The population of German lands grew from about 20 million in 1750 to 33 million in 1816, and up to 52 million by 1865. Increased social and geographic mobility contributed to the growth of urban centers. By the end of the century, some cities had exploded in population—for example, Hamburg grew from 132,000 to 768,000 people and Munich went from 45,000 to 422,000. Housing in most of these cities unfortunately lagged far behind population growth, spawning dreadful urban slums. For most of the period, though, almost three-quarters of the population continued to live in communities of under 2,000 people. Infant and child mortality rates remained appallingly high, and illegitimate births rose from 15 percent in the early 19th century to 25 percent by mid-century.
Not until the Napoleonic Wars did the social structure of German states show some sign of change. Prussia had freed its peasantry in 1807, but had then given much of the land to landowners to compensate them for lost labor, leaving many peasants without the means to sustain themselves. Although serfdom was threatened by political liberalism and growing urban centers, it only collapsed fully following the revolutions of 1848. During the 1850s Metternich and rulers in other German states were working to strengthen the politically conservative arrangements of the Congress of Vienna, but their efforts were undermined by an economic boom of massive proportions that was quickly making factory workers the largest occupational category. This boom also increased the influence of middle-class business people and wealthy industrialists and weakened the political and economic authority of nobles and guilds. German aristocrats turned their attention to the government and the military.
This boom was the result in part of the Industrial Revolution, which hit Germany with full force in the 1850s. In the next two decades, economic and technological growth exploded. Coal production in German lands went from 3.8 million metric tons to 21.5 million metric tons and the annual industrial growth rate of 10.2 percent was the highest in the world. By 1862 a massive network of roads and railway lines connected all German cities. The boom in industrial manufacturing was the final death knoll for the guilds. In Austria they were officially abolished in 1859; elsewhere in Germany, they ceased during the next decades. By the time of unification, the new German empire had become one of the major industrial powers of the world. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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