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Bankruptcy History Database German Empire (1879–1914)

I. Introduction

The present database currently documents 55.197 bankruptcy proceedings from the time of the German Empire. It comprises the period from 1st of October 1879 until 31st of July 1914 (commencement of the Imperial Bankruptcy Code until beginning of the First World War).

Included are the bankruptcy cases from selected local court districts, among them the 15 most populated cities by 1895 (Berlin, Breslau, Chemnitz, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg, Hannover, Köln, Königsberg, Magdeburg, München, Nürnberg, Leipzig, Stuttgart), moreover the Hanseatic cities of Bremen and Lübeck, the cities of Dortmund, Duisburg and Essen as well as all local court districts from the district courts of Königsberg (Allenburg, Fischhausen, Königsberg, Labiau, Mehlauken, Pillau, Tapiau, Wehlau), Mannheim (Mannheim, Schwetzingen, Weinheim) and Straßburg (Benfeld, Bischweiler, Brumath, Erstein, Hagenau, Hochfelden, Illkirch, Lauterburg, Niederbronn, Schiltigheim, Straßburg, Sulz unterm Wald, Truchtersheim, Weißenburg, Wörth an der Sauer).

In total, the database contains about 22 % of all bankruptcy proceedings opened in the German Empire during the aforementioned period.

The database follows the principles of Open Science. Via this Internet page, the data is freely usable in different manners (see license). The data set is linked with the digital edition of the original source, so that the creation of the data set can be reconstructed and verified. In addition, this site refers to more information for scientific use of the database.

II. Origin and sources

The database was created as part of a dissertation project in legal history by Christoph Kling at the Chair for Civil Law, Rhetoric and European Legal History (Prof. Dr. Ulrich Falk).

At first, the German Imperial Gazette and Royal Prussian Official Gazette, an official press organ of the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia, were digitized. The 38.182 issues were then further examined and indexed with metadata (2013/14). As byproduct of the project, a freely available digital edition of the Imperial Gazette and all its predecessors and successors from the period between 1819 and 1945 was published.

In the next step, selected public bankuptcy notices were gathered from the by then digital available Central Commercial Register Supplement to the Imperial Gazette. The resulting data was interconnected and enhanced in several manners (2014–2017). The bankruptcy proceedings recorded in the database stem from 10.739 journal issues. Gathering and enhancement required ca. 7.500 hours of work by student and graduate research assistants alone. The comprehensive documentation on the basis of the principles of Open Science is recorded in the dissertation of Christoph Kling and the accompanying digital appendices (see below).

III. Accessibility

There are different ways of access, covering simple quick search, expert access and download of the scientific data set.

The information is in the format of a relational database. It can be queried with Standard Query Language (SQL). Thus, the data can be converted into the desired form and arbitrary target formats.

1. Online database with special web interface for easy use

A special web interface offers convenient access to the entire database.


  • Quick search for debtor and bankruptcy administrator names.
  • Quick access to individual bankruptcy proceeding openings or closures by means of a known identification number.
  • An input mask allows to easily generate SQL queries with freely selectable columns, filters, groupings and sorting.
  • The respective source page of the Imperial Gazette can be retrieved via direct link to the digital edition.
  • The information about openings and closures of individual bankruptcy proceedings are interlinked.

Please note that the interface is currently available in German language only.

Click here to open the web interface in a new window.

2. Online database with generic web interface for SQL queries

The University Library offers the usage of the web application SQLPad in order to execute arbitrary SQL queries on a database server and to export the resulting data.

Under the "Queries" tab, the web application contains a list of predefined SQL queries. These queries were cited as references in the initial legal history study. In addition to being references, they serve as demonstration material and example for new queries.

Click here to open SQLPad in a new window.

3. Scientific data publication (download version)

The data is fully published on the research data server MADATA of the University of Mannheim. It is available there in SQL format as export of the relational database. The digital annexes to the dissertation of Christoph Kling are also available on MADATA. They complement the print version and include additional information regarding genesis and usage of the database for further scientific purposes.

IV. License

Creative Commons Lizenzvertrag

The database may be used by everybody under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License. The only condition is naming the source.

V. Literature

VI. Acknowledgments

The project was made possible with the financial support of the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes), the Association for the Furtherance of the Center for Insolvency and Restructuring at the University of Mannheim (Verein zur Förderung des Zentrums für Insolvenz und Sanierung an der Universität Mannheim e.V.) and the Gerda Henkel Foundation (Gerda Henkel Stiftung).

The project was moreover supported by the University Library Mannheim, which included guidance for the digitization of the Imperial Gazette, infrastructural assumption of the completed digital edition as well as digital provision of the bankruptcy history database.

Project leader: Christoph Kling, LL.M. (Harvard)

Research associate: Katharina Kremer, LL.B.

Student and graduate research assistants: Marie-Fee Battistoni, Simon Beßler, Pascal Böhme, Alexander Borrmann, Christopher Brendel, Lars Ennen, Lisa Faber, Enrico Farinato, Maximilian Fischer, Daniel Friedrich, Tobias Gehrlein, Johannes Hagmann, Monika Harten, Anna-Lisa Helter, Anna Lehmann, Aida Mebratu, Florian Meyer, Anja Müller, Jens Pakenis, Chris Pflüger, Christopher Rieke, Alina Roch, Cennet Rüzgar, Manuel Schuster, Philipp Seimel