Periods of 1815-1854 and 1871-1914 were peaceful. They were for different reasons. Firstly a real settlement for peace, and secondly an enforced peace because all nations had heaps of arms and there was a feeling of imminent danger. Similar to MAD policy.
Germany beat Britian and France in industrial growth after 1871, eg. Germany 3: Britain 2: France 1. The German State embarked upon an extensive education program; it specialised in technical ares and so there was a greater push in that direction. It produced more and better scientists, and so Germany began her industrial advance. Also, the French threat, even if it was superficial, spurred the Germans in authority into action, and made them make Germany stronger and superior.
German expansion was also helped by the expansion of the railway network, so that goods and mail could get from one place to another, and to more places, faster and more efficiently.
German industrialists were nationalists and so they supported WWI, but it is unlikely they would have ititiated it. However, the industrialists strengthened the army's position and made it into a political and social institution.
German Empire Constitution based mainly on the North German one of 1867. 25 states, largest Prussia, king of which became German Emperor. Local royalty retained some authority on internal issues in their own states. The Legislature : two chambers; the Bundesrat - each state consisted of a number of members relational to it's size, and each member appointed by the princes of the states, and the Reichstag - elected by total male population. Appears to be democracy, but internally was a dictatorship. The Reichstag could pass laws, but not initiate them. Most restraining power - to approve of financial expenditure beforehand.
Bismark (the Chancellor) manipulated the government. He dissolved it if it disagreed with him, and he controlled or influenced almost every political party that existed. He also played state against state to get his way; he made them fight or disagree. This tradition continued after Bismarck was fired in 1890, when Kaiser William II took over. William added to confusion - he decided to make Germany the most dominant power in the world. Kaiser told everybody in the nation that Germany would only become strong if it followed a strong monarchy, and because Germans were traditionally a people that respected authority, they followed this monarchy. To add to this, the Chancellor believed the army was the way to enforce law and order, and so Germany almost became a military nation.
Probably the greatest support of the autocracy was Junkerism - they were the ultra-conservatives, they monopolised the army, navy, and all the top administrative positions; they ruled Prussia, and Prussia ruled Germany. Also, another factor that encouraged autocracy was the inability of the opposing political parties to form a coalition, or at least decide on the same policies of reform. This mainly because they were all locally patriotic and all had their own separate beliefs. The working calles did not merge with the middle class because they thought all the benefit would go to the middle class, and the middle class did not merge with the working class because they feared a socialistic revolution.
The southern German states were strongly Roman Catholic, and this religion exerted enormous power over the State. It expressed itself in a political party called the Centre, and devoted its entire concern to those of the Church. By 1874 this party had caused a number of serious problems for Bismarck, and held 100 seats in the Reichstag. They supported Papal Infallibility and they supported anything that benefited the Church and opposed the State.
Bismarck capitalised on a rift in the Church; between the supporters and non-supporters of Papal infallibility, and in 1872 he cut diplomatic relations with the Vatican. He also fired all Catholic priests, removed educational interests from Catholic hands, and made sure that all Catholic Officials were German citizens.
Bismarck had several areas of support - the Lutherans (do anything to get at Catholics), and thje Progressives (middle-class radical liberal intellectuals who disagreed with some of the Pope's directives). The policies caused great upheaval. The Pope condemned them, .3 of the priests submitted to the demands, and withina year six bishops were jailed and 1300 parishes closed. But the party still gained strength and following, and in 1886 he restored diplomatic relations with the Vatican and allowed all religious orders, except for the Jesuits, to enter the country. At the same time he also suspended the May Laws (those about education etc.).
Bismarck was very against socialism. To combat its growing popularity, he passed a law in 1878 that prohibited all societies, meetings and publications which pushed socialism. This lasted until 1890, where upon 1400 publications suppressed, 900 people deported and 1500 jailed. Bismarck saw that supression was not enough, because their populatity was still rising, and so he granted sickness insurance (1883), accvident insurance (1884), and old age pensions (1889) to the working class. Paid for by employers mostly, State some. Measures not totally successful.
It grew in popularity right up to WWI, when suddenly there was an about-face and the Socialists came up in favour of the German war machine. After the war, there was nothing of significance, but it has been debated among historians ever since that if the Socialists had not supported the war and decided on a mass strike instead (as they were going to do) then the country would have experienced the desired Socialist revolution.
Economic growth beaten only by U.S.A. Reasons - railways (demands for rails, engines, carriages & coal); marine industry; men capable to take advantage of the growth. eg. between 1870 and 1890 coal production jumped from 29 mil. tonnes to 151 mil. tonnes, while in 1913 87 mil. tonnes of lignite produced, compared to 8 mil. tonnes in 1871. Also needed banks to keep industry going; major banks grew up (Reichsbank, Darmstaedter Bank).
