Study Notes

Kaiser Wilhelm II


Last updated 3 Sept 2018

Wilhelm II became Kaiser in 1888 when he was 29. He had succeeded his grandfather Wilhelm I. Wilhelm had different ideas about how Germany was going to be governed in the New German Empire. This ideas differed significantly to those of his father. Wilhelm I had been happy for the German Chancellor to take on the responsibility for governing Germany, whilst he played the role of ceremonial monarch.

Wilhelm II was determined to involved himself in the work of government and as a result many of his Chancellors did not enjoy the freedom to govern like Bismarck had during his time as Chancellor. There was however, a problem. Wilhelm II did not have the temperment to govern effectively. He was prone to rages and an unstable mood. He was also paranoid about his withered left hand.

Wilhelm II believed Germany needed to go in a different direction. Germany had recently become a unified country and had a large manufacturing and industrial base. It had a growing population and an increasing confidence on the world stage. Wilhelm II wanted Germany to look internationally and should seek ‘a place in the sun’. He wanted Germany to have a work policy or weltpolitik. The Kaiser looked longingly at the empires of France and Britain in Africa and the Far East, and believed that Germany should have the same. He believed Germany should have a large army and superior navy.

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