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German Empire

Deutsches Reich
Flag of Germany
Coat of arms of Germany
Coat of arms
Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
Location of Germany within Europe
Location of Germany within Europe
Map of Germany and its states
Map of Germany and its states
and largest city
Official languages German
Recognised regional languages Danish, Low Saxon,
Low Rhenish, Sorbian,
Romany, North Frisian,
Saterland Frisian
Demonym(s) German
Government Federal parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
• Emperor
Georg Friedrich
Karl Laschet (Z)
Legislature Parliament
Bundesrat (Federal Council)
Reichstag (Imperial Diet)
• German Empire
18 January 1871
• Total
543,443.94 km2 (209,824.88 sq mi)
• 2020 census
Currency Deutsche Mark (DEM)
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
• Summer (DST)
Date format dd-mm-yyyy
Driving side right
Calling code +49
ISO 3166 code DE
Internet TLD .de

Germany (German: Deutschland), officially the German Empire,[1] is a country in central Europe. It lies between the Baltic and North Seas to the north and the Alps to the south and is bordered by the Netherlands and France to the west, Switzerland and Austria to the south, Czechia to the southeast, Poland to the east, Lithuania to the northeast, and Denmark to the north. Germany also has two overseas territories, New Guinea and Qingdao, which border Indonesia and China, respectively. It has a population of 116.75 million people, making it the second most populous state in Europe after Russia and the most populous located entirely within Europe.

The northern part of modern Germany has been inhabited since classical antiquity by various Germanic tribes. The region has been referred to as Germania since before AD 100. Between the fourth and sixth century the Germanic tribes expanded southward, contributing to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. In the 10th century German territories formed the core of the Holy Roman Empire and remained so until it's dissolution in 1806. In the 16th century the territories of northern Germany became the center of the Protestant Reformation, which directly contributed to the Thirty Years' War. After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and the Napoleonic Wars, the German Confederation was formed in 1815 as a replacement for the Holy Roman Empire. In 1871, hundreds of German kingdoms, duchies, and other states were unified into one German Empire in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War. Germany would emerge as one of the leading industrial nations in Europe during the early 1900s after the United Kingdom, with the third-largest economy in the world by 1920. The outbreak of Great War I in 1932 lead to a German invasion of France and Austria-Hungary. After the war Germany created a series of satellite states to maintain its security, being at the center of a Mitteleuropa system. Germany and its allied Nationalist regimes with mixed economies would be invaded by Russia and France in 1953, starting Great War II. Although left Germany emerged victorious in 1957, it was devastated but still dominant on the continent, and it remained in under a nationalist one-party state into the Cold War. The European Community also developed as a result of German efforts to rebuild the continent economically throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The rising economic prosperity contributed to the democratization of the country towards the end of Emperor Louis Ferdinand's reign in the late 1980s.

German is a federal constitutional monarchy and is a fairly decentralized country compared to other European nations, with sub-national kingdoms, duchies and principalities that are largely autonomous of the federal government in Berlin. It is a great power and a strong economy, and is a global leader in the scientific and technological sector. It is the second-largest economy in Europe after Russia and is the largest economy entirely within Europe. Considered to be a social democracy, Germany provides its citizens with universal healthcare, social security, tuition-free higher education. It also possesses one of the largest militaries in the world. Germany is a member of the League of Nations, the European Community, NATO, and the G20.

Etymology[edit | edit source]

The word Germany in English is derived from Latin Germania, a term that Julius Caesar adopted to referred to the people who lived east of the Rhine. It's possibly of Celtic origin, related to the Irish word Gair (neighbor). The German endonym Deutschland, originally diutisciu land (the German lands), is derived from deutsch (which shares the same root as Dutch). Deutsch is descended from the Old High German diutisc, meaning "of the people". The term was originally used to distinguish the common people's language from Latin and it's descendants. Diutisc is ultimately descended from Proto-Germanic þiudiskaz, also meaning of the people (which is where the Latin form Theodiscus is derived), derived from þeudō, descended from Proto-Indo-European tewtéh₂-, which is also the origin of the word Teutons.

