The economic and social changes of the years 1900 - 1914

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The economic and social changes of the years 1900 - 1914 and the impact of these
changes on politics and political parties
What Was the Extent of German Economic Growth?
By 1914 Germany had become the economic power house in Europe surpassing Britain.
It became a world leader in many new fields of industry.
Such economic transformations had a clear impact on Germany's politics and society; workers wanted a say.
Steel,
In 1879 a new method of steel manufacture was found - the Thomas Gilehirst process.
Germany took advantage of this before most other countries.
Firms such as Krupp increased production rapidly pre-war.
This was fuelled by other industry such as armaments and railways.
Chemicals,
Chemicals industry was fuelled by the demand for explosives for the military and dyes from textiles manufacture.
Also stimulated by investments and training.
By 1900 German companies had almost worldwide monopoly over the manufacture of artificial dyes.
Also led the way in pharmaceuticals.
Other Industry,
In 1897 Rudolf Diesel perfected an oil-based engine.
In air transport Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin launched the first rigid airship in 1900 and the first non-prototype in 1908.
Germany was also leading in the electrical industry and took a leading part in the development of new power.
Urbanisation,
Rapid growth in industry helped to stimulate a population boom and change the structure of German society.
There was a large amount of migration from rural to urban life.
However this led to overcrowding in cities and poor conditions such as lack of clean water led to the outbreak of
disease.
But this did however led to the building of new sewerage systems, filtering plants for drinking water and waste
incineration.
Better hygiene and medical improvements cut infant mortality.
The building of trams meant that people could live in suburbs and travel cheaply.
Real wages increased after 1896.
Overcrowding in insanitary accommodation was a problem as well as homelessness and unemployment.
Agriculture,
While industry boomed agriculture suffered.
Bismarck's Tariff Law of 1879 was quite successful in protecting farmers.
Junkers benefited as well as the peasants been protected.
Refrigerated ship meant that meat could be imported from the US which was cheaper.
Debt increased and landlords recruited foreign workers.
Socialist movements,
A result of industrialisation was the growth of socialism.
The Anti-socialist Laws of 1878-90 did little to stop the working classes enthusiasm for political action.
By the eve of the war 2.5 million German workers were members of Trade Unions and 400,000 of them went on strike
at some point in 1913 for better working conditions.
Pressure Groups,
As a consequence of the economic and social change pressure groups emerged.
They were often focused on a single issue but they highlighted the tensions and divisions in Germany.
There were 3 main pressure groups for German colonial expansion and the assertion of German interests.
The German Colonial League was founded in 1882 and was concerned with the acquisition of German colonies.
The Pan-German League was founded in 1890.
The Navy League was founded in 1898 and became highly popular with membership around 1 million Germans.

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Political Developments,
The main aim of successive German Chancellors was to protect the position of the ruling elites. There were three challenges
to the political establishment;
1. Aggressive Foreign Policy. One significant challenge was from those who wanted a more aggressive foreign policy.
2. The Demand for Constitutional Reform. Another challenge was from liberals who wanted Constitutional reform and a
strengthening of the power of the Reichstag. Bismarck had dealt with the liberal challenge by using the tactic of divide
and rule.…read more

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