A Consise History Of Germany Essay, Research Paper
A Consise History Of Germany
Germanic warriors decisively defeated Roman forces at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest.
The Frankish king Clovis overran the Roman province of Gaul. Clovis introduced features of Roman life into western Germany.
The Treaty of Verdun divided Charlemagne’s empire into three kingdoms. The German kingdom soon divided into five duchies.
Otto I was crowned Holy Roman emperor in Aachen.
A dispute between Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII marked the beginning of a series of civil wars contesting church power.
The Hanseatic League was the supreme commercial and military power in northern Germany.
Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation.
The Peace of Augsburg recognized the right of princes to choose Lutheranism or Catholicism for their lands.
The Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years’ War.
Frederick the Great became king of Prussia and began building Prussia into a great power.
The Holy Roman Empire came to an end with the establishment of the Confederation of the Rhine.
The German Confederation was formed at the Congress of Vienna.
Revolutions swept across Germany. The first German national assembly met at Frankfurt in the hopes of creating a more united country.
Prussian prime minister Otto von Bismarck realized his dream of a united Germany as the German Empire was founded.
Germany was forced to accept harsh terms under the Treaty of Versailles that brought an end to World War I. The Weimar Republic was founded.
Adolf Hitler and the Nazis assumed power.
Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II.
Allied armies occupied Germany and divided it into four zones of occupation. Nazi war criminals were tried at N rnberg.
Germany was divided into East Germany and West Germany. Berlin, in East Germany, was also divided between the two countries.
East Germany and West Germany became sovereign states. East Germany joined the Warsaw Pact, an Eastern European military alliance. West Germany became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a Western military alliance.
The East German government built the Berlin Wall.
The Communist government in East Germany collapsed, and the Berlin Wall was dismantled. Thousands of East Germans emigrated to West Germany.
Germany was formally reunified under the government of the former West Germany.
In a close election, Chancellor Helmut Kohl was returned to power for a fourth consecutive term.
(Federal Republic of Germany)
Berlin, with some government offices remaining in the former West German capital of Bonn
The flag of the former West Germany was retained when Germany was reunified in 1990. The colors were taken from the uniforms of German volunteers during the Napoleonic Wars, and have flown intermittently over Germany since 1848. The black represents gunpowder, the red represents blood, and the gold represents fire.
Third verse of “Deutschlandlied”
(”Song of Germany”)
Origins of the Germans
Germany was inhabited from earliest times, but it took many millennia of migration, conquest, and intermingling to produce the Germans.
Stone Age Peoples
During the Old Stone Age, the German forests were thinly populated by wandering bands of hunters and gatherers. They belonged to the earliest forms of Homo sapiens, such as Heidelberg man, who lived about 400,000 years ago. Somewhat later more advanced forms of Homo sapiens appeared, as exemplified by skeletal finds near Steinheim, some 300,000 years old, and near Ehringsdorf, from about 100,000 years ago. Another human type was the Neandertal, found near D sseldorf, who lived about 100,000 years ago. The most recent type, which appeared by 40,000 BC, was the Cro-Magnon, a member of Homo sapiens sapiens, essentially of the same group as modern Europeans.
During the New Stone Age, the indigenous hunters encountered farming peoples from the more advanced southwest Asia, who were migrating up the Danube Valley into central Germany about 4500 BC. These populations mixed and settled in villages to raise crops and breed livestock. Villagers of this Danubian culture lived with their animals in large, gabled wooden houses, made pottery, and traded with Mediterranean peoples for fine stone and flint axes and shells. As their hand-hoed fields wore out, they moved on, often returning years later.
Bronze Age Peoples
The Bronze Age began in central Germany, Bohemia, and Austria in about 2500 BC with the working of copper and tin deposits by prospectors from the eastern Mediterranean. In about 2300 BC new waves of migrating peoples arrived, probably from southern Russia. These battle-ax-wielding Indo-Europeans were the ancestors of the Germanic peoples that settled in northern and central Germany, the Baltic and Slavic peoples in the east, and the Celts in the south and west. The central and southern groups mixed with the so-called Bell-Beaker people, who moved east from Spain and Portugal about the year 2000 BC. The Bell-Beaker folk, probably Indo-Europeans, were skilled metalworkers. They developed a thriving Bronze Age culture in Germany and traded amber from the Baltic coast for bronze, pottery, and beads from the Mediterranean.
From 1800 to 400 BC, Celtic peoples in southern Germany and Austria developed a sequence of advanced metalworking cultures-Urnfield, Hallstatt, and La T ne-each of which spread throughout Europe. They introduced the use of iron for tools and weapons. The La T ne Celts did fine metalwork and used ox-drawn plows and wheeled vehicles. The Germanic tribes absorbed much Celtic culture and eventually displaced the Celts themselves.
