The German Empire owed its existence to a 'revolution from above' but in time its citizens came to perceive it as the embodiment of the German nation state. The power of the Prusso-German state - with its outward splendour and military pageantry, and with the prestige that it began to enjoy within the system of European states - gradually came to outweigh older, more broadly based traditions of cultural identity. The Imperial period saw the formation of all the principal institutional structures that have continued to govern life in Germany, and the foundations of present-day cultural life. Yet the German Empire never broke free from the shackles of its origins; it remained a state distorted by authoritarianism. All areas of life were affected - politics, the economy, the arts, education, foreign policy (where an aggressive Weltpolitik sought to secure domestic stability) - and a widening gulf opened between the political system and society, putting at risk the very governability of the Empire. It was in these conditions that Germany went to war in 1914, a conflict that ended with the collapse of the Hohenzollern monarchy and the revolution of 1918-20.
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