German Empire

Alex Rover | September 18, 2023


The German Empire (German: Deutsches Kaiserreich), officially the German Reich, was a German nation-state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in November 1918, when Germany became a federal republic.

It was founded in 1871 when the southern German states merged with the North German Confederation. On 1 January 1871 a new constitution came into force which changed the name of the federal state and introduced the title of Emperor for William I, King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty. Berlin remained its capital. Otto von Bismarck remained Chancellor, head of government. While these events were taking place, the Prussian-led North German Confederation and its southern German allies were still involved in the Franco-Prussian War.

The German Empire consisted of 26 states, most of which were ruled by noble families. It included four kingdoms, six grand duchies, five duchies (six before 1876), seven principalities, three free Hanseatic cities and one imperial territory (Alsace-Lorraine. Although Prussia was one of the four kingdoms in the country, it contained about two-thirds of the population and area of Germany. Prussia’s sovereignty was also constitutionally guaranteed. Archive:Flag of Prussia (1892-1918).svg

After 1850 the German states began to industrialise rapidly, with a particular emphasis on coal, iron (and later steel), chemicals and railways. In 1871 Germany had a population of 41 million, which by 1913 had grown to 68 million. A union of mostly agrarian states in 1815, the now-united Germany became mostly urban. For the 47 years of its existence the German Empire was a technological, industrial and scientific giant, winning more Nobel Prizes in science than any other Western country at the time. In 1900 Germany was the largest economy in Europe, surpassing the United Kingdom, and the second largest in the world, after the United States.

From 1867 to 1878

Germany became a great power, with a rapidly expanding railway network, the strongest army in the world and a rapidly growing industrial base. In less than a decade its navy was second only to Britain’s Royal Navy. After Otto von Bismarck’s removal of William I in 1890, the Empire pursued Weltpolitik – a pro-war new course that ultimately contributed to the outbreak of World War I. Moreover, Bismarck’s successors were unable to maintain the complex, mutating and overlapping alliances that had prevented Germany’s diplomatic isolation. This period was marked by various factors influencing the emperor’s decisions, which were often considered contradictory or unpredictable by the public. In 1879 the German Empire consolidated the Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary, followed by the Triple Alliance with Italy in 1882. It also maintained strong diplomatic ties with the Ottoman Empire. When the great crisis of 1914 arrived, Italy abandoned the alliance and the Ottoman Empire formally allied itself with Germany.

During the First World War, German plans to take Paris quickly in the autumn of 1914 failed. The war on the Western Front ended in a stalemate. The Allied naval blockade caused severe food shortages. Germany was repeatedly forced to send troops to reinforce Austria-Hungary and Turkey on other fronts. However, Germany had great success on the Eastern Front, occupying much territory to its east after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Germany’s declaration of unlimited submarine warfare in early 1917 was designed to strangle the British, but failed due to its use of a system of transatlantic convoys. However, this declaration, along with the Zimmerman Telegram (which offered Mexico an alliance with Germany if the United States entered the war against it in exchange for Texas, Arizona and New Mexico), brought the United States into the war. Meanwhile, German citizens and soldiers were tired of war and radicalized by the Russian Revolution.

The high command under Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff increasingly controlled the country as they risked a final offensive in the spring of 1918, before the Americans arrived in reinforcements, using large numbers of troops, planes and artillery withdrawn from the Eastern Front. This offensive failed and by October the German armies had retreated, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire had collapsed, Bulgaria had surrendered and the German people had lost faith in their political system. After initially trying to maintain control, causing mass uprisings, the Empire collapsed in the November 1918 Revolution with the resignations of the Emperor and all the other monarchs. This resulted in a post-war federal republic with a devastated and unsatisfied people, which later led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism.

The German Confederation was created by an act of the Congress of Vienna on 8 June 1815 as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, following a reference to Article 6 of the Treaty of Paris of 1814.

German nationalism quickly turned from its liberal and democratic character in 1848, called Pan-Germanism, to the pragmatic Realpolitik of Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck sought to extend the hegemony of the Hohenzollerns to all German states. This meant unifying the German states and excluding Prussia’s main German rival, Austria, from the future German Empire. He envisioned a conservative Germany under Prussian rule. Three wars led to military successes and helped convince the German people to realize it: the Second Schleswig War against Denmark in 1864, the Austro-Prussian War in 1864, the Austro-Prussian War in 1866 and the Franco-Prussian War against France in 1870-71.

The German Confederation was dissolved as a result of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 between its constituent parts belonging to the Austrian Empire and its allies on the one hand and the Kingdom of Prussia and its allies on the other. The war led to the partial replacement of the Confederation in 1867 by the North German Confederation , which included the 22 states north of the Main. The patriotic fervor generated by the Franco-Prussian War suppressed the remaining opposition to a unified Germany (except Austria) in the four states south of the Main, and in November 1870 they joined by treaty the North German Confederation

After the German victory at the Sedan and the capture of the French Emperor Napoleon III on 2 September 1870, the way was clear for the foundation of the Reich. Bismarck began negotiations with the southern German states. This meant the accession of Bavaria, Württemberg and Baden to the North German Confederation through the establishment of a new ‘German Union’ agreed in November 1870. Other plans such as a dual confederation, like the one proposed by Bavaria, were no longer possible. Bismarck’s solution also guaranteed Prussian sovereignty in the new, so-called second German Reich. On the other hand, strengthened monarchical federalism meant a barrier against the introduction of parliamentarism. In German public opinion, demands for the annexation of Alsace and parts of Lorraine were raised and Bismarck endorsed them.

On 10 December 1870 the Reichstag of the North German Confederation renamed the Confederation the “German Empire” and gave the title of German Emperor to William I, King of Prussia, as Bundespräsidium of the Confederation. The new constitution (Constitution of the German Confederation) and the title of Emperor came into force on 1 January 1871. During the Siege of Paris on 18 January 1871, William accepted to be proclaimed Emperor in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles

The second German constitution, adopted by the Reichstag on 14 April 1871 and published by the Emperor on 16 April, was essentially based on Bismarck’s Constitution of the North German Confederation. The political system remained the same. The Empire had a parliament called the Reichstag, elected by universal male suffrage. However, the original electoral districts created in 1871 were never redrawn to reflect the growth of urban areas. The result was that at the time of the great expansion of German cities in the 1890s and the first decade of the 20th century, rural areas were over-represented.

