German Empire

German Empire

Overview
The German Empire refers to Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany
Unification of Germany
The formal unification of Germany into a politically and administratively integrated nation state officially occurred on 18 January 1871 at the Versailles Palace's Hall of Mirrors in France. Princes of the German states gathered there to proclaim Wilhelm of Prussia as Emperor Wilhelm of the German...

 and proclamation of Wilhelm I
William I, German Emperor
William I, also known as Wilhelm I , of the House of Hohenzollern was the King of Prussia and the first German Emperor .Under the leadership of William and his Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Prussia achieved the unification of Germany and the...

 as German Emperor
German Emperor
This article is about the emperors of the German Empire. For full list of German monarchs before 1871, see List of German monarchs.The German Emperor was the official title of the Head of State and ruler of the German Empire, beginning with the proclamation of Wilhelm I as emperor during the...

 on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

 after defeat in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and the abdication of the Emperor
Kaiser
Kaiser is the German title meaning "Emperor", with Kaiserin being the female equivalent, "Empress". Like the Russian Czar it is directly derived from the Latin Emperors' title of Caesar, which in turn is derived from the personal name of a branch of the gens Julia, to which Gaius Julius Caesar,...

, Wilhelm II.

The German Empire consisted of 27 constituent territories (most of them ruled by royal families). While the Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

 contained most of the population and most of the territory of the Reich; the Prussian leadership became supplanted by German leaders and Prussia itself played a lesser role.
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Encyclopedia
The German Empire refers to Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany
Unification of Germany
The formal unification of Germany into a politically and administratively integrated nation state officially occurred on 18 January 1871 at the Versailles Palace's Hall of Mirrors in France. Princes of the German states gathered there to proclaim Wilhelm of Prussia as Emperor Wilhelm of the German...

 and proclamation of Wilhelm I
William I, German Emperor
William I, also known as Wilhelm I , of the House of Hohenzollern was the King of Prussia and the first German Emperor .Under the leadership of William and his Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Prussia achieved the unification of Germany and the...

 as German Emperor
German Emperor
This article is about the emperors of the German Empire. For full list of German monarchs before 1871, see List of German monarchs.The German Emperor was the official title of the Head of State and ruler of the German Empire, beginning with the proclamation of Wilhelm I as emperor during the...

 on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

 after defeat in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and the abdication of the Emperor
Kaiser
Kaiser is the German title meaning "Emperor", with Kaiserin being the female equivalent, "Empress". Like the Russian Czar it is directly derived from the Latin Emperors' title of Caesar, which in turn is derived from the personal name of a branch of the gens Julia, to which Gaius Julius Caesar,...

, Wilhelm II.

The German Empire consisted of 27 constituent territories (most of them ruled by royal families). While the Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

 contained most of the population and most of the territory of the Reich; the Prussian leadership became supplanted by German leaders and Prussia itself played a lesser role. As Dwyer (2005) points out, Prussia's "political and cultural influence had diminished considerably" by the 1890s. Its three largest neighbors were rivals Imperial Russia
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 to the east and France
French Third Republic
The French Third Republic was the republican government of France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed due to the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, to 1940, when France was overrun by Nazi Germany during World War II, resulting in the German and Italian occupations of France...

 to the west and ally Austria-Hungary to the south.

After 1850 Germany industrialized rapidly, with a foundation in coal, iron (and later steel), chemicals and railways. From a population of 41 million people in 1871 it grew to 68 million in 1913. From a heavily rural nation in 1815, it was now predominantly urban. During its 47 years of existence, the German Empire operated as an industrial, technological and scientific giant, receiving more Nobel Prizes in science than Britain, France, Russia and the United States combined.

It was a great power
Great power
A great power is a nation or state that has the ability to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength and diplomatic and cultural influence which may cause small powers to consider the opinions of great powers before taking actions...

, with the most powerful army
German Army (German Empire)
The German Army was the name given the combined land forces of the German Empire, also known as the National Army , Imperial Army or Imperial German Army. The term "Deutsches Heer" is also used for the modern German Army, the land component of the German Bundeswehr...

 in the world, and its navy
Kaiserliche Marine
The Imperial German Navy was the German Navy created at the time of the formation of the German Empire. It existed between 1871 and 1919, growing out of the small Prussian Navy and Norddeutsche Bundesmarine, which primarily had the mission of coastal defense. Kaiser Wilhelm II greatly expanded...

 went from negligible to being second only to the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 in less than a decade. After the removal of the powerful Chancellor
Chancellor of Germany
The Chancellor of Germany is, under the German 1949 constitution, the head of government of Germany...

 Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a Prussian-German statesman whose actions unified Germany, made it a major player in world affairs, and created a balance of power that kept Europe at peace after 1871.As Minister President of...

 in 1890 following the death of Emperor Wilhelm I, the young Emperor Wilhelm II engaged in increasingly reckless foreign policies that left the Empire isolated. Its network of small colonies in Africa and the Pacific paled in comparison to the British and French empires. When the great crisis of 1914 arrived, it had only two allies (Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 and Turkey
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

) left. In World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 its plans to quickly capture Paris in 1914 failed and the Western Front
Western Front
Western Front was a term used during the First and Second World Wars to describe the contested armed frontier between lands controlled by Germany to the east and the Allies to the west...

 (against Britain and France) became a stalemate. The British naval blockade made for increasing shortages of food. However Germany defeated Russia, carving out large Eastern territories in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, mediated by South African Andrik Fuller, at Brest-Litovsk between Russia and the Central Powers, headed by Germany, marking Russia's exit from World War I.While the treaty was practically obsolete before the end of the year,...

. Unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917 was designed to strangle the British; it failed because of convoys but did bring the United States into the war, with its large reserves of money, food, and soldiers. The high command under Hindenburg and Ludendorff increasingly controlled the Reich as they gambled on one last offensive in spring 1918
Spring Offensive
The 1918 Spring Offensive or Kaiserschlacht , also known as the Ludendorff Offensive, was a series of German attacks along the Western Front during World War I, beginning on 21 March 1918, which marked the deepest advances by either side since 1914...

 (before the Americans arrived in force). It failed and by October the armies were in retreat, Austria and Turkey had quit, and the German people had lost faith in the political system. The Empire collapsed overnight in the November 1918 Revolution as all the royals abdicated and a republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

 took over.

Background


The German Confederation
German Confederation
The German Confederation was the loose association of Central European states created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries. It acted as a buffer between the powerful states of Austria and Prussia...

 was created by an act the Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna
The Congress of Vienna was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September, 1814 to June, 1815. The objective of the Congress was to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars,...

 on 8 June 1815 as a result of the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

, after being alluded to in Article 6 of the 1814 Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1814)
The Treaty of Paris, signed on 30 May 1814, ended the war between France and the Sixth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars, following an armistice signed on 23 May between Charles, Count of Artois, and the allies...

.

German nationalism rapidly shifted from its liberal and democratic character in 1848, called Pan-Germanism
Pan-Germanism
Pan-Germanism is a pan-nationalist political idea. Pan-Germanists originally sought to unify the German-speaking populations of Europe in a single nation-state known as Großdeutschland , where "German-speaking" was taken to include the Low German, Frisian and Dutch-speaking populations of the Low...

, to Prussian
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

 prime minister Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a Prussian-German statesman whose actions unified Germany, made it a major player in world affairs, and created a balance of power that kept Europe at peace after 1871.As Minister President of...

's pragmatic Realpolitik
Realpolitik
Realpolitik refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on power and on practical and material factors and considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic or ethical premises...

. Bismarck sought to extend Hohenzollern
House of Hohenzollern
The House of Hohenzollern is a noble family and royal dynasty of electors, kings and emperors of Prussia, Germany and Romania. It originated in the area around the town of Hechingen in Swabia during the 11th century. They took their name from their ancestral home, the Burg Hohenzollern castle near...

 hegemony throughout the German states; to do so meant unification of the German states and the elimination of Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

's rival, Austria
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

, from the subsequent empire. He envisioned a conservative, Prussian-dominated Germany. Three wars led to military successes and helped to persuade German people to do this: the Second war of Schleswig
Second War of Schleswig
The Second Schleswig War was the second military conflict as a result of the Schleswig-Holstein Question. It began on 1 February 1864, when Prussian forces crossed the border into Schleswig.Denmark fought Prussia and Austria...

 against Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 in 1864, the Austro-Prussian War
Austro-Prussian War
The Austro-Prussian War was a war fought in 1866 between the German Confederation under the leadership of the Austrian Empire and its German allies on one side and the Kingdom of Prussia with its German allies and Italy on the...

 in 1866, and the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

 against France
Second French Empire
The Second French Empire or French Empire was the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.-Rule of Napoleon III:...

 in 1870–71.

The German Confederation
German Confederation
The German Confederation was the loose association of Central European states created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries. It acted as a buffer between the powerful states of Austria and Prussia...

 ended as a result of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 between the constituent Confederation entities of the Austrian Empire
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

 and its allies on one side and the Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

 and its allies on the other. The war resulted in the Confederation being partially replaced by a North German Confederation
North German Confederation
The North German Confederation 1866–71, was a federation of 22 independent states of northern Germany. It was formed by a constitution accepted by the member states in 1867 and controlled military and foreign policy. It included the new Reichstag, a parliament elected by universal manhood...

 in 1867 which included Prussia but excluded Austria and the South German states. During November 1870 the four southern states joined the North German Confederation by treaty.

Empire


On 10 December 1870 the North German Confederation
North German Confederation
The North German Confederation 1866–71, was a federation of 22 independent states of northern Germany. It was formed by a constitution accepted by the member states in 1867 and controlled military and foreign policy. It included the new Reichstag, a parliament elected by universal manhood...

 Reichstag renamed the Confederation as the German Empire and gave the title of German Emperor
German Emperor
This article is about the emperors of the German Empire. For full list of German monarchs before 1871, see List of German monarchs.The German Emperor was the official title of the Head of State and ruler of the German Empire, beginning with the proclamation of Wilhelm I as emperor during the...

 to the King of Prussia
King of Prussia
King of Prussia may refer to:* A ruler of the former German state of Prussia**List of rulers of Prussia* Place names** King of Prussia, Pennsylvania* Shopping Centers** King of Prussia Mall...

 as President of the Confederation. During the Siege of Paris
Siege of Paris
The Siege of Paris, lasting from September 19, 1870 – January 28, 1871, and the consequent capture of the city by Prussian forces led to French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the establishment of the German Empire as well as the Paris Commune....

 on 18 January 1871, King Wilhelm I of Prussia was proclaimed German Emperor in the Hall of Mirrors
Hall of Mirrors (Palace of Versailles)
The Hall of Mirrors is the central gallery of the Palace of Versailles and is renowned as being one of the most famous rooms in the world.As the principal and most remarkable feature of King Louis XIV of France's third building campaign of the Palace of Versailles , construction of the Hall of...

 at the Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles , or simply Versailles, is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France. In French it is the Château de Versailles....

.

The 1871 German Constitution
Constitution of the German Empire
The Constitution of the German Empire was the basic law of the German Empire of 1871-1919, enacted 16 April 1871. German historians often refer to it as Bismarck's imperial constitution....

 was adopted by the Reichstag on 14 April 1871 and proclaimed by the Emperor on 16 April, which was substantially based upon Bismarck's North German Constitution
North German Constitution
The North German Constitution was the constitution of the North German Confederation, which existed from 1867 to 1871. The Constitution of the German Empire was closely based upon it....

