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Has to much emphasis been placed on the negative aspects of pre-1914 Germany?

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Introduction

"Has to much emphasis been placed on the negative aspects of pre-1914 Germany?" Against a background of a conservative Bismarckian Germany, the accession of Wilhelm II to the throne of Germany inevitably marked a change in German society, politics and attitude. Most studies of Germany are prone to analyse the political climate, the great contradiction that was Sammlungspolitik, the tentative foreign policy based around nationalism, or the economic ineptitude of the German government. These rather negative aspects of pre-1914 Germany certainly deserve analysis, they are, indeed, the basis from which Germany grew into a nation which saw it necessary to create a war for no other reason other than a diversion from domestic socialist politics. Yet, Germany exhibited extraordinarily positive aspects of modernization. Industry, is too often regarded, as part of a negative internal conflict, which served only to turn Germany into a politically backward nation, yet is it not possible to see industrialization from another level? German industrialization in itself was really quite astonishing. For instance, in only 10 years German factories, although outnumbered by British counterparts, were making over four times the profit per factory than those in Britain. Can not the policy of integration be seen as a uniquely positive aspect of German politics, although there is a negative side in that politics of the agrarians are ignored, that the German right was able to 'force' the popular support from the agricultural community is in itself an achievement of tactical diplomacy. ...read more.

Middle

In effect, how could naval superiority have been achieved since Britain was not going to relinquish her naval superiority to a militarily superior power? Yet, these criticisms are unjustified. Tirpitz had already planned for this eventuality and was willing to establish the naval race alongside Britain as an enemy, since alliance would have called into question Germany's friendship with the other European powers. Although this may have been na�ve, the plan did not fail due to German error, the plan failed due to the fact that there was a reliance on other navies being willing to destroy the remainder of the British fleet in the eventuality of a German naval war with Britain, which was scuppered by British treaties with the three other major naval powers, Japan in 1902, France in 1904 and Russia in 1907. In effect, this attempt by Germany to establish her navy was not a negative aspect of the time, indeed it was an attempt to establish the country and simultaneously drum up local popular support through nationalism marked by failure. Those both second and third naval bills were passed shows that this was a continuing policy, aimed at a realistic ideology as well as conjuring up fringe benefits. It is in the area of foreign policy that Germany deserves the most criticism. Yet, this area seems to be most often neglected. ...read more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, factors which one may consider negative are often the very same factors, which could be considered positive. Through a need to either explain, or explain away, Germany's negative aspects after Fritz Fischer's thesis of 1961, too much influence has been put on the German superstructure as a whole. Emphasis has been put on how different factors fit in with the German nation, when the real answer is that they do not. Social, economic and political factors were at odds with each other, none fitted into the superstructure since each contradicted or compromised the others. Yet, Germany was a nation of achievement in individual areas. For instance the maintenance of relative political stability by forcing together industry and agriculture was not a fact conducive to a future Germany, yet it was mastery of short-term politics which managed to integrate by promising 'all things to all people' (a bit like New-Labour perhaps?). Industrialization has often been shown to serve to show the political weaknesses of the German right, yet in itself was a wonderful German achievement. Little has been said of the effect of left wing politics or political groups such as the Pan-German League. Yet these movements do themselves show a forward looking and a more sophisticated social structure. In effect Germany before 1914exhibited at times a complete disunity, yet German society, politics and economics separately showed signs of true accomplishment. ...read more.

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