Germans and Romans
From the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD the Germanic and Celtic tribes, constantly pressed by migrations from the north and east, were in contact with the Romans, who controlled southern and western Europe. Roman accounts by Julius Caesar and Cornelius Tacitus describe these encounters.
The Cimbri and Teutons, about to invade Italy, were defeated by the Roman general Gaius Marius in 101 and 102 BC. The Suevi and other tribes in Gaul (modern-day France), west of the Rhine, were subdued by Julius Caesar around 50 BC. The Romans tried unsuccessfully to extend their rule to the Elbe, and the emperors held the border at the Rhine and the Danube. Between the two rivers they erected a limes, a line of fortifications to keep out raiding tribes.
In the 2nd century AD the Romans prevented confederations of Franks, Alamanni, and Bourguignons outside the empire from crossing the Rhine. But in the 4th and 5th centuries, the pressure proved too much for the weakened Romans. The Huns, sweeping in from Asia, set off waves of migration, during which the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, Franks, Lombards, and other Germanic tribes overran the empire.
Beginnings of a German State
In the late 5th century the Frankish chieftain Clovis defeated the Romans, and he established a kingdom that included most of Gaul and southwestern Germany. He converted his subjects, believers in a heretical offshoot of Christianity known as Arianism, to orthodox Christianity.
Clovis’s work was carried on in the 8th century by Charlemagne, who fought the Slavs south of the Danube, annexed southern Germany, and ferociously subdued and converted the pagan Saxons in the northwest. As champion of Christianity and supporter of the papacy against the restive people of Rome, Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III in Rome in 800. This milestone event revived the Roman imperial tradition in the west, but it also set a precedent for the dependence of the emperors on papal approval.
The Carolingian Empire was based on the social structure of the late Roman Empire. The official language of the court and the church was Latin, but Franks in Gaul adopted the Latinate vernacular that became French, and Franks and other Germanic tribes in the east spoke various languages that became German. The only relic of Old High German is the Hildebrandslied (”Lay of Hildebrand”), a fragmentary 8th-century poem, based on early pagan heroic tales, about the tragic duel between a father and son.
Carolingian rulers encouraged missionary work among the Germans. Saint Willibrord founded the monastery of Echternach, and Saint Boniface founded Reichenau and Fulda and reformed the Frankish church. Non-Frankish Germans, however, retained much pagan belief beneath their newly acquired faith. The Heliand, a 9th-century epic, depicts Jesus Christ as a Saxon warrior king.
Early Middle Ages
Medieval German kings had three major concerns. One was checking the rebellious princes-usually with the help of churchmen. The second was controlling Italy and being crowned emperor of the West by the pope, a policy considered an essential part of the Carolingian heritage. The third was expansion to the north and east.
The Saxon Kings
When the last Carolingian died without an heir, the Franks and Saxons elected Conrad, duke of Franconia, their king; he proved incompetent. After his death in 918 they chose the Saxon duke Henry I, the Fowler, a sober, practical soldier, who made peace with a rival king chosen by the Bavarians, defeated Magyars and Slavs, and regained Lorraine.
Otto I, the Great
At Henry’s death in 936, the princes elected his son Otto I, who combined extraordinary forcefulness, dignity, and military prowess with great diplomatic skill and genuine religious faith. Determined to create a strong centralized monarchy, Otto gave the duchies to his relatives and then broke them up into nonhereditary fiefs granted to bishops and abbots. By nominating these churchmen and subjecting them to the royal court, he ensured their loyalty. This Ottonian system of government through alliance with the German state church was carried much further by his successors.
Otto also had to defend his realm from outside pressures. In the west he strengthened his hold on Lorraine and gained influence over Bourgogne (Arles). In the north and east he defeated the Danes and Slavs, and he permanently broke the power of the Magyars at the Battle of the Lechfeld in 955. Otto established the archbishopric of Magdeburg (968) and other sees as centers of civilization in the conquered lands. Germans settled these regions.
Wanting to emulate Charlemagne as the divinely sanctioned emperor of Christendom, Otto began the disastrous policy of German entanglement in Italy. The temptation was the greater because Italy was a rich land and a scene of feudal disorder and Saracen invasions. When Adelaide, widowed queen of the Lombards, asked Otto for help against her captor, Berengar, king of Italy, Otto invaded Italy in 951, married her, and took her dead husband’s title.
The papacy at this time was struggling to hold its land against encroaching nobles from the north and Byzantine Greeks and Saracens from the south. When Pope John XII appealed to Otto for aid against Berengar, Otto invaded Italy a second time, defeated Berengar, and was crowned emperor by the pope in 962. By a treaty called the Ottonian Privilege, Otto guaranteed the pope’s claim to papal lands, and all future papal candidates had to swear fealty to the emperor.
