History: Germany 1871-1914


The extent and makeup of the German empire in 1871

  • Not always a country
  • As late as 1860, area of Germany was divided - 39 seperate states - 2 largest - Austria and Prussia
  • Shared common language, culture and history - but not the case for everyone
  • End of division
    • Began gradually in mid 19th centuary
    • Truly occured in 1871 under Otto von Bismarck, Prime minister of Prussia (second largest German state)
    • Took steps to unite Germans under one ruler through the policy of Blood (nationality) and Iron (military victories)
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Stage of German unification - Economic unification

  • Can also be called economic interdependence
  • Growth of railway network meant easier access to different resources
  • Stimulated economic growth and prosperity reliant on strong links between states
  • Introduction of Zollverein customs union - agreement to have preferential customs policies for member states
  • Excluded Austria - growing sense of identify and less dependency on the largest of the Germanic states
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Stage of German unification - Schleswig - Holstein

  • Political divisions within German confederation
  • 1840s - Danes attempt to claim Schleswig and Holstein as part of Denmarck - Treaty of London
  • 1863 - Christian takes throne - incorporates duchies into Denmarck - breaks treaty - angers nationalists
  • War with Denmarck - 1864 - Germanic confederation victory - manner of how they were dealt with that brought them closer to unification 
  • Austria to deal with Holstein and Prussia to handle Schleswig
  • Clash of how to adminstrate the duchies - Historians debate whether German chancellor - Bismarck - provoked Austria
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Stage of German unification - Austria - Prussian w

  • Alignment between German states and Prussia
  • 1866 - arguments over duchies led to war
  • Lasted 7 weeks - Prussian victory and assumed the role of senior Germanic state
  • Led to clearer division between Austrian and German interests which forced alignment between German states and Prussia
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Stage of German unification - Franco - Prussian wa

  • Led to Unification
  • 1866 - 1870 - relation between Prussia and France worsened
  • 1870 - France annoyed by Prussian attitude to vacant throne of Spain - declared war - Prussia victory - removal of French Emperor Napoleon III
  • Germanic nationalism swept through confederation
  • Victory of France - Jan 1871 - Prussia persuaded partners to unify
  • Wilhelm of Prussia procliamed Emperor of Germany 18 Jan 1871
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Unified empire

  • 92% spoke German (first language)
  • 5.5% spoke Polish
  • 0.4% spoke French
  • 0.25% spoke Danish

Kleindeutsch vs Grossdeutsch

  • was the issue debated about how Germany should be unified
  • The Kleindeutsch - or smaller Germany - solution was to exclude Austria
  • The Grossdeutsch - or greater Germany - group wanted a unified Germany that included all states and territories within German confederation
  • Kleindeutsch chosen as would make German people happier with the 1871 unification of Germany
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The 1871 constitution

The Emperor (Kaiser)

  • Always the king of Prussia
  • Could appoint/dismiss the chancellor
  • Could dissolve the Reichstag
  • Could make treaties/declare war
  • Commander in chief of the army
  • Had to approve all federal laws
  • Possessed the right to interpret the constitution


  • Centralised government with specific responsibilities for the Reich as a whole (foreign policy, defence, customs etc)
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The 1871 constitution (cont.)

Bundersrat (upper house)

  • The federal council
  • Made up of 58 members nominated by the states
  • Not directly elected
  • Consent required when passing new laws
  • 14 votes needed to veto legislation
  • Prussia had 17 of the 58 seats
  • Bavaria had 6 seats, the other states had one each

The Chancellor (Reichkanzier)

  • The highest official in the Reich
  • Also minister - president of Prussia
  • Responsible to the emperor, not parliament
  • Chairman of Bundersrat
  • Appointed government ministers
  • Could ignore resolutions passed by the Reichstag
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The 1871 constitution (cont.)


  • Regional government with responsibilities for individual states (education, direct taxation, health, local justice etc)

Reichstag (lower house)

  • The national parliament
  • Elected by all males over 25
  • Limited powers to intiate new legislation
  • Government ministers could not be members
  • Members weren't paid
  • Could approve or reject the federal budget
  • Elections normally held every five years

Key term! Junker:

  • In Prussia, the Junkers were the members of the landed nobility
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Was the constitution a 'figleaf to cover absolutis


  • Prussia had 17 seats in Bundersrat - a lot of power - stop anything they didn't like
  • The kaiser was Prussian and held the power to dissolve the Reichstag
  • Power to Junkers as they owned large amounts of land and therefore would have influence


  • Reichstag elected by all males over 25
  • Members of the Bundersrat nominated by states - passed new laws
  • Bismarck needed the liberals so could not have an absolutist government
  • independent rule of states
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The strengths and limitations of Bismarcks control


  • Held the positions of Prussian prime minister, foreign minister, Reich chancellor and head of Bundersrat
  • Manipulated Kaiser
  • Interfered with the appointing of ministers and gave them little power so they could only follow his instructions
  • Did not use a cabinet system and did not consult others so would make policies for himself


  • Had to answer to the Kaiser - if he lost the support from the Kaiser, he had no real power of his own right
  • The individual states of the confederation still retained a lot of independence
  • He couldn't ignore the Reichstag as he needed them to approve the army budget when it had to be renewed
  • Nearing the end of his rule, he had to take frequent trips out of Berlin because of his ill health, this further reduced his control over day-to-day decision making
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Political parties and their ideologies

Right wing:

  • German Conservative Party
    • Adopted DKP name in 1876
    • Represented the protestant and aristocratic Prussian Junkers
    • Detested the Reichstag - was elected by universal suffrage
    • Dominant in Prussian Landtag (state government)
  • Free Conservatives/Reichspartei
    • Formed in 1871
    • Represented landowners, industrialists and businessmen
    • FKP
    • Strong supporters of Bismarck
    • Geographic base wider than the DKP
  • Centre Party:
    • Founded in 1870
    • Represented the German catholics and minorities that opposed Bismarck
    • Strong in southern German states, Bavaria and Rhineland especially
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Political parties and their ideologies (cont.)

