The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 was followed by several decades of general peace, prosperity, and pride in the (Second) Reich fashioned by Otto von Bismarck, who served as chancellor from 1871 to 1890. The early period after the unification of Germany is known as the Gründerzeit or the Gründerjahre, the time of the founders, builders, and speculators. Factories, cities, and whole industrial empires were expanded, banks were set up, and the export and import trade flourished. The boom led to the creation of a myth of national greatness and vigor that was hardly affected by financial fluctuations, crashes such as the one of 1873, and other growing pains of the Gründerzeit. A line from Emanuel Geibel’s 1861 poem “Deutschlands Beruf” (Germany’s calling), published in 1871 in the series Heroldsrufe, “Und es mag am deutschen Wesen einmal noch die Welt genesen” (someday the German spirit may yet cure the world’s ills), became a sort of Pan-German slogan; Wilhelm II quoted it in his Münster speech of 1907.
As great numbers of people moved from the country to the city, an industrial proletariat came into being, and this strengthened the workers’ movement. What has been called “the dilemma of the industrialized agrarian state” did not have a salutary effect on literature and culture. As the spirit of 1870-1871 focused attention on Germany’s political and geopolitical aims—its quest for a place in...
(The entire section is 500 words.)