. Germany acquired some democratic features. The new empire had a parliament with two houses. The lower house, or Reichstag
Reichstag (German Empire)
The Reichstag was the parliament of the North German Confederation , and of the German Reich ....

, was elected by universal male suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

. However, the original constituencies drawn in 1871 were never redrawn to reflect the growth of urban areas. As a result, by the time of the great expansion of German cities in the 1890s and first decade of the 20th century, rural areas were grossly overrepresented.

Legislation also required the consent of the Bundesrat
Bundesrat of Germany
The German Bundesrat is a legislative body that represents the sixteen Länder of Germany at the federal level...

, the federal council of deputies from the states. Executive power was vested in the emperor, or Kaiser (Caesar), who was assisted by a chancellor responsible only to him. The emperor was given extensive powers by the constitution. He alone appointed and dismissed the chancellor, was supreme commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and final arbiter of all foreign affairs. Officially, the chancellor was a one-man cabinet
Cabinet (government)
A Cabinet is a body of high ranking government officials, typically representing the executive branch. It can also sometimes be referred to as the Council of Ministers, an Executive Council, or an Executive Committee.- Overview :...

 and was responsible for the conduct of all state affairs; in practice, the State Secretaries (bureaucratic top officials in charge of such fields as finance, war, foreign affairs, etc.) acted as unofficial portfolio ministers. The Reichstag had the power to pass, amend or reject bills and to initiate legislation.

Although nominally a league of equals, in practice the empire was dominated by the largest and most powerful state, Prussia. It stretched across the northern two thirds of the new Reich, and contained three fifths of its population. The imperial crown was hereditary in the House of Hohenzollern
House of Hohenzollern
The House of Hohenzollern is a noble family and royal dynasty of electors, kings and emperors of Prussia, Germany and Romania. It originated in the area around the town of Hechingen in Swabia during the 11th century. They took their name from their ancestral home, the Burg Hohenzollern castle near...

, the ruling house of Prussia. With the exception of the years 1872–1873 and 1892–1894, the chancellor was always simultaneously the prime minister of Prussia. With 17 out of 58 votes in the Bundesrat, Berlin needed only a few votes from the small states to exercise effective control.

The other states retained their own governments, but had only limited aspects of sovereignty. For example, both postage stamps and currency were issued for the empire as a whole. Coins through one mark was also minted in the name of the empire, while higher valued pieces were issued by the states. But these larger gold and silver issues were virtually commemorative coins and had limited circulation.

While the states issued their own decoration
Military decoration
A military decoration is a decoration given to military personnel or units for heroism in battle or distinguished service. They are designed to be worn on military uniform....

s, and some had their own armies, the military forces of the smaller ones were put under Prussian control. Those of the larger states, such as the Kingdoms of Bavaria and Saxony, were coordinated along Prussian principles and would in wartime be controlled by the federal government.

The evolution of the German Empire is somewhat in line with parallel developments in Italy which became a united nation state shortly before the German Empire. Some key elements of the German Empire's authoritarian political structure were also the basis for conservative modernization in Imperial Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

 under Meiji and the preservation of an authoritarian political structure under the Tsar
Tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

s in the Russian Empire.

One factor in the social anatomy of these governments had been the retention of a very substantial share in political power by the landed elite, the Junker
Junker
A Junker was a member of the landed nobility of Prussia and eastern Germany. These families were mostly part of the German Uradel and carried on the colonization and Christianization of the northeastern European territories during the medieval Ostsiedlung. The abbreviation of Junker is Jkr...

s, resulting from the absence of a revolutionary breakthrough by the peasants in combination with urban areas.

Although authoritarian in many respects, the empire permitted the development of political parties. Bismarck's intention was to create a constitutional façade which would mask the continuation of authoritarian policies. In the process, he created a system with a serious flaw. There was a significant disparity between the Prussian and German electoral systems. Prussia used a highly restrictive three-class voting system
Prussian three-class franchise
After the 1848 revolutions in the German states, the Prussian three-class franchise system was introduced in 1849 by the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV for the election of the Lower House of the Prussian state parliament. It was completely abolished only in 1918...

 in which the richest third of the population could choose 85% of the legislature, all but assuring 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 the same rulers had to seek majorities from legislatures elected from completely different franchises.

Industrial power


For 30 years, Germany struggled with Britain to be Europe's leading industrial power, though both fell behind the United States. Representative of Germany`s industry was the steel giant Krupp
Krupp
The Krupp family , a prominent 400-year-old German dynasty from Essen, have become famous for their steel production and for their manufacture of ammunition and armaments. The family business, known as Friedrich Krupp AG Hoesch-Krupp, was the largest company in Europe at the beginning of the 20th...

, whose first factory was built in Essen
Essen
- Origin of the name :In German-speaking countries, the name of the city Essen often causes confusion as to its origins, because it is commonly known as the German infinitive of the verb for the act of eating, and/or the German noun for food. Although scholars still dispute the interpretation of...

. By 1902, the factory alone became "A great city with its own streets, its own police force, fire department and traffic laws. There are 150 kilometres of rail, 60 different factory buildings, 8,500 machine tools, seven electrical stations, 140 kilometres of underground cable and 46 overhead."

Under Bismarck, Germany was a world innovator in building the welfare state
Welfare state
A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those...

. German workers enjoyed sickness, accident and maternity benefits, canteens, changing rooms and a national pension scheme.

Constituent states of the Empire





Before unification, German territory was made up of 27 constituent state
Constituent state
A constituent state, constituent entity, or constituent part, is a territorial and constitutional entity forming part of a sovereign state...

s. These states consisted of kingdoms, grand duchies, duchies, principalities, free Hanseatic
Hanseaten (class)
The Hanseaten is a collective term for the heirachy group consisting of elite individuals and families of prestigious rank who constituted the ruling class of the free imperial city of Hamburg, conjointly with the equal First Families of the free imperial cities Bremen and Lübeck...

 cities and one imperial territory. The Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

 was the largest of the constituent states, covering some 60% of the territory of the German Empire.

Several of these states had gained sovereignty following the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

. Others were created as sovereign states after the Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna
The Congress of Vienna was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September, 1814 to June, 1815. The objective of the Congress was to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars,...

 in 1815. Territories were not necessarily contiguous – many existed in several parts, as a result of historical acquisition, or, in several cases, divisions of the ruling family trees.

Each component of the German Empire sent representatives to the Imperial Council (Bundesrat) and the Imperial Diet (Reichstag). Relations between the Imperial centre and the Empire's components were somewhat fluid, and were developed on an ongoing basis. The extent to which the Emperor could, for example, intervene on occasions of disputed or unclear succession was much debated on occasion – for example with the Lippe-Detmold
Principality of Lippe
Lippe was a historical state in Germany. It was located between the Weser River and the southeast part of the Teutoburg forest.-History:...

 inheritance crisis.

Linguistic minorities in the German Empire


About 92% of the population spoke German as their first language. The only minority language with a significant number of speakers (5.4%) was Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

.

Polish and other Slavic speakers
Slavic languages
The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...

 (6.28%) lived chiefly in the east.

A few (0.5%) spoke French, especially in the Reichsland Elsass-Lothringen, where it formed 11.6% of the total population.
Language
Count Percentage
German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

51,883,131 92.05
German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 and a foreign language
252,918 0.45
Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

3,086,489 5.48
French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

211,679 0.38
Masurian 142,049 0.25
Danish
Danish language
Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in the country of Denmark. It is also spoken by 50,000 Germans of Danish ethnicity in the northern parts of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, where it holds the status of minority language...

141,061 0.25
Lithuanian
Lithuanian language
Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

106,305 0.19
Kashubian
Kashubian language
Kashubian or Cassubian is one of the Lechitic languages, a subgroup of the Slavic languages....

100,213 0.18
Wendish (Sorbian)
Sorbian languages
The Sorbian languages are classified under the Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages. They are the native languages of the Sorbs, a Slavic minority in the Lusatia region of eastern Germany. Historically the language has also been known as Wendish or Lusatian. Their collective ISO 639-2 code...

93,032 0.16
Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

80,361 0.14
Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

65,930 0.12
Moravian
Czech language
Czech is a West Slavic language with about 12 million native speakers; it is the majority language in the Czech Republic and spoken by Czechs worldwide. The language was known as Bohemian in English until the late 19th century...

64,382 0.11
Czech
Czech language
Czech is a West Slavic language with about 12 million native speakers; it is the majority language in the Czech Republic and spoken by Czechs worldwide. The language was known as Bohemian in English until the late 19th century...

43,016 0.08
Frisian
North Frisian language
North Frisian is a minority language of Germany, spoken by about 10,000 people in North Frisia. The language is part of the larger group of the West Germanic Frisian languages.-Classification:...

20,677 0.04
English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

20,217 0.04
Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

9,617 0.02
Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

8,998 0.02
Hungarian
Hungarian language
Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

8,158 0.01
Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

2,059 0.00
Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

479 0.00
Other foreign languages 14,535 0.03
Imperial citizens on 1 December 1900 56,367,187 100


Bismarck era



Bismarck's domestic policies played a great role in forging the authoritarian political culture of the Kaiserreich. Less preoccupied by continental power politics following unification in 1871, Germany's semi-parliamentary government carried out a relatively smooth economic and political revolution from above that pushed them along the way towards becoming the world's leading industrial power of the time.

Foreign policy


Bismarck's post-1871 foreign policy was conservative and sought to preserve the balance of power in Europe. His biggest concern was France, which was left defeated and resentful after the Franco-Prussian War. As the French lacked the strength to defeat Germany by themselves, they sought an alliance with Russia, which would trap Germany between the two in a war (as would ultimately happen in 1914). Bismarck wanted to prevent this at all costs and maintain friendly relations with the Russians, and thereby formed an alliance with them and Austria-Hungary (which by the 1880s was being slowly reduced to a German satellite), the Dreikaiserbund (League of Three Emperors). During this period, individuals within the German military were advocating a preemptive strike against Russia, but Bismarck knew that such ideas were foolhardy. He once wrote that "the most brilliant victories would not avail against the Russian nation, because of its climate, its desert, and its frugality, and having but one frontier to defend," and because it would leave Germany with another bitter, resentful neighbor. Bismarck once contrasted his nation's foreign policy difficulties with the easy situation of the U.S. (the only strong power in the Western Hemisphere), saying "The Americans are a very lucky people. They're bordered to the north and south by weak neighbors, and to the east and west by fish."

Meanwhile, the chancellor remained wary of any foreign policy developments that looked even remotely warlike. In 1886, he moved to stop an attempted sale of horses to France on the grounds that they might be used for cavalry and also ordered an investigation into large Russian purchases of medicine from a German chemical works. Bismarck stubbornly refused to listen to Georg Herbert zu Munster (ambassador to France), who reported back that the French were not seeking a revanchist war, and in fact were desperate for peace at all costs.

Bismarck and most of his contemporaries were conservative-minded and focused their foreign policy attention on Germany's neighboring states. In 1914, 60% of German foreign investment was in Europe, as opposed to just 5% of British investment. Most of the money went to developing nations such as Russia that lacked the capital or technical knowledge to industrialize on their own. The construction of the Baghdad Railway
Baghdad Railway
The Baghdad Railway , was built from 1903 to 1940 to connect Berlin with the Ottoman Empire city of Baghdad with a line through modern-day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq....

