Yet Bismarck's program showed that conditions for workers could be improved without a revolution. Later, Germany and other European nations would build on Bismarck's social policies, greatly increasing government's role in providing for the needs of its citizens.

Cartoon of a mustachioed man in a pickelhaube helmet pushing a jack in the box toy back into the box labeled socialist jack in the box.

Analyze Political Cartoons

Bismarck tries to push the scary looking “Socialist Jack” back into the box. What did Bismarck do after his anti-socialist laws strengthened the socialist cause?

Kaiser William II

In 1888, William II succeeded his grandfather as kaiser. The new emperor, supremely confident, wished to put his own stamp on Germany. In 1890, he shocked Europe by asking the dominating Bismarck to resign. “There is only one master in the Reich,” he said, “and that is I.” William II seriously believed that his right to rule came from God.

My grandfather considered that the office of king was a task that God had assigned to him…. That which he thought I also think…. Those who wish to aid me in that task … I welcome with all my heart; those who oppose me in this work I shall crush.

—William II

Social Welfare

Not surprisingly, William resisted efforts to introduce democratic political reforms. At the same time, however, his government continued the idea of social welfare, or programs provided by the state for the benefit of its citizens. These programs, designed to combat support for socialists, helped improve conditions not only for workers and the elderly, but also German society in general.

His government also provided services such as cheap transportation and electricity. An excellent system of public schools, which had flourished under Bismarck, taught students obedience to the emperor along with reading, writing, and mathematics.

Painting of a man in a long military coat walking across a street with purpose, as people on foot, in carriages and on street car watch.

Otto von Bismarck leaves his Berlin office in 1890 after Kaiser William II forced him to resign as chancellor.

Strengthening the Military

Like his grandfather, William II lavished funds on the German military machine, already the most powerful in Europe. He also launched an ambitious campaign to expand the German navy and win an overseas empire to rival those of Britain and France. William's nationalism and aggressive military stance helped increase tensions on the eve of World War I.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments