German Confederation

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Coat of Arms of the German Confederation

The German Confederation (German: Deutscher Bund) was a loose association of 39 German states in Central Europe, created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries and to replace the former Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.[1]


The population of the confederation was as of 1865 47,689,000 citizens, Prussia with 14,785,000, Austria with 13,856,000 and Bavaria with 4.815.000. The official language was German, the currency of the German Customs Union (Deutscher Zollverein) was the Reichsthaler (to 1857) and the standard silver coin Vereinsthaler (from 1857).
The Palais Thurn und Taxis in Frankfurt am Main was the place, where the Federal Convention (Bundesversammlung or Bundestag) took place. The Bundespalais had smaller rooms for the committees and larger rooms for the inner council (Enger Rat), also a ceremonial hall for the Fürstentag, the convention for all German rulers.
An alternative map
German National Assembly (Nationalversammlung) in the Paulskirche, the St. Paul's Church in Frankfurt am Main. The session was held from 18 May 1848 to 31 May 1849, in the Paulskirche at Frankfurt am Main. Its existence was both part of and the result of the "March Revolution" (Märzrevolution) within the states of the German Confederation.

The confederatin acted as a buffer between the powerful states of Austria and Prussia. Great Britain approved of it because London felt that there was need for a stable, peaceful power in central Europe that could discourage aggressive moves by France or Russia. According to Lee, most historians have judged the Confederation to be weak and ineffective, as well as an obstacle to German nationalist aspirations. It collapsed due to the rivalry between Prussia and Austria, known as German dualism, warfare, the 1848 revolution, and the inability of the multiple members to compromise.[2] It was dissolved with Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War in 1866 and the establishment of the North German Confederation.

Through two centuries of revolutions, wars both external and internal, and other upheavals that caused its membership to fluctuate severely through the years, the German Confederation has survived into the modern day evolving from its origins as a semi-feudal successor to the Holy Roman Empire into a modern political and economic union of German-speaking states headquartered in Frankfurt. Its seven full members share a number of political and cultural institutions and are joined together in a currency and customs union, while its five associate members (Bohemia, Carniola, and Banat with large German minorities, the former Prussian colony of Southwest Africa, distant but with a German majority, and reluctant-to-join Switzerland) are members of the Zollverein customs union without sharing the Bundsthaler currency. Some Confederal institutions also apply in the associate regions of Posen, formerly part of Prussia and now part of Poland, and Schleswig, part of Denmark, both of which have significant German populations. The Confederation also serves as an advisory power in the International Cities of Danzig (together with Prussia individually and Poland), Pressburg (together with Bohemia and Austria individually and Hungary), Trieste and Fiume (together with Carniola and Austria individually, Venice, Italy, and Croatia), and the International Zone of Amikejo (together with Rhineland individually, the Netherlands, Wallonia, and the Universal Esperanto Association). Despite occasional disagreements between its members, and accusations that it is just a mechanism for Prussia to dominate the rest, the German Confederation is largely considered a success and has inspired attempts to emulate it in other regions of Europe.[3]

Participating countries and city-states

  • The Austrian Empire (excluding upon the wish of other German states the Kingdom of Hungary, the Principality of Transylvania, and the Kingdom of Croatia)
  • The Kingdom of Prussia (the Province of Prussia as the easternmost province of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Grand Duchy of Posen were only federal territory in 1848–1850)
  • The Kingdom of Bavaria
  • The Kingdom of Hanover (in personal union with the United Kingdom until 1837)
  • The Kingdom of Saxony
  • The Kingdom of Württemberg
  • The Electorate of Hesse (also known as Hesse-Kassel)
  • The Grand Duchy of Baden
  • The Grand Duchy of Hesse (also known as Hesse-Darmstadt)
  • The Grand Duchy of Luxemburg
  • The Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
  • The Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
  • The Grand Duchy of Oldenburg
  • The Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach
  • The Duchy of Brunswick (prior Brunswick-Lunenburgian Principality of Wolfenbüttel)
  • The Duchy of Holstein (held by Danish kings in personal union since 15th century as a fief of the Holy Roman Empire; included the Danish Duchy of Schleswig 1848–1851; freed 1864)
  • The Duchy of Limburg (became a member in 1839 in personal union with the Netherlands as compensation for territorial losses in the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg that were caused by the breakup of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.)
  • The Duchy of Nassau
  • The Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (became Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 1826)
  • The Duchy of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (became Saxe-Altenburg from 1826)
  • The Duchy of Saxe-Hildburghausen (dissolved in 1826; territory merged with Saxe-Meiningen)
  • The Duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg (in personal union with the Kingdom of Denmark)
  • The Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen
  • The Duchy of Anhalt-Bernburg (merged with Anhalt-Dessau in 1863)
  • The Duchy of Anhalt-Dessau (Duchy of Anhalt-Dessau-Köthen from 1853; Duchy of Anhalt from 1863)
  • The Duchy of Anhalt-Köthen (merged with Anhalt-Dessau in 1853)
  • The Principality of Hohenzollern-Hechingen (merged with Kingdom of Prussia in 1850)
  • The Principality of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (merged with Kingdom of Prussia in 1850)
  • The Principality of Liechtenstein
  • The Principality of Lippe
  • The Principality of Reuss Junior Line
  • The Principality of Reuss Senior Line
  • The Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe
  • The Principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt
  • The Principality of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen
  • The Principality of Waldeck and Pyrmont
  • The Landgraviate of Hesse-Homburg (became a member in 1817; merged with Grand Duchy of Hesse in 1866)

Free cities

  • The Free Hanseatic City of Bremen (still a constitutive state of Germany)
  • The Free City of Frankfurt upon Main
  • The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (still a constitutive state of Germany)
  • The Free and Hanseatic City of Lübeck


The German Federal Army (Deutsches Bundesheer) was founded to collectively defend the German Confederation from external enemies, primarily France. It consisted of troops from all 41 federal states. Each state was required to have 1 % of thier overall population armed and ready to march when called upon. Some of the smaller German states provided only c. 500 men.

The German Federal Army was divided into ten Army Corps (later expanded to include a Reserve Corps). However, the Army Corps were not exclusive to the German Confederation but composed from the national armies of the member states, and did not include all of the armed forces of a state. For example, Prussia's army consisted of nine Army Corps but contributed only three (IV. to VI. Armee-Korps) to the German Federal Army. Austria also contributed three Army Corps (I. to III. Armee-Korps). Bavaria supplied one (VII. Armee-Korps).

An Army Corps consisted of "at least two Divisions" (§ 24 of the military regulations). The 8th Corps consisted of the soldiers of the southwest (mainly from the strong Württemberg Army), the 9th Corps of those from Central Germany and the 10th (X.) of those from Northern Germany. The new German Navy was put together mainly from ships of the Austrain Navy. The strength of this mobilized German Army was projected to total 301,637 men in 1820, 303,484 men in 1835 and 391,634 men in 1860. A third was to be cavalry, for every 1,000 men there should be two pieces of artillery.

See also

External links



  2. Loyd E. Lee, "The German Confederation and the Consolidation of State Power in the South German States, 1815-1848," Consortium on Revolutionary Europe 1750-1850: Proceedings, 1985, Vol. 15, pp 332-346
  3. The German Confederation