Kohlrausch M. The Eulenburg scandal, 1906-1909: media and politics in wilhelmine Germany (.pdf)


The article analyses the rise and political impact of mass media in Germany around 1900, focusing on the example of Kaiser Wilhelm II. In looking at the so-called Eulenburg scandal, the article highlights the political risks coming with that process. The last decennia of the 19th century saw the rise of modern mass media - high circulation newspapers, illustrated journals, photography and film – in Europe. In Germany, the development was particularly pronounced. During the reign of Emperor Wilhelm II (1888-1918), Germany developed a particularly modern and dynamic ensemble of mass media. While the constitutional structure hardly responded to modern challenges, the monarchy itself, its political and social role, were deeply affected by mass media. With his particular style of personalized government, Wilhelm II responded, often unconsciously, to the needs of mass media. The monarchy attained a central role for the media because no other political actor fitted its needs so well. Moreover, many journalists believed the media could establish a direct and thus democratic link between the Emperor and the people. While in terms of media presence and media attention the monarchy profited immensely from mass media, the new situation also entailed substantial dangers. The so-called Eulenburg scandal in 1906–1909 showed how the carefully crafted picture of the manly Emperor could be scandalized by the media. The article analyses the scandal and finally asks what such a scandal tells about the role of mass media and the public sphere in the authoritarian political system the German Empire was.


Key words: Mass media, Eulenburg scandal, political actor, monarchy, public sphere, authoritarian political system, German Empire.


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