the Zollverein for the unification process are in need of further attention. The Seven Weeks' War of 1866 and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 were not wars of attrition; industrial might played less of a role in the Wars of Unification than some accounts imply Moltke's plans to supply his armies in Austria by rail nearly ended in catastrophe.