  • Centre Party (cont.)
    • Determined to preserve the position of the Catholic Church, especially in education
    • Conservative regarding the constitution and favoured greater decentralisation
    • Liberal in attitudes to social reform
  • National Liberals
    • Formed in 1867
    • Supported Bismarcks policy of German unification
    • Represented protestant middle class
    • Supported by wealthy, well educated men eg. bankers, merchants, and civil servants
    • Favoured free trade, a strong Germany and a constitutional liberal state
    • Post1875, grew more conservative, members felt threatened by growing strength of social democratic party
  • The Progressives/Fortschrilttpartei
    • Believed in a liberal, constitutional state
    • Disliked centralism and militarism
    • Not very supportive of Bismarck
    • Wanted to extend powers of Reichstag
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Political parties and their ideologies (cont.)

  • The Progressives/Fortschrittpartei:
    • Split from National liberals around 1860
    • Didn't like church power
  • Social Democractic party:
    • Already a socialist grouping in 1871, but SPD not founded until 1875
    • Represented the working classes and worked with trade unions
    • Supported a reduction in power of elites and the extension of welfare reforms
    • Most extreme members wanted a total overthrow of the constitution
    • Majority prepared to work within it in order to bring better conditions for the masses
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Septennial law

  • Law meant the Reichstag reviewed the military budget every seven years

Why was it passed?

It was passed because it acted as the compromise between the Reichstag and the Chancellor (the Bismarck). This meant the Reichstag still had some control, which kept the NL pleased, but Bismarck still had quite a lot of powerand say when it came to the military budget. Septennial law allowed Bismarck to please both the Junkers and the Reichstag.

Was it a defeat for Bismarck?

In some ways, it was because he didn't get what he wanted: to have the Reichstag have no control over the military budget. However, it did mean Bismarck showed Junkers he had no bond with the NL, which would have increased the support he would have from them.

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Relationship between NL and Bismarck

  • Period between 1871 -79 described as a Liberal era because, for that time, the NL would consistantly hold most seats in Reichstag
    • 1871 - 125 seats
    • 1874 - 155 seats
    • 1877 - 128 seats
    • 1878 - 99 seats
  • Liberals held most power, as would work with Bismarck
  • At beginning, relationship civil, though uneasy: NL liked success B had in creating unified G and supported him for it, meant helping 'consolidate national unity'.
  • United agaisnt Catholics, gave something to make relationship stable
  • HOWEVER, B not agree with NL goal of extension of Reichstag power, and dependence on NL to pass legislations.
  • Became bigger problem when NL started opposing proposals, especially army budget, caused NL to recoil from constitutional conflict when B accused them of undermining German military strength and suggested another election
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Centre Party support and Bismarck Opposition

Why B concern for Centre Party?

  • 1890 - 106 seats - highest since 1871
  • 1881 - 100 seats
  • Centre party against B, and B didnt like Catholic Church - supporters of Centre party
  • Minority groups joining CP to oppose B
  • B felt need of Germans to be loyal to state, but 1870 Doctrine of Papal Infallbility stated Pope could not be wrong
  • 5000 old Catholics refused - broke away from church
  • 39% Germans catholic - 61% Protestant (inc Prussia and Junker class)
  • Centre party growing support in southern states, Poles in East, French in Alsace-Lorraine
  • Attract support of B's political enemies (Reichsfeinde)
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  • Trigger - Old Catholic teacher + professors were sacked by Catholic Church (CC), B condemned this, began Kulturkampf
  • 1871 - hostile climate to Catholics, Centre party start to develop in govt. Eg; newspaper articles against CP, Catholic section in Prussian Ministry of Religion and Education abolished, clergy ordered to avoid mention of politics in preaching
  • May 1872 - diplomatic relations with Vatican cut off, Jesuits (religious order pledged to support spread of Catholicism and strong supporters of Papal authority) forbidden to preach/enter schools, led to expulsion of almost all Jesuits from Prussia and anti Jesuit campaign gradually begun through rest of G
  • 1873 - 75 - May or Falk Laws - braught CC under state control
    • 1874 - Registration of births, marriages, and deaths in Prussia removed from Church and taken over by state
    • 1875 - Prussian govt given power to suspend states subsidies to dioceses where clergy were resisting new laws, every religious order, except for nursing orders, abolished
  • Wilhelm I first lukewarm about support, but after Pius IX wrote to him complaining about the Kulturkampf and added everyone who was baptised belonged to the Pope, WI offended and showed some support.
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Kulturkampf (cont.)

  • Factors responsible for B ending Kulturkampf:
    • Wanted a closer alliance with Catholic Austria and he feared anti-Catholic laws would stand in the way
    • Suspected the Centre Party were giving support to French seeking revenge for the seizure of Alsace-Lorraine
    • Wanted to change his economic policies and end free trade. Alienated NL, so needed support from CP as ally
    • Felt socialism was greater threat
    • Pius IX died in 1878, new more liberal pope, Leo XIII, petitioned for reconciliation
  • Consequences:
    • B relationship with new Pope strong, facilitated alliance with Austria 1879
    • CP became purely religious, no longer seen as refuge of Reichsfeinde, Leo XIII encourage unity in G empire
    • B distance himself from NL, shows B opportunist and could move between parties to enable policy change
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Kulturkampf (cont.)

