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GERMANY: The Second Reich



Cameron Sawyer says: "Well, come on, let's put the Second Reich in context and compare it to other governments of the time -- it wasn't too bad. Sure it wasn't Athenian Democracy, but then, Athenian Democracy wasn't Athenian Democracy either. The Bismarck regime was enlightened in many ways compared to the really repressive absolutist governments of the Metternich era ("Prinz Mitternacht", my professors at Regensburg used to call him), and it created an enormously successful economy, which greatly raised the standards of living of Germans. For better or worse, the whole idea of the welfare state comes from Bismarck's policies. I think Germans ought to be proud of the achievements of that time".

RH: Regensburg, where Cameron studied, is a beautiful old Bavarian city at the confluence of the Danube and the Regen (hence the name). The city was the seat of the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire from 1663 to 1806, but the university was founded only in 1962. I wonder why Cameron went there. It was not typical of Catholic Bavaria. Metternich, dismissed as "Mitternacht" (Midnight, i.r. obsurantist) was born in Coblenz, Germany, studied in Strasbourg and was appalled by the horrors of the French Revolution.. He married an Austrian noblewoman and rose steadily in the Austrian government. As foreign minister (1809-1848) and Chancellor (1821-48) he established Austria's central position in Europe and created a balance of power which served Europe well. He is generally respected, and, as a Catholic, Bavarians would certainly prefer him to Prussian Protestant Bismarck. My guess is that Cameron's teachers were not native southern Bavarians.

Ronald Hilton - 1/23/03


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