History of Germany
The concept of Germany as a distinct region in central Europe can be traced to Roman commander Julius Caesar, who referred to the unconquered area east of the Rhine as Germania, thus distinguishing it from Gaul (France), which he had conquered. The victory of the Germanic tribes in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (AD 9) prevented annexation by the Roman Empire. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Franks conquered the other West Germanic tribes. When the Frankish Empire was divided among Charlemagne’s heirs in 843, the eastern part became East Francia. In 962, Otto I became the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the medieval German stateAfter the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), feudalism fell away and liberalism and nationalism clashed with reaction. The 1848 March Revolution failed. The Industrial Revolution modernized the German economy, led to the rapid growth of cities and to the emergence of the Socialist movement in Germany. Prussia, with its capital Berlin, grew in power. German universities became world-class centers for science and the humanities, while music and the arts flourished. Unification was achieved with the formation of the German Empire in 1871 under the leadership of Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. The new Reichstag, an elected parliament, had only a limited role in the imperial government. Germany joined the other powers in colonial expansion in Africa and the Pacific.Under occupation by the Allies, German territories were split up, denazification took place, and the Cold War resulted in the division of the country into democratic West Germany and communist East Germany. Millions of ethnic Germans fled from Communist areas into West Germany, which experienced rapid economic expansion, and became the dominant economy in Western Europe. West Germany was rearmed in the 1950s under the auspices of NATO, but without access to nuclear weapons. The Franco-German friendship became the basis for the political integration of Western Europe in the European Union. In 1989, the Berlin Wall was destroyed, the Soviet Union collapsed and East Germany was reunited with West Germany in 1990. In 1998–1999, Germany was one of the founding countries of the eurozone. Germany remains one of the economic powerhouses of Europe, contributing about one quarter of the eurozone’s annual gross domestic product. In the early 2010s, Germany played a critical role in trying to resolve the escalating euro crisis, especially with regard to Greece and other Southern European nations. In the middle of the decade, the country faced the European migrant crisis, as the main receiver of asylum seekers from Syria and other troubled regions.
The Steinheim Skull is at least 250,000 years oldThe discovery of the Mauer 1 mandible in 1907 shows that ancient humans were present in Germany at least 600,000 years ago. The oldest complete hunting weapons ever found anywhere in the world were discovered in a coal mine in Schoningen, Germany in 1995 where three 380,000-year-old wooden javelins 6-7.5 feet (1.8-2.3 meter) long were unearthed.The Neander valley in Germany was the location where the first ever non-modern human fossil was discovered and recognised in 1856; the new species of human was named Neanderthal man. The Neanderthal 1 fossils are now known to be 40,000 years old. At a similar age, evidence of modern humans has been found in caves in the Swabian Jura near Ulm. The finds include 42,000-year-old bird bone and mammoth ivory flutes which are the oldest musical instruments ever found, the 40,000 -year-old Ice Age Löwenmensch figurine which is the oldest uncontested figurative art ever discovered, and the 35,000-year-old Venus of Hohle Fels which is the oldest uncontested human figurative art ever discovered.
Germanic tribes, 750 BCE – 768 CE
The ethnogenesis of the Germanic tribes is assumed[by whom? to have occurred during the Nordic Bronze Age, or at the latest during the Pre-Roman Iron Age. From their homes in southern Scandinavia and northern Germany the tribes began expanding south, east and west in the 1st century BC, coming into contact with the Celtic tribes of Gaul, as well as with Iranian, Baltic, and Slavic cultures in CentralEastern Europe.
Researchers know few details of early Germanic activity, except through the tribes’ recorded interactions with the Roman Empire, through etymological research and from archaeological finds.In the first years of the 1st century CE Roman legions conducted a long campaign in Germania, the area north of the Upper Danube and east of the Rhine, in an attempt to expand the Empire’s frontiers and to shorten its frontier line. Rome subdued several Germanic tribes, such as the Cherusci. The 3rd century saw the emergence of a number of large West Germanic tribes: the Alamanni, Franks, Bavarii, Chatti, Saxons, Frisii, Sicambri, and Thuringii. Around 260 the Germanic peoples broke through the Limes and the Danube frontier into Roman-controlled lands.Seven large German-speaking tribes – the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, Burgundians, Lombards, Saxons and Franks – moved west and witnessed the decline of the Roman Empire and the transformation of the old Western Roman Empire.At the end of the 4th century the Huns invaded the unoccupied part of present-day Germany and the Migration Period began. Hunnic hegemony over Germania lasted until the death of Attila’s son Dengizich in 469.
Stem Duchies and Marches
Stem duchies (tribal duchies) in Germany originated as the areas of the Germanic tribes of a given region. The concept of such duchies survived especially in the areaswhich in the mid-9th century would become part of East Francia (for example: Bavaria, Swabia, Saxony, Franconia, Thuringia rather than further west in Middle Francia (forexample: Burgundy,Lorraine
In the 5th century, the Völkerwanderung (or Germanic migrations) brought a number of “barbarian” tribes into the failing Roman Empire. Tribes that became stem duchies were originally the Alamanni, the Thuringii, the Saxons, the Franks, the Burgundians, and the Rugii. In contrast to later duchies, these entities did not have strictly delineated administrative boundaries, but approximated the area of settlement of major Germanic tribes. Over the next few centuries, some tribes warred, migrated, and merged. Eventually the Franks subjugated all these tribes in Germania. However, remnants of several stem duchies survive today as states or regions in modern Western Europe countries: German states such as Bavaria and Saxony, German regions like Swabia, and French régions such as of BurgundyFranche-Comté and Lorraine.
