To what extent did the unification of Germany under Bismark lead to an authoritarian government between 1871 and 1914?    

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Bismarck had been an opponent of liberals in Prussia for decades by the time Germany achieved unification. The best way to answer this question is to say that the unified German government was indeed an authoritarian one, but perhaps not as much so as Bismarck would have liked. In the process of securing support for the new state, he was forced to compromise with liberals like Eduard Lasker, and the new government was a constitutional monarchy. But it retained a great deal of power for the monarchy and especially the prime minister (Bismarck himself) while also creating a popularly elected parliamentary body, known as the Reichstag. The conservative Junker nobility were also represented in the upper house, or Bundesrat, which served as a strong check on the Reichstag. The new government also was not authoritarian enough to control the various factions that emerged, especially the left-leaning Social Democrats, and Bismarck was forced to compromise with them, granting social security legislation that was almost unprecedented in the western world. But while he could not control these forces, Bismarck's skill in playing them off each other that gave him, and by extension, William I, a strong grip on German government. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial