The Course of German History: A Survey of the Development of German History since 1815

By A. J. P. Taylor | Go to book overview
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7

BISMARCKIAN GERMANY: THE ASCENDANCY OF PRUSSIA, 1871-90

The Reich which Bismarck established in 1871 is often spoken of as a compromise. But this is the wrong term. Compromise implies a mutual acceptance of the claims of opponents, an agreement to give way in the last resort. British history has been made by a series of true compromises. The landed classes compromised with the merchants at the beginning of the eighteenth century; this coalition compromised with the industrial capitalists in the time of Peel; and Peel's coalition has compromised with the industrial workers in our own day. Since the days of Cromwell there has never been in England a class or a party determined to force through its extreme claims, whatever the cost; the terrible exception was in the early months of 1914. No such compromise took place in Germany. The Bismarckian Reich was a dictatorship imposed on the conflicting forces, not an agreement between them. The parties did not compromise; they were manipulated by Bismarck - pushed down when they threatened to become strong, helped up when they appeared weak. Bismarck stood at the centre of a multiple seesaw, tilting it now this way, now that in order to keep his artificial creation

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