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The Second Reich 1900 14 Notes

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Unit 1 Notes ­ The Second Reich 1900­14 The Constitution:

• Main pillars of the constitution are:

• Federalism ­ New German Reich included 25 states which had quite far­ranging powers over
education, police, justice and health care. Prussia dominant, 2/3 of territory of 2nd Reich. Only states could raise direct taxes, so increased dependence on Prussian civil service.

• Kaiser ­ Full foreign policy control, commander­in­chief, could unilaterally wage war,
appointed + dismissed Chancellor, could dissolve Reichstag, Kaiser was always Prussian
King, reinforcing Prussian dominance, "There is only one man in charge of the Reich and I will not tolerate another."

• Chancellor ­ Oversaw GVT, could ignore Reichstag resolutions, accountable to Kaiser not
Reichstag, needed to negotiate legislation through Reichstag + cooperate

• Bundesrat ­ Upper house, 58 members, 14 or more for veto (Prussia held 17), Prussian
voting divided into 3 bands based on amount of tax paid (lowest group made up 92% of
electorate) so Prussian chamber dominated by Conservatives (EG 418,000 votes to 212
Conservative seats BUT 600,000 votes to 6 SPD seats), created by Bismarck as a barrier to
radical legislation + to maintain the status quo

• Reichstag ­ Lower house, controlled defence budget (BUT Septennial Act meant only once/ 5 years) but still power limited as defence largest part of federal GVT spending, EG at almost

2.5Bn marks in 1913, passed annual budget, elected on universal suffrage for males over 25,
limited power to initiate legislation as main function to debate + accept/reject legislation (not
create), members not paid (so only rich people stood for election as only they could afford to
not receive an income), electoral turnout increased from 50% in 1871 to almost 85% in 1912.

• Army ­ Accountable only to the Kaiser, little respect for democracy, 'state within a state', ran
itself with little interference, wide­reaching powers with few checks + balances on its power +
purposefully outside the scope of the constitution to give additional freedom, largely populated by Prussian nobility + Junkers (+ so anti­democracy + pro­Kaiser generally) Political Parties:


• 1887 ­ 48% of vote + 220 seats

• 1912 ­ 26% of vote + 102 seats

• So traditional support for GVT eroded, became more difficult for the GVT to find majority
support for ratification of legislation

• Conservatives supported Kaiser, authority + were nationalistic, representing Junkers,
landed interests and aristocrats

• Free Conservatives supported commercial + wealthy industrial classes, 'new money',
similar to Conservatives + supported protectionism

• Fragmentation a feature of the RW, C + FC split showed 'old/new money', Mittelstand
Association + Mittelstand league set up to represent farmers + small shopkeepers who no
longer felt represented by traditional conservative parties


• Divided into at least 3 factions from 1893

• So had reduced impact, fairly ineffectual

• National Liberals nationalistic, more closely allied to Conservatives + represented industrial
middle class

• Liberal Progressives represented middle class, in favour of parliamentary GVT + more

Centre Party (ZP):

• Formed to uphold Catholic interests against Prussian Protestant dominance

• Consistently won between 90 and 110 seats in the Reichstag (around 1/4 of the vote)

• Largest party in the Reichstag until 1912

Social democrats (SPD):

• Marxist party, split between 'gradualists' (work for change within the system) and
revolutionary socialists

• 'Gradualists' epitomised in Eduard Bernstein's writings on socialism, where he argued
against Marxism + for gradual reform + collaboration w/other parties to achieve these goals

• BUT, Bernstein denounced at 1901 Lubeck party conference by radicals, inc. Rosa
Luxembourg + Karl Liebknecht who wanted a socialist revolution

BUT, In practice, content to talk of revolution while working for change within the system Trade unions and working class 1887 ­ 10% of vote + 11 seats 1912 ­ 35% of vote + 110 seats (the largest party) Rise of SPD popularity made it harder for GVT to find majority support to pass legislation,
Reichstag increasingly filled with fewer Conservatives and more socialists

• 1910, had 720,000 workers, making the German SPD the largest socialist party in Europe

• By eve of WWI, 2.5M German workers members of TU's, 400,000 of whom went on strike
in 1913 alone

• Eve of war, SPD winning 75% of popular vote in Berlin Pressure Groups: Economic Lobby Groups:

• Agrarian League ­ Junkers­led, but w/widespread peasant support too + had 1/3 of a
million members, committed to protectionist agricultural policies

• Association of German Industrialists ­ Promote industrial + commercial interests. Key in
lobbying for the implementation of tariffs to protect German industry. Wealth made it the
most powerful German pressure group, EG 1912 elections, funded 120 Conservative +
Liberal candidates at a cost of 1M marks Nationalist organisations:

• Pan­German League ­ Wanted aggressive expansionist foreign policy (inc. colonial
expansion and domination of Europe) w/large world role + dominance of Germany. Strong
support from the political establishment as 60 Reichstag deputies were members of the
group in 1914

• Navy League ­ Wanted naval expansion ('flottenpolitik'), v.popular with 1 million members
+ key role in successful Reichstag campaign to promote naval expansion

• German colonial league ­ Wanted German colonial expansion + acquisition of foreign
territories The German Economy:

• In 1871, unified Germany had already completed a 'first' industrial revolution with established
production in coal, iron etc

• A respectable economic power, but second to GB

• 'Second' industrial revolution more advanced and high tech

• By 1914, Germany was the economic powerhouse of Europe Economic Growth:

• 1871­1913, German industrial production increased approx. by a factor of 5

• 1890­1914, economic growth AVG'd 4.5% / annum

• 1890­1914, coal + iron production almost doubled

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