In the east, successive rulers of the German lands founded a series of border counties or marches. To the north, these included Lusatia, the North March (which wouldbecome Brandenburg and the heart of the future Prussia), and the Billung March. In the south, the marchesincluded Carniola, Styria, and the March of Austria that would
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, the Franks under the Merovingian kings built their own empire, subjugating neighboring peoples – notably otherGermanic tribes. The Merovingian kings of the Germanic Franks conquered northern Gaul in 486 CE. Swabia became a duchy under the Frankish Empire in 496, followingthe Battle of Tolbiac; in 530 Saxons and Franks destroyed the Kingdom of Thuringia. In the 5th and 6th centuries the Merovingian kings conquered several[quantify] otherGermanic tribes and kingdoms. King Chlothar I (reigned 558–561) ruled the greater part of what is now Germany and made expeditions into Saxony, while the Southeast ofmodern Germany remained under the influence of the Ostrogoths. Saxons inhabited the area down[clarification neededto the Unstrut River.
The Merovingians placed the various regions of their Frankish Empire under the control of semi-autonomous dukes – Franks or local rulers.Frankish colonists were encouraged[by whom? to move to the newly conquered territories.While allowed to preserve their own laws, the local Germanic tribes faced pressure to adopt non-Arian Christianity.The territories which would later become parts of modern Germany came under the region of Austrasia (meaning “eastern land”), the northeastern portion of the Kingdom of the Merovingian Franks. As a whole, Austrasia comprised parts of present-day France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. After the death of the Frankish king Clovis I in 511, his four sons partitioned his kingdom including Austrasia. Authority over Austrasia passed back and forth from autonomy to royal subjugation, as successive Merovingian kings alternately united and subdivided the Frankish lands.In 718 Charles Martel, the Frankish Mayor of the Palace, made war against Saxony because of its help for the Neustrians. His son Carloman started a new war against Saxony in 743, because the Saxons gave aid to Duke Odilo of Bavaria.In 751 Pippin III, Mayor of the Palace under the Merovingian king, himself assumed the title of king and was anointed by the Church. Now the Frankish kings were set up[by whom?as protectors of the pope, and Charles the Great (who ruled the Franks from 774 to 814) launched a decades-long military campaign against the Franks’ heathen rivals, the Saxons and the Avars. The campaigns and insurrections of the Saxon Wars lasted from 772 to 804. The Franks eventually overwhelmed the Saxons and Avars, forcibly converted the people to Christianity, and annexed their lands to the Carolingian
The prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire. (left to right: Archbishop of Cologne, Archbishop of Mainz, Archbishop of Trier, Count Palatine, Duke of Saxony, Margrave of Brandenburg and King of Bohemia)After the death of Frankish king Pepin the Short in 768 CE, his son Charles consolidated his control over his kingdom and became known as “Charles the Great” or “Charlemagne.” From 771 until his death in 814, Charlemagne extended the Carolingian empire into northern Italy and the territories of all west Germanic peoples, including the Saxons and the Baiuvarii (Bavarians). In 800, Charlemagne’s authority was confirmed by his coronation as emperor by the pope on Christmas Day in Rome. Imperial strongholds (Kaiserpfalzen) became economic and cultural centres, of which Aachen was the most famous.Fighting among Charlemagne’s grandchildren caused the Carolingian empire to be partitioned into several parts by the Treaty of Verdun (843), the Treaty of Meerssen (870), and the Treaty of Ribemont. The German region developed out of the East Frankish kingdom, East Francia. From 919 to 936, the Germanic peoples – Franks, Saxons, Swabians, and Bavarians – were united under Henry the Fowler, Duke of Saxony, who took the title of king. For the first time, the term “Kingdom (Empire) of the Germans” (Regnum Teutonicorum) was applied to a Frankish kingdom, although Teutonicorum at its founding originally meant something closer to “Realm of the Germanic peoples” or “Germanic Realm” than “realm of the Germans”.
Otto the great
In 936, Otto I the Great was crowned as king at Aachen; his coronation as emperor by the Pope at Rome in 962 inaugurated what became later known as the Holy Roman Empire, which came to be identified with Germany.Otto strengthened the royal authority by re-asserting the old Carolingian rights over ecclesiastical appointments.Otto wrested from the nobles the powers of appointment of the bishops and abbots, who controlled large land holdings. Additionally, Otto revived the old Carolingian program of appointing missionaries in the border lands. Otto continued to support celibacy for the higher clergy, so ecclesiastical appointments never became hereditary. By granting land to the abbotts and bishops he appointed, Otto actually made these bishops into “princes of the Empire” (Reichsfürsten); in this way, Otto was able to establish a national church. Outside threats to the kingdom were contained with the decisive defeat of the Hungarian Magyars at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955. The Slavs between the Elbe and the Oder rivers were also subjugated. Otto marched on Rome and drove John XII from the papal throne and for years controlled the election of the pope, setting a firm precedent for imperial control of the papacy for years to come.
Long-distance trade in the Baltic intensified, as the major trading towns became drawn together in the Hanseatic League, under the leadership of Lübeck. The Hanseatic League was a business alliance of trading cities and their guilds that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe. Each of the Hanseatic cities had its own legal system and a degree of political autonomy. The chief cities were Cologne on the Rhine River, Hamburg and Bremen on the North Sea, and Lübeck on the Baltic. The League flourished from 1200 to 1500, and continued with lesser importance after that
Church and state
Henry V (1086–1125), great-grandson of Conrad II, became Holy Roman Emperor in 1106 in the midst of a civil war. Hoping to gain complete control over the church inside the Empire, Henry V appointed Adalbert of Saarbrücken as the powerful archbishop of Mainz in 1111. Adalbert began to assert the powers of the Church against secular authorities, that is, the Emperor. This precipitated the “Crisis of 1111”, part of the long-term Investiture Controversy. In 1137 the magnates turned back to the Hohenstaufen family for a candidate, Conrad III. Conrad III tried to divest Henry the Proud of his two duchies – Bavaria and Saxony – leading to war in southern Germany as the Empire divided into two factions. The first faction called themselves the “Welfs” or “Guelphs” after Henry the Proud’s family, which was the ruling dynasty in Bavaria; the other faction was known as the “Waiblings.” In this early period, the Welfs generally represented ecclesiastical independence under the papacy plus “particularism” (a strengthening of the local duchies against the central imperial authority). The Waiblings, on the other hand, stood for control of the Church by a strong central Imperial government.Between 1212 and 1250, Frederick II established a modern, professionally administered state from his base in Sicily. He resumed the conquest of Italy, leading to further conflict with the Papacy. In the Empire, extensive sovereign powers were granted to ecclesiastical and secular princes, leading to the rise of independent territorial states. The struggle with the Pope sapped the Empire’s strength, as Frederick II was excommunicated three times. After his death, the Hohenstaufen dynasty fell, followed by an interregnum during which there was no Emperor.The failure of negotiations between Emperor Louis IV and the papacy led in 1338 to the declaration at Rhense by six electors to the effect that election by all or the majority of the electors automatically conferred the royal title and rule over the empire, without papal confirmation. As result, the monarch was no longer subject to papal approbation and became increasingly dependent on the favour of the electors.
Change and reform
After the disasters of the 14th century – war, plague, and schism – early-modern European society gradually came into being as a result of economic, religious, and political changes. A money economy arose which provoked social discontent among knights and peasants. Gradually, a proto-capitalistic system evolved out of feudalism. The Fugger family gained prominence through commercial and financial activities and became financiers to both ecclesiastical and secular rulers. The knightly classes found their monopoly on arms and military skill undermined by the introduction of mercenary armies and foot soldiers. Predatory activity by “robber knights” became common.From 1438 the Habsburgs, who controlled most of the southeast of the Empire (more or less modern-day Austria and Slovenia, and Bohemia and Moravia after the death of King Louis II in 1526), maintained a constant grip on the position of the Holy Roman Emperor until 1806 (with the exception of the years between 1742 and 1745). This situation, however, gave rise to increased disunity among the Holy Roman Empire’s territorial rulers and prevented sections of the country from coming together to form
nations in the manner of France and England.
Towns and cities
The German lands had a population of about 5 or 6 million. The great majority were farmers, typically in a state of serfdom under the control of nobles and monasteries. A few towns were starting to emerge. From 1100, new towns were founded around imperial strongholds, castles, bishops’ palaces, and monasteries. The towns began to establish municipal rights and liberties (see German town law). Several cities such as Cologne became Imperial Free Cities, which did not depend on princes or bishops, but were immediately subject to the Emperor. The towns were ruled by patricians: merchants carrying on long-distance trade. Craftsmen formed guilds, governed by strict rules, which sought to obtain control of the towns; a few were open to women. Society was divided into sharply demarcated classes: the clergy, physicians, merchants, various guilds of artisans, and peasants; full citizenship was not available to paupers. Political tensions arose from issues of taxation, public spending, regulation of business, and market supervision, as well as the limits of corporate autonomy.
Science and culture
In the 12th century, German Benedictine abbess Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179) wrote several influential theological, botanical, and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs, poems, and arguably the oldest surviving morality play, while supervising brilliant miniature Illuminations. About 100 years later, Walther von der Vogelweide (c. 1170 – c. 1230) became the most celebrated of the Middle High German lyric poets.Around 1439, Johannes Gutenberg, a citizen of Mainz, was the first European to use movable type printing and became the global inventor of the printing press, thereby starting the Printing Revolution. Gutenberg’s inventions and works (such as the Gutenberg Bible) would play key roles for the development of the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution.
Around the transition from the 15th to the 16th century, Albrecht Dürer from Nuremberg established his reputation across Europe as painter, printmaker, mathematician, engraver, and theorist when he was still in his twenties and secured his reputation as one of the most important figures of the Northern Renaissance.The addition Nationis Germanicæ (of German Nation) to the emperor’s title appeared first in the 15th century: in a 1486 law decreed by Frederick III and in 1512 in referenceto the Imperial Diet in Cologne by Maximilian I. By then, the emperors had lost their influence in Italy and Burgundy. In 1525, the Heilbronn reform plan – the most advanced document of the German Peasants’ War (Deutscher Bauernkrieg) – referred to the Reich as von Teutscher Nation (of German nation).
In the early 16th century there was much discontent occasioned by abuses such as indulgences in the Catholic Church, and a general desire for reform.In 1517 the Reformation began with the publication of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses; he posted them in the town square and gave copies of them to German nobles, but it is debated whether he nailed them to the church door in Wittenberg as is commonly said. The list detailed 95 assertions Luther believed to show corruption and misguidance within the Catholic Church. One often cited example, though perhaps not Luther’s chief concern, is a condemnation of the selling of indulgences; another prominent point within the 95 Theses is Luther’s disagreement both with the way in which the higher clergy, especially the pope, used and abused power, and with the very idea of the pope.In 1521 Luther was outlawed at the Diet of Worms. But the Reformation spread rapidly, helped by the Emperor Charles V’s wars with France and the Turks. Hiding in the Wartburg Castle, Luther translated the Bible from Latin to German, establishing the basis of the German language. A curious fact is that Luther spoke a dialect which had minor importance in the German language of that time. After the publication of his Bible, his dialect suppressed the others and evolved into what is now the modern German.
Thirty Years War, 1618–1648
Reduction of the population of the Holy Roman Empire as a consequence of the Thirty Years War
From 1618 to 1648 the Thirty Years’ War ravaged in the Holy Roman Empire. The causes were the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, the efforts by the various states within the Empire to increase their power and the Catholic Emperor’s attempt to achieve the religious and political unity of the Empire. The immediate occasion for the war was the uprising of the Protestant nobility of Bohemia against the emperor, but the conflict was widened into a European War by the intervention of King Christian IV of Denmark (1625–29), Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (1630–48) and France under Cardinal Richelieu. Germany became the main theatre of war and the scene of the final conflict between France and the Habsburgs for predominance in Europe.
The fighting often was out of control, with marauding bands of hundreds or thousands of starving soldiers spreading plague, plunder, and murder. The armies that were under control moved back and forth across the countryside year after year, levying heavy taxes on cities, and seizing the animals and food stocks of the peasants without payment. The enormous social disruption over three decades caused a dramatic decline in population because of killings, disease, crop failures, declining birth rates and random destruction, and the out-migration of terrified people. One estimate shows a 38% drop from 16 million people in 1618 to 10 million by 1650, while another shows “only” a 20% drop from 20 million to 16 million. The Altmark and Württemberg regions were especially hard hit. It took generations for Germany to fully recover.
Culture and literacy
The Reformation was a triumph of literacy and the new printing press. Luther’s translation of the Bible into German was a decisive moment in the spread of literacy, and stimulated as well the printing and distribution of religious books and pamphlets. From 1517 onward religious pamphlets flooded Germany and much of Europe. By 1530 over 10,000 publications are known, with a total of ten million copies. The Reformation was thus a media revolution. Luther strengthened his attacks on Rome by depicting a “good” against “bad” churchLuther’s German translation of the Bible was also decisive for the German language and its evolution from Early New High German to Modern Standard. His bible promoted the development of non-local forms of language and exposed all speakers to forms of German from outside their own area.
Decisive scientific developments took place during the 16th and 17th centuries, especially in the fields of astronomy, mathematics and physics. In 1543, astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus from Toruń (Thorn) published his work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium and became the first person to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology that displaced the Earth from the center of the universe. Almost 70 years after Copernicus’s death and building on his theories, astronomer Johannes Kepler from Stuttgart was a leader in the 17th-century scientific revolution. He is best known for his laws of planetary motion. His works Astronomia nova and Harmonices Mundi were further codified by later astronomers. These works also influenced contemporary Italian scientist Galileo Galilei and provided one of the foundations for Englishman IsaacNewton’s theory of universal gravitation.
After 1763, Prussia became a European great power. The rivalry between Prussia and Austria for the leadership of Germany beganFrom 1640, Brandenburg-Prussia had started to rise under the Great Elector, Frederick William. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 strengthened it even further, through the acquisition of East Pomerania. From 1713 to 1740, King Frederick William I, also known as the “Soldier King”, established a highly centralized, militarized state with a heavily rural population of about three million (compared to the nine million in Austria).
In terms of the boundaries of 1914, Germany in 1700 had a population of 16 million, increasing slightly to 17 million by 1750, and growing more rapidly to 24 million by 1800. Wars continued, but they were no longer so devastating to the civilian population; famines and major epidemics did not occur, but increased agricultural productivity led to a
higher birth rate, and a lower death rate.
Louis XIV of France conquered parts of Alsace and Lorraine (1678–1681), and had invaded and devastated the Electorate of the Palatinate (1688–1697) in the War of Palatinian Succession. Louis XIV benefited from the Empire’s problems with the Turks, which were menacing Austria. Louis XIV ultimately had to relinquish the Electorate of the Palatinate. Afterwards Hungary was reconquered from the Turks; Austria, under the Habsburgs, developed into a great power.Frederick II, the Great, of Prussia reigned 1740-1786Frederick II “the Great” is best known for his military genius, his reorganization of Prussian armies, his battlefield successes, his enlightened rule, and especially his making Prussia one of the great powers, as well as escaping from almost certain national disaster at the last minute. He was especially a role model for an aggressively expanding Germany down to 1945, and even today retains his heroic image in Germany.