, financed by German banks, was designed to eventually connect Germany with the Turkish Empire and the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

, but it also collided with British and Russian geopolitical interests.

Colonies



Bismarck secured a number of German colonial possessions during the 1880s in Africa and the Pacific, but he never saw much value in an overseas colonial empire; Germany's colonies remained badly undeveloped. However they excited the interest of the religious-minded, who supported an extensive network of missionaries.

Germans had dreamed of colonial imperialism since 1848. Bismark began the process, and by 1884 had acquired German New Guinea
German New Guinea
German New Guinea was the first part of the German colonial empire. It was a protectorate from 1884 until 1914 when it fell to Australia following the outbreak of the First World War. It consisted of the northeastern part of New Guinea and several nearby island groups...

. By the 1890s, German colonial expansion in Asia and the Pacific (Kiauchau
Jiaozhou Bay
The Jiaozhou Bay is a sea gulf located in Qingdao Prefecture of Shandong Province. It was a German colonial concession from 1898 until 1914....

 in China, the Marianas
Mariana Islands
The Mariana Islands are an arc-shaped archipelago made up by the summits of 15 volcanic mountains in the north-western Pacific Ocean between the 12th and 21st parallels north and along the 145th meridian east...

, the Caroline Islands
Caroline Islands
The Caroline Islands are a widely scattered archipelago of tiny islands in the western Pacific Ocean, to the north of New Guinea. Politically they are divided between the Federated States of Micronesia in the eastern part of the group, and Palau at the extreme western end...

, Samoa
Samoa
Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

) led to frictions with Britain, Russia, Japan and the U.S. The largest colonial enterprises were in Africa, where the harsh treatment of the Nama and Herero in what is now Namibia
Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

 in 1906–07 led to charges of genocide
Herero and Namaqua Genocide
The Herero and Namaqua Genocide is considered to have been the first genocide of the 20th century. It took place between 1904 and 1907 in German South-West Africa , during the scramble for Africa...

 against the Germans.

Railways


Lacking a technological base at first, the Germans imported their engineering and hardware from Britain, but quickly learned the skills needed to operate and expand the railways. In many cities, the new railway shops were the centres of technological awareness and training, so that by 1850, Germany was self-sufficient in meeting the demands of railroad construction, and the railways were a major impetus for the growth of the new steel industry. However, German unification in 1870 stimulated consolidation, nationalisation into state-owned companies, and further rapid growth. Unlike the situation in France, the goal was support of industrialisation, and so heavy lines crisscrossed the Ruhr
Ruhr
The Ruhr is a medium-size river in western Germany , a right tributary of the Rhine.-Description:The source of the Ruhr is near the town of Winterberg in the mountainous Sauerland region, at an elevation of approximately 2,200 feet...

 and other industrial districts, and provided good connections to the major ports of Hamburg
Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 and Bremen
Bremen
The City Municipality of Bremen is a Hanseatic city in northwestern Germany. A commercial and industrial city with a major port on the river Weser, Bremen is part of the Bremen-Oldenburg metropolitan area . Bremen is the second most populous city in North Germany and tenth in Germany.Bremen is...

. By 1880, Germany had 9,400 locomotives pulling 43,000 passengers and 30,000 tons of freight, and forged ahead of France

Industry


Industrialization progressed dynamically in Germany and German manufacturers began to capture domestic markets from British imports, and also to compete with British industry abroad, particularly in the U.S. The German textiles and metal industries had by 1870 surpassed those of Britain in organization and technical efficiency and usurped 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 German industrialization occurred in four waves: the railway wave (1877–86), the dye wave (1887–96), the chemical wave (1897–1902), and the wave of electrical engineering (1903–18). Since Germany industrialized later than Britain, it was able to model its factories after those of Britain, thus making more efficient use of its capital and avoiding legacy methods in its leap to the envelope of technology. Germany invested more heavily than the British in research, especially in the chemistry, motors and electricity. Imperial Germany dominated in physics and chemistry so that one-third of all Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

s went to German inventors and researchers.

The German cartel
Cartel
A cartel is a formal agreement among competing firms. It is a formal organization of producers and manufacturers that agree to fix prices, marketing, and production. Cartels usually occur in an oligopolistic industry, where there is a small number of sellers and usually involve homogeneous products...

 system (known as Konzerne), being significantly concentrated, was able to make more efficient use of capital. Germany was not weighted down with an expensive worldwide empire that needed defense. Following Germany's annexation of Alsace-Lorraine
Alsace-Lorraine
The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871 after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle region of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east...

 in 1871, it absorbed parts of what had been France's industrial base.

By 1900, the German chemical industry dominated the world market for synthetic dyes
Dye
A dye is a colored substance that has an affinity to the substrate to which it is being applied. The dye is generally applied in an aqueous solution, and requires a mordant to improve the fastness of the dye on the fiber....

. The three major firms BASF
BASF
BASF SE is the largest chemical company in the world and is headquartered in Germany. BASF originally stood for Badische Anilin- und Soda-Fabrik . Today, the four letters are a registered trademark and the company is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, London Stock Exchange, and Zurich Stock...

, Bayer
Bayer
Bayer AG is a chemical and pharmaceutical company founded in Barmen , Germany in 1863. It is headquartered in Leverkusen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany and well known for its original brand of aspirin.-History:...

 and Hoechst
Hoechst AG
Hoechst AG was a German chemicals then life-sciences company that became Aventis Deutschland after its merger with France's Rhône-Poulenc S.A. in 1999...

 produced several hundred different dyes, along with the five smaller firms. In 1913, these eight firms produced almost 90% of the world supply of dyestuffs and sold about 80% of their production abroad. The three major firms had also integrated upstream into the production of essential raw materials and they began to expand into other areas of chemistry such as pharmaceuticals
Drug
A drug, broadly speaking, is any substance that, when absorbed into the body of a living organism, alters normal bodily function. There is no single, precise definition, as there are different meanings in drug control law, government regulations, medicine, and colloquial usage.In pharmacology, a...

, photographic film
Photographic film
Photographic film is a sheet of plastic coated with an emulsion containing light-sensitive silver halide salts with variable crystal sizes that determine the sensitivity, contrast and resolution of the film...

, agricultural chemicals
Agrichemical
Agrochemical , a contraction of agricultural chemical, is a generic term for the various chemical products used in agriculture. In most cases, agrichemical refers to the broad range of pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides...

 and electrochemicals
Electrochemistry
Electrochemistry is a branch of chemistry that studies chemical reactions which take place in a solution at the interface of an electron conductor and an ionic conductor , and which involve electron transfer between the electrode and the electrolyte or species in solution.If a chemical reaction is...

. Top-level decision-making was in the hands of professional salaried managers; leading Chandler to call the German dye companies "the world's first truly managerial industrial enterprises". There were many spinoffs from research—such as the pharmaceutical industry, which emerged from chemical research.

By the start of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 (1914–1918), German industry switched to war production. The heaviest demands were on coal and steel for artillery and shell production, and on chemicals for the synthetization of materials that were subject to import restrictions and for chemical weapons and war supplies.

No expansion


The creation of the Empire under Prussian leadership was a victory for the concept of Kleindeutschland (Smaller Germany) over the Großdeutschland concept. This meant that Austria, a multi-ethnic Empire with a considerable German-speaking population, would remain outside of the German nationstate. Bismarck's policy was to support this solution diplomatically. The effective alliance between Germany and Austria played a major role in Germany's decision to enter World War I in 1914.

Bismarck announced there would be no more territorial additions to Germany in Europe, and his diplomacy after 1871 was focused on stabilizing the European system and prevent any wars. He succeeded, and only after his ouster in 1890 did the diplomatic tensions start rising again.

Social issues


After achieving formal unification in 1871, Bismarck devoted much of his attention to the cause of national unity under the ideology of Prussianism. He opposed conservative Catholic activism and emancipation, especially the powers of the Vatican
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 under Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX
Blessed Pope Pius IX , born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, was the longest-reigning elected Pope in the history of the Catholic Church, serving from 16 June 1846 until his death, a period of nearly 32 years. During his pontificate, he convened the First Vatican Council in 1869, which decreed papal...

, and working class radicalism, represented by the emerging Social Democratic Party
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

.

Kulturkampf



Prussia in 1871 included 16,000,000 Protestants, both Reformed and Lutheran, and 8,000,000 Catholics. Most people were generally segregated into their own religious worlds, living in rural districts or city neighborhoods that were overwhelmingly of the same religion, and sending their children to separate public schools where their religion was taught. There was little interaction or intermarriage. On the whole, the Protestants had a higher social status, and the Catholics were more likely to be peasant farmers or unskilled or semiskilled industrial workers. In 1870, the Catholics formed their own political party, the Centre Party
Centre Party (Germany)
The German Centre Party was a Catholic political party in Germany during the Kaiserreich and the Weimar Republic. Formed in 1870, it battled the Kulturkampf which the Prussian government launched to reduce the power of the Catholic Church...

, 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 gaining support among dissident elements such as the Polish Catholics in Silesia. A powerful intellectual force of the time was anti-Catholicism, led by the liberal intellectuals who formed a vital part of Bismarck's coalition. They saw the Catholic Church as a powerful force of reaction and anti-modernity, especially after the proclamation of papal infallibility in 1870, and the tightening control of the Vatican over the local bishops.

The Kulturkampf launched by Bismarck 1871–1880 affected Prussia; although there were similar movements in Baden and Hesse, the rest of Germany was not affected. According to the new imperial constitution, the states were in charge of religious and educational affairs; they funded the Protestant and Catholic schools. In July 1871 Bismarck abolished the Catholic section of the Prussian Ministry of ecclesiastical and educational affairs, depriving Catholics of their voice at the highest level. The system of strict government supervision of schools was applied only in Catholic areas; the Protestant schools were left alone.

Much more serious were the May laws of 1873. One made the appointment of any priest dependent on his attendance at a German university, as opposed to the seminaries that the Catholics typically used. Furthermore, all candidates for the ministry had to pass an examination in German culture before a state board which weeded out intransigent Catholics. Another provision gave the government a veto power over most church activities. A second law abolished the jurisdiction of the Vatican over the Catholic Church in Prussia; its authority was transferred to a government body controlled by Protestants.

Nearly all German bishops, clergy, and laymen rejected the legality of the new laws, and were defiant in the face of heavier and heavier penalties and imprisonments imposed by Bismarck's government by 1876, all the Prussian bishops were imprisoned or in exile, and a third of the Catholic parishes were without a priest. In the face of systematic defiance, the Bismarck government increased the penalties and its attacks, and were challenged in 1875 when a papal encyclical declared the whole ecclesiastical legislation of Prussia was invalid, and threatened to excommunicate any Catholic who obeyed. There was no violence, but the Catholics mobilized their support, set up numerous civic organizations, raised money to pay fines, and rallied behind their church and the Centre Party. The government had set up an "Old-Catholic Church," which attracted only a few thousand members. Bismarck, a devout pietistic Protestant, realized his Kulturkampf was backfiring when secular and socialist elements used the opportunity to attack all religion. In the long run, the most significant result was the mobilization of the Catholic voters, and their insistence on protecting their religious identity. In the elections of 1874, the Centre party doubled its popular vote, and became the second-largest party in the national parliament—and remained a powerful force for the next 60 years, so that after Bismarck it became difficult to form a government without their support.

Social reform


Bismark built on a tradition of welfare programs in Prussia and Saxony that began as early as in the 1840s. In the 1880s he introduced old age pensions, accident insurance, medical care and unemployment insurance that formed the basis of the modern European welfare state. He came to realize that this sort of policy was very appealing, since it bound workers to the state, and also fit in very well with his authoritarian nature. The social security systems installed by Bismarck (health care in 1883, accident insurance in 1884, invalidity and old-age insurance in 1889) at the time were the largest in the world and, to a degree, 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 for the Empire and reduce the outflow of immigrants to America, where wages were higher but welfare did not exist. Bismarck further won the support of both industry and skilled workers by his high tariff policies, which protected profits and wages from American competition, although they alienated the liberal intellectuals who wanted free trade.
Germanisation

One of the effects of the unification policies was the gradually increasing tendency to eliminate the use of non-German languages in public life, schools and academic settings with the intent of pressuring the non-German population to abandon their national identity in what was called "Germanization". These policies had often the reverse effect of stimulating resistance, usually in the form of home schooling and tighter unity in the minority groups, especially the Poles.

The Germanization policies were targeted particularly against the significant Polish minority
Germanisation of Poles during Partitions
After partitioning Poland in the end of 18th century, the Kingdom of Prussia and later German Empire imposed a number of Germanisation policies and measures in the newly gained territories, aimed at limiting the Polish ethnic presence in these areas...

 of the empire, gained by Prussia in the Partitions of Poland
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

. Poles were treated as a ethnic minority even where they made up the majority, as in the Province of Posen
Province of Posen
The Province of Posen was a province of Prussia from 1848–1918 and as such part of the German Empire from 1871 to 1918. The area was about 29,000 km2....

, where a series of anti-Polish measures were enforced. Numerous anti-Polish laws had no great effect especially in the province of Posen
Province of Posen
The Province of Posen was a province of Prussia from 1848–1918 and as such part of the German Empire from 1871 to 1918. The area was about 29,000 km2....

 where the German-speaking population dropped from 42.8% in 1871 to 38.1% in 1905, despite all efforts.

Anti-Semitism


Anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitism
Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

 was an endemic problem in Germany. Before Napoleon's decrees ended the ghettos in Germany, it had been religiously-motivated, but by the 19th century, it was a factor in German nationalism. The last legal barriers on Jews in Prussia were lifted by the 1860s, and within 20 years, they were well represented in the white-collar professions and much of academia. Despite the often crude anti-Semitism of German elites such as Bismarck, many of them utilized the services of Jews, such as Bismarck's banker Gerson Bleichroder (1822–1893). In the popular mind Jews became a symbol of capitalism and modernity, two things that were resented by the Prussian aristocracy, who were finding their power and prestige rapidly diminished in the new, unified Germany. On the other hand, the constitution and legal system protected the rights of Jews as German citizens. Anti-Semitic parties were formed but soon collapsed.

Law


Bismarck's efforts also initiated the levelling of the enormous differences between the German states, which had been independent in their evolution for centuries, especially with legislation
Legislation
Legislation is law which has been promulgated by a legislature or other governing body, or the process of making it...

. The completely different legal histories and judicial systems posed enormous complications, especially for national trade. While a common trade code had already been introduced by the Confederation
German Confederation
The German Confederation was the loose association of Central European states created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries. It acted as a buffer between the powerful states of Austria and Prussia...

 in 1861 (which was adapted for the Empire and, with great modifications, is still in effect today), there was little similarity in laws otherwise.

In 1871, a common Criminal Code (Reichsstrafgesetzbuch) was introduced; in 1877, common court procedures were established in the court system (Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz), civil procedures (Zivilprozessordnung) and criminal procedures (Strafprozessordnung). In 1873 the constitution was amended to allow the Empire to replace the various and greatly differing Civil Codes of the states (If they existed at all; for example, parts of Germany formerly occupied by Napoleon's France had adopted the French Civil Code, while in Prussia the Allgemeines Preußisches Landrecht of 1794 was still in effect). In 1881, a first commission was established to produce a common Civil Code for all of the Empire, an enormous effort that would produce the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB), possibly one of the most impressive legal works of the world; it was eventually put into effect on 1 January 1900. It speaks volumes for the conceptual quality of these codifications that they all, albeit with many amendments, are still in effect today.

Year of three emperors



On 9 March 1888, Wilhelm I died shortly before his 91st birthday, leaving his son Frederick III
Frederick III, German Emperor
Frederick III was German Emperor and King of Prussia for 99 days in 1888, the Year of the Three Emperors. Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl known informally as Fritz, was the only son of Emperor William I and was raised in his family's tradition of military service...

 as the new emperor. Frederick was a liberal and an admirer of the British constitution, while his links to Britain strengthened further with his marriage to Princess Victoria
Victoria, Princess Royal
The Princess Victoria, Princess Royal was the eldest child of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert. She was created Princess Royal of the United Kingdom in 1841. She became German Empress and Queen of Prussia by marriage to German Emperor Frederick III...

, eldest child of Queen Victoria
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

. With his ascent to the throne, many hoped that Frederick's reign would lead to a liberalisation of the Reich and an increase of parliament's influence on the political process. The dismissal of Robert von Puttkamer, the highly-conservative Prussian interior minister
Interior Minister of Prussia
This page lists Prussian Ministers of the Interior. See also Interior Ministers of Germany.-Prussian Ministers of the Interior, 1808-1918:*Count Alexander von Dohna-Schlobitten 1808-1810*Count Karl August von Hardenberg 1810-1814...

, on 8 June was a sign of the expected direction and a blow to Bismarck's administration.

By the time of his accession, however, Frederick had developed incurable laryngeal cancer, which had been diagnosed in 1887. He died on the 99th day of his rule, on 15 June 1888. His son Wilhelm II became emperor.

Reaffirmation of prerogative monarchy, and Bismarck's resignation


Wilhelm II sought to reassert his ruling prerogatives at a time when other monarchs in Europe were being transformed into constitutional figureheads. This decision led the ambitious Kaiser into conflict with Bismarck. The old chancellor had hoped to guide Wilhelm as he had guided his grandfather, but the emperor wanted to be the master in his own house and had many sycophants telling him that Frederick the Great would not have been great with a Bismarck at his side. A key difference between Wilhelm II and Bismarck was their approaches to handling political crises, especially in 1889, when German coal miners went on strike in Upper Silesia
Upper Silesia
Upper Silesia is the southeastern part of the historical and geographical region of Silesia. Since the 9th century, Upper Silesia has been part of Greater Moravia, the Duchy of Bohemia, the Piast Kingdom of Poland, again of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown and the Holy Roman Empire, as well as of...

. Bismarck demanded that the German Army
German Army (German Empire)
The German Army was the name given the combined land forces of the German Empire, also known as the National Army , Imperial Army or Imperial German Army. The term "Deutsches Heer" is also used for the modern German Army, the land component of the German Bundeswehr...

 be sent in to crush the strike, but Wilhelm II rejected this authoritarian measure, responding "I do not wish to stain my reign with the blood of my subjects." Instead of condoning repression, Wilhelm had the government negotiate with a delegation from the coal miners, which brought the strike to an end without violence. The fractious relationship ended in March 1890, after Wilhelm II and Bismarck quarrelled, and the chancellor resigned days later. Bismarck's last few years had seen power slip from his hands as he grew older, more irritable, more authoritarian, and less focused. German politics had become progressively more chaotic, and the chancellor understood this better than anyone. But unlike Wilhelm II and his generation, Bismarck knew well that an ungovernable country with an adventurous foreign policy was a recipe for disaster.

With Bismarck's departure, Wilhelm II became the dominant ruler of Germany. Unlike his grandfather, Wilhelm I, who had been largely content to leave government affairs to the chancellor, Wilhelm II wanted to be fully informed and actively involved in running Germany, not an ornamental figurehead, although most Germans found his claims of divine right to rule amusing. Wilhelm allowed politician Walther Rathenau
Walther Rathenau
Walther Rathenau was a German Jewish industrialist, politician, writer, and statesman who served as Foreign Minister of Germany during the Weimar Republic...

 to tutor him in European economics and industrial and financial realities in Europe.

As Hull (2004) notes, Bismarkean foreign policy "was too sedate for the reckless Kaiser." Wilhelm became internationally notorious for his aggressive stance on foreign policy and his strategic blunders (such as the Tangier Crisis
First Moroccan Crisis
The First Moroccan Crisis was the international crisis over the international status of Morocco between March 1905 and May 1906. Germany resented France's increasing dominance of Morocco, and insisted on an open door policy that would allow German business access to its market...

), which pushed the German Empire into growing political isolation and eventually helped to cause World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

.

Domestic affairs


Under Wilhelm II, Germany no longer had long-ruling strong chancellors like Bismarck. The new chancellors had difficulty in performing their roles, especially the additional role as Prime Minister of Prussia
Prime Minister of Prussia
The office of Minister President or Prime Minister of Prussia existed in one form or another from 1702 until the dissolution of Prussia in 1947. When Prussia was an independent kingdom the Minister President or Prime Minister functioned as the King's Chief Minister and presided over the Prussian...

 assigned to them in the German Constitution. The reforms of Chancellor Leo von Caprivi
Leo von Caprivi
Georg Leo Graf von Caprivi de Caprera de Montecuccoli was a German major general and statesman, who succeeded Otto von Bismarck as Chancellor of Germany...

, which liberalized trade and so reduced unemployment, were supported by the Kaiser and most Germans except for Prussian landowners, who feared loss of land and power and launched several campaigns against the reforms.

While Prussian aristocrats challenged the demands of a united German state, in the 1890s several organizations were set up to challenge the authoritarian conservative Prussian militarism which was being imposed on the country. Educators opposed to the German state-run schools, which emphasized military education, set up their own independent liberal schools, which encouraged individuality and freedom. However nearly all the schools in Imperial Germany had a very high standard and kept abreast with modern developments in knowledge.

Artists began experimental art in opposition to Kaiser Wilhelm's support for traditional art, to which Wilhelm responded "art which transgresses the laws and limits laid down by me can no longer be called art [...]." It was largely thanks to Wilhelm's influence that most printed material in Germany used blackletter
Blackletter
Blackletter, also known as Gothic script, Gothic minuscule, or Textura, was a script used throughout Western Europe from approximately 1150 to well into the 17th century. It continued to be used for the German language until the 20th century. Fraktur is a notable script of this type, and sometimes...

 instead of the Roman type used in the rest of Western Europe. At the same time, a new generation of cultural creators emerged.

From the 1890s onwards, the most effective opposition to the monarchy came from the newly formed Social Democratic Party of Germany
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

 (SPD), which advocated Marxism
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

. The threat of the SPD to the German monarchy and industrialists caused the state both to crack down on the party's supporters and to implement its own programme of social reform to soothe discontent. Germany's large industries provided significant social welfare programmes and good care to their employees, as long as they were not identified as socialists or trade-union members. The larger industrial firms provided pensions, sickness benefits and even housing to their employees.

Having learned from the failure of Bismarck's Kulturkampf
Kulturkampf
The German term refers to German policies in relation to secularity and the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, enacted from 1871 to 1878 by the Prime Minister of Prussia, Otto von Bismarck. The Kulturkampf did not extend to the other German states such as Bavaria...

, Wilhelm II maintained good relations with the Roman Catholic Church and concentrated on opposing socialism. This policy failed when the Social Democrats won ⅓ of the votes in the 1912 elections to the Reichstag, and became the largest political party in Germany. The government remained in the hands of a succession of conservative coalitions supported by right-wing liberals or Catholic clerics and heavily dependent on the Kaiser's favour. The rising militarism under Wilhelm II caused many Germans to emigrate to the U.S. and the British colonies to escape mandatory military service.

During World War I, the Kaiser increasingly devolved his powers to the leaders of the German High Command, particularly future President of Germany
President of Germany
The President of the Federal Republic of Germany is the country's head of state. His official title in German is Bundespräsident . Germany has a parliamentary system of government and so the position of President is largely ceremonial...

, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg , known universally as Paul von Hindenburg was a Prussian-German field marshal, statesman, and politician, and served as the second President of Germany from 1925 to 1934....

 and Generalquartiermeister Erich Ludendorff
Erich Ludendorff
Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff was a German general, victor of Liège and of the Battle of Tannenberg...

. Hindenburg took over the role of commander–in–chief from the Kaiser, while Ludendorff became de facto general chief of staff. By 1916, Germany was effectively a military dictatorship run by Hindenburg and Ludendorff, with the Kaiser reduced to a mere figurehead.

Foreign affairs


Wilhelm II wanted Germany to have her "place in the sun," like Britain, which he constantly wished to emulate or rival . With German traders and merchants already active worldwide, he encouraged colonial efforts in Africa and the Pacific ("new imperialism
New Imperialism
New Imperialism refers to the colonial expansion adopted by Europe's powers and, later, Japan and the United States, during the 19th and early 20th centuries; expansion took place from the French conquest of Algeria until World War I: approximately 1830 to 1914...

"), causing the German Empire to vie with other European powers for remaining "unclaimed" territories. With the encouragement or at least the acquiescence of Britain, which at this stage saw Germany as a counterweight to her old rival France, Germany acquired German Southwest Africa
German South-West Africa
German South West Africa was a colony of Germany from 1884 until 1915, when it was taken over by South Africa and administered as South West Africa, finally becoming Namibia in 1990...

 (today Namibia
Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

), German Kamerun
Kamerun
German Cameroon was a West African colony of the German Empire from 1884 to 1916 in the region of today's Republic of Cameroon.-History:-1800s:...

 (Cameroon
Cameroon
Cameroon, officially the Republic of Cameroon , is a country in west Central Africa. It is bordered by Nigeria to the west; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo to the south. Cameroon's coastline lies on the...

), Togoland
Togoland
Togoland was a German protectorate in West Africa from 1884 to 1914, encompassing what is now the nation of Togo and most of what is now the Volta Region of Ghana. The colony was established during the period generally known as the "Scramble for Africa"...

 and German East Africa
German East Africa
German East Africa was a German colony in East Africa, which included what are now :Burundi, :Rwanda and Tanganyika . Its area was , nearly three times the size of Germany today....

 (the mainland part of current Tanzania
Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...

). Islands were gained in the Pacific through purchase and treaties and also a 99-year lease for the territory of Kiautschou in northeast China. But of these German colonies only Togoland and German Samoa
German Samoa
German Samoa was a German protectorate from 1900 to 1914, consisting of the islands of Upolu, Savai'i, Apolima and Manono, now wholly within the independent state Samoa, formerly Western Samoa...

 (after 1908) became self-sufficient and profitable; all the others required subsidies from the Berlin treasury for building infrastructure, school systems, hospitals and other institutions. An attempt to expand into the Americas by establishing a colony near Curaçao as part of the German Caribbean
German Caribbean
The German Caribbean was an unsuccessful imperial project undertaken by German colonists and the Reichsmarine during the late nineteenth century to establish a trading and military base in the West Indies...

 colony was undertaken in 1888, but failed.
Bismarck had originally dismissed the agitation for colonies with contempt; he favoured a Eurocentric foreign policy, as the treaty arrangements made during his tenure in office show. As a latecomer to colonization, 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. Native insurrections in German territories received prominent coverage in other countries, especially in Britain; the established powers had dealt with such uprisings decades earlier, often brutally, and had secured firm control of their colonies by then. The Boxer Rising
Boxer Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion, also called the Boxer Uprising by some historians or the Righteous Harmony Society Movement in northern China, was a proto-nationalist movement by the "Righteous Harmony Society" , or "Righteous Fists of Harmony" or "Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists" , in China between...

 in China, which the Chinese government eventually sponsored, began in the Shandong province, in part because Germany, as colonizer at Kiautschou, was an untested power and had only been active there for two years. Eight western nations, including the United States, mounted a joint relief force to rescue westerners caught up in the rebellion; and during the departure ceremonies for the German contingent, Wilhelm II urged them to behave like the Hun invaders of continental Europe – an unfortunate remark that would later be resurrected by British propagandists to paint Germans as barbarians during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. On two occasions, a French-German conflict over the fate of Morocco seemed inevitable.

Upon acquiring Southwest Africa, German settlers were encouraged to cultivate land held by the Herero and Nama
Namaqua
Nama are an African ethnic group of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. They traditionally speak the Nama language of the Khoe-Kwadi language family, although many Nama now speak Afrikaans. The Nama are the largest group of the Khoikhoi people, most of whom have largely disappeared as a group,...

. Herero and Nama tribal lands were used for a variety of exploitive goals (much as the British did before in Rhodesia
Rhodesia
Rhodesia , officially the Republic of Rhodesia from 1970, was an unrecognised state located in southern Africa that existed between 1965 and 1979 following its Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965...

), including farming, ranching, and mining for minerals and diamonds. In 1904, the Herero and the Nama revolted against the colonists in Southwest Africa, killing farm families, their laborers and servants. In response to the attacks, troops were dispatched to quell the uprising which then resulted in the Herero and Namaqua Genocide
Herero and Namaqua Genocide
The Herero and Namaqua Genocide is considered to have been the first genocide of the 20th century. It took place between 1904 and 1907 in German South-West Africa , during the scramble for Africa...

. In total, some 65,000 Herero (80% of the total Herero population), and 10,000 Nama (50% of the total Nama population) perished. The commander of the punitive expedition, General Lothar von Trotha
Lothar von Trotha
Adrian Dietrich Lothar von Trotha was a German military commander widely condemned for his conduct of the Herero Wars in South-West Africa, especially for the events that led to the near-extermination of the Herero....

, was eventually relieved and reprimanded for his usurpation of orders and the cruelties he inflicted. These occurrences were sometimes referred to as "the first genocide of the 20th century" and officially condemned by the United Nations in 1985. In 2004 a formal apology by a government minister of the Federal Republic of Germany followed.

Middle East


Bismarck and Wilhelm II after him sought closer economic ties with the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. Under Wilhelm, with the financial backing of the Deutsche Bank
Deutsche Bank
Deutsche Bank AG is a global financial service company with its headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. It employs more than 100,000 people in over 70 countries, and has a large presence in Europe, the Americas, Asia Pacific and the emerging markets...

, the Baghdad Railway
Baghdad Railway
The Baghdad Railway , was built from 1903 to 1940 to connect Berlin with the Ottoman Empire city of Baghdad with a line through modern-day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq....

 was begun in 1900, although by 1914 it was still 500 km (310.7 mi) short of its destination in Baghdad. In an interview with Wilhelm in 1899, Cecil Rhodes had tried "to convince the Kaiser that the future of the German empire abroad lay in the Middle East" and not in Africa; with a grand Middle-Eastern empire, Germany could afford to allow Britain the unhindered completion of the Cape-to-Cairo railway that Rhodes favoured. Britain initially supported the Baghdad Railway; but by 1911 British statesmen came to fear it might be extended to Basra on the Persian Gulf, threatening Britain's naval supremacy in the Indian Ocean. Accordingly they asked to have construction halted, to which Germany and the Ottoman Empire acquiesced.

Europe


Wilhelm II and his advisers committed a fatal diplomatic error when they allowed the "reinsurance treaty" that Bismarck had negotiated with Tsarist Russia to lapse. Germany was left with no firm ally but Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

, and her support for Austria's action in annexing Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina , sometimes called Bosnia-Herzegovina or simply Bosnia, is a country in Southern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula. Bordered by Croatia to the north, west and south, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina is almost landlocked, except for the...

 in 1908 further soured relations with Russia. Wilhelm missed the opportunity to secure an alliance with Britain in the 1890s when it was involved in colonial rivalries with France, and he alienated British statesmen further by openly supporting the Boers in the South African War and building a navy to rival Britain's. By 1911 Wilhelm had completely picked apart the careful power balance established by Bismarck and Britain turned to France in the Entente Cordiale
Entente Cordiale
The Entente Cordiale was a series of agreements signed on 8 April 1904 between the United Kingdom and the French Republic. Beyond the immediate concerns of colonial expansion addressed by the agreement, the signing of the Entente Cordiale marked the end of almost a millennium of intermittent...

. Germany's only other ally besides Austria was the Kingdom of Italy
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

, but it remained an ally only pro forma. When war came, Italy saw more benefit in an alliance with Britain, France, and Russia, which, in the secret Treaty of London
Treaty of London
The Treaty of London may refer to:* Treaty of London , which ceded western France to England, repudiated by the Estates-General in Paris on 19 May 1359* Treaty of London , a non-aggression pact between the major European nations...

 in 1915 promised it the frontier districts of Austria where Italians formed the majority of the population and also colonial concessions. Germany did acquire a second ally that same year when the Ottoman Empire entered the war on its side, but in the long run supporting the Ottoman war effort only drained away German resources from the main fronts.

World War I



Map of the World showing the Triple Entente participants in World War I
Participants in World War I
This is a list of countries that participated in World War I, sorted by alphabetical order.-The Entente Forces:Note: The Entente Forces are sometimes also referred to as the Entente Powers or Allies of World War I....

. Those fighting on the Entente's side (at one point or another) are depicted in green, the Central Powers
Central Powers
The Central Powers were one of the two warring factions in World War I , composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria...

 in orange, and neutral countries in gray.

Origins


Following the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke of Austria-Este
Austria-Este
Archduke of Austria-Este and Habsburg-Este are a title and a surname which have been used by several cadet branches of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine to denote a connection with the extinct Italian princely and feudal family of Este and the Duchy of Modena ruled by them...

, Franz Ferdinand by Bosnian Serbs, the Kaiser offered Emperor Franz Joseph full support for Austro-Hungarian plans to invade the Kingdom of Serbia
Kingdom of Serbia
The Kingdom of Serbia was created when Prince Milan Obrenović, ruler of the Principality of Serbia, was crowned King in 1882. The Principality of Serbia was ruled by the Karađorđevic dynasty from 1817 onwards . The Principality, suzerain to the Porte, had expelled all Ottoman troops by 1867, de...

, which Austria-Hungary blamed for the assassination. This unconditional support for Austria-Hungary was called a blank cheque by historians, including German Fritz Fischer
Fritz Fischer
Fritz Fischer was a German historian best known for his analysis of the causes of World War I. Fischer has been described by The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing as the most important German historian of the 20th century.-Biography:Fischer was born in Ludwigsstadt in Bavaria. His...

. Subsequent interpretation – for example at the Versailles Peace Conference – was that this "blank cheque" licensed Austro-Hungarian aggression regardless of the diplomatic consequences, and thus Germany bore responsibility for starting the war, or at least provoking a wider conflict.

