Rising Nationalism

The Deutscher Zollverein (German Customs' Union ), 1834-1870

Germany's partition proved a major obstacle to the economy of Germany's states and statelets. In Germany, there were 3 currency systems (the Gulden/Kreuzer currency in the south, the Thaler/Groschen currency of Prussia, the Schilling currency of the Hanseatic cities), numerous sets of measurements, too many borders to cross, where custom dues had to be paid.
RAILWAY LINES, technically possible and economically lucrative since Stephenson's invention of the steam locomotive in 1829, the first line in Germany opened between Nürnberg and Fürth in 1835, required economic cooperation. In Germany's politically scattered landscape, railway lines often had to cross political borders. In order to form a network rather than a number of individual lines, standards for the railway gauge were imperative, in order to establish reliable timetables, the local times (which often differed) had to be adjusted, the different sets of measurements proved as an outdated obstacle.

In 1819 Prussia founded the PRUSSIAN CUSTOMS UNION, which by 1828 was joined by Anhalt, Schwarzburg Sondershausen and Hessen-Darmstadt.
In 1828 Saxony, the Thuringian statelets, Hessen-Kassel, Nassau, Frankfurt, Hannover, Braunschweig and Oldenburg founded the CENTRAL GERMAN CUSTOMS UNION; in 1833, the BAVARIAN-WUERTTEMBERGIAN CUSTOMS UNION was established, both unions expressing the political will not to join a union dominated by Prussia.
Yet these unions were too small to create a common market strong enough, left still too many customs barriers inside Germany. So, many of Germany's state governments in 1834 overcame their reluctance and established the GERMAN CUSTOMS UNION (Deutscher Zollverein), which consisted of Prussia, Bavaria, Württemberg, Hessen-Darmstadt, Hessen-Kassel, Saxony and a number of statelets. Customs dues between member states were abolished, a uniform currency for most of the member states, the VEREINSTHALER (in the South the Gulden was used), introduced (1838; previous currencies remained valid; the Vereinsthaler resulted in a standardization of German currencies). Baden and Nassau joined in 1836, Braunschweig and Luxemburg in 1842.
The German Customs Union was an organization established for the purpose of mutual economical benefit. It lacked central institutions and was rather unpolitical in nature. Yet, Prussia, the economy of which was stronger than that of all other members combined, clearly dominated the union; Prussia, through it's leadership in the union challenged Austria's leadership in Germany, as manifested in Austria's presidency in the GERMAN FEDERATION. The German Customs Union, though unpolitical, thus still served a political purpose.

Nuclear railway lines soon growing into a rapidly expanding railway network spurred the development. In 1843 the railway line connecting Cologne (Prussia's Rhine Province) and Antwerp (Belgium) was completed; in 1844 Belgium and the Zollverein concluded a favourable trade agreement (harming Dutch Rhine customs revenues, as Zollverein trade was now diverted from Rotterdam to Antwerp). FRIEDRICH LIST, Germany's leading economic theorist of the time, proposed a national economic policy, including German diplomatic missions, a German trade flag, bilateral treaties between Germany and other countries.

In 1847, the German Zollverein covered most of the German federation, except Austria and the territories of the northwest - Hannover, Oldenburg, Holstein, both Mecklenburgs.
In 1850 the AUSTRO-GERMAN POSTAL UNION was established. In 1857 the Zollverein currency, the Vereinsthaler, was placed on a decimal footing. The Zollverein states and Austria formed the AUSTRO-GERMAN MONETARY UNION, which was to last only until 1866. According to a report from 1862 the Zollverein was using the meter and half kilogram as bases of measurements.

During the revolution of 1848, the Zollverein was paralyzed; public expectation was that an imminent political unification would make it obsolete. In 1866 several medium-size Zollverein members (Bavaria, Hessen-Kassel, Hannover, Nassau) joined Austria in the war against Prussia; after the war, Hannover, Hessen-Kassel and Nassau were annexed by Prussia and the German states located to the North of the Main founded the NORTHERN GERMAN CONFEDERATION.
In 1871, all Zollverein members except the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg and the Dutch province of Limburg had joined the Kaiserreich; the Zollverein continued to exist, now a number of small territories economically being attached to the Kaiserreich. Luxemburg formally left the Zollverein in 1918.

The Zollverein, from the Encyclopedia of 1848 Revolutions
Economic Integration and Political Sovereignty : Saxony and the Zollverein, 1834-1866, by Richard J. Bazillion, from the Canadian Journal of History 1990
Chronology of the Life of Friedrich List, from American Almanac
The Zollverein 1834-1870, from Dept. of History, Univ. Leiden, links
Sachsens Beitritt zum Preussischen Zollverein 1833, from Geschichte Mitteldeutschlands (Saxony's entry into Prussia's Zollverein), in German, has map
Zollverein, from historyhelp
The Forerunner of Germany - Zollverein, from The Henry George School of Social Science, downloadable
Economic History of Luxemburg : the Inter-War Period (1919-1930), from Govt. of Luxemburg
From the Taler to the Euro. How much is that in Real Money ? by Robert Selig, from German Life, on the history of currencies in Germany
On the Zollverein Monetary Union : Sam Vaknin, Deja V-uro : History of Previous Monetary Unions, scroll down
Austro-German Postal Union, from Austrian Stamps Homepage
Austro-German Monetary Union, in : Faith Stackhouse, Draft: European Integration and the Probability of Perpetual Peace, in : Seminar for European Studies at Univ. of California, one titled paragraph, scroll down
DOCUMENTS Friedrich List, The National System of Political Economy (1841), posted at McMaster Archive for the History of Economical Thought
Hall of the Zollverein at London's Crystal Palace Exhibition, Photo 1, Photo 2, Photo 3, from Australian National Univ.
Belgium and the Zollverein, article from The Living Age, Oct. 26th 1844, pp.736-737, posted by Cornell Univ. Library
John Tyler, Fourth Annual Message. Washington, December 3, 1844. posted on Bob's History Page, mentioning a trade agreement with the Zollverein lowering tariffs for import of Americam tobacco etc., also from the American Presidency Project
Maps on the development of the various Zollvereine, from IEG Maps (in progress, maps for 1828, 1834 available); Maps on the development of the Railway and Canal Network, from IEG Maps (in progress, canal maps available)

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 12th 2004

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