The German Empire 1871-1918 by Hans-Ulrich Wehler

By Hans-Ulrich Wehler

Within the wake of the Fischer Controversy at the origins of worldwide warfare I there emerged in West Germany a more youthful iteration of historians who took a severe 'revisionist' view of the Bismarckian Empire and started to investigate the political improvement of the Hohenzollern monarchy opposed to the heritage of the country's social and fiscal energy buildings. Professor Wehler grew to become the most favourite exponents of this strategy and his structural research of the 'Kaiserreich' created a substantial stir whilst it was once first released. It has on account that, with its incisive and rigorous research, develop into a vintage within the box.

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Formal sovereignty was vested in the Federal Council (Bundesrat) on which the varíous States were represented. At the same time, this formed a 52 53 part of the legislature, its delegates being appointed by the executives of the member States. Prussia’s special position in this scheme was recognised both in law and in fact. In the words of Arthur Rosenberg, the Federal Council merely acted as ‘the constitutional fig-leaf of Prussian rule over the Empire’. 1 Symbolically, however, the Germán Emperor carne to be increasingly regarded, especially in the popular consciousness, as the actual sovereign of the Germán Empire.

The Imperial Chancellor, in particular, represented the ful! weight of this Prussian ‘Empire State’ by virtue of his dual role as Prussian Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs. This powerful combination of offices created an extremely important key position; either of whose props could be given up only at the risk of a considerable erosión of power. Beside the monarch, the Federal Council, and the Imperial Chan­ cellor, the parliament (Reichstag) with its 400 deputies electéd by direct and secret male suffirage counted as the fourth power factor.

He needed only ‘a majority ofeunuchs’ in the Reichstag ‘who would not be allowed to open their mouths’. Foreign observers like the English ambassador, Lord Ampthill, spoke in equally clear terms of a ‘Germán dictator whose power is at its height’. The American minister John A. Kasson, spoke of ‘an effectively all-powerful dictator’ whose ‘prestige at present is without parallel in European history’. 10 As if further proof was required even Kaiser Wilhelm I confessed: ‘It isn’t easy to be an emperor under a chancellor like this one’.

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