The North German Confederation was a federation of 22 independent states of northern Germany, with nearly 30 million inhabitants. It was the first modern German nation state and the basis for the later German Empire (1871–1918), when several south German states such as Bavaria joined. The North German Confederation is historically important for the economic and judicial unification of Germany; many of its laws were taken over by the German Empire.
Most historians have judged the German Confederation to be weak and ineffective, as well as an obstacle to German nationalist aspirations. It collapsed because of the rivalry between Prussia and Austria (known as German dualism), warfare, the 1848 revolution, and the inability of the multiple members to compromise. It was replaced by the North German Confederation in 1866.
Germania, a personification of the German nation, appears in Philipp Veit’s fresco (1834–36). She is holding a shield with the coat of arms of the German Confederation. The shields on which she stands are the arms of the seven traditional Electors of the Holy Roman Empire.