In the 1800's Germany was split into about 39 different political states. Napoleon, in his conquests, organized these German states into the Confederation of the Rhine, but after his defeats, these states became independent. While separate entities, a growing sense of Germanic identity was fostered across these states. It was this common identity that helped bring together a unified German nation.
One of the most important that led to the German unification was the German language. Through this, many different German philosophers and writers began to contribute work towards bringing together a German identity that was free from the influence of the French under Napoleon. A student organization, the Burschenschaft, helped inspire a sense of nationalistic pride in the up and coming generation that began to take positions of power throughout the states.
Prior to the rise of the official German state under Wilhelm I of Prussia in the late 1800s, there were many hurdles the German people faced. For example, the Carlsbad Decrees were a set of legislative restrictions placed upon the German Confederation that banned student fraternities such as the Burschenschaft, removed liberal and nationalist professors from universities, and restricted the freedom of the press. The goal of these types of restrictions was to stifle the support for German unification, which would allow various other European powers to take control of these splintered states.
One of the most important figures in the new German Empire was Otto von Bismarck. He was a Prussian politician who helped draw France into the Franco-Prussian War that led to their sound defeat. The combined might of the Prussians and the Germans led to the quick defeat of the French in battles which led to the retreat of the French empire from the German Confederation lands and, without their influence, allowed the German people a chance to completely unify.
The German Empire’s government was centered around the Reichstag which was the Parliament of Germany from 1871 to 1918, which was highly progressive for the time. It allowed all German men over 25 years of age to vote, and members were elected by general, universal, and secret suffrage
William I was first the King of Prussia, but then became emperor of Germany for a couple of decades, but didn't do nearly as much as his successor, Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Kaiser Wilhelm II became the last emperor who led Germany down a path that would forever change the world. His actions would lead to the eruption of the first World War I. Prior to World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm II began Germany’s push for a more imperialistic foreign policy. He promoted active colonization of Africa and Asia for those areas that were not already colonies of other European powers such as Namibia. He was known for the his brutality against the people in the places he colonized and for one of the first genocides of the 20th century.