Wilhelmine Foreign Policy: 1890-1914

Here is the PowerPoint I prepared for the Wilhelmine Foreign Policy lecture. Each slide does have a rational even if it seems superficially random. Under each slide (presented as Jpegs), I gave a very brief synopsis of what I was thinking when I made the slide. It might be useful to look at your notes from the lecture and perhaps highlight, underline, or do whatever it is you do to stress the more important points which hopefully become clearer with the Powerpoint visual. With the revolving door Chancellery, incoherent military/strategic planning, and overall fickleness of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the most striking feature of Wilhelmine Foreign Policy is the overall lack of stability. You are a good group of students and I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.


Stamp w/ Chinese colony...shows pretensions of "World Politics"

British Cartoon of Wilhelm II...shows foreign reception of his bravado

The human side of Wilhelm II w/ relevant traits

Bismarck's (Pilot) dismissal...symbolizes Wilhelm's turn away from cautious European diplomacy towards a "New Course" in World Politics

Caprivi: Chancellor #1

Pro-Britain implicitly means anti-Russian. Russia turns to France. Bismarck's work undone is two years. I borrow "fateful" from a historian who believes this "encircling" alliance frightened the Germans into pursuing a more aggressive foreign policy

Hohenlohe: Chancellor #2...stark contrast w/ Bismarck’s towering presence as Chancellor

"World Politics" requires a navy.

Tirpitz, father of German navy. Check out that beard!

Trafalgar Square in London. Shows reverence & symbolism Britons have towards the British Royal Navy. Point: building battleships will create conflict with Britain. Yes that contradicts "New Course" but that's my point about Wilhelmine Foreign Policy - it is laden with contradictions

Tirpitz's rationale for intimidating Britain.

Britain not intimidated! They build battleships and seek allies (France!)

Bulow: Chancellor #3. He wants Germany to be the world "hammer".

Symbolic episode of how Bulow's "hammer" approach frightens the International community, even when Germany is in the right. That bottom point is super important, the British made an official military agreement with France. Bismarck rolling in his grave right now

Kaiser quoted in Major London Newspaper. Demonstrates his shortsightedness

Don't forget domestic politics pulling Germany! The failure of Bulow "the Hammer" to work with Left Liberals leads to his fall and rise of SPD

German political party distribution in Parliament. Note dramatic rise of SPD. How do you think German conservatives or anti-Revolutionary liberals will react?

Bethmann-Hollweg: Chancellor #4. Professional bureaucrat, not a leader

Bethmann's objectives. Politics of "diagonal" means to steer a wishy-washy course between political Left and Right (which both viewed Berlin as unrepresentative of their political wishes). Also, note the lack of coherency in German leadership as Tirpitz & Hollweg pursue incongruous aims

Zabern = 1913 incident that demonstrates how German military is beyond the reach of Civil Society

All light beige countries are hostile to Germany. Is Germany encircled bc/ geography or a pompous "World Politics" diplomacy?

Schlieffen plan = solution to two front military nightmare

Theory behind plan. Predicated on defeating France before Russians can march unopposed into Berlin

Very intricate. Depended on exact timing - no kidding, Paris was to be captured on the 42nd day!

Remember German geography. Potential problem, delay meant squished between France and Russia. Solution: if Russia mobilizes this means war. Is diplomacy possible?

Bismarck's fear of "Some damn thing in the Balkans" becomes a reality in 1914. Recall what I said about the German-Austrian alliance being the cornerstone of German Foreign Policy because it tied Germany to Austria's fate.

Germany's "blank check" to Austria assures the Austrians will not back down to Russia. When Russia mobilizes, the Germans declare war as per the Schlieffen plan and march through neutral Belgium to get to Paris

The real reason Britain intervened against Germany in WWI

Salient points about Wilhelm's foreign policy. Two comments. The Bismarckian Constitution did not impede the executive's freedom of action. This is a blessing when a genius is running the show. What happens when the genius is replaced by someone like Wilhelm? Also, just before WWI started, the Austrian Supreme Commander received conflicting signals from Berlin. Moltke (general) said "war," whereas Hollweg (Chancellor) said "peace". Points: Where is the Kaiser? Where is the coherency?

Guess who is in that crowd of Germans cheering, as all Europeans did in all capitals, the coming of war?