Completely overshadowed by Prussia and Austria, the smaller German states were generally characterized by political lethargy and administrative inefficiency, often compounded by rulers who were more concerned with their mistresses and their hunting dogs than with the affairs of state. Bavaria was especially unfortunate in this regard; it was a rural land with very heavy debts and few growth centers. Saxony was in economically good shape, although its government was seriously mismanaged, and numerous wars had taken their toll. During the time when Prussia rose rapidly within Germany, Saxony was distracted by foreign affairs. The house of Wettin concentrated on acquiring and then holding on to the Polish throne which was ultimately unsuccessful. In Württemberg the duke lavished funds on palaces, mistresses, great celebration, and hunting expeditions. Many of the city-states of Germany were run by bishops, who in reality were from powerful noble families and showed scant interest in religion. None developed a significant reputation for good government.
In a heavily agrarian society, land ownership played a central role. Germany’s nobles, especially those in the East – called Junkers – dominated not only the localities, but also the Prussian court, and especially the Prussian army. Increasingly after 1815, a centralized Prussian government based in Berlin took over the powers of the nobles, which in terms of control over the peasantry had been almost absolute. To help the nobility avoid indebtedness, Berlin set up a credit institution to provide capital loans in 1809, and extended the loan network to peasants in 1849. When the German Empire was established in 1871, the Junker nobility controlled the army and the Navy, the bureaucracy, and the royal court; they generally set governmental policies.
Peasants and rural life
Peasants continued to center their lives in the village, where they were members of a corporate body, and to help manage the community resources and monitor the community life. In the East, they were serfs who were bound permanently to parcels of land. In most of Germany, farming was handled by tenant farmers who paid rents and obligatory services to the landlord, who was typically a nobleman. Peasant leaders supervised the fields and ditches and grazing rights, maintained public order and morals, and supported a village court which handled minor offenses. Inside the family the patriarch made all the decisions, and tried to arrange advantageous marriages for his children. Much of the villages’ communal life centered around church services and holy days. In Prussia, the peasants drew lots to choose conscripts required by the army. The noblemen handled external relationships and politics for the villages under their control, and were not typically involved in daily activities or decisions.
Weimar’s Courtyard of the Muses, a tribute to The Enlightenment and the Weimar Classicism depicting German poets Schiller, Wieland, Herder and Goethe.Before 1750 the German upper classes looked to France for intellectual, cultural and architectural leadership; French was the language of high society. By the mid-18th century the “Aufklärung” (The Enlightenment) had transformed German high culture in music, philosophy, science and literature. Christian Wolff (1679–1754) was the pioneer as a writer who expounded the Enlightenment to German readers; he legitimized German as a philosophic language.Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744–1803) broke new ground in philosophy and poetry, as a leader of the Sturm und Drang movement of proto-Romanticism. Weimar Classicism (“Weimarer Klassik”) was a cultural and literary movement based in Weimar that sought to establish a new humanism by synthesizing Romantic, classical, and Enlightenment ideas. The movement, from 1772 until 1805, involved Herder as well as polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) and Friedrich Schiller (1759– 1805), a poet and historian. Herder argued that every folk had its own particular identity, which was expressed in its language and culture.
French Revolution, 1789–1815
The Confederation of the Rhine, a confederation of client states of the First French Empire, existed from 1806 to 1813.German reaction to the French Revolution was mixed at first. German intellectuals celebrated the outbreak, hoping to see the triumph of Reason and The Enlightenment. The royal courts in Vienna and Berlin denounced the overthrow of the king and the threatened spread of notions of liberty, equality, and fraternity. By 1793, the execution of the French king and the onset of the Terror disillusioned the Bildungsbürgertum (educated middle classes). Reformers said the solution was to have faith in the ability of Germans to reform their laws and institutions in peaceful fashion.Europe was racked by two decades of war revolving around France’s efforts to spread its revolutionary ideals, and the opposition of reactionary royalty. War broke out in 1792 as Austria and Prussia invaded France, but were defeated at the Battle of Valmy (1792). The German lands saw armies marching back and forth, bringing devastation (albeit on a far lower scale than the Thirty Years’ War, almost two centuries before), but also bringing new ideas of liberty and civil rights for the people. Prussia and Austria ended their failed wars with France but (with Russia) partitioned Poland among themselves in 1793 and 1795. The French took control of the Rhineland, imposed French-style reforms, abolished feudalism, established constitutions, promoted freedom of religion, emancipated Jews, opened the bureaucracy to ordinary citizens of talent, and forced the nobility to share power with the rising middle class. Napoleon created the Kingdom of Westphalia (1807–1813) as a model state. These reforms proved largely permanent and modernized the western parts of Germany. When the French tried to impose the French language, German opposition grew in intensity. A Second Coalition of Britain, Russia, and Austria then attacked France but failed. Napoleon established direct or indirect control over most of western Europe, including the German states apart from Prussia and Austria. The old Holy Roman Empire was little more than a farce; Napoleon simply abolished it in 1806 while forming new countries under his control. In Germany Napoleon set up the “Confederation of the Rhine,” comprising most of the German states except Prussia and Austria.
German Confederation, 1815–1867
The German Confederation (German: Deutscher Bund) was the loose association of 39 states created in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries. It acted as a buffer between the powerful states of Austria and Prussia. Britain approved of it because London felt that there was need for a stable, peaceful power in central Europe that could discourage aggressive moves by France or Russia. According to Lee (1985), most historians have judged the Confederation to be weak and ineffective, as well as an obstacle to German nationalist aspirations. It collapsed because of the rivalry between Prussia and Austria (known as German dualism), warfare, the 1848 revolution, and the inability of the multiple members to compromise. It was replaced by the North German
Society and economy
The population of the German Confederation (excluding Austria) grew 60% from 1815 to 1865, from 21,000,000 to 34,000,000.The era saw the Demographic Transition take place in Germany. It was a transition from high birth rates and high death rates to low birth and death rates as the country developed from a pre-industrial to a modernized agriculture and supported a fast-growing industrialized urban economic system. In previous centuries, the shortage of land meant that not everyone could marry, and marriages took place after age 25. After 1815, increased agricultural productivity meant a larger food supply, and a decline in famines, epidemics, and malnutrition. This allowed couples to marry earlier, and have more children. Arranged marriages became uncommon as young people were now allowed to choose their own marriage partners, subject to a veto by the parents. The high birthrate was offset by a very high rate of infant mortality and emigration, especially after about 1840, mostly to the German settlements in the United States, plus periodic epidemics and harvest failures. The upper and middle classes beganto practice birth control, and a little later so too did the
Before 1850 Germany lagged far behind the leaders in industrial development – Britain, France, and Belgium. In 1800, Germany’s social structure was poorly suited to entrepreneurship or economic development. Domination by France during the era of the French Revolution (1790s to 1815), however, produced important institutional reforms. Reforms included the abolition of feudal restrictions on the sale of large landed estates, the reduction of the power of the guilds in the cities, and the introduction of a new, more efficient commercial law. Nevertheless, traditionalism remained strong in most of Germany. Until mid-century, the guilds, the landed aristocracy, the churches, and the government bureaucracies had so many rules and restrictions that entrepreneurship was held in low esteem, and given little opportunity to develop. From the 1830s and 1840s, Prussia, Saxony, and other states reorganized agriculture. The introduction of sugar beets, turnips, and potatoes yielded a higher level of food production, which enabled a surplus rural population to move to industrial areas. The beginnings of the industrial revolution inGermany came in the textile industry, and was facilitated by eliminating tariff barriers through the Zollverein, starting in 1834.
Industrialization brought rural Germans to the factories, mines and railways. The population in 1800 was heavily rural, with only 10% of the people living in communities of 5000 or more people, and only 2% living in cities of more than 100,000. After 1815, the urban population grew rapidly, due primarily to the influx of young people from the rural areas. Berlin grew from 172,000 in 1800, to 826,000 in 1870; Hamburg grew from 130,000 to 290,000; Munich from 40,000 to 269,000; and Dresden from 60,000 to 177,000. Offsetting this growth, there was extensive emigration, especially to the United States. Emigration totaled 480,000 in the 1840s, 1,200,000 in the 1850s, and 780,000 in the 1860s.
Friedrich List’s concept for a German railway net from 1833
The takeoff stage of economic development came with the railroad revolution in the 1840s, which opened up new markets for local products, created a pool of middle managers, increased the demand for engineers, architects and skilled machinists and stimulated investments in coal and iron. Political disunity of three dozen states and a pervasive conservatism made it difficult to build railways in the 1830s. However, by the 1840s, trunk lines did link the major cities; each German state was responsible for the lines within its own borders.
Newspapers and magazines
A large number of newspapers and magazines flourished; A typical small city had one or two newspapers; Berlin and Leipzig had dozens. The audience was limited to perhaps five percent of the adult men, chiefly from the aristocratic and middle classes, who followed politics. Liberal papers outnumbered conservative ones by a wide margin. Foreign governments bribed editors to guarantee a favorable image. Censorship was strict, and the government issued the political news they were supposed to report. After 1871, strict press laws were used by Bismarck to shut down the Socialist, and to threaten hostile editors. There were no national newspapers. Editors focused on political commentary, but also include in a nonpolitical cultural page, focused on the arts and high culture. Especially popular was the serialized novel, with a new chapter every week. Magazines were politically more influential, and attracted the leading intellectuals as authors.
Science and culture
German artists and intellectuals, heavily influenced by the French Revolution and by the great German poet and writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), turned to Romanticism after a period of Enlightenment. Philosophical thought was decisively shaped by Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) was the leading composer of Romantic music. His use of tonal architecture in such a way as to allow significant expansion of musical forms and structures was immediately recognized as bringing a new dimension to music. His later piano music and string quartets, especially, showed the way to a completely unexplored musical universe, and influenced Franz Schubert (1797–1828) and Robert Schumann (1810–1856). In opera, a new Romantic atmosphere combining supernatural terror and melodramatic plot in a folkloric context was first successfully achieved by Carl Maria von Weber (1786–1826) and perfected by Richard Wagner (1813–1883) in his Ring Cycle. The Brothers Grimm (1785–1863 & 1786–1859) not only collected folk stories into the popular Grimm’s Fairy Tales, but were also linguists, now counted among the founding fathers of German studies. They were commissioned to begin the Deutsches Wörterbuch (“The German Dictionary”), which remains the most comprehensive work on the German language.
