Prussia, and since its founding in 1871 the German Empire, were pioneers in the introduction of general conscription and one of the largest military powers in Europe. At the same time, the German Empire was seen as a pioneer in public social policy. Using the example of labor protection, this article examines whether and to what extent connections existed between general conscription, power ambitions of governments, and social protection. It seeks to determine what role military reasons played in the expansion of German labor protection by analyzing the military’s influence on legislation between the early 19th century and the end of the First World War. This examination will show that military arguments have gained great importance over time but have never, with the exception of the First World War, been the dominant motive for welfare reform.
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