German Empire (1871–1918)

From ProleWiki, the proletarian encyclopedia
German Empire
Deutsches Kaiserreich
Flag of German Empire
Location of German Empire
and largest city
Official languagesGerman
Dominant mode of productionImperialist Capitalism
GovernmentFederal parliamentary semi-constitutional monarchy[1][2]
• 1871–1888
Wilhelm I
• 1888
Friedrich III
• 1888–1918
Wilhelm II
• 1871–1890
Otto von Bismarck
• 1890–1894
Leo von Caprivi
• 1894–1900
Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst
• 1900–1909
Bernhard von Bülow
• 1909–1917
Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg
• 1917
Georg Michaelis
• 1917–1918
Georg von Hertling
• 1918
Max von Baden
• Total
540,858 km²
• 1910 census

The German Empire (German: Deutsches Reich), also referred to as Imperial Germany (German: Deutsches Kaiserreich), the Second Reich (German: Zweites Reich), was a country in Central Europe that existed from the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 until the end of the First World War. In November 1918, the German monarchy was overthrown and the Weimar Republic was established.


In the mid-19th century, Germany was divided into 39 states. The dominant state, Prussia, was ruled by an aristocracy called the Junkers. Prussia fought against Denmark in 1864 over the status of Schleswig and Holstein and defeated Austria in 1866, becoming the leading force in the German nationalist movement and forming the North German Confederation. Prussia took control of the rest of Germany in 1870 when it went to war against France. Otto von Bismarck, a Prussian Junker, became the first chancellor of Germany.[4]


Germany rapidly industrialized following its unification, with coal production increasing from 34 to 277 million tons, pig-iron increasing from 1.3 to 14.7 million tons, and steel increasing from 0.3 to 14 million tons between 1870 and 1914. In 1879, Germany introduced a series of tariffs, which rose to 13% by 1914.[4]


Otto von Bismarck introduced state health insurance in 1883 as a concession to weaken the German socialist movement. Workers had to pay two-thirds of health premiums by themselves, and the SPD and KPD organized their own health services, the Workers' Samaritan Federation and the Proletarian Health Service, respectively.[5]


The German Empire colonized parts of Africa and Oceania. It committed genocide against the Herero and Nama peoples in what is now Namibia. Germany lost control of its colonies after the First World War.[6]


  1. Nipperdey, Thomas, "Deutsche Geschichte 1866-1918: Zweiter Band: Machtstaat vor der Demokratie" (1995), p. 98–108.
  2. Röhl, John C. G. "Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Concise Life" (2014), p. 172–173.
  3. Wheeler-Bennett, John (1967). The Nemesis of Power The German Army in Politics 1918–1945. London: Macmillan. pp. 13–14.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Neil Faulkner (2013). A Marxist History of the World: From Neanderthals to Neoliberals: 'The Age of Blood and Iron' (pp. 159–161). [PDF] Pluto Press. ISBN 9781849648639 [LG]
  5. "‘Socialism Is the Best Prophylaxis’: The German Democratic Republic’s Health Care System" (2023-02-14). Tricontinental. Archived from the original on 2023-02-14. Retrieved 2023-02-26.
  6. "Risen from the Ruins: The Economic History of Socialism in the German Democratic Republic" (2021-04-20). Tricontinental. Archived from the original on 2022-04-26. Retrieved 2022-08-12.