How did German Federalism Shape Unification?

  • Abigail Green
Part of the New Perspectives in German Studies book series (NPG)


The answer to this question depends in part on how we conceive of German unification itself. If by ‘unification’ we mean the political and military events that led to the creation of the German Empire in 1871, then the question can be answered in fairly straightforward military, diplomatic and constitutional terms. The legacy of pre-unification German federalism, in the shape of the German Confederation and its thirty-five sovereign states, is easily identified in the federal constitution of the new German Empire, which granted extensive powers to member states and initially restricted the role of the new nation-state to military, diplomatic and economic policy.


German State Local Interest Italian State Nation Building Railway Construc Tion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    On constitutional federalism, see Hans Otto Binder, Reich und Einzelstaaten während der Kanzlerschaft Bismarcks 1871–1890. Eine Untersuchung zum Problem der bundesstaatlichen Organisation (Tubingen 1971), and Manfred Rauh, Foderalismus und Parlamentarisinus im Wilhelminischen Reich (Düsseldorf 1983). On the relationship between state and national politics, see Dan S. White, The splintered party. National Liberalism in Hessen and the Reich, 1867–1918 (Cambridge, MA/London 1976); Michael John, ‘Liberalism and society in Germany, 1850–1880: the case of Hanover’, English Historical Review, 102:402 (1987), pp. 579–98; also Simone Lfissig, ‘Wahlrechtsreformen in den deutschen Einzelstaaten: Indikatoren fur Modernisierungstendenzen und Reformfahigkeit im Kaiserreich’, in Simone Lassig, Karl Heinrich Pohl, and James Retallack (eds), Modernisierung und Region im wilhelminischen Deutschland. Walilen, Wahlrecht und politische Kultur (Bielefeld 1995), pp. 127–70, and ‘Der “Terror der Straf3e’ als Motor des Fortschritts? Zum Wandel der politischen Kultur im “Musterland der Reaktion°’, in Simone Lassig and Karl Heinrich Pohl (eds), Sachsen im Kaiserreich. Politik, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft im Umbruch (Weimar/Koln/Wien 1997), pp. 191–239. On cultural regionalism see Celia Applegate, A nation of provincials, the German idea of Heimat (Berkeley/Oxford 1990) and Alon Confino, The nation as a local metaphor. WiTrttemberg, Imperial Germany and national rnemonj 1871–1918 (Chapel Hill 1997).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For a consideration of the role of the region in modernisation theory, see Celia Applegate, ‘A Europe of regions: reflections on the historiography of sub-national places in modern times’, American Historical Review 104:4 (10/1999), pp. 1157–82.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Cited after Caroline Ford, Creating the Nation in provincial France. Religion and political identity in Brittany (Princeton 1993), p. 16.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    On the German Hanoverian Party, see Hans-Georg Aschoff, Welftsche Bewegung irnd politischer Katholizismus 1866–1918, die Deutsclz-hannoversche Partei and das Zentnum in der Provinz Hannover wlilrrend des Kaiserreiches (Düsseldorf 1987), also Aschoff, ‘Die welfische Bewegung und die Deutsch-hannoversche Partei zwischen 1866 und 1914’, Niederskchsisches Jahrbuch fiir Landesgeschichte 53 (1981), pp. 41–64. On the Wurttemberg People’s Party see James Clark Hunt, The People’s Parhj in Wurttemberg and Southern Germany, 1890–1914. The possibilities of Democratic politics (Stuttgart 1975).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See Jonathan Sperber, The Kaiser’s voters. Electors and Elections in Imperial Germany (Cambridge 1997), pp. 85–7.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cited after Adrian Lyttelton, ‘Shifting identities: nation, region and city’ in Carl Levy (ed.), Italian regionalism. History, Identity and Politics (Oxford 1996), p. 45.