Politics and Culture in Wilhelmine Germany: The Case of Industrial Architecture

By Matthew Jefferies | Go to book overview

1
The Rise and Fall of Historicist Industrial Architecture in Germany

As Londoners queued to marvel at the proud products of modern manufacturing on display in the ethereal atmosphere of Paxton's great glass and iron Crystal Palace, the German Commissioners to the 1851 Great Exhibition noted with resignation: 'It is clearly not to be expected that Germany will ever be able to reach the level of production of coal and iron currently attained in England. This is implicit in our far more limited resource endowment.'1.

By the end of the century, however, Germany had not only overtaken Great Britain in the production of pig iron and steel, but was also competing favourably with British manufactured goods in the markets of the world. The German Reich, only unified in 1871, was well on the way to becoming a modern industrial economy, with an increasing proportion of its workforce engaged in industry, mining, and after 1900, in the service sector too.2. The spectacular industrial advance was most visible around Berlin and in the Ruhr, transformed in the space of a few decades from an insignificant backwater into the heart of Europe's greatest industrial region, but scattered pockets of industry had actually been developing in parts of the Rhineland, Saxony and elsewhere since the late eighteenth century. Germany's first factory, the Cromford cotton mill designed by Rutger Flügel for Johann Brügelmann at Ratingen, was built as early as 1784.

The mid- nineteenth century discovery of large deposits of deep-lying bituminous coal in the Ruhr valley was, nevertheless, a decisive stimulus to German industrialisation. As well as providing a vital source of energy, the coal produced a coke ideally suited for blast furnaces, and iron ore was to be found in some of the measures too. The seams were hard to reach, lying beneath large wet marl deposits, but once they had been tapped coal

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1.
Quoted by D. Landes in The Unbound Prometheus, Cambridge, 1969, p.178.
2.
In 1875 49% of Germans worked in the primary sector (agriculture, forestry, fishing), 30% in the secondary sector (industry, mining) and 21 % in the tertiary sector (services, transport, banking etc.). In 1900 these figures were 38%-37%-25% and by 1914 they were 34%-38%-28%. Figures from F.-W. Henning, Die Industrialisierung in Deutschland 1800- 1914. Paderborn, 1984, p.20.

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