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Bismarck's Germany Notes

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Bismarck's Germany: 1871-1890 Political Structure Bismarck:
- Otto von Bismarck was a 'loner' and liked to be alone when not engaged in public duties. He constantly feared his opponents were ganging up on him.
- He was Minister-President of Prussia and came from a strongly conservative, aristocratic 'Junker' background. Hopes of a New Constitution:
- Germany had initially been formed by the voluntary agreement of its component states and cities, and would remain a confederation. These states would retain considerable control over their own domestic issues, but there had to be a central administration established.
- The German Liberals clamoured for a democratic constitution with the power of the ruler and his ministers restricted so the people could have some control over their government. They supported unification and an elected parliament to question the elites and represent the views of the public.
- Bismarck was suspicious of people power and supportive of authoritarianism. He pandered to the Liberals' ideas to harness their support, but the constitution that came about was different to what the Liberals had hoped. Structure of the New Constitution:
- The Kaiser (also King of Prussia) was the hereditary monarch who had control over the chancellor and ministers. He had the right to dissolve the Reichstag, control foreign policy, pass laws and ultimately had the final say over constitution disputes.
- The chancellor and ministers were appointed by and responsible to the Kaiser. They coordinated policy with the Bundesrat and were not required to take account of Reichstag views.
- The Reichstag was made up of deputies elected every three years by all males over 25. All deputies had the right to free speech, could give consent to and debate all laws proposed by the chancellor. However the parliament could not amend laws or dismiss the chancellor or ministers.
- The Bundesrat consisted of 58 representatives from the 25 state governments in proportion to the size of the state. Its members could initiate legislation, had to approve new laws and had to give approval to the Kaiser for Germany to declare war.

Much of the constitution was undemocratic, with its liberal aspects arguably a means of boosting Bismarck's popularity. Bismarck tended to believe the German working class shared his views and they could help keep radical, liberal opponents at bay.

The political parties were anxious to fight for Reichstag seats, but were not fighting for the right to rule the country. They acted more like pressure groups representing the views of different sections of society.

Political Parties:
- The National Liberals were the party of well-educated bankers, merchants and civil servants. They favoured free-trade and supported unification though grew more conservative after 1875, threatened by Social Democrat growth.
- The Centre Party represented Catholics and minorities opposed to Bismarck. It aimed to preserve the position of the Catholic Church and favoured decentralisation and social reform.
- The Social Democratic Party represented working classes and trade unions. It supported a reduction in the power of the elites and welfare reforms.
- The German Conservative Party represented Protest, aristocratic Junker landowners. It opposed the democratic Reichstag.
- The Free Conservatives represented landowners, industrialists and businessmen supportive of Bismarck.
- The Progressives were liberal, but disliked centralism and militarism so did not support Bismarck. They wanted Reichstag powers extended.

Bismarck controlled the Prussian and Central government and could request the Kaiser's permission to dissolve the Reichstag when he met opposition. Wilhelm I became dependent on Bismarck's services, effectively giving him a free reign in decision making. Moves to Further Unification

After proclaiming a united German Empire in 1871, Bismarck still faced a nation of different backgrounds, religions and ways of life. There were a number of minority groups (Jews in East Prussia, Danes in Schleswig and French in Alsace-Lorraine) who had never wanted to be part of Germany. Poles now accounted for 40% of the population. Many states which had historically ruled themselves were anxious to retain their customs, powers and rights. Bismarck was keen to establish central government control and remove any minority interests which threatened the national state.

Acts to complete unification:
- The National Liberals won 125 of 397 seats in the 1871 elections, making them the largest Reichstag party. Their leader, von Bennigsen, was prepared to work with Bismarck to complete the unification process.
- Over 100 acts were passed to bring administrative and economic unity. These included introducing a single mark currency, abolishing of internal trade

tariffs, establishing uniform commerce law, standardising laws, establishing a single court system and extending the railway system. Bismarck & the National Liberals:
- Many Junkers were concerned at Bismarck's ties with the National Liberals, worried that the growing power of businessmen, merchants and industrialists may take influence away from them.
- Bismarck retained the upper hand, but was aware that Reichstag support from the National Liberals made life easier.
- The Press Law of 1874, in which the government was allowed to prosecute editors who published material which they did not approve, clearly showed how Bismarck retained a conservative outlook.
- Bismarck also proposed army funding to be granted on a permanent basis, but had to compromise at a seven year review - the Septennial Law. National Minorities:
- In the east, Bismarck favoured Germanisation. In 1872-3 German was made the sole school language in the Polish-speaking areas and, by 1876, the language of commerce and courts. The Royal Colonization Commission was set up.
- Poles were forced to accept German customs. Their Catholic leader, Cardinal Ledochowski, was imprisoned.
- Germans were encouraged to buy up Polish farms in East Prussia with the help of state loans, while 1885-6 34,000 Poles and Jews Bismarck claimed had entered Germany from Russia were expelled.
- From 1878 German was the only language permitted in North Schelswig too. A plebiscite deciding the area's future was scrapped.
- In Alsace-Lorraine Bismarck was conciliatory to the French, appointing conscientious governors: von Manteuffel and von Hohenlohe. German remained the area's main language and strongly pro-French residents were encouraged to leave, as 400,000 had done by 1914.
- Women were only admitted to Prussian universities in 1907 and were legally second class citizens. They were banned from political meetings until 1908. The Kulturkampf:
- Bismarck believed all Germans should put their loyalty towards the state. Catholics, who accounted for 39% of the population, contradicted this idea through their loyalty to the Pope. They also tended to reside in the southernmost states which had been most reluctant to join the German Empire. They were inclined to look to Austria for guidance.
- In 1871 the Zentrum, which supported Catholics in the south and east, gained 58 Reichstag deputies. This apparent Catholic influence worried Bismarck as there was a danger of the southern states breaking away from the empire.
- The Catholic Church antagonised Bismarck by declaring it was opposed to Liberalism, Nationalism and 'recent' civilisation in the 1864 Syllabus of Errors.

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