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Impact of Industrialization and Capitalism on Nineteenth Century Germany

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: History
Wordcount: 2373 words Published: 9th Nov 2021

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The Carlsbad Decrees 

In 1819 German officials, led by Metternich, issued the Carlsbad Decrees. This brought about a system of press censorship and prohibited the right of assembly or meeting of groups (HIST 2484 Notes, 2/4/20). The decrees were meant to put an end to multiple political parties such as the Thinkers Club of 1819.  After the decrees became applicable, they affected liberal opposition by rendering them helpless. This is evident by the arrests of those who supported multiple parties. Eventually the arrested were released, which in turn, led to their resurfacing in the 1830s after the French monarchy was overthrown.

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The historical significance of the Carlsbad Decrees is said to be the establishment of a system of press suppression and prohibition of the right of assembly or meeting groups as well as many political parties (HIST 2484 Notes, 2/4/20). With such limitations, the political disturbance that was being experienced in the German states would halt the realization of peace and foster unnecessary conflict.

The Battle of Koniggratz

In 1866 the Battle of Koniggratz, took place near Koniggratz and Sadowa in Bohemia. Considering Prussia was victorious in defeating the Austrian Empire, the battle was quite significant to Germany (HIST 2484 Notes, 2/18/20).  Prussia was prepared for battle, deploying troops before Austria was ready with a defense. Bismarck, who was appointed as the representative of Prussia, was at the center of these victories.  This led to the Prussian government forgiving the monarch for approving a military budget that created unrest within the country. The budget was considered “overrated” because it put available resources at jeopardy, it also allowed for the rise of nationalism in Germany.

The Battle of Koniggratz victory led to the appreciation of Bismarck, who later played a crucial role in the realization of nationalism by creating a geopolitical framework (HIST 2484 Notes, 2/18/20). This structure was designed to disband the German Confederation and help in the formation of the North German Confederation, which is ruled in Berlin (HIST 2484 Notes, 2/18/20). The fact the Battle of Koniggratz brought an end to four hundred years of Austrian dominance in Germany makes it significant, even though France became a barrier for Prussia to gain control of southern German states. 

State Socialism

State socialism in Germany was introduced by Otton von Bismarck and involved the implementation of social agendas meant to help in diminishing the support of socialism and the SDP party. Towards the end of 1883 Germany were granted entitlements to free healthcare and compensation to workers through the health insurance bill and the accident insurance bill (HIST 2484 Notes, 2/20/20). These bills were passed by Bismarck who introduced his most radical series of reforms. They were passed to ensure that the safety of workers was improved. Later, in 1889 the insurance bill was introduced that ensured a pension program for the retired. The introduction of these bills subdued the working class’s unrest, allowing, Germany to focus its support on Bismarck and withdraw the support of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. With such improvement in central systems, it became a representation of progress in the region. This triggered the desire to eradicate divisions in society and politics. As a result, the country saw a rise of patriotism and Germany became conscious of patriotism during the Napoleonic Wars. (HIST 2484 Notes, 2/6/20).

The Berlin Conference

In 1885 the Berlin conference was led by Bismarck, who did not believe that the promise of colonies could be used as a strategy to maintain the happiness of the working and middle class (Conrad, 2014). The agenda of the conference was to plan on how colonialism was going to be carried out in Africa to avoid further conflict and bring equality. Additionally, due to the acquisition of Africa, Germany was seen as a colonial power in the region.   Ultimately internal colonialization erupted as German East became a target by order of the standing President, Christoph (Conrad, 2014). Provinces such as Prussia were the most affected by this move as the settlement laws began to take effect.

The Berlin Conference aided Germany in becoming a independent colonial power by ensuring it stride towards economic stability (Conrad, 2014).   Germany begun expanding its industrial capabilities by allocating new sources of raw materials as the Berlin Conference pushed Germany towards realizing its industrial potential, which was important to its economy and development.


As a result of nationalism, there was an uprising of the German student fraternities, which were referred to as Burschenschaften. These uprising began to surface in Jena during 1885. Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, who founded Turnerschaft, a movement among German youth in 1811(Levinger, 2000), was behind the start of Burschenschaften. The intent was to bring an end to the social differences that existed among its supporters. The German Workers, also weary of prejudice from the French, supported the students in their activities of this uprising. The members of the group were united by wearing similar attire and shared speeches These speeches were recited in German to portray solidarity and equality among the Germans. The movement was considered extreme, people who didn’t hold the same beliefs faced harsh consequences.

The Burschenschaften were vocal about the future constitution. They debated whether it should be based on the new democratic principles or if old principles had an advantage (Levinger, 2000). The primary agenda of the Burschenschaften was to ensure that social equality was achieved even though its ideas threatened the validity of the existing social chains of command. It is historically significant because social equality was achieved, giving locals an opportunity to be represented in society.  With the Burschenschaften, people gained the necessary momentum to get involved in protests which would lead to the acquisition of unity in Germany (Levinger, 2000).

Part 2: Essay

Discuss the impact of industrialization and capitalism on nineteenth-century Germany. How did these phenomena shape the social, economic, and political conditions of daily life? On the whole, were they beneficial for Germans? Why or why not?