  • Results:
    • Catholicism thrived, persecution created matyrs and encouraged greater resistance
    • Increased support of Centre Party in Reichstag due to Windhorst's 'national resistance tours' (91 seats - 1874)
    • Greater divisions in G society - assassination attempts on B, alienates minorities and some Protestants further
    • Based on failures of Kulturkampf and B poor health, had to retract policy by late 1870s. However Jesuits still not allowed in G
    • NL, more than any other G party, stood for greater individual freedom and national unity, yet ironically were enthusiastic supporters of Kulturkampf. Betrayal of own philosophy undermined confidence and morality of Party and brought about its decline
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  • Meaning:
    • Having few or no tariffs on imports and exports
  • Advantages/disadvantages:
    • Encourages economic growth as it kept price of imported raw materials low
    • This in turn reduced cost of naufactured goods
    • Can then be sold abroad at competetive prices
    • Could encourage other countries to reduce import duties but can undercut local products
  • Supporters:
    • National Liberals
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  • Meaning:
    • Introducing duties on imports
  • Advantages/disadvantages:
    • Increases price of imported goods but would encourage people to buy cheaper home produced goods 
    • Could lead to retaliation, other countries could raise import duties effecting the export market for G
  • Supporters:
    • Leading German manufacturers in the 'Central association of German manufacturers', peasants, landowners, industrialists, Junkers (in German conservative and centre party)
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Protective tariffs

  • 1879 - B propose tariffs on iron, iron goods and grain
  • Tariff passed in Reichstag by Conservatives, Free Conservatives, Centre party and 15 NL 'tariff rebels'
  • Previous economic matters were in hands of Rudolf Delbruck who advocated free trade of Zollverein (a free trade union established in Prussia, 1834 which, by 1844, inc most G states)
  • Why did B introduce tariffs?
    • Sympathetic to demands of agriculuturalists - Junker landowner himself, threat to agricultural incomes undermine economic position of Junker aristocracy (who supplied officers for army and on whom Imperial state rested)
    • B favoured G self sufficiency, especially in wheat. Didnt want G to become dependent on foreign imports, felt essential that G should be able to feed itself, in case of war
    • Tariffs provide govt with revenue, Reich govt could not tax citizens directly, dependent on contributions from states. Since taxes had to have Reichstag approval, B wanted any means of gaining income which didnt need dependency on annual Reichstag vote
    • B keen to work closely with German Conservative Party and Centre party (inc Junkers and factory owners) - need support against growing threat of socialism
    • Retaliation for Russia protectionism on Wheat, relations strained over Balkans 1877-8
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National Liberal split

Why was B irritated with NL by late 1870's?

  • Forced him to agree to septennial law and constantly demanded greater parliamentary powers

Why did NL split from him?

  • Lost seats, whereas pro-protectionism conservative parties did better
  • B tried to carry NL with him, proposing programme of financial and constitutional reforms and offering their leader, R V Binnigsen, post of Prussian Minister of interior in 1877
  • Negotiations broke down when NL insisted on two left wing colleagues also join Prussian govt.
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Anti-socialist legislation

Why did B want to introduce anti-socialist legislation in 1878?

He felt it threatened the unity of the German empire and its traditional ways where peasants showed respect to the monarchy, army and Junkers. In addition to this, Bismarck thought that an , attack on socialism would mean stronger ties with Russia and Austria. As socialism was becoming bigger in the Reichstag it made Bismarck worry. When two assassination attempts  on the Kaiser were made in 1878, he thought it the perfect opportunity to introduce the anti socialist ligislation.


  • Organisations which through Social Democratic activities aim to overthrow the established state or social order are hereby forbidden
  • All meetings in which Social Democratic activities appear to be dedicated to the overthrow of the exisiting state or social order shall be dissolved
  • All publications in which the Social Democratic influences appear to be aimed at overthrowing the established state or social order by breaching the public peace are forbidden
  • Anyone who takes part as a member of a forbidden organisation shall be punished with a fine of up to 500 marks or with imprisonment of three months
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Anti-socialist legislation (cont.)

Therefore meetings, including Trade unions, and publications were banned. Police powers increased to search for evidence of Socialist activities and punishment could be fines, imprisonment or exile. However, opposition from the NL, Centre and Progressives parties meant the SPD still existed and could sit in elections.

Did the law do more to help or harm to Socialism in Germany?

Although it did harm the Socialists quite a lot, it also helped them because it made them united and they found other ways to preach their ideas. Kept them motivated.

Consequences: Negative:

  • Membership of the SPD intially declined
  • Trade Unions were crushed
  • Before 1881 election, 600 socialists were arrested. SPD had difficulties finding sufficient candidates for the election. One, Bebel, stood in for 35 constituencies
  • Many were exiled or imprisoned with hard labour
  • The cabinet and civil service were purged in 1880 to remove Liberal sympathisers
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Anti-socialist legislation (cont.)

Consequences: Negative: (cont.)

  • Many Socialists chose to emigrate, especially to USA
  • The Prussian police expelled 67 leading socialists from Berlin (1879) and prominent socialists were driven from Breslau (1879), Hamburg (1880) and Leipsip (1881)

Consequences: Both:

  • A new party newspaper, the Social Democrat, was published in Zurich and smuggled into Germany by the 'Red postmaster' Julius Motteller
  • Secret conferences were organised on foreign soil including Switzerland in 1880 and Denmark in 1883
  • Groups met in secret to discuss policy developments and collect financial contributions

Consequences: Positive: (cont.):

  • The Socialist vote nearly doubled between 1878 and 1887
  • Within a few years trade unionism was revived. There was a series of strikes in industrial
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Anti-socialist legislation (cont.)

Consequences: Positive: (cont.)