Later Saxon Kings
Otto’s successors in the 10th and 11th centuries continued his German and Italian policies as best they could. Otto II established the Eastern March (Austria) under the Babenbergs as a military outpost but was defeated by the Saracens in his efforts to secure southern Italy. The pious Otto III supported the Benedictine reform movement originating in Cluny, Bourgogne, which encouraged a more austere, disciplined life. The childless Henry II, gentle and devout, also encouraged the Cluniac movement and sent out missionaries from his court in the new bishopric of Bamberg.
For 100 years (1024-1125) German kings were chosen from the Salian line, which was related to the Saxons. The Salians brought the empire to its height.
High Tide of Empire
Conrad II, a clever and ruthless ruler, reasserted royal authority over princely opposition by making the fiefs of lesser nobles hereditary and by appointing ministerials, lower-class men responsible directly to him, as officials and soldiers. He seized Bourgogne, strengthened his hold on northern Italy, and became overlord of Poland.
Conrad’s son Henry III, the Black, was the first undisputed king of Germany. A pious visionary, he introduced to a Germany torn by civil strife the Cluny-inspired Truce of God, a respite from war lasting from Wednesday night to Monday morning, and tried in vain to extend it to a permanent peace. He ended the payment by new bishops of tribute to the Crown-a practice called simony-although he still invested churchmen, who remained his vassals. During his reign he deposed three rival popes and created four new ones, notably the reform-minded Leo IX.
While still a child, Henry IV succeeded his father, Henry III, in 1056. During his mother’s regency, long-restive princes annexed much royal land; cities, popes, and Normans controlled Italy; and the Lateran synod of 1059 declared that only cardinals could canonically elect the pope. Henry IV was wily, opportunistic, and headstrong in an era of violence and treachery, and as ruler he sought to recover lost imperial power. His efforts to retrieve crown lands aroused the Saxons, who resented the Salian kings. He crushed a Saxon rebellion in 1075 and proceeded to confiscate land, thus intensifying their enmity.
Henry’s control of the clergy embroiled him with the militant reform pope Gregory VII, who wanted to free the church from secular bondage. When Gregory forbade lay investiture of churchmen, Henry had him deposed by the Synod of Worms in 1076. The pope promptly excommunicated Henry and released his subjects from their oath of loyalty to him. To keep his crown, Henry cleverly sought the pope at Canossa in the Apennines in January 1077, where, after three days of humble penitence, he was forgiven. The princes, however, elected a rival king, Rudolf of Swabia. The result was nearly 20 years of civil war. In 1080 Gregory excommunicated Henry again and recognized Rudolf. Deposing Gregory, Henry marched on Rome, installed the antipope Clement III, and was crowned emperor in 1084. Henry returned to Germany to continue the civil war against a new rival king (Rudolf had died in 1080). Finally, betrayed and imprisoned by his son Henry, the emperor was forced to abdicate.
The treacherous, brutal, and greedy Henry V vainly continued his father’s struggle for supremacy. Suffering military defeats, he lost control of Poland, Hungary, and Bohemia. Despite the support of churchmen, ministerials, and the towns, he could not suppress the princes, who forced the weary emperor and Pope Callistus II to compromise on investiture. They accepted the Concordat of Worms (1122), which stipulated that clerical elections in Germany were to take place in the imperial presence without simony and that the emperor was to invest the candidate with the symbols of his temporal office before a bishop invested him with the spiritual ones. The pope, however, had the better of the bargain, and the rivalry between empire and papacy took on new dimensions.
Early Medieval Society
German kings had no fixed capitol, but traveled unceasingly about their realm. They had no income beyond that from their family lands and gifts from churchmen. Feudalism was the rule. The great lords, theoretically vassals of the king, in fact usurped royal rights to build castles and administer justice. The vast majority of common people lived on country manors belonging to nobles or churchmen. The few cities, such as Trier and Cologne, were chiefly Roman foundations or imperial fortifications. There, merchants, artisans, and uprooted peasants settled as free citizens under the authority of a prince. The cities also sheltered Jews, who were not allowed to hold land.
The clergy, which included many nobles, spread the faith, provided education, and carried on the functions of government. Monasteries such as Reichenau, Regensburg, Fulda, Echternach, and Saint Gall became centers of scholarship. Monks wrote Latin works (such as the Walthariuslied, based on a German legend) and translated biblical and other Christian texts into Old High German. Their illuminated manuscripts with flat, dignified images imitated the art of classical antiquity and Byzantium. Churches, notably Saint Michael at Hildesheim and the cathedrals of Mainz, Speyer, and Worms, were massive, stone-vaulted basilicas with towers and small, round-arched windows. Their walls were adorned with painted murals and expressive sculpture in wood and bronze.
High Middle Ages
In the 12th and 13th centuries Germany and Italy were rent by rivalry between two princely families. The Hohenstaufen, or Waiblingen, of Swabia, known as Ghibellines in Italy, held the German and imperial crowns. The Welfs of Bavaria and Saxony, known as Guelphs in Italy, were allied with the papacy.