From the Fall of Bismarck to World Policy (1890–1902)

  • A. J. Ryder


Bismarck’s dismissal, which was to have so many unforeseen consequences, was the result of a clash of policy and personality between the Iron Chancellor and his new master, William II. William came to the throne at the age of 29 in succession to his father, Frederick, whose reign of 99 days formed a brief, unhappy intermezzo after the long and successful reign of William I. The Emperor Frederick’s death from cancer of the throat, after a painful illness embittered by disagreement between his German and British doctors was a political as well as a personal tragedy, for it ended the hopes of a generation that he would inaugurate a fundamental change in German policy. William II was known to be an admirer of Bismarck, and at first it seemed certain that Bismarck would stay in office despite his advanced age. Relations between the two soon reached breaking point however, and in March 1890 Bismarck had to go. William was resolved to be his own Chancellor. But he lacked the application and patience needed for the continuous exercise of power, and his nervous restlessness caused him to spend a great deal of time travelling. He governed sporadically, interfering dramatically from time, especially in foreign affairs, often to the great embarrassment of his Chancellor. A feature of the earlier part of the reign was the role played by courtiers, especially by Count Philipp Eulenburg, the Kaiser’s best friend.


Foreign Policy Foreign Affair British Government General Staff German Policy 


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  1. 4.
    Kotowski, Pöls and Ritter, p. 17; H. C. Meyer, Mitteleuropa in German Thought and Action, 1815–1945, p. 173.Google Scholar
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    Ritter, p. 255. See also N. Stone, ‘Moltke-Conrad and relations between the Austro-Hungarian and German Chiefs of Staff’, H.J.,vol. IX (1966) p. 201. Holland was originally included in the invasion plan but was later omitted. Bethmann Hollweg later explained that he considered it his duty not to interfere in any way with the generals’ plans, for in the crisis of a war on two fronts any lack of success would have been blamed on such interference.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See J. Steinberg, ‘The Kaiser’s Navy and German Society’, P. & P., vol. 28 (1964) p. 102.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© A. J. Ryder 1973

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. Ryder
    • 1
  1. 1.St David’s University CollegeLampeterUK

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