Date of Award


Degree Type

Master's Essay - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Kessler, Ann


A century has passed since Otto von Bismarck proposed the first anti-clerical laws of the Kulturkampf. Even now we are unsure of Bismarck's motives in initiating this attack against the Catholic Church in Germany. Perhaps in our own secular age, the importance of this conflict between Berlin and Rome seems very distant. This political and religious "war of civilization," however, was crucial in charting the course of the newly united German Reich. Furthermore, this battle between Church and State was dominated by some of the most dynamic characters of the nineteenth century: Otto von Bismarck, Pope Pius IX, Adalbert Falk and Ludwig Windthorst. This essay is an examination of the role these and other men played in the origin and development of the Kulturkampf, its decline and, finally, the results of this conflict on the new German Empire. Religious strife was not new to the German people. The Reformation, born in Wittenburg in 1517, had touched off a bitter struggle between Catholics and Lutherans in the German provinces. Not until 1555 did the bloodshed end with the Peace of 'Augsburg and the compromise "cuius regio, eius religio This settlement made the Empire part-Catholic and part-Lutheran and further enhanced the political disintegration of Germany. In 1871 the German states (excluding Austria) again united into an Empire. This time, however, the majority of its citizens were Protestant and within a year of its founding, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had begun a campaign against the Catholic Church. This campaign, the Kulturkampf, involved state versus church tensions, as well as Protestant versus Catholic. Bismarck was determined to continue the conflict until the Catholic Church and the predominantly Catholic Center Party were no longer able to challenge the unity of the new Empire. Less than a decade after its genesis, however, Bismarck halted the Kulturkampf and began courting the favor of the Center Party in the Reichstag. Apparently even the successful Chancellor Bismarck was unable to emerge victorious from a "war of civilization."