Social Developments in the Second Reich

  • Created by: OriC13
  • Created on: 06-01-19 16:47

Social Developments (1871-1914)

Social Developments Overview:

  • Social mobility was uncommon and class divides were reinforced despite industrialisation
  • The Junker class remained dominant, although they were joined by new entrepreneurs who owned large businesses
  • Working class also expanded- peasants became attracted to cities and factories. 1871=36% of Germans lived in cities, 1890=47% in cities
  • Junkers and elites were the highest class, the Upper middle class were just below them, the Mittlestand were the second lowest class, with the working class and peasants equal, and lowest on the social ladder
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The Elites

The Elites:

  • Mainly consisted of Prussian Junkers, many of whom were military officers
  • Also included some titled families, some who served at Court under the Kaiser
  • The rest made their fortune in industry and manufacturing (Krupps, Thyssens, Hugenbergs)
  • Self-made elites did not have quite the same social status as the landed aristocracy, though they were still powerful
  • They lived in spacious homer or country estates run by servants
  • They were normally very active in politics, directly through joining emerging pressure groups and undirectly by supporting others with their mony
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The Upper Middle Class and Mittlestand

The Upper Middle Class:

  • Consisted of educated professionals (lawyers, engineers), industrial managers and highly skilled experts in new industrial techniques (scientific, technical and administrative)
  • They became increasingly common in urban communities
  • They often bought themselves a comfortable house, were attended to by a few servants and payed for their childrens education
  • They were often "stalwarts" of the local community- involved in Länder politics or local town governments and were staunch supporters of the church

The Mittlestand:

  • White-collar workers (small businessmen, shopkeepers, minor officials)
  • Not much wealthier than the working class, yet they were still proud of their position as non-manual workers
  • Their values were closer to the upper middle class than the working class- Conservative politics, hoping for positions as local councillors
  • Very ambitious and aspirational
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The Working Class

The Working Class:

  • Top layers= foremen, highly skilled workers and headbutlers for the elite, they were very concious of their perceived superiority over other workers
  • Middle layers= semi-skilled workers like coal miners, better paid than some but still keen to support reform
  • Lower layers= unskilled workers, most vulnerable to economic fluctuations and unemployment, called the "Lumpenproletariat" by Marxists and were mostly apolitical and uninterested in revolutionary advancement
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  • Workers who lived in the countryside
  • Varied between peasant proprietors who employed others and landless labourers who travelled from far to farm seeking seasonal employment
  • Tended to be Conservative, their interests often coinciding with Junkers
  • Subject to industrialist change- those who served industrial centres became well off and others were victims
  • Growing population and the practice of dividing estates between sons (excl, Bavaria) forced many to "drift to the towns" and join the ranks of the working class
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Working Class Benefitted from Changes

Benefits to the Working Class:

  • Employment rates were generally high
  • Real wages (denotes living standards/wages agter price changes) increased 25% from 1895 to 1913
  • Bismarck's state socialism made medical insurance available (May 1883), accident insurance available (June 1884) and old age pensions available (May 1889)
  • 1891 prohibition of Sunday employment
  • 1900 extension introduced on the amount of time given to claim accident insurance, 1903 same for medical
  • 1901 arbitration courts made compulsory in large towns
  • Womens working hours reduced to 11/day
  • Guaranteed minimum wage
  • Restrictions on child employment
  • Fairer income tax- the more you earn the more you pay
  • Recognition of Trade Unions
  • 1914 over 15million covered by health insurance, 28million covered by accident insurance and 1million receiving annual pensions
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Working Class Did Not Benefit From Changes

Changes Failed the Working Class:

  • Poorer lived in cramped inner city streets because of the growing population
  • There were pockets of acute poverty- threats of unemployment and whole families sharing a room
  • 1890s the average German worker worked more than 2 hours longer than their British counterparts
  • German workers earned nearly 1/3rd less than their British counterparts
  • 1905-1913 200,000 TU workers on average striked annually
  • The countryside was harsh for peasants- over 1 million migrated to the industrial towns of Rhineland and Westphalia
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Overall Social Changes (1871-1914)

The Junker and Elites:

  • Continued to dominate politics and high ranks of the military
  • "Alliance of steel and rye" increased their power and wealth
  • They were threatened by falling incomes from agriculture
  • Smaller eastern estates had lots of debt
  • Some were forced to sell their estates to the new Upper Middle Class in the cities

The Upper Middle Class:

  • They grew in number (due to new industrialists)
  • Began to outstrip aristocracy in terms of personal wealth
  • "Alliance of steel and rye" increased their power and wealth
  • Few reached the heights of the Krupps


  • Grew in number- 1872= 10.6:1, 1912=3.5:1
  • Had many economic benefits like higher pay
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Overall Social Changes (Cont.)

Working Class:

  • Income per head grew in some mining towns- Gelsenkirchen 1870s= 332marks/yr, 1911-13=725marks/yr
  • Jobs plentiful
  • Material benefits were more affordable
  • Continued poor working and living conditions- long hours, low wages were the norm
  • Pockets of acute poverty
  • Still unfavourable compared to lfe in the UK and US, which attracted SPD support


  • Some rural areas' economies flourished
  • New farming tech, spread of communication and better education
  • Less isolated and harsh due to greater interaction with towns and cities
  • Those who failed to modernise were forced to move and sell
  • Rural to urban migration- 1871= 8 towns had more than 100,000 people, 1910=only 4 towns
  • Reduced to seasonal work due to competition from cheap imported labour and division of land
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  • 1880s=45% of the banking system was owned by Jews
  • National Liberals had many prominent Jewish politicians
  • Jews were increasingly accused of profiting from the agricultural depression- the press played on this- Catholic newspaper "Wurtlemberg" printed named of Jews accused of crimes in bold
  • 1890s= Anti-semitism became a political force, especially with the creation of new right-wing PG's like the Pan German League

The Pan German League:

  • Pan German League called for a ban on Jewish immigration and restriction on the rights of Jews
  • PGL blamed them for the growing "liberalism" in politics
  • PGL believed in British writer, Houston Stewart Chamberlain's book ("Foundations of the Nineteenth Century" pub. 1899) which spread views of Social Darwinism (survival of the fittest) and the superiority of the German (Aryan) race
  • PGL used books papers and cinema to spread their views
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Lives of Women

Lives of Women:

  • Higher class= leisurely life, charitable work done if servants could be afforded to clean/look after children
  • Upper Middle Class= more involved in running the household (especially accounts) but still dependent on husband for income and status
  • 1914= a very small amount of lower middle class women had an office job
  • Working class and peasants= more likely to be manual labourers, urban areas- made goods for textiles, creating at home or in "sweatshops"
  • Industrial changes meant some working class women got jobs in factories which spread rumours about prostitution, which was made worse by horror stories of growing numbers of ******* children

Campaigns for Equality:

  • Band Dauetscher Fraunvereine (est. 1894) campaigned for womens rights and increased educational rights
  • SPD campaigned for the female vote but were unsuccessful
  • August Bebel (SPD politician) wrote tracts on female equality
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Militarism and Elitism- Influence on Policy under

Unification and Prestige in Society:

  • Prussian officer corps and military had a key role 1871-1914 partly because of their role in unification when they won the Austria-Franco war
  • Army took a vow of loyalty to the Kaiser rather than the state and for WII a large military was a sign of power
  • Army spending reached £60million in 1913 and the army of 4 million men was 4x larger than in 1890
  • WII loved tradition, military uniform and practices

1912 War Council:

  • Meeting of WII with chief military and naval advisors (didn't includ BH or any civillian representative)
  • Von Moltke said he considered war inevitable and "the sooner the better" by Admiral von Tirpitz asked for an 18month delay to prepare th navy (which he got)
  • Shows the Kaisers reliance on military personnel
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Influence on Policy under Wilhelm II (Cont.)


  • The expansion of foreign policy
  • WII increasingly ignored the Chancellor and domestic affairs to focus on Weltpolitik
  • WII and his advisors (inc. Tirpitz) thought it had the power to unite people and overcome the difficulties the government faced in the Reichstag

Navy Law 1898:

  • Put Weltpolitik into action by expanding the Navy and develop popular support for the navy
  • WII put pressure on the Reichstag to pass the Naval Bills

Zabern Affair:

  • See prev. notes
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Influence on Policy under Wilhelm II (Cont.)

Schlieffen Plan:

  • A military strategy to use in the event of a two-front war (eventually WWI)
  • Schlieffen was a military officer who believed this would allow him to win a war against France and Russia
  • He would attack France as Russia prepares (approx. 6 weeks) then attack Russia after so Germany wouldn't have to split their army
  • Meant the army reserve had to be expanded
  • WII demanded Caprivi win approval for higher taxes to support the 9 billion RM expenditure
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Right Wing Pressure Groups

Pan German League:

  • Established 1891
  • Membership c. 25,000 by 1914 (inc. 60 Reichstag deputies)
  • Anti-Semetic
  • Aimed to unite German around the world
  • AImed to acquire colonies
  • Aimed to supress socialism and democracy

Agrarian League:

  • Established 1893
  • Membership over 330,000 by 1913
  • Led by Junkers but many were smallholders and tenant farmers
  • Aimed to protect agricultural interests
  • Aimed to lobby for protective tariffs
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Right Wing Pressure Groups (Cont.)

Industrialist's League:

  • Established 1895
  • Members came from manufacturing and export industries
  • Favoured high tariffs to promote exports
  • Aimed to protect manufacturing interests and promote exports

Navy League:

  • Established 1898
  • Membership c.500,000
  • Aimed to promoted naval expansion
  • Aimed to put pressure on the Reuchstag to pass naval bills
  • Aimed to promote the growth of colonies
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Right Wing Pressure Groups (Cont.)

Imperial League Against Social Democracy:

  • Established 1904
  • Membership c.200,000
  • Aimed to curb socialism through propoganda
  • Aimed to promote conservative values

Army League:

  • Established 1912
  • Membership c.300,000 with 500 branches by 1914
  • Aimed to promote the expansion of the army
  • Aimed to pressure the Reichstag to pass army bills
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