German Empire

German Empire
Deutsches Kaiserreich
Motto: Gott mit uns
"God with us"
German colonies and protectorates in 1914
German colonies and protectorates in 1914
Germany on the eve of World War I
Germany on the eve of World War I
52°31′N 13°24′E / 52°31′N 13°24′E / 52.517; 13.400
Common languagesOfficial:
Religion Whitaker's data for 1890[1]
62.8% Protestant (Lutheran, Reformed, United)
GovernmentFederal semi-constitutional monarchy
(until August 1916)
Federal semi-constitutional monarchy under a military dictatorship
(August 1916 to October 1918)
Federal parliamentary semi-constitutional monarchy under a military dictatorship
(October 1918 to November 1918)
• 1871–1888
Wilhelm I
• 1888
Friedrich III
• 1888–1918
Wilhelm II
• 1871–1890
Otto von Bismarck (first)
• 1918
Max von Baden (last)
• Federal Council
Historical eraNew Imperialism/World War I/Modern Age
18 January 1871 1871
16 April 1871; 4 May 1871
15 November 1884
28 July 1914
3 November 1918
11 November 1918
9 November 1918
28 June 1919
1900540,857.54 km2 (208,826.26 sq mi)
1913-19182,658,161 km2 (1,026,322 sq mi)
• 1871
• 1900
• 1910
South German gulden, Bremen thaler,
Hamburg mark,
French franc,
(until 1873, together)
German gold mark,
German German Papiermark
Location of German Reich
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
First Czechoslovak 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] also known as Imperial Germany,[9] was the German nation state[10] that existed from the Unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.

It was founded in 1871 when south German states, except for Austria, joined the North German Confederation. On 1 January 1871, the new constitution came into force that changed the name of the federal state and introduced the title of emperor for Wilhelm I, King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty.[11] Berlin remained its capital. Otto von Bismarck remained Chancellor, the head of government. As these events occurred, the Prussian-led North German Confederation and its southern German allies were still engaged in the Franco-Prussian War.

The German Empire consisted of 26 states, most of them ruled by noble families. They included four kingdoms, six grand duchies, five duchies (six before 1876), seven principalities, three free Hanseatic cities, and one imperial territory. Although Prussia was one of several kingdoms in the realm, it contained about two thirds of Germany's population and territory. Prussian dominance was also established constitutionally.

After 1850, the states of Germany had rapidly become industrialized, with particular strengths in coal, iron (and later steel), chemicals, and railways. In 1871, Germany had a population of 41 million people; by 1913, this had increased to 68 million. A heavily rural collection of states in 1815, the now united Germany became predominantly urban.[12] During its 47 years of existence, the German Empire was an industrial, technological, and scientific giant, gaining more Nobel Prizes in science than any other country.[13] By 1900, Germany was the largest economy in Europe, surpassing the United Kingdom, as well as the second-largest in the world, behind only the United States.[14]

From 1867 to 1878/9, Otto von Bismarck's tenure as the first and to this day longest reigning Chancellor was marked by relative liberalism, but it became more conservative afterwards. Broad reforms and the Kulturkampf marked his period in the office. Late in Bismarck's chancellorship and in spite of his personal opposition, Germany became involved in colonialism. Claiming much of the leftover territory that was yet unclaimed in the Scramble for Africa, it managed to build the third-largest colonial empire after the British and the French ones.[15] As a colonial state, it sometimes clashed with other European powers, especially the British Empire.

Germany became a great power, boasting a rapidly developing rail network, the world's strongest army, and a fast-growing industrial base.[16] In less than a decade, its navy became second only to Britain's Royal Navy. After the removal of Otto von Bismarck by Wilhelm II in 1890, the Empire embarked on Weltpolitik – a bellicose new course that ultimately contributed to the outbreak of World War I. In addition, Bismarck's successors were incapable of maintaining their predecessor's complex, shifting, and overlapping alliances which had kept Germany from being diplomatically isolated. This period was marked by various factors influencing the Emperor's decisions, which were often perceived as contradictory or unpredictable by the public. In 1879, the German Empire consolidated the Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary, followed by the Triple Alliance with Italy in 1882. It also retained strong diplomatic ties to the Ottoman Empire. When the great crisis of 1914 arrived, Italy left the alliance and the Ottoman Empire formally allied with Germany.

In the First World War, German plans to capture Paris quickly in the autumn of 1914 failed. The war on the Western Front became a stalemate. The Allied naval blockade caused severe shortages of food. However, Imperial Germany had success on the Eastern Front; it occupied a large amount of territory to its east following the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The German declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917, contributed to bringing the United States into the war.

The high command under Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff increasingly controlled the country, but in October after the failed offensive in spring 1918, the German armies were in retreat and their allied Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire had collapsed, Bulgaria had surrendered. The Empire collapsed in the November 1918 Revolution with the abdications of its rulers. This left a postwar federal republic and a devastated and unsatisfied populace, which later led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism.


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.[17]

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 exclusion of Prussia's main German rival, Austria, from the subsequent German 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 Schleswig War 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 partial replacement of the Confederation in 1867 by a North German Confederation, comprising the 22 states north of the Main. The patriotic fervour generated by the Franco-Prussian War overwhelmed the remaining opposition to a unified Germany (aside from Austria) in the four states south of the Main and during November 1870 they joined the North German Confederation by treaty.[18]

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
Lingua Franca Nova: Impero Deutx
lumbaart: Imperi todesch
македонски: Германско Царство
Bahasa Melayu: Empayar Jerman
Nederlands: Duitse Keizerrijk
日本語: ドイツ帝国
Nordfriisk: Schiisk Keiserrik
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
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