German Empire

Chancellor Bismarck, the statesman who unified Germany with skillful political moves
Wilhelm I in 1884
Die Proklamation des Deutschen Kaiserreiches by Anton von Werner (1877), depicting the proclamation of Emperor William I (18 January 1871, Palace of Versailles). From left, on the podium (in black): Crown Prince Frederick (later Frederick III), his father the emperor, and Frederick I of Baden, proposing a toast to the new emperor. At centre (in white): Otto von Bismarck, first Chancellor of Germany, Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, Prussian Chief of Staff.
A postage stamp from the Caroline Islands
German colonies and protectorates in 1914
The Krupp works in Essen, 1890
Tensions between Germany and the Catholic Church hierarchy as depicted in a chess game between Bismarck and Pope Pius IX. Between Berlin and Rome, Kladderadatsch, 1875
Prussian deportations of ethnic Poles (Polenausweisungen), 1909 painting by Wojciech Kossak
Crime; convicts in relation to the population, 1882–1886
Frederick III, emperor for only 99 days (9 March – 15 June 1888)
Wilhelm II in 1902
The Reichstag in the 1890s / early 1900s
Berlin in the late 19th century
Bismarck at the Berlin Conference, 1884
Flag of the German colonial empire
Hoisting of the German flag at Mioko, German New Guinea in 1884
Map of the world showing the participants in World War I. Those fighting on the Entente's side (at one point or another) are depicted in green, the Central Powers in orange, and neutral countries in grey.
German troops being mobilized, 1914
German Army positions, 1914
The Eastern Front at the time of the cease-fire and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
A war memorial in Berlin
Coats of arms and flags of the constituent states in 1900
Percentage of linguistic minorities of the German Empire in 1900 by Kreis
Emperor Wilhelm II, who was the Supreme Governor of the Evangelical Church of Prussia's older Provinces, and Empress Augusta Victoria after the inauguration of the Evangelical Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem (Reformation Day, 31 October 1898)
War flag of the German Empire. In 1956, the Iron Cross was re-introduced as the symbol of the Bundeswehr, the modern German armed forces.
German territories lost in both World Wars are shown in black, while present-day Germany is marked dark grey on this 1914 map.
Different legal systems in Germany prior to 1900
Fields of law in the German Empire
Administrative map
Population density ({{circa|1885}})
Election constituencies for the Reichstag
Detailed map in 1893 with cities and larger towns
Czech (and Moravian)
Distribution of Protestants and Catholics in Imperial Germany
Distribution of Protestants, Catholics and Jews in Imperial Germany (Meyers Konversationslexikon)
Distribution of Jews in Imperial Germany
Greater Imperial coat of arms of Germany
Middle Imperial coat of arms of Germany
Lesser Imperial coat of arms of Germany

The period of the German Reich from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the November Revolution in 1918, when the German Reich changed its form of government from a monarchy to a republic.

- German Empire

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Grand Duchy of Hesse

Grand duchy in western Germany that existed from 1806 to 1918.

The Grand Duchy of Hesse within the German Empire
The Residenzschloss (city palace) of the Grand Dukes in Darmstadt
The Grand Duchy of Hesse within the German Empire
The three provinces of the Grand Duchy of Hesse: Upper Hesse, Starkenburg, and Rhenish Hesse

It joined the German Empire in 1871 and became a republic following the empire's fall after World War I in 1918.

North German Confederation

German confederated state that existed from July 1867 to December 1870.

The North German Confederation in 1870
Map of the North German Confederation (Prussia with its provinces are shown in blue)
The North German Confederation in 1870
Chart illustrating the constitution of the North German Confederation
The North German Confederation in 1870
First session of the konstituierender Reichstag on 24 February 1867. This organ was actually not a parliament as there was no federal state then. Its sole purpose was to discuss and accept the draft constitution. Later, in August, the North Germans elected the first Reichstag as established by the new constitution.
North German 7-kreuzer stamp, 1868. The postal services in the north German states were united into the Norddeutscher Postbezirk, the predecessor of the Reichspost.

On 1 January 1871, the country adopted a new constitution, which was written under the title of a new "German Confederation" but already gave it the name "German Empire" in the preamble and article 11.

