SUMMARY The web of alliances that Bismarck had created for Germany in order to ensure her protection and supremacy ultimately proved to be a major political liability for the Chancellors who followed him. In the 1880s, as the pace of industrial development slowed down, the twin policies of Mitteleuropa and Mittelafrika held before Bismarck the option of a mercantilist, imperialist alternative, and which Bismarck had indeed pursued. Even after the departure of Bismarck from the arena, both these options remained in play in the theatre of German politics for his successors to pursue.
After Bismarck’s resignation, Leo von Caprivi succeeded him during the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II. During this time there was the first real push towards the colonial empire first with Mitteleuropa and then with Mittelafrika. From 1895-96 onwards, the defining component of Wilhelmine foreign policy, Weltpolitik, began to surface.
Von Caprivi was succeeded by Chancellor Chlodwig Von Hohenlohe in 1897, who laid major emphasis on naval build-up as an expression of German Weltpolitik. Under von Bulow, the German navy grew to be a major threat to Britain. Britain tried to negotiate with Germany but because of internal political pressure Germany refused to enter into any negotiations with Britain thus estranging her. Thereafter Germany was left alone with Austria-Hungary and Britain assimilated all the other European powers as her allies.