Compare and contrast the goals and methods of Cavour in ltaly and Bismarck in Germany  

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Cavour and Bismarck were both pivotal figures in the history of the Nationalist Movements of the Nineteenth Century, and there are numerous points of similarity between the two. For one thing, both Cavour and Bismarck had similar political backgrounds, as Prime Minister within a centralized State, with Cavour in Piedmont-Sardinia...

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Cavour and Bismarck were both pivotal figures in the history of the Nationalist Movements of the Nineteenth Century, and there are numerous points of similarity between the two. For one thing, both Cavour and Bismarck had similar political backgrounds, as Prime Minister within a centralized State, with Cavour in Piedmont-Sardinia and Bismarck in Prussia. In both cases, unification was carried out through means of political manipulation and warfare. For example, Cavour proved quite adroit at manipulating European Great Power rivalries for his own political purposes: for example, you can point towards his allying with France against Austria. Both Bismarck and Cavour utilized war and politics to their advantage.

I would say one of the critical differences between Cavour and Bismarck lies in the political contrast between Cavour's Piedmont-Sardinia and Bismarck's Prussia. Simply stated, Prussia was a much more powerful state, and had already had a long history as a European great power, stretching back to the reign of Frederick the Great. While Bismarck himself proved skillful in building alliances, I don't think he relied on them to the same degree that Cavour did, given Prussia's much greater military strength.

However, in both cases, we see national unification carried out through the combination of politics and war, and in both cases, they relied on the pre-existence of an already functioning political state: Piedmont-Sardinia for Italy and Prussia for Germany.

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Count di Cavour (1810–1861) and Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898) led the drive to Italian and German unification, respectively.

One similarity between the two stemmed from the fact that Austria blocked unification of both Italy and Germany. Austria had long enjoyed a sphere of influence in both nations, and its power would be preserved only if both nations remained divided. Nationalism was an enemy of the multi-ethnic Austrian Empire. After Austria was defeated in 1866, unification proceeded.

A difference between the two was that Cavour did not live long enough to enjoy the fruits of his triumph. At the time of Cavour's death, both Venetia and the Papal States were still separate from Italy. Bismarck, on the other hand, savored his triumph and strengthened Germany as its chancellor. Bismarck had an opportunity to shape his newly united nation.

Another difference between the two was that Sardinia-Piedmont needed foreign assistance to unify Italy while Bismarck's Prussia unified Germany with almost no foreign aid. Sardinia-Piedmont fought with the Anglo-French during the Crimean War (1853–1856) in order to gain foreign allies for unification. Bismarck won three wars against Denmark (1864), Austria (1866), and France (1870–1871). Prussian military power played the key role in German unification. Italian unification was perhaps more subtle than its German counterpart.

German and Italian unification rank among the most important events of nineteenth-century European history.

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Both Bismarck and Cavour used a complex series of diplomatic maneuvers, including wars, to unify their respective nations. Bismarck, who served as the chief minister under the Prussian King Wilhelm I, used these methods to unify Germany under the Prussian monarch. He did this through a complex series of machinations that included wars against Denmark, Austria, and France. In the process, he excluded Austria from a role in this new Germany, which was finally unified after the victory by Prussia and the other German states over France in 1871. He also placated liberals opposed to the autocratic rule of the Prussian monarch by instituting several liberal reforms, including old-age pensions for most Germans and other social security reforms. 

Bismarck called his approach to statecraft realpolitik, and it was an approach also pursued by Count Camillo di Cavour of Sardinia. Cavour was a longtime advocate of a constitutional monarchy for Italy under the control of the king of Sardinia-Piedmont (a situation very much analogous to Prussian control of Germany.) Cavour sought to purge the region of Austrian influence by appealing to French leader Napoleon III, who duly went to war against Austria. The results of this war eventually led to the unification of the northern half of Italy under Sardinia-Piedmont, and Cavour began to negotiate with revolutionary nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was leading his Red Shirts in the overthrow of the monarch of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Although Cavour died before the union of northern Italy with the South (and the Papal States) was complete, it was his influence that led the entire peninsula to be unified under the control of King Victor Emmanuel of Sardinia. 

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Both Bismarck and Cavour were superb diplomats who relied on promises from other nations to either assist or at least to not intervene in unifying their respective countries. Both were experts at that which Bismarck called realpolitik. Bismarck perhaps best expressed the philosophy shared by both in his famous statement:

It is not by speeches and majority resolutions that the great questions of the time are decided – that was the big mistake of 1848 and 1849 – but by blood and iron.

Cavour had hoped to build a constitutional state in Italy centered in Sardinia and had hoped to receive help from France under Napoleon III. He managed to unleash tremendous nationalism in Italy, even though Napoleon III eventually abandoned him. When unification appeared to be complete under the more radical Guiseppe Garibaldi, Cavour organized a plebiscite whereby the people of southern Italy united with Sardinia. Italy thus became a united Kingdom under King Victor Emmanuel. Cavour became Italy's first Prime Minister.

Bismarck cared little for public opinion, and was inclined to accomplish his goals by military means if need be. His primary aim was to unite Germany under Prussian leadership and exclude Austria from the new German nation. He did so by provoking a war with Austria after first securing France's neutrality, again under Napoleon III. He offered Austria generous terms at the end of the war, and then attacked France. This was the famous Franco-Prussian War. At the end of the war, Bismarck publicly humiliated Napoleon III, and had Frederick Wilhelm I crowned Emperor of Germany at Versailles. Germany thus became an Empire, with Bismarck as its first chancellor.  

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