Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)

Degree Level





Laurence Hare

Committee Member

Tricia Starks

Second Committee Member

Thomas Goldstein


Social sciences, German history, Public welfare, Social policy, World War I


Today's Western European countries have the world's most extensive government Social welfare systems, beginning with Germany as the forerunner. Prior to the eventual 20th century German welfare state, Germany was not devoid of distributing aid to combat the effects of poverty. Religious and public benevolent institutions, several centuries earlier, managed local poverty, resulting in an interesting relationship between the German citizens and these charities. The willingness of these institutions to address the poverty issue opened the door for the 20th century German welfare state to emerge.

This study examines the evolution of the attitudes towards poverty in nineteenth century Germany. Utilizing a longitudinal approach, this work demonstrates that perceptions people held toward poverty in turn shaped welfare policy. This work seeks to connect the changes in the perceptions towards poverty in the nineteenth century with the development of the welfare state in the twentieth century. Through a combination of the shifting political, Social, and economic climate, the issue of poverty was at the forefront of the German mind from the 1830s to World War I. As the enormity of the problem of poverty developed so did the state's acceptance of civic responsibility of caring for the poor, yet also in conjunction with private and religious charities. The state's acceptance of the obligation to care for the poor allowed for the development of new management techniques with the tradition of private relief in mind. The reasoning behind and the various stages of the transformation of the perceptions towards poverty from the 1830s to World War I is the overarching goal of this work.