The German noun Reich is derived from Old High German: rīhhi, which together with its cognates in Old English: rīce, Old Norse: ríki, and Gothic: reiki is from a Common Germanic *rīkijan. The English noun is obsolete, but persists in composition, for example in bishopric. While usually translated into English as 'empire', reich more accurately translates to 'realm'.

The German adjective reich, on the other hand, has an exact cognate in English rich. Both the noun (*rīkijan) and the adjective (*rīkijaz) are derivations based on a Common Germanic *rīks "ruler, king", reflected in Gothic as reiks, glossing ἄρχων "leader, ruler, chieftain".

It is probable that the Germanic word was not inherited from pre-Proto-Germanic, but rather loaned from Celtic (i.e. Gaulish rīx, Welsh rhi, both meaning 'king') at an early time.

The word has many cognates outside of Germanic and Celtic, notably Latin: rex and Sanskrit: राज, romanized: raj, lit. 'rule'. It is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *reg-, lit. 'to straighten out or rule'.

History[edit | edit source]

Ancient humans have been present in Germany since at least 600,000 years ago. The first ancient non-modern human remains were discovered in Neander valley, which is the namesake of the Neanderthal man, or Homo neandethalensis. Modern human remains have been found in the Swabian Jura, including 42,000 year old flutes which are the oldest musical instruments ever discovered. Other discoveries include the 40,000 year old Lion Man and the 35,000 year old Venus of Hohe Falls. The Nebra Sky disk, created during the European Bronze Age, is attributed to a German site and dates circa 1,600 BC.

Germanic Tribes[edit | edit source]

The Germanic tribes are generally accepted to have originated in northern Germany and southern Scandinavia, dating back to the Pre-Roman Iron Age or to the Nordic Bronze Age. They expanded south, east, and west, coming into contact with the Slavic, Celtic, Iranian, and Baltic tribes.

The Roman Empire under Augustus expanded into Germanic lands. In AD 9 three Roman Legions were defeated by Arminius. By AD 100, when Tacitus wrote Germania, Germanic tribes had settled along the Rhine and the Danube rivers, occupying much of modern Germany, except for Baden, Württemberg, southern Bavaria, southern Hesse and western Rhineland were incorporated into Roman Provinces. Around AD 260 Germanic speakers broke into Roman lands. After the Hun invasion in AD 375 and the decline of Rome in AD 395, Germanic tribes moved farther southwest: the Franks established a kingdom in Gaul and pushed east to subjugate Saxony and Bavaria. The areas that are now Eastern Germany were inhabited by Western Slavic and Baltic tribes.

East Francia and the Holy Roman Empire[edit | edit source]

Charlemagne founded the Carolingian Empire in 800; it was divided in AD 843 into West Francia, Middle Francia, and East Francia. The realm of East Francia served as the basis for Germany and stretched from Rhine in the west to the Elbe in the east and from the North Sea to the Alps, and from this territory emerged the Holy Roman Empire. The Liudolfings (919-1024) consolidated several major duchies. In 996 Gregory V became the first German pope, appointed by his cousin Otto III, whom he quickly appointed as Holy Roman Emperor. The Holy Roman Empire absorbed Burgundy and Northern Italy under the Salian dynasty (1024-1125), although these emperors lost power through the Investiture controversy

Under the House of Hohenstaufen (1138-1254) the German princes encouraged German settlement to the south and the east. This migration is called Ostsiedlung (literally east settling). Members of the Hanseatic League, consisting mostly of north German towns, prospered in the expansion of trade. The Great Famine of 1315-17 caused a decline in the population, exacerbated by the Black Death of 1348-50. The Golden Bull issued in 1356 provided the constitutional structure of the Empire and codified the election of the emperor by seven prince-electors.

