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Hundreds of years before Christ a group of people speaking similar languages emerged
in northern Europe. They were the first Germanic peoples.

About 55 BC Julius Caesar conquered the Roman province of Gaul. He made the Rhine
the frontier of the new province. It was a natural defensive barrier. Later the Romans
also chose the Danube as a frontier. They also created a ditch and earth bank with a
wooden palisade on top from the Rhine to the Danube.

In 9 AD the Germanic people beyond the Rhine inflicted a crushing defeat on the
Roman army in a battle at the Teutoberg Forest. The Romans lost about 20,000 men and
their leader committed suicide. The battle ensured that the Romans never conquered
Germany beyond the Rhine.

However the Romans occupied southern and western Germany. They founded a
number of towns which still survive (Augsburg, Cologne, Mainz, Regensburg and Trier).

In the late 5th century a Germanic people called the Franks carved out an empire in
what is now France. (They gave the country its name). In 496 Clovis, the leader of the
Franks became a Christian and his people followed.

In 771 Charlemagne became king of the Franks. In 772 he attacked the Saxons. After a
battle in 782, more than 4,000 Saxon captives were beheaded. The survivors were
'converted' to Christianity by force. Charlemagne also annexed Bavaria. In 800 he was
crowned emperor.

However Charlemagne's empire did not long survive his death. In 843 it was divided into
three kingdoms, west, middle and east.

In time the eastern kingdom, East Francia, was divided further into 5 duchies. In the
early 10th century fierce Magyars from Eastern Europe attacked them.


Then in 911 Conrad, Duke of Franconia was elected king of Germany. He died in 918
and was replaced by Duke Henry of Saxony. In 933 Henry defeated the Magyars at the
battle of Riade. Henry also fought the Slavs.

When he died in 936 his son Otto became king of Germany. He is known as Otto the
Great. In 955 Otto utterly defeated the Magyars at the battle of Lechfeld, ending the
threat to Germany forever. In 962 the Pope crowned Otto emperor. He died in 973.

The Christian thinker Augustine claimed that God created the Roman Empire to bring
law and order to mankind. The idea was that there should be one Church with the
pope at its head and one secular empire. Otto and the following emperors claimed
they were the successors to the ancient Roman Empire. So their Germanic empire was
called the Roman Empire. In 1157 it was called the Holy Roman Empire.

Not surprisingly other European nations were not enthusiastic about the idea and in any
case the Holy Roman Empire was never a single united unit. In reality the power of the
emperors over the different areas of the empire was limited.

During the Middle Ages the original five duchies broke up and by 1500 the Holy Roman
Empire was like a patchwork quilt of different units. It was made up of princely states,
which were ruled by princes subordinate to the emperor. There were also bishoprics
ruled by bishops and archbishops. They were called ecclesiastical princes. Imperial
knights who answered directly to the emperor ruled some areas. There were also some
independent cities like Augsburg.

In Medieval Germany lords granted land to their vassals and in return the vassals swore
to serve the lord. Most of the population were peasants. Some were free but many
were serfs, halfway between freemen and slaves. The serfs had to work on their lord's
land for certain days of the week.

Germany grew richer in the early middle ages and the population rose sharply (until the
14th century). Trade and commerce boomed and towns grew larger and more
numerous. Yet life was still hard and rough for most people. They continued to live in
small villages scattered across the forests.

Moreover in the 11th century there was a conflict between the Pope and the emperor
over who had the right to appoint bishops. It was important to the emperor to be able
to appoint suitable bishops. In those days church and state were closely linked.
Furthermore the church was rich and powerful and the emperor was keen to have the
bishops on his side. The pope, naturally, resented this interference in church affairs. The
argument was only settled by the concordat of Worms in 1122.

From 1220 to 1250 Frederick II was emperor. He was known as stupor mundi (wonder of
the world) because of his brilliant mind. However in 1254 central authority broke down
completely. From 1254 to 1273 there was no emperor. This period was called the Great
Interregnum. It ended when Rudolph of Hapsburg was elected emperor.

In 1356 Karl IV issued a document called the 'golden bull', which lay down the rules for
electing emperors.

In the early 14th century conditions in Germany deteriorated. The climate grew colder
and there were several famines. Worse, the black death struck Germany in 1349 and it
killed about one third of the population. Jews were treated as scapegoats and many
were massacred at that time.

In the late 14th and 15th centuries there were a series of peasant uprisings in Germany.
Furthermore impoverished noblemen called robber barons roamed the countryside.

