Political conflict in Bismarck’s Germany: An analysis of parliamentary voting, 1867-1890


Imperial Germany is a prominent historical case in the study of Western Europe’s political development. This article investigates the number and content of political conflict dimensions from the foundation of the modern German state in 1867 to the end of Bismarck’s reign as Chancellor in 1890. Methodologically, it applies dimension-reducing statistical methods to a novel data set of content-coded parliamentary roll call votes. The analysis suggests that the emergence of the Catholic Centre Party in 1871 permanently transformed the conflict space from a single liberal-conservative divide to a two-dimensional space that distinguished positions on socio-economic issues and regime matters, respectively. The fact that positions on redistributive and regime issues were not aligned implies that theories stressing economic inequality as a driver for regime change are of limited applicability. Instead, the case of Imperial Germany highlights the importance of cross-cutting non-economic societal cleavages and the role of societal and political organizations in drawing attention to and perpetuating these divisions.

Party Politics 25(2): 179-191
Frank M. Häge
Frank M. Häge
Political Scientist

Senior Lecturer at the University of Limerick. Interested in Legislative Politics, European Union Politics, and Historical Political Economy.