ABSTRACT

Having secured Bismarck's departure in 1890, Wilhelm II was determined to play a more active role in German politics than his immediate predecessors. Although misjudging the magnitude of the social conflict between Prussian agrarian conservatism and industrial modernization, in his own way the Kaiser attempted to reconcile these antithetical outlooks. But his government's federal tariff policies, meant to stimulate commerce and industrial growth by modifying the price protection for the grain trade of East Elbian Junkers, roused the antagonism of these agrarians and ended the coalition of Conservatives and middle class National Liberals which had been the foundation of Bismarck's legislative strategy in the Reichstag. Similarly, his efforts in Prussia to win support from the growing Catholic Centre Party reopened old religious conflicts. The government's School Bill to restore to the Catholic Church its important role in education, which Bismarck's Kulturkampf of the 1870's had curtailed, led to a bitter struggle and to a damaging political defeat for the government. 1