In Europe in the early nineteenth century, there existed no "Germany" except in the loose sense that there was German language and a vaguely German culture. What is today the German nation was then mostly contained either in Prussia, or in a sprawl of numerous squabbling tiny kingdoms, principalities, electorates, and duchies called The Holy Roman Empire (a hollow and grandiose name for this loose and ineffectual confederation). The Treaty of Campio Formio, passed in 1797, and reaffirmed by the Treaty of Luneville in 1802, had given France the left bank of the Rhine, and allowed Napoleon to reorganize the states on the right bank. Hoping to get extra territory by the realignments, the rulers of many of these Holy Roman Empire states competed with each other in endearing themselves to the French. Talleyrand, for instance, took so many bribes from Holy Roman Empire princes that he quickly made millions. Through this process, many of the German states of the Holy Roman Empire were already becoming French satellites.

Popular pages: Napoleonic Europe (1799-1815)