The social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental changes that transformed the lands of Central Europe between 1815 and 1866 make it an exciting and illuminating focus of historical study. The era encompassed periods of restoration and of revolution, as various voices and forces in society battled over the extent to which these changes should be consolidated and extended or rather checked or altered in their courses. Napoleon’s defeat and the European settlement following the Congress of Vienna of 1814–1815 established the framework for a period of relative peace and international cooperation in Europe, with the German Confederation (1815–1866) as one of its cornerstones. But this did not put an end to the wrestling over revolutionary and Napoleonic legacies or to the modernization processes that would continue to mark the nineteenth century. The German states and German-speakers played central roles in various aspects of nineteenth-century history, both domestically and through their contributions abroad in an era of increasing mobility and globalization. The documents and images presented in the twelve chapters of this volume offer numerous perspectives on the activities of the men and women from different backgrounds who both shaped these developments and lived through them. The first three chapters deal with questions of politics. The proper nature of government and administration was the subject of considerable intellectual controversy and political conflict in Germany during the half-century between 1815 and 1866. Three major issues were particularly central in these debates. The first issue, perhaps the most important, was the way in which Central Europe should be organized—as a confederation of sovereign states or as one German nation-state? The second, partly connected to the first, was the role of popular participation in the government of the various German states and any potential united German nation-state. Should that government be authoritarian and absolutist in character or parliamentary and constitutional? The third issue was what contemporaries called the emancipation of the Jews. Here, the question involved not just whether members of this disenfranchised minority group would receive equal rights and full citizenship but also the very nature of citizenship and government.

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