Navy Laws and their domestic importance

From 1898 onwards Germany massively expanded its navy. This was a key part of the policy known as Weltpolitik, or ‘world politics’, which began in 1897. This policy was designed to turn Germany into a world power by building an overseas empire, growing its world trade and increasing its naval power.

Admiral von Tirpitz and the Navy League

Portrait of Admiral Von Tirpitz

The key figure in these plans to expand the navy was Admiral von Tirpitz. To win support for his policy he helped to create the Navy League in 1898, which campaigned for his Naval Laws to be passed and which quickly gained one million members.

Domestic successes of Weltpolitik and naval expansion:

  • it pleased the Kaiser, who was determined that Germany would become a world power
  • it increased support for the Kaiser and his government by appealing to German people’s sense of patriotism
  • it won the government support from a majority of deputies in the Reichstag

Domestic problems caused by Weltpolitik and naval expansion:

  • The government’s majority in the Reichstag did not last and the government found it difficult to reform the Tariff Law in 1902.
  • The German government’s budget went into deficit as it spent more and more money on the army, the navy and its new colonies. The national debt grew to 490 billion marks by 1913.

The government found it very difficult to raise extra taxes to reduce the deficit and the debt.

Familiarise yourself with the key facts by listing them under two columns:
  • factors that contributed to Germany’s growth as a world power
  • factors that contributed to social problems
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