The German Second Reich

From Kaiser to Fuhrer (1900-1945)

Basic Timeline

June 1900 - second german naval introduced

Oct 1900 - count bernhard becomes chancellor

dec 1902 - tariff law introduced

1903 - sickness insurance law gives greater help to sick workers

1904 - herero uprising begins in german south west africa

Dec 1908 - parliamentary crisis leads to election

july 1909 - bulow resigns, bethmann hollweg becomes chancellor 

may 1911 - reform of alsace lorrain constitution

jan 1912 - reichstag election, SPD becomes largest party

jun 1913 - reichstag passes army and finance bills increasing the size of the army 

dec 1913 - the zabern affair 


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the Constitution

The Kaiser

  • held considerable powers - kaiser was the guardian of the constitution 
  • always had to be the Prussian king
  • full control over foreign and diplomatic policy 
  • appointed and dismiss the chancellor 

the chancellor

  •  directly responsible the the kaiser 
  • ignore resolutions passed by the Reichstag 
  • Bismark gave the chancellor considerable powers 

the bundesrat 

  • created by Bismark to act as a possible barrier to radical legislation
  • prussia still dominant 

the Reichstag

  • influence over areas such as financial affairs and the banking system
  • passed the annual budget
  • elected  by the public

the army 

  • lay outside of the formal constitution
  • directly responsible to the kaiser
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German Economy

what was the extent of the german economic growth?

  • industies of  the first industrial revolution were heavy - cotton, coal and iron
  • by 1914 Germany had become the economic powerhouse of continential Europe 
  • technological revolution - steel, engineering and chemicals that was fuelled and closely linked to the new sources of energy


  • new method of producing steel  made possible the use of phosphoric ores 
  • germany was able to produce more than britain   


  • stimualeted by the demand for military and dyes 
  • investment in research and training


  • migration from rural to industial
  • overcrowding in many cities
  • improved rates of infant mortality 
  • building of tramways 
  • real wages increased bacause money wages went up more than prices
  • cycle of unemloyment was dictated by the cycle of economy 


  • junker benefitted from high prices for their rye 
  • increase in population meant an increase in demand for agricultural products 
  • BUT... the increase in technology was threatening
  • debt increased and as a result estates were sold and bought more frequently 

fustrations were caused as a reult of uneven economic growth 

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socialist movement

there were elements within the social democratic party (SPD) that were mkore revolutionary in their policies 

parties membership was predominantly protestant and working class 

by the eve of the was around 2.5 mil german workers were members of trade unions and 400000 were out on strike at one point in 1913

the party leadership tended to steer a middle ground but after 1907 steered more towards reformism. however, to the elites it was their perception of the SPD as revolutionary that stuck 

Pressure Groups 

these groups were often focused on single issues, but they highlighted the tensions and divisions in germany 

nationalist pressure group 

  • the german colonial league - concerned with the aquisition of german colonies 
  • the pan german league - German dominance in Europe. the league had strong support from the political establishemt ( 60 members of the reichstag being part of the league
  • the navy league - played an important role in the successful campaign in and out of the reichstag to promote naval expansion 

economic pressure groups

  • the central association of german industialists - protect industrail interests, implementation of tariffs 
  • the agrarian league - protect agrarian interests. it had wide spread support from the peasantry and had a third of a million members by 1914
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political development s

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