Constitution of the German Empire

First and last page of the constitution of 1871, with the signature of Wilhelm, German Emperor and King of Prussia
German constitution of 1871, chart
Emperor Wilhelm I
The chamber of the Bundesrat in the Reichstag building, 1894
Reichstag in 1889

The Constitution of the German Empire (Verfassung des Deutschen Reiches) was the basic law of the German Empire of 1871-1918, from 16 April 1871, coming into effect on 4 May 1871.


Historical region, now called Alsace–Moselle, located in France.

Alsace–Lorraine within the German Empire
Alsace–Lorraine within the German Empire
The neo-Romanesque Metz railway station, built in 1908. Kaiser Wilhelm II instigated the construction of various buildings in Alsace–Lorraine supposedly representative of German architecture.
German patrol during the Saverne Affair
Translation: "Here at Gertwiller on 22 August 1914 three Alsatian farmers were shot, against all justice. ... innocent victims of German barbarity. Alsatians! Remember!"
An Alsatian in traditional dress and a French officer, c. 1919
Metz and the Lorraine returned to France, front page of Le Petit Journal dated 8 December 1918
Monument to the Malgré-nous in Obernai, Alsace
Spatial distribution of dialects in Alsace–Lorraine before the expansion of standard French in the 20th century
{{center|French map with shading showing départements before 1870 with black lines after 1871.}}{{efn|Only the département of Meurthe changed its name and became Meurthe-et-Moselle after the border changed; the border between 1871–1918 is shown in yellow.}}
{{center|Photo of a statue in the Place Maginot Nancy that personifies the loss of Alsace as separation of a mother and daughter.}}
{{center|The Black Stain{{efn|In France, children were taught in school not to forget the lost provinces, which were coloured in black on maps.}} (1887) by Albert Bettannier.{{efn|Bettannier was a native of Metz who fled to Paris after his hometown was annexed by Germany.}} }}
{{center|The general government of Elsass (1875) by A. Petermann.}}
{{center|1887 German map, using German place-names, of Alsace-Lorraine.}}

It was created in 1871 by the German Empire after seizing the region from the Second French Empire in the Franco-Prussian War and Treaty of Frankfurt.

Otto von Bismarck

Conservative German statesman and diplomat.

Bismarck in 1890
Bismarck in 1836, at age 21
Bismarck in 1847, at age 32
The German Confederation 1815–1866. Prussia (in blue) considerably expanded its territory.
Bismarck in 1863 with Roon (centre) and Moltke (right), the three leaders of Prussia in the 1860s
Otto von Bismarck as Minister President of Prussia, shown wearing insignia of a knight of the Johanniterorden, 1858
Cartoon from 1867 making fun of Bismarck's different roles, from general to minister of foreign affairs, federal chancellor, hunter, diplomat and president of the parliament of the Zollverein, the Prussian-dominated German customs union
Surrender of Napoleon III after the Battle of Sedan, 1 September 1870
Anton von Werner's patriotic, much-reproduced depiction of the proclamation of Wilhelm I as German emperor in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Bismarck is in the center, wearing a white uniform. (1885)
Bismarck in 1873
Between Berlin and Rome, Bismarck confronts Pope Pius IX, 1875
The Krupp factory in Essen, 1880
Bismarck c. 1875
Hoisting the German flag at Mioko, German New Guinea in 1884
European officials staking claims to Africa in the Conference of Berlin in 1884
Franz von Lenbach's portrait of Bismarck in his 75th year
Photo of Chancellor Bismarck in the 1880s.
Lenbach painting of Bismarck in retirement (1895)
Bismarck on his deathbed, 30 July 1898
A statue of Bismarck in Berlin
Bismarck's punchy sayings were borrowed by his successors, including the Nazis. This 1942 Nazi propaganda poster quotes Bismarck: "When the Germans hold together, they beat the devil out of hell."
Arms of Otto, Prince Bismarck
Caricature by Opper 1895 of Bismarck & Britain's William Ewart Gladstone as performers on the political stage

Receiving the support of the independent South German states in the Confederation's defeat of France, he formed the German Empire – which also excluded Austria – and united Germany.

Imperial German Navy

Dreadnoughts of the High Seas Fleet
Proclamation of Wilhelm I as Emperor of Germany
Kiel canal lock at Brunsbüttel
Map of overseas stations of the Imperial German Navy, 1901–1914
Wilhelm II in 1913
German sailor c. 1890
Alfred von Tirpitz
Kaiser Wilhelm II on board the light cruiser in 1894
The German High Seas Fleet, with a member of the in the lead
Standardised main armament of HMS Dreadnought
Nassau class battleship: the wing (side) turrets could not fire cross-deck (across the ship).
Kaiser-class battleship: introduced superfiring aft turrets, tandem wing turrets (side turrets offset to allow cross-deck firing) and turbine propulsion.
Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg, argued for a guaranteed proportion of military expenditure for the army.
German naval officers, September 1918
Flags used by the Imperial German Navy
Sailors of the Imperial Navy in Tsingtau, c. 1912
Friedrich Christiansen in 1918
Gunther Plüschow in 1927
Poster condemning the 1914 Raid on Scarborough

The Imperial German Navy or the Imperial Navy (Kaiserliche Marine) was the navy of the German Empire, which existed between 1871 and 1919.

German Revolution of 1918–1919

Barricade during the Spartacist Uprising of 1919
Kiel mutiny: the soldiers' council of.
Crowds outside the Reichstag on 9 November as the creation of the republic was announced.
"Berlin seized by revolutionists": The New York Times on Armistice Day, 11 November 1918.
Proclamation of the Bremen revolutionary republic, outside the town hall, on 15 November 1918.
Leftist soldiers during Christmas fighting in the Pfeilersaal of the Berlin City Palace
The occupation of the Silesian railway station in Berlin by government troops, 1919
Spartacist militia in Berlin
A British Mark IV tank, captured during World War I, in use by German government troops. Berlin, January 1919
Dead revolutionaries after summary execution in March 1919

The German Revolution or November Revolution (Novemberrevolution) was a civil conflict in the German Empire at the end of the First World War that resulted in the replacement of the German federal constitutional monarchy with a democratic parliamentary republic that later became known as the Weimar Republic.

Minister President of Prussia

Formed by King Frederick William IV during the 1848–49 Revolution, until the abolition of Prussia in 1947 by the Allied Control Council.

After the unification of Germany in 1871 and until the collapse in 1918, the office of the Prussian Minister President was usually held by the Chancellor of the German Empire, beginning with the tenure of Otto von Bismarck.

Franco-Prussian War

Conflict between the Second French Empire and the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia.

(clockwise from top right) Battle of Mars-la-Tour, 16 August 1870

The Lauenburg 9th Jäger Battalion at Gravelotte

The Last Cartridges

The Defense of Champigny

The Siege of Paris in 1870

The Proclamation of the German Empire
Map of the North German Confederation (red), four Southern German States (orange) and Alsace-Lorraine (beige)
French soldiers drill at IIe Chambrière camp near Metz, 1870
Prussian field artillery column at Torcy in September 1870
Map of the German and French armies near the common border on 31 July 1870
Course of the first phase of the war up to the Battle of Sedan on 1 September 1870
Bavarian infantry at the Battle of Wissembourg, 1870
Map of the Prussian and German offensives, 5–6 August 1870
Aimé Morot's La bataille de Reichshoffen, 1887
Heinrich XVII, Prince Reuss, on the side of the 5th Squadron I Guards Dragoon Regiment at Mars-la-Tour, 16 August 1870. Emil Hünten, 1902
The "Rifle Battalion 9 from Lauenburg" at Gravelotte
The Cemetery of St. Privat by Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville (1881)
Surrender of Metz
Napoleon III and Bismarck talk after Napoleon's capture at the Battle of Sedan, by Wilhelm Camphausen
Course of the second phase of the war (part 1–1 September to 30 November)
Course of the second phase of the war (part 2–1 December until the end of the war)
"The War: Defence of Paris—Students Going to Man the Fortifications"—one of the iconic images of the siege of Paris
Troops quarter in Paris, by Anton von Werner (1894)
The Battle of Bapaume took place from 2–3 January 1871, during the Franco-Prussian War in and around Biefvillers-lès-Bapaume and Bapaume. The Prussian advance was stopped by Genéral Louis Léon César Faidherbe at the head of the Armée du Nord.
The French Army of the East is disarmed at the Swiss border in this 1881 depiction
In this painting by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes a woman holds up an oak twig as a symbol of hope for the nation's recovery from war and deprivation after the Franco-Prussian War. The Walters Art Museum.
French warships at sea in 1870
Painting of in battle with, by
German uhlans and an infantryman escorting captured French soldiers
Europe at This Moment (1872) – A Political-Geographic Fantasy: An elaborate satirical map reflecting the European situation following the Franco-Prussian war. France had suffered a crushing defeat: the loss of Alsace and parts of Lorraine; The map contains satirical comments on 14 countries
Prussian parade in Paris in 1871
Europe after the Franco-Prussian War and the unification of Germany
Proclamation of the German Empire, painted by Anton von Werner

