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History of germany

The German language and the feeling of "Germanhood" go back more than a thousand years, but the state now known as Germany was unified as a modern nation-state only in 1871, when the German Empire, dominated by the Kingdom of Prussia, was forged. This was the second German Reich, usually translated as "empire", but also meaning "realm".

The first Reich – known for much of its existence as the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation – stemmed from a division of the Carolingian Empire in 843, which was founded by Charlemagne on December 25th, 800, and existed in varying forms until 1806.

During these almost thousand years, the Germans expanded their influence successfully with help of the organization of the Catholic Church, Northern Crusades and the Hanseatic League. In 1530, the attempt of Protestant Reformation of Catholicism turned out to have failed, and a separate Protestant church was acknowledged as new state religion in many states of Germany. This led to inter-German strife, the Thirty Years War (1618) and finally the Peace of Westphalia (1648), that resulted in a drastically enfeebled and politically disunited Germany, unable to resist the stroke of the Napoleonic Wars, during which the Reich was overrun and dissolved in 1806.

The lasting effect of the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire came to be the division between Austria, formerly the leading state of Germany, from the more western and northern parts. Between 1815 and 1871 Germany consisted of dozens of independent states, thirty-nine of which formed the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund).

The second Reich, the German Empire, was proclaimed January 18th, 1871, in Versailles after the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. This was mainly the result of the efforts of Otto von Bismarck, Germany's most prominent statesman of the 19th century, among other things known for fighting Socialists with social reform and Catholic influence in the so called Kulturkampf.

After the Holy Roman Empire was subdued by France in the Napoleonic Wars, France was for long perceived as Germany's arch-enemy. In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Germany revenged, but also during World War I, the invasion of France (1914) was a chief objective. After initial advances, World War I amounted to a slow war in the trenches, killing many on both sides. When the war ended in 1918, Germany's emperor was forced to abdicate, and after a quenched revolution the German Empire was succeeded by the democratic Weimar Republic.