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1 The problem with Wilhelms II Germany Problems with democratic development Influence of the Kaiser Economic growth Aggressive foreign policy.

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Presentation on theme: "1 The problem with Wilhelms II Germany Problems with democratic development Influence of the Kaiser Economic growth Aggressive foreign policy."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 The problem with Wilhelms II Germany Problems with democratic development Influence of the Kaiser Economic growth Aggressive foreign policy

2 2 The Kaiser “Wilhelm probably had greater control over the course of events than any other ruler in Europe.” The person of the Kaiser has been much debated –clever but emotional –not a deep thinker –Junker and an supporter of the army The army and the nobility (Junkers) dominated politics in Wilhelmine Germany –The army half a million

3 3 Political parties Conservatives - Junkers - favoured protectionistic politics Liberals turning towards the right The catholic Center party - balancing left and right The social democratic party of the workers –Became the largest party - opposed to reformism in theory but not in practice

4 4 Dropping of the pilot Wilhelm dismissed Bismarck because of disagreement over two issues –Wilhelm did not want to renew the reinsurance treaty with Russia –And he did not want to renew the anti-socialist legislation of Bismarck

5 5 Wilhelmine labor politics The problem of the rising worker population the main internal problem Wilhelm preferred a more paternalistic view towards the workers than Bismarck sundays rest-days laws against child labour Commercial treaties reducing tariffs on food –This policy did little to reduce support of workers to the social democrats –The Junkers formed the agrarian league to fight for protectionism

6 Economic expansion Underlying factors: –Rapid population growth million people –Steady growth in heavy industry (surpassing Britain –Railway expansion km to km 1890 to 1910 –Merchant fleet growing even faster

7 7 Economic expansion Government and banks supportive of new industries –Germans progressive in electrical and chemical industries. Fertilisers and sugar beets Half of world electrotechnical trade in German hands 1913 – AEG Siemens

8 8 Effect of economic boom Effect on working conditions –Better wages –Slum clearance programs –increased demands of workers –the workers party SPD had limited say in politics even if it was the largest party 1914

9 9 5.3 Caprivi chancellor Caprivi rejected the Bismarckian idea of enemies of the state: –Anti-socialist laws allowed to lapse –Better working conditions –Less restrictions agains minorities –Some limits on Prussias independence –Agricultural tariffs reduced

10 10 Caprivis fall Caprivi ran into trouble with liberals and junkers – Wilhelm disappointed with the socialism of workers. Even if Caprivi did not renew the reinsurance treaty he had no “welt” interest

11 Wilhelms chancellors Hohenlohe –A lull before the storm Von Bulow –More aggressive in foreign adventures –Daily Telegraph affair –Bulow sacked Wilhelm discredited Bethmann-Hollweg –Ignorant of foreign affairs –Not the best choice for july 1914

12 12 The Reichstag Could never put pressure on government Why was it so weak –Chancellor not responsible to reichstag –Uneven constituencies –Parties unable to form coalition Bismarck split them Not used to practical politics Social democrats – marxist rhetoric

13 13 The predominance of the army The army is growing as the most powerful instituion of government –Weak Chancellors –Unreliable monarch –Divided reichstag –Germans couldn’t forget the glories of Sedan and Sadowa Zabern affair - the army is predominant in society Schlieffen plan military thinking

14 14 Fritz Fischers view “German foreign policy after 1897 must be understood as a response to the internal threat of Socialism and democracy”. Samlungspolitik: –New tariffs on grain and the naval buildup program and an ambitious foreign policy were attempts to capture public support by government in serious difficulties. –A new union of rye and steel –The growth of the Social democratic party was alarming – election victory 1912

15 15 Foreign policy before Wilhelm II Bismarks policy: –Isolation of France, –keeping good relations with Russia Reinsurance treaty The new leaders thought this treaty incompatible with promises to Austria The dismissal of Bismarck ended russo- german relations.

16 16 Russian and British reaction The Franco-Russian alliance formed. –Now the Germans possibly face war on two fronts and in 1891 the Schlieffen plan is drawn in response. Britain was the only power outside alliances to 1904 Germans wanted to frighten the British into alliance. Naval building was supposed to do this but had opposite effect –From 1904 Austria and Germany are isolated.

17 17 Weltpolitik Personal ambiton of the kaiser Appointed the hawks to office –Tirpitz navalministry, Bulow foreign office Growing industry and economy needs outlet Unification only the first step to world power Weltpolitik united the people behind agressive state nationalism –Used to distract the workers and the middle classes

18 18 Weltpolitik Great states want influence –Had colonial ambitions - esp. after 1890 –But what they got was before 1890 except two Samoan islands –Kruger telegram –Influnce in China Berlin-Baghdad railway through Ottoman empire –supposed to open economic oppertunities –but Germans had to share it with Britain and France –limited economic and political advantage

19 19

20 20 Wilhelm and navy expansion The isolation from Russia called for the Schlieffen plan which called for increase in the army. Bulow and Tirpitz started the naval expansion by the naval laws (1897) –Tirpitz convinced the reichstag and the public of the necessity of this if Germany wanted to be a world power. –Naval arms race with Britain

21 21 Morocco Colonial policy: want a sphere of influence, trading rights etc. European policy: want to frustrate and tackle the French in a save area. The all over gain was limited, Germany gave Morocco up and got instead small regions in Africa and a reassurance of France and British entente.

22 22 European foreign policy Navy, colonies, middle east affair all alianate the british a rather desperate attempt by Tsar Nicholas and Wilhelm to reach agreement –Bjork treaty not ratified With only the friendship of Austria and halfhearted Italy, Germans start to complain about encirclement whatever comes from Vienna is my command (Wilhelm in 1912)

23 23 Historical debate Wilhelmine Germany –What was the mainstream of historical thinking about Wilhelmine Germany before Fischer. –Why did Fritz Fischers claim that Germany was primarly responsible for the outbreak of the war call for a new evaluation of Wilhelmine society and politics. –If you look at Wehlers portrayal of Wilhelmine politics, are they different from Bismarcks politics? –What are the main points of criticism aimed at Wehlers ideas by recent historians.

24 24 The political situation Germany is hardly a democracy The democraticly elected reichstag has legislative powers, limited control over budget and no say in appointment of ministers The ministers are responsible to the kaiser, he appoints the and dismisses them The kaiser had also the power to dissolve the reichstag


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