Kaiser Wilhelm II


The Constitution made the Kaiser very Powerful

Constitution - Rules involving the government

When the German Empire was created in 1871, its constitution made the Kaiser the most powerful figure in government. A German parliament called the Reichstag was also created, but in reality it held little power.

Parliament - A legislative body of government

The Kaiser held ultimate power. He could dismiss the Chancellor, bypass the Bundesrat and dissolve the reichstag.


  • Inherits position and rules like a king
  • Personal control of army and foreign policy.
  • Appoints and dismisses the Chancellor.
  • Can dissolve the Reichstag.
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The Constitution made the Kaiser very Powerful 2

The Bundesrat was more powerful than the Reichstag. It was only held accountable to the Kaiser.


  • Members are representitives from each state in the German Empire
  • Its consent needed for all legislation (can be overruled by the Kaiser)

The Reichstag couldn't put forward its own legislation and had no say in who became Chancellor or who served in government


  • Members elected by public every 3 years from 1871-1888 and 5 years from 1888.
  • Members pass or reject legislation handed down by the Bundesrat.

The Chancellor had more influence than the Bundesrat and the Reichstag.


  • Runs government and proposes new legislation.
  • Doesn't need support from Reichstag or Bundesrat to stay in power.
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The Constitution made the Kaiser very Powerful 3

1. Kaiser Wilhelm II didn't believe in democracy and disliked working with the Reichstag. Preferred to place trust in the army, often relied on military advisors to help him make important decisions.

Before 1871, Germany was made up of lots of different states - the most important called Prussia.

2. In 1871, the Prussian army played an important role in Germany's unification. Wilhelm II was influenced by its prestige and power and adopted a system of militarism - this meant strengthening Germany's military (e.g. army and navy) and using it to increase Germany's influence.

3. He wanted to make Germany a world power. Believed in Germany's traditional class system, where the upper classes held the most power.

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Germany experienced Economic and Social change.

In the early 20th century, Germany's economy was modernised and the working classes grew.

1. Germany's economy expanded massively between 1890 and 1914. Production of iron and coul doubled, by 1914 Germany produced two-thirds of Europe's steel. Also successful in new industries like chemical manufactoring.

2. As a result of industrialisation, new jobs were created and population of cities grew. Working classes expanded and upper classes had less economic power.

3. Working classes played a larger part in German society, but working conditions were poor. Had a growing sense of identity and wanted better representation.

4. Contributed to the rise in socialism - a political ideology promoting equality and public ownership of industry. Led to growth in support for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Germany.

Kaiser Wilhelm feared the growth of socialism - he was worried that the SPD wanted a revolution to overthrow the monarchy and destroy the German class system.

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