German Federation

The Industrial Revolution in Germany, 1815-1848

Germany traditionally had an economically differentiated landscape. The west and southwest was more urbanized; here both the traditional industry and agriculture were more specialized and developed than in the territories further east where agriculture was based on large, mostly feudal estates. Feudal estates had existed in the west, too, but many had become bankrupt in the late years of the 18th century. Germany's many castle ruins for the larger part are ruins because they were given up, maintenance was neglected.

The urban economy of western Germany for centuries had been closely linked to that of the Netherlands, England and France. Changes in technology in these countries were perceived earlier and with more interest in cities such as Hamburg, Frankfurt and Cologne as in Berlin and Vienna.
HEINRICH HEINE described a journey he made through northwestern Germany in the 1840es, with vivid accounts of the modern industry along the Wupper and Ruhr rivers. ALFRED KRUPP adapted modern English technology in his steel mills in Essen (although he did not have access to the latest knowhow, and for years to come German steel was inferior in quality. In order to mark German imports (as inferior), England demanded them to be branded MADE IN GERMANY).

The establishment of a network of railway lines in the 1830es till 1850es resulted in a much increased demand of coal and steel. Thus regions with coal fields, such as the RUHRGEBIET, the SAAR and UPPER SILESIA, all located in Prussia, quickly transformed from agricultural into industrial regions, attracting workers from agricultural regions. SAXONY and Germany's southwest - BADEN and WUERTTEMBERG became centers of machine industry. Other urban centers - Hamburg, Berlin, Nuernberg - expanded as industrial centers. Many cities dismantled their ancient city walls, replacing them by wide roads around the ancient city center. Suburbs were built, providing living room for the rapidly expanding population.

DOCUMENTS Friedrich Harkort über die Soziale Frage, from PSM - Data Geschichte
Painting : steel rolling mill, c. 1875, by Adolph von Menzel, from Kunsthaus Bensberg; Lithography - first German Railroad 1835, from Kunsthaus Bensberg, Steam locomotive late 19th century, from Kunsthaus Bensberg
Historische Dokumente - Eisenbahnen (Historical Documents - Railroads), from Verkehrswerkstatt Berlin, in German
REFERENCE Industrialization in the German States, pp.685-687 in : John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe, NY : W.W. Norton, 1996

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 12th 2004

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