The printing press was invented around 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg, starting the Printing Revolution and laying the foundations for the democratization of knowledge. In 1517, Martin Luther incited the Protestant reformation; the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 made Protestantism legal in the Holy Roman Empire but decreed that the faith of the prince was to be the faith of his subjects in a concept known as cuius regio, eius religio (whose realm, his religion). From the Cologne Wars through the Thirty Years' War, religious conflict devastated the German lands and significantly reduced the population.

The Peace of Westphalia ended religious warfare among the Imperial Estates; the largely German-speaking rulers were able to choose between Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism, and Reformed Christianity as their official faith. The legal system initiated by a series of Imperial Reformed (approximately 1495-1555) provided considerable local autonomy coupled with a stronger Imperial Diet. The House of Habsburg held the Imperial Crown from the election of Albert II in 1438 as the King of the Romans to the death of Charles VI in 1740. Following the War of Austrian Succession and the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Charles VI's daughter Maria Theresa rules as Empress Consort when her husband, Francis I became Emperor. From this the House of Habsburg-Lorraine was founded.

From 1740, dualism between the Austrian Habsburg monarchy and the Kingdom of Prussia dominated the history of Germany and German politics. Prussia, Austria, and Russia agreed to partition Poland among themselves in 1772, 1793, and 1795. During the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic era, and the final meeting of the Imperial Diet, most of the Free Imperial Cities were annexed by dynastic territories; the ecclesiastical territories were secularized and annexed. In 1806, the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved, and France, Prussia, the Habsburgs, and Russia competed for hegemony over the German states during the Napoleonic Wars.

German Confederation and Unification[edit | edit source]

Following the fall of Napoleon and the First French Empire, the Congress of Vienna founded the German Confederation, a loose association of 39 German-speaking states intended to replace the Holy Roman Empire. The Emperor of Austria was made the permanent president reflecting the Congress' rejection of the Kingdom of Prussia's rising influence. Disagreement within restoration politics is partly responsible for the rise of liberal movements, followed by new levels of repression by Austrian statesman Klemens von Mitternich. The Zollverein, a tariff union, furthered economic unity in the German states. In light of the revolutionary movements in Europe, intellectuals and commoners alike started the revolutions of 1848 in the German states, raising the German Question. King Frederick William IV of Prussia was offered the title of Emperor, but with a loss of power; he rejected the crown and the proposed constitution, a temporary setback for the movement.

King William I appointed Otto von Bismarck as the Minister President of Prussia in 1862. Bismarck successfully concluded the war with Denmark in 1864; the subsequent Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 enabled him to create the North German Confederation which excluded Austria and other south German states. After the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War the south German states of Bavaria, Württemberg, and Baden joined the North German Confederation, which was renamed the German Empire. Prussia was the dominant state in the Empire; the King of Prussia was proclaimed German Emperor, and Berlin became its capital.

German Empire to Great War I[edit | edit source]

The Constitution of the German Empire came into January 1871, and William I accepted the title German Emperor. The new German Empire was a semi-parliamentary state in name, though the first Chancellor of Germany, Otto von Bismarck, ensured that the elected institutions remained a facade for an authoritarian political system. Bismarck was in office as Chancellor from 1871 to 1890 and would become remembered as a great leader by German conservatives. He implemented policies to create an integrated hierarchical society that strengthened German national unity, making the people loyal to the new state, while countering the rise of liberalism and socialism. He also created a social welfare state, which became the basis of the modern European welfare state, and enacted universal male suffrage. During his time Germany was also a leader in technological development, especially in chemistry, motors, and electricity. Bismarck's policies were successful and by 1900 Germany had become an industrial powerhouse, having the largest economy in continental Europe and the third-largest economy in the world, after Great Britain and the United Commonwealth.