However a number of universities were founded in Germany at that time. Heidelberg
was founded in 1386. It was followed by Leipzig in 1409, Tubingen in 1477 and
Wittenberg in 1502.


In the Middle Ages divisions between nations were vague. In the 16th century they
became more clearly defined. One sign of this came in 1512 when the empire's title
changed to the 'Holy Roman Empire of the German nation'.

Then in 1517 Martin Luther started the Reformation when he nailed his theses to the door
of a church in Wittenberg. In 1521 the heads of the various German states met in an
Imperial Diet at Worms. Martin Luther was called to account and he stood by his views.
The Reformation split Germany, with some states accepting his views and others
rejecting them.

In 1531 the Protestant princes formed the alliance of Schmalkalden to defend the
reformation by force if necessary. The emperor fought a war with them in 1546-47.
Although he was victorious he could not turn the clock back and Protestantism could
not be eradicated.

Then in 1555 the Diet of Augsburg met. The peace of Augsburg declared that princes
could decide the religion of their state. Anyone who disagreed with their ruler could

Meanwhile Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German in 1522 and the
Old Testament in 1534.

Furthermore in the early 16th century there were a series of peasant uprisings across
Germany, as the peasants, dissatisfied with their lot, demanded economic and social
change. The unrest culminated in the Peasants War of 1525. However the princes easily
crushed the rebellion and tens of thousands of peasants were killed. However the late
16th century was a time of relative peace and stability in Germany.


In the early 17th century the uneasy peace between Protestants and Catholics broke
down. The Protestants formed a military alliance in 1608. In response the Catholics
formed the Catholic League in 1609.

At that time Bohemia (the modern Czech Republic) was part of the Holy Roman
Empire. Protestant nobles in Bohemia had gained certain privileges. When Ferdinand II
became king of Bohemia in 1617 he tried to undo them. In protest on 23 May 1618
Protestants threw royal officials out of a window in Prague. This event became known as
the defenestration of Prague.

The Bohemians rebelled and appealed to German Protestants to help them. However
the emperor led a force of Catholics and defeated the Protestants at the battle of
White Mountain in 1620. Nevertheless a long series of wars between Catholic and
Protestant states began. Other European powers became involved. The Swedes joined
the Protestants in 1630 under their king Gustavus Adolphus (although he was killed at
the battle of Lutzen in 1632). France joined the Protestant side in 1635. The wars
dragged on until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

The Thirty Years War was a disaster for Germany. The population fell significantly and
much of the country was devastated. Germany took decades to recover from the
destruction. The war had another effect. It weakened the power of the emperor and
increased the power of the princes and kings.


The main development in Germany during the 18th century was the rise of Prussia. In
the 17th century the Hohenzolleron family ruled both Brandenburg and East Prussia. In
1701 the ruler of both was Elector Frederick III. In that year he crowned himself King of
Prussia. Soon the whole realm was called Prussia.

However at first Prussia was an economically backward area. It only rose to greatness
under Frederick II 'The Great', who became king in 1740. Frederick had a very large
army and he was a capable general, which allowed him to fight successful wars.

In 1740 Prussia invaded Silesia (an Austrian possession). On 10 April 1741 the Prussians
defeated the Austrians at the battle of Mollwitz. At first the battle went well for the
Austrians. Their cavalry defeated the Prussian cavalry and Frederick fled from the battle.
However the Prussian infantry stood and fought. They overcame both the Austrian
cavalry and the Austrian infantry. As a result Prussia won the battle. Austria made
peace in 1742 but the peace did not last long. War began again in 1745. The Prussians
won a series of battles at Hohenfriedberg on 4 June, at Soor on 30 September and at
Hennersdorf on 23 November. Frederick II ended the war in December 1745 with his
territory enlarged.

In 1756 Prussia went to war again when Frederick invaded Saxony. However this time
Frederick II was faced with a powerful coalition of enemies. Nevertheless the Prussians
won two victories at Rossback in November 1757 and at Leuthen in December 1757.
The Prussians also defeated the Russians at the battle of Zorndorf in 1758.

However the tide of war then turned against the Prussians and they were defeated at
the battle of Minden in 1759. Fortunately in January 1762, one of Frederick's most
powerful enemies, Elizabeth of Russia, died and her son made peace with the Treaty of
St Petersburg. The war ended in 1763.

