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The German Empire, also known as the Second Reich or simply Germany, was a large nation in Central Europe that lasted from German Unification in 1871 to the fall of the monarchy in 1991.
Germany was united under Prussian hegemony in 1871, following several decisive wars against Austria and France. It quickly became a world power as it joined in on the Scramble for Africa, gaining several colonies. Relations with France never fully recovered from the Franco-Prussian war, mainly due to the loss of portions of Alsace and Lorraine, and were subsequently incorporated into Germany. By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, Germany held one of the worlds most powerful militaries, with a navy to rival the historic might of that of the Royal Navy.
War among Allies
Germany found itself in a difficult position in the mid-1910s. Italy ramped up its claims to Italian-speaking areas controlled by Austria-Hungary, and demanded they be turned over. Naturally, the demands were ignored by Austria, but many Germans politicians could foresee the matter wouldn't merely drop. Germany tried, on several instances, to act as a mediator between its allies, but neither were willing to compromise.
Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary in February, 1915. Kaiser Wilhelm II declared neutrality, not wanting to pick sides against one or the other. This didn't stop several thousand Germans from volunteering with the Austrian army. As the war devolved into a stalemate, the neutral position became increasingly hard to defend, especially with an ever increasing Russian military presence on Austria's border.
The matter subsided following the collapse of the Italian frontline in the Asiago Offensive, and Austrian troops advanced into Italy proper. Following the fall of Venice, Germany once again offered to serve as a mediator between the two countries, this time to broker peace. Most of the terms were agreed upon with relative ease, but the main point of contention between the negotiators was the Austrian demand of the Lombardy-Venetia regions. Germany suggested only the Venetian area, as they had complete control of that area, and held only a limited presence in Lombardy. Only upon the threat of renewed hostilities by Austria (through observers, the German mediators knew Austria couldn't fight much longer, but they kept this to themselves) did Italy finally agree to cede Lombardy-Venetia.
The Treaty of Budapest was signed on March 27, 1916, officially ending the war. Shortly after, Italy was expelled from the Triple Alliance, and said alliance was reorganized into the Central Powers, with Bulgaria added, and Greece debating the option.
1918 London Conference
By the late-1910s, tensions between Germany and the United Kingdom were reaching a boiling point, the main source of which was due to Germany's ambition to usurp the UK as the premier naval power. By 1917, Germany owned 21 dreadnought battleships, and 7 battlecruisers, with two of each under construction, compared to the UKs 28 dreadnoughts and 18 battlecruisers, with four of the latter under construction, it was clear to many in the German government that Germany lacked the economic ability to match and exceed the British. After several personal meeting with Kaiser Wilhelm II, Chancellor Georg Michaelis convinced the largest supporter of a UK-matching navy to call it off. Subsequent meetings with the British ambassador allowed the Reichstag, and the British Parliament to set up a conference in London on May 10, 1918.
The conference began with the arrival of the German delegation around 10:00 am. During the negotiations, Kaiser Wilhelm used the conference as an excuse to visit British King George V, his cousin. The two of them walked around London during the conference, both giving their delegations authority to negotiate within approved parameters.
The issue was that those parameters had a narrow overlap, and with the opposing delegations unknowing of the others limits, several tense moments flared during the conference. But over the course of the following weeks several agreements were made, aided by George V and Wilhelm II widening the terms of agreement. But main components remained in contention: limit of the Kaiserliche Marine compared to the Royal Navy. Germany wished to keep their navy around 2/3s the tonnage of the Royal Navy, while the British wanted to set it at 50% the total tonnage. After two weeks of negotiations and back-and-forth conversations between the delegates and the heads of government and the monarchs, a compromise was set at the German surface navy's limit to roughly 60% the total tonnage of the Royal Navy. The Germans also agreed to concede naval supremacy to the United Kingdom. The delegates also set the maximum gun caliber at 16 inches (40.6 cm), and barred equipping their naval vessels with turrets having more than two guns (Italy and Austria-Hungary both owned warships equipped with triple-gun turrets, and France was experimenting with quadruple-gun turrets), the maximum size of later warships was set at the final tonnage of the British Admiral-class battlecruisers currently under construction.
One item not discussed: U-boats. The cause was in part due to the British underestimating their abilities, and the Germans not willing to establish limits on what would clearly be their area of superiority in the event of a war. As such, limits on the total tonnage of undersea vessels were not set.
The final agreement was met with great fanfare in the UK, especially with Germany effectively conceding defeat in the naval arms race that has gone on for over a decade. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George exited the negotiations exclaiming, "Britannia rule the waves!", in reference to the popular patriotic song.
Although German pride was damaged by the treaty, it did much to ease the brewing tensions between Germany and with the UK, and would result in the UK leaving the Triple Entente in 1920.
Decade of Ten Wars
Throughout Europe, nations continues to eye each other with suspicion. Recent wars and alliances threatened to drag Europe into a massive, continent-wide conflict. However, following the betrayal of the Triple Alliance by Italy, the alliances of many countries were called into question. Even the Central Powers found themselves at odds on some issues, some in Germany, mainly liberals and socialists, believed the concessions by Italy to Austria was unfair and adopted an anti-Austrian stance as a piece of their platform for a while.
Russia, Germany's largest threat, fell into civil war in 1920, and thus started a ten years of warfare. Germany welcomed Russian Princess Anastasia when most of the Royal was killed. This severely hurt relations between the countries. Coupled with Anastasia's continuing claim to all of Russia, it was decided to declare war in 1922.
Despite initial advances into East Prussia, the German army soon pushed the soviets out. Within weeks, the soviet army had retreated hundreds of miles. Any counter-attack was made half-hearted. In less than fifteen months, the young Russian Soviet Republic was handed a swift defeat. Towards to wars end, Germany's ally, the USGA, declared war and advanced into the Ukrainian region. The subsequent treaty grouped the spoils of both countries.
Following the victory over the soviets, it was discovered France was planning an invasion of Elsaß-Lothringen. The mobilized portions of the military were transferred to it and the border with Belgium. German diplomats soon arrived in Brussels, pressuring the small kingdom to allow the German army passage through its territory. With Great Britain becoming increasingly distant from mainland European affairs, Belgium opted to allow the Germans access.
The Great Depression
Transition to Dictatorship
Revolution and Collapse
The German Empire was, prior to the Act of Imperial Authority, a Federal Monarchy, a system where the Emperor ruled over semi-autonomous states. While each state in the German Empire held a King, Duke, or other head is state, they were all subservient to the Emperor.
The Emperor of the German Empire was always the King of Prussia, and head of the House of Hohenzollern.