Wilhelm II became emperor in 1888 and wanted to have the dominant role in governmental affairs than his predecessors, getting into conflicts with Bismarck. The two disagreed on on both domestic and foreign policy, and in 1890 Bismarck was forced to resign as chancellor. Wilhelm took an increasingly aggressive stance on foreign policy, unlike Bismarck, who had avoided getting involved in colonialism overseas, and wanted to maintain good relations with Russia and Britain to keep France isolated. Wilhelm wanted Germany to have its "place in the sun" and began creating a colonial empire similar to other European empires. In this process several incidents in the 1900s nearly brought Germany into conflict with France and Britain, and a German colonial empire in Africa and New Guinea began to take shape. But Wilhelm maintained good relations with Russia, as he was a relative of Tsar Nicholas II, and renewed the Reinsurance Treaty of 1887 that was enacted by Bismarck. This treaty became a full Russo-German alliance in 1906 after the First Moroccan Crisis strengthened Anglo-French opposition to the German Kaiser's ambitions. The two emperors reached an understanding that Russia would support Germany's aims in Europe in exchange for supporting Russia's aims in Central and East Asia, while in the Middle East (the Ottoman Empire) they would cooperate to ensure their interests were both met.

The 1910s saw the growth of the labor movement in Germany. The Imperial German government expanded social welfare programs to sooth discontent and prevent the rise of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the main political opposition, which was growing in popularity. Labor and trade unions, as well as co-operative societies, rallied support for the Social Democrats. In 1912 it won 35% of the seats in the Reichstag, the legislature. Left-wing activism increased in Germany in the second half of the decade, especially after news of the Continental Revolutionary War that broke out in 1917 reached the country and even more so after the 1918 Italian Revolution. The Communist Party of Germany was established in 1918, and there was support among the communist world for a revolution in Germany, the homeland of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. From that point and throughout the 1920s, the government under chancellors Georg Michaelis, Paul von Hindenburg, and Wilhelm Marx became increasingly militaristic and hostile towards worker unions as a result, and began using the army to crack down on any strikes. The Supreme Army Command became more influential in German politics, as did the German Conservative Party–backed by aristocrats, military officers, and industrialists–and the Roman Catholic Center Party.

First Great War[edit | edit source]

The intricate alliance system that Bismarck had created to maintain the European balance of power had begun to break down by the mid 1920s as relations between the great powers became more hostile. The Anglo-French "Entente Cordiale" that had been created in 1907 in parallel to the Russo-German alliance became stronger, and was joined by the Kingdom of Sierra and China as Britain feared Japanese expansionism in the Far East. The pact between Germany and Russia was joined by Japan in 1929, as the Molotov-Shidehara Agreement secured Japan's northern flank and gave it the priority to focus on China and the various resource-rich European colonies in Southeast Asia. Thus the Entente Impériale took shape against the Triple Alliance of Germany, Russia, and Japan. Italy and Spain falling to communist governments ended Germany's previously good relations with those countries. Relations between Austria-Hungary and Germany worsened because of the former's rivalry for influence in the Balkans with Russia, and the increasing autonomy granted to its many ethnic minorities made German leaders see the country as the new "Sick Man of Europe."

The outbreak of the Brazorian Revolution and the Continentalist United Commonwealth's intervention in that country in April 1932 started a large scale war in Anglo-America, drawing in Sierra, Superior, and Astoria. As the world was preoccupied with the war brewing in North America, Emperor Wilhelm and his generals decided it was the opportunity to settle the rivalry with Britain and France. Concentrating almost the entire German Army in the West, in October 1932 a surprise attack was launched on France through Belgium, with diversionary attacks against the Maginot Line along the Franco-German border. The main force of the German offensive fell on a part of the line that was lightly defended, near the Belgian-German border, resulting in a breakthrough. The French interior was not as defended as the border. The Germans advanced to less than thirty kilometers from Paris before being stopped and halting their offensive. Trench warfare occurred across the front until a breakthrough in the Spring Offensive of April 1933, leading to the fall of Paris and the French government on May 9. The rapid fall of France shocked the world, as it was previously believed that the French had built up strong defensive lines against Germany.