Germany began the war by targeting its chief rival, France. Germany saw France as its principal danger on the European continent as it could mobilize much faster than Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and bordered Germany's industrial core in the Rhineland
Rhineland
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

. Unlike Britain and Russia, the French entered the war mainly for revenge against Germany, in particular for France's loss of Alsace-Lorraine
Alsace-Lorraine
The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871 after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle region of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east...

 to Germany in 1871. The German high command knew that France would muster its forces to go into Alsace-Lorraine.

Western Front


Germany did not want to risk lengthy battles along the Franco-German border and instead adopted the Schlieffen Plan
Schlieffen Plan
The Schlieffen Plan was the German General Staff's early 20th century overall strategic plan for victory in a possible future war in which the German Empire might find itself fighting on two fronts: France to the west and Russia to the east...

, a military strategy designed to cripple France by invading Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 and Luxembourg
Luxembourg
Luxembourg , officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , is a landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. It has two principal regions: the Oesling in the North as part of the Ardennes massif, and the Gutland in the south...

, sweeping down towards Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 and encircling and crushing the French forces along the Franco-German border in a quick victory. After defeating France, Germany would turn to attack Russia. The plan required the violation of Belgium's and Luxembourg's official neutrality, which Britain had guaranteed by treaty. However, the Germans had calculated that Britain would enter the war regardless of whether they had formal justification to do so. At first the attack was successful: the German Army
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...

 swept down from Belgium and Luxembourg and was nearly at Paris, at the nearby River Marne. However the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

 and the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 put up a strong resistance to defend Paris at the First Battle of the Marne
First Battle of the Marne
The Battle of the Marne was a First World War battle fought between 5 and 12 September 1914. It resulted in an Allied victory against the German Army under Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke the Younger. The battle effectively ended the month long German offensive that opened the war and had...

 resulting in the German Army retreating.

The aftermath of the First Battle of the Marne
First Battle of the Marne
The Battle of the Marne was a First World War battle fought between 5 and 12 September 1914. It resulted in an Allied victory against the German Army under Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke the Younger. The battle effectively ended the month long German offensive that opened the war and had...

 was a long-held stalemate between the German Army and the Allies in dug-in trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

. Further German attempts to break through deeper into France failed at the two battles of Ypres
Ypres
Ypres is a Belgian municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Ypres and the villages of Boezinge, Brielen, Dikkebus, Elverdinge, Hollebeke, Sint-Jan, Vlamertinge, Voormezele, Zillebeke, and Zuidschote...

 (1st
First Battle of Ypres
The First Battle of Ypres, also called the First Battle of Flanders , was a First World War battle fought for the strategic town of Ypres in western Belgium...

/2nd
Second Battle of Ypres
The Second Battle of Ypres was the first time Germany used poison gas on a large scale on the Western Front in the First World War and the first time a former colonial force pushed back a major European power on European soil, which occurred in the battle of St...

) with huge casualties. German Chief of Staff
Chief of Staff
The title, chief of staff, identifies the leader of a complex organization, institution, or body of persons and it also may identify a Principal Staff Officer , who is the coordinator of the supporting staff or a primary aide to an important individual, such as a president.In general, a chief of...

 Erich von Falkenhayn
Erich von Falkenhayn
Erich von Falkenhayn was a German soldier and Chief of the General Staff during World War I. He became a military writer after World War I.-Early life:...

 decided to break away from the Schlieffen Plan and instead focus on a war of attrition
War of Attrition
The international community and both countries attempted to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict. The Jarring Mission of the United Nations was supposed to ensure that the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 242 would be observed, but by late 1970 it was clear that this mission had been...

 against France. Falkenhayn targeted the ancient city of Verdun
Verdun
Verdun is a city in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department.Verdun is the biggest city in Meuse, although the capital of the department is the slightly smaller city of Bar-le-Duc.- History :...

 because it had been one of the last cities to hold out against the German Army in 1870, and Falkenhayn knew that as a matter of national pride the French would do anything to ensure that it was not taken. He expected that with proper tactics, French losses would be greater than those of the Germans and that continued French commitment of troops to Verdun would "bleed the French Army white" and then allow the German army to take France easily. In 1916, the Battle of Verdun
Battle of Verdun
The Battle of Verdun was one of the major battles during the First World War on the Western Front. It was fought between the German and French armies, from 21 February – 18 December 1916, on hilly terrain north of the city of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France...

 began, with the French positions under constant shelling and poison gas attack and taking large casualties under the assault of overwhelmingly large German forces. However, Falkenhayn's prediction of a greater ratio of French killed proved to be wrong. Falkenhayn was replaced by Erich Ludendorff
Erich Ludendorff
Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff was a German general, victor of Liège and of the Battle of Tannenberg...

, and with no success in sight, the German Army retreated in December 1916.

Eastern Front



While the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

 was a stalemate for the German Army, the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War I)
The Eastern Front was a theatre of war during World War I in Central and, primarily, Eastern Europe. The term is in contrast to the Western Front. Despite the geographical separation, the events in the two theatres strongly influenced each other...

 proved to be a great success. The badly organised and supplied Russian Army
Imperial Russian Army
The Imperial Russian Army was the land armed force of the Russian Empire, active from around 1721 to the Russian Revolution of 1917. In the early 1850s, the Russian army consisted of around 938,731 regular soldiers and 245,850 irregulars . Until the time of military reform of Dmitry Milyutin in...

 faltered and the German and Austro-Hungarian armies steadily advanced eastward. The Germans benefited from political instability in Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and a desire to end the war. In 1917 the German government allowed Russia's communist Bolshevik
Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

 leader Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

 to travel through Germany from Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 into Russia. 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 focus on the Western Front.

In March 1917, the Tsar
Tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

 was ousted from the Russian throne, and in November a Bolshevik
Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

 government came to power under the leadership of Lenin. Facing political opposition to the Bolsheviks, Lenin decided to end Russia's campaign against Germany, Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

, the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 and Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

 in order to redirect its energy to eliminating internal dissent. In 1918, by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, mediated by South African Andrik Fuller, at Brest-Litovsk between Russia and the Central Powers, headed by Germany, marking Russia's exit from World War I.While the treaty was practically obsolete before the end of the year,...

, the Bolshevik government gave Germany and the Ottoman Empire enormous territorial and economic concessions in exchange for an end to war on the Eastern Front. All of the modern-day Baltic states
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 (Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

, Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

 and Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

) were given over to the German occupation authority Ober Ost
Ober Ost
Ober Ost is short for Oberbefehlshaber der gesamten Deutschen Streitkräfte im Osten, which is a German term meaning "Supreme Commander of All German Forces in the East" during World War I. In practice it refers not only to said commander, but also to his governing military staff and the district...

, along with Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

 and Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. Thus Germany had at last achieved her long-wanted dominance of "Mitteleuropa" (Central Europe) and could now focus fully on defeating the Allies on the Western Front.

Colonies


On the colonial front, German results were mixed. Most of Germany's colonies fell to the armies of Britain, France, and the British Dominions, but in German East Africa
German East Africa
German East Africa was a German colony in East Africa, which included what are now :Burundi, :Rwanda and Tanganyika . Its area was , nearly three times the size of Germany today....

, an impressive campaign was waged by the colonial army leader there, General Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck
Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck
Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck was a general in the Imperial German Army and the commander of the German East Africa campaign. For four years, with a force that never exceeded about 14,000 , he held in check a much larger force of 300,000 British, Belgian, and Portuguese troops...

. Using Germans and native Askari
Askari
Askari is an Arabic, Bosnian, Urdu, Turkish, Somali, Persian, Amharic and Swahili word meaning "soldier" . It was normally used to describe local troops in East Africa, Northeast Africa, and Central Africa serving in the armies of European colonial powers...

s, Lettow-Vorbeck launched multiple guerrilla raids against British forces in Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

 and Rhodesia
Rhodesia
Rhodesia , officially the Republic of Rhodesia from 1970, was an unrecognised state located in southern Africa that existed between 1965 and 1979 following its Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965...

. He also invaded Portuguese
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 Mozambique
Mozambique
Mozambique, officially the Republic of Mozambique , is a country in southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest...

 to gain his forces supplies and to pick up more Askari recruits. His force was still active at war's end.

1918


Defeating Russia in 1917 enabled 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 the soldiers in new storm-trooper tactics, the Germans expected to unfreeze the battlefield and win a decisive victory before the army of the United States, which had now entered the war on the side of Britain and France, arrived in strength. However, the repeated German offensives in the autumn of 1917 and the spring of 1918 all failed, as the Allies fell back and regrouped and the Germans lacked the reserves needed to consolidate their gains. The war effort sparked civil unrest in Germany, while the troops, who had been constantly in the field without relief, grew exhausted and lost all hope of victory. In the summer of 1918, with the Americans arriving at the rate of 10,000 a day and the German reserves spent, it was only a matter of time before multiple Allied offensives destroyed the German army.

Home front


The concept of "total war
Total war
Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of fully available resources and population.In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare...

," first seen in the American Civil War, meant that supplies had to be redirected towards the armed forces and, with German commerce being stopped by the British naval blockade, German civilians were forced to live in increasingly meagre conditions. First food prices were controlled, then rationing was introduced. During the war about 750,000 German civilians died from malnutrition.

Towards the end of the war conditions deteriorated rapidly on the home front, with severe food shortages reported in all urban areas. The causes included the transfer of many farmers and food workers into the military, combined with the overburdened railway system, shortages of coal, and the British blockade. The winter of 1916–1917 was known as the "turnip winter", because the people had to survive on a vegetable more commonly reserved for livestock, as a substitute for potatoes and meat, which were increasingly scarce. Thousands of soup kitchens were opened to feed the hungry, who grumbled that the farmers were keeping the food for themselves. Even the army had to cut the soldiers' rations. The morale of both civilians and soldiers continued to sink.

Revolt


Many Germans wanted an end to the war and increasing numbers began to associate with 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 third reason was the entry of the U.S. into the war in April 1917, which changed the long-run balance of power in favour of the Allies.

The end of October 1918, in Kiel
Kiel
Kiel is the capital and most populous city in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, with a population of 238,049 .Kiel is approximately north of Hamburg. Due to its geographic location in the north of Germany, the southeast of the Jutland peninsula, and the southwestern shore of the...

, in northern Germany, saw the beginning of the German Revolution of 1918–1919. Units of the German Navy refused to set sail for a last, large-scale operation in a war which they saw as good as lost, initiating the uprising. On 3 November, the revolt spread to other cities and states of the country, in many of which workers' and soldiers' councils were established. Meanwhile, Hindenburg and the senior generals lost confidence in the Kaiser and his government.

In November 1918, with internal revolution, a stalemated war, Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 falling apart from multiple ethnic tensions, and pressure from the German high command, the Kaiser and all German ruling princes abdicated. On 9 November, the Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann
Philipp Scheidemann
Philipp Scheidemann was a German Social Democratic politician, who proclaimed the Republic on 9 November 1918, and who became the second Chancellor of the Weimar Republic....

 proclaimed a Republic. The new government led by the German Social Democrats
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

 called for and received an armistice
Armistice with Germany (Compiègne)
The armistice between the Allies and Germany was an agreement that ended the fighting in the First World War. It was signed in a railway carriage in Compiègne Forest on 11 November 1918 and marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, although not technically a surrender...

 on 11 November. The war was over; the history books closed on the German Empire. It was succeeded by the democratic, yet flawed, Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

.

