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The Second Reich Notes

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1. The constitution of the Second Reich-Kaiser, Chancellor and Reichstag

2. Social and economic changes in the early 20 th century

3. Social and political tensions and divisions in the Second Reich

4. Attempts to achieve social and political integration

5. Growing parliamentary democracy or entrenched autocracy by 1914?

Prussia and Germany

No single country called Germany until 1871. Before = large number of small, independent states, loosely allied in the German Confederation Creation of Germany was the work of Prussia's chief minister, Otto von Bismarck King of Prussia, Wilhelm I became the first German Kaiser Created in 1871, Germany consisted of the Kingdom of Prussia and 24 lesser states: three smaller kingdoms, 18 principalities and three free cities 'Prussification' is a better description of what happened in 1871 as Prussia dominated the German Empire in every way After 1871 Prussia ceased to be an independent country and in her place Germany became one of the most powerful countries in Europe



KAISER TO FUHRER - THE SECOND REICH Of Prussian origin, Bismarck sought to protect the power of Prussia and the Prussian ruling elite in his constitution, while allowing an element of popular democracy.

Under constitution, component states kept their own governments but military matters were controlled by the King of Prussia There was to be a central law-making body with limited powers

To outward appearance the German Empire was not a straightforwardly autocratic state like its neighbour to the east, Tsarist Russia:

• Germany had its Kaiser and also had a high-profile imperial parliament (the Reichstag) which was elected on the basis of universal suffrage

• The power of the Reichstag was LIMITED. It COULD NOT INITIATE LEGISLATION; it could only reject or amend proposals which were handed down to it by the Bundesrat

• The Bundesrat was controlled by the Kaiser

• Government ministers, chief of whom was the Imperial Chancellor, were not in any way accountable to the Reichstag. They were appointed by the Kaiser and kept office as long as they retained his confidence. Wilhelm Liebkknecht described the Reichstag as 'a fig leaf covering the nakedness of absolutism'. Eduard David called the Reichstag a 'sham parliament' Wilhelm II, Germany's emperor 1888-1918 proclaimed 'There is only one master in this country' 'That am I'.

Kaiser (Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia)
 Hereditary monarch (King of Prussia)
 Appointed/dismissed government

Could dissolve the Reichstag Appoints

Controlled foreign policy and armed forces Summons

Chancellor and Government Ministers

Appointed/ dismissed by Kaiser
 Proposed new laws to the Reichstag
 Not dependent upon support in the Reichstag to stay in office 2

Summons and dismisses


Bundesrat (Federal Council and Upper House)

Reichstag (Lower House)
 Members (called deputies) elected

Reichsrat - Provincial Assemblies
 Had veto on legislation passed by Reichstag Elect Electorate
 Men over 25 voted in Reichstag elections every three years
 Also voted for local state assemblies
 Written constitution but not statement of individual rights Political parties
 Conservatives
 National liberals (moderate conservatives)
 Progressive (Liberals)
 Socialists
 Z or Centre (representing the interests of Catholics)
 Both Socialists and Z carried on into the Weimar republic

The constitution of Imperial Germany Brainchild of Otto von Bismarck & designed to ENSURE THE DOMINANCE BY PRUSSIA OF THE NEW GERMAN REICH The Key features…
 The Kaiser; the king of the largest state, Prussia, was also Kaiser of Germany. He had the power to appoint and dismiss the Chancellor and government ministers. He had the power to dissolve the Reichstag KAISER WILHELM II Wilhelm came to the thrown aged 29. Believed it was the Kaiser's responsibility to rule rather than to share power with the Reichstag. He was a poor decision maker and relied heavily on the military for advice. He had little regard for the Reichstag or democracy
 The Chancellor; directly responsible to the Kaiser and in charge of the

appointments of ministers. Could ignore the resolutions passed by the Reichstag. His success depended on his political ability, the character of the Kaiser and the composition of the Reichstag 3


 The Bundesrat; the German Reich was composed of 25 sovereign states.

The Bundesrat contained 58 representatives from state governments. Prussia had 17 representatives in the Bundesrat. (UPPER HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT)
 The States (Lander); each state had its own state government
 The Reichstag; they were the Imperial Parliament. Deputies to the

Reichstag were elected by universal male suffrage. The government was not accountable to the Reichstag. Limited powers to initiate legislation. (LOWER HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT)
 The Government; the government and ministers were appointed and

dismissed by the Kaiser. It proposed new laws to the Reichstag
 The Army; very important role in state as creation of unification. Not

accountable to Reichstag - directly accountable to the Kaiser. Swore an oath of allegiance to the Kaiser. Army could declare martial law (army rule) and the elite in the army had little respect for democracy - many came from Junkers. A majority in the Reichstag could no nothing against the Chancellor; if they voted against him, he did not resign, but dissolved the Reichstag. Bismarck's constitution was supposed to be federal, but its federalism was a fraudulent, window dressing to make the dictatorship of Prussia more respectable. Bismarck's Reich was designed to give Germany stability and peace; but ultimately it doomed Germany to upheaval and war. Political tensions
- The Kaisers regime was backed by a number of powerful elites in Germany society
- Prussian landed class - the Junkers
- Senior officers of the German Army
- Bureaucrats and financers who rose to prominence on the back of rapid economic growth in the 1880s A rising threat to autocracy
- The main threat to Wilhelmine Germany, SDP - social democratic party - this was nominally Marxist but in practice the party for the most part was reformist. It sought to advance the socialist cause by lawful methods
- By 1912 it was the largest party in the Reichstag and that for a Germany committed to a monarchical ruling was worrying Religious divisions