Austria-Hungary entered the war after being invaded by its rival Italy in December 1932, and the Italo-Austrian front in the Alps became bogged down in trench warfare. Russia, Romania, and Yugoslavia all joined in the attack against Austria, all having territorial claims on the country, in early 1933. Wilhelm and the German Army Command, encouraged by the fall of France, eventually joined in the invasion and partition of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A desire to annex the German-speaking core of that empire into Germany exist among some elements of the German right, but in the end it was decided to establish an independent Austria as a satellite state of Germany after the war. The Austro-Hungarian Army fell relatively quickly against the Russian invasion in the east, also allowing the Romanians to occupy Transylvania, and the Yugoslavs, Croatia and Slovenia. The entry of German troops into Czech and Austrian lands in June 1933 was met with little resistance, and the Austrian Emperor Charles I, under German pressure, abdicated on July 8.

For the rest of 1933 and 1934, Germany focused on the occupation of France and Austria-Hungary, as well as supporting its allies Greece and Bulgaria in their war with the Ottoman Empire. From early 1935 the German Army Command authorized the assistance to Arab rebels in the Levant, with German airlifts of weapons and supplies. The Great Arab Revolt led the Ottoman Sultan Abdulmejid II to sign a peace agreement under German pressure to recognize the independence of numerous new states in the Middle East; leading to his overthrow by the Turkish National Movement and the creation of the Anatolian Republic. The rest of the war remained quiet on the Continent as Britain did not have the strength to mount a liberation of France or any other landing operation, especially as the Japanese attacked British possessions in Asia, including India. A ceasefire was signed in January 1938 between Germany and Britain, followed by other major warring nations. The Berlin Peace Conference was hosted by Emperor Wilhelm to decide on the final terms of the peace agreement between the Triple Alliance, Entente Impériale, and Landonist International.

Interwar period[edit | edit source]

Second Great War[edit | edit source]

Cold War[edit | edit source]

Democratization and 21st century[edit | edit source]

Geography[edit | edit source]

Climate[edit | edit source]

Government and politics[edit | edit source]


This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of the
German Empire

Germany is a federal constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The current Constitution of the German Empire (Verfassung des Deutschen Reiches) has been the foundation of the German political system since its adoption in 1871 and was significantly modified in 1975, during the reign of Emperor Louis Ferdinand (1951–1994). Amendments to the constitution require a two-thirds majority in both houses of the parliament; the fundamental principles of the constitution such as the monarchy, the federal structure, rule of law, separation of powers, and the articles guaranteeing human rights and dignity are valid in perpetuity.

According to the constitution, which was modified from the original 1871 constitution drafted by Otto von Bismarck, the empire is a federation (federally organized national state) of 25 constituent states, one of which is an overseas territory. Prussia, the largest and most powerful state, has the permanent presidency within the federation as the King of Prussia is also simultaneously the German Emperor. By tradition, the German monarch uses the title King of Prussia while dealing with the governments of other German states and uses the title German Emperor while dealing with foreign nations as the representative and head of state of the entire German Empire. Since the enactment of the 1975 amendments to the constitution, the German Emperor is a ceremonial head of state and a symbol of the nation, and while the constitution still grants the monarch "reserve powers," in practice his role in day-to-day politics is limited as a constitutional monarch. The same principles also apply to the monarchs of the constituent kingdoms, duchies, and monarchies of the Empire.

The head of government and de facto leader of Germany is the Imperial Chancellor (Reichskanzler), who is appointed by the majority party or coalition government in the Reichstag (Imperial Diet). The Chancellor leads the Council of Ministers and is also the chairman of the Bundesrat (Federal Council), the council of representatives from all 25 German states. Prior to 1975 the Chancellor was appointed by the Emperor and responsible only to him, since then the Chancellor has been chosen by parliament and is responsible to the elected representatives in the Reichstag. In effect, the traditional role of the Emperor in German politics is to a degree exercised by the Chancellor of the Empire.

