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Imperial Germany 1871-1918 (Revised Edition)

Imperial Germany 1871-1918 (Revised Edition): Economy, Society, Culture and Politics

V. R. Berghahn
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Imperial Germany 1871-1918 (Revised Edition)
    Book Description:

    A comprehensive history of German society in this period, providing a broad survey of its development. The volume is thematically organized and designed to give easy access to the major topics and issues of the Bismarkian and Wilhelmine eras. The statistical appendix contains a wide range of social, economic and political data. Written with the English-speaking student in mind, this book is likely to become a widely used text for this period, incorporating as it does twenty years of further research on the German Empire since the appearance of Hans-Ulrich Wehler's classic work.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-483-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Imperial Germany and Historical Research
    (pp. xi-xviii)

    The German Empire, founded by Otto von Bismarck in 1871 and lasting until the end of World War I, has been the focus of intensive research during the past four decades. To an extent that should not be underestimated even today, this no doubt welcome development was due to the arguments about the war and its origins that the Hamburg University historian Fritz Fischer advanced in the 1960s. The controversies that he unleashed shifted research from the Weimar years and the Third Reich toward the pre-1914 period and the question of continuities and discontinuities in modern German history “from Bismarck...

  5. Part I: Economy

    • 1. Economic Sectors and Structural Change
      (pp. 1-10)

      It is of fundamental importance for an understanding of Germany’s economic development in this period that the upward trend that had set in before the founding of theKaiserreichcontinued in principle until the eve of World War I. There were, it is true, ups and downs, and there were also setbacks. But although these were perceived by contemporaries as severe depressions, we can now see, with the benefit of hindsight, that they were in effect periods ofretarded growth, not reversals of the general trend.

      The net domestic product (NDP) provides a particularly clear gauge of these shifts. It...

    • 2. National and Regional Economic Developments
      (pp. 10-19)

      The above-mentioned ups and downs in the German national economy hinted at the importance of conjunctural factors. Although the macroeconomic trend was broadly upward, the economy was prone to overheating or spluttering from time to time. The very long waves in the development of the world economy since the Middle Ages are relatively well researched. More immediately relevant for the history of the German Empire are the more short-term vacillations that Wassili Kondratieff and Arthur Spiethoff among others have studied.13They identified two phases during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The first phase began with an upswing that...

    • 3. The Organization of Industry
      (pp. 19-37)

      The evolution of capitalist industrialization and urbanization is inseparably connected with the phenomenon of increased organization that affected both the economy and all other spheres of life in the second half of the nineteenth century. We first turn to the organization of the various local and national markets.

      There was a marked increase in the number of working men and women between 1871 and 1913 from 17.3 million to 30.9 million (Table 28). This amounted to an average annual growth rate of 1.2 percent. However, considerable imbalances developed due to the migrations from agriculture to industry and to the tertiary...

  6. Part II: Society

    • 4. Demographic Structure and Development
      (pp. 38-44)

      Population growth and urbanization are inseparably connected with the process of industrialization in Central Europe. All three processes unfolded at an even more rapid pace after the founding of the German Empire. According to the first census in the new Reich, taken in 1872, the total population at that time was a little over 40 million (Table 34). This figure had grown to 56 million by the turn of the century. In 1913 the population was 67 million. Whereas approximately 206,000 foreigners lived in Germany in 1871, by 1910 their number had risen to approximately 1.3 million. Most of these...

    • 5. Social Stratification and Inequalities
      (pp. 44-58)

      If the demographic explosion and the migrations of millions of people during the period of all-pervasive industrialization tells us quite a lot about the condition and development of German society between 1871 and the outbreak of World War I, a look at social mobility will deepen our understanding. Like other complex societies, that of the German Empire did not merely consist of 65 million atomized individuals. There were social groups that operated within a horizontal as well as vertical structure. The above examination of wealth and income also provided a first indication that considerable inequalities existed and that the situation...

    • 6. Women and Men
      (pp. 58-71)

      For a long time research into patterns of social inequality during the Imperial period focused on the broad spectrum of social strata. More recently, the discussion has been broadened and considerably enriched by intensive research into the history of gender and the family. The history of classes was primarily concerned with reconstructing the situation of nondescript millions at the lower end of the social scale. Women’s history, by contrast, is interested in the situation of no less than half the population, and increasingly also in the interaction between the two sexes in all spheres of life. Some of the handicaps...