Two main developments reshaped religion in Germany. Across the land, there was a movement to unite the larger Lutheran and the smaller Reformed Protestant churches. The churches themselves brought this about in Baden, Nassau, and Bavaria. However, in Prussia King Frederick William III was determined to handle unification entirely on his own terms, without consultation. His goal was to unify the Protestant churches, and to impose a single standardized liturgy, organization and even architecture. The long-term goal was to have fully centralized royal control of all the Protestant churches. In a series of proclamations over several decades the Church of the Prussian Union was formed, bringing together the more numerous Lutherans, and the less numerous Reformed Protestants. The government of Prussia now had full control over church affairs, with the king himself recognized as the leading bishop. Opposition to unification came from the “OldLutherans” in Silesia who clung tightly to the theological and
liturgical forms they had followed since the days of Luther. The government attempted to crack down on them, so they went underground. Tens of thousands migrated, to South Australia, and especially to the United States, where they formed the Missouri Synod, which is still in operation as a conservative denomination. Finally in 1845 a new king Frederick William IV offered a general amnesty and allowed the Old Lutherans to form a separate church association with only nominal government control.
Politics of restoration and revolution
At the Hambach Festival in 1832, intellectuals with various political backgrounds were among the first to use the future Flag of Germany and called for a unified German
nation.After the fall of Napoleon, Europe’s statesmen convened in Vienna in 1815 for the reorganisation of European affairs, under the leadership of the Austrian Prince Metternich. The political principles agreed upon at this Congress of Vienna included the restoration, legitimacy and solidarity of rulers for the repression of revolutionary and nationalist ideas.The German Confederation (German: Deutscher Bund) was founded, a loose union of 39 states (35 ruling princes and 4 free cities) under Austrian leadership, with a Federal Diet (German: Bundestag) meeting in Frankfurt am Main. It was a loose coalition that failed to satisfy most nationalists. The member states largely went their own way, and Austria had its own interests.
In 1819 a student radical assassinated the reactionary playwright August von Kotzebue, who had scoffed at liberal student organisations. In one of the few major actions of the German Confederation, Prince Metternich called a conference that issued the repressive Carlsbad Decrees, designed to suppress liberal agitation against the conservative governments of the German states.The Decrees terminated the fast-fading nationalist fraternities (German: Burschenschaften), removed liberal university professors, and expanded the censorship of the press. The decrees began the “persecution of the demagogues”, which was directed against individuals who were accused of spreading revolutionary and nationalist ideas. Among the persecuted were the poet Ernst Moritz Arndt, the publisher Johann Joseph Görres and the “Father of Gymnastics” Ludwig Jahn.
Bismarck takes charge, 1862–1866
In 1857, the king had a stroke and his brother William became regent, then became King William I in 1861. Although conservative, William I was far more pragmatic. His most significant accomplishment was naming Otto von Bismarck as chancellor in 1862. The combination of Bismarck, Defense Minister Albrecht von Roon, and Field Marshal Helmut von Moltke set the stage for victories over Denmark, Austria, and France, and led to the unification of Germany. The obstacle to German unification was Austria, and Bismarck solved the problem with a series of wars that united the German states north of Austria.
In 1863–64, disputes between Prussia and Denmark grew over Schleswig, which was not part of the German Confederation, and which Danish nationalists wanted to incorporate into the Danish kingdom. The dispute led to the short Second War of Schleswig in 1864. Prussia, joined by Austria, easily defeated Denmark and occupied Jutland. The Danes were forced to cede both the duchy of Schleswig and the duchy of Holstein to Austria and Prussia. In the aftermath, the management of the two duchies caused escalating tensions between Austria and Prussia. The former wanted the duchies to become an independent entity within the German Confederation, while the latter wanted to annex them. The Seven Weeks War between Austria and Prussia broke out in June 1866. In July, the two armies clashed at Sadowa-Königgrätz (Bohemia) in an enormous battle involving half a million men. The Prussian breech-loading needle guns carried the day over the slow muzzle-loading rifles of the Austrians, who lost a quarter of their army in the battle. Austria ceded Venice to Italy, but Bismarck was deliberately lenient with the loser to keep alive a long-term alliance with Austria in a subordinate role. Now the French faced an increasingly strong Prussia.
North German Federation, 1866–1871
In 1866, the German Confederation was dissolved. In its place the North German Federation (German Norddeutscher Bund) was established, under the leadership of Prussia. Austria was excluded, and the Austrian influence in Germany that had begun in the 15th century finally came to an end. The North German Federation was a transitional organisation that existed from 1867 to 1871, between the dissolution of the German Confederation and the founding of the German Empire.
After Germany was united by Otto von Bismarck into the “German Reich”, he determined German politics until 1890. Bismarck tried to foster alliances in Europe, on one hand to contain France, and on the other hand to consolidate Germany’s influence in Europe. On the domestic front Bismarck tried to stem the rise of socialism by anti- socialist laws, combined with an introduction of health care and social security. At the same time Bismarck tried to reduce the political influence of the emancipated Catholic minority in the Kulturkampf, literally “culture struggle”. The Catholics only grew stronger, forming the Center (Zentrum) Party. Germany grew rapidly in industrial and economic power, matching Britain by 1900. Its highly professional army was the best in the world, but the navy could never catch up with Britain’s Royal Navy.
