North German Confederation

The North German Confederation (German: Norddeutscher Bund)[1] was the German federation which existed from July 1867 to December 1870. 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. Although de jure a confederacy of equal states, the Confederation was de facto controlled and led by the largest and most powerful member, Prussia, which exercised its influence to bring about the formation of the German Empire. Some historians also use the name for the alliance of 22 German states formed on 18 August 1866 (Augustbündnis).

North German Confederation
Norddeutscher Bund
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.
Common languagesGerman, Danish, Low German, East Frisian, North Frisian, Czech, Lithuanian, Polish, Sorbian, Yiddish
Protestantism (Lutheran, Calvinist, United churches)
constitutional monarchy
Wilhelm I
Otto von Bismarck
 Federal Council
Historical eraNew Imperialism
18 August 1866
16 April 1867
19 July 1870
18 January 1871
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 growing power of Prussia was worrying other great powers, especially Second French Empire, which was ruled by the French Emperor Napoleon III. In 1868, Spain overthrew queen Isabella II, and a German prince was a candidate for her throne. France, not wanting to be encircled by a German-Spanish alliance, declared war on the Confederation. In 1870–1871, the south German states of Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt, Württemberg and Bavaria joined the country. 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.

The constitution established a constitutional monarchy with the Prussian king as the bearer of the Bundespräsidium, or 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 (a representation of the states). During the four 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.

The Confederation had nearly 30 million inhabitants, of whom eighty percent lived in Prussia.