Social Trends in Germany 1914

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Social trends in Germany

  • In Germany, the population rose by 60% from 1871 to 1914, making it 68 million. 
  • By 1911, there were more children who reached their teenage years than before. 
  • 80% of the population wee the age of 45 or younger, which helps to explain the mobile and dynamic nature of Wilhelmine society.
  • However, this dynamism created new divisions and reinfprced old divisions. 
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Longer Lives

More German people were living longer than before. This was because:

  • Infant mortality fell from around 25% in the 1870s to 15% by 1912. 
  • This was due to improvements in hygiene and medical care.
  • In 1874, compulsory immunisation against smallpox had been introduced.
  • In the 1890s, there was a diptheria serum available which cut the number who died of the disease from 1/2 to 1/6.
  • The impact of medical research. 
  • The number of hospital sharply increased.
  • More doctors and nurses.
  • There were also improvements in living standards.
  • All of these ensured that those who survived childhood, lived longer.
  • As a result, the life expectancy increased:
    • A man born in the 1870s would expect to live to the age of 36 and a woman to 38.
    • However, men born in the first decade of the 20th Century could expect to live to 45 and women 45.
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An Urban Society

There was increase in the number of German people who moved to towns:

  • 2/3 of the German population lived in towns by 1910.
  • In the 48 big cities, there were more than 1/5 of people living there, exceeding 100,000.
  • Berlin had more than 2 million people by 1907, in which 60% were born out of the city.
  • Those who lived in suburbs would expect to eventually be incorporated in the formal city limits.
  • Hamburg had a million people by 1914.
  • Other cities, such as Cologne, Dresden, Leipzig, Munich and Breslau had more than a 500,000 people.
  • Many moved to towns because of the better standard of living. 
  • However, in the late 19th Century Germans changed from being a net exporter to a net importer of people.
  • This was because the largest single group of immigrants were made up of the Poles.
  • Also, there were a significant number of Italians, Dutch and non- Polish Slavs.
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Rural Soceity

Germans who worked on the land, found the urban life more attractive because:

  • Agriculture workers worked very long hours, such as a 100 hour week, for low wages, who were employed by estate and large farm owners. 
  • Farm work was physically hard, especially during haymaking and harvesting because mechanisation came slowly to many area.
  • There labour shortages as a result of the increasing numbers of Germans moving from the land to the city.
  • This led to high levels of family self- exploitation and extensive child labour.
  • However, there were still more than 7 million agriculture workers (many on short term contracts) in 1907, despite the harsh conditions. 
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Rural Society Part 2

Rural dwellers were often isolated from the rest of society because:

  • Around 1/3 of the population had no access to the railways.
  • Rural dwellers were also disadvantaged in regards to education provision and medical care.
  • A rural child was more likely to die before the age of one, than an urban child by the early 20th Century.
  • In comparison with the modern urban lifestyle, the countryside were still very old fashioned. 
  • A source of rural pessimism was the constant flow of people from the countryside, moving to towns.
  • Many farmers and agricultural workers felt outcasted by the rest of Germany and exploited by the growing cities. 

However:

  • Prices in agriculture rose at the end of the 19th Century.
  • By the 20th Century, many rural inhabitants became better dressed and housed. 
  • There was a decrease in farm houses where animals and people who lived together. 
  • Many peasants who owned 100-300 acres of land became successful commercial farmers. 
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The Standard of living

By 1914, the standard of living increased because:

  • There was an increase by over 30% of real wages, between 1885 and 1913, in Germany.
    • Whereas, in Britain real wages decreased in the decade before 1914.
  • The proportion of Prussian taxpayers assessed on incomes of under 900 marks a year, fel from 75 to 52% of the total, between 1896 and 1912.
  • Those who were earning between 900 and 3000 marks doubled from 22% to 43%.
  • Workers now had more lesiure time and money to spend.
  • This was because of the decrease in working hours in mining and industry by 1/3 in 1914.
  • The typical working day in the non-agricultural sector was 9 and a half hours. 

However:

  • The mass of the German population remained agricultural and industrial workers by 1914.
  • Urban living and working conditions remained dismally small because:
    • 1/3 of the population lived at or below the poverty line.
    • There was a lack of urban housing and a rising problem of homelessness. (200,000 men were accommodated a year, between 1900 and 1914, by the Berlin Homeless Shelter Association.)
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The Working Class

The working class was far from united because:

  • Men and women were divided as they rarely did the same work, and if they worked together, women would usually have subordinate 'unskilled' tasks.
  • There were divides in ethnicity workers, where Polish and Italian migrants created their own subculture. 
  • The division between Catholics and Protestants remained large.
  • Skilled workers considered themselves as superior to unskilled workers. 
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The Working Class Part 2

Nevertheless many women and men were bound together by common experiences, problems and attitudes such as:

  • Workers were more often ill, died younger and were smaller in physique than those who were better off in life.
  • There was overcrowded housing and spent the majority of their wage on food,
  • They were dependent on the women's and children's earnings.
  • 1/3 of the workforce experience some time of unemployment in a year:
    • Due to employer's lockouts, where employees were prevented from working, by shutting their factories.
    • By 1910, there were almost 250,000 victims of almost 1000 lockouts.
    • There was an increase in strikes, at an average of 200,000 workers striking every year between 1905 and 1913. 
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Labour Movements

Labour movements were encouraged by the increase in bad conditions:

