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Published on December 7th, 2012


“Wir Verlangen Auch Unseren Platz an der Sonne” – How Bernhard von Bülow is to Blame for the Great War

Bernhard von Bülow, born near Hamburg in 1849, was the Kanzler of the German Empire between 1900 and 1909. Popular Social Science has had a look at how his careless brute politics led the world into the period of Great Wars.

Much of the blame for the worsening of Anglo-German relations that would lead up to the first Great War has been attributed to the German pursue of an imperial policy. Otto von Bismarck, who was the German Chancellor from 1871–1890, was known for his polices of isolating France and at the same time keeping good relations with the other European powers, especially the United Kingdom.

However, much of this changed when Bernhard von Bülow became Chancellor in 1900. Bülow shared the views of German Sociologist Max Weber, who felt that power politics was a necessity for maintaining German cultural and economic power. He made the famous statement “wir verlangen auch unseren Platz an der Sonne”.

The expansion of the German colonial empire was a failure, and the colonies proved to be a drain on the state’s finances (as it would become for other countries as well). But the most manifest symbol of German Weltpolitik was its Imperial Navy, which became a thorn in the eye to the British. Germany’s failed foreign policy was neatly summed up by History Professor Holger H. Herwig:

- Germany was much like an unbridled wild stallion until about 1905–1906, forcing every issue, demanding a voice in every decision, and constantly clamoring for recognition by the established world powers. Thereafter, Berlin retreated into a dour defensive and pessimistic posture, viewing war as the only course left open by repeated slights and rebuffs on the part of the established powers.

Of course, Germany was not the only to blame for the worsening of the European policy-climate. Several alliances and events later the situation culminated into the War to End All Wars. The two countries Germany and France, who had both sprang out of Clovis’ Frankish Empire, went to war again. And Britain, who themselves were of Saxon origin joined in, making this the first great Western Civil War.


Further reading:

Herwig, Holger H. (1994). Hammer or Anvil? Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Company.

Mommsen, Wolfgang J. (1990). Max Weber and German Politics, 1890–1920. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.



*Cover photo by Rupert Ganzer




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