Kaiser Wilhelm and the difficulties of ruling Germany, 1890-1914

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  • Kaiser Wilhelm and the difficulties of ruling Germany
    • Kaiser Wilhelm II controlled the government and had extensive powers.
      • - The Kaiser appointed the Chancellor and other officials. No decision could be made without his agreement.
      • - However, Wilhelm II did not govern consistently because he was moody, unstable and had violent rages.
      • Parliamentary Government developed. There were several major political parties. None had a majority so governments were coalitions.
      • Right-wing parties were strong and keen to expand the German Empire.
      • Left-wing parties were gaining support from the increasing number of industrial workers.
      • One of the 25 states, Prussia, was more powerful then the others. It had two-thirds of the population and half the territory. Some other states felt powerless to influence German policy.
    • Germany was becoming more industrialised and richer.
      • By 1914, Germany led the world in chemical and steel industries. For example, it produced twice as much steel as Britain. It produced one-third of the world's electrical goods.
      • The population was growing rapidly. This provided manpower for the growing industries.
      • Farmers could not supply all the food needed by the growing population so food imports were increasing.
    • Tensions in society led to demands for social reforms.
      • German society was traditional, both in the rural areas and in the cities.
      • Many people were very conservative in their political views. For example, they expected the upper classes to rule.
      • At the same time, the Socialist movement was growing, supported by industrial workers who wanted reform.
      • Governments tried to meet workers' demands by introducing pensions and sickness insurance schemes.
      • Support for the left-wing Social Democrat Party increased. It had about 30 per cent of seats in the Reichstag in 1912.
    • The army and navy had high status. There was much support for German expansion.
      • The army in Prussia swore obedience to the Kaiser.
      • Wilhelm II wanted to expand the German Navy to match that of Britain's.
      • The Navy Laws allowed the building of many more battleships.
      • The Kaiser wanted Germany to have an overseas empire as France and Britain both had. This led to international crises in the years leading up to 1914 and was one cause of the First World War.

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