    • 7. Issues of Generation and Socialization
      (pp. 71-87)

      As a result of rapid population growth, the percentage of children and young people was particularly high during this period. In 1913, the share of youngsters under the age of 15 in terms of the total population was 34.4 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, the increase in life expectancy had led to a slightly larger number of elderly people (Table 55); but as long as average life expectancy remained at 47.7 years for men and 50.7 years for women, it is not surprising that in 1910 no more than 5 percent of the population was over 65....

    • 8. Minorities and Majorities
      (pp. 87-113)

      In trying to understand the development of German society during the decades before 1914 it is helpful to study the situation of women, young people, and the elderly, as we have just done. But no less telling is how those individuals and groups living as minorities in Germany were treated and how ordinary citizens and those in positions of power and influence reacted to them. On the one hand, this raises the question of how far the majority was prepared to permit the integration of minorities, a process not to be confused with assimilation; or, alternatively, how far the majority...

    • 9. Basic Patterns of Social Inequality and Their Milieus
      (pp. 113-120)

      If the findings of this chapter on the development of German society between 1871 and 1914 can be summarized, it is clear that this society not only was more colorful than earlier studies have suggested, but also that it found itself in restless commotion. This commotion was connected with the large-scale processes of industrialization and urbanization, of explosive demographic change and secularization. And yet it was not complete chaos and anarchy. It is possible to discern various lines that separated or unified those 65 million people who lived in Germany in 1911. There were structures within which it made a...

  7. Part III: Culture

    • 10. High Culture and Popular Culture
      (pp. 121-158)

      The notion of culture underlying this book is a broad one, as social historians whose interest in cultural topics has been stimulated by anthropology tend to use it nowadays. The focus is not just on individual artistic and intellectual creativity, but on customs and rituals, attitudes and experiences of entire groups, classes, and even nations. This kind of cultural history aims to retrieve the overall milieu that influences the actions and reactions of men and women. It includes the study of conflicts between classes, regions, ethnic groups, and the sexes over what traditions, actions, and cultural goods shall be acceptable...

    • 11. The Sciences and Humanities
      (pp. 158-171)

      Whoever speaks of the development of culture during the Imperial period cannot avoid dealing with the human and natural sciences and their organization. As in other countries, most research took place in institutions of higher education. But there were also many independent institutes that either undertook research themselves or promoted it. Among these, the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, founded in 1910/11 to stimulate basic research, assumed an important role.44

      All these institutions were primarily devoted to expanding the frontiers of science through theoretical discussion and empirical research. Colleges and universities had the additional task of providing basic training in scholarship. The...

    • 12. The Press, Its Readership, and the Role of Intellectuals
      (pp. 171-175)

      In an age of radio, television, and electronic mass consumption, it is not easy to imagine the extent to which the German Empire’s culture was based on the written and spoken word. Cinema attendance, it is true, began to rise markedly just before 1914; but the press remained the most important medium through which people informed themselves about their locality or the wider environment and through which ideas and opinions were spread. However highly developed the art of public speaking in parliaments, in associational life, or at political rallies may have been, the spoken word had a larger impact only...

  8. Part IV: The Realm of Politics

    • 13. The Constitutional Framework
      (pp. 176-189)

      The first three parts of this volume attempted to lay out the economic, social, and cultural framework on the basis of which the political system and the politics of the German Empire evolved after 1870/71. While analyzing this framework, we made repeated references to Part IV and promised that we would connect the issues that had arisen in the spheres of the economy, society, and culture to the realm of politics. Indeed, we argued that some of these issues can be properly understood only if complemented by an analysis of the realm of politics.

      Thus, when dealing with labor conflicts...

    • 14. Parties and Elections in a Period of Dynamic Change
      (pp. 189-208)

      During the past thirty years, the question of whether theKaiserreichwas on the road to parliamentarism has generated a good deal of heat among scholars, not least because this question is closely bound up with the problem of the reformability of Prusso-German constitutionalism and of the extent of the pre-1914 crisis. Writing in the 1960s and 1970s, Fritz Fischer and Hans-Ulrich Wehler took rather pessimistic views of the situation, asking whether the Kaiser’s decision to go to war in 1914 was an attempt to cut the Gordian knot of a domestic and foreign policy deadlock.27Subsequently, other historians, Thomas...

    • 15. Organizations and Movements in the Extraparliamentary Sphere
      (pp. 208-225)

      Extraparliamentary interest groups developed virtually in parallel with the political parties, and by 1914 they had in effect filled all nooks and crannies of the space ordinarily assigned to them in complex societies. This is why the great variety of these groups must be stressed from the start. The more colorful German society became under the impact of industrialization, urbanization, and increasing social differentiation, the more varied became its associational life. In the end there was hardly a human activity that an interested individual could not pursue with like-minded people in the context of an organization. A number of these...