Throughout the western world industrialization and capitalism characterized the 19th century. Germany was no exception. Due to a limited amount of regulations and the political climate in 19th century Germany, the country’s entrepreneurs were highly incentivized to create, develop, and produce products that would promote progress. This could allow Germany a position of global power and influence.  However, it would only be possible with the acceptance of new ideas that emphasized industry. Through its implementation, Germany would experience political, economic, and social changes for some Germans, this would help to create a better country. History would show, this was not   experienced by Germans.

At the beginning of the industrial revolution of Germany the country was organized as a federal system that was divided into several Landers This setup was influenced by the locations of the Germanic states from the Napoleonic era (HIST 2484 Notes, 2/20/20). Each state operated under their government while the previous German Emperors reserved their thrones and customs. This allowed the states to set up individual parliaments and bureaucracy which helped to spark the industrial revolution of the country.

The resources gathered helped to make the economy far more reliable, allowing businessmen and entrepreneurs to invest in the country with less risk than ever before. Additionally, these resources were used in creating defense systems against Germany’s enemies and to place Germany on a higher playing field to compete with its larger neighbors, thus empowering the German people (Sheehan, 1981). Germany managed to establish various companies and improve their economic infrastructure. This was, due, in part, to its new emphasis on a liberal style of governing that promoted free trade and the freedom of individual choice. The upper-middle-class was particularly in favor of liberalism and became the driving class behind much of the country’s improvements. These people despised tariffs and customs duties, preferring a lack of regulation to promote equal opportunity among Germans and fewer reminders of previous oppressive administrations (HIST 2484 Notes, 2/4/20). Many saw these ideas as the key to independence on a personal and federal level. 

After a few years many German states would adopt the concept of provincialism and neglect the ideas of nationalism (HIST 2484 Notes, 2/20/20). As a result, some regions of the country benefitted more from industrialization than others. According to Sheehan (1981), the political sovereignty of Germany enforced certain boundaries and forced separations, which led to some regions being left out of the industrial improvements that were occurring in other locations. This lead to some Germans having a lack of opportunity to engage within the industrial era and reap the benefits of the industrial developments due to the lack of needed infrastructure in their provinces lacked. Furthermore, politics were hardly a national affair and the administrators of the village, town, or estate of such provinces controlled much of the political atmosphere. These administrators were responsible for the implementation of the new policies regarding the industrialization of Germany, if they didn’t see a political benefit, policies were not implemented. This caused the whole population of that area to suffer, leading to inequalities among the people (Sheehan, 1981). The towns that were experimenting with more freedom and less political restrictions found themselves far more advanced than those that did not (Blackbourn, 2011, 154)

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Due to this massive progress that Germany experienced in the 19th century, they started to climb the global political and economic ladder. The industrial momentum that the country built up pushed them into being the 3rd largest creditor in the world after Britain and the United States (HIST 2484 Notes, 2/20/20). The companies most responsible for this accomplishment worked with chemicals, glass, and steel. From 1880 to 1913, Germany increased its steel production to more than produced by Britain (HIST 2484 Notes, 2/20/20). The country’s business pursuits ended up being particularly advantageous as no other country had yet capitalized on chemistry and mechanics. The workers who were employed in these factories benefited from fair wages and other benefits instituted from various bills that were passed, one example being employee pensions (HIST 2484 Notes, 2/20/20). Still, not all the communities or the social classes within the communities could afford the luxury items that were being produced.

In this way, the marginalized of German society was far greater than the privileged with most people not feeling the impact of the newly established industries. These people were generally from rural areas and small towns that were not hot spots for development (HIST 2484 Notes, 2/20/20). The more privileged, including “a wealthier and more confident group of merchants, bankers, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs,” started to form what would be considered the bourgeoisie of Germany (Blackbourn, 2011, 158). The poorer people still practiced their traditions, revealing their attitudes towards change and making them far less likely to embrace the new methods of working and living despite the benefits. To many in the country and especially to those outside of it, this mentality made the German population appear primitive and less worthy of being enlightened (HIST 2484 Notes, 1/28/20).

As for the Germans, they believed themselves to have been denied the proper resources to be educated in this new, modern way. They claimed this to be the cause of their maintaining their traditional beliefs and way of life throughout the 19th century. However, what they did not seem to fully realize was the trap they fell into due to their political standing.  Fortunately, the political system that dictated the social atmosphere of Germany was bound to fail as it was not supported by economic activities. Future activities focused on linking the segmented regions with the intermediary system of markets (HIST 2484 Notes, 2/20/20). Today there seems to be a great deal more equality among the people of Germany although disparities still exist.

During its period of industrialization, Germany’s political, social, and economic sectors became even more interrelated than they already were.  However, they did not always function harmoniously, resulting in many people being denied access to the profits of that period. Those in urban areas benefited the most, receiving far more in the manner of material consumption and education. This was not experienced by the people in rural areas. Still, the country managed to progress significantly, and although many people could not enjoy the new industrial environment, the future citizens of the country from all social classes would.


Conrad, S. (2014). Internal Colonialism in Germany: Culture Wars, Germanification of the Soil, and the Global Market Imaginary. German Colonialism in a Global Age, 246-64.

Blackbourn, D. (2011). History of Germany: 1780-1918; the long nineteenth century.

Malden, MA: Blackwell Publ.

Levinger, M. B. (2000). Enlightened nationalism: The transformation of Prussian political culture, 1806-1848. Oxford University Press on Demand.

Lecture Notes

Sheehan, J. J. (1981). What is German history? Reflections on the role of the nation in German history and historiography. The Journal of Modern History, 53(1), 2-23.


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