A region comprised of two of the three duchies on the lower Jutland Peninsula between Denmark and the Elbe River - the third being Lauenburg - with predominantly German-speaking populations yet subject to Danish rule for centuries. Holstein was given to the German Confederation in 1815 as punishment for Denmark’s alliance with Napoleon Bonaparte. During the revolutions of 1848, Denmark sought to annex the duchies, but the local population resisted and was supported by Prussian troops. A conference in London in 1852 achieved a compromise among competing claims, but after the death of Frederick VII of Denmark in 1863, his successor, Christian X, whipped up Danish national enthusiasm for annexation against Austrian and Prussian counter-claims. Schleswig-Holstein thereupon became the first of the wars of German unification under Otto von Bismarck, when Austria and Prussia combined to defeat the Danes by October 1864.
   Having disposed of Denmark with Austrian help, Bismarck contrived to eliminate Austria as well. First, he set about establishing Kiel as a Prussian naval base, a provocation to Austria that was temporarily settled by the Gastein Convention giving Schleswig and Launenburg to Prussia and Holstein to Austria; he thereupon orchestrated a war with Austria by charging that its government was violating the convention by continuing to encourage competing claims to the duchies. Following the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Prussia dissolved the German Confederation and annexed Schleswig-Holstein.
   See also <>.
    Clark, Christopher. Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2006;
    Showalter, Dennis. The Wars of German Unification. London: Arnold, 2004.

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

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