From Kaiser to Fuhrer: The Second Reich (1)

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1.1: The constitution of the Second Reich
German unification
1. Bismarck unified German states in 1871 under Kaiser Wilhelm I
2. These 25 states had previously been tied through the Zollverein
3. Prussia had 62% of German population
The Constitution
1. Bismarck sought to protect power of Junkers and ruling elite
2. Allowed some popular democracy
1. Commander-in-Chief of army
2. In charge of foreign policy
3. Could appoint and dismiss Chancellor
4. Could dissolve Reichstag
5. President of Bundesrat
6. Kaiser Wilhelm II ruled from 1888-1918
1. Presented legislation to Reichstag
2. Implemented laws
3. Only accountable to Kaiser
4. Junkers normally held this role
1. Democracy: members were elected
2. All men over 25 could vote
3. Could vote to accept, reject or amend legislation
4. Could not create legislation
1. 58 representatives from all of the states
2. Prussia had 17
3. Could make changes to the constitution
4. Could ratify legislation
5. Able to veto military or constitutional issue with 14 votes
6. Dealt with health care, education and local policing and politics
7. Built in a way which protected Junker dominance
1. Accountable only to the Kaiser
2. Swore an oath of allegiance to the Kaiser
Problems with the Constitution
1. Reichstag had no real power
2. Uneasy mix between monarchy and democracy
3. Reichstag allowed more democratic parties to increase
4. Chancellor and Kaiser had to agree with one another
5. Prussia dominant in constitution through ability to veto legislation by itself in Bundesrat,
Bismarck and Kaiser being Prussian, Prussia owning 2/3 land

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Economic and social developments
Economic developments
Economic growth
1. 1890-1914 economy expanded 4.5%/year on average
2. Coal and iron production doubled
3. 1914, Germany = Britain in share of world trade
4. Steel production exceeded that of Britain by 1900
5. Agricultural output also increased, 1888-1913 = 42% increase
New Industries
1. Excelled in chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electrics and motor manufacture.
2. Daimler and Diesel = cars
3. AEG and Siemens = electrics
4. 1913, Germany produced 50% of world's electrical goods
An industrial economy
1.…read more

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Political developments
The Left
1. Urbanisation = expansion of left-wing organisations
2. 1900, trade union movement largest in the world
3. SPD vote percentage 1890 = 0.9% to 1912 = 28% (largest party in Reichstag)
4. This growth challenged the conservative elite
The Right
1. Nationalist politics rise
2. DKP had elements of extreme right
3. NLP represented the new business elite, which became conservative
4.…read more

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The Navy League
1. Wanted naval expansion
2. Very popular at membership of 1M
The German Colonial League and the Pan German League
1. Both supported colonial expansion
2.…read more

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The Kaiser and his Chancellors
The Kaiser's Childhood
1. Born in 1859 with a withered arm
2. Difficult relationship with parents
3. Megalomaniac, psychologically damaged by disability
1. Röhl said Wilhelm had a system of autocratic personal rule:
a. Appointed Chancellors who would further his conservative political agenda
b. The Kaiser sought a dominant role by moving against Bismarck in 1890
c. Caprivi said he was interfering and difficult to work with
d.…read more

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The de facto political system
Tensions in the German political system
1. Kaiser appointed the government = conservative, upper-class, Junker-dominated
2. Largest part in the Reichstag 1912+ was the SPD which represented socialism and the
working class
3. = struggle for government and Reichstag to co-operate
The budgetary crisis 1906 and the Hottentot election 1907
1. 1906 SPD and Centre Party joined forces to vote against the government budget in protest
to colonial policies
2. Kaiser dissolved the Reichstag
3.…read more

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The Second Reich by 1914
John Röhl
1. The Kaiser built an autocratic semi-absolutist system
2. His militaristic and conservative agenda dominated
3. The Reichstag was side-lined and the liberal and democratic forces were weakened
Hans-Ulrich Wehler
1. It was a failing system which struggled against the social and political changes
brought about by the modernising economy
2. Germany was dominated by powerful conservative forces like the army which were
not accountable to democracy
Christopher Clark
1.…read more

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Plurality of interests in the state: Catholics and the Centre Party, workers and the SPD,
farmers and the Agrarian League.…read more


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