Information

Collection of documents on the history of German social policy, 1867 – 1914

Founded by Peter Rassow and Karl Erich BornOn behalf of the Historical Commission of the Academy of Science and Literature, Mainz, published by Hans Joachim Henning, Duisburg and Florian Tennstedt, Kassel

This editorial research project publishes all important documentary sources relating to the foundation and development of the modern German ”Sozialstaat” during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. In addition the documents provide comprehensive information on the function and the role of central constitutional institutions (including the ”Reichstag” and the ”Bundesrat”), public administration, members of the civil service as well as parties and associations. Short biographies of all persons mentioned in the documents are included.

All documents – approx. 190-230 per edition - are listed chronologically and provided with notes on the original version and subsequent amendments, as well as to related documents. The documents are mainly drawn from archives and focus not only on central government, but also on the different Prussian regions such as the Rhine province, Westphalia, Berlin-Brandenburg as well as the states of Bavaria and Saxony and the Hanseatic cities. In addition to an introduction each volume contains comprehensive subject, personal and geographical indices.

The project is supported by the Ministry of Science and Art of Hesse, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the University of Kassel.


The collection of documents is to be published in about 34 volumes. These are divided into four sections:

I. Von der Reichsgründungszeit bis zur Kaiserlichen Sozialbotschaft (1867-1881) / From the foundation of the Reich to the Imperial rescript (1867-1881)

II. Von der Kaiserlichen Sozialbotschaft bis zu den Februarerlassen Wilhelms II. (1881-1890) / From the Imperial rescript to the February edicts of Wilhelm II. (1881-1890)

III. Ausbau und Differenzierung der Sozialpolitik seit Beginn des Neuen Kurses (1890-1904) /  Expansion and differentiation of social policy during the New Course policy (1890-1904)

IV. Die Sozialpolitik in den letzten Friedensjahren des Kaiserreichs (1905-1914) / Social policy during the last years of peace of the Empire (1905-1914)

The volumes in the first three sections are by subject matter; in the fourth section all documents are presented in one chronological order.

The project was initially published by Franz Steiner, Wiesbaden, then by Gustav Fischer, Stuttgart. Since 1997 it is published by the Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft (WBG), Darmstadt.


”This documentary collection is an outstanding historiographical achievement. Each document is exactly reproduced, including any marginal notes, marks and underlining. Key biographies and references to secondary literature are provided. In their introduction the editors provide a clear exposition of the subject matter  and their editorial principles, while demolishing many a legend on the basis of the documentary evidence, such as that of the supposed causal connection between anti-socialist and social legislation, the supposed ”stick and carrot” strategy”.
(Professor Michael Stolleis, Frankfurt am Main)

”In its form this edition is a model of its kind. The editorial comments ascribe origin and individual authorship of the documents with the skill of a detective. Their character is indicated, whether originals or copies, whether drafts, expansions or final versions, as well as the form of reproduction, whether in full, in part or in extracts (with a brief indication of the full content). Footnotes contain the marginal comments of the persons involved (especially those of Bismarck), and additional information needed for a fuller understanding, particularly references to further documents and the relevant literature”.
(Professor Gerhard A. Ritter, München)