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Political Developments/People/Events up until 1914
The main aim of the successive German chancellor was to protect the position
of the ruling elites. Yet there were 3 challenges to the political establishment:-
Aggressive foreign policy One significant challenge was from those
who wished for a more aggressive foreign policy
The demand for constitutional reform Another was from the liberals
who wished for constitutional reform and the strengthening of the
Reichstag. Bismarck had used the divide and rule to deal with this. In the
1860's and the 1870's he used war and conquest to split the more
nationalist minded liberals from those who prioritised constitutional
reform. Whilst the liberals remained divided, the demands for more
power for the Reichstag remained muted. Successive chancellors were
to deal relatively well with the challenge from the liberals and later the
socialists for reform.
The demand for social reform Socialists demanded social reform. In
1878 Bismarck persuaded the Reichstag to pass the Anti-socialist law
which banned the SPD and drove all socialist organisations underground.
This was eventually dropped. Then from the outbreak of war only limited
social reform was granted.
Foreign Minister and Chancellor Von Bulow
Von Bulow served as foreign minister from 1897 to 1900 and then as
Chancellor from 1900 to 1909. He devised many strategies to protect the
interests of the ruling class.
Samlungspolitik means politics of concentration. It was VB's aim to build
an alliance of conservative interests in the Reich between
conservatives and liberals/Junker and industrialists which would present
a broad front against the threat of socialism. He done this through a
colonial policy weltpolitik meaning world politics. Integral to this was the
building up of the German armed forces.
With the secretary to the navy, Alfred von Tirpitz, VB encouraged the
development of a Flottenpolitik (the building of a navy to rival Britain's)
In 1898 Von Tirpitz steered his first Navy law through the Reichstag,
supporters of the law were able to argue that a larger fleet was
necessary for the protection of Germany's growing colonies and for
Germany to be taken seriously as a "great power"
Tirpitz "risk theory" was to build a navy of such strength that it would
make any other naval power think twice before attacking.
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In 1900 a second Navy Law was passed through the Reichstag with the
proposal to build 38 battleships over the next 20 years.
In May 1906 a third Navy Law was passed which added 6 battle cruisers
and widened the Kiel Canal to allow the ships a passage to the North Sea.
This process meant that the navy had become a focus for popular
patriotism, which soaked up the pressure and tensions that existed in
Germany in this period.…read more
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Daily Telegraph Affair 1908
Bulow's Government was undermined by an ever growing financial
deficit. Increased military spending meant that the government needed
to raise 380 million marks, Bulow suggested a property tax, the Bulow
Bloc split up with the conservative parties siding with the centre party to
oppose such measures.…read more
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The Kaiser seemed unmoved and remained on a hunting trip throughout
the crisis; he saw it as a military affair. Bethmann-Hollweg faced a
barrage of questions from the Reichstag.
Impact of the Zabern Affair
The Reichstag was ignored by the chancellor who only had to answer to
Political Parties were seen as to timid.
The January 1914 the Reichstag set up a commission to discuss the
boundary between military and civilian authority, but it was disbanded
after a month.…read more