Then in 1772 Prussia, Austria and Russia agreed to carve up part of Poland between

In 1792 Prussia and Austria went to war with Revolutionary France. However the French
won victories and Prussia made peace in 1795. Meanwhile the Prussians and Russians
divided up the remaining part of Poland in 1793. Austria made peace with France in
1797 but war began again in 1799.

However Austria was defeated and was forced to make peace in 1801. France
defeated Austria again in 1805. As a result some German states allied themselves with
Napoleon. In July 1806 Napoleon created the Confederation of the Rhine, which was
made up of 16 German states. The Holy Roman Empire officially ceased to exist on 6
August 1806.

Then in September 1806 Prussia went to war with France. However Napoleon crushed
the Prussians at Jena on 14 October 1806.

In 1812 the French were utterly defeated in Russia. In 1813 Prussia joined Russia in the
war against the French. Austria also joined and in October 1813 the combined armies
defeated the French at the battle of Leipzig.

After Napoleon's final defeat in 1815 the Congress of Vienna met to decide the fate of
Europe. A German confederation was formed to replace the old Holy Roman Empire. It
consisted of 38 states. An assembly called the Bundestag, made up of delegates from
the states was formed.

Prussia was the biggest winner from the peace. It gained the Rhineland and
Westphalia. The population of Prussia increased and it gained valuable mineral
resources. Prussia became increasingly important in German affairs. In 1834 the
Prussians and other German states formed a customs union called the Zollverein.

Furthermore in the 1830s Germany began to industrialise. One sign of this was the
opening of the first German railway in 1835 from Nuremberg and Furth. As Prussia
industrialised it grew stronger and stronger while its rival, Austria remained an
agricultural country and so grew relatively weaker.

Meanwhile an Austrian minister named Metternich tried to prevent the ideas of the
French Revolution spreading in Germany. In 1819 there were student bodies in German
universities called Burschenshaften. On 23 March 1819 a member of one killed a writer
called August von Kotzebue. Metternich used this as an excuse to introduce press
censorship and strict supervision of universities. His measures were called the Karlsbad

However it proved impossible to put the genie back in the bottle. In 1818 Baden and
Bavaria introduced liberal constitutions. So did Wurttemberg in 1819 and Hessen-
Darmstadt in 1820. Furthermore in 1830 a revolution in France triggered riots in parts of
Germany and some German rulers were forced to make concessions.

In 1831 Brunswick, Hesse and Saxony all introduced new constitutions. However in
Prussia and Austria all liberal movements were repressed.

Then, after 1845 there were a series of bad harvests. There was also a recession and
high unemployment. Discontent erupted in revolution in 1848.

In February 1848 another revolution in France triggered demonstrations and unrest
across Europe, including Germany. At first the rulers were so alarmed they backed
down and made concessions. However they soon regained their nerve.

In Prussia on 18 March 1848 the king announced he was willing to make some reforms.
However Prussian troops fired at some demonstrators in Berlin and in the ensuing fighting
many people were killed. Afraid of further unrest the king decided to appease the
demonstrators. On 19 March 1848 he ordered the troops to leave Berlin. On 21 March
1848 he rode through Berlin dressed in the revolutionary colours, red, gold and black.

Then in May 1848 an elected assembly representing all Germany met in Frankfurt. The
Frankfurt parliament discussed German unity.

However the rulers soon regained their confidence and they began to crack down on
the revolutionaries. On 2 April 1849 the Frankfurt parliament offered the King of Prussia
the crown of Germany. However he rejected the offer. The Frankfurt parliament
gradually dispersed and its members went home. Meanwhile, in 1849 European rulers
began to use their armies to put down rebellions. Soon the old order returned.


Then, in 1863 the Danish king tried to annexe the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein.
Both Prussia and Austria fought a short war against Denmark in 1864. As a result Prussia
and Austria were given joint administration of the two duchies.

Disagreements with Austria over the duchies gave Prussia a pretext to start a war in
1866. It was over within a short period. On 3 July 1866 Prussia won a great victory over
the Austrians at Koniggratz. Afterwards a peace treaty created North German
Federation dominated by Prussia. Austria was expelled from German affairs.

Bismarck, the German chancellor, then quarrelled with France over the issue of who
was to succeed to the Spanish throne. The French declared war on 19 July 1870.
However the French were utterly defeated at the battle of Sedan on 2 September 1870
and they made peace in February 1871.

Meanwhile the southern German states agreed to become part of a new German
Empire with the Prussian king as emperor. William I was proclaimed emperor on 18
January 1871.