  • and mining areas and by 1890 membership reached 278000
  • Strong leadership rallied the party and organised resistance. In 1880 the SPD rejected anarchism and terrorism
  • SPD encouraged great loyalty from its member by organising educational courses, libraries and sports club
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State socialism

  • May 1883 - Medical insurance. This scheme was paid for jointly by employers and employees. It allowed for the payment of medical bills for workers and their families and covered 3 million workers
  • June 1884 - Accident insurance. This was paid for entirely by employers. It provided benefits and funeral grants to people who had been injured at work. In 1886, this was extended to cover 7 million agriculutral workers
  • May 1889 - Old Age pensions. These were introduced for people over the age of 70.
  • Why? Wanted to take supporters away from the SPD
  • Funded for by an increase in taxes
  • Success?
    • Some liked the idea and prospect of the legislation.
    • However, others felt it was a sham, the govt had frequently opposed TU and socialism
    • NL were against such reforms - they believed it gave state more power and reduced individual freedom (laissez-faire)
    • Encouraged SPD to be more united
    • First of its kind in world and was much more extensive than might have been expected
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State socialism (cont.)

  • Engels - urged opposition, he believed the working classes needed a revolution not concession
  • SPD support continued to grow (1.5 million by 1890) and they had 35 seats in the Reichstag by the same date
  • Complaints about the process of sticking in insurance stamps were also common
  • There was no revolution before 1918
  • Bismarck remained hostile to the SPD and the anti-socialist laws were renewed four times. However, with the accession of Wilhelm II greater social welfare schemes were introduced and the acts finally abolished.
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Why could B establish a right wing majority in 188

  • Boulanger crisis - B was appointed as minister of war in France in 1886 - he became a national cult figure as the long awaited military saviour of France. He wanted revenge of Germany for 1871 and the return of A-L. A French official on the border of A-L was arrested, B made war-like threats.
  • B used this to his advantage - war scare gained him support to get 10% increase in taxation to finance army growth
  • The subssequent election of 1887 was faught in an atmosphere of artificially contrived crisis
  • This brought gains to B's right wing opponents who then passed the army bill (which increased the army budget by 10%)
  • Wilhelm I died in 1888 - his son Friedrich became Kaiser but died the same year from cancer - his son, Wilhelm, became Wilhelm II.
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Reasons for Bismarck's resignation in 1890

  • Differences with Wilhelm II:
    • B wanted to control policy making and maintain his position of power.
    • Kaiser believed in personal rule and wanted to reduce the power of the Chancellor
    • B wanted to repress socialism, W2 was more sympathetic to the workers
    • B wanted to remain close to Russia, W2 favoured Austria.
    • Chancellor did not care about popularity and wanted to fight the Reichsfiende. W2 wanted to be loved by all and be seen as the 'peoples emperor'
  • Problems with the Reichstag:
    • B wished to alter the 1871 constitution so that the Reichstag would lose most of its power and voting rights, W2 rejected this outright
  • Prussian cabinet order (1852):
    • B attempted to use an out of date order which stated that all ministers could only approach the Kaiser if they went through the Chancellor.
    • W2 demanded removal of this order.
  • 'Meddling in foreign affairs':
    • B told W2 that he could not visit Russia as he had received unfavourable reports from the ambassador there
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Reasons for Bismarck's resignation in 1890 (cont.)

  • B attempted to increase the army and introduce more extreme anti-socialist law.
  • This was opposed in the Reichstag and in the election of 1890 both the SPD and the progressives increased their seats
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Leo von Caprivi - 1890-94

  • Social reforms - Recognitionof trade unions, a reduction in working hours, progressive income tax, industrial courts were set up in July 1890 to adjudicate in wage disputes and restrict hours of work for women, workers were given right to form commitees
    • Generally welcomed by the working classes, socialists, industrialists, Zenturm and liberals. Opposed by conservative Prussian landowners and the circle of aristocrats known as the camarilla.
  • Tariff reforms - protection of agriculture was reduced by a reduction on duties on imported wheat and rye, and of tariffs on imported German manufactured goods. This was to lay the basis for the expansion of German trade. It was also hoped that the reduction in duties would appeal to the working class by provoking a fall in food prices.
    • Grain producers reaction of bitterness and frustration which resulted in the formation of the Agrarian League in 1893 (Bund der Landwirte) - had 250000 in one year
  • Prussian School Bill - 1892 - restores some of the churches priviledges
    • Opposition from NLs, many conservatives and socialists forcing Caprivi to back down. He alienated a wide cross section of the political establishment and was forced to resign
  • Army Bill - Caprivi agreed to Von Schlieffen's call for an increase in the size of the army reserve (because of encirclement risk) but had to get Reichstag to agree. Bargaining tool -
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Leo von Caprivi - 1890-94 (cont.)

  • offered reduction in service from 3 to 2 years and Reichstag to discuss budget every 5 years instead of 7
    • Concessions made by Caprivi upset the nationalist right. The Bill only passed into law after an election in which the number of progressives in the Reichstag was reduced and Caprivi had made further concessions on the number of recruits to be drafted.
    • Caprivi fell foul of the Camarilla (group of favourites surrounding W2) and he resigned in Oct 1894
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Prince zu Hohenlohe - 1894-1900

  • Anti-subversion Bill - introduced to curb socialist 'subversion' - corrupting morals - introducing higher penalties for socialist activity
    • 1895 - Bill thrown out by Reichstag
    • Kaiser objected to what he saw as an encroachment on his prerogative by the succcessful attempt by the Reichstag in 1898 to reform the Prussian military justice system. Additionally, in 1897, the Reichstag forced a cut of 12 million Reichmarks on the naval estimates
  • Navy law and Flottenpolitik - Germany had to gain a navy to rival that of Britain
    • Promoted by the Kaiser who was very much at the heart of the military planning process. He had accepted the 'Risk theory' that by building such a fleet, Britain would be forced to seek a treaty with Germany
  • Sammlungspolitik (concentration) - rallying together, aligning nationalists, landowners and industrialists against socialism and in support of Kaiser and his foreign policy.
    • Encouraged and supported by several right wing PGs that emerged from the 1890s, which lobbied ministers, sought influence in the Reichstag and used the press to express views. Led by elites with wealth and contacts.
    • Polarised German society into 2 hostile camps - forces of law, order and respectability
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Prince zu Hohenlohe - 1894-1900 (cont.)

