North German Confederation

The North German Confederation (German: Norddeutscher Bund)[1] was a German confederated state (a de facto federal state) that existed from July 1867 to December 1870. It is the first period of the German nation state, which is known today as the Federal Republic of Germany.[2]

North German Confederation
Norddeutscher Bund
1867–1871
The North German Confederation in 1870
The North German Confederation (red). The southern German states that joined in 1870 to form the German Empire are in orange. Alsace-Lorraine, the territory annexed following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, is in tan. The red territory in the south marks the original princedom of the House of Hohenzollern, rulers of the Kingdom of Prussia.
StatusFederation
CapitalBerlin
Common languagesGerman, Danish, Low German, East Frisian, North Frisian, Czech, Lithuanian, Polish, Sorbian, Yiddish
Religion
Majority:
Protestantism (Lutheran, Calvinist, United churches)
Minorities:
GovernmentConfederal
constitutional monarchy
President 
 1867–1871
Wilhelm I
Chancellor 
 1867–1871
Otto von Bismarck
LegislatureReichstag
 Federal Council
Bundesrat
Historical eraNew Imperialism
18 August 1866
16 April 1867
19 July 1870
18 January 1871
CurrencyVereinsthaler
Preceded by
Succeeded by
German Confederation
Duchy of Schleswig
Province of Prussia
Province of Posen
German Empire
Map of the North German Confederation (Prussia with its provinces are shown in blue)

The Confederation came into existence after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 over the lordship of two small Danish duchies (Schleswig-Holstein) claimed by Prussia in 1866. After its victory, Prussia made Austria and its allies accept the dissolution of the German Confederation (an association of states). The peace treaty allowed Prussia to create a federal state in Northern Germany. On July 1st, 1867, the North German Confederation had a federal constitution.[3]

The constitution established a constitutional monarchy with the Prussian king as the holder of the Bundespräsidium. This was the position of a head of state. Laws could only be enabled with the consent of the Reichstag (a parliament based on universal male suffrage) and the Federal Council (Bundesrath, a representation of the states). During the three and a half years of the Confederation, a conservative-liberal cooperation undertook important steps to unify (Northern) Germany with regard to law and infrastructure. The political system (and the political parties) remained essentially the same in the years after 1870.

During its existence, there were tensions between the North German Confederation and the Second French Empire, which was ruled by the French Emperor Napoleon III. In summer 1870, a dispute over a new king for Spain escalated into the Franco-Prussian war. In this situation, the south German states of Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt, Württemberg and Bavaria joined the North German Confederation.[4] On 1 January 1871, the country adopted a new constitution, which was written under the title of a new "German Confederation" but already gave it the name "German Empire" in the preamble and article 11.[5]

The Confederation had nearly 30 million inhabitants, of whom 80% lived in Prussia. This is ca. 75% of the population of the German Empire (1871).


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