Weltpolitik

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"Place in the sun" redirects here. For other meanings, see A Place in the Sun (disambiguation).

"Weltpolitik" ("world policy") was the foreign policy adopted by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany in 1890, which marked a decisive break with former Chancellor Otto von Bismarck's ' "Realpolitik." The aim of Weltpolitik was to transform Germany into a global power through aggressive diplomacy, the acquisition of overseas colonies, and the development of a large navy. The origins of the policy can be traced to a Reichstag debate on 6 December 1897 during which German Foreign Secretary Bernhard von Bulow stated, "[i]n one word: We wish to throw no one into the shade, but we demand our own place in the sun." ("Mit einem Worte: wir wollen niemand in den Schatten stellen, aber wir verlangen auch unseren Platz an der Sonne."[1])

Nancy Mitchell writes that the adoption of Weltpolitik was a fundamental change in the conduct of German foreign policy. Up until Wilhelm's dismissal of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Germany had concentrated its efforts on eliminating the possibility of a two-front war in Europe. Prior to Weltpolitik, German policy had focused on using its army and subtle diplomacy to maintain its status. In particular, Bismarck was wary of acquiring overseas colonies and wished to reserve the role of Germany as honest broker in continental affairs. Kaiser Wilhelm II, however, was far more ambitious. Germany expanded the size of its navy and opted for more aggressive naval policies in order to enact Weltpolitik; indeed, the motto "Our future lies on the sea" was inscribed on one of the German buildings at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris.[2] This policy led to the rapid expansion of the Imperial German Navy through successive Naval Laws. Perhaps the most dramatic example of the shift in German policy was Germany's intervention in the Agadir Crisis. During the crisis, the German government deployed the large Panther gunboat to intervene in the conflict rather than resorting to diplomacy from the outset. Incidents such as these inflamed British concerns of Germany's rising naval might, against whose naval hegemony the Naval Laws were a direct threat. In turn, this helped contribute to the formation of the Franco-British Entente cordiale.


  1. ^ Fürst Bülows Reden nebst urkundlichen Beiträgen zu seiner Politik. Mit Erlaubnis des Reichskanzlers gesammelt und herausgegeben von Johannes Penzler. I. Band 1897–1903. Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1907. p. 6-8 Original text on German Wikisource
  2. ^ Nancy Mitchell, The Danger of Dreams: German and American Imperialism in Latin America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1999, p. 23.