    • 16. Structure and Functional Changes in the Executive Branch
      (pp. 225-243)

      Beyond the larger structural questions of the Prusso-German constitutional system concerning the relationship between monarchy and parliamentarism, as well as the development of both the Bismarckian and the Wilhelmine models of “personal rule,”83there is the issue of how the executive organs interacted with one another and how the lines of daily communication operated from top to bottom, all the way to the local communities, and from the bottom up.

      As regards the higher Reich administration, the Bismarckian period was marked above all by a tendency to centralize bureaucratic activity. The innumerable bills that had been ratified after the German...

    • 17. The Evolution of Domestic Politics, 1871–1914
      (pp. 244-254)

      After the swift victory over the French in 1870 and the official founding of the German Empire in the following spring, Wilhelm I, his government, and the political forces that had unified Germany were faced with a major task of nation-building and of consolidating a highly dynamic process that had begun ten years earlier and that was by no means completed in 1871. Historians once debated whether the country was united by “blood and iron” or by “coal and steel.” In the end, it was both Bismarck’s wars and rapid industrial and demographic change during the 1860s that had produced...

    • 18. Foreign Policy
      (pp. 254-263)

      As the discussion of domestic politics has shown, the first task after 1871 was to consolidate the founding of the German constitutional system and to complete the nation-building process. In the face of this task, the responsible politicians had a vital interest in avoiding major foreign crises, and this is what Bismarck’s diplomacy was initially geared to.

      The first major international challenge with which the new German Empire and Bismarck as its prime political strategist were confronted in 1871 was the question of peacemaking with a defeated France and of integrating the new power in the heart of Europe into...

  9. Part V: World War I

    • 19. The July Crisis of 1914
      (pp. 264-273)

      On the afternoon of 1 August 1914, the German ultimatum to Russia to revoke the Tsarist mobilization order of the previous day had expired. Wilhelm II telephoned Moltke, Bethmann Hollweg, Tirpitz, and Prussian War Minister Erich von Falkenhayn to come without delay to the Imperial Palace to witness the Kaiser’s signing of the German mobilization order that was to activate the Schlieffen Plan and the German invasion of Luxemburg, Belgium, and France. It was a decision that made a world war inevitable.

      The meeting took place at five PM. When the monarch had signed the fateful document, he shook Falkenhayn’s...

    • 20. Strategy, Diplomacy, and War Aims As Seen “From Above”
      (pp. 273-285)

      World War I had been unleashed by a small circle of decision makers, based primarily in Berlin and Vienna. After mismanaging the Sarajevo Crisis, they had determined that there was only one way forward, that is, to go for an allout confrontation with Britain, France, and Russia. To be sure, they werehopingto win this conflict, although it seems that at least for Moltke victory was never certain and that the invasion of Luxemburg, Belgium, and France was no more than an opening gambit of which he did not know where it would end.34

      This section of Part V...

    • 21. The World War As Experienced “From Below”
      (pp. 285-291)

      While diplomats negotiated with neutrals and allies, bureaucrats, businessmen, and agrarians struggled to organize a total war economy. Professors and journalists sat in their studies to scribble patriotic pamphlets and poems. And while generals prepared the next all-out attack on the enemy lines, millions of ordinary soldiers and civilians experienced the world war in a different way.

      Most of them had attended the massive rallies and demonstrations that had taken place in towns and villages when the mobilization orders were published. To reconstruct their thoughts and feelings, two factors will have to be taken into account. To begin with, they...

    • 22. Military Defeat and the Collapse of the Hohenzollern Monarchy
      (pp. 291-295)

      By early 1917 the predicament of theKaiserreichwas truly desolate. The war was going badly. The stalemate and the war of attrition on the western front continued, while casualty figures mounted and doubt about the meaning of the conflict spread in the trenches. The decision to resume unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic had brought the United States into the war on the side of the Allies. But once again the calculations that had been made concerning the benefits of sinking merchant ships without warning had proven wrong, as had so many other calculations made by the German military...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 296-300)

    I will now make a few concluding remarks at the end of what was conceived as a general textbook history of the German Empire from its founding in 1871 to its demise in 1918. No attempt is being made here to summarize individual chapters.

    Rather than providing the chronological narrative found in most other studies of this kind, my approach has been systematic, starting with economic developments, moving on to the structure and evolution of German society and culture, and ending with an analysis of the political system and the country’s foreign and domestic policies. Within those major parts, the...

  11. Appendix A: Statistical Tables
    (pp. 301-346)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 347-366)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 367-380)
  14. Index
    (pp. 381-388)