THE UNIFICATION OF GERMANY: ACCEPTED PROGRESS OR UNWELCOME CHANGE?
While the unification of Germany in 1871 resulted in many positive changes in the country, not all members of German society were eager to embrace them. Rich landowners, capitalists and political leaders were vehemently opposed the industrial, political and social changes that threatened their status and privilege in society. With rapid industrialization and increased job availability, the working class began demanding more political and social equality.
According to Brown (n.d.), one of the biggest changes to take place after the Unification of Germany in 1871 was “rapid industrial growth.” Prior to that time, “two thirds of the population lived in rural villages” and made a living by farming the land. The rest of the population was made up of skilled artisans with “small, often family-owned businesses” (Brown, n.d.). However, after the Unification, these businesses were threatened … and eventually eliminated … by the rise of industrial factories that were able to produce “cheaper goods at a rate far beyond that which the artisan could produce by hand” (Brown, n.d.).
There were also many social and political changes taking place during that time. According to Bloy (2013), Germany’s population “expanded rapidly, growing from 41 million in 1871 to 50 million by 1891.” As a result, a large working middle class developed. Many of these individuals opposed Germany’s “obsolete social structure” (Butler, 2007) where rich landowners made a profit at “the expense of a downtrodden working class” (Butler, 2007). This defiance helped contribute “to the growth of socialism” (Bloy, 2013) as well as the establishment of the Social Democratic Party in 1869.
While the industrial, political and social changes that followed the Unification of Germany may have helped to improve the lives of ordinary German citizens, it did not erase all opposition or make the country truly unified. Groups who were politically and socially in charge prior to 1871 were determined to stay in control. This left many citizens, especially the working middle class, looking for a solution that would help make everyone politically and socially equal.
Bloy, D. (2013, November 11). European History. Retrieved May 23, 2016, from http://www.historyhome.co.uk/europe/bisdom.htm
Butler, C. (2007). The Flow of History. Retrieved May 23, 2016, from http://www.flowofhistory.com/units/eme/18/FC121
Brown, D. (n.d.). Paper 3: Germany, 1871-1990: United, Divided and Reunited (R. Rees, Ed.). Retrieved May 23, 2016, from https://www.pearsonschoolsandfecolleges.co.uk/Secondary/History/16plus/EdexcelALevelHistory2015/Samples/A-Level-History-Sample-Chapter/Paper-3-Germany,-1871-1990-united,-divided-and-reunited.pdf.