  • By 1913, members of trade unions increased to 3 million.
  • The SPD became the largest Socialist party in the world because it had almost a million members.
  • The labour movements, who insisted on the dignity and worth of their members, provided workers a sense of self respect and common identity.
  • They offered hope for a better world in the future and sustained workers through a host of worker organisations such as:
    • Unions
    • Co-operatives.
    • Choral societies.
    • Drama groups.
    • Lended libraries, educational courses and clubs in cycling and gymnastics.
  • They also provided working men opportunities to exercise responsibility
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Social Mobility

There were material and mental barriers to upward mobility:

  • Higher education was expensive: it was paid for by the state until a student reached the age of 14.
  • Working class families preferred their children to go into skilled jobs rather than an expensive education.
  • They also looked down on white collar workers. believing they were soft. 
  • Workers had a source of pride which included strength and manual dexterity, even if most of them hated their jobs.
  • Lower middle classes of foremen, clerks and petty officials were more likely to be upwardly mobile workers.
  • Movements from the proletariat to the professions was rare, but would usually take 2 generations.
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Lower Middle Class

The lower middle class was different from the working class because:

  • There was a fast rate increase in the number of white collar workers.
  • These workers were generally paid better than manual workers. 
    • However the wage difference was only little.
  • The lower middle class had greater aspirations for their children, by making good use of the educational system. 
  • Enrolement in German Universities greatly expanded
    • 23,000 in 1875 to 72,000 in 1912.
  • , This lead to more students being from a lower middle class background. 
    • Almost half of all Prussian enrolements were from the lower middle class by 1914. 
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The Bourgeouisie

The Wihelm period was a golden age for the Bourgeoisie:

  • This consisted of professionals such as:
    • Doctors, lawyers, merchants, business people and high civil servants.
  • They had an increasing amount of wealth.
  • This allowed them have high levels of consumption, fine houses, servants and holidays. 

However, members of this class had little in common because:

  • They had major differences between:
    • Industrialists and Professionals.
    • Protestants, Catholics and Jews.
  • Whilst a few great industrialists had far greater wealth than many junker families, most middle class families didn't possess such wealth. 
  • Therefore, some bourgeouisie families tried to ape the manner of the aristocracy or inter-marryy with the Junker land owners. 
  • The Bourgeois values remained to include seriousness, respect and percieved to be 'manly' virtues. 
  • They feared organised labour and working classes. 
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The Position of Women

Women in Wilhelmine Germany:

  • They were not expected to work after marriage. There was an increase in the number of women working in industrial or clerical jobs rather than traditional employment (e.g. domeestic service).
    • However, many working class women had no option but to do so.
    • In 1907 there were 1.25 million female domestic servants, which was the same in 1882. 
  • There were growing work opportunities for middle class women, in professions such as teaching, welfare professions and social work. 
    • in 1899 German women were finally permitted to acquire medical qualifications after long male resistance. 
  • By 1914, women became increasingly more publically active at work, in charities and in politics. 

However:

  • Few women went to university.
  • Women remained inferior to men in the eyes of the law: their husbands were their legal guardian.
  • Abortion was illegal.
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Order and Discipline

Imperial Germany saw itself as an orderly peaceable society:

  • This is true to an extent because they Germans lived increasingly in a world of institutions that sought discpline themselves. 
  • These institutions might encounter resistance, particularly from the lower classes.
  • However, their capacity to shape society was considerable.
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Crime

Crime statistics are hard to unravel:

  • There was a growth in the police and their was an addition of many new offences. 
  • Offences, such as murder and property crimes, remained constant. 
  • Crimes recorded in urban areas increased, whilist it declined in rural areas. 
  • Working class districts could be violent places as many young men carried clubs, knives and guns.

However:

  • Germany was not a lawless or violent society, by the standards of the time. 
  • There was far less unrest or 'collective protest' in towns and countryside than elsewhere in Europe. 
  • There were improvements in living standards and Germans had respect for authority, which both may have led to German cities enjoying a reputation for being 'safer perhaps, than any other in the world.' (American Ray Stannard Baker's observation in 1901)
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The Police

Ex soldiers often set the tone of German officialdom in dealing with the public:

  • This was apparent in the police who recruited mainly former servicemen.
  • They intervened greatly in everyday life because so many activities were regulated.
  • This resulted in many minor infringments of the law.
  • Regulations were often resented but had certain benefits:
    • Strong measures against truancy created an enviable literacy rate.
    • The police also had to apprehend the work-shy.
  • Anyone guilty of homelessness, vagrancy or begging could have been sent to the workhouse.
  • The workhouse functioned as cross between poorhouse and prison.
  • The police force didn't have a reputation for efficiency enjoyed by other branches of Germany's bureaucracy.
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The culture of Militarism

The army discplined German society:

  • Schools and clubs promoted soldierly virtues.
  • Legal privileges were given to soldiers and citizens were expected to step aside to let a soldier walk past.
  • A man in an army officer's uniform was percieved to be powerful:
    • 1906: a cobbler with a criminal record wore a captain's uniform who led 10 soildiers to the Kopenick hall and arrested the mayor and stole 5000 marks.
  • Military legal privileges caused resentment among the propertied and educated.
  • The officer corps tried to exclude the unwanted such as the Jews, Catholics and middle class progressives. 
  • All German men were expected to do military service, which some resented, whilst some took pride in their toughness and bound them in a male camaraderie. 
  • 3 million Germans belonged to ex-servicemen's organisation by 1914.

However:

  • Soldiers were not the only ones who wore uniforms: customs officers, postal workers, policemen and railwaymen wore uniforms.
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