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    More generally on this problem, see the essays collected in Levy, Italian regionalism. Also of relevance are some of the contributions in Oliver Janz, Pierangelo Schiera and Hannes Siegrist (eds), Zentralismus und Foderalismus im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Deutschland und Italien im Vergleich (Berlin 2000).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See Maurice Agulhon, ‘Le centre et la p@riph6rie’, in Pierre Nora (ed.), Les lieux de inémoire, III/1, Les Frances. Conflits et partages (Paris 1992) pp. 825–49, especially p. 830.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    On political regionalism in France see Anne-Marie Thiesse, ‘L’invention du regionalisme a la Belle Epoque, Le Mouvement Social 160 (July-Sept, 1992) pp. 11–32; Thiebaut Flory, Le mouvemert régionaliste francais (Paris 1966); and N.J.G. Wright, Jean Charles-Bruu and the birth of regionalism in France, 1890–1914. (Unpublished D.Phil thesis, University of Oxford 2001).Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    See Serge Berstein, ‘Le parti radical et le probleme du centralisme (1870–1939)’, in Christian Gras and George Livet (eds), Regions et regionalisme en France du XVIIIe siecle a nos jours (Paris 1977), pp. 225–40, especially pp. 229–32.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Alon Confino, ‘Federalism and the Heimat idea in Imperial Germany’, in M. Umbach (ed.), German Federalism. Past, Present, Future (Basingstoke 2002), pp. 70–90.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Ilaria Porciani, ‘Lokale Identitot — nationale Identitat. Die Konstruktion einer doppelten Zugehorigkeit’, in Janz, Schiera and Siegrist (eds), Zentralisrnus und Foderalisrnus, pp. 103–36.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    On the Felibrige see Philippe Martel, ‘Le F@librige’, in Nora (ed.), Les lieux de memoire, III/2. Traditions (Paris 1992), pp. 567–611; also Pierre Pasquini, ‘Le F@librige et les traditions’, Ethnologie Francaise 18:3 (1988), pp. 257–66. For further similarities between the Heimat movement and its French equivalent see Danny Tromm, ‘Natur und nationale Identität. Der Streit um den Schutz der “Natur” um die Jahrhundertwende in Deutschland und Frankreich’, in Etienne FranSois, Hannes Siegrist and Jakob Vogel (eds), Nation und Emotion. Deutschland und Frankreich im Vergleich: 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Gottingen 1995), pp. 147–67Google Scholar
  14. 20.
    Examples of this approach are Maiken Umbach, Federalism and Enlightenment in Germany 1740–1806 (London 2000), for instance pp. 11–15, 126–7, and Nikolaus Buschmann, ‘Volksgemeinschaft und Waffenbruderschaft. Nationalismus und Kriegserfahrung in Deutschland zwischen “Novemberkrise” und “Bruderkrieg”, in Dieter Langewiesche and Georg Schmidt (eds), Foderative Nation. Deutschlandkottzepte von der Reformation bis zum Ersten Weltkrieg (Miinchen 2000), pp. 83–114, especially pp. 109–11. For a reconsideration of this dichotomy, see A. Green, ‘The federal alternative? A new view of modem German history’, The Historical Journal, 46:1 (2003), pp. 187–202.Google Scholar
  15. 22.
    See for instance Michael Rowe, ‘The Napoleonic legacy in the Rhineland and the politics of reform in Restoration Prussia’, in David Laven and Lucy Riall (eds), The Napoleonic legacy. Problems of government in Restoration Europe (Oxford/New York 2000), pp. 129–50.Google Scholar
  16. 23.
    This point is powerfully made by Marco Meriggi, ‘State and society in postNapoleonic Italy’, in Laven and Riall (eds), Napoleon’s legacy, pp. 49–65. For a brief overview of the literature on Restoration government see Lucy Riall, The Italian Risorgimento. State, society and national unification (London/New York 1994), ch. 2.Google Scholar
  17. 24.
    Steven C. Hughes, Crime, disorder and the Risorgimento. The politics of policing in Bologna (Cambridge 1994). See also John A. Davis, Conflict and control. Law and order in nineteenth-centurl/Italy (Basingstoke 1988).Google Scholar
  18. 25.
