German Empire

German nation-state in Central Europe from 1871 to 1918

The German Empire (German: Deutsches Kaiserreich) also referred to as Imperial Germany, officially the Second Reich (German: Zweites Reich) or simply Germany, was 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 at the end of World War I.

Quotes edit

  • In 1871 Bismarck consummated both the Prussian victory over the French and the unification of Germany under Prussian leadership by inaugurating the German Empire in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. It was a fateful achievement. From its moment of birth the new German Empire was of an order of magnitude greater than that of the other states of Europe; and which became greater still during the next forty years. To the modern Europe of the industrial age, Germany was what Spain and France had been in turn to pre-industrial Europe, a giant overtopping its neighbours. From 1871 onwards the salient fact of European politics was German power. By 1914 Germany's population, at 67,000,000, was more than half as much again as either that of France or Great Britain, and was exceeded only by that of Russia among European powers. Moreover, German industry and technology were immensely stronger and more vigorous than those of either her friends or rivals. Her steel production, to give a basic index, amounted to 17,320,000 tons in 1914, as against a French total of only 5,000,000 tons and a British total of 7,000,000 tons (average for 1910–14). Nor could any other European country match the thoroughness of Germany's application of scientific research to industrial development or her system of national or technical education.
  • Unfortunately Germany was not a democratic and unmilitary state like the other industrial giant of the world, the United States. She was a military monarchy, just as France had been in her own days of greatness. Like France, Germany had been united by the sword. She inherited the martial traditions and myths of Prussia, and she also possessed the most efficient, best equipped and incomparably the most powerful army in the world. Moreover, Germany was geographically so placed as to command Europe from its heartland; able to expand diplomatically, economically and, if necessary, militarily to the east or the west. The advantage of this central position was enhanced by a superb strategic railway system planned by the Prussian general staff. And, lastly, all Germany's powers and resources were rendered the more effective by the German talent for organisation.
  • I was never able to understand how it was that here and there the welfare of the Fatherland had to be sacrificed to mere petty party interests, and from the point of view of political conviction felt myself most at home in the shade of that tree which was firmly rooted in the ethico-political soil of the epoch of our great and venerable Emperor. That epoch, with what I regarded as its wonderful glories, seemed to have become part of me, and I adhered firmly to its ideals and principles. The course of events in the present war have hardly been of a kind to make me particularly enthusiastic about the developments of later times. A powerful, self-contained State in Bismarck's sense was the world in which I preferred my thoughts to move. Discipline and hard work within the Fatherland seemed to me better than cosmopolitan imaginings. Moreover, I fail to see that any citizen has rights on whom equal duties are not imposed.
  • The sharp down-turn in the European economy in the 1870s had produced in most advanced economies save Britain a 'return to protection', marked especially by Bismarck's split with the Liberals, his imposition of protective tariffs in 1879, and the development in the Second Reich of a political economy of cartelization married to harrying the trade unions and suppressing the S.P.D. For those who wished an alternative to the British liberal state, here was one, with all its implications and consequences. Few, of course, advocated out-and-out Germanization, but increasingly Germany was coming to be regarded as the alternative model, the seed-bed for the future.
  • Manifestly, in August 1914 the status quo of western Europe was about to vanish. Either the liberal democracies would engage in a terrible episode of bloodletting in order to preserve their independence, territorial integrity and great power status, or they would avoid bloodshed by permitting the autocracy and militarism of the kaiser’s Germany to overwhelm them. That is, the alternative to the horrors of this war was not the continuation of the existing order. It was western Europe's abandonment of some of its finest achievements. These achievements derive from its struggles against absolute church and absolute monarchy, and from its endorsement of the principles of the enlightenment: elected governments, freedom of speech and of conscience, respect for the rights of minorities, and at least partial acknowledgment of the notion that all people are created equal and possess the same entitlements to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
    • Robin Prior & Trevor Wilson, The First World War (1999), 2001 paperback edition; ISBN 0–304-35984-X p. 217
  • From Antwerp to Baghdad there lies before us a large economic field in which German enterprise can develop. If we succeed in translating into reality the idea of a Central European customs agreement, which is in the air, and to which at one time Friedrich List in Germany and a man like Schäffle in Vienna devoted their energies, then the way to an understanding may be left open—and a large economic area opposed to Chamberlain's Greater Britain and the power of the United States, which would afford sufficient space for the co-existence and co-operation of the German and Austro-Hungarian national economies through the exchange of goods and through an advance towards Asia Minor, which the policy of Emperor William II has indicated and upon which German enterprise has already started through the grandiose project of the Baghdad Railway.
    • Gustav Stresemann, Das deutsche Wirtschaftsleben im Krieg (Leipzig, 1915), pp. 58-59, quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (1941), p. 274
  • We see the strongest guarantee of peace for Europe in a policy of expansion. When have we exploited the embarrassments of other peoples? When Russia was at war with Japan, the Tsar was able to take his last regiment away from our frontier. We did not regard Morocco as an object of war, we looked on while East Africa was divided, while France was creating a great colonial empire of Tunis, Algiers and Morocco, while Italy occupied Tripolis, while Persia was divided between Britain and Russia into two spheres of interest—the world could always rely on the German Kaisers and the German people's love of peace. And what thanks have we had? A world of enemies.... When one awakens in this way from a beautiful dream one must not follow that dream again, must not in future believe that renunciation of a world policy will be a guarantee of permanent freedom. They grudged us the right to economic development. We thank the Chancellor for what he said yesterday concerning our security in the East and West.
    • Gustav Stresemann, Speech in the Reichstag (6 April 1916), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany. From Defeat to Conquest 1913-1933 (1945), p. 75
  • Imperial Germany does not depart sensibly from the pattern of Prussia under Frederick the Great, in respect of its national policies or the aims and methods of government control, nor do the preconceptions of its statesmen differ at all widely from those prevalent among the dynastic jobbers of that predaceous era of state-making.
  • This modern state of the industrial arts that so has led to the rehabilitation of a dynastic state in Germany on a scale exceeding what had been practicable in earlier times,—this technological advance was not made in Germany but was borrowed, directly or at the second remove, from the English-speaking peoples, primarily, and in the last resort almost wholly, from England. What has been insisted on above is that British use and wont in other than the technological respect was not taken over by the German community at the same time. The result being that Germany offers what is by contrast with England an anomaly, in that it shows the working of the modern state of the industrial arts as worked out by the English, but without the characteristic range of institutions and convictions that have grown up among English-speaking peoples concomitantly with the growth of this modern state of the industrial arts. Germany combines the results of English experience in the development of modern technology with a state of the other arts of life more nearly equivalent to what prevailed in England before the modern industrial regime came on; so that the German people have been enabled to take up the technological heritage of the English without having paid for it in the habits of thought, the use and wont, induced in the English community by the experience involved in achieving it.
  • The case of Germany is unexampled among Western nations both as regards the abruptness, thoroughness and amplitude of its appropriation of this technology, and as regards the archaism of its cultural furniture at the date of this appropriation.
  • The German ideal of statesmanship is, accordingly, to make all the resources of the nation converge on military strength; just as the English ideal is, per contra, to keep the military power down to the indispensable minimum required to keep the peace.
  • Both German and English-speaking peoples make much of personal liberty, as is the fashion in modern Christendom, but it would seem that in the German conception this liberty is freedom to give orders and freely to follow orders, while in the English conception it is rather an exemption from orders—a somewhat anarchistic habit of thought.
    It was this dynastic power of the Prussian State, resting on an authentic tradition of personal fealty, unlimited in the last resort, that was the largest single factor of a cultural kind entering into the Imperial era from the German side.
  • I am not a man who believes that we Germans bled and conquered thirty years order to be pushed to one side when great international decisions call to be made. If that were to happen, the place of Germany as a world power would be gone for ever, and I am not prepared to let that happen. It is my duty and privilege to employ to this end without hesitation the most appropriate and, if need be, the sharper methods.
    • Wilhelm II of Germany‎‎, speech at the launching of the battleship Wittelsbach (3 July 1900), quoted in Michael Balfour, The Kaiser and His Times (London: Penguin, 1975), pp. 158-159
  • In spite of the fact that we have no such fleet as we should have, we have conquered for ourselves a place in the sun. It will now be my task to see to it that this place in the sun shall remain our undisputed possession, in order that the sun's rays may fall fruitfully upon our activity and trade in foreign parts, that our industry and agriculture may develop within the state and our sailing sports upon the water, for our future lies upon the water.

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