Another factor for growth; population. Between 1871 and 1910 the popuation increased 50%.
Commercial growth too. Electrical, chemical, textiles. Commercial policy give a hand up when in 1879 Bismarck introduced protection of industries. Several reasons for this. State now had independent source of revenue; rather than the states; it now had the commercial sector. Tariffs for protection were free from control by the Reichstag, and what control they did have (to vote on the amount of the tax) only occured once every several years.
German culture was alive; many excellent philosophers, physicists, theologists, composers, psychologists. Germany also became more urbanised; in 1914 Berlin had 2 mil. people in it, one of the larget cities in the world.
Bismarck saw that France was a major threat to Germany's security, and so he started isolating it from the rest of the world. Firstly, he formed a pact with Austria and Russia to 'keep each other informed'.
1878 - Germany & Austria formed a treaty - if either Germany of Austria wer attacked by Russia, each would assist the other witth allthe forces; and if attacked by another power the other country in the pact would remain neutral unless the power had Russian support. So Biskmarck abandoned Russia in favour of a Austro-German alliance.
To protect Germany against Russian indignation, Bismarck expanded the Dual Alliance (Germany and Austria) to a Triple Alliance, which included Italy. This treaty stated that if Italy or Germany were attacked by France without provocation both would fight; if any one or two of the three were attacked by two or more of the major powers then all three would fight. Renewed 1887, and added to : neither Austria or Italy should attempt to expand into the Balkans any further without prior notification, and if they did then the other two countries must have compensation.
Russia reacted well to 1878 treaty, and attempted to make friends again. Another treaty was formed; if any one of them became involved witha fourth power, all the others were to remain neutral. Russia withdrew from the treaty when Bismarck refused to help in a squabble between Bulgaria and Russia. At the same time France was in a social upheaval and Bismarck was worried. He decided to offer Russia a new treaty; - reinsurace. Guaranteed Russia most importance in Bugaria and support for Russian occupation of Constantinople. In return Russia remains neutral if France attacks Germany.
New King of Bulgaria elected - opposed Russian occupation. Russia sought help; Germany denied and so Russia quit Germany and made friends with France.
Bismarck originally disagreed with colonialism; but by 1884 - protectorate over all of SW Africa; annexed Kamerun & Togoland, got German New Guinea. Without fleets of soldiers.
Many believe that Bismarck made peace in 1900's, but legacy of this is 20th century. Others - tried to acieve a permanent balance of power between European nations.
Major factor to WWI - resignation of Bismarck because of differences between him and Kaiser.
Kaiser wanted to colonize Near & Middle East. Best plan - most crops, more labour, etc. Rail line from Baghdad to Berlin (commenced 1888).
Increased world presence and rapid industrialisation taken to be attempt at world domination by bothe France & Britain; wrong - needed to stay alive economically. BUT: government had no co-ordinated foreign policy; and so it bent to each whim of all pushers. So it was uncontrolled, and eventually led to WWI. Mainly - long term goals of industrialists and financiers; military freaks and patriots; superior-race theory supporters, and cracked academics supporting Germany as new world captain and denouncing and challenging Britain and cultural and economic leader.
Kaiser had chance to make permanent firnds with Britain; Britain sought German diplomatic understanding, and both countries worried about France & Russia. Queen Victoria Kaiser's grandmother. But squandered because Kaiser congratulated Kruger, and he also ridiculed England several times. Britain became friendly with France instead, and so Bismarck's plan was thwarted.
France seemed to isolate Germany; persuaded Italy that Triple Alliance was not relevant to France, and so Italy signed Neutrality Treaty Agreement - Italy was to remian neutral in any war with France involved. Germany realised the 'encirclement', and so retaliated.
Kaiser held other nations in contempt; he thought that Germany held pride of place in Europe. Russia lost war with Japan; Kaiser lost respect for Russia, and so began war machine rolling.
Morroccan Crisis - brought trouble to a head; Germany brought out a warship, and from then on built up steadily navy. Eventually Russia became friends with England, and two power blocs emerge. These are: France, England, and Russia; Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy and Turkey.
So after 1890 the Kaiser abandoned Bismarck's policies, and eventually the very alliance which Bismarck had feared, the one between France, Britain, and Russia, came about. The Kaiser lacked Bismarck's tact and strength.
From 1871 to 1914, Germany grew in industrial strength until it was the strongest.
Germany believed that France was out to get her, but this was not the case. So France felt threatened because Germany did, and so it tried to attact allies. These can in the form of Russia and Britain.
The Kaiser was tactless and too ambitious and so held other nations that could not be dismissed lightly in contempt.
Germany had been the pioneer in most forms of social legislation, while her scholarship was, in a number of fields, unequalled.
Germany was supposed to have developed democratically, but it was still autocratic at the start of WWI. Also, by 1914 the army was playing a huge part in German politics.