The legislation also required the consent of the Bundesrat, the federal council of deputies from the 27 states. Executive power belonged to the emperor, or Kaiser, who was assisted by a chancellor accountable only to himself. The emperor was given extensive powers by the constitution. He alone appointed and dismissed the chancellor (so in practice the emperor ruled the empire through the chancellor), was supreme commander of the armed forces, decided on all foreign affairs and could also dissolve the Reichstag to call new elections. Officially, the Chancellor was a one-man cabinet and was responsible for handling all state affairs. In practice the State Secretaries (official senior bureaucrats responsible for matters such as finance, war, foreign affairs, etc.) acted as unofficial counterparts of ministers. The Reichstag had the power to pass, amend or reject bills and propose laws. However, as mentioned above, in practice the real power belonged to the emperor, who exercised it through his chancellor.

Although nominally a federal empire and a union of equals, in practice the empire was dominated by the largest and most powerful state, Prussia. Prussia stretched across the northern two-thirds of the new Reich and contained three-fifths of its population. The imperial crown was inherited by the ruling house of Prussia, the House of Hohenzollern. With the exception of 1872-1873 and 1892-1894, the Chancellor was always simultaneously Prime Minister of Prussia. With 17 out of 58 votes in the Bundesrat, Berlin needed only a few votes from the smaller ones to exercise effective control.

The other House of Hohenzollerns retained their own governments, but had only limited areas of sovereignty. For example, both stamps and currency were issued for the empire as a whole. Coins up to one mark were also minted in the name of the empire, while higher denomination coins were issued by the states. However, these larger gold and silver coins were essentially commemorative and had limited circulation.

While the states issued their own medals and some had their own armies, the military forces of the smaller ones were placed under Prussian control. Those of the larger ones, such as the Kingdoms of Bavaria and Saxony, were coordinated under Prussian authorities and in times of war were controlled by the federal government.

The evolution of the German Empire is similar to the parallel developments in Italy, which had become a unified nation-state a decade earlier. Certain key elements of the German Empire’s authoritarian political structure also formed the basis for the conservative modernization of Imperial Japan under Meiji and the maintenance of an equally authoritarian political structure under the Tsars of the Russian Empire.

One factor in the social structure of these governments was the retention of a very significant share of political power by the landowning elite, the Junkers, derived from the absence of a revolutionary break from the peasants in the urban areas.

Although in many respects it was authoritarian, the empire had some democratic characteristics. In addition to universal suffrage, it allowed the development of political parties. Bismarck’s intention was to create a constitutional facade that would cover the continuation of authoritarian policies. In the process he created a system with a serious drawback. There was a significant difference between the electoral system of Prussia and Germany. Prussia used a highly restrictive three-class voting system in which the richest third of the population could elect 85% of the legislature, ensuring a conservative majority. As mentioned above, the king and (with two exceptions) the prime minister of Prussia were also the emperor and chancellor of the empire – meaning that these same leaders had to seek majorities from legislatures elected in a completely different way. Universal suffrage was significantly distorted by the large over-representation of rural areas after 1890. By the turn of the century the balance between urban and rural population was completely reversed compared to 1871. More than two-thirds of the empire’s population lived in cities.

Before unification, German territory consisted of 27 constituent states. These states consisted of kingdoms, grand duchies, duchies, principalities, free Hanseatic cities and an imperial territory. The free cities had a democratic form of government at the state level, although the Empire was generally constituted as a monarchy, like most states. The Kingdom of Prussia was the largest of the constituent states, covering two-thirds of the Empire’s territory.

Several of these states had gained sovereignty after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and were de facto sovereign after the mid-1600s. Others were created as sovereign states after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Their territories did not necessarily have territorial continuity – many existed in different places as a result of historical possessions or, in many cases, divisions of ruling families. Some of the original existing states, notably Hanover, were abolished and annexed by Prussia after the war of 1866.

Each constituent part of the German Empire sent representatives to the Federal Council (Bundesrat) and, through unicameral districts, to the Imperial Diet (Reichstag). Relations between the Imperial centre and the constituent parts of the Empire were somewhat fluid and developed on an ongoing basis. The extent to which the Emperor could, for example, intervene in cases of disputed or unclear succession was much debated from time to time.


Grand Duchy of Hesse

Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Sverin


Around 92% of the population spoke German as a mother tongue. The only minority language with a significant number of speakers (5.4%) was Polish (a figure that rises to over 6% when including the related languages of Cassubian and Mazurian).

The other Germanic languages (0.5%), such as Danish, Dutch and Frisian, were spoken in the north and northwest of the empire, near the borders with Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Low German was spoken throughout northern Germany and, although linguistically as distinct from Upper German (Hochdeutsch) as from Dutch and English, it is considered “Germanic”, hence its name. Danish and Frisian were spoken mainly in the north of the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein and Dutch in the western border regions of Prussia (Hanover, Westphalia and Rhineland).

Polish and other Slavic languages (6.28%) were spoken mainly in the east.

Few (0.5%) spoke French, especially in Alsace-Lorraine, where French speakers made up 11.6% of the total population.

Language maps

In general, the religious demographics of the early modern period had changed very little. There were still almost entirely Catholic areas (Lower and Upper Bavaria, North Westphalia, Upper Silesia, etc.) and almost entirely Protestant areas (Schleswig-Holstein, Pomerania, Saxony, etc.). Doctrinal prejudices, especially about mixed marriages, were still common. Gradually, through internal migration, religious intermarriage became more and more common. In the eastern territories, religion was seen almost exclusively as linked to ethnicity and the equation ‘Protestant = German, Catholic = Polish’ applied. In the areas affected by the migration in the Ruhr and Westphalia, as well as in some large cities, the religious landscape changed significantly. This was especially true in Catholic areas of Westphalia, which were changing through the migration of Protestants from the eastern provinces.

Politically, the religious division of Germany had important consequences. In the Catholic areas, the Centre Party had a large electorate. On the other hand, the Social Democrats and Socialists received hardly any votes in the Catholic areas of the Ruhr. This began to change with the secularization that emerged in the last decades of the German Empire.

Bismarck’s domestic policies played an important role in forging the authoritarian political culture of the Kaiserreich. Less preoccupied with the politics of continental powers after unification in 1871, Germany’s semi-parliamentary government carried out a relatively smooth economic and political revolution from above that propelled it to become the world’s leading industrial power of the time.

Bismarck’s “revolutionary conservatism” was a conservative state-building strategy aimed at making ordinary Germans – not just the Juncker elite – more loyal to the throne and the empire. According to Kees van Kershbergen and Barbara Vis, his strategy was:

the granting of social rights to reinforce the integration of a hierarchical society, to wedge the bond between the workers and the state in order to strengthen the latter, to maintain the traditional power relations between social and regime groups and to provide power to counterbalance the modernist forces of liberalism and socialism.

