This is an extract of our Essay Plan To What Extent Did Power Lie With The Traditional Conservatives Elites In The Second Reich document, which we sell as part of our Edexcel A-Level History; Kaiser to Fuhrer; Germany 1900-45 Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of Oxford students.
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Essay Plan 'Power in the Second Reich lay with the traditional conservative elites.' How far do you agree with this opinion?
Traditional conservative elites: Traditional conservative elites No exact definition, somewhat loose group of 'old money', consisting of Junkers, aristocrats, and landed interests, often Prussian too, as well as 'new money' and emerging commercial + industrial class. Resistant to change + wanted to retain the status quo. SO, 'old' elites prepared to ally with 'new' elites of industry + commerce, offering them a stake in the system to retain the status quo, 'sammlungspolitik', the politics of concentration.
* Policy influence + pressure groups:
* Through influence of money + political + aristocratic connections, could have a large influence on
creating new policy, and blocking new policy, particularly through the use of pressure groups.
* EG Association of German industrialists v.powerful due to wealth. 1912 elections, funded 120 Conservative + Liberal candidates at a cost of 1M marks. Stacking politics in their favour
* EG Agrarian league led by Junkers + landed interests lobbied for protectionist tariffs. Led to 1902 Tariff Law which raised food prices + harmed most people, but benefitted rich Prussian landowners.
* EG Navy league successfully lobbied for 'flottenpolitik' + naval expansion w/ Naval laws in 1898, 1900 (38 battleships over 20 yrs) + 1906. Benefitted industrialists who received huge orders +
profits from this. Stopped political reform:
* EG BH tried to reform Prussian 3 tier voting system (which favoured wealthy voters hugely +
helped Conservatives) BUT dropped after traditional elites' hostility, showing ability to resist change which wouldn't favour them
* Despite urbanisation (by 1910 60% of population lived in urban areas, highest rate in Europe), elite influence meant constituency boundaries never changed, damaging SPD who EG won 75%
of vote in Berlin in 1914 but carried less weight than ought to, as boundaries not changed to reflect much large urban populations
* EG SPD + Centre won most votes in 1907 elections but lost comprehensively on seats due to unfair boundaries that were unchanged. Counter/other:
* Prussian civil service + elites within v.powerful. Due to large Prussian power + fact federal GVT
couldn't raise income tax (only states could), federal overly reliant on Prussia, further increasing power. HansUlrich Wehler Book, 'The German Empire', arguing from POV of structuralist school, argues Kaiser had neither ability nor character to lead 2nd Reich + power vacuum existed. Vacuum filled by elites, who informally exercised a huge amount of power. BUT, exaggerates unity of purpose within elites, who were a sprawling mixture of landed interests, aristocrats, civil servants + members of judiciary. Fails to recognise declining influence of Junkers, Sammlungspolitik + Bulow Bloc didn't work as SPD still became largest party in 1912. Political + social forces irresistible despite stacking odds in their favour.
* Constitutional power:
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