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The repercussions of the French Revolution spread rapidly throughout Europe and led to wars in the course of which the Holy Roman Empire collapsed in 1806. Under Napoleon, France’s power had been extended far into Central Europe by 1812. Political and social reforms were carried out in Prussia and the new states of the Rhine Confederation. After the Coalition Wars against the French emperor, the political and territorial changes in Germany could no longer be undone. The Congress of Vienna of 1814/15 re-established the old monarchies and brought peace and stability to Europe. Initial industrial centres arose in the states of the German Confederation.

The massive repression of liberal-democratic and national movements led to the revolutions of 1848/49, as a result of which the first German National Assembly was convened in Frankfurt, where it worked out a constitution. Yet in Germany the attempt to establish a democratic and constitutional state did not succeed. In 1871, after three wars against Denmark, Austria and France, the German Empire was founded as a nation-state under Prussian hegemony.