    Ernest Gellner, Nations and nationalism (Oxford 1983), ch. 3, esp. pp. 35–8.Google Scholar
  19. 26.
    See Benedict Anderson, Imagined communities (London 1983); Eugen Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen, the modernisation of rural France 1870–1914 (London 1977), ch. 18.Google Scholar
  20. 27.
    A.E. Preuss and J.A. Vetter, Preuf3ischer Kinderfreund. Ein Lesebuch flir deutsche Volksschulen, mit einer Samrnlung zwei- und dreistirmniger Lieder (27th edn., Konigsberg 1854).Google Scholar
  21. 29.
    Anon., Lesebuch fir die evangelischen Volksschulen Wiirtternbergs (Stuttgart 1854), p. 153, p. 164.Google Scholar
  22. 39.
    See for instance Karl A. Schleunes, Schooling and sociehy, the politics of education in Prussia and Bavaria 1750–1900 (Oxford 1989), pp. 1–2.Google Scholar
  23. 31.
    On education in nineteenth century Germany see Karl-Ernst Jeismann and Peter Limdgreen (eds), Handbnch der deutschen Bildungsgeschichte, Band III, 1800–1870. Von der Neuordnung Deutschlands bis zur Griindung des deutschen Reiches (Munchen 1987).Google Scholar
  24. 32.
    For literacy levels in Prussia, see Ludwig von Friedeburg, Bildungsreform in Deutschland. Geschichte nod gesellschaftlicher Widerspruch (Frankfurt a. M. 1989), p. 37 and Kenneth Barkin, ‘Social control and the Volksschule in Vormkrz Prussia’, Central European Histonj 16/1 (1983), pp. 31–52.Google Scholar
  25. 34.
    Roger Magraw, France 1815–1914. The bourgeois century (3rd edn., London 1988), p. 176.Google Scholar
  26. 37.
    For a more detailed analysis, see Green, Fatherlands, ch. 6. On German railway construction in general see Dieter Ziegler, Eisenbahnen und Staat im Zeitalter der Industrialisierung. Die Eisenbahnpolitik der deutschen Staaten irn Vergleich (Stuttgart 1996), and Zugder Zeit — Zeit der Ziige, deutsche Eisenbahn 1835–1985. Das offizielle Werk zur gleichnarnigen Ausstellung (Berlin 1985).Google Scholar
  27. 39.
    On railways and nation formation in Italy see Albert Schram, Railways and the formation of the Italian state in the nineteenth centunj (Cambridge 1997).Google Scholar
  28. 41.
    See for instance Eckhardt Hellmuth, ‘A monument to Frederick the Great: architecture, politics and the state in late eighteenth-century Prussia’, in John Brewer and Eckhardt Hellmuth (eds), Rethinking Leviathan. The eighteenth century state in Britain and Germany (Oxford 1999), pp. 317–42.Google Scholar
  29. 42.
    Reinhard Alings, Monument und Nation. Das Bild vom Nationalstaat im Medium Denkmal — zum Verhdltnis von Nation und Staat irn deutschen Kaiserreich, 1871–1918 (Berlin/New York 1996), pp. 81–2.Google Scholar
  30. 45.
    Cited after Hellmut Kretzschmar, Die Zeit Kdnig Johanns von Sachsen 1854–1873 (Berlin 1960), p. 64.Google Scholar
  31. 47.
    See Marcel Roncaylo, ‘Le Departement’, in Nora (ed.), Les lieux de mémoire, III/1, pp. 886–929, particularly pp. 897–911.Google Scholar
  32. 48.
    Cited after Heide Barmeyer, Hannovers Eingliederung in den preuf3ischen Staat, Annexion und administrative Integration, 1866–1868 (Hildesheim 1983), p. 75.Google Scholar
  33. 49.
    See Jakob Vogel, ‘Militfirfeiern in Deutschland und Frankreich als Rituale der Nation (1871–1914)’, in Siegrist Francois and Jakob Vogel (eds), Nation und Emotion, pp. 199–214.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abigail Green

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations