German Empire

This article is about the German nation-state existing from 1871 to 1918. For other uses, see German Empire (disambiguation).
German Empire
Deutsches Reich
Flag Coat of arms
Gott mit uns
"God with us"
Germany on the eve of the First World War
States of the German Empire ( Prussia shown in blue).
Capital Berlin
52°31′N 13°24′E / 52°31′N 13°24′E / 52.517; 13.400
Languages Official:
Religion Whitaker's data for 1890 [1]
62.8% Protestant ( Lutheran, Reformed, Prussian United)
Government Federal constitutional monarchy
(until October 1918)
Federal Parliamentary constitutional monarchy
(October 1918 to November 1918)
 •  1871–1888 Wilhelm I
 •  1888 Frederick III
 •  1888–1918 Wilhelm II
 •  1871–1890 Otto von Bismarck (first)
 •  1918 Max von Baden (last)
Legislature Reichstag
 •  Federal Council Bundesrat
Historical era New Imperialism/ First World War
 •  Unification 18 January 1871
 •  Constitution adopted 16 April 1871
 •  First World War 28 July 1914
 •  German Revolution 3 November 1918
 •  Armistice declared 11 November 1918
 •  Abdication of Wilhelm II [2] 28 November 1918
 •  Treaty of Versailles 28 June 1919
 •  1910 540,857.54 km² (208,826 sq mi)
 •  1871 est. 40,050,792 
 •  1910 est. 64,925,993 
     Density 120 /km²  (310.9 /sq mi)
Currency Vereinsthaler,
South German gulden, Bremen thaler,
Hamburg mark,
French franc,
(until 1873, together)
German gold mark,
Preceded by
Succeeded by
North German Confederation
Kingdom of Bavaria
Kingdom of Württemberg
Grand Duchy of Baden
Grand Duchy of Hesse
Weimar Republic
Second Polish Republic
Saar Basin
Free City of Danzig
Republic of Lithuania
Today part of   Germany
  Czech Republic
Area and population not including colonial possessions
Area source: [3] Population source: [4][ not in citation given]

The German Empire ( German: Deutsches Kaiserreich, officially Deutsches Reich) [5] [6] [7] [8] was the historical German nation state [9] that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 to the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918, when Germany became a federal republic.

The German Empire consisted of 26 constituent territories, with most being ruled by royal families. This included four kingdoms, six grand duchies, five duchies (six before 1876), seven principalities, three free Hanseatic cities, and one imperial territory. Although Prussia became one of several kingdoms in the new realm, it contained most of its population and territory, thus remaining a powerhouse with a major say in imperial affairs. Its influence also helped define modern German culture.

After 1850, the states of Germany had rapidly become industrialized, with particular strengths in coal, iron (and later steel), chemicals, and railways. In 1871, it had a population of 41 million people, and by 1913, this had increased to 68 million. A heavily rural collection of states in 1815, now united Germany became predominantly urban. [10] During its 47 years of existence, the German Empire operated as an industrial, technological, and scientific giant, gaining more Nobel Prizes in science than any other country. [11]

Germany became a great power, boasting a rapidly growing rail network, the world's strongest army, and a fast-growing industrial base. [12] In less than a decade, its navy became second only to Britain's Royal Navy. After the removal of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck by Wilhelm II, the Empire embarked on a bellicose new course that ultimately led to World War I. When the great crisis of 1914 arrived, the German Empire had two allies, Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire; Italy, however, left the alliance once the First World War started in August 1914.

In the First World War, German plans to capture Paris quickly in autumn 1914 failed, and the war on the Western Front became a stalemate. The Allied naval blockade caused severe shortages of food. Germany was repeatedly forced to send troops to bolster Austria and Turkey on other fronts. However, Germany had great success on the Eastern Front; it occupied large Eastern territories following the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. German declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917 was designed to strangle the British; it failed, because of the use of a trans-Atlantic convoy system. But the declaration—along with the Zimmermann Telegram—did bring the United States into the war. Meanwhile, German civilians and soldiers had become war-weary and radicalised by the Russian Revolution.

The high command under Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff increasingly controlled the country, as they gambled on one last offensive in spring 1918 before the Americans could arrive in force, using large numbers of troops, aeroplanes and artillery withdrawn from the Eastern Front. This failed, and by October the armies were in retreat, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire had collapsed, Bulgaria had surrendered and the German people had lost faith in their political system. After at first attempting to retain control, causing massive uprisings, the Empire collapsed in the November 1918 Revolution with the Emperor and all the ruling monarchs abdicating. This left a republic to manage a devastated and unsatisfied populace.


Otto von Bismarck, the visionary statesman who unified Germany with the help of his skillful political moves and the exploitation of encountered opportunities.

The German Confederation had been created by an act of the Congress of Vienna on 8 June 1815 as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, after being alluded to in Article 6 of the 1814 Treaty of Paris. [13]

German nationalism rapidly shifted from its liberal and democratic character in 1848, called Pan-Germanism, to Prussian prime minister Otto von Bismarck's pragmatic Realpolitik. Bismarck sought to extend Hohenzollern hegemony throughout the German states; to do so meant unification of the German states and the elimination of Prussia's rival, Austria, 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 against Denmark in 1864, the Austro-Prussian War in 1866, and the Franco-Prussian War against France in 1870–71.

The German Confederation ended as a result of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 between the constituent Confederation entities of the Austrian Empire and its allies on one side and the Kingdom of Prussia and its allies on the other. The war resulted in the Confederation being partially replaced by a North German Confederation in 1867, comprising the 22 states north of the Main. The patriotic fervour generated by the Franco-Prussian War overwhelmed the remaining opposition in the four states south of the Main to a unified Germany, and during November 1870 they joined the North German Confederation by treaty. [14]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Duitse Keiserryk
aragonés: Imperio alemán
asturianu: Imperiu alemán
azərbaycanca: Almaniya İmperiyası
Bân-lâm-gú: Tek-ì-chì Tè-kok
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Нямецкая імпэрыя
español: Imperio alemán
français: Empire allemand
한국어: 독일 제국
Bahasa Indonesia: Kekaisaran Jerman
italiano: Impero tedesco
لۊری شومالی: ئمپئراتوٙری آلمان
lumbaart: Imperi todesch
македонски: Германско Царство
Bahasa Melayu: Empayar Jerman
Nederlands: Duitse Keizerrijk
日本語: ドイツ帝国
Nordfriisk: Sjiisk Keiserrik
norsk bokmål: Det tyske keiserrike
norsk nynorsk: Det tyske keisardømet
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Germaniya imperiyasi
پنجابی: جرمن سلطنت
Papiamentu: Imperio Alemán
português: Império Alemão
română: Imperiul German
Simple English: German Empire
slovenščina: Nemško cesarstvo
کوردیی ناوەندی: ئیمپراتۆریەتیی ئاڵمانی
српски / srpski: Немачко царство
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Njemačko Carstvo
татарча/tatarça: Алман империясе
Türkmençe: German imperiýasy
українська: Німецька імперія
vepsän kel’: Germanijan imperii
Tiếng Việt: Đế quốc Đức