C O U R S E L E C T U R E
1914: Schizophrenic Germany
Notes taken on July 21, 2013 by Edward Tanguay
In 1914, Germany has two different personalities
if you were going to look at the empires whose fears and insecurities were at the root of what happened in 1914, you would also look at:
so why look at Germany in particular?
they controlled the strategic initiative for World War I
they were the country which was able to set the time, place and manner of the decision to risk general war in 1914
When you look at a map of the German Empire of 1914, it often just says "Germany". That's misleading.
it was actually a deeply split government
mainly it was the Kingdom of Prussia
but there were a number of other countries inside the German empire: the Kingdom of Bavaria, the Kingdom of Württemberg, the Grand Duchy of Baden, the Kingdom of Saxony, and a number of other states each ruled by kings, princes and dukes of their own. These various states have their own governments, are responsible for providing many of their own social services, and they also create and command their own smaller armies which are harmonized with standard equipment and uniforms into a larger imperial army.
On the top of this you have the Kaiser, who as the head of the German empire only really runs the army, navy and foreign affairs, but doesn't run the ordinary functions of government of the German Empire. However, he is also a king, the King of Prussia, so he is the head of a very large state that has all these services, a parliament, and all of the services of a government. When he wears his hat as the Kaiser of the German Empire, he answers to a parliament, the Reichstag, which basically doesn't have much control except over the Empire's budget, and specifically, how much money the Kaiser gets for his army and navy in his imperial role.
You also have politics in Germany that are deeply divided: the Kaiser is the representative of an aging and small nobility which feels alienated by much of the modern culture and modern political parties such as the national conservatives, liberals, democratic socialists, and radical socialists.
"not the guy you want by your side in a crunch"
grandson of Queen Victory in England but always resented his English mother
had a defect because of the circumstances of his birth which withered one of his arms and also made him anxious to prove his masculinity.
Crowned in 1888, he dismissed the Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, in 1890 and launched Germany on a bellicose "New Course" in foreign affairs that culminated in his support for Austria-Hungary in the crisis of July 1914 that led to World War I.
Bombastic and impetuous, he sometimes made tactless pronouncements on sensitive topics without consulting his ministers, culminating in a disastrous Daily Telegraph interview that cost him most of his power in 1908.
An ineffective war leader, he lost the support of the army, abdicated in November 1918, and fled to exile in the Netherlands.
Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (1856-1921)
prominent law scholar, president of Frederick William University in Berlin
took care of the day-to-day running of the government
was just a Prussian career civil servant, was not elected, "served at the whim of his crowned master"
The German Empire's situation
beginning to feel encircled
weakened by the revolutions of 1905 but recovering its military power and now has the most numerous army in Europe
still looking for revenge from its defeat in the Franco-Prussia war
feel hemmed in in their search for colonies
feel like they've become the most powerful country in Europe, but worried that their enemies will get stronger than they are
Edward Grey (1862-1933)
1905-1916: British Foreign Minister
trying to manage crises
trying to keep Britain out of a war
best remembered for his remark at the outbreak of the First World War: "The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time"
German National Election in 1912
SPD - social democratic socialists = 110 seats
PPP/NL - leftist and rightest liberals = 89 seats
Z (Zentrum) - Catholics = 91 seats
DKP/DRP - national conservatives = 57 seats
a very discouraging election result for the Kaiser
90% the German of the liberals, universities, business men, and the working class represented by a Marxist political party
10% Kaiser and followers
1912 election results are telling him that the country is not going in the direction in favor of him, his social class, or his kin