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Germany Experienced a Period of Political Calm, Economic Development and Social Progress in the Mid-1920s? How Far Do You Agree with This Judgement?

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‘Germany experienced a period of political calm, economic development and social progress in the mid-1920s? How far do you agree with this judgement? (30 marks)

It is argued by many historians that Germany experience a period of political calm, economic development and social progress in the mid 1920s for a variety of reasons. There is evidence to support the claim that the economy developed in the mid 1920s, due to the fact that there was significant monetary stability and a growth in available capital. Furthermore, one can argue that social progression was achieved, as a result of the improvement in housing and public health and the development of a Weimar culture. Moreover, it can be argued that political stability was maintained in this period due to the outcome of the 1924 May elections, the Dawes plan and the election of Hindenburg as President. However, while this is true, it is important to remember that there is also sufficient evidence to support the view that Germany did not experience a period of political calm, economic development and social progress as economic instability contributed to the deterioration in social development, as the economic discord between employers and labourers resulted in polarisation. Moreover, the extent of social development in terms of the role of women, youths and the development of the constitution is highly debatable. Additionally, it can be argued that political stability was weakened due to the Young Plan, the 1928 May election and the collapse of the grant coalition. Therefore, it is clear that the extent to which Germany experienced a period of political calm, economic development and social progress in the mid-1920s is highly debatable, as it is evident that solutions to solve problems born out of hyperinflation and divisions within society during the early years of the Republic were only short term, and may have been destined to fail from the onset.

Historians have argued that between 1923 and 1929 Germany experienced a period of relative political stability. The election results during the middle years of the Weimar Republic gave grounds for cautious optimism about its survival. The extremist parties of both left and right lost ground and altogether they polled less than 30% of the votes cast. The DNVP peaked in December 1924 with 103 seats and fell back to 73 in May 1928. The Nazi’s were reduced to just 12 seats by 1928. In comparison, the parties sympathetic to the Republic maintained their share of the vote and the SPD made substantial gains, winning 153 seats in 1928. As a result, following the 1928 election, the ‘Grand Coalition’ of the SPD, DDP, DVP and Centre Party was formed under Hermann Müller and it can be argued that democracy was beginning to emerge in Weimar politics. Therefore, it is clear that the results of the elections between the years 1923 and 1929 highlight that Germany experienced a period of political stability.

Additionally, it can be argued that from 1923-1929 Germany experienced a period of social change and development for a number of reasons. Firstly, as a result of the devastation of the First World War, public spending on housing increased rapidly-by 1929, the state was spending 33 times more on housing than it had been in 1913-and the effect of the house building programme was to improve the quality of homes for many Germans, therefore improving the lives of victims of the war. Furthermore, the role of women changed to an extent, as there was a growing number of women in new areas of employment such as the civil service, teaching or social work, which therefore portrayed that women were becoming more independent and capable, highlighting the period of social change. Therefore, it is clear that the there is evidence to support the idea that Germany experience a period of social progress in the mid 1920s as a result of the improvement in housing and the role of women.

Furthermore, between 1923 and 1929, it can be argued that the Germany economy developed at a rapid rate for a number of reasons. Firstly, Germany experienced significant monetary stability which was due mainly to the establishment of the Rentenmark and consequences of the Dawes Plan. As a result of the plan, there was a substantial influx of foreign capital of 25.5 billions marks between 1924 and 1930, which in turn enabled the reconstruction of German industry to take place. Moreover, an additional consequence of the Dawes plan was the increase in inward capital investment, which contributed to increasing the national income by 12%, which also resulted in industry experiencing spectacular growth rates. Therefore, it is clear that the monetary stability not only contributed to improving the economic stability of Germany, but also to expand industry, giving weight to the notion that the mid 1920s were Germanys ‘golden years’.

However, while this is true, it is important to remember that there a number of reasons to support the idea that Germany did not experience a period of political calm, economic development and social progress in the mid 1920s. Germany’s economic recovery was built on unstable foundations that created a false idea of prosperity. Problems persisted in the economy and they were temporarily hidden only by an increasing reliance on credit from abroad. In this way Germany’s economy became tied up with powerful external forces over which it had no control. Hindsight now allows historians to see that, in the late 1920s, any disruption to the world’s trade or finance markers was bound to have a particularly damaging effect on the uncertain German economy. It is clear that the German economy had already been in a very poor state by 1923, however, one can argue that by 1929, things had not improved. Germany’s economy was dependant on foreign loans, and so was therefore liable to suffer from problems that arose in the world economy, highlighting its instability. Moreover, investment was too low to encourage growth and the cost of the welfare state could be met only by the government’s taking on increasing debts. Furthermore, various sectors of the German economy had actually started to slow down from 1927 and the agricultural sector faced serious problems from the mid 1920s. Therefore, it is clear that the mid 1920s were not a period of economic stability for Germany.

Additionally, it can be argued that the mid 1920s were not a period of social progress for a number of reasons. German society was still divided by deep class difference as well as by regional and religious difference that inhibited national agreement and harmony. The war and the years of crisis that followed had left bitterness, fear and resentment between employers and their workers. Following the introduction of the state scheme for settling disputes in 1924, its procedure was used as a matter of course, where the intention has been that it would be the exception, not the rule. As a result, there was arbitration in around 76,000 industrial disputes between 1924 and 1932. This highlights that cultural division were still at large and working relationships between employers and labourers were deteriorating, showing that the mid 1920s was not a period of social progress.

Moreover, it is evident that the mid 1920s may not have been a period of political calm. Tension was evident in the political sphere where the parliamentary system had failed to build on the changes of 1918. The original ideals of the Constitution had not been developed and there was little sign that the system had produced a stable and mature system. In particular the main democratic parties had still not recognised the necessity of working together in a spirit of compromise. It was not so much the weaknesses of the Constitution, but the failure to establish a shared political outlook that led to its instability. Therefore, it is clear that mid 1920s were not a period of political calm due to the political divisions that still existed within Germany society.

Overall, there is evidence to support the idea that the mid 1920s were a period of political calm, economic development and social progress, due to that fact that in comparison to other periods, i.e. before 1924 and after 1929, the mid 1920s can be seen as ‘golden’ as a result of monetary stability. However, when assessing these years alone, it is clear that they did not create a period of political calm, economic development and social progress, due to their short term solutions, cultural divisions, transient years and polarisation or politics.

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