He created the newest welfare state in Germany in the 1880s and introduced universal male suffrage in the new German Empire in 1871. He became a great hero to German conservatives, who erected many monuments to his memory and tried to emulate his policies.

Foreign policy

Bismarck’s foreign policy after 1871 was conservative and tried to maintain the balance of power in Europe. British historian Eric Hobbsbaum concludes that “he remained the undisputed world champion in the game of multilateral diplomatic chess for nearly twenty years after 1871, exclusively and successfully maintaining peace between powers.” , moving away from his adventurist foreign policy on Prussia, where he favoured power and expansion, underlining this by saying ‘The great issues of the age are not settled by speeches and majorities – that was the mistake of 1848-49 – but by iron and blood. “

Bismarck’s primary concern was that France would plan revenge after its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. Since the French did not have the power to defeat Germany alone, they sought an alliance with Russia that would trap Germany in a war between the two (as would eventually happen in 1914). Bismarck wanted to prevent this at all costs and maintain friendly relations with the Russians, thus forming an alliance with them and Austria-Hungary, the Dreikaiserbund (Union of the Three Emperors) in 1881. The alliance was further consolidated by a separate non-aggression pact with Russia called the Treaty of Non-Aggression, signed in 1887. At this time many in the German army advocated a pre-emptive strike against Russia, but Bismarck knew that such ideas were adventurist. He once wrote that “even the most brilliant victories over the Russian nation could not be capitalized because of its climate, its desolate hinterland and its frugality and its need to defend only one frontier” and because they would expose Germany to another hostile and resentful neighbor.

Meanwhile the Chancellor remained sceptical about any foreign policy development that seemed even slightly pro-war. In 1886 he moved to stop an attempt to sell horses to France on the grounds that they could be used for cavalry, and he also ordered an investigation into large Russian purchases of drugs from a German chemical factory. Bismarck stubbornly refused to listen to Georg Herbert chou Munster (ambassador to France), who stated that the French were not seeking a revanchist war and that in fact they desperately wanted peace at all costs.

Bismarck and most of his contemporaries were conservative-minded and focused their foreign policy attention on Germany’s neighbouring states. In 1914 60% of German foreign investment was in Europe, in contrast to only 5% of British investment. Most of the money was destined for developing nations like Russia that lacked the capital or know-how to industrialise on their own. The construction of the Baghdad Railway, financed by German banks, was designed to eventually link Germany to the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Gulf, but it also clashed with British and Russian geopolitical interests.

Many see Bismarck’s foreign policy as a coherent system and partly responsible for maintaining the stability of Europe. It was also marked by the need to balance calculated deterrent power with a desire to free itself from the constraints of its position as a major European power. Unfortunately, Bismarck’s successors did not follow his foreign policy. For example, Kaiser Wilhelm II, who dismissed the chancellor in 1890, let the treaty with Russia wane in favour of Germany’s alliance with Austria, which eventually led to the creation of a stronger coalition between Russia and France.

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The Germans had envisioned colonial imperialism since 1848. Bismarck started the process and in 1884 he acquired German New Guinea


By 1900 Germany had become the largest economy in Europe and the second largest in the world after the United States, displacing the United Kingdom. Germany’s main economic rivals were the United Kingdom and the United States. Throughout its existence it experienced economic growth and modernization led by heavy industry. In 1871 it had a population of 41 million, mostly rural, and by 1913 this had increased to a mostly urban population of 68 million.

For 30 years Germany competed with Britain for the position of Europe’s leading industrial power. Germany’s industrial representative was the steel giant Krupp, whose first factory was built in Essen. By 1902 the factory had become in itself “A big city with its own streets, its own police force, fire department and traffic rules. There are 150 kilometres of railways, 60 different factory buildings, 8500 motorized tools and 140 kilometres of underground cables and 46 aerial cables. “

Under Bismarck, Germany was a world leader in building the welfare state. German workers enjoyed health, accident and maternity benefits, canteens, changing rooms and a national pension system.

Initially lacking a technological base, the Germans imported technology and materials from Britain, but quickly learned the skills required to operate and expand the railways. In many cities the new railway stations were centres of technological information and training, so that by 1850 Germany was self-sufficient in railway construction and rail transport was a major impetus for the development of the new iron and steel industry. However the unification of Germany in 1870 triggered integration, nationalisation with state-owned enterprises and further rapid development. In contrast to the situation in France the aim was to support industrialisation and so the dense network ran through the Ruhr and other industrial areas and provided adequate connections to the major ports of Hamburg and Bremen.In 1880 Germany had 9,400 steam locomotives carrying 43,000 passengers and 30,000 tons of freight, surpassing France. The total length of German railways extended from 21,000 kilometres (21,000 miles) in 1871 to 63,000 in 1913, making it the largest rail network in the world after that of the United States, surpassing Britain’s 32,000 kilometres (32,000 miles) of rail network in the same year.

Industrialisation proceeded apace in Germany and German industrialists began to displace British imports from domestic markets and also to compete with British industry abroad, particularly in the USA. German textile and metal industries surpassed those of Britain in 1870 in organization and technical efficiency, replacing British manufacturers in the domestic market. Germany became the dominant economic power on the continent and was the second largest exporting nation after Britain.

Technological progress during Germany’s industrialisation took place in four waves: the railway wave (1877-1886), the dyeing wave (1887-1896), the chemical wave (1897-1902) and the wave of electric machines (1903-1918). Since Germany industrialized after Britain, it was able to model its factories on those of Britain, making more efficient use of its capital in its leap in technology. Germany invested more heavily than the British in research, especially in chemistry, engines and electricity. Such was Germany’s dominance in physics and chemistry that a third of all Nobel Prizes went to German inventors and researchers.

The German cartel system (known as Konzerne), being quite centralised, was able to make more efficient use of capital. Germany was not burdened with an expensive global empire that it needed to defend. After the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine in 1871, it absorbed part of France’s industrial base.

In 1900 the German chemical industry had dominated the world market for synthetic dyes. The three big companies BASF, Bayer and Hoechst produced several hundred different dyes, together with five smaller ones. In 1913 these eight companies produced almost 90% of the world’s supply of dyes and sold about 80% of their production abroad. The big three firms had also integrated into the production of basic raw materials and began to expand into other areas of chemistry, such as pharmaceuticals, photographic film, agrochemicals and electrochemicals. Top-level decision making was in the hands of professional salaried managers, leading Chandler to call the German pigment companies “the first truly manager-directed industrial enterprises in the world.” . There were many products of research – such as the pharmaceutical industry, which arose from research in chemistry .

From the beginning of the First World War (1914-1918), German industry turned to war production. The greatest demands were for coal and steel for the production of guns and bombs and chemicals for the synthesis of materials subject to import restrictions and for chemical weapons and war supplies.


The creation of the Prussian-led empire was a victory of the Kleindeutschland (Lesser Germany) principle over the Großdeutschland principle. This meant that Austria-Hungary, a multi-ethnic empire with a significant German-speaking population, would remain outside the German nation-state. Bismarck’s policy was to seek a diplomatic solution. The existing alliance between Germany and Austria played an important role in Germany’s decision to enter World War I in 1914.

Bismarck announced that there would be no more territorial expansion of Germany in Europe and his diplomacy after 1871 focused on stabilising the European system and preventing any war, which he achieved, and it was only after his dismissal in 1890 that diplomatic tensions began to rise again.

Social issues

After formal unification in 1871 Bismarck devoted much of his attention to the cause of national unity. He opposed conservative Catholic activism and emancipationism, especially the powers of the Vatican under Pope Pius IX, and working-class radicalism represented by the emerging Social Democratic Party.

Prussia in 1871 contained 16,000,000 Protestants, both Reformed and Lutheran, and 8,000,000 Catholics. Most people were generally isolated in their own religious worlds, living in rural areas or districts of towns that were predominantly of the same religion and sending their children to separate public schools where they were taught their religion. There was little interaction or interfaith marriage. In general Protestants had higher social status and Catholics were more likely to be peasant farmers or unskilled or semi-skilled industrial workers. In 1870 Catholics formed their own political party, the Centre Party, which generally supported unification and most of Bismarck’s policies. However, Bismarck distrusted parliamentary democracy in general and opposition parties in particular, especially when the Centre Party showed signs of strengthening among distinct elements such as the Polish Catholics in Silesia. A powerful intellectual force of the time was anti-Catholicism, led by liberal intellectuals who were a vital part of Bismarck’s coalition. They saw the Catholic Church as a powerful force for reaction and anti-modernity, especially after the declaration of papal infallibility in 1870 and the increasing control of the Vatican over local bishops.

The Kulturkampf launched by Bismarck in 1871-1880 affected Prussia. Although there were similar movements in Baden and Hesse, the rest of Germany was not affected. Under the new imperial constitution, the states were responsible for religious and educational affairs and funded Protestant and Catholic schools. In July 1871 Bismarck abolished the Catholic section of the Prussian Ministry of Ecclesiastical and Educational Affairs, depriving Catholics of a voice at the highest level. The system of strict government supervision of schools was applied only to Catholic districts but not to Protestant schools.

Much more serious were the laws of May 1873. One of them made it a condition of the appointment of any priest that he should have attended a German university and not a seminary, where Catholics usually attended. In addition all candidates for the ministry had to pass an examination in German culture before a state council, which rejected intransigent Catholics. Another provision gave the government veto power over most church activities. A second law abolished the Vatican’s jurisdiction over the Catholic Church in Prussia, which was transferred to a government body controlled by Protestants .

Almost all German bishops, clergy and laity rejected the legality of the new laws and defied the increasingly severe sanctions and imprisonment imposed by the Bismarck government. By 1876 all Prussian bishops had been imprisoned or exiled and a third of Catholic parishes were without a priest. In the face of systematic disobedience, the Bismarck government increased its punishments and attacks. In 1875 when a papal encyclical declared the entire Prussian ecclesiastical legislation invalid and threatened to excommunicate any Catholic who obeyed it. There was no violence but Catholics mobilised, formed numerous political organisations, raised money to pay fines and rallied behind the church and the Centre Party. The ‘Old Catholic Church’, which rejected the First Vatican Council, attracted only a few thousand members. Bismarck, a devoutly religious Protestant, realized that his Kulturkampf had turned against him when secular and socialist elements used the opportunity to attack religion altogether. In the long term, the most important result was the mobilization of Catholic voters and their insistence on protecting their religious identity. In the 1874 elections the Centre Party doubled its votes, became the second largest party in the national parliament and remained a strong force for the next 60 years, so that after Bismarck it became difficult to form

Bismarck continued a tradition of social welfare programmes in Prussia and Saxony that had begun as early as the 1840s. In the 1880s he introduced old-age pensions, accident insurance, medical care and unemployment insurance, which formed the basis of the modern European welfare state. He found that this policy was very attractive, as it linked workers to the state and also fitted in well with its authoritarian nature. The social security systems created by Bismarck (health insurance in 1883, accident insurance in 1884, disability insurance and old age insurance in 1889) were then the largest in the world and, to some extent, still exist in Germany today.

Bismarck’s paternalistic programs won the support of German industry because its goals were to win the support of the working classes of the Empire and to reduce the outflow of immigrants to America, where wages were higher but social welfare was lacking. . Bismarck further won the support of both industry and skilled workers with his high-price policies, which protected profits and wages from American competition, though they alienated liberal intellectuals who wanted free trade.

One of the results of the unification policies was the gradually increasing tendency to eliminate the use of non-German languages in public life, schools and academic institutions in order to force non-Germanic populations to abandon their national identity, in so-called “Germanization”. These policies often had the opposite effect of stimulating resistance, usually in the form of home schooling and closer unity among minority groups, particularly Poles.

Germanization policies were directed mainly against the significant Polish minority of the empire, which Prussia had acquired during the partitions of Poland. Poles were treated as an ethnic minority even when they were in the majority, as in the Province of Poznan, where a series of anti-Polish measures were imposed. Many anti-Polish laws had little effect, particularly in the Province of Poznan, where the German-speaking population fell from 42.8% in 1871 to 38.1% in 1905, despite all efforts.

Anti-Semitism was endemic in Germany during this period. Before the abolition of the ghettos in Germany by Napoleon’s decrees, it was religiously motivated, but from the 19th century onwards, it was an element of German nationalism. The last legal barriers to Jews in Prussia were removed in the 1860s and within 20 years they were over-represented in the non-manual professions and in much of academia. In popular perception, Jews became a symbol of capitalism and wealth. On the other hand, the constitution and the legal system protected the rights of Jews as German citizens. Anti-Semitic parties were formed, but they soon collapsed.


Bismarck’s efforts also promoted the normalization of the enormous differences between the German states, which had been independent in their development for centuries, especially in legislation. The completely different legal traditions and judicial systems created enormous complications, especially for national trade. While a common code of commercial transactions had already been introduced by the Confederation in 1861 (adapted for the Empire and, with major modifications, still in force today), there was little similarity between the laws.

In 1871 a common Criminal Code (Reichsstrafgesetzbuch) was introduced. In 1877 common judicial procedures were introduced in the court system (Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz), in civil (Zivilprozessordnung) and in criminal proceedings (Strafprozessordnung). In 1873 the constitution was amended to allow the Empire to replace the various and significantly different Civil Codes of the states (to the extent that they existed. For example, parts of Germany, previously occupied by Napoleonic France, had adopted the French Civil Code, while in Prussia the Allgemeines Preußisches Landrecht of 1794 was still in force). In 1881 a first commission was established to produce a common Civil Code for the entire Empire, a massive effort that produced the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB), possibly one of the most impressive legal works in the world. It finally came into force on 1 January 1900. All of these codifications, albeit with many amendments, are still in force today.

The Empire’s legislation was based on two bodies, the Bundesrat and the Reichstag (parliament). There was universal male suffrage for the Reichstag, but legislation had to be passed by both houses. The Bundesrat included representatives of the states.

On 9 March 1888, William I died shortly before his 91st birthday, leaving his son Frederick III as the new emperor. Frederick was a liberal and an admirer of the British constitution, and his ties with Britain were further strengthened by his marriage to Princess Victoria, Queen Victoria’s eldest child. With his ascension to the throne, many hoped that Frederick’s reign would lead to a liberalization of the Reich and an increase in the influence of Parliament in the political process. The dismissal of Robert von Putkammer, the extremely conservative First Minister of the Interior, on 8 June was a sign of the expected direction and a blow to Bismarck’s administration.

However, by the time of his accession, Frederick had already developed incurable laryngeal cancer, which had been diagnosed in 1887. He died on the 99th day of his reign on 15 June 1888. His son William II became emperor.

The resignation of Bismarck

William II wanted to reassert his governing prerogatives at a time when other monarchs in Europe were transforming themselves into constitutionally powerless rulers. This decision brought the ambitious Kaiser into conflict with Bismarck. The old chancellor hoped to guide William as he had done with his grandfather, but the emperor wanted to be master of his house and had many sycophants who told him that Frederick the Great would not be great with Bismarck at his side. A key difference between William II and Bismarck was their approaches to dealing with political crises, especially in 1889 when German miners went on strike in Upper Silesia. Bismarck called for the German army to be sent in to crush the strike, but William II rejected this authoritarian measure, replying “I do not want to stain my kingdom with the blood of my subjects.” Instead of consenting to the repression, William had the government negotiate with a delegation of miners who ended the strike without violence. The turbulent relationship ended in March 1890 when Wilhelm II and Bismarck disagreed and the chancellor resigned a few days later. In Bismarck’s last years his power slipped from his grasp as he grew older and became more irritable, more authoritarian and less focused.

With the departure of Bismarck, Wilhelm II became the sovereign leader of Germany. Unlike his grandfather, William I, who was largely content to leave the affairs of government to the chancellor, William II wanted to be fully informed and actively involved in the running of Germany, not a figurehead, although most Germans found his claims of God’s merciful right funny. Wilhelm commissioned the politician Walter Rattenau to introduce him to economics and the industrial and economic realities in Europe.

As Hall (2004) notes, Bismarck’s foreign policy “was too soothing for the reckless Kaiser”. Wilhelm became world renowned for his aggressive foreign policy stance and for his strategic weaknesses, which pushed the German Empire into increasing political isolation and ultimately contributed to the outbreak of World War I.

Internal affairs

Under William II Germany no longer had powerful chancellors like Bismarck. The new chancellors faced difficulties in carrying out their roles, especially the additional role of Prime Minister of Prussia assigned to them by the German constitution. Chancellor Leo von Caprivi’s reforms, which liberalized trade and thus reduced unemployment, were supported by the Kaiser and most Germans, except for the Prussian landowners, who feared loss of land and power and launched various campaigns against the reforms.

While the Prussian aristocrats were challenging the demands of a unified German state, in the 1890s several organisations were formed to challenge the authoritarian conservative Prussian militarism imposed on the country. Teachers, who were opposed to the German state schools that emphasized military training, created their own independent liberal schools that encouraged individuality and freedom. However, almost all schools in Imperial Germany were of a very high standard and kept in touch with modern developments in knowledge.

The artists began experimenting with art in contrast to Kaiser Wilhelm’s support for traditional art, who countered that “art that transgresses the laws and boundaries defined by me can no longer be called art”.Thanks largely to Wilhelm’s influence, most prints in Germany used Gothic script instead of the Roman script used in the rest of Western Europe. At the same time a new generation of cultural artists was created.

From the 1890s the most effective opposition to the monarchy came from the newly formed Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), whose radicals supported Marxism. The SPD’s threat to the German monarchy and industrialists caused the state both to strike at the party’s supporters and to implement its own program of social reforms to mitigate the discontent. Germany’s large industries provided substantial welfare programs and plenty of care for their employees, as long as they did not identify themselves as socialists or union members. The larger industrial firms provided pensions, sickness benefits and even housing for their employees.

Having learned from the failure of Bismarck’s Kulturkampf, William II maintained good relations with the Roman Catholic Church and concentrated on dealing with socialism. This policy failed when the Social Democrats won a third of the vote in the 1912 Reichstag elections and became the largest political party in Germany. The government remained in the hands of a series of conservative coalitions supported by right-wing liberals or Catholic clergy and was heavily dependent on the favour of Keiser. Growing militarism under William II caused many Germans to emigrate to the United States and the British colonies to avoid compulsory military service.

During World War I, the Kaiser increasingly delegated his powers to the leaders of the German High Command, particularly to the future President of Germany, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and Generalquartiermeister Erich Ludendorff. In 1916 Germany was in effect a military dictatorship run by Hindenburg and Ludendorff, with Keiser limited to a decorative role.

External affairs

William II wanted Germany to have its “place in the sun” like Britain, which he constantly wished to emulate or compete with. With German merchants already active worldwide, he encouraged colonial pursuits in Africa and the Pacific (“new imperialism”), causing the German Empire to compete with other European powers for untapped territory. With the encouragement or at least the consent of Britain, which at this stage saw Germany as a counterweight to its old rival France, Germany acquired German Southwest Africa (present-day Namibia), present-day Cameroon, Togoland (present-day Togo) and German East Africa (present-day Rwanda, Burundi and the mainland of present-day Tanzania). In the Pacific, islands were acquired through purchases and treaties, as well as a 99-year lease for the Qiaochu region in northeastern China. But of these German colonies only Togoland and German Samoa (after 1908) became self-sufficient and profitable. All the others needed subsidies from the Berlin treasury to build infrastructure, school systems, hospitals and other institutions.

