On March 29, 1890, Bismarck’s train left the Lehrter station in Berlin to deliver him into retirement on his estate in Friedrichsruh (IM47). That leave-taking provided Germans with an opportunity to look back over twenty-five years of unprecedented change and achievement in economic, social, and cultural realms. But in the process of forging and fortifying the empire, Germans had also diminished themselves. They did so by increasing the cleavages of wealth and rank, attacking the rights of minority groups, driving a wedge between the working classes and the rest of society, compromising the prerogatives of parliament, and following the lead of an increasingly out-of-touch statesman. These activities and attitudes encumbered later German history in ways that placed barriers in the path of parliamentarization, democratization, and the tolerance of diversity. This interpretation of Bismarckian Germany and its legacy has been downplayed or challenged in most history books published in the past twenty years. However, it is appropriate that a new history – presented on the Internet through plain-speaking documents and revealing images – should be just as open to multiple readings and critical reflection as the histories we read on the printed page.
Further Reading: Politics II: Parties and Political Mobilization
Margaret Lavinia Anderson, Practicing Democracy: Elections and Political Culture in Imperial Germany, Princeton, 2000.
Margaret Lavinia Anderson, Windthorst: A Political Biography, Oxford and New York, 1981. Andreas Biefang, Bismarcks Reichstag. Das Parlament in der Leipziger Straße, Düsseldorf, 2002.
Massimo Ferrari Zumbini, Die Wurzeln des Bösen. Gründerjahre des Antisemitismus, Frankfurt a.M., 2003.
Dieter Fricke et al., eds., Lexikon zur Parteiengeschichte. Die bürgerlichen und kleinbürgerlichen Parteien und Verbände in Deutschland (1780-1945), 4 vols., Leipzig, 1983-86.