In the late 19th century Germany industrialised rapidly. By the end of the century it
rivalled Britain as an industrial power.

In 1879 Germany signed the Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary. The two powers agreed
to come to each others aid in the event of a war with Russia.

Bismarck the German chancellor also campaigned against socialism. In the late 19th
century it was a growing force in Germany. Bismarck tried to take the wind out of
Socialism's sails by introducing welfare measures. In 1883 he introduced sickness
insurance. In 1884 he introduced accident insurance. Then in 1889 he introduced old
age pensions. However socialism continued to grow in Germany and by 1914 the Social
Democratic Party was the largest party in the Reichstag. Finally Bismarck resigned in


Bismarck always pursued friendly relations with Britain but under his successors it was
different. From 1898 under Admiral Tirpitz Germany began expanding its navy. Britain,
the largest naval power, was alarmed. Furthermore Europe became divided into two
armed camps, with Germany and Austria-Hungary one side and Britain, France and
Russia on the other. The spark that ignited war came on 28 June 1914 when the Austrian
Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo.

In August 1914 the Germany army overran Belgium and marched on Paris. However
they were defeated at the battle of the Marne in September. Both sides began a 'race
for the sea'. Both sides reached it at the same time. They then dug trenches and years
of deadlock followed.

In the east the Germany was more successful. They crushed the Russians at the battle of
Tannenberg. Russia gradually weakened and finally made peace by the treaty of Brest-
Litvosk in March 1918.

Meanwhile in 1917 Germany introduced unrestricted submarine warfare, which meant
that ships from any nations trying to trade with the allies would be sunk. As a result the
USA declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917.

In March 1918 Germany launched a series of assaults on the British and French lines.
However they failed to break through and on 8 August 1918 the British counter-
attacked with tanks. Furthermore in September the Americans began an offensive
against the Germans. Slowly the allies advanced and on 29 September 1918 General
Hindenburg advised the government that the war could not be won.

The Kaiser abdicated on 9 November and the Social Democrats formed a new
government. On 11 November they were forced to sign an armistice with the allies.
10 | G E R M A N Y T I M E L I N E


Following the surrender, Germany was divided into four zones, American, British, French
and Russian. Berlin, although it was within the Russian area, was also divided into zones.
Nazi war criminals were brought to trial at Nuremberg in November 1945.

Soon the Russians and the western powers drifted apart and it became clear that
Germany was not going to be reunited. The Russians stripped East Germany of its
resources but the Americans gave aid to West Germany and the rest of Western
Europe. This aid was called the Marshall plan and it was paid from 1948 to 1952.

Meanwhile in 1948 the three western powers introduced a new currency into their
zones. The Russians responded by blocking all land routes to West Berlin (which was
occupied by the western powers). The western allies flew in supplies for the next 11
months until the Russians relented.

In the west a new state called the Federal Republic of Germany was formed on 23 May
1949. At first the new state had to cope with high unemployment. However in the 1950s
and 1960s West Germany went through an 'economic miracle'. The devastation caused
by World War II was repaired and the economy boomed. However by the mid-1970s
the miracle had ended and Germany was mired in recession.

Meanwhile, in 1955, West Germany was allowed to join NATO and rearm. Then, in 1957,
West Germany was one of the founder members of the EEC (forerunner of the EU).

However in East Germany things were very different. It was called the German
Democratic Republic. Of course, it was anything but democratic and soon a full
communist regime was imposed.

In 1953 there was a wave of strikes in East Germany. The Russians responded by sending
in tanks and killing many civilians. Not surprisingly many people in East Germany fled to
a better life in the west. In 1961, alarmed at the number of skilled workers leaving East
Germany, the government built the Berlin Wall. Afterwards anyone who tried to leave
was shot. However the communist tyranny collapsed in 1989. On 9 November 1989 the
Berlin Wall was opened. Following the collapse of communism Germany was reunited
on 3 October 1990. Germany then faced the task of raising living standards in the east
to the same level as those in the west.

Today Germany is a wealthy country with a high standard of living. Germany is famous
for making plastics, paints and pharmaceuticals as well as cars, electrical goods and
computers. Germany is also famous for its exports of wine, beer and sausages.
Meanwhile Germany joined the euro in 1999 and in 2005 Angela Merkel became the
first woman Chancellor of Germany.

Germany escaped relatively lightly in the recession of 2009 and it soon recovered.
Today the population of Germany is 81 million.

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