Before World War I, Germany was known as the German Empire.
The region that is now known as Germany comprised several kingdoms and principalities in the early 19th century. It was only in 1871 that Germany became a nation and came to be called a German Empire, with the Emperor as the head of the state.
The German Empire
Prior to the formation of the German Empire, the region comprised several German speaking principalities and kingdoms. The most prominent of these was Prussia, which was a great power exerting a lot of influence in the region. Prussia played a vital role in the defeat of Napoleon in the early 19th century. In 1862, Otto Von Bismarck was appointed as the Prime Minister of Prussia. Bismarck immediately set about unifying the German speaking states and kingdoms. In 1871, baring Austria, all the German-speaking regions were united to form the German Empire. Berlin became the capital of the new Kingdom. Since Prussia was the most important part of the Empire, the king of Prussia became the concurrent emperor of the German Empire.
An era of Expansion
Bismarck became the Chancellor of Germany under emperor William I. By forging alliances with other nations, Germany embarked on the path of becoming a powerful nation.
Germany started a phase of colonial expansion during the later part of the 19th century. At the Berlin Conference held between 1884 and 1885, Germany laid claims on many colonies in Africa. These included the German South West Africa, German East Africa, Kamerun and Togoland. In 1888, William II became the Emperor of the German Empire and gave a push to the dreams of German colonial expansion. He also embarked upon making the German navy strong enough to compete with that of Britain’s, the strongest navy of the times.
Fall of the Empire
However, this led to tensions with the powers of the time Russia, France, and England. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria acted as a catalyst for war between the great powers, and on July 28, 1914, World War I broke out. Germany, Austria-Hungary and its allies formed the Central Powers and France, British Empire, Russia and its allies became a part of the Allied Powers. Russia pulled out from the war in 1917, whereas the United States joined the Allies in the same year. The defeat of the Central Powers in the war resulted in the German Revolution with the German Emperor Wilhelm II abdicating his responsibilities. With this the German Empire came to an end and the country was declared a Republic.
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