1st Edition

An Economic History of the First German Unification State Formation and Economic Development in a European Perspective

Edited By Ulrich Pfister, Nikolaus Wolf Copyright 2023
    390 Pages 50 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    There is a striking chronological parallel between Germany’s transition from a post-Malthusian regime to modern economic growth and the formation of a modern nation-state between the late 1860s and the early 1880s, which culminated in the events of 1871.The central question of this book is whether and how such state formation did in fact contribute to economic development.

    Twenty chapters written by leading experts in their respective fields deal with various aspects of the book’s main question. Together, they identify three channels by which national unification contributed to Germany’s economic development: (1) Creation of a nation-state completed a process of institutional Unification of a large inland area and thereby increased the integration of domestic markets. (2) Unification raised the capacity of the political system with respect to regulating complex domains, such as stock companies, patenting, and social insurance. (3) The emerging political regime of market-preserving federalism promoted the quality of economic institutions. Moreover, a set of chapters dealing with the experience of other European economies apart from Germany during the second half of the nineteenth century highlight additional factors in nineteenth-century economic development, most notably the first wave of modern globalization and economic geography.

    Readers interested in the history of state building and the economic history of Germany and of Europe in general during the age of industrialization and globalization and students of the economic effects of political integration and decentralized state growth will all gain much from this book.

    1 Introduction

    Ulrich Pfister, Jan-Otmar Hesse, Mark Spoerer, and Nikolaus Wolf

    Part I: Nation formation and the evolution of economic policy

    2 National identity, economic integration, and the rise of Prussia

    Felix Kersting and Nikolaus Wolf

    3 Intergovernmental economic cooperation and institutional integration before the founding of the German Empire

    Alfred Reckendrees

    4 Politics, administration and market governance in a federalist environment: The German Empire in the 1870s and 1880s

    Gerold Ambrosius

    Part II: The formation of the nation-state as a structural and institutional turning point

    5 Germany’s transition from a post-Malthusian to a modern growth regime, 1860s to 1880s

    Ulrich Pfister

    6 Fiscal regime, nation-building, and state capacity: Interactions among public finances, national unification, and economic development

    Mark Spoerer

    7 Nation-state formation and market integration: Postal service, telegraph system, and railways

    Sebastian Till Braun and Jan-Otmar Hesse

    8 The changing capacity for self-description: The creation of a national statistical service

    Michael C. Schneider

    9 The gold standard and the Reichsbank: The transformation of the monetary regime

    Matthias Morys

    10 Patent law and technical progress

    Alexander Donges and Jochen Streb

    Part III: Economic development and economic institutions in early Imperial Germany

    11 Stock exchanges, banks and the panic of 1873

    Carsten Burhop and Felix Selgert

    12 How organised was capitalism in the Empire? Lobby associations, cartels and interlocking directorates

    Eva-Maria Roelevink and Dieter Ziegler

    13 Social insurance and its consequences for workers’ living conditions

    Tobias A. Jopp and Jochen Streb

    14 Inequality and its drivers in Germany, 1840–1914

    Thilo N. H. Albers and Charlotte Bartels

    15 Education systems and human capital accumulation

    Sascha O. Becker, Francesco Cinnirella, and Erik Hornung

    Part IV: State and economic development in a European perspective

    16 Globalization and foreign trade

    Wolf-Fabian Hungerland and Markus Lampe

    17 Political change and the origins of protectionism: a French-German comparison (1860s to 1890s)

    Jean-Pierre Dormois

    18 The economics of the Italian Unification

    Giovanni Federico

    19 After exit: the Habsburg economy since 1870

    Max-Stephan Schulze

    20 British relative economic decline in the aftermath of German unification

    Nicholas Crafts



    Ulrich Pfister obtained his PhD from the University of Zürich, Switzerland, in 1984. Since 1996, he is Professor of Social and Economic History at the University of Münster, Germany. His research covers agricultural history, proto-industrialization, demographic history, and historical national accounts.

    Nikolaus Wolf obtained his PhD from Humboldt University Berlin in 2003. After positions at the London School of Economics, Free University Berlin, and the University of Warwick, in 2010 he became Professor of Economics and Economic History at Humboldt University. He works on the economic history of Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, with a focus on economic geography, trade, borders, and identity.