German constitutional law established the Reichstag as a house of representatives of the German people directly elected by universal suffrage, similar to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom or the House of Commons of Sierra, and the Bundesrat as a council of delegations from all German states to represent them on a federal level, being a de facto upper house. Although the latter is not officially part of the parliament but is a "second chamber beside the parliament," it is widely regarded as the upper house and has been compared to the British House of Lords or the Sierran Senate. Imperial laws are enacted by a simple majority vote in both the Reichstag and the Bundesrat, and take precedence over state laws. There are 598 seats in the Reichstag and 70 seats in the Bundesrat.

Constituent states[edit | edit source]

Map of German states

The German Empire is administratively organized into 25 constituent states, which include five kingdoms, eight grand duchies, four duchies, two principalities, four free cities, and one imperial city, and two imperial territories (New Guinea and Qingdao). Most of these states are constitutional monarchies, while the free cities have a republican form of government, and the City of Berlin is managed directly by the Imperial government. In practice, each state is a democracy with an elected state parliament (Landtag) and a head of government, the Minister-President. The territory of New Guinea is headed by a locally elected governor. Prussia is the largest federal state, covering two-thirds of the empire's territory.

The majority of these states largely had de facto sovereignty since the 1600s while being part of the Holy Roman Empire, while others were created by the 1815 Congress of Vienna. The borders of states are often not contiguous, often based on the territories owned by particular ruling families. During the 20th century the borders were changed and several new states were created.

State Capital
Imperial City (Reichstadt)
Flag of Berlin.svg Berlin
Kingdoms (Königreiche)
Flag of Prussia (1892-1918).svg Prussia (Preußen) Königsberg
Flag of Bavaria (striped).svg Bavaria (Bayern) Munich
Flagge Königreich Sachsen (1815-1918).svg Saxony (Sachsen) Dresden
Flag of Hanover 1837-1866.svg Hanover (Hannover) Hanover
Flagge Königreich Württemberg.svg Württemberg Stuttgart
Grand Duchies (Großherzogtümer)
Flagge Großherzogtum Baden (1891–1918).svg Baden Karlsruhe
Flagge Großherzogtum Hessen ohne Wappen.svg Hesse (Hessen) Darmstadt
Flagge Großherzogtümer Mecklenburg.svg Mecklenburg Schwerin
Flag of North Rhine-Westphalia.svg Westphalia (Westfalen) Dortmund
Flag of Thuringia.svg Thuringia (Thüringen) Erfurt
Flagge Preußen - Rheinland.svg Rhineland (Rheinland) Mainz
Civil flag of Oldenburg.svg Oldenburg Oldenburg
Flag of Luxembourg.svg Luxembourg (Luxemburg) Luxembourg City
Duchies (Herzogtümer)
Flag of Alsace (historical).svg Alsace-Lorraine (Elsaß-Lothringen) Strasbourg
Flag of Schleswig-Holstein (state).svg Schleswig-Holstein Kiel
Flagge Herzogtum Braunschweig.svg Brunswick (Braunschweig) Braunschweig
Flagge Herzogtum Nassau (1806-1866).svg Nassau Wiesbaden
Principalities (Fürstentümer)
Flagge Fürstentum Lippe.svg Lippe Detmold
Flag of Waldeck before 1830.svg Waldeck Arolsen
Free and Hanseatic Cities (Freie und Hansestädte)
Flag of Bremen.svg Bremen
Flag of Frankfurt am Main.svg Frankfurt
Flag of Hamburg.svg Hamburg
Flag of the Free City of Lübeck.svg Lübeck
Free States (Freiländer)
Reichskolonialflagge.svg German New Guinea (Deutsch-Neuguinea) Friedrich-Wilhelmshafen
Reichsdienstflagge der Kaiserlichen Marine 1893-1918.svg Qingdao (Tsingtau) Tsingtaustadt

Military[edit | edit source]

Law enforcement[edit | edit source]

Economy[edit | edit source]

Infrastructure[edit | edit source]

Science and technology[edit | edit source]

Demographics[edit | edit source]

Education[edit | edit source]

Health[edit | edit source]

Culture[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. ^ German: Deutsches Kaiserreich, officially Deutsches Reich, meaning "German Reich" and conventionally translated as "German Empire."