Tag Archives: Weltpolitik

Dropping the pilot

Why did Otto von Bismarck resign in 1890?

On the 20th March 1890, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany formally accepted Otto von Bismarck’s resignation. His resignation had been demanded by the Kaiser a few days earlier and was submitted on the 18th. Bismarck’s exit from office two days later ended his decades-long domination of German and European politics, and ushered in the new age of Weltpolitik.

As Minister President and Foreign Minister of Prussia, Bismarck had overseen the unification of Germany in 1871. He then continued as Chancellor of Germany for almost two decades, throughout which Germany dominated European politics, and controlled the balance of power to ensure peace.

However the death of Kaiser Wilhelm I, which was quickly and unexpectedly followed by his son Frederick III, led to the young and relatively inexperienced Wilhelm taking the throne. Rather than allow his Chancellor to govern as he had done for the previous few decades, Wilhelm preferred to rule as well as reign which led to confrontations between the two men in the tussle for control.

The situation came to a head in early 1890, when they disagreed over social policy. While Bismarck was keen to introduce permanent anti-socialist laws, Wilhelm preferred to be more moderate. The stark difference in their positions became most obvious when Bismarck said he sought a violent confrontation in order to suppress the socialists. Wilhelm later took offence at Bismarck negotiating a new political alliance without his knowledge.

With their relationship in tatters, Wilhelm insisted that the 75 year old Bismarck submit his resignation. He was succeeded by Leo von Caprivi, and dedicated the rest of his life to writing his memoirs.

The breakdown of the International System from 1890

In this revision podcast we see how the ascension of Wilhelm II to the throne of Germany in 1890 led to the breakdown of the Alliance System created by Bismarck.  It explores how a number of factors led to increased European tensions through reference to key issues including Weltpolitik, the arms race, and nationalism.  These factors are assessed in order to explain the changing relationships between the European powers during the period.

          

  • /
Update Required
To play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin.