After the creation of the German Empire in 18 January 1871, there was a boom of advancement in Germany. Especially in chemistry, motors and electricity.

At the same time Germany quickly grew as an economic and military power that tried to compete with Britain and there was great advancement in many areas like the chemical industry, Aviation, Submarines, Automotive and many more.

My question is what happened in Germany during that time that prompted for such a growth, and was the creation of the Empire somehow responsible for this?


3 Answers 3


The German Empire in 1871 was nearly 2 1/2 times as large (in area) as Prussia alone had been 11 years earlier:

According to Wikipedia the population of Prussia in 1871 was 24.6MM, and that of the entire German Empire was 40.0MM; note of course that the former includes all the territories conquered/coalesced in the preceding decade.

The German Empire's vast reserves of coal and iron ore in the Rhineland as well as Silesia helped it to achieve a significant increase in urbanization in the years following 1861, rapidly increasing urbanization from 30% of population to over 65% in just 20 years. (I had that reference a moment ago and lost it - sigh.)

All these factors combined to drive a significant increase in national wealth from Prussia alone in 1861, to the entire German Empire in 1881.

So, to answer your question, the German Empire did not drive the economic and scientific success of the German population, but it did mean that a single autocratic government subsequently wielded the influence resulting from that success.

Note the German Empire generally (as well as Prussia specifically) entered the Industrial Revolution somewhat later than Britain, despite having significant geographic resources beneficial to that process. It is entirely expected that as the Industrial Revolution slowed in Britain the later starters would catch up.


There were several factors, the most basic of which was the relaxation of trade barriers. The ability to freely travel and communicate within the empire greatly boosted economic and intellectual exchanges. Inventors could suddenly get parts and materials from places that were formerly unknown or inaccessible. Printers and publishers could have customs-free subscribers all over the empire instead of just in one small duchy or country.

Standardization of language was another factor. When the empire established itself, one of the big pushes was for standardized education and language. Hoch Deutsch spread and became much more common among the educated classes. Before then, the different German states used many different dialects and this made books difficult to read and created other problems. By standardizing on one language both education and the economy benefitted.

Improved educational methods became widespread. Before the empire, education in the different German states was highly variable. The Prussians took a clinical view towards education and promoted specific methods, largely copied from those practiced in Vienna, at every grade level throughout the empire. This new science of education was extremely successful and rapidly made Germany into a scientific powerhouse. In the United States there was a fascination with the new techniques and many schools attempted to adopt the new Prussian methods. For example, see "Prussian Schools Through American Eyes" by James Parsons (1891).


The creation of the Empire was a sort of revolution. And every time some years (5-15) after a revolution happens, it diminishes the power of old elites to hold back talented people, especially from new families. Revolutions increase the vertical mobility in the society. BTW, it is their main real aim, isn't it? The length and the intensity of that period merely indicate the efficiency of the revolution and of the created state/society system.

So, the newly born German empire was really more effective than the British and French states at the same time. But less than American one.

  • 3
    Interesting thesis. Is there any evidence to back it up? In particularly I would argue that the creation of the Empire of the Germans was not a revolution in the sense that you assert. How are you measuring effectivess? Why is your answer better than that provided by Mr. Geerkens?
    – MCW
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 13:56
  • It was not an "official" revolution. But it was a great change for Prussian and enormous change for other Germans. What do you want to back up by evidences?
    – Gangnus
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 15:06
  • 4
    You've asserted your opinion, but you haven't backed it with any evidence or research. Opinions without research creates a discussion site; opinions with research create excellent answers that satisfy OP and provide the opportunity for others to learn.
    – MCW
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 16:02

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