Legacy


The defeat and aftermath of World War I
Aftermath of World War I
The fighting in World War I ended in western Europe when the Armistice took effect at 11:00 am GMT on November 11, 1918, and in eastern Europe by the early 1920s. During and in the aftermath of the war the political, cultural, and social order was drastically changed in Europe, Asia and Africa,...

 and the penalties 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, nationalists, Catholics, and Protestants all had their own interpretations, which led to a fractious political and social climate in Germany in the aftermath of the empire's collapse.

Under Bismarck, a united German state had finally been achieved, but it remained a Prussian-dominated state and did not include German Austria as Pan-German nationalists had desired. The influence of Prussian militarism
Militarism
Militarism is defined as: the belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests....

, the Empire’s colonial efforts and its vigorous, competitive industrial prowess all gained it the dislike and envy of other nations. The German Empire enacted a number of progressive reforms, such as Europe's first social welfare system (still in place today) and freedom of press. There was also a modern system for electing the federal parliament, the Reichstag, in which every adult man had one vote. This enabled the Socialists and the Catholic Centre Party to play considerable roles in the empire's political life despite the continued hostility of Prussian aristocrats.

The era of the German Empire is well remembered in Germany as one of great cultural and intellectual vigour. Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual...

 published his novel Buddenbrooks
Buddenbrooks
Buddenbrooks was Thomas Mann's first novel, published in 1901 when he was twenty-six years old. The publication of the 2nd edition in 1903 confirmed that Buddenbrooks was a major literary success in Germany....

in 1901. Theodor Mommsen
Theodor Mommsen
Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen was a German classical scholar, historian, jurist, journalist, politician, archaeologist, and writer generally regarded as the greatest classicist of the 19th century. His work regarding Roman history is still of fundamental importance for contemporary research...

 received the Nobel prize for literature a year later for his Roman history. Painters like the groups Der Blaue Reiter
Der Blaue Reiter
Der Blaue Reiter was a group of artists from the Neue Künstlervereinigung München in Munich, Germany. The group was founded by a number of Russian emigrants, including Wassily Kandinsky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Marianne von Werefkin, and native German artists, such as Franz Marc, August Macke and...

 and Die Brücke
Die Brücke
Die Brücke was a group of German expressionist artists formed in Dresden in 1905, after which the Brücke Museum in Berlin was named. Founding members were Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Later members were Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein and Otto Mueller...

 made a significant contribution to modern art. The AEG
AEG
Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft was a German producer of electrical equipment founded in 1883 by Emil Rathenau....

 turbine building in Berlin by Peter Behrens
Peter Behrens
Peter Behrens was a German architect and designer. He was important for the modernist movement, as several of the movements leading names worked for him when they were young.-Biography:Behrens attended the Christianeum Hamburg from September 1877 until Easter 1882...

 from 1909 can be regarded as a milestone in classic modern architecture and an outstanding example of emerging functionalism. The social, economic, and scientific successes of this Gründerzeit
Gründerzeit
' refers to the economic phase in 19th century Germany and Austria before the great stock market crash of 1873. At this time in Central Europe the age of industrialisation was taking place, whose beginnings were found in the 1840s...

, or founding epoch, have sometimes led the Wilhelmine era to be regarded as a golden age
Golden Age
The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology and legend and refers to the first in a sequence of four or five Ages of Man, in which the Golden Age is first, followed in sequence, by the Silver, Bronze, and Iron Ages, and then the present, a period of decline...

.

In the field of economics, the "Kaiserzeit" laid the foundation of Germany's status as one of the world's leading economic powers. The iron and coal industries of the Ruhr area
Ruhr Area
The Ruhr, by German-speaking geographers and historians more accurately called Ruhr district or Ruhr region , is an urban area in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. With 4435 km² and a population of some 5.2 million , it is the largest urban agglomeration in Germany...

, the Saar Bassin
Saarland
Saarland is one of the sixteen states of Germany. The capital is Saarbrücken. It has an area of 2570 km² and 1,045,000 inhabitants. In both area and population, it is the smallest state in Germany other than the city-states...

 and Upper Silesia
Upper Silesia
Upper Silesia is the southeastern part of the historical and geographical region of Silesia. Since the 9th century, Upper Silesia has been part of Greater Moravia, the Duchy of Bohemia, the Piast Kingdom of Poland, again of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown and the Holy Roman Empire, as well as of...

 especially contributed to that process. The first motorcar was built by Karl Benz
Karl Benz
Karl Friedrich Benz, was a German engine designer and car engineer, generally regarded as the inventor of the gasoline-powered car, and together with Bertha Benz pioneering founder of the automobile manufacturer Mercedes-Benz...

 in 1886. The enormous growth of industrial production and industrial potential also led to a rapid urbanisation of Germany, which turned the Germans into a nation of city dwellers.

Sonderweg


Many historians have emphasized the central importance of a German Sonderweg
Sonderweg
Sonderweg is a controversial theory in German historiography that considers the German-speaking lands, or the country Germany, to have followed a unique course from aristocracy into democracy, distinct from other European countries...

or "special path" (or "exceptionalism") as the root of Nazism and the German catastrophe in the 20th century. According to the historiography by Kocka (1988), the process of nation-building from above had very grievous long-term implications, historians have argued. In terms of parliamentary democracy, Parliament was kept weak, the parties were fragmented, and there was a row file level of mutual distrust. The Nazis built on the illiberal, anti-pluralist elements of Weimar's political culture. The Junker elites (the large landowners in the east) and senior civil servants, used their great power and influence well into the twentieth century to frustrate any movement toward democracy. They played an especially negative role in the crisis of 1930–1933. Bismarck's emphasis on military force amplified the voice of the officer corps, which combined advanced modernization of military technology with reactionary politics. The rising upper-middle-class elites, in the business, financial, and professional worlds, tended to accept the values of the old traditional elites. The German Empire was for Hans-Ulrich Wehler a strange mixture of highly successful capitalist industrialization and socio-economic modernization on the one hand, and of surviving pre-industrial institutions, power relations and traditional cultures on the other. Wehler‎ argues that it produced a high degree of internal tension, which led on the one hand to the suppression of socialists, Catholics, and reformers, and on the other hand to a highly aggressive foreign policy. For these reasons Fritz Fischer
Fritz Fischer
Fritz Fischer was a German historian best known for his analysis of the causes of World War I. Fischer has been described by The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing as the most important German historian of the 20th century.-Biography:Fischer was born in Ludwigsstadt in Bavaria. His...

 and his students emphasized Germany’s primary guilt for causing World War I.

Hans-Ulrich Wehler‎, a leader of the Bielefeld School
Bielefeld School
The Bielefeld School is a group of German historians based originally at Bielefeld University who promote social history and political history using quantification and the methods of political science and sociology. The leaders include Hans-Ulrich Wehler‎, Jürgen Kocka and Reinhart Koselleck...

 of social history, places the origins of Germany's path to disaster in the 1860s–1870s, when economic modernization took place, but political modernization did not happen and the old Prussian rural elite remained in firm control of the army, diplomacy and the civil service. Traditional, aristocratic, premodern society battled an emerging capitalist, bourgeois, modernizing society. Recognizing the importance of modernizing forces in industry and the economy and in the cultural realm, Wehler argues that reactionary traditionalism dominated the political hierarchy of power in Germany, as well as social mentalities and in class relations (Klassenhabitus). The catastrophic German politics between 1914 and 1945 are interpreted in terms of a delayed modernization of its political structures. At the core of Wehler's interpretation is his treatment of "the middle class" and "revolution," each of which was instrumental in shaping the 20th century. Wehler's examination of Nazi rule is shaped by his concept of "charismatic domination," which focuses heavily on Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

.

The historiographical concept of a German Sonderweg has had a turbulent history. Nineteenth century scholars who emphasized a separate German path to modernity saw it as a positive factor that differentiated Germany from the "western path" typified by Great Britain. The stressed the strong bureaucratic state, reforms initiated by Bismarck and other strong leaders, the Prussian service ethos, the high culture of philosophy and music, and Germany's pioneering of a social welfare state. In the 1950s, historians in West German argued that the Sonderweg lead Germany to the disaster of 1933–1945. The special circumstances of German historical structures and experiences, were interpreted as preconditions that, while not directly causing National Socialism, did hamper the development of a liberal democracy and facilitate the rise of fascism. The Sonderweg paradigm has provided the impetus for at least three strands of research in German historiography: the "long nineteenth century", the history of the bourgeoisie, and comparisons with the West. After 1990, increased attention to cultural dimensions and to comparative and relational history moved German historiography to different topics, with much less attention paid to the Sonderweg. While some historians have abandoned the Sonderweg thesis, they have not provided a generally accepted alternative interpretation.

Territorial legacy


In addition to present-day Germany, large parts of what comprised the German Empire now belong to several other modern European countries:
German name Country Region
Elsass-Lothringen
Alsace-Lorraine
The Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871 after it annexed most of Alsace and the Moselle region of Lorraine following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east...

 
France The German-speaking départements of Bas-Rhin
Bas-Rhin
Bas-Rhin is a department of France. The name means "Lower Rhine". It is the more populous and densely populated of the two departments of the Alsace region, with 1,079,013 inhabitants in 2006.- History :...

 and Haut-Rhin
Haut-Rhin
Haut-Rhin is a département of the Alsace region of France, named after the Rhine river. Its name means Upper Rhine. Haut-Rhin is the smaller and less populated of the two departements of Alsace, although is still densely populated compared to the rest of France.-Subdivisions:The department...

 (Alsace
Alsace
Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

 region) and Moselle
Moselle
Moselle is a department in the east of France named after the river Moselle.- History :Moselle is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

 (northeastern part of the Lorraine
Lorraine (région)
Lorraine is one of the 27 régions of France. The administrative region has two cities of equal importance, Metz and Nancy. Metz is considered to be the official capital since that is where the regional parliament is situated...

 region)
The Eupen
Eupen
Eupen is a municipality in the Belgian province of Liège, from the German border , from the Dutch border and from the "High Fens" nature reserve...

 und Malmédy
Malmedy
Malmedy is a municipality of Belgium. It lies in the country's Walloon Region, Province of Liège. It belongs to the French Community of Belgium, within which it is French-speaking with facilities for German-speakers. On January 1, 2006 Malmedy had a total population of 11,829...

 area
(intentionally spelled with é only then)
Belgium Eupen
Eupen
Eupen is a municipality in the Belgian province of Liège, from the German border , from the Dutch border and from the "High Fens" nature reserve...

 and Malmedy
Malmedy
Malmedy is a municipality of Belgium. It lies in the country's Walloon Region, Province of Liège. It belongs to the French Community of Belgium, within which it is French-speaking with facilities for German-speakers. On January 1, 2006 Malmedy had a total population of 11,829...

, two towns and surrounding municipalities in the province of Liège
Liège (province)
Liège is the easternmost province of Belgium and belongs to the Walloon Region. It is an area of French and German ethnicity. It borders on the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, and in Belgium the provinces of Luxembourg, Namur, Walloon Brabant , and those of Flemish Brabant and Limburg . Its...

, on the German border
Nordschleswig
South Jutland County
South Jutland County is a former county on the south-central portion of the Jutland Peninsula in southern Denmark....

