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Prussian Junkers as Farmers and Huntsmen (1870s-1880s)

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In terms of their farming efficiency, the conservative lords of the manor were mainly well below average. For the most part, they had not studied agrarian science, either in theory or practice. First they became military officers, and when the old lord [the father] felt it was time to “step aside,” the young cavalry captain took over the paternal estate. He was used to claiming the considerable prerogatives of a Junker lifestyle and he was good at giving commands. He would not bring much more expertise to agriculture than that. Of course after a few years the entire scheme misfired. Now it was time to burn the candle at both ends. The debts would mount. Bankruptcy was imminent. The SOS call went out: "Please, dear patriarchal state, help!”

All Conservatives were thoroughly convinced that the state was obliged to provide the tariffs and special remittances [in the grain trade] that allowed even incompetent landowners on barren soil to survive. Their slogan was, “As much as possible from the state, as little as possible to the state!”

Source: Hellmuth von Gerlach, Von Rechts nach Links [From Right to Left], ed. E. Ludwig. Zürich, 1937, pp. 35ff.

Original German text reprinted in Gerhard A. Ritter and Jürgen Kocka, eds., Deutsche Sozialgeschichte 1870-1914. Dokumente und Skizzen [German Social History 1870-1914. Documents and Sketches], 3rd ed. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1982, pp. 189-90.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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