The Role of Technology in the Rise and Fall of Imperial Germany

The Role of Technology in the Rise and Fall of Imperial Germany

Contents
1. Introduction
2. The rise of Imperial Germany
3. The fall of Imperial Germany
4. Conclusion: lessons of German use of technology
5. Bibliography

Introduction
German history is rich in events, which played a significant role in the life of not only German people but of all people inhabiting Europe and even the world. The rise and fall of German Empire is one of such key historical periods, which defined the future of German and Europe for years ahead.
It is very important to trace the development of Germany as a very powerful state in the heart of Europe since potentially it threaten to establish control over Europe and its leaders often proclaimed their plans of total expansion of Germany as a the main power dominating over all other states. Naturally, it is very important to realise what make the country so powerful to the extent that it could have such ambitious plans. At the same time, such plans should be treated as a warning for all states and all people inhabiting Europe as well as other countries of the world since imperial Germany is a typical example of a militaristic aggressor that threatened to peace and stability in Europe and even the whole world.
On the other hand, it is also quite noteworthy to analyse how Germany actually became the empire, for initially it was not a solid state. It is quite important to underline that military expansion and wars held by Prussia which were victorious were the basis for the unification of the state. But what is probably even more important is the basis of these victories which lies in socio-economic sphere and is traditionally associated with high technological development of the country. Such a progress made possible the breakthrough that led the country to power and influence Imperial Germany possessed, even though this power was basically achieved in the results of wars.
It is also necessary to analyse the fall of imperial Germany and try to learn some lessons that the fall and rise provide and understand the role of the use of technology by German leaders in this process.
The rise of Imperial Germany
First of all, it should be said that before Germany had become the Empire threatening to spread its influence all over Europe, there was no real unity in Germany. Obviously, when there is no unity within a country, it is impossible to build up a strong state, which could be strong enough to realise its policy aiming at achieving domination over other countries. In such a situation, the first step on the way to unification of the country was undertaken by Prussian prime minister, Otto von Bismarck, who was characterised as an authoritarian ‘realpolitik’.
In fact the latter characteristic is very important because initially there were two ways of development of unified Germany: democratic and authoritarian. Obviously, democratic way of development would be much slower and probably less effective and even less supported by masses of German people, but, in all probability, it could prevent Germany from many cataclysms such as regular wars and total mobilisation and militarization of the country. Furthermore, democratic way of development would rather made technological achievements of Germans to serve to peaceful purposes, for instance in commerce.
On the other hand, the authoritarian policy of Otto von Bismarck led to relatively fast growth in power of German Empire united into a solid nation state. At the same time, Germany made a real technological breakthrough and sometimes some technologies were used in a revolutionary way (for instance, use of submarines in military purposes against commerce fleet) and that was often stimulated by German militarism and policy of expansion and domination in Europe.
Nonetheless, it is particularly important to emphasise that plans of German leaders to transform their state into a superpower could be hardly realised if possible at all, if the technologies developed in Germany in that epoch were not used in military purposes.
Anyway, returning to the rise of Imperial Germany, it is necessary to say that it was the result of the unification of the country. The unification, in its turn, held by Otto von Bismarck, was accomplished basically through three military successes.
First of all, Prussian prime minister, Otto von Bismarck allied with Austria in order to defeat Denmark in a short war, so-called the Second War of Schleswig, fought during 1864 . In the result of this victorious war Germany acquired Schleswig-Holstein and this was the first serious step on the way to the unification of Germany under Prussian domination.
Later, in 1866, in alliance with Italy, Otto von Bismarck virtually created the Austro-Prussian War. Probably the most important and decisive point of this war was the battle at Koniggratz, in which Prussian won a decisive victory. This victory allowed Prussia and Germany at large, since Prussia was a dominating power in Germany in that time, to exclude long-time rival of Austria when forming the North German Confederation with the states that had supported Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War . It should be pointed out that the Confederation was a precursor of the Empire established in 1871.
Finally, the last stage of the unification of Germany under Prussian control was accomplished when France was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). After this victory the North German Confederation was successfully transformed into the Empire with the proclamation of Prussian King Wilhelm I as German Emperor at the Palace of Versaille, that was a great humiliation to the French people .
As a result of these three victorious war led by Prussia, which was supported by other German minor states, Germany was unified and transformed into the Empire, which was a very influential power in Europe of that historical period. In fact these so-called Wars on Unification of Germany “posed a potential threat to dominate the rest of Europe” . Though, it should be pointed out that it was only the beginning, the rise of Imperial Germany. It was only the first and not the most difficult task for German leaders to unite the country and gain influence in Europe. The most difficult part was ahead, notably German Empire had to sustain the power it had got and progress as the dominant state in Europe.
Nonetheless, even these victories would be impossible without socio-economic progress of Germany based on technological development of the country. It should be said that the victories of Prussian military forces were to a significant extent the result of the fact that Prussian army was very strong and widely employed recent technological achievements. It is necessary to underline that German militarism during second half of 19th and early 20th century had been marked by significant transformation and use of technologies .
At this respect, it is worth to mention that the technological achievements were accompanied and basically used by Germans in their very successful strategic planning. For instance, often specialists estimate that “the development of a general staff concept developed by Moltke proved a key ingredient in Prussia’s ability to defeat swiftly its adversaries in the Wars of German Unification” . In such a situation, it is hardly possible to underestimate the role of such technological achievements as well-developed net of railways, which provided the rapid transportation of troops and supplies without which any strategy of ‘blitzkrieg’ would be unrealisable. Furthermore, Germans widely used telegraph that provided the army and the heads of the army and state with the possibility to be properly informed and to convey the orders to the army in possibly shorter terms. Moreover, such purely military technological inventions used by Prussians as rapid-fire rifles and longer-ranged artillery “were bringing about a transformation in the conduct of operations and increasing the lethality of battlefields” . From a military point of view, the latter facts are particularly important since they contributed significantly to strengthening German army. To put it more precisely, such technologies provided the German army with certain superiority over its enemies that couldn’t fail to create an image of a strong and undefeated German army. The latter was also a very important psychological argument that contributed to improvement of moral power of German soldiers.
All these innovations and a combination of a successful strategy, based on technological opportunities the Prussian army possessed, made many specialists believe that the transformation that took place in the Prussian army in the mid-19th century was an important example of revolution in military affairs (Sturmer 2000).
Obviously, it is impossible to estimate that technology was the only factor that contributed to the victories of Prussia in the battlefields but it was probably one of the most important factors.
Naturally, Otto von Bismark as a prime minister of Prussia clearly realised that real success in the Wars on Unification of Germany could be achieved only on a combination of factors. As a wise prime minister, he understood that it was necessary to “integrate effectively military operations and diplomacy, and to balance the triangular relationship between the people, government and army” .
Furthermore, it should be said that the military successes of Germany and the rise of German Empire were accompanied by a significant economic progress, which also was nourished by implementation of new technologies in the process of production. By 1870s German manufacturers became real competitors of British manufacturers . Moreover, Germans were practically equal if not to say superior at certain industries. For instance, the German textile and metal industries had by the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War surpassed those of Britain in organisation and technical efficiency and usurped British manufacturers in the domestic market, while, by the turn of the centuries, “the German metals and engineering industries would be producing heavily for the free trade market of Britain” .
As a result, German military expansion, been very successful, had also quite a strong economic and technological background that eventually led Germany and its competitors in Europe to the start of the World War I, which marked both the peak of German progress in military and technology and the beginning of the fall of German Empire.
The fall of Imperial Germany
In general, characterising the transformation that took place in Germany in late 19th century, it should be said that it was a transition from an agrarian-based economy to a modern industrial capitalist state where the newest technologies were implemented in all spheres of life and provided economic and military success and power of the country.
Probably, it also led to the strong belief of German leaders that the country is ready to become a superpower dominating in Europe and having perspectives to gain control in the global scale. As it has been already mentioned above, the beginning of the World War I marked a new stage in historical development of German Empire and approached the country to its fall.
In such a situation, it is necessary to understand what made the state to start the war, what Germany accounted for to win in this war, and what was the outcome. First of all, it should be said that before the beginning of the war there was a certain balance of power in Europe and Germany had broken this balance by starting the war. Obviously, the main reason German Empire started the war for was its ideology aiming at the domination and militarism that was one of the main strategies of the state leaders. It is quite natural that Germans, on creating a powerful military machine, couldn’t remain passive, especially in the situation of economic growth and competition with Britain.
As a result the war was started. However, before the war German leaders faced a dilemma: they had to fight for two fronts against France and Russia. To solve this problem, German staff “devised an audacious strategy to launch the bulk of the German army onto the offensive against France, while fighting a holding actions against Russia” (Mommsen 1995:288). Obviously the main goal of Germans was to gain decisive effects by seizing the initiative through a combination of speed and superior war fighting abilities. They supposed to defeat swiftly one adversary, and then redeploying forces to conduct another campaign.
Naturally, this very brave plan had to be based on certain internal resources German army and economy had to possess. If in the case of economy the growth was obvious than in military relation Germans had to continue the progress started in the 19th century. In fact Germans continued military transformation and developments and one of the main goals in this war Germany had to achieve was the neutralization of Britain. It couldn’t be done without a powerful navy.
As a result, Germans employed new technologies in order to achieve their goals. Moreover, what they made was later often perceived as a revolution in military affair. They used a relatively new technology, submarines in a quite unusual for that time way. Germans used submarines as “a weapon of commerce destruction, striking at British and neutral merchant shipping” . However, instead of defeating Britain, this revolutionary attempt at transformation failed. In fact it has quite a contrary result to what Germans expected. To put it more precisely, they failed to defeat or even destroy merchant shipping and British navy. In stark contrast, another country was involved in the war, the US, which started to fight against Germans. Consequently, such a perspective, at first glance, technique turned to be a great failure.
Furthermore, the situation was deteriorated dramatically when German plans of ‘blitzkrieg’ in relation to France failed too. As a result, Germany faced a coalition of enemies and had to fight for two-fronts. Naturally, the war ended with the defeat of Germany that marked the collapse of German Empire. However, it should be pointed out that there was another important factor contributing to the failure of Germany in the World War I, it is deep disputes that wracked the German political and military leadership that eventually led to the establishment of practically military dictatorship in Germany that only deteriorated the situation and position of the country in the war.
Conclusion: lessons of German use of technology
Taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that German Empire is a good example other nations can learn from. In fact the country showed that it is possible to achieve great results such as the unification of Germany but it was done with the help of wars and on the basis of military supremacy of Prussia because of the newest technologies widely employed in the army. The further development of the country showed that the implementation of new technologies in all spheres of life, especially economy, could contribute to a significant economic growth of the country.
Finally, military and economic power led Germany to the World War I, which was started because of imperialistic ambitions of Germany and which was impossible without military and economic power of the country based on technological breakthrough. The latter was particularly obvious in military sphere, when submarines were used with military purposes against merchant shipping.
Nonetheless, German attempts to gain supremacy eventually failed that revealed the fact that even genius military transformation and the most advanced technologies couldn’t and can’t substitute strategic wisdom.

Bibliography:
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