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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Tyler

German History Part 6: Bismarck and the 'New Germany'

Bismarck, in most people's minds, conjures up a picture of a militarist who brought about German Unification in 1871. Yet, that is only part of the story of this extraordinary man. In home affairs, first in Prussia and then in Germany, he proved to be a reformer and a pioneer.

On The Home Front he led reforms in education, in agriculture, in industry, in social welfare, and in national infra-structure projects, such as railways, as well as much else. There was in the 1880s also an excursion into Empire building in the European 'Scramble for Africa'.

But, questions remain:-

Was Bismarck anti-Semitic, laying the groundwork for The Third Reich?

Was he anti-Catholic?

Did he create a genuinely democratic State or did it at its heart remain autocratic?

Was he a genuine liberal or a closet conservative?

As ever with German history we tend to look for things that presage the rise of Nazism. Nietzsche, of whom Hitler was a fan, attempted to define this new German Nation, created by Bismarck.

At he age of 75, Bismarck's remarkable career ended abruptly with his dismissal by Kaiser Wilhelm I's grandson, the unbalanced Wilhelm II, in 1890.

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