Main articles: German Revolution of 1918-19 and Treaty of VersaillesThe end of October 1918, in Wilhelmshaven, in northern Germany, saw the beginning of the German Revolution of 1918–19. Units of the German Navy refused to set sail for a last, large-scale operation in a war which they saw as good as lost, initiating the uprising. On 3 November, the revolt spread to other cities and states of the country, in many of which workers’ and soldiers’ councils were established. Meanwhile, Hindenburg and the senior commanders had lost confidence in the Kaiser and his government. The Kaiser and all German ruling princes abdicated. On 9 November 1918, the Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed a Republic.
Weimar Republic, 1919–1933
The humiliating peace terms in the Treaty of Versailles provoked bitter indignation throughout Germany, and seriously weakened the new democratic regime. The greatest enemies of democracy had already been constituted. In December 1918, the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was founded, and in 1919 it tried and failed to overthrow the new republic. Adolf Hitler in 1919 took control of the new National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), which failed in a coup in Munich in 1923. Both parties, as well as parties supporting the republic, built militant auxiliaries that engaged in increasingly violent street battles. Electoral support for both parties increased after 1929 as the Great Depression hit the economy hard, producing many unemployed men who became available for the paramilitary units. The Nazis, with a mostly rural and lower middle class base, overthrew the Weimar regime and ruled Germany in 1933–1945; the KPD, with a mostly urban and working class base, came to power (in the East) in 1945–1989.
World War II
A German soldier during the decisive Battle of StalingradAt first Germany’s military moves were brilliantly successful, as in the “blitzkrieg” invasions of Poland (1939), Norway (1940), the Low Countries (1940), and above all the stunningly successful invasion and quick conquest of France in 1940. Hitler probably wanted peace with Britain in late 1940, but Prime Minister Winston Churchill, standing alone, was dogged in his defiance. Churchill had major financial, military, and diplomatic help from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the U.S., another implacable foe of Hitler. Hitler’s emphasis on maintaining high living standards postponed the full mobilization of the national economy until 1942, years after the great rivals Britain, Russia, and the U.S. had fully mobilized. Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 – weeks behind schedule – but swept forward until it reached the gates of Moscow.US Air Force photographs the destruction in central Berlin in July 1945The tide turned in December 1941, when the invasion of Russia stalled in cold weather and the United States joined the war. After surrender in North Africa and losing the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942–43, the Germans were on the defensive. By late 1944, the United States, Canada, France, and Great Britain were closing in on Germany in the West, while the Soviets were closing from the East. Overy estimated in 2014 that in all about 353,000 civilians were killed by British and American strategic bombing ofGerman cities, and nine million left homeless.
Economic crisis of 1970s
Helmut Schmidt, left, with French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (1977)
After 1973, Germany was hard hit by a worldwide economic crisis, soaring oil prices, and stubbornly high unemployment, which jumped from 300,000 in 1973 to 1.1 million
in 1975. The Ruhr region was hardest hit, as its easy-to-reach coal mines petered out, and expensive German coal was no longer competitive. Likewise the Ruhr steel
industry went into sharp decline, as its prices were undercut by lower-cost suppliers such as Japan. The welfare system provided a safety net for the large number of
unemployed workers, and many factories reduce their labor force and began to concentrate on high-profit specialty items. After 1990 the Ruhr moved into service industries
and high technology. Cleaning up the heavy air and water pollution became a major industry in its own right. Meanwhile, formerly rural Bavaria became a high-tech center of
Federal Republic of Germany, 1990–present
Schröder, in March 2003, reversed his position and proposed a significant downsizing of the welfare state, known as Agenda 2010. He had enough support to overcome
opposition from the trade unions and the SPD’s left wing. Agenda 2010 had five goals: tax cuts; labor market deregulation, especially relaxing rules protecting workers from
dismissal and setting up Hartz concept job training; modernizing the welfare state by reducing entitlements; decreasing bureaucratic obstacles for small businesses; and
providing new low-interest loans to local governments.
A major historiographical debate about the German history concerns the Sonderweg, the alleged “special path” that separated German history from the normal course of historical development, and whether or not Nazi Germany was the inevitable result of the Sonderweg. Proponents of the Sonderweg theory such as Fritz Fischer point to such events of the Revolution of 1848, the authoritarianism of the Second Empire and the continuation of the Imperial elite into the Weimar and Nazi periods. Opponents such as Gerhard Ritter of the Sonderweg theory argue that proponents of the theory are guilty of seeking selective examples, and there was much contingency and chance in German history. In addition, there was much debate within the supporters of the Sonderweg concept as for the reasons for the Sonderweg, and whether or not the Sonderweg ended in 1945. Was there a Sonderweg? Winkler says:”For a long time, educated Germans answered it in the positive, initially by laying claim to a special German mission, then, after the collapse of 1945, by criticizing Germany’s deviation from the West. Today, the negative view is predominant. Germany did not, according to the now prevailing opinion, differ from the great European nations to an extent that would justify speaking of a ‘unique German path.’ And, in any case, no country on earth ever took what can be described as the ‘normal path.