German Empire | Facts, History, Flag, & Map (2023)

German Empire | Facts, History, Flag, & Map (2)

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German Empire, also called Second Reich, historical empire founded on January 18, 1871, in the wake of three short, successful wars by the North German state of Prussia. Within a seven-year span, Denmark, the Habsburg monarchy, and France had been vanquished. The empire had its origin not in an upwelling of nationalist feeling from the masses but through traditional cabinet diplomacy and agreement by the leaders of the states in the North German Confederation, led by Prussia, with the hereditary rulers of Bavaria, Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt, and Württemberg. Prussia, occupying more than three-fifths of the area of Germany and having approximately three-fifths of the population, remained the dominant force in the empire until its demise at the end of World War I.

Bismarck and the rise of Prussia

German Empire | Facts, History, Flag, & Map (3)

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The Treaty of Prague concluded the Seven Weeks’ War with Austria and other German states on August 23, 1866, and cleared the way for a settlement both in Prussia and in the wider affairs of Germany. The Schleswig-Holstein question, which had threatened the balance of power in northern Europe for more than a decade, took on a new dimension with the cession of Schleswig and Holstein to Prussia. The Prussian parliament had been dissolved at the beginning of the war, and new elections were held on the day of the Battle of Königgrätz (July 3, 1866). The liberals in the parliament had a reduced majority, and they were now split in their attitude to Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck; his success had shaken their liberal principles. The moderates broke away from the Progressives (Deutsche Fortschrittspartei) to form the National Liberal Party, a party in which liberalism was subordinated to nationalism. Bismarck, on his side, made a conciliatory gesture by asking for an act of indemnity for the unconstitutional collection of taxes since the beginning of the parliamentary struggle with Prussian King William I in 1862. This act was passed on September 3, 1866, by a vote of 230 to 75.

German Empire | Facts, History, Flag, & Map (4)

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It was a decisive step in German history. The Prussian liberals, hitherto genuine opponents of Bismarck, dropped their insistence on parliamentary sovereignty in exchange for the prospect of German unity and for an assurance that united Germany would be administered in a “liberal” spirit. Instead of a struggle for power, there was henceforth compromise. The capitalist middle classes ceased to demand control of the state, and the crown and the Junker governing class conducted the state in a way which suited middle-class needs and outlook. Since the middle classes ceased to be liberals, the Prussian Junkers became “Germans.” Neither side kept its bargain fully, and there were renewed alarms of constitutional struggle throughout the period of the empire. However, the decision of September 3, 1866, was not undone, and Germany did not become a constitutional monarchy.


What is the history of the German Empire flag? ›

The Flag of the German Empire, or Imperial Flag, Realm Flag, (German: Reichsflagge) is a combination between the flag of Prussia and the flag of the Hanseatic League. The flag was first used as the flag of the North German Confederation which was formed in 1867.

How many countries were in the German Empire? ›

The German Empire consisted of 26 constituent territories, most 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.

What was the German Empire from 1871 to 1945? ›

Historically, only Germany from 1871 to 1918—when Germany was under the rule of an emperor (Kaiser)—is known in English as the "German Empire" (Deutsches Kaiserreich in German historiography), while the term "German Reich" describes Germany from 1871 to 1945.

What countries were part of the German Empire? ›

The German colonial empire encompassed parts of several African countries, including parts of present-day Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Namibia, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, as well as northeastern New Guinea, Samoa and numerous Micronesian islands.


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