Bismarck had initially dismissed the ambitions for colonies with contempt. He favoured a Eurocentric foreign policy, as the conclusion of treaties during his term of office shows. As the last in colonialism, Germany repeatedly came into conflict with the established colonial powers and also with the United States, which opposed German attempts at colonial expansion in both the Caribbean and the Pacific. Indigenous rebellions in German territories were widely covered in other countries, especially in Britain. The older powers had dealt with such rebellions decades earlier, often violently, and had already secured firm control of their colonies. The Boxer Rebellion in China, eventually supported by the Chinese government, began in Shandong Province, partly because Germany, as a colonizer in Qiaochu, was an untested power, active there for only two years. Eight Western nations, including the United States, landed a joint force to rescue Westerners captured in the uprising. At the departure ceremony for the German contingent, William II urged them to behave like the Hun invaders of continental Europe – an unfortunate remark that would later be retracted by British propagandists to portray the Germans as barbarians during World War I and World War II. On two occasions, a Franco-German conflict

With the conquest of Southwest Africa, German settlers were encouraged to cultivate the land held by the Herrero and Nama. The Herero and Nama tribal areas were used for various forms of exploitation (as the British had done earlier in Rhodesia), such as agriculture, livestock and mineral and diamond mining. In 1904 the Herero and Nama rebelled against the settlers in South West Africa, killing their farming families, labourers and servants. In response to the attacks, troops were sent in to quell the rebellion, which then led to the Herero and Nama genocide. In total, some 65,000 Herero (80% of their total population) and 10,000 Nama (50% of their total population) lost their lives. The commander of the repressive operation, General Lotar von Trotal, was eventually demobilized and punished for exceeding orders and committing atrocities. These incidents are sometimes referred to as “the first genocide of the 20th century” and were officially condemned by the United Nations in 1985. An official apology by a minister of the Federal Republic of Germany followed in 2004.

Bismarck and William II after him sought closer economic ties with the Ottoman Empire. Under William II, with the financial backing of Deutsche Bank, the Baghdad Railway was launched in 1900, although by 1914 it was still 500 kilometres from its final destination. In a meeting with William in 1899 Cecil Rhodes had tried ‘to convince Kaiser that the future of the German Empire abroad lies in the Middle East’ rather than in Africa. With a large Middle Eastern empire, Germany could allow Britain to seamlessly complete the Cape Town-Kairo railway, which Rhodes favoured. Britain initially supported the Baghdad Railway; but by 1911 British politicians began to fear that it might extend to Basra in the Persian Gulf, threatening Britain’s naval supremacy in the Indian Ocean. They therefore demanded that construction be halted, to which Germany and the Ottoman Empire agreed.

William II and his advisers committed a fatal diplomatic error when they allowed the “Treaty of Reassurance” negotiated by Bismarck with Tsarist Russia to lapse. Germany was left without a strong ally other than Austria-Hungary, and its support for the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908 further worsened its relations with Russia. William missed the opportunity to secure an alliance with Britain in the 1890s, when he had become involved in colonial rivalries with France and further alienated British politicians by openly supporting the Boers in the South African War and building a navy to rival Britain. By 1911 William had completely abandoned the careful balance of power Bismarck had established and Britain turned to France with the Entente. Germany’s only ally other than Austria was the Kingdom of Italy, but it remained an ally only pro forma (formally). When war came Italy saw more benefit in an alliance with Britain, France and Russia, who in the secret 1915 Treaty of London promised it the border regions of Austria, where Italians were the majority of the population, and also colonial concessions. Germany gained a second ally in the same year, when the Ottoman Empire entered the war on her side, but in the long run supporting the Ottoman war effort merely

Start at

After the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by the Serboslovakian Gavrilo Principe, the Kaiser offered Emperor Franz Joseph full support for the Austro-Hungarian plans to invade the Kingdom of Serbia, which Austria-Hungary blamed for the assassination. This unconditional support of Austria-Hungary was called a “blank check” by historians, including Germany’s Fritz Fischer. A later interpretation – for example at the Paris Peace Conference – was that this “blank cheque” licensed Austria-Hungary’s aggression regardless of the diplomatic consequences and thus Germany took responsibility for starting the war or at least causing a wider conflict.

Germany started the war to target its chief rival, France. Germany saw France as the main danger to itself on the European continent, as it could mobilise much more quickly than Russia and was fused with Germany’s industrial core in the Rhineland. Unlike Britain and Russia, the French entered the war mainly to avenge Germany, particularly for the loss of Alsace-Lorraine in 1871. The German high command knew that France would gather its forces to invade Alsace-Lorraine. Apart from the completely unofficial Septemberprogramm, the Germans never gave a clear list of the objectives they sought from the war.

Western Front

Germany did not want to risk long battles along the Franco-German border and adopted the Schlieffen Plan, a military strategy designed to paralyze France by infiltrating Belgium and Luxembourg, succeeding in encircling and crushing both Paris and the French forces along the Franco-German border with a quick victory. After the defeat of France, Germany would turn to attack Russia. The plan required the violation of the formal neutrality of Belgium and Luxembourg, which Britain had guaranteed by treaty. However, the Germans had calculated that Britain would go to war regardless of whether it had an official justification for doing so. Initially the attack was successful: the German Army passed through Belgium and Luxembourg and advanced towards Paris on the neighbouring River Marne. However, the evolution of weapons over the last century strongly favoured defence over attack, thanks in particular to machine guns, so that proportionately more offensive force was required to take a defensive position. This resulted in German offensive lines being concentrated to meet the timing of the attack, while French lines were being extended. In addition some German units originally committed there were moved to the Eastern Front to react to the much faster than expected Russian mobilization. The combination of these factors made it possible for the Russian army to take on a much more rapid response

The First Battle of Marne was followed by a long standstill between the German Army and the Allies in a trench warfare. Further German attempts to penetrate deeper into France failed in the two battles of the Ypres (1st and 2nd) with huge losses. German Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenstein decided to abandon the Schlieffen Plan and instead concentrate on a war of friction against France. Falkenhein targeted the ancient city of Verdun because it was one of the last cities to hold out against the German Army in 1870 and he knew that, as a matter of national pride, the French would do everything possible to ensure that it was not taken. He proclaimed that with the right tactics, French casualties would be greater than those of the Germans and that the continued French commitment of troops at Verdun would “bleed the French Army” and then allow the German Army to easily occupy France. The Battle of Verdun began in 1916, with the French positions suffering constant bombardment and poison gas attacks, and suffering heavy casualties from the onslaught of the overwhelmingly large German forces. However, Falkenstein’s prediction of a higher proportion of French casualties proved to be wrong. Falkenhain was replaced by Erich Ludendorff and, with no apparent success, the German Army withdrew from Verdun in December 1916 and the battle was over.