German society was divided by religion as well as by social class. Largely protestant in the North and central parts of the country but the southern states were strongly Catholic (20 million) In the 1870s, the Catholics formed their own political party in the Zentrum Bismarck, fearing that Zentrum would become a standard bearer for all opponents of Prussian dominance, responded with a Kulturkamf (cultural struggle) designed to intimidate and weaken the Catholic Church. Although this was abandoned in the 1880s it left a legacy of bitterness behind.

STRENGTHS OF CONSTITUTION The regime was backed by the key elites in Germany Full universal male suffrage Autocratic nature was efficient

The success of the state depended almost entirely on the relationship between the Kaiser and the Chancellor

WEAKNESSES OF CONSTITUTION Despite a national currency (Reichsmarck) based on the gold standard, and national criminal and civil law codes, there was an underdeveloped sense of national identity - no flag The Chancellor was more powerful than the elected Reichstag There was continued Prussian dominance, both in the Bundesrat and within the administration of government. There was considerable resentment from other states at this central role for Prussia Poor quality of Reichstag members meant Reichstag needed strong direction - problems in store when strong leader not available (post 1890) The constitution created a political structure that was not clear, that was fragmented and that was dominated by the conservative elites, especially those of Prussia. It remained static in the lead up to the war despite the tensions that were placed on it The original constituencies drawn in 1871 were never redrawn to reflect the growth of urban areas. As a result, by the time of the great expansion of German cities in the 1890s and first decade of the 20th century, rural areas were grossly overrepresented

How influential was the army in Germany?
 Power of the Prussian military machine enabled Bismarck to forge German unification out of three wars, 1864-1871.
 All-important role the army had played in the unification process helped to raise out of all proportion the status of its members in the Kaiserreich society. Therefore, the German army was to be found at the centre of the political and social life of Imperial Germany:



The oath of loyalty signed by German officers was to the military leader, the Emperor; not the state and so the military elite enjoyed great social status The system of conscription for two to three years helped to instill its military values throughout the country The army was virtually independent of the Reichstag and was not constrained by annual approval, since the military budget had a five-year grant Within society the prestige of the army was high e.g. civilians got out of the way of officers on the pavement

The majority of the army officers were conservative and unsympathetic to democracy The fall of Bismarck arguably exacerbated the situation further, as the new Chancellors lacked the authority to stand up against the military chiefs. The lack of effective civil control over the military had important consequences for domestic and international policies - most significantly the drawing up of the Schlieffen Plan in 1905 By 1914, the mentality of the army stayed very much the same and the majority of the highest ranks were still 'chosen' by birth and class, not by merit. As a result, the army remained a conservative right-wing force glorifying its traditional values and resisting political modernization. SUMMARY DIAGRAM: THE WILHELMINE POLITICAL SYSTEM CHANCELLORS: KAISER WILHELM II:
- CAPRIVI 1890-1894
- BULOW 1900-1909
- BETHMANN 1909-1917





Before 1850 Germany lagged far behind the leaders in industrial development, Britain, France and Belgium. Mid-century  German states were catching up, and by 1900 Germany was a world leader in industrialization, along with Britain and the United States.


KAISER TO FUHRER - THE SECOND REICH In the space of 50 years Germany grew from a feudal simplicity to the great power which terrorised Europe throughout the First World War. Economic developments:

Economic growth: o Germany's economic growth exceptional between 1890 and 1914 o On average economy expanded by 4.5% a year. o Coal and iron production almost doubled in these years o By 1914, Germany's share of world trade was equal to that of Britain. o Germany's steel industry (dominated by the massive Krupp Corporation) particularly strong  steel production exceeded Britain by 1900 and this fuelled the expansion of other industries e.g. armaments and the railways

New industries: o Germany excelled in industries that used new and innovative technologies, such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electrics and motor manufacture. o Daimler and Diesel developed cars, while AEG and Siemens became huge electrical businesses o By 1913 Germany produced around 50% of the world's electrical goods. o In chemicals, Germany led the world in the production of synthetic dyes and pharmaceuticals and in precision engineering. o The production of optics and mechanical goods sectors also expanded significantly

An industrial economy: o These economic developments resulted in a growing proportion of the population working in the industrial and service sectors of the economy. o Industry contribution to GNP rose from around 33% to 42%

Improved transport infrastructure: o Germany's transport network also developed with trains, tramways and trolley buses constructed to facilitate travel and industrial development

Social consequences

Urbanisation: o Population boom & new jobs in industry stimulated urbanisation o By 1910, 60% of the population lived in urban areas, the highest rate in Europe. o The populations of Breslau, Cologne, Hamburg and Munich all exceeded half a million by 1910, while Berlin had in excess of 2 million inhabitants. 7

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