German Economic Growth 1900-14

German economic growth flashcards

Result of the industrial revolution?

By 1914 Germany had become an economic powerhouse of Europe. Germany led the way in a number of new industries such as steel, engineering and chemicals.

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In 1879, a new method of manufacturing steel was made possible named the Thomas-Gilchrist process. Germany took advantage of this new method and firms increased production rapidly in the pre-war period. Growth in steel production fuelled the expansion of other industries, including armaments and the railways, for example the prussian railways expanded from 5,000 km to 37,000 km.

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The German chemicals industry was stimulated by the demand for explosives from the militarys and dyes from the textile manufactures. It was also stimulated by investment in research and training which meant that on the eve of the first world war there were 58,000 full time students in advanced commercial and technical training in Germany.

  • By 1900 German companies held a monopoly over the manufacture of artificial dyes.
  • In1914 Great Britain imported around 80% of its chemical dyes. British troops marched off to war in uniforms dyed with German dye.
  • Germany led the way in pharmaceuticals
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Other Industries

A number of Germans helped pioneer technological change that was to have a huge impact on modern life. The most significant of the new industries was the electricity industry and Germany played a leading role in the development of this new source of power. By the eve of the first world war around half of Europe's electrical business was being undertaken by German companies.

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The rapid growth of industries old and new helped stimulate a population boom and changed the structure of German society. There was a migration from rural to urban life and this meant there was a rapid expansion in Germany's towns and cities. 

  • There was overcrowding in many cities and poor sanitary conditions and the lack of clean water led to diseases. Outbreaks were not welcomed and it spurred the city authorties to build a sewage system, a filtering plant for drinking water and a waste incinerator.
  • Better hygiene and medicine improved rates of infant mortality. 
  • The builiding of tramways meant that people could escape the slum conditions by living in the suburbs and commuting to work
  • Another issue however was homelessness with not enough accomidation avaliable to house Germany's booming urban population.
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While industry boomed, the fourtunes of Germany agriculture fluctuated. There were strengths and weaknesses in the system.


  • Bismarck's Tariff law of 1879 had been introduced to protect German farmers and was to a point successful. 
  • The Junkers benifitted from high prices for their rye but the peasantry were also protected as it also applied to barley, oats and wheat.
  • The rapid increase in in the domestic population created extra demand for products and led to a growth in prices.
  • improvements in chemical industries provided artificial fertilisers, this meant that there was an increase in yields in crops.


  • Farmers faced challenged that threatned to undermine their livelihoods. Refrigerated ships made possible the importation of meat from the US which was cheaper than German meat.
  • The growth of cities meant migration and foreign workers had to be recruited.
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The result of these changes was to provide pressures that the political system had to deal with. It is wrong to suggest that the pressures were to much for the system, however:- 

  • There was a contradiction between economic modernisation, which saw Germany's industry flourish and cities grow and the lack political reform and the restricted spread of democracy.
  • Frustrations were caused as a result of uneven economic growth, which meant rising prices and rising unemployment.
  • The greatest manifestation of these pressures was the explosion of participation in politics in Germany in the run-up to the first world war.
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