    • and of radicalism and socialism
  • Weltpolitik - expansionist foreign policy (colonial expansion and development of navy)
    • Support for a more aggressive imperial policy was organised by groups including the Colonial League and Navy League. Allowed the Kaiser to take more of an interfering role in decision-making.
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Bulow - 1900-09

Was Bulow a puppet chancellor to W2?

  • Was groomed for office by Kaiser Wilhelm's inner circle
  • Went out of his way to flatter Emperor - visited him every morning and earned nickname 'the eel'
  • First Chancellor that Kaiser trusted
  • Weltpolitik - Colonial expansion: Navy law 1900 funded a 17 year building programme for a sea fleet. Promotion of Wilhelm II to emperor
  • 1892 Tariff reform:
    • Reversal of Caprivi's tariff reduction and reinstatement of the 1892 tariffs on agricultural products (including Russian grain) and some manufacturers
    • This created an alliance of 'steel and rye' with the Junkers but was unpoplar with the SPD who preferred cheap Russian grain (growth in SPD votes from 2 to 3 million in 1903)
  • Social reform:
    • 1900 - the length of time in which workers could claim accident insurance was increased
    • 1901 - industrial arbitration courts were compulsory in towns of more than 20000
    • 1903 - health insurance was extended and rules of child labour tightened
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Bulow - 1900-09 (cont.)

  • Germanisation:
    • German became the only teaching language in Prussian schools
    • 1908 - an expropriation law made it possible that Polish property could be given to German farmers in Prussia
  • Opposition to Bulow:
    • Tariffs reforms introduced to please conservatives.
    • New tariff highly unpopular in country because believed it would increase price of food. In 1903 elections, SPD won 25 more seats than in 1898.
    • Following 3 years Bulow struggled to hold together coalition of Conservatives, NL and Centre.
    • Naval building programme and active foreign policy stretched govt finances but attempts at tax reform blocked by agrarian interests.
    • Centre joined socialists in 1905 to vote against increase expenditure on cavalryand to fund military operations and uprising in German South West Africa.
  • Bulow Bloc and 1907 election:
    • Used criticisms of socialists and Catholics to good effect.
    • In campaign for 1907 election - painted opponents as unpatriotic
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Bulow - 1900-09 (cont.)

    • Enticed progressives join new coalition with conservative and NL based on supporting Weltpolitik (coalition known as Bulow Bloc)
    • 1907 election BB won 216 seats, Centre 105 seats and SPD 36 seats
  • Effects of BB:
    • Did not give chancellor security
    • Centre deeply resented treatment and became determine to oppose Bulow at every stage
    • Progressives, who were now part of coalition, demanded elctoral reform
    • Taxation issue - by 1908 army and navy costing 1200 million RM per year
    • Conservatives and Agrarian league opposed taxation increase but progressives believed only way to deal with crisis was to increase property tax
    • In order to create disharmony - Centre supported Conservatives
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Daily telegraph affair

  • Kaier visited England in 1907 and stayed with pro-German Colonel Stuart-Wortleg.
  • SW produced article for Daily Telegraph about conversation with Kaiser; hoping improve relations between two countries
  • However, reference to Boer war, K suggested that he was pro Brit but German public not
  • SW sent article to K for approval, K passed it to Bulow, didnt read it, returned it
  • Article published - Oct 1908
  • Brits think W2 arrogant, Germans demand constitutional reform to limit K meddling, B joined in on attacks on the K's 'personal govt'
  • By 1909 Bulow had lost confidence of K and resigned
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Eulenburg Affair

  • 1907 - during Harden-Molthe scandals, Adolf Brand (founding editor of homosexual periodical Der Eigene) printed pamphlet alleging that Bulow had been blackmailed for engaging in homosexual practices and was morally obligated to oppose Paragraph 176 of German penal code (outlawed homosexuals)
  • Sued for slander and brought to trial 7 Nov 1907 - Brand asserted Bulow had embraced and kissed private secretary, Priving Councilor Max Schefer at all male gathering, host = Philipp ze Eulenburg
  • Testify defence, Bulow deny, remarked he heard unsavory comments about Eulenburg
  • Eulenburg defended, says he never held such events, never engaged in same sex acts
  • Led to perjury trial
  • Concluding testimony by Chief of Berlin police that Bulow may have been victim of a homosexual blackmailer, easily prevailed in court and Brand sentenced to prison
  • Negative effect
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Success of Bulow?

  • Successes
    • Social reform - accident insurance, industrial arbitration courts
    • Bulow bloc - united under Weltpolitik - election success
  • Not success
    • Bulow bloc - rejection of proposals (finance bill)
    • Tariff reforms - price of grain, popularity of SPD
    • Daily telegraph interview - instability, Kaiser fallout
    • Eulenburg affair - damages reputation, create a division of supporters
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Bethmann-Hollweg (1909-17)

  • How did BH try to reform Parliament?
    • Wants to have reform on three stage voting system of the Prussian Landtag in 1910
      • Votes valued on class - UC worth more - LC worth less
      • Eg: 1908 election - SPD won 23% of vote but only 7 seats, conservative won 16% of the vote but 212 seats
    • Aims to strengthen position of middle class
    • Through indirect elections and increase votes for those who are educated and have qualifications
  • Why and was it a success?
    • Plan met with hostility by conservative and junkers
    • Progressives dont think he was going far enough
  • 1912 elections:
    • 1 in 3 Germans voted SPD and progressive liberals. Left wing majority - 34.8% of vote
    • Why?
      • tax increase, higher cost of living conditions, VAT increase, play on patriotism
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Bethmann-Hollweg (1909-17) (cont.)

