Unification of Germany

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The formal unification of Germany into a politically and administratively integrated nation stateofficially occurred on 18 January 1871 at the Versailles Palace's Hall of Mirrors in France. Princes of the German states gathered there to proclaim Wilhelm of Prussia as Emperor Wilhelm of the German Empire after the French capitulation in the Franco-Prussian War. Unofficially, the transition of most of the German-speaking populations into a federated organization of states occurred over nearly a century of experimentation. Unification exposed several glaring religious, linguistic, social, and cultural differences between and among the inhabitants of the new nation, suggesting that 1871 only represents one moment in a continuum of the larger unification processes. The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which had included more than 300 independent states, was effectively dissolved when Emperor Francis II abdicated (6 August 1806) during the War of the Third Coalition. Despite the legal, administrative, and political disruption associated with the end of the Empire, the people of the German-speaking areas of the old Empire had a common linguistic, cultural and legal tradition further enhanced by their shared experience in the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. European liberalism offered an intellectual basis for unification by challenging dynastic and absolutist models of social and political organization; its German manifestation emphasized the importance of tradition, education, and linguistic unity of peoples in a geographic region. Economically, the creation of the Prussian Zollverein (customs union) in 1818, and its subsequent expansion to include other states of the German Confederation, reduced competition between and within states. Emerging modes of transportation facilitated business and recreational travel, leading to contact and sometimes
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