Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Seminar Two (Week 5) - Liberals, Catholics, Socialists: Enemies Within?

In 1867 universal male suffrage was introduced in the North German Confederation, which became the voting system for the Reichstag in 1871. (Only in 1919 did German women receive the right to vote.) Few other states had gone this far in extending the franchise. Napoleon III in France had experimented with a form of plebiscitary 'Bonapartist' politics, relying on a conservative peasantry for a right-wing vote. The two-tier parliamentary system in Germany could also rely on special voting restrictions for the Landtage, such as the Prussian three-class franchise, to bolster the wealthy classes. But you should think also about how the nature of politics changed with the altering demographics of industrialisation. Constituencies were not redrawn to take account of large working-class populations. Newcomer parties such as the Centre Party, which represented Catholics, had to rely on a whole infrastructure of church organisations and trade unions to consolidate their electoral clientele. The Centre Party appears to have been at the heart of Bismarck's objections to political Catholicism, which, by rallying ethnic minorities such as the Poles, Alsatians and Danes, threatened to become a centre for the Reich 'periphery'. Was the persecution of the Catholics in the 1870s under the so-called 'Kulturkampf' (loosely, 'battle of the cultures') part of the young Reich's state-building? Did the liberals who were its most ardent supporters have other The SPD, despite being banned as a membership party, could still stand as a parliamentary party, and modernised its approach to politics. Gone were the gentlemanly clubs which came together only at election time: the SPD pioneered the professional election machine, and other parties had to adapt.

  • Why did a conservative like Bismarck take the progressive step of granting universal male suffrage?
  • Who were the winners and losers in the Kulturkampf?
  • Did the Social Democrats represent the true interests of most workers by 1914?
Background Reading

V. Berghahn Imperial Germany, 1871-1914, part II, esp. chs. 7-9 & 15, parts IV & V
D. Blackbourn The Fontana History of Germany: The Long Nineteenth Century, chs. 4-6
W. Carr A History of Germany, chs. 5-6

Revisionism in German Social Democracy

Bismarck

L. Gall Bismarck: The White Revolutionary
T. Hamerow (ed.) The Age of Bismarck
W.M. Simon (ed.) Germany in the Age of Bismarck

Electoral Politics

H. Best ‘Elite Structure and Regime (Dis)continuity in Germany 1867-1933: The Case of Parliamentary Leadership Groups’, Ger Hist 1990, 1-27
T. Hamerow ‘The Origins of Mass Politics in Germany 1866-1867’, in I. Geiss/B.-J. Wendt (eds.), Deutschland in der Weltpolitik des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts, 105-20
A. Mitchell ‘Bonapartism as a Model of Bismarckian Politics’, JMH 1977, 181-209
J.J. Sheehan ‘Political Leadership in the German Reichstag, 1871-1918’, Amer Hist Rev 1968, 511-28

Liberalism

K.D. Barkin ‘1878-1879: the Second Founding of the Reich, a Perspective’, Ger Studies Rev 1987, 219-35
J.F. Flynn ‘At the Threshold of Dissolution: the National Liberals and Bismarck 1877/8’, Hist Jnl 1988, 319-40
K. Jarausch/J In Search of a Liberal Germany
A. Kahan ‘The Victory of German Liberalism? Rudolf Haym, Liberalism, and Bismarck’, Cent Euro Hist 1989, 57-88
D Langewiesche ‘The Nature of German Liberalism’, in G. Martel (ed.), Modern Germany Reconsidered
J.J. Sheehan German History, 1770-1866
________* German Liberalism in the Nineteenth Century

Catholicism

D. Blackbourn The Centre Party in Württemberg before 1914
________ Populists and Patricians, chs. 7 & 10
________ The Marpingen Visions
N. Cary The Path to Christian Democracy: German Catholics and the Party System
E. Evans The German Center Party 1870-1933
I. Farr ‘From Anti-Catholicism to Anticlericalism: Catholic Politics and the Peasantry in Bavaria, 1860-1900’, Euro Studies Rev 1983, 249-69
M.B. Gross, 'Kulturkampf and Unification: German Liberalism and the War against the Jesuits', Central European History 1997, 545-66
M. John, 'Liberalism and Society in Germany, 1850-1880: The Case of Hanover', English Historical Review 1987, 579-98
J. Sperber Popular Catholicism in 19th-Century Germany
________ ‘The Shaping of Political Catholicism in the Ruhr Basin, 1848-81’, Cent Euro Hist 1983

The SPD

S. Berger The British Labour Party and the German Social Democrats
W.K. Blessing ‘The Cult of Monarchy, Political Loyalty and the Workers’ Movement in Imperial Germany’, JCH 1978
J. Breuilly ‘Liberalism or Social Democracy: A Comparison of British and German Labour Politics, c. 1850-75’, Euro Hist Qtly 1985, 3-42
G. Eley ‘Joining Two Histories: the SPD and the German Working-class, 1860-1914’, in ibid., From Unification to Nazism
D. Geary* ‘The German Labour Movement 1848-1919’, Euro Stud Rev 1976
________ (ed) Labour & Socialist Movements in Europe before 1914, ch. 3
________ ‘Radicalism and the Worker: Metalworkers and Revolution 1914-23’, in R.J. Evans/ibid. (eds.), Society and Politics in Wilhelmine Germany
H. Grebing The History of the German Labour Movement
D. Groh ‘The "Unpatriotic Socialists" and the State’, JCH 1966
W. Guttsman The German Social Democratic Party 1875-1933
A. Hall ‘The War of Words: Anti-Socialist Offensives and Counter-Propaganda in Wilhemine Germany, 1890-1914’, JCH 1977
S.H.F. Hickey Workers in Imperial Germany: The Miners of the Ruhr
J. Kulczycki The Foreign Worker and the German Labour Movement: Xenophobia and Solidarity
V. Lidtke The Alternative Culture: Socialist Labour in Imperial Germany
________ The Outlawed Party
J.A. Moses Trade Unionism in Germany from Bismarck to Hitler
J.P. Nettl ‘The SPD 1890-1914 as a Political Model’, Past & Present 1965
M. Nolan Social Democracy and Society: Working-class Radicalism in Düsseldorf, 1890-1920
G. Roth Social Democrats in Imperial Germany
S. Tegel ‘Reformist Social Democrats, the Mass Strike and the Prussian Suffrage 1913’, Euro Hist Qtly 1987

Workers

L. Abrams* Workers’ Culture in Imperial Germany
F. Brüggemeier ‘Lodgers, Schnapps-Casinos and Working-Class Colonies in a Heavy-Industrial Region’, in G. Iggers (ed.), The Social History of Politics
R.J. Evans The German Underworld: Deviants and Outcasts in German History
________ (ed.)The German Working Class 1888-1933
________ Rethinking German History, chs. 6 & 8
I. Katznelson Working-class Formation: Nineteenth-Century Patterns in Western Europe and the United States, pt. 3
G.A. Ritter ‘Workers’ Culture in Imperial Germany: Problems and Points of Departure for Research’, JCH 1978
J.S. Roberts Drink, Temperance and the Working Class in Nineteenth-Century Germany