  • Military spending:
    • During chancellorship BH faced impossible task of balancing a budget deficit and increasing demands to build up the military
    • 1912 - increased international tensions made the situation even more desperate
    • July 1913 - despite opposition from SPD, Reichstag were persuaded to increase army (cost of additional 435 million RM)
    • To fund this, BH introduced a 'defence tax' based on the value of property (this was supported by the left but hated by the conservatives)
    • 1913 - Army bill created massive problems - National debt reached 490 billion RM and BH alienated both left and right
    • After Zabern affair, Reichstag passed a vote of no-confidence against Chancellor by 293 votes to 54
    • However he survived due to Kaisers support
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The Erfurt Programme (1891)

  • It laid out what SPD were going to do
  • The SPD fights for the abolishment of class rule and of the classes themselves and for equal rights for all
  • The party demands the vote of all men and women over 21
  • New laws and the appointment of high officials to be controlled by the people
  • Decisions for war and peace to be made by representatives of the people
  • All taxes on goods to be abolished as they are an unfair burden on the poor
  • The cost of govt to be paid by income tax, property tax and inheritance tax, to ensure the rich pay the most
  • 8 hour maximum working day
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Zabern Affair (1913)

  • Zabern - town in Alsace - garrisoned by G soldiers with help of local Asatian recruits
  • 20 year old G officer responded to teasing by calling Alsatian recruits 'Wackes' - hated nickname meaning 'square heads'
  • Officer was duly punished with several days confinement in military prison, but when locals read of incident in press, they demonstrated against G arrogance
  • G soldiers were ordered to disperse demonstration on Nov 1913 and charged wildly at crowds
  • 15 people arrested, including the president, 2 judges and State attorney of the Zabern Supreme Court, who had just come out from court building and were caught up in chaos
  • Despite outraged liberal press outcry - WII accepted the military action
  • Press reports of harsh recriminations against citizens of Zabern, who had protested against army behaviour, made it appear WII prepared to allow military to do what it liked with no respect for the rule of law
  • Outcry against militarism both in Reichstag and across country
  • Kaiser association with military figures increased feeling his govt did not represent the wishes of the people - BH also supported Kaiser
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  • Rise in SPD meant
    • they had a bigger say in German politics
    • Chancellor had no majority
    • it was a turning point
    • chancellor had to win support not rely on fact he will get majority in Reichstag
    • Kaiser stops going through Reichstag
  • How did the SPD develop from 1890 - 1914?
    • Grew - ASL and Caprivis new course (1890-94) boost membership
    • Conferences in Halle (1890) and Erfurt (1891) - well attended
    • Party principles made in Erfurt programme
    • Erfurt demanded abolition of class rule, equal rights, and the use of income tax, property tax and inheritance tax
    • SPD became moderate in outlook
    • Bebel - 'gradual socialism' - to acheive long-term goal of constitutional change
    • Failure to seize opportunities - Daily Telegraph interview (1908), Zabern Affair (1913) of govt's need for money for Army Bills (1913)
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The SPD (cont.)

    • Didn't want to appear unpatriotic in the face of growing nationalist feeling
    • Liebknecht and Luxemburg - SPD revolutionists
    • 'revolutionist' amendment to Erfurt - state desire to work through Reichstag - defeated in 1900
    • Continuation of party revolutionary slogans made it harder for parties (Eg liberals) to support them and provided excuse for right to attack them
    • Marxist pacifism at odds with militaristic German culture in early 20th century
    • Govts attempts to combat socialists steady rise ('Sammlungspolitik') - prevented compromise and helped split society into 2 opposing extremes
  • How did they influence govt policy?
    • Popular with policies (eg. promoting welfare reforms, progressive taxation and constitutional chanjge) and helped provide G workers with new sense of identity
    • Local societies for sport, music and education
    • Organised festivals, rallies, and holidays
    • Produced newspapers, founded libraries and ran welfare clinics
    • May Day parades were largest in Europe and blatant display of working class solidarity
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The SPD (cont.)

    • and confidence
  • How much of a threat were the SPD to the govt and to the rulling classes?
    • Had a lot of support and opposed constitution - made it a threat
    • However, failed to exploit govt weaknesses
    • Don't alienate groups of people
    • Is a threat as give working class identity
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Why did the economy develop?

  • Growth of G population
    • Provided market and labour force for expansion of economy
    • Balance of population shifted towards younger generation who were mobile and willing to adapt to the need of new skills
  • Unification
    • Possible to coordinate industry more effectively and economically
    • Had navigable rivers (eg Rhine and Elbe) and broad, flat northern plain suited the construction of railways
    • Canal, rivers and railways (complete in 1880) proved invaluable for transport of raw materials and manufactured goods
  • Creation of Cartels
    • New law in 1870 made easier to make joint -stock companies
    • 8 in 1875 - 70 by 1887 - 300 by 1900 - 600 by 1911
    • Every important industry had a cartel
    • 5 biggest dyestuff companies became responsible for 90% of G total output
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Why did the economy develop? (cont.)