Eastern Front

While the Western Front was finished for the German Army, the Eastern Front turned out to be a great success. Despite initial setbacks due to the unexpectedly rapid mobilization of the Russian Army, which resulted in the Russian invasion of East Prussia and Austrian Galicia, the poorly organized and supplied Russian Army retreated, and thus the German and Austro-Hungarian armies steadily advanced eastward. The Germans were taking advantage of the political instability in Russia and the desire of the population to end the war. In 1917 the German government allowed Russian communist Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin to travel through Germany from Switzerland to Russia via Germany. Germany believed that if Lenin could create further political unrest, Russia would no longer be able to continue its war with Germany, allowing the German Army to concentrate on the Western Front.

In March 1917 the Tsar was removed from the Russian throne and in November a Bolshevik government came to power under Lenin. Faced with opposition, he decided to end Russia’s war against Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria in order to redirect the Bolsheviks’ energy towards eliminating internal opposition. In March 1918, with the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, the Bolshevik government gave Germany and the Ottoman Empire huge territorial and economic concessions in exchange for ending the war on the Eastern Front. All the present-day Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) were ceded to the German occupying authority Ober Ost, along with Belarus and Ukraine. Thus Germany finally achieved its long sought after dominance of Mitteleuropa (Central Europe) and could now fully concentrate on defeating the Allies on the Western Front. In practice, however, the forces needed to garrison and secure the new territories were exhausting the German war effort.


Germany quickly lost almost all its colonies. However, in German East Africa an impressive guerrilla war was attempted by the leader of the colonial army there, General Paul Emil von Letov-Forbeck. Using Germans and Ashkari natives, Letov-Forbeck launched several guerrilla raids against British forces in Kenya and Rhodesia. He also invaded Portuguese Mozambique to obtain supplies for his forces and to recruit more Ashkari. His force was still active at the end of the war.

The victory over Russia in 1917 allowed Germany to transfer hundreds of thousands of combat troops from the East to the Western Front, giving it a numerical advantage over the Allies. By retraining soldiers in the new bombing tactics, the Germans expected to thaw the battlefield and win a decisive victory before the United States Army, which had then entered the war alongside Britain and France, intervened forcefully. However, repeated German attacks in the fall of 1917 and spring of 1918 failed as the Allies retreated and regrouped and the Germans were deprived of the reserves they needed to consolidate their gains. Meanwhile the soldiers had been radicalised by the Russian Revolution and were less willing to continue fighting. The war effort sparked political unrest in Germany, and the troops, who had been continuously at war without interruption, were exhausted and had lost all hope of victory. By the summer of 1918, with Americans arriving at a rate of 10,000 a day and German reserves depleted, it was only a matter of time before multiple Allied attacks wiped out the German army .

Internal front

The concept of “total war” meant that resources had to be directed to the armed forces and, with the disruption of German trade by the Allied naval blockade, German citizens were forced to live in increasingly worse conditions. Initially the prices of goods were controlled and then rationed. During the war about 750,000 German citizens died of malnutrition .

Towards the end of the war conditions deteriorated rapidly on the home front, with severe food shortages in all urban areas. This was caused by the transfer of many farmers and food workers to the army, combined with an overloaded railway network, coal shortages and the British blockade. The winter of 1916-1917 came to be known as the “turnip winter” because people were forced to survive on a vegetable usually intended for livestock as a substitute for potatoes and meat, which were increasingly scarce. Thousands of soup kitchens opened to feed the hungry, who grumbled that farmers were keeping the food for themselves. Even the army was forced to reduce rations for soldiers. The morale of both civilians and soldiers continued to collapse.

Revolution and the end

Many Germans wanted to stop the war and more and more began to turn to the political left, such as the Social Democratic Party and the more radical Independent Social Democratic Party, which demanded an end to the war. The US entry into the war in April 1917 changed the long-standing balance of power in favour of the Allies.

At the end of October 1918, the German Revolution of 1918-1919 began in Kiel in northern Germany. German naval units refused to sail for one last large-scale operation in a war they considered lost, starting the insurrection. On 3 November the uprising spread to other cities and states across the country, in many of which workers’ and soldiers’ councils were established. Meanwhile, Hindenburg and the senior generals lost confidence in Kaiser and his government.

Bulgaria signed the Armistice of Thessaloniki on 29 September 1918. The Ottoman Empire signed the Armistice of Mudros on 30 October 1918. Between 24 October and 3 November 1918, Italy defeated Austria-Hungary at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, forcing it to sign the Armistice of Villa Giusti on 3 November 1918. Thus in November 1918, with internal revolution, the Allies advancing towards Germany on the Western Front, Austria-Hungary being torn apart by multiple ethnic tensions, other allies out of the war, and pressure from the German high command, Kaiser and all German rulers resigned. On 9 November, the social democrat Philip Seidemann proclaimed democracy. The new government led by the German Social Democrats called for and received an armistice on 11 November. It was succeeded by the Weimar Republic. Those who opposed it, including disaffected veterans, joined a diverse set of paramilitary and underground political groups such as the Freikorps, the Organisation Konsul and the Communists.

The defeat and aftermath of World War I and the sanctions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles shaped the positive memory of the Empire, especially among Germans who distrusted and despised the Weimar Republic. Conservatives, liberals, socialists, socialists, nationalists, Catholics and Protestants each had their own interpretation, which led to a divisive political and social climate in Germany after the collapse of the Empire.

Under Bismarck a united German state had finally been achieved, but it remained a Prussian state and did not include German Austria, as the Pan-Germanic nationalists wished. The influence of Prussian militarism, the colonial efforts of the Empire and its fierce, competitive industrial power all aroused the dislike and envy of other nations. The German Empire implemented a series of progressive reforms, such as Europe’s first welfare system and freedom of the press. There was also a modern system for electing the federal parliament, the Reichstag, in which each adult male had one vote. This allowed the Socialists and the Catholic Centre Party to play an important role in the political life of the empire despite the continued hostility of the Prussian aristocrats.

