Teaching Students About Germany in the Year 1880: Journeying Back


The year 1880 marked a pivotal time in the history of Germany. As educators, it is important to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of this era in order to appreciate the complexities of German history and its impact on today’s modern world. This article delves into key aspects of Germany in 1880 and offers insights on how to effectively teach students about this fascinating period.

The German Empire: State of Affairs in 1880

Established in 1871, the German Empire was entering a new phase of industrial, economic, and political growth in 1880. With the Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, at the helm as Minister President of Prussia, Germany had just emerged from unification and was becoming a major power in Europe.

To give students an understanding of this time period, educators should begin by introducing them to the geo-political landscape, showcasing how Germany transitioned from a collection of disparate kingdoms, duchies, and principalities into a single empire under the leadership of Kaiser Wilhelm I. Discussing Bismarck’s notable policies and foreign affairs will also help students grasp the intricacies of German politics at that time.

Industrial Revolution and Economic Growth

One significant aspect to cover when teaching students about Germany in 1880 is the nation’s dramatic industrial expansion. The empire was experiencing immense economic growth, thanks to the rise of industry in coal, iron production, textiles and railway infrastructure development. This eventually made Germany Europe’s leading industrial power.

Students can benefit from understanding how these advancements revolutionized not only Germany’s economy but also its society—creating new job opportunities, migration patterns to cities, and shifts in social dynamics between rural populations and urban dwellers.

Education Reforms and Cultural Developments

Educators should discuss various education reforms implemented during the 1880s which emphasized literacy and compulsory schooling. These reforms played a major role in the growth of the German middle class and propelled the country’s cultural development, including advancements in art, literature, music, and science.

There is much to explore in this area when teaching about Germany in 1880, from the influence of renowned artists and writers to the impact of scientific discoveries that shaped the modern world. Students will find it fascinating to look at how Germany’s innovations have made significant contributions to global culture and knowledge.

Social Issues: Labor Movements and Anti-Semitism

Another crucial aspect of Germany’s history during 1880 is the emergence of social issues. As industrialization increased, labor movements gained momentum in their fight for workers’ rights, better wages, and improved working conditions. It is essential to expose students to important events like the May Day celebrations in Berlin which marked a turning point for the workers’ movement.

Meanwhile, Anti-Semitic sentiment was also on the rise. Educators need to address the impact of this growing trend, discussing its implications for society at large while also highlighting courageous individuals who fought against discrimination.


Teaching students about Germany in 1880 is a vital foundation for understanding not only German history but also European and global affairs. By covering topics such as politics and foreign relations, industrial growth, cultural developments, and social issues, educators can provide students with a well-rounded education on this unique period. The knowledge gained from exploring Germany’s past will certainly enrich their perspective on today’s world.

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