The Second Reich: German government and society, 1900-1919: Constitution and Social/Economic Developments

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  • The Second Reich: Society and Government in Germany, 1900-1919
    • Constitution
      • Created by Otto von Bismarck in 1871 following German unification after winning Franco-Prussian war
        • Sought to protect powers of Prussia and Prussian elites, whilst allowing element of popular democracy
      • Powers
        • Kaiser: Divine right to rule, commander in chief of army, in charge of foreign policy, appointment and dismissal of Chancellor, dissolution of Reichstag, president of Bundesrat
        • Chancellor: Responsible for presenting legislation, implemented laws, only accountable to Kaiser (who usually appointed members of Prussian Junker elite to the position
        • Reichstag: Only democratic element of constitution (elected through universal suffrage of all men over 25), had power to vote to accept/reject or amend legislation, responsible for defense budget
        • Army: 'state within a state': ruled itself, could overthrow Kaiser through military coup, swore oath of allegiance to Kaiser
        • Bundesrat: could initiate legislation - if 14+ members voted against a law it could be vetoed
    • Economic and Social development 1890-1914: 'whirlwind boom period' - Wehler
      • GNP rise from 33-42% due to industry between 1890-1914
      • Increase in number of population working in industrial and service sectors of the economy
      • 1900: Germany exceeding Britain's level of steel production: e.g. Germany: 6.46 million tonnes and Britain: 4.98 million tonnes
        • World trade equal to Britain's by 1914
          • Steel production x2 of Britain's by 1914: Germany 13.10 million tonnes, Britain 6.48 million tonnes
      • Economy (avg) grew by 4.5% per year between 1890-1914
      • Coal production doubled in this period: 1890 - 89.2 million tonnes,  1910 - 222.2 million tonnes
      • Improved transport and infrastructure offered travel and industrial development: trains, tramways and trolley buses were introduced
      • Produced 90% of the worlds synthetic and pharma-ceutical dyes
      • Produced 50% of worlds electrical goods e.g. AEG, Siemens became huge electrical companies
      • Scientific pre-eminence: 1901-1914 1/3 of all Nobel Prizes were awarded to German scientists, 1909: Haber process of 'fixing nitrogen' allowed artificial fertilizers to be produced on an industrial scale
      • 1910: Highest rate in Europe of people living in urban areas - 60%
        • Berlin had excess of 2 million inhabitants due to urbanisation
          • Poor living an sanitary conditions led to outbreak of Cholera in 1892:  8,600 deaths in 6 weeks in Hamburg as a result
            • Water filtering systems and new sewage systems introduced as a result
      • Wage increase after 1896
        • However: 1907 3.45 million unskilled workers in Germany
          • Discontent towards poor working and living conditions made TU membership rise to over 3 million by 1913
        • Number of workers increased from 23.40 million in 1895 to 30.97 million in 1913
          • Mittelstandt (small business owners) were often discontented due to concern of industry threatening their living standards
          • Junkers  wanted to conserve their status and were concerned about rise of Socialism


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