Explain the unification of Germany and its consequences.
Prior to 1871, when Otto von Bismarck unified the disparate German states under Prussian leadership, there was no single nation state of Germany. Instead, there existed dozens of principalities of various political and religious persuasions, under a loose and unwieldy federation. Unlike England, France and Russia, which had each been unified under a central government for hundreds of years, the German states had operated under an uneasy alliance that had existed since the Reformation. Yet Prussia had long been the strongest, richest and most militarily capable state of the German Federation, so talk of a unification under Prussian military leadership had been discussed for some time.
In 1862, King Wihelm I appointed Bismarck as Minister President of Prussia, and Bismarck quickly orchestrated a series of short, decisive wars against Denmark, Austria and France, taking from each German-speaking territories (with brute force and cunning diplomacy). Then he proceeded to set up a unified German superstate as a counterweight to France. With his unparalleled skill as a negotiator, Bismarck used a carrot and stick approach to getting friends and foes to bend to his iron will, so that by the time he stepped down in 1890, Germany had become an economic and military powerhouse that would soon rival France and seek to unseat Britain as the top power on the continent. Just as importantly, Germany began to build an empire outside of Europe, making inroads in West and East Africa, as well as Islands in the Pacific.