The largest of the South German states incorporated into the German Empire in 1871. An independent duchy under the Holy Roman Empire and a German Electorate after 1623, Bavaria became an independent kingdom in 1806 within the Confederation of the Rhine under Napoleon and a member of the German Confederation after the Congress of Vienna. Bavaria sought and secured a high degree of autonomy by balancing the rivalry of Austria and Prussia, but nevertheless joined the Zollverein in 1834 along with Württemberg, Saxony and Thuringia. This pulled Bavaria somewhat more into the Prussian orbit. Dread of Prussian hegemony shunted Bavaria into alliance with Austria in the Seven Weeks’ War of 1866. After Austria’s defeat Bavarian particularism remained resilient enough that Prussian commanders such as Helmuth von Moltke hesitated at the thought of linking the fortunes Protestant Prussia with Catholic Bavaria. German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, however, handled peace negotiations with Bavaria delicately. He succeeded first in isolating and then, at the very moment of expiration of the German Confederation, managed to include it in the strongest union of northern and southern German states that had hitherto existed. This union was made stronger still by France’s strident reaction to German unification and the subsequent participation of Bavaria, now in league with Prussia, in Franco-Prussian War of 1870. The triumph of arms in which Bavarian troops shared enabled German patriotism to overcome distrust of Prussia, so that under the terms of the Treaty of Frankfurt, Bavaria and the other South German states joined the Second Reich.
    Henderson; W. O. The Zollverein. Chicago: Quadrangle, 1962;
    Mattern, Johannes. Bavaria and the Reich. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1923;
    Showwalter, Dennis. The Wars of German Unification. London: Hodder Arnold, 2004.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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