• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How Successfully in the period 1870 to 1914 did the ruling elites of Germany cope with the consequences of social and economic change?

Extracts from this document...


How Successfully in the period 1870 to 1914 did the ruling elites of Germany cope with the consequences of social and economic change? Introduction The period 1870 to 1914 involved significant social and economic pressures for change, not least in Germany. This essay will analyse how both Bismarck and Wilhelm II responded to these pressures and will examine how successful their responses were in coping with this change. A key change was the rapid industrialisation that put Germany ahead of Britain as Europe's leading industrial power by 1914. This was reflected in the soaring of coal production, steel production, and the railway network, for example. Coal production grew from 89 million tons in 1890 to 277 million tons in 1914. However, it could be argued that Bismarck did not play an active role in economic policy, but did use it to his advantage. Historians such as Bohme point out that Bismarck "merely rode and steered" on the waves of Germany's "economic life". The economic expansion had great implications for social and political change, as for instance an increase in the industrial workforce lead to demands for better working conditions, and an increase in Trade Union membership. As noted by Culpin & Henig, there were some 2.6 million German workers who were members of trade unions by 1914. Such developments had frightened Wilhelm, like Bismarck before him, as they saw such minority groups as "enemies of the state". Bismarck's strategy to Change Economic Change Spurred on by unification and an abundance of natural resources such as iron ore, Germany saw its industrial production soar. With support from financial institutions, this transformed Germany from what had been a predominantly agrarian to a major industrial state. ...read more.


Whilst the Reichstag could comment on legislation, Bismarck had the power to veto anything. The parties in the Reichstag were more like sectional pressure groups, with membership centred around social class origins. Max Weber supports this viewpoint, noting that the German political system was merely "sham constitutionalism". AJP Taylor sums up Bismarck's stance to democracy very effectively, in stating that "Bismarck lived in an age of democracy and German power and he devoted his life to making these forces as harmless as possible". This did not bode well for the future, as Weber comments, "Bismarck left behind him as political heritage a nation without any political education". He also emphasised that the country was accustomed that the statesman at its head would look after all policy for it. Bismarck wanted to be aware of potential threats to the state he had created, and once himself stated "when we have arrived at good harbour, we should be content to cultivate and hold what we have won". In order to protect what he had achieved in a unified Germany, and in response to European pressure, Bismarck used his unique negotiating skills to forge a number of alliances, in an attempt to ensure European peace and avoid war on two fronts. A number of alliances were attempted to preserve peace in Europe, beginning with the "dreikeiserbund", or league of 3 emperors in 1873, (involving alliances with Russia and Austria), and later a separate dual alliance with Austria alone, with Italy coming into the Fray in the late 1880s. Whilst these alliances in the main failed to run smoothly, they did at least restore order in Europe and ensure that the changes taking place in Germany were not impeded by an outside conflict. ...read more.


Bulow suggested that the pace of economic expansion forced the need for colonisation: "Our need for national development, mainly in the industrial sphere, forced us to cross the ocean". In spite of the fact that Germany was planning colonisation very late compared to other powers, the Kaiser built up the German military machine and under the Tirpitz Plan, and built a naval fleet to rival that of Great Britain. The term "saber rattler" sums up his politics as well as his personality. Historian Barbara Tuchman put it appropriately when she referred to the Kaiser as "possessor of the least inhibited tongue in Europe". The Kaiser clearly wanted a world role for Germany, but the physical results of Weltpolitik were somewhat meagre. Conclusion The reaction on the part of both Bismarck and Wilhelm to the increasing but modest demands for social and political reform was to try to repress the forces of change, as both saw socialism as a significant threat to the regime. The key difference between Bismarck and Wilhelm was that Bismarck realised that he could not defeat socialism by repression alone. Comparing the policy styles of Bismarck and Wilhelm, it appears that in spite of Bismarck's adherence to "real politik", he still maintained a clearer sense of direction than Wilhelm, whose policies seemed ill thought out and lacking direction. As noted by Mosse, "although Bismarck played his hand with great skill, it was a good one in the first place". Sturmer supports this argument by stating that "Bismark was good at diplomatic games". It is clear then that when the regime fell into the hands of Wilhelm, who according to Rhal "dreamt up policies, pursued and made a mess of policies", there were socio-political implications for Germany, which it seemed by 1914 could only be alleviated by a short, sharp, victorious war. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Modern European History, 1789-1945 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Modern European History, 1789-1945 essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    The impact of the First World War merely heightened existing social and political tensions ...

    4 star(s)

    This event simply highlighted the limits to the Reichstag and its influence. This is important as a democracy they should have a say but the Chancellor simply ignored the vote of no confidence. The consequences of this also led further tensions within the government as the parties displayed that they

  2. Assess the economic, social and political consequences of the collectivisation of Russian agriculture in ...

    Although the farms were producing food, and would thus be the place expected to be least likely to suffer from famine, this was not the case and it was these areas that were the most effected by famine, as their grain was seized and they were forbidden to eat their

  1. Operation Barbarossa - Causes and Consequences

    Operation Barbarossa was a turning point in the war: if Germany had won, the entire course of world war two would be different. Hitler was never the same again. The confidence winning battle after battle gave him was suddenly gone.

  2. Nazi living standards essay

    People would have been working with consumer goods for most of their life and it would have given them a living but the opportunity to earn more money was too high for them to turn down. I don't believe that the Nazis should have gone ahead and decided to only

  1. Hitlers Germany

    All this combines to create a picture of which the best description is Hitler's own famous sentence: 'I go the way that Providence dictates with the assurance of a sleepwalker." The former French Ambassador speaks of him as 'a man possessed'; Hermann Rauschning writes: 'Dostoevsky might well have invented him,

  2. To what extent was Bismarck in control of the direction Germany's Foreign Policy took ...

    Moreover, Britain and Russia pledged their allegiance to France if Germany declared war. From this it appears as if Bismarck "lived in the moment and responded to its challenge" (Taylor, again Taylor is another leading historian on this topic and is a reliable source).

  1. How significant was foreign influence in shaping Italian political and social development in the ...

    Mazzini can be seen as the building blocks, setting the ground for unified nationalism to develop as well as inspiring others to take action. Other secret societies augmented popular pressure for political change such as the Carbonari, which became the ?focal point for individuals with grievances against the restored monarchies?[14] during the early nineteenth century.

  2. AS Level Edexcel History Spain 1931-33 Revision Notes

    The end of the Spanish monarchy, 1931. * Despite being a constitutional monarchy, Alfonso XIII preferred to work with the military rather than politicians. * He never won the affection of his people and displayed no real understanding of how to tackle Spain?s social and economic problems.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work