- James Greer
1871 Germany was a collection of states, these states had their own
kings and were independent of one another.
The largest and the strongest of these states was called
Prussia, the ruler of Prussia was Otto Von Bismarck.
Prussia covered two thirds of Germany and housed sixty percent
of the German population. The
dominance of Prussia was secured as the King of Prussia was head of
the empire (Reich) and there was sufficient Prussian voting power to
make sure Prussian beliefs and wishes were followed.
||The states of Germany. Click on thumbnail to
see full size.
1871 a number of states came together to form the German Reich, or
empire. The Prussian
chancellor Otto Von Bismark mainly controlled this move, and came to
Germany up until 1890.
Was Germany governed After 1871?
was a federal state. This
meant that power was divided between the federal government, and the
independent government of each of the 25 German states.
Although these states no longer had their own monarchies etc.,
they had their own police, education and health systems. Each state had its own rulers and constitutions and
was a democracy, the Reichstag, (government), was elected every five
years by the German public. This
government had the power to create federal laws and had to approve the
annual Imperial budget. Whilst
Bismarck was in power there were no exploitations of these powers, but
Bismarck considered it necessary to maintain a political majority and
so he kept in close cooperation with the leading parties.
Kaiser Wilhelm II
Wilhelm came to rule the whole of Germany in 1888.
He continued to be Kaiser up until 1918.
He was the ruler of the entire of Germany, the collection of
all the 25 states. This
reign was at the same time as Otto von Bismarck ruled Prussia.
Many historians do not believe Kaiser Wilhelm did a very
sufficient job of ruling Germany, seeing him as immature, self
assertive, and prone to errors of judgement.
Many consider his life to be an endless whirl of state
occasions, hunting trips and military manoeuvres.
A smaller number of historians believe him to have been an
intelligent, conscientious enthusiastic and energetic ruler.
Otto van Bismarck was not a great follower of Wilhelm, he said
“The Kaiser is like a balloon…If you do not hold fast to the
string, you never know where he will be off to.” Wilhelm was often found at court with strange characters, for
example, a homosexual spiritualist.
Although no major
decision could be taken without the Kaiser’s agreement, many
historians consider him to have had little professional involvement,
and that most of his time was spent pursuing leisure interests.
this period of time Germany saw a great number of social and economic
number of significant developments I have listed below:
production of 200 per cent between 1870 and 1914
production saw a massive increase
and 1914 there was a dramatic increase
in the electricity industry, by 1914 German electricity
formed one third of the world’s electricity.
Advances in the
growth of 16 million between 1890-1914
investments in industry by the German banks
transport system with navigable rivers, railways and canals
was not long before Wilhelm and Bismarck disagreed with one another on
several important matters. What
to do about socialism was such a matter which both disagreed on.
Bismarck wanted to stand firm against them, Wilhelm, on the
other hand wished to be seen as a ‘People’s Emperor’ and wanted
to stop repressing them. Bismarck
resigned in 1890. None of
Bismarck's successors came close
to having the same amount of power and authority as he
achieved. The first
successor of Bismarck was Caprivi, a Prussian soldier with very little
political experience, who wished to stand above political parties and
interests. This very
quickly became an impossible task.
For several years Wilhelm kept up with his support towards
socialism, but in 1894 Wilhelm changed his mind, in fear of the
growing strength of the SPD. Caprivi
refused to support this anti socialist bill and resigned.
was successed by a 75
year old called Chlodwig. Choldwig
did not oppose the Kaiser’s policies, and so for a few years Wilhelm
dictated most aspects of the governments policy.
Wilhelm’s anti socialist efforts, however, were not very
successful. In 1900 Buluw became the chancellor of Germany.
Buluw and Wilhelm developed a close relationship.
Buluw extended worker’s concessions concessions, for example,
extending worker’s entitlement to pensions and insurance benefits.
crisis arose in 1908 when the Kaiser told the ‘Daily Telegraph’
that he wanted to have closer relations with Britain.
The German Reichstag (government) questioned whether Wilhelm
was in a position to make such statements, and for a few months talks
commenced, discussing whether Wilhelm’s power should be reduced.
Nothing was done however as a suitable alternative to the
Kaiser could not be found. In
1909, Buluw, whose relationship with Wilhelm had worsened, had no
majority in the Reichstag and resigned.
Buluw was replaced by Bethman-Hollweg.
In 1912 the SPD became
the largest party in the Reichstag, with over 30 per cent of the vote.
In 1913 there was a crisis over an incident at Zabern, a a town
in Alsace. Soldiers dealt
with townspeople in a rough manner, and anyone who protested was
punished by imprisonment. It
was only when the Alcase governor threatened to resign that Wilhelm
did anything as an act of response.
Instead of punishing those soldiers concerned he sent them away
on manouvres. This
incident in Zabern showed both the power of the army and also that the
Kaiser could not completely ignore public opinion.