Bismarck and German Empire: 1871-1918, 2nd edition by L. Abrams

By L. Abrams

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Thereafter the period up to the outbreak of war was characterized by economic expansion, sometimes described as a second industrial revolution, particularly in new sectors of industry such as chemicals and electrical engineering. In the mid-nineteenth century the economy of the German lands was still predominantly agrarian. In 1852 the majority of the labour force, around 55 per cent, worked on the land; in some areas, like Posen in the east, the figure was closer to 75 per cent. By unification the German economy was still dominated by agriculture and craft production but the beginnings of a shift from agriculture to industry were now evident.

In 1879 Bismarck broke free from his dependence on the National Liberals after the 1878 elections which established a Bismarck-friendly coalition consisting of Conservatives, Free Conservatives, the Catholic Centre Party and a section of the National Liberals who supported tariffs. This enabled Bismarck to introduce protectionism and therefore placate the agrarian and industrial interests. Thus began the shift away from liberalism, presaging a 16 period of conservatism which continued throughout the 1880s.

The Catholic Church was regarded as a dangerous independent authority, capable of mobilizing the Catholic population against the state and of stirring up nationalist passions among Polish Catholics on Germany’s eastern border. Second, the Kulturkampf had a pragmatic political dimension. Bismarck was reliant upon the National Liberal Party for support in the Reichstag. Despite classic liberal principles such as freedom of the individual the liberals supported the Kulturkampf by arguing that the regressive influence of the Catholic Church had to be dismantled if the German people were to be emancipated as individuals.

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