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Germany By Matthew Shute The Holy Roman Empire • During the early years of Germany’s existence the nation was divided up into a large number of independent states. • These states were organized into a loose confederation which was known as the Holy Roman Empire. • The Empire was ruled by the Holy Roman emperor who was almost always a member of the Habsburg family. Holy Roman Empire cont. • The Holy Roman emperor was elected in a process that was established by the Golden Bull in 1356. • The emperors were elected by the leaders of the seven most powerful states which became known as elector states. • The position of emperor however, was largely ceremonial as the emperor could not compel the independent states to do very much. The Protestant Reformation • In 1517 a German monk named Martin Luther posted his 95 theses in protest of the Catholic Church. This single act set of a chain of events that would split the church forever. • Luther became the most powerful Protestant leader and as such he helped the Protestant Churches to become established in Germany. Reformation cont. • In 1555 the emperor Charles V issued the doctrine of Cuius Regio, Eius Religio, which gave the rulers of states the right to determine the religion of their people. • This act allowed Protestantism to become legitimate in Germany. • In 1618 religious tensions erupted again between Protestants and Catholics, this war ended in 1648 with the treaty of Westphalia. The Rise of Prussia • In the late 1600’s under the leadership of Frederick William the state of Prussia was able to rise to the rank of elector state. • In 1701 his son became Frederick the I King in Prussia giving the state a royal title. • Frederick’s son Frederick William built up Prussia’s military into a formidable fighting force that would be useful in the future. Prussia • In 1740 Frederick II came to power and immeadiatly used Prussia’s army to invade the Austrian province of Silesia. • This action set off the war of Austrian succession which ended with a Prussian victory allowing Frederick to keep what he had taken. Prussia • Frederick II did not stay satisfied for long as he invaded Saxony and Bavaria starting the seven years war. • Prussia held out through this war and despite the odds Frederick was once again victorious. • After this war Frederick would become known as Frederick the Great. The End of the Holy Roman Empire • In 1806 after Napoleon had invaded Germany the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved. • During the period of Napoleonic dominance German nationalism rose and Prussia was finally able to throw off the French yoke. The mid 19th Century After the Napoleonic wars the German confederation was formed, this organization was nothing more than a way for the German states to meet and discuss issues involving Germany. The confederation was dominated by Austria and Prussia who competed for power in Germany. German Unification • When King William I came to power in Prussia he appointed Otto von Bismarck to the position of Chancellor. • Bismarck pursued a policy of blood and Iron which enabled him to unify Germany. • Bismarck fought 3 wars the Danish war, the Seven Weeks war, and The Franco-Prussian war all of which Prussia and it’s allies won. The German Empire • After the Franco-Prussian war the states of Germany united under Prussian leadership to form the German empire. King William I became Kaiser Wilhelm I and continued to pursue Bismarck’s foreign policies. • When Wilhelm II came to power however, he pursued more imperialistic policies that effectively led the nation into WWI. Wilhelm brought Germany into the Triple Alliance which consisted of Germany, Austria, and Italy, this act drew the lines for a conflict of unprecedented brutality. WWI • In 1914 Germany and Austria went to war with Russia, France, and Great Britain. The Central powers as these two nations came to be known did well in the early years of the war but were unable to overcome the allies before America entered the conflict in 1917. • In 1918 the war was over and Germany was forced to accept the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The rise of the Nazis • The harsh terms imposed by the Versailles treaty created a desperate situation in Germany out of which rose a new political force. • The Nazis came to power under the leadership of Adolf Hitler in the early 1930’s and began to remilitarize Germany. • In the late 1930’s Germany gained Austria, The Czech Republic, and took over Poland, this act led France and Great Britain to declare war. WWII • Early in the war France was knocked out by the German blitzkrieg tactics but Britain was able to hold out. • The Germans attacked Russia but were not able to defeat it and began to be pushed back. • In 1944 the allies invaded Europe and Germany was defeated by an assault on both sides. Post-WWII and the Cold War • When Germany lost WWII it was divided into the Communist East and the democratic West to prevent it from growing powerful again. • Throughout the cold war Germany remained an area of great tension between the east and the west. • In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was reunited for the first time in 45 years.
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