Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to discuss the work of Bismarck in relation to social legislation. Design/methodology/approach – Bismarck's points of views are sketched mainly through quotations from his speeches in Parliament. His position regarding social protection is discussed and a brief evaluation of his policy is presented. Findings – Germany, through the work of Bismarck, was the first country where the state organised a modern social-security system. Compulsory sickness, accident and old-age insurances were passed in 1883, 1884 and 1889, respectively. However, the Chancellor's social policy was not the result of a comprehensive, global, “definitive” programme. It was an opportunist policy influenced more by political than by social motives. Originality/value – The paper offers insights into Bismarck's social policy in the context of the social question.
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