- Bethmann-Hollweg, Theobald von
- (1856–1921)Chancellor of Germany from 1909 to 1917, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg was born in Hohenfinow, Brandenburg. He studied law in Strasbourg, Leipzig, and Berlin before embarking on a career in the civil service. In 1905, he was appointed Prussian Minister of the Interior and in 1907 to the head of the Imperial Office of the Interior. Finally, he rose to the chancellory upon Berrnhard von Bülow ’ s resignation in July 1909.Bethmann was essentially a well-meaning, able, and industrious bureaucrat. By the German standards of his time, he was a political moderate who was unable to cope effectively with the domestic political pressures exerted by the socialist left and the nationalist and reactionary right. Over strenuous conservative opposition to broader reform, he managed to engineer a constitution for Alsace-Lorraine that raised its status to that of a Reichsland. In foreign policy he sought détente with Britain. Although unable to halt or slow the Anglo-German naval arms race largely as a result of ferocious opposition from Tirpitz, he managed to recover some lost diplomatic capital after the Agadir Crisis to work with the British foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, to lower tensions over the Balkan Crises of 1912–1913. After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, he initially was among those urging a tough Austrian stand against Serbia but then gestured in support of Grey’s late efforts to mediate a settlement. When Britain ultimately declared war on Germany over the latter’s violation of Belgian neutrality, Bethmann made himself infamous for referring to the 1839 Treaty of London as a “scrap of paper.”See also <
>; < >.FURTHER READING:Craig, Gordon A. Germany, 1866-1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.CARL CAVANAGH HODGE
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.