In the waning days of the war, with German victory all but assured, the German states proclaimed their union as the German Empire under the Prussian king Wilhelm I and Chancellor Bismarck; with the notable exception of Austria, the vast majority of Germans were united under a nation-state for the first time.

Wilhelm II, German Emperor

The last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia, reigning from 15 June 1888 until his abdication on 9 November 1918.

Portrait by T. H. Voigt, 1902
Wilhelm with his father, in Highland dress, in 1862
Prince Wilhelm as a student at the age of 18 in Kassel. As usual, he is hiding his damaged left hand behind his back.
Prince Wilhelm posing for a photo taken around 1887. His right hand is holding his left hand, which was affected by Erb's palsy.
Wilhelm in 1905
Otto von Bismarck, the Chancellor who dominated German policy making until Wilhelm II assumed the throne in 1888.
"Dropping the Pilot" by John Tenniel, published in Punch on 29 March 1890, two weeks after Bismarck's dismissal
Silver 5-mark coin of Wilhelm II
Portrait by Philip de László, 1908
Wilhelm talking with Ethiopians at the Tierpark Hagenbeck in Hamburg in 1909
The Nine Sovereigns at Windsor for the funeral of King Edward VII, photographed on 20 May 1910. Standing, from left to right: King Haakon VII of Norway, Tsar Ferdinand of the Bulgarians, King Manuel II of Portugal and the Algarve, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Prussia, kings George I of the Hellenes and Albert I of the Belgians. Seated, from left to right: kings Alfonso XIII of Spain, George V of the United Kingdom and Frederick VIII of Denmark
1898 Chinese imperialism cartoon: A Mandarin official objects helplessly as China, depicted as a pie, is carved up by Queen Victoria (Britain), Wilhelm (Germany), Nicholas II (Russia), Marianne (France), and a samurai (Japan)
Wilhelm with Nicholas II of Russia in 1905, wearing the military uniforms of each other's army
Wilhelm in Jerusalem during his state visit to the Ottoman Empire, 1898
A 1904 British cartoon commenting on the Entente cordiale: John Bull walking off with Marianne, turning his back on Wilhelm II, whose sabre is shown extending from his coat
1909 cartoon in Puck shows five nations engaged in naval race; the Kaiser is in white
Wilhelm II's visit to Jerusalem in 1898
Wilhelm with the Grand Duke of Baden, Prince Oskar of Prussia, the Grand Duke of Hesse, the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Prince Louis of Bavaria, Prince Max of Baden and his son, Crown Prince Wilhelm, at pre-war military manoeuvres in autumn 1909
A composite image of Wilhelm with German generals
Wilhelm conversing with the victor of Liège, General Otto von Emmich; in the background the generals Hans von Plessen (middle) and Moriz von Lyncker (right)
Hindenburg, Wilhelm, and Ludendorff in January 1917
The funeral of Wilhelm II
Wilhelm's tomb at Huis Doorn
Wilhelm and his first wife, Augusta Viktoria
German State Prussia, Wedding Medal 1881 Prince Wilhelm and Auguste Victoria, obverse
The reverse shows the couple in Medieval costumes in front of 3 squires carrying the shields of Prussia, Germany, and Schleswig-Holstein.
With second wife, Hermine, and her daughter, Princess Henriette
Kaiser Wilhelm II with Enver Pasha, October 1917. Enver was one of the main perpetrators of the Armenian genocide.
Portrait by Max Koner (1890). Wilhelm wears the collar and mantle of the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle and, at his throat, the Protector's diamond-studded cross of the Order of Saint John (Bailiwick of Brandenburg).
Wilhelm in Amerongen, 1919
Huis Doorn in 1925
Wilhelm in 1933
Huis Doorn in October 2004

Despite strengthening the German Empire's position as a great power by building a powerful navy, his tactless public statements and erratic foreign policy greatly antagonized the international community and are considered by many to be one of the underlying causes for World War I.