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By 1914 the domestic and international position of Germany had sharply deteriorated.
Discuss this comment on the policies pursued by Bismarck’s successors.
Germany pre 1890
* Germany’s position pre-1914, both internationally and domestically, was very powerful and strong which is why the deterioration had such a great affect.
* Bismarck, who was chancellor of Germany from 1871-1890, was one of the greatest statesman ever. He had a profound influence on Germany in the nineteenth century.
* Germany did not exist when he became Prussian chief minister in 1862. When he left office in 1890 it was Europe’s strongest state. This did not happen by any chance.
* It had much to do with his diplomatic skill. He manipulated situations and worked hard to make the outcomes as desirable as possible.
* In doing so he won the trust of few but the respect of virtually everybody he encountered.
* After he died, it was unfortunate for both Europe and Germany that after 1890 the creation of Germany was in the hands of less skilful men.
* During the reign of Bismarck he helped to modernise and consolidate Germany.
* He also managed to find the right balance of forces acting within Germany.
* Caprivi’s following reforms in 1890’s were set up by Bismarck’s work with the National-Liberals.
* Socialism, which became a great force by 1914 was pioneered by him. His policies assisted German economic development.
* The fact that he remained in office for nineteen years shows his consistent political skills.
* Foreign policies were determined by alliances which were not always stable.
* The Dual Alliance with Austria, which was meant to control Austria, finally dragged Germany into war in1914.
* His acquisition of colonies had negative results. It not only cost the German tax payer a lot of money but also alienated Britain.
* However, Bismarck’s influence is often exaggerated. It was more due to Germany’s military strength rather than his diplomatic skill which created the basis of her power.
* After France, Napoleon Bonaparte, had been defeated by an Alliance of Prussia, Austria, a small British Army, and Italy in 1815, France was embittered. It was due to Bismarck to remain the situation like it was.
* The three Treaty’s separate from the final act in Vienna were of quite some importance.
* The Treaty of Chaumont in March 1814 was held because GB, A, P and Russia undertook to overthrow Napoleon and remain the alliance for another twenty years to remain the settlement.
* A united Netherlands was created and Prussian influence over the Rhineland was inserted. Both measures to contain France.
* The Treaty’s of Paris in May 1814 and in November 1814 were held in order to reduce from to her boarders before 1792 and her frontiers before 1790, respectively.
Wilhelmine Germany 1890-1914
* The New Kaiser Wilhelm II was the son of Friedrich III
* He maintained a love-hate relationship with Britain
* He adopted aggressive attitudes to disguise his insecurity and his disability ( paralysed left arm due to a difficult Birth)
* He surrounded himself with personal friends who did little to temper his pretensions to grandeur.
* He was determined to be his own ruler. However none of his chancellors were the of the calibre of Bismarck
* He boasted that he never read the constitution which gave him considerable influence because he chose who to talk to and who to appoint
Caprivi’s reforms (Domestic)
* Leo von Caprivi introduced several reforms and laws.
* These reforms were introduced to make Germany a more liberal country:
* working hours for women were restricted
* industrial courts to arbitrate wage claims were set up and workers were allowed to elect committees to negotiate with employers about working conditions.
* Laws of socialism lapse factory inspection was made more rigorous
* tariffs were reduced in order to stimulate foreign trade-food import prices were reduced
* SPD was gaining more support,
Foreign policy (International)
* Bismarck dominated foreign policy’s during the period of 1871-1888 with the support of Wilhelm I
* To avoid war, Bismarck wanted to remain one of the five great powers
* Bismarck’s cornerstones o foreign policy were:
1. The 1873 Dreikaiserbund (Three Emperors League); agreement between Germany, Austria, Russia to resist revolutionary threats of Europe
2. France had to remain isolated because it seemed it was recovering quickly after the defeat
3. The 1879 Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary to ease international tensions especially between Austria and Russia
4. A new Three Emperors Alliance was signed by Germany in 1881
5. In 1882 Triple Alliance where Italy was added to the Dual Alliance
6. In 1887 Reinsurance Treaty: last attempt to keep Russia friendly
* Bismarck’s foreign policy relied upon two assumptions:
1. France would remain isolated. This was never likely to stay forever
2. The Austro-Russian rivalry caused international tensions. little was done to eliminate the tensions and therefore it was not unlikely that either of them was allying with France
* There was a steady decline in Germany’s international position after Bismarck’s dismissal in 1890 for two principal reasons:
1. the French re-conciliation with Russia which ended French isolation – this was Bismarck’s cornerstone of his foreign policy
2. growing antagonism with Britain which pushed them into French and Russian camps and led to two large, hostile alliances in Europe
* the first development was inevitable and did already occur during Bismarck’s chancellorship
* the second development was due largely due to the unpredictable and provocative Weltpolitik ( World policy – a vague concept, a mishmash of ideas, national expansionism, colonial expansionism ) of Wilhelm II
* Kaiser Wilhelm’s behaviour involved Germany in unnecessary confrontations with France and Britain over the Moroccan crises and an ultimately fatal commitment to Austria during the Balkan crises of 1908
* Germany started a naval-race with Britain which Britain could not lose
* Germany increased its naval spending by 105 per cent between 1905 and 1914; Britain only by 28 per cent
* Germany became more and more isolated. This could not be compensated by a few colonial gains
* This position and the growing German awareness of this fact led some historians to accuse the Kaiser’s government of deliberately manufacturing a war crises to enable Germany to brake out of encirclement whilst there was still time
* In 1914 war plans existed, such as the notorious Schlieffen Plan which assumed a two-front war with France and Russia
Differences between the Germany of 1914 and the Germany of 1871-1890
* Germany was more powerful military and had the second greatest navy in the world
* Germany was the greatest economic power on the continent
* Germany was led less effectively, both domestically and internationally Wilhelm II than under Bismarck
* There had been advantages in living and working conditions
* Nationalist feelings grew
* Parliamentary system became more mature and society became more modern and complex
* Most of the gains were shattered by WWI (World War One)
* Germany had a brief experiment with a democratic government in the 1920’s but than Germany experienced a more sinister, authoritarian regime, known as Nazism