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German Empire

Wappen Deutsches Reich - Reichsadler 1889.svg
Flag of the German Empire.svg

The German Empire (German: Deutsches Kaiserreich), officially the German Reich, 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.

The German Empire consisted of 27 constituent territories, with most being ruled by royal families. This included four kingdoms, six grand duchies, six duchies (five after 1876), seven principalities, three free Hanseatic cities, and one imperial territory. Although the Kingdom of Prussia contained most of the Empire's population and territory, it played a lesser role.

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.

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An East African native Askari holding the German Empire's colonial flag

The German colonial empire (German: Deutsches Kolonialreich) constituted the overseas colonies, dependencies and territories of Imperial Germany. Short-lived attempts of colonization by individual German states had occurred in preceding centuries, but crucial colonial efforts only began in 1884 with the Scramble for Africa. Germany lost control when World War I began in 1914 and its colonies were seized by its enemies in the first weeks of the war. However some military units held out for a while longer: German South-West Africa surrendered in 1915, Kamerun in 1916 and German East Africa only in 1918 by end of the war. Germany's colonial empire was officially confiscated with the Treaty of Versailles after her defeat in the war and the various units became League of Nations mandates under the supervision (but not ownership) of one of the victorious powers.

Until their 1871 unification, the German states had not concentrated on the development of a navy, and this essentially had precluded German participation in earlier imperialist scrambles for remote colonial territory – the so-called "place in the sun". Germany seemed destined to play catch-up. The German states prior to 1870 had retained separate political structures and goals, and German foreign policy up to and including the age of Otto von Bismarck concentrated on resolving the "German question" in Europe and securing German interests on the continent.

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Otto von Bismarck

Otto von Bismarck (1 April 1815 – 30 July 1898) was a conservative Prussian statesman who dominated German and European affairs from the 1860s until 1890. In the 1860s he engineered a series of wars that unified the German states, significantly and deliberately excluding Austria, into a powerful German Empire under Prussian leadership. With that accomplished by 1871 he skillfully used balance of power diplomacy to preserve German hegemony in a Europe which, despite many disputes and war scares, remained at peace. For historian Eric Hobsbawm, it was Bismarck who "remained undisputed world champion at the game of multilateral diplomatic chess for almost twenty years after 1871, [and] devoted himself exclusively, and successfully, to maintaining peace between the powers."

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German Reservists
A platoon of German Reservists in German New Guinea after the outbreak of war.

Did you know?

The Reichstag in Berlin.jpg
  • ...that the Reichstag building was constructed to house the Imperial Diet of the German Empire? It was opened in 1894 and housed the Diet until 1933, when it was severely damaged after it was set on fire.
  • ...that the German term Sozialstaat has been used since 1870 to describe state support programs devised by German Sozialpolitiker ("social politicians") and implemented as part of Bismarck's conservative reforms?

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Topics

Chronologie of the German Empire
Genesis (1870-1871) :
Affirmation :

German East Africa WWI Patriotic Kolonialkriegerdank donation postcard. "Askari from German East Africa"

Demise (1918-1919) :
Military

Pickelhaube

Deutsches Heer
Kaiserliche Marine
Luftstreitkräfte • Zeppelin
Arts and Culture
Scientists (Nobel Prize)

Adolf von Baeyer

Chemistry : Hermann Emil Fischer (1902), Adolf von Baeyer (1905), Eduard Buchner (1907), Wilhelm Ostwald (1909), Otto Wallach (1910), Richard Martin Willstätter (1915), Fritz Haber (1918)
Physics : Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1901), Philipp Lenard (1905), Ferdinand Braun (1909), Wilhelm Wien (1911), Max von Laue (1914), Max Planck (1918)
Physiology and medicine : Emil Adolf von Behring (1901), Robert Koch (1905), Paul Ehrlich (1908), Albrecht Kossel (1910)
Archeology : Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft, German Archaeological Institute, Ernst Curtius, Robert Koldewey, Wilhelm Dörpfeld, Heinrich Schliemann, Ludwig Borchardt, Gustaf Kossinna
Economy
Friedrich Alfred Krupp, Hermann Gruson, Friedrich Bayer, Werner von Siemens
Konzern, Krupp Ag, Rheinmetall, Thyssen, AG Vulcan Stettin, Germaniawerft
Zollverein
Politics
Constitution of the German Empire • German monarchs • Reichstag (Reichstag building), Bundesrat • Reichskanzler (list)
  • Political parties
Social democratic: SPD • SAPD • USPD
Political Catholic : Zentrum
Liberal : NLP • FVP • FSV • DFP
Conservative : DKP • DRP
Symbols
Flag of the German Empire • Germania

States of the German Empire

Kingdoms

Grand Duchies

Duchies

Principalities

Free and Hanseatic Cities

Imperial Territories

Colonies of the German Empire

The German colonial empire (German: Deutsches Kolonialreich) constituted the overseas colonies, dependencies and territories of Imperial Germany. Short-lived attempts of colonization by individual German states had occurred in preceding centuries, but crucial colonial efforts only began in 1884 with the Scramble for Africa. Germany lost control when World War I began in 1914 and its colonies were seized by its enemies in the first weeks of the war. However some military units held out for a while longer: German South-West Africa surrendered in 1915, Kamerun in 1916 and German East Africa only in 1918 by end of the war. Germany's colonial empire was officially confiscated with the Treaty of Versailles after Germany's defeat in the war and the various units became League of Nations mandates under the supervision (but not ownership) of one of the victorious powers.

Proposed Coat of Arms New Guinea 1914.png
Proposed Coat of Arms Samoa 1914.png
Proposed Coat of Arms Southwest Africa 1914.png
Proposed Coat of Arms Cameroon 1914.png
Proposed Coat of Arms Togo 1914.png
Proposed Coat of Arms East Africa 1914.png
German New Guinea German Samoa German South-West Africa Kamerun Togoland German East Africa

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