German Empire

History of Germany between 1867 - 1918

Deutsches Reich (1871-1918)-de
Imperial Germany 1871–1918

The German Empire was the historical German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 to the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in November 1918, when Germany became a federal republic.

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, the united Germany became predominantly urban. 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.

Germany became a great power, boasting a rapidly growing rail network, the world's strongest army, and a fast-growing industrial base. In less than a decade, its navy became second only to Britain's Royal Navy.

On 10 December 1870 the North German Confederation Reichstag gave the title of German Emperor to William I, the King of Prussia. He was succeeded by Frederick III (for only 99 days before his death in 1888) and Wilhelm II (1888-1918).

Franco-Prussian War

The Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the German states of the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia. The conflict was caused by Prussian ambitions to extend German unification. Some historians argue that the Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck planned to provoke a French attack in order to draw the southern German states into an alliance with the North German Confederation dominated by Prussia.

A series of swift Prussian and German victories in eastern France, culminating in the Siege of Metz and the Battle of Sedan, saw the army of the Second Empire decisively defeated. Following the Siege of Paris, the capital fell on 28 January 1871 and then a revolutionary uprising called the Paris Commune seized power in the capital and held it for two months, until it was bloodily suppressed by the regular French army at the end of May 1871.

The German states proclaimed their union as the German Empire under the Prussian king, Wilhelm I, uniting Germany as a nation-state. The Treaty of Frankfurt of 10 May 1871 gave Germany most of Alsace and some parts of Lorraine, which became the Imperial territory of Alsace-Lorraine. The German conquest of France and the unification of Germany upset the European balance of power, that had existed since the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and Otto von Bismarck maintained great authority in international affairs for two decades. French determination to regain Alsace-Lorraine and fear of another Franco-German war, along with British apprehension about the balance of power, became factors in the causes of World War I.

World War I

When the great crisis of 1914 arrived, the German Empire had only one ally – Austria-Hungary. They were later joined by the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria to form the Central Powers or Quadruple Alliance.

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 brought 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 and artillery withdrawn from the Eastern Front. This failed, and by October the armies were in retreat, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire had collapsed, and the German people had lost faith in their political system. The Empire collapsed in the November 1918 Revolution as the Emperor and all the ruling monarchs abdicated, and a republic took over.

Reference: Wikipedia

Previous historical period: German Confederation (1815-1866) | Next historical period: Weimar Republic (1919-1932)

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Hohenwerfen Castle

Hohenwerfen Castle stands high above the Austrian town of Werfen in the Salzach valley. The castle is surrounded by the Berchtesgaden Alps and the adjacent Tennengebirge mountain range. The fortification is a 'sister' of Hohensalzburg Castle both dated from the 11th century.

The former fortification was built between 1075 and 1078 during the Imperial Investiture Controversy by the order of Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg as a strategic bulwark. Gebhard, an ally of Pope Gregory VII and the anti-king Rudolf of Rheinfelden, had three major castles extended to secure the Salzburg archbishopric against the forces of King Henry IV: Hohenwerfen, Hohensalzburg and Petersberg Castle at Friesach in Carinthia.