  • Education
    • G elementary education deemed best in world
    • Higher education made provision for the development of the technical skills necessary to industrial development
    • Eg: in 1870 - more science grads from one G university (Munich) than all English ones combined
  • Access to raw materials:
    • Abundant of coal in Ruhr, Saar and Silesia
    • Iron ore in newly acquired Alsace-Lorraine as well as Ruhr
    • Alsace-Lorraine was a valuable source of potash used in various industrial processes
  • Expansion of overseas trade:
    • G merchants distributed goods across Europe and penetrated markets of North and South America, Africa and Asia (60% of exports go to Brit, France and Russia)
    • Sold chemicals, metal goods, machinery, textiles and coal and profits helped pay for imports of food, raw materials and particular types of manufactured goods
    • Volume of exports and imports grown fourfold
      • 1890 - buy £200 million - sell £153 million - 1913 - buy £526 million - sell £495 million
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Why did the economy develop? (cont.)

  • Bismarcks introduction of tariffs
    • Industrial development was supported through Bismarck's tariffs and Caprivi's trade treaties and measures, such as subsidies to shipping lines to keep transport costs down
  • Banking system
    • G banks free from state control, invested heavily in industrial research, trade, economic development
    • No of banks increased-in 1872-49 banks founded in Prussia, including Dresdener Bank and Deutsche Bank
    • Close links between banks and businesses developed
    • Banks own representatives sat on firms board of directors
  • Development of chemicals and electricals:
    • Electrical grew in Rhine area-generators could be powered by waste gases from steelworks
    • G production of electrical energy increased by 150% between 1901 and 1913
    • Electric lights more common - horse drawn carriages replaced by electric trolleys
    • G producing more than 3/4 of world chemical dyes
    • Adundant reserves in coal and potash
    • Ammonia production rose from 84000 tonnes to 287000 tonnes between 1897 and 1907
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Economic development

  • In 24 years, G experienced vast expansion of economy and military - became dominant power in Europe
  • 1890 - 1914 G experienced second stage of industrial revolution-new industries were created that used new tech such as electricals, chemicals, motor car
  • Encouraged by population increase of nearly 50 million, G industrial production tripled and by 1914, stood alongside US and UK as one of worlds most industrious countries
  • Development of transport system:
    • Railway network grew from 41820km in 1890 to 63000km by 1913
    • G merchant marine grew to three times more than US, but still only 1/4 of Brit navy
  • Development of electricals:
    • Grew most quickly in Rhine area
    • G firms (eg Siemans) led electrical components (eg dynamos)
    • Production of electrical energy increased by 150% between 1901 and 1915
    • 1913-G controlled half of world trade in electricals
    • G exported £11 million worth of electrical goods, Brit and US exported £8 million put together
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Economic development (cont.)

  • Chemical development:
    • G's abundant reserves of coals and potash became basis for numerous chemical products
    • Early 20th century G producing more than 3/4 of worlds chemical dye
    • G scientists discovered a number of new chemicals processes in last decade of 19th century
    • Pyrites, common salt, potassium salts and heavy chemicals were used in manufacturing and agricultural fertilisers
    • 1878 - only million tonnes of sulphuric acid being produced - by 1907 G producing 1402000 tonne
    • Ammonia production rose from 84000 tonnes to 287000 tonnes between 1897 and 1907
    • G led way in pharmaceuticals, artificial fibres, some photographic materials, plastics and new explosives
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  • Evidence that agriculture was in decline:
    • Decline in agricultural prices, and consequently in income of farmers and landowners
    • Building new railways, roads broke down isolate rural communities, exposed farmers to competition from outside
    • Growing number peasants moved to cities (percentage population in agriculture fell 50% in 1871 to 35% in 1907)
    • Landowners-failed to modernise production/didnt adapt to changing markets-forced sell up
    • Series of bad harvest in late 1870s was compensated by import of US grain
    • 1880s share of agriculture GNP 40%, industry 35% - 1914 - agriculture 25%, industry 45% 
  • Evidence that agriculture in decline:
    • Growth of towns and protection given to grain growers after 1879 created opportunities for more enterprising farmers to supply food to growing domestic market
    • Rootcrops encouraged revolution-rapider crop rotation, gave additional fodder for livestock
    • Grew a more business like cultivation of land, seasonal workers used more frequently
    • Farm machinery and fertilisers beginning to be available, those who invested could increase yield
    • More than 4million acres of land brought under cultivation from 1890-1900
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  • In 1880s 45% of banking system owned by Jews; there were also many prominent Jewish politicians in National Liberal party
  • Jews increasingly accused of profiteering for agricultural depression and some sections of press played on this (eg. in Wurttemberg, Catholic newspapers printed names of Jews who had been accused of crimes in bold)
  • 1890s anti-semitism became a political force, especially with creation of new right wing pressure groups such as Pan German League
  • By 1914, Pan German league has claimed membership from 60 members of Reichstag
  • Although it never had more than 25000 members, the status of the members gave it a dispropotionally strong influence
  • Heinrich Class - leader from 1908 and sets out the agenda of the group in 1912 in the 'If I were Kaiser' pamphlet
  • Advertise in press and cinema and lobby ministers
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Society in Germany

  • The elites:
    • Consisted of old landed aristocracy
    • Core was Prussian Junkers, many military officers
    • Some titled families served at court and under WII
    • Included those fortunate in industry and manufacturing (eg. Krupps, Thyssen and Hugenbergs)
    • Though they didnt command the same social status as landed aristocracy but were powerful
    • Lived in spacious homes or country estatesrun by servants
    • Actively involved in politics - either directly, through emergent pressure groups or by supporting others with their wealth
  • Industrial managers and educated professionals:
    • Included highly skilled experts in new industrial techniques, engineers, doctors and lawyers
    • Grew prominent in urban community, forming an 'upper' middle class
    • Brought comfortable houses, paid for childrens education, were attended by a few servants
    • Often 'stalwarts' of local community - involved in Lander politics or local town govt and staunch supporters of Church
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Society in Germany (cont.)

