It’s weird to think that this is the last blog post of the semester. It’s all gone so quick. I have been researching my project for several weeks now and have a fair amount of source material to work from, but it still feels odd that tomorrow we’re all giving a presentation on our work. I have only really started to pull all my separate pieces of information together in the last week or so, so to present this in front of everyone tomorrow feels slightly daunting. However, I am really grateful for this, as it has forced me to think about the conclusions I have drawn from my research far earlier than I otherwise might have.
Only last week I had lots of ideas in my head but no real idea of how to pull them together. For example, I had detailed accounts of how David Lloyd George had visited Germany in 1908 in the hope of bringing back ideas he could put to use in the formation of British social reform. I also had lots of information on his infamous later visit to Berchtesgaden in 1936, where he had very similar intentions, wanting to see first-hand Hitler’s economic ‘miracle’, achieved largely through his public works programmes. However, what I did not have was a clear idea of how these linked to the larger, macro picture of the rise of the welfare state as a whole across Europe and the rest of the world.
This is something that I have been thinking constantly about for the last week. I spent all my time reading about the wider context of both Bismarck and Lloyd George’s social reforms in their respective states, and also went much further afield, looking at how they were both linked to other examples in Scandinavia, America and New Zealand. After narrowing in my focus so much in order to see more detail, it had now become necessary to zoom out and examine the larger picture once more. Through this, I could really start to chart the development of what we refer to today as ‘the welfare state’. I found it had its political origins in the French Revolution and had influenced several states across the world in different ways. However, it was in Germany where the term ‘welfare state’ (or ‘Sozialstaat’) was coined, and from there the idea that welfare should be comprehensive and universal began to spread first across Europe, and then to other corners of the world.
Once I had this idea of the macro-level, it became much easier to see the significance of the micro-level experiences I was dealing with. Britain, following Lloyd George’s visit, was the first nation not linked by culture or language to Germany to start adopting Bismarckian social reforms. It was also taking a huge step by introducing universal reforms that, whilst were commonplace in an autocratic state where the government had much greater control over its citizens, were a radical idea in a country such as Britain where the government (especially the Liberals) had always preached about individuality and laissez faire.
Today, we see democracy and the welfare state as intertwined, but as I have discovered in this project, this is definitely not the case. This becomes even clearer when examining Lloyd George’s second visit to Germany in 1936. The motivation behind this second visit was his frustration at the National Government’s refusal to accept his Keynesian-style programme for economic recovery through increased public spending and public works programmes. Dismayed that this idea had been rejected in Britain, Lloyd George was keen to return to Germany, where this was a reality. I personally found it incredible that the figure most often associated with the creation of the welfare state in Britain, a system that British people are so proud of, found himself turning to Adolf Hitler for inspiration. Whilst we may see the welfare state as the ultimate symbol of democracy in today’s society, aspects of its history such as this reveal a very different side.
These are my main thoughts so far, and whilst I’m sure they will change between now and the final project, I am really grateful that tomorrow’s conference has made me sit down and think so deeply about what my project is really trying to say.

Conclusions So Far…
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