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The Wuerttemberg constitutional reform of 1906 : background and analysis Koth, Karl B.

Abstract

The hundredth year of the anniversary of the founding of the Second Reich is a fitting moment to raise new questions and indicate possible new directions to the history of that period. German historiography of the nineteenth century had been mainly concerned with the foreign policy of Bismarck, or with the 'genius' of the creator of the Reich, himself. The most comprehensive accounts, such as Adalbert Wahl's four-volume Deutsche Geschichte 1871-1914, or Treitschke's six-volume, History of Germany in the Nineteenth Century, although concerned with cultural as well as political life, reveal yet another bias: the identification of the Reich with Prussia. The only inclusive, detailed treatment of the subject in the English language, Hajo Holborn's three-volume, A History of Modern Germany, was no departure from main-stream interpretation of German history. Indeed, English language historiography still does not do justice to the richness and diversity of German constitutional development during the nineteenth century. An image has been created which reduces the role of the south german states to puppets, assuming that these had no or at most very little part to play in the subsequent development of the Reich. A detailed history of the non-Prussian states, their relationship to and their contributions to the Reich remains to be written. This thesis then is presented out of a sense of dissatisfaction with the manner in which historians continue to deal with the Second Reich, and is an attempt to indicate that there was another political tradition in Germany. Such an approach is all the more important since that edifice was survived by some of its component parts. Two alternatives to Bismarckian absolutism emerged in the nineteenth century, parliamentary liberalism and revolutionary socialism. Both of these have come to be the form of government in the two German states which were created after World War II. Here I will be concerned with the former strand as it evolved in the south German state of Wuerttem-berg. A similar account could be written for Baden, since both states or Laender shared many features of a liberal development in common. In both a vigorous parliamentary life evolved in the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth centures which groomed many a politician for his role in the Weimar or later in the Federal Republics. It was Wuerttem-berg which was afforded the singular honour of providing one of its sons, Theodor Heuss, as the first President of the Federal Republic in 1949. But principally, the availability of sources determined the concentration on this particular Land. Given this tradition of parliamentary liberalism and furthermore, the ability and opportunity to exercise its autonomy within the Reich, one may justifiably ask why ultimate parliamentary democracy only appeared when forced by the circumstances of the 1918/19 revolution? A detailed examination of Wuerttemberg constitutional life in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and the controversy surrounding the constitutional reform of 1906, sheds light on the continuing struggle which this tradition faced in the circumstances of the engrossing Prussian influence in the Second Reich.

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