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Bismarck was one of three leaders of Prussia during the 1860's A number of political attempts - most notably the 1848 democratic revolutions - were made during this period to realize the dreams of liberal, democratic idealists. Ultimately, it was Prussia , with its fabled industriousness, discipline, and militarism which forged German unification, following some convincing military victories, in particular, over France in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71.

Flush with patriotic fervor, the various German states proclaimed the formation of the German Reich (Empire) at the end of that war. The rulers of Bavaria, Saxony and Württemberg were allowed to keep their titles and certain privileges, but real power was ceded to the Prussian king, now anointed German Kaiser (Emperor), and Otto von Bismarck, who had orchestrated the major events with his cunning policies. Bismarck was named the first German chancellor, the head of government.

The new German Reich did have an elected parliament (the Reichstag) and a constitution, but the chancellor was supreme, and the Kaiser exercised much greater political power than do present-day constitutional monarchs.

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