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Wilhelm II

Wilhelm II (1859–1941), grandson of Wilhelm I, was the last German kaiser, 1888–1918.He dismissed Bismarck as chancellor and took a dominant role in making Germany a world power, enlarging its army, navy, and empire. His belligerent policy provoked brushes with U.S. naval forces at Samoa (1889) and Manila (1898), and he authorized naval contingency plans for blockades of the U.S. coast and assaults in the Caribbean.

Wilhelm had little accurate knowledge of the United States when he authorized the German Navy during World War I to begin unrestricted submarine warfare in February 1917. By so doing, this insecure and garrulous narcissist brought America into the war against Germany, tipping the perilous balance against his country.

Although considered one of the dominant players on the world stage in 1913, from 14 August 1914—when he told the German High Command that it was their job to run the war, not his—until approximately 1967, Wilhelm II's importance in world affairs was downplayed. Recent historiography, however, has reestablished him as a key player in his era. He died in exile in the Netherlands.
[See also World War I: Causes; World War I: Military and Diplomatic Course; World War I: Changing Interpretations.]


Arden Bucholz , Moltke, Schlieffen and Prussian War Planning, 1991.
Thomas Kohut , Wilhelm II and the Germans, 1991.

Arden Bucholz

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