 
Denmark South Jutland County
South Jutland County
South Jutland County is a former county on the south-central portion of the Jutland Peninsula in southern Denmark....

Hultschiner Ländchen
Hlucín Region
Hlučín Area is a part of Czech Silesia in the Moravian-Silesian Region of the Czech Republic, named after the largest town Hlučín. Its area is , in 2001 was inhabited by 73,914 citizens, thus the population density was 233 per km².-History:...

 
Czech Republic Hlučín Region
Hlucín Region
Hlučín Area is a part of Czech Silesia in the Moravian-Silesian Region of the Czech Republic, named after the largest town Hlučín. Its area is , in 2001 was inhabited by 73,914 citizens, thus the population density was 233 per km².-History:...

, on the border to Poland in Silesia, from which most of Germans were deported following WWII.
Central and eastern Pommern, Schlesien
Province of Silesia
The Province of Silesia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1815 to 1919.-Geography:The territory comprised the bulk of the former Bohemian crown land of Silesia and the County of Kladsko, which King Frederick the Great had conquered from the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy in the 18th...

, Ostbrandenburg
Neumark (region)
The Neumark , also known as the New March or as East Brandenburg , comprised a region of the Prussian province of Brandenburg, Germany, located east of the Oder River in territory which became part of Poland in 1945....

, Ermland
Warmia
Warmia or Ermland is a region between Pomerelia and Masuria in northeastern Poland. Together with Masuria, it forms the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship....

, Masuren
Masuria
Masuria is an area in northeastern Poland famous for its 2,000 lakes. Geographically, Masuria is part of two adjacent lakeland districts, the Masurian Lake District and the Iława Lake District...

, Westpreußen
West Prussia
West Prussia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1773–1824 and 1878–1919/20 which was created out of the earlier Polish province of Royal Prussia...

, Southern Ostpreußen
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...


Also Posen (Wartheland)
Province of Posen
The Province of Posen was a province of Prussia from 1848–1918 and as such part of the German Empire from 1871 to 1918. The area was about 29,000 km2....

.
Poland the northern and western parts of the country, including Pomerania
Pomerania
Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East...

, Silesia
Silesia
Silesia is a historical region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland, with smaller parts also in the Czech Republic, and Germany.Silesia is rich in mineral and natural resources, and includes several important industrial areas. Silesia's largest city and historical capital is Wrocław...

, Lubusz Land
Lubusz Land
Lubusz Land is a historical region and cultural landscape in Poland and Germany, on both sides of the Oder river.Originally the settlement area of the West Slavic Leubuzzi, a Veleti tribe, the swampy area was located east of Mark Brandenburg and west of Greater Poland, south of Pomerania and north...

, Warmia and Masuria
Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship
Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, or Warmia-Masuria Province , is a voivodeship in northeastern Poland. Its capital and largest city is Olsztyn...

, from all of which Germans were deported following WWII.
Northern Ostpreußen
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

 with Königsberg
Königsberg
Königsberg was the capital of East Prussia from the Late Middle Ages until 1945 as well as the northernmost and easternmost German city with 286,666 inhabitants . Due to the multicultural society in and around the city, there are several local names for it...

 
Russia Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast is a federal subject of Russia situated on the Baltic coast. It has a population of The oblast forms the westernmost part of the Russian Federation, but it has no land connection to the rest of Russia. Since its creation it has been an exclave of the Russian SFSR and then the...

 exclave on the Baltic, from which Germans were deported following WWII.
Memelland
Klaipėda Region
The Klaipėda Region or Memel Territory was defined by the Treaty of Versailles in 1920 when it was put under the administration of the Council of Ambassadors...

 with Memel (city)
Klaipeda
Klaipėda is a city in Lithuania situated at the mouth of the Nemunas River where it flows into the Baltic Sea. It is the third largest city in Lithuania and the capital of Klaipėda County....

 
Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 
Klaipėda Region
Klaipėda Region
The Klaipėda Region or Memel Territory was defined by the Treaty of Versailles in 1920 when it was put under the administration of the Council of Ambassadors...

, including the Baltic coastal city of Klaipėda
Klaipeda
Klaipėda is a city in Lithuania situated at the mouth of the Nemunas River where it flows into the Baltic Sea. It is the third largest city in Lithuania and the capital of Klaipėda County....

, from which Germans were deported following WWII.

Claims to continued existence


Since 1985, a number of German fringe groups and individuals – collectively labeled Kommissarische Reichsregierung
Kommissarische Reichsregierung
thumb|right|300px|The German ReichKommissarische Reichsregierung is a label for multiple groups and individuals in Germany and elsewhere who assert that the German Reich continues to exist in its pre-World War II borders and that they are its government or government in exile.The KRRs often...

en
(KRR) – assert that the Empire continues to exist in its pre–World War II borders and that they are its government.

See also


  • German colonization of the Americas
    German colonization of the Americas
    The German colonization of the Americas consisted of failed attempts to settle Venezuela , St. Thomas, the Crab Island and Tertholen in the 16th and 17th centuries.-Klein-Venedig:...

  • German East Africa Company
    German East Africa Company
    The German East Africa Company was an organization established at the start of the German colonization of East Africa. This company, in short, was responsible for the activities in the new colony such as setting up leadership, future explorations, and the development of the region.In 1888, the...

  • German New Guinea Company
    German New Guinea Company
    The German New Guinea Company was a German Chartered Company which exploited insular territory in and near present Papua New Guinea.- History :...

  • List of former German colonies
  • Reichskolonialbund
    Reichskolonialbund
    The Reichskolonialbund was a collective body that absorbed all German colonial organizations during the time of the Third Reich...

  • Wilhelminism
    Wilhelminism
    The Wilhelmine Period comprises the period between 1890 and 1918, embracing the reign of Wilhelm II and the First World War. By Wilhelminism is not meant a conception of society associated with the name Wilhelm, and traceable to an intellectual initiative of the German Emperor...


Further reading


  • Berghahn, Volker Rolf. Modern Germany: society, economy, and politics in the twentieth century (1987) ACLS E-book
  • Berghahn, Volker Rolf. Imperial Germany, 1871–1914: Economy, Society, Culture, and Politics (2nd ed. 2005)
  • Berghahn, Volker Rolf. "Structure and Agency in Wilhelmine Germany: The history of the German Empire, Past, present and Future," in Annika Mombauer and Wilhelm Deist, eds. The Kaiser: New Research on Wilhelm II's Role in Imperial Germany (2003) pp 281–93, historiography
  • Blackbourn, David. The Long Nineteenth Century: A History of Germany, 1780–1918 (1998) excerpt and text search
  • Blackbourn, David, and Geoff Eley. The Peculiarities of German History: Bourgeois Society and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Germany (1984) online edition ISBN 0-19-873058-6
  • Blanke, Richard. Prussian Poland in the German Empire (1981)
  • Cecil, Lamar. Wilhelm II: Prince and Emperor, 1859–1900 (1989) online edition; vol2: Wilhelm II: Emperor and Exile, 1900–1941 (1996) online edition
  • Clark, Christopher. Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947 (2006), the standard scholarly survey
  • Dickinson, Edward Ross. "The German Empire: an Empire?" History Workshop Journal Issue 66, Autumn 2008 http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/history_workshop_journal/v066/66.dickinson.htmlonline in Project MUSE
    Project MUSE
    Project MUSE is an online database of current and back issues of peer-reviewed humanities and social sciences journals. It was founded in 1993 by Todd Kelley and Susan Lewis and is a project of the Johns Hopkins University Press and the Milton S. Eisenhower Library. It had support from the Mellon...

    ], with guide to recent scholarship
  • Fischer, Fritz
    Fritz Fischer
    Fritz Fischer was a German historian best known for his analysis of the causes of World War I. Fischer has been described by The Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing as the most important German historian of the 20th century.-Biography:Fischer was born in Ludwigsstadt in Bavaria. His...

    . From Kaiserreich to Third Reich: Elements of Continuity in German History, 1871–1945. (1986). ISBN 0-04-943043-2.
  • Holborn, Hajo. A History of Modern Germany: 1840–1945 (1969), pp 173–532
  • Jefferies, Mattew. Imperial Culture in Germany, 1871–1918. (Palgrave, 2003) ISBN 1-4039-0421-9.
  • Kennedy, Paul. The Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism, 1860–1914 (2nd ed. 1988) ISBN 1-57392-301-X
  • Mommsen, Wolfgang
    Wolfgang Mommsen
    Wolfgang Justin Mommsen was a German historian. He was the twin brother of Hans Mommsen.-Biography:He was born in Marburg, the son of the historian Wilhelm Mommsen. He was educated at the University of Marburg, University of Cologne and University of Leeds between 1951–1959...

    . Imperial Germany 1867–1918: Politics, Culture, and Society in an Authoritarian State. (1995). ISBN 0-340-64534-2.
  • Kurlander, Eric. The Price of Exclusion: Ethnicity, National Identity, and the Decline of German Liberalism, 1898–1933 (2007).
  • Nipperdey, Thomas. Germany from Napoleon to Bismarck (1996) dense coverage of chief topics
  • Pflanze, Otto. Bismarck and the Development of Germany 3 vols. (1963–90). the standard scholarly biography
  • Reagin, Nancy. "The Imagined Hausfrau: National Identity, Domesticity, and Colonialism in Imperial Germany," Journal of Modern History Vol. 73, No. 1 (March 2001), pp. 54–86 in JSTOR
  • Reagin, Nancy R. "Recent Work on German National Identity: Regional? Imperial? Gendered? Imaginary?" Central European History 2004 37, pp 273–289 doi:10.1163/156916104323121483
  • Retallack, James. Germany In The Age of Kaiser Wilhelm II, (1996) ISBN 0-312-16031-3.
  • Ritter, Gerhard
    Gerhard Ritter
    Gerhard Georg Bernhard Ritter was a conservative German historian.-Before the Third Reich:...

    . The Sword and the Scepter; the Problem of Militarism in Germany. (4 vol University of Miami Press 1969–73)
  • Scheck, Raffael. “Lecture Notes, Germany and Europe, 1871–1945” (2008) full text online, a brief textbook by a leading scholar
  • Schollgen, Gregor. Escape into War? The Foreign Policy of Imperial Germany. (Berg, 1990) ISBN 0-85496-275-1.
  • Smith, Woodruff D. The German Colonial Empire (1978)
  • Stürmer, Michael
    Michael Stürmer
    Michael Stürmer is a right-wing German historian best known for his role in the Historikerstreit of the 1980s, for his geographical interpretation of German history and for an admiring 2008 biography of the Russian leader Vladimir Putin .Born in Kassel, Germany, Stürmer received his education in...

    . The German Empire, 1870–1918. (Random House, 2000). ISBN 0-679-64090-8.
  • Steinberg, Jonathan. Bismarck: A Life (2011), the standard biography uin English
  • Taylor, A.J.P. Bismarck: The Man and the Statesman (1967) online edition
  • Wehler, Hans-Ulrich
    Hans-Ulrich Wehler
    Hans-Ulrich Wehler is a German historian known for his role in promoting social history through the "Bielefeld School", and for his critical studies of 19th century Germany.-Career:...

    . The German Empire, 1871–1918. (Berg, 1985). ISBN 0-907582-22-2
  • Wildenthal, Lora. German Women for Empire, 1884–1945 (2001)


External links