In the mid-1800s the future German state was a collection of dozens of separate political units. In the north, Prussia controlled an area that ranged from West of the Rhine river to the east coast of the Baltic sea. In the south, Vienna was the center of the Hapsburg Empire, which included the multinational region of the Danube valley. Between and within these two nations were numerous smaller states: kingdoms, duchies, city states, and principalities. These political entities were united by a common language, cultural tradition, and history, but they also jealously guarded their political independence.
In the 1830s and 1840s the social forces of industrialization first came into play. The growth of an industrial sector created a new class of business owners and managers, the bourgeoisie, who pressed for the modernization of society and an extension of political rights. In comparison to the rest of Europe, however, the German bourgeoisie had less political influence. Industrialization came to Germany after most of the rest of northwestern Europe. This delay in industrialization retarded the development of many factors normally identified with a modern society: urbanization, literacy, extensive communication and transportation networks, and an industrial infrastructure. More important, German industrialization followed a different course than the rest of Europe because it was integrated into the old feudal political structure. The landed aristocracy and old elites controled economic and political development, which lessened the influence of the new industrial class.