Germany, German Confederation and Empire

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Summary

Germany (; ), officially the Federal Republic of Germany (, ), is a federal parliamentary republic in western-central Europe consisting of 16 constituent states, which retain limited sovereignty. Its capital city and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With 80.6 million inhabitants, it is the most populous member state in the European Union. Germany is a major economic and political power of the European continent and a historic leader in many cultural, theoretical and technical fields.

Details

Following the fall of Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna convened in 1814 and founded the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund), a loose league of 39 sovereign states. Disagreement with restoration politics partly led to the rise of liberal movements, followed by new measures of repression by Austrian statesman Metternich. The Zollverein, a tariff union, furthered economic unity in the German states. National and liberal ideals of the French Revolution gained increasing support among many, especially young, Germans. The Hambach Festival in May 1832 was a main event in support of German unity, freedom and democracy. In the light of a series of revolutionary movements in Europe, which established a republic in France, intellectuals and commoners started the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states. King Frederick William IV of Prussia was offered the title of Emperor, but with a loss of power; he rejected the crown and the proposed constitution, leading to a temporary setback for the movement.

Conflict between King William I of Prussia and the increasingly liberal parliament erupted over military reforms in 1862, and the king appointed Otto von Bismarck the new Minister President of Prussia. Bismarck successfully waged war on Denmark in 1864. Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 enabled him to create the North German Confederation (Norddeutscher Bund) and to exclude Austria, formerly the leading German state, from the federation's affairs. After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the German Empire was proclaimed in 1871 in Versailles, uniting all scattered parts of Germany except Austria (, or "Lesser Germany").

With almost two-thirds of its territory and population, Prussia was the dominating constituent of the new state; the Hohenzollern King of Prussia ruled as its concurrent Emperor, and Berlin became its capital. In the period following the unification of Germany, Bismarck's foreign policy as Chancellor of Germany under Emperor William I secured Germany's position as a great nation by forging alliances, isolating France by diplomatic means, and avoiding war. As a result of the Berlin Conference in 1884 Germany claimed several colonies including German East Africa, German South-West Africa, Togo, and Cameroon. Under Wilhelm II, however, Germany, like other European powers, took an imperialistic course leading to friction with neighbouring countries. Most alliances in which Germany had previously been involved were not renewed, and new alliances excluded the country.

The assassination of Austria's crown prince on 28 June 1914 triggered World War I. Germany, as part of the Central Powers, suffered defeat against the Allies in one of the bloodiest conflicts of all time. In total, approximately two million German soldiers were killed in World War I. The German Revolution broke out in November 1918, and Emperor Wilhelm II and all German ruling princes abdicated. An armistice ended the war on 11 November, and Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919. Germans perceived the treaty as humiliating and unjust and it was later seen by historians as influential in the rise of Hitler.

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External Links

  • WikipediaGermany profilewww.deutschland.deDeutsche WelleGermanyFacts about GermanyDestatis.de

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