The era of the German Empire is remembered in Germany as a period of great cultural and intellectual power. Thomas Mann published his novel Budenbrooks in 1901. Theodor Momsen received the Nobel Prize for Literature a year later for his Roman history. Painters such as Der Blaue Reiter and Die Brücke made important contributions to modern art. The AEG turbine factory in Berlin by Peter Behrens in 1909 can be seen as a landmark in classical modern architecture and an excellent example of emerging functionalism. The social, economic and scientific successes of this Gründerzeit, or founding era, sometimes led to the Wcklielmann era being regarded as a golden age.

In the economic sphere, the Kaiserzeit laid the foundations for Germany’s position as one of the world’s leading economic powers. The iron and coal industries of Ruhr, Saar and Upper Silesia made a particular contribution to this process. The first car was built by Carl Benz in 1886. The enormous growth of industrial production and industrial potential also led to the rapid urbanization of Germany, which transformed the Germans into a nation of city dwellers. More than 5 million people left Germany for the United States during the 19th century.

Special path

Many historians have underlined the central importance of a German Sonderweg or “special path” (or “exceptionalism”) as the root of Nazism and the German catastrophe in the 20th century. According to Kotska’s (1988) historiography, the process of ethnicization from above had very serious long-term consequences. As far as parliamentary democracy was concerned, Parliament was kept weak, parties were fragmented and there was a high degree of mutual distrust. The Nazis relied on the illiberal, anti-pluralist elements of Weimar political culture. The Juncker elites (the great landowners of the East) and senior civil servants used their great power and influence in the twentieth century to thwart any move towards democracy. They played a particularly negative role in the crisis of 1930-1933. Bismarck’s emphasis on military power strengthened the voice of the officer corps, which combined the advanced modernization of military technology with reactionary policies. The rising middle-class elites in the business, economic and professional world tended to accept the values of the old traditional elites. The German Empire was for Hans-Ullrich Weller a curious mixture of highly successful capitalist industrialisation and socio-economic modernisation on the one hand and the survival of pre-industrial institutions, power relations and traditional culture on the other.

Hans-Ullrich Weller, one of the pioneers of the Bielefeld School of Social History, places the origins of the German march to disaster in the 1860s-1870s, when economic modernisation took place without political modernisation and the old Prussian peasant elite firmly retained control of the military, diplomacy and public administration. Traditional, aristocratic, pre-modern society was pitted against an emerging capitalist, bourgeois, modernising society. Recognizing the importance of modernizing forces in industry, the economy, and the cultural sector, Weller argues that the reactionary tradition dominated the political hierarchy of power in Germany, as well as social attitudes and class relations (Klassenhabitus). The disastrous German politics between 1914 and 1945 is interpreted in terms of a belated modernization of the country’s political structures. At the core of Weller’s interpretation is his view of the ‘middle class’ and ‘revolution’, each of which was crucial in shaping the 20th century. Weller’s examination of Nazi domination is shaped by his principle of ‘charismatic hegemony’, which focuses largely on Adolf Hitler.

The historiographical concept of the German Sonderweg has had a turbulent history. Nineteenth-century scholars, who emphasised a distinct German path to modernity, saw it as a positive factor that differentiated Germany from the ‘Western way’ that characterised Great Britain. They emphasize the strong bureaucratic state, the reforms initiated by Bismarck and other powerful leaders, the ethos of Prussian service, the superior culture of philosophy and music, and Germany’s pioneering role as a welfare state. T>he 1950s historians in West Germany argued that the Sonderweg led Germany to its 1933-1945 disaster. The particular conditions of German historical structures and experiences were interpreted as the conditions that, while not directly causing National Socialism, prevented the development of a liberal democracy and facilitated the rise of fascism. Sonderweg’s example provided the impetus for at least three strands of research in German historiography: the ‘long 19th century’, the ‘history of the bourgeoisie’ and ‘comparisons with the West’. After 1990, the increased importance of cultural dimensions and comparative and correlative history turned German historiography towards different topics, with much less emphasis on the Sonderweg. While some historians have abandoned the Sonderweg hypothesis, they have not provided a generally accepted alternative interpretation.

Apart from today’s Germany, large parts of the German Empire now belong to many other modern European countries.


  1. Γερμανική Αυτοκρατορία
  2. German Empire
  3. ^ Pronounced [ˌdɔʏtʃəs ˈkaɪzɐʁaɪç] i, officially Deutsches Reich.
  4. ^ German: Zweites Reich
  5. ^ The Slavic speakers included Polish, Masurian, Kashubian, Sorbian and Czech were located in the east; Polish mainly in the Prussian provinces of Posen, West Prussia and Silesia (Upper Silesia). Small islands also existed in Recklinghausen (Westphalia) with 13.8% of the population and in the Kreis of Calau (Brandenburg) (5.5%) and in parts of East Prussia and Pomerania. Czech was spoken predominantly in the south of the Silesia, Masurian in the south of East Prussia, Kashubian in the north of West Prussia and Sorbian in the Lusatian regions of Prussia (Brandenburg and Silesia) and the Kingdom of Saxony.[citation needed]
  6. «Population statistics of the German Empire, 1871» (στα Γερμανικά). Αρχειοθετήθηκε από το πρωτότυπο στις 5 Απριλίου 2007. Ανακτήθηκε στις 25 Απριλίου 2007.
  7. «Γερμανικό Σύνταγμα του 1871» (στα Γερμανικά). 16 Μαρτίου 2011. Ανακτήθηκε στις 2 Απριλίου 2011.
  8. «German constitution of 1871» (em alemão). German Wikisource. 16 de março de 2011. Consultado em 2 de abril de 2011
  9. Whitaker’s Almanak, 1897, by Joseph Whitaker; p. 548
  10. Why Was Nazi Germany Called the Third Reich? Encyclopædia Britannica. 2023. Viitattu 6.8.2023. (englanniksi)
  11. Eskelinen, Heikki: Maailman historian käännekohtia. Optimismin aikakausi 1803-1896. Helsinki: Otava, 1981. ISBN 951-1-06508-4.
  12. Schön, Lennart: ”Teollistuminen leviää ennen ensimmäistä maailman sotaa”, Maailman taloushistoria, teollinen aika, s. 181 ja 199. Tampere: Osuuskunta Vastapaino, 2013. ISBN 978-951-768-380-7.
  13. a b Udelhoven, Hermann-Josef: ”Saksan keisarikunta”, Maailmanhistoria, s. 380-383. Suom. Big Sur Oy. Peter Delius Verlag, 2007.
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