The Age of Mass Politics: 1871-1914 Main Theme: The national state created a common framework in European politics. Political parties dominated politics. Increased suffrage and literacy in western and central European countries during the late-nineteenth century resulted in higher expectations and demands among the people for
government to be responsive to their needs.
I. The Age of Mass Politics (overview)
A. Ordinary people felt increasing loyalty to their
B. By 1914 universal male suffrage was the rule (female suffrage emerged after WWI)
C. Politicians and parties in national parliaments
represented the people more responsibly as increased
D. The welfare state emerged, first in Germany, then in Britain, France and other countries
E. Increased literacy: governments came to believe public education was important to provide society with well informed and responsible citizens.
F. Governments were often led by conservatives who
manipulated nationalism to create a sense of unity and
divert attention away from underlying class conflicts
Frequently channeled national sentiment in an antliberal and militaristic direction after 1871
II. The German Empire: 1871-1914
A. Government structure
1. Consisted of a federal union of Prussia and 24 smaller German states.
2. Kaiser Wilhelm I (r. 1871-1888) had the ultimate power in Germany
3. Otto von Bismarck (1810-1898) served as the
chancellor and was the mastermind behind the
4. A bicameral legislature was established: Reichstag
a. Bundestag was the lower body which
represented the nation (the Volk).
b. Bundesrat was the conservative upper body which represented the various German states (länder)
5. German political system was multi-party
a. Conservatives represented the Junkers of Prussia
b. Center Party (Catholic Party) approved
Bismarck’s policy of centralization and promoted the political concept of Particularism which advocated regional priorities
c. The Social Democratic Party (S.P.D.) was Marxist and advocated sweeping social change
d. The German middle class was largely left out of politics during this era.
Fearing the growing influence of the S.P.D., the middle class for the most part gave tacit support to imperial authority and noble influence.
e. Bismarck saw the Catholic Center Party and the S.P.D. as major threats to imperial power and he set about to destroy them, albeit unsuccessfully.
B. Germany under Chancellor Bismarck
1. Between 1871 and 1890 Bismarck established an integrated political and economic structure for
Germany (while dominating European diplomacy)
a. Unified the monetary system
b. Established an Imperial Bank while strengthening existing banks
c. Developed universal German civil & criminal codes
d. Established compulsory military service.
2. Kulturkampf (“struggle for civilization”)
a. Bismarck sought to limit the influence of the Catholic Center Party in light of Pope Pius IX's declaration in 1870 of papal infallibility
b. Most of the German states in the north were Protestant
c. The Catholic Party was particularly strong in the southern German states
The Catholic Center Party proved too popular among many Germans to be driven underground
Bismarck ultimately failed to suppress the Catholic Center Party
3. Social Democratic Party (S.P.D.): Marxist views
a. Advocated sweeping social legislation
b. Sought universal suffrage and genuine democracy
c. Sought demilitarization of the German gov’t.
d. Bismarck was unsuccessful in limiting its growth (despite its being driven underground)
4. Bismarck instituted a set of sweeping reforms in order to minimize the threat from the left (socialists)
a. 1879, a protective tariff was instituted to maintain domestic production
b. Modern social security laws established (Germany was the first state to do so)
National sickness and accident insurance laws passed in 1883 & 1884.
Old-age pensions and retirement benefits established in 1889
c. Child labor was regulated
d. Improved working conditions
5. Despite better standard of living, workers did not leave the S.P.D.
Yet, by gaining support from the workers,
Bismarck successfully bypassed the middle class
6. William II (r. 1888-1918)
a. Opposed Bismarck's move to renew efforts to outlaw the S.P.D.
b. To gain support of workers, he forced Bismarck to resign.
c. By 1912, the S.P.D. became the largest party in the Reichstag
b. Yet, lords controlled the Zemstvos and had more
power than the towns and peasant villages
6. Other reforms
a. Judiciary improved
b. Censorship relaxed (but not removed)
c. Education liberalized
7. Industrialization in Russia was stimulated by railroad
a. Russia had fallen behind major industrialized
nations in Western & Central Europe
b. Russia needed better railroads, better armaments and reorganization of the army
c. Between 1860 and 1880 railroad mileage grew
from 1,250 to 15,500
d. Railroads enabled Russia to export grain and earn profits for further industrialization
e. Stimulated domestic manufacturing: industrial
suburbs grew up around Moscow and St.
Petersburg, and a class of modern factory workers
began to emerge
f. Strengthened Russia’s military giving rise to
territorial expansion to the south and east
8. Critics of Alexander II late in his reign
a. Alexander increasingly turned to more traditional
(conservative) values (realism in Russia replaced
b. Radical populist movement emerged that sought a utopian agrarian order
c. Intelligensia: hostile group of intellectuals who
believed they should eventually take over society
d. nihilism: intellectuals who believed in nothing but science and that the social order should be
completely wiped out and built up from scratch.
9. Alexander II assassinated in 1881 by radicals who
bombed his carriage in St. Petersburg
C. Count S. Y. Witte oversaw Russian industrialization in
1. Aggressively courted western capital & advanced
technology to build great factories
2. Resulted in rise of a small Russian middle-class
3. Gov’t built state-owned railroads doubled to 35,000
miles by 1900
Construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway helped
to modernize Russia; connected Moscow with
4. Russia put on the gold standard to strengthen the
5. By 1900, Russia 4th in steel production (behind U.S.,
Germany & Britain)
6. By 1900, Russia exported half the world's refined
7. As in western Europe, industrialization in Russia contributed to the spread of Marxist thought and the transformation of the Russian revolutionary movement after 1890 (as industrial workers felt exploited)