  • White-collar workers:
    • Clerks, small businessmen, shopkeepers and minor officials
    • Known as 'Mittelstand' and formed lower middle class
    • Not necessarily substantially wealthier than some workers
    • Proud of position as non-manual employees and held values more in common with those above than those below
    • Were aspirational, wanted education for their children, and tended towards conservatism in politics, perhaps hoping for a position as local councillor or some other decoration
  • Urban working class:
    • Divded - at top were foremen and highly skilled workers, who were very conscious of their perceived superiority over other workers (head butlers in the household of elites)
    • Middle working class - semiskilled workers (eg coal miners) who were better paid people in this group and keen to support movements for reform
    • Lower working class - unskilled workers, most vulnerable to economic fluctuations and layoffs, described by the Marxists as the 'Lumpenproletariat', largely apolitical and uninterested in revolutionary advancement
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Society in Germany (cont.)

  • Peasants:
    • Worked in the countryside and their status varied between substantial peasant proprietors who employed others and the landless labourers whose life was extremely precarious, travelling from one farm to another, seeking seasonal employment
    • Peasant interests sometimes coincided with Junkers, despite different lifestyles, and tended to be quite conservative in outlook
    • Peasants also victims of industrial change and, while those serving industrial centres did well, the growing population and the practice of dividing estates between sons (occured everywhere in Germany but Bavaria), forced increasing numbers to leave the ladn and 'drift to the towns', where they joined the working class ranks
  • Junker class remained dominant and was joined by the owners of big businesses
  • Working class expanded as peasants were attached to cities and factories such as owned by the Krupps (1871 - 36% live in cities compared to 47% in 1890)
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Conditions of working people - Pros

  • Employment rates were high
  • Real wages increased by 25% between 1895 and 1913
  • Medical insurance (May 1883), accident insurance (June 1884),old Age pensions (May 1889)
  • Recognition of trade unions
  • Changes to employment laws:
    • reduce womens working hours to 11
    • Guaranteed minimum wage
    • prohibition on Sunday employment
    • restrictions on child employment
  • Extension to period workers could claim accident insurance
  • Extension to health insurance
  • Spread of education and new job opportunities
  • Developments in hygiene
  • Leisure oppotunities improved with better transport and cinema
  • New devices eg telephone, typewriter, electric tram network
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Conditions of working people - Cons

  • Forced to live in cramped inner-city streets
  • Pockets of acute poverty - families shared rooms and live with threat of unemployment
  • Average 200000 trade union workers went on strike per year between 1905 - 13
  • Worked nearly 2 hours a day longer than Brit worker in 1890s
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The 'women's question'

  • What was it? Why were some worried about the position of women in German society?
    • Question position of women
    • Women - no vote and legal status restricted (eg. their property became their husbands on marriage)
    • There were 'horror stories' that those women who had got jobs in larger factories were the cause of growing numbers of illegitimate children and believed spread of prostitution
    • Peasant women tiles the fields alongside men
    • Women started to work more
  • Was this a new phenomenon?
    • Yes as it only came about in the 1890s when the Bund Deutscher Frauenvereine was established in 1894
  • What was the BDF and what did it campaign for??
    • It was an umbrella organisation that campaigned for womens rights and increased educational opportunities
  • How were the SPD campaigning for women? Were they successful?
    • August Bebel wrote tracts on female equality and the SPD campaigned for a female vote
    • They were unsuccessful
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Elitism and the culture of Militarism

  • How did the military influence key aspects of policy under WII?
    • Weltpolitik -
      • Expansion of military influence in this period was both the cause and product of the Weltpolitik
      • WII wanted G to win colonies and have G power respected abroad, which required military strength
    • Unification and prestige in society - 
      • Assumed central role in Second Reich, partly due to Prussian tradition and the part army had played in wars of unification
      • G taverns had a 'Stammtisch', of 'regular table', where veterans were able to sit
      • 'Sedan day' anniversary of 1870 victory over France, captured French guns paraded in Berlin streets
      • Glorification of war and conquest popular theme in German writing and culture
    • Naval Laws - 
      • 1897 and 1900 and 1906 - laws to increase navy
    • Zabern Affair - 
      • WII support military action
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Elitism and the culture of Militarism (cont.)

    • Military can overide orders
    • Only answerable to Kaiser
  • Schlieffen plan - 
    • March through Belgium and defeat France quickly
    • Send men to east side to fight Russia
    • WII in support, despite international agreement that Belgium never be touched
    • Requires military strength
  • 1912 War Council - 
    • Diplomatic crisis caused by the Balkan wars
    • WII called a meeting during this
    • Invites chief military and naval advisors
    • Excluded civilian decision makers
    • Felt meeting was too important to allow more civilians to attend
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Growth of right-wing pressure groups

  • Pressure groups aimed to influence govt policy
  • Patriotic societies and right wing interest groups came to exert a direct influence on govt policy making
  • This was partly because their leadership comprised of influential men who had wealth and contracts, and partly because their concerns were in tune with the Kaiser
  • New industrialists and old Junkers shared a common interest in preserving and advancing their positions
  • Pressure groups were able to attract other conservatives in society eg. academics, small businessmen and office employees
  • Pressure groups lobbyed ministers, sought members within the Reichstag, advertised in press and cinema and branded opponents as unpatriotic
  • Perhaps influence of pressure groups was not so great - some historians have argued that they reflected rather formulated policies, however, their existance shows that Germany had become strongly polarised in the early 20th century
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