- A German student organization that emerged at the time of the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon between 1813 and 1815. The Burschenschaft ’s twin goals of the formation of a German nation state and political freedom were disappointed by the Congress of Vienna and the formation of the Holy Alliance, which restored the old order of absolutism and particularism. In spite of being persecuted by Austria and Prussia, former members of the Burschenschaft nevertheless played a prominent part in the German Revolution of 1848. It was, however, not until 1871 that their dream of a united Germany was finally realized.Founded in Jena in 1815, the Burschenschaft , with their motto “Freedom, honour, fatherland,” quickly spread to other universities in the German-speaking parts of central Europe. Their flag carried the colors black, red, and gold, the colors of the Lützow free corps, of which many students had been members during the Wars of Liberation. Among their main demands figured the abandonment of the confederal system and the creation of a constitutional German central government in place of the German Confederation of 35 independent states and 4 free cities, which they considered as an artificial entity. In October 1817, about 500 members of the Burschenschaft and their academic teachers met at the Wartburg castle near Eisenach to reassert their demands. Yet the fiery speeches given, as well as the burning of reactionary books and military uniforms, by a small number of students intensified the already aroused suspicion of German governments. Prussia was the first to react. She prohibited the fraternities and put the universities under a rigid system of control. The assassination of the author and alleged Russian agent August von Kotzebue one-and-a-half year later by the student Karl Sand, a member of the Burschenschaft, provided count Metternich with an opportunity to curtail civil liberties even more. Metternich, the main defender of the status quo in Europe, secured the approval of the governments of the German Confederation to wipe out what he saw was seditious action. The subsequent Carlsbad Decrees not only outlawed the Burschenschaften but drastically curtailed all efforts for further political reform. The decrees limited freedom of speech and the power of the legislatures, restricted the right of assembly, expanded the authority of the police, and intensified censorship. Within a short period of time, the opposition had been subdued and throughout Germany the reactionary forces won the day. Most important, the Prussian king revoked his promise to grant his kingdom a constitution, and it was only after the 1830 Paris July Revolution that the German freedom movement began to stir again. Ultimately, the forces of reaction could not stop the propagation of the modern ideas of nationalism and freedom. During the German Revolution of 1848–1849 former members of the Burschenschaften, most prominently Heinrich von Gagern, the speaker of the Frankfurt Parliament, actively participated in the struggle for unity and liberalism. However, the failure of the movement dealt a severe blow to the fraternities. After the foundation of the German Empire, their former espousal of liberal reforms declined. Many Burschenschaften now subscribed to a more aggressive nationalism and increasingly anti-Semitism also came to the fore.See also <
>; Nationalism.FURTHER READING:Elm, Ludwig. Füxe, Burschen, Alte Herren. Studentische Korporationen vom Wartburgfest bis heute. Köln: PapyRossa-Verlag, 1993;Randers-Pehrson, Justine. Germans and the Revolution of 1848-1849. New York: Peter Lang, 1999;Steiger, Günter. Aufbruch. Urburschenschaft und Wartburgfest. Leipzig: Urania-Verlag, 1967;Wentzke, Paul. Geschichte der deutschen Burschenschaft. Heidelberg: Winter, 1965.ULRICH SCHNAKENBURG
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.