History of Germany

Germany's history originates some twenty five hundred years ago by tribes of people living along the shores of the Baltic Sea. Four hundred years later, these people migrated inland to what we know as modern day Germany. Of these German ancestors, there were three major groups at the time: the northern tribes who lived along the southernmost part of Scandinavia, the eastern tribes who dwelled near the Oder and Vistula rivers, and those in the west who lived north of the Rhine and Elbe rivers. It was these western people that lived along the border between the Roman Empire and the land of these German ancestors. Worried by the potential threat of the warlike tribes, the Romans began a campaign to annex and subdue the German peoples. This tactic failed after a defeat of a provincial governor.

During the second through sixth centuries, Germany's history underwent a great deal of change. The tribes left their native lands and resettled elsewhere during the chaos caused by the fall of the Roman Empire. Many of the newfound kingdoms settled by the Germanic people, excepting those created by the Franks and Anglo-Saxons, did not last.

Several dynasties dominated at one point or another during medieval German history from the sixth century through the thirteenth century, including: the Merovingian Dynasty, the Carolingian Dynasty, the Saxon Dynasty, the Salian Dynasty, and the Hohenstaufen Dynasty. The dynasties of these German ancestors helped shape the flourishing culture. It wasn't until the end of the thirteenth century, that German history saw the first member of the Hapsburg Empire take his throne.

A particularly interesting edict in Germany's history is one called the Golden Bull of 1356. Created by Emperor Charles IV, it provided constitutional groundwork that lasted until the empire dissolved. It banished the allowance of a hereditary monarchy and instead formalized a process whereby the emperor would be elected by seven men--the archbishops of Trier, Cologne, and Maniz and the rulers of Palatinate, Saxony, Brandenburg, and Bohemia. The edict ended political squabbles between the emperor and the other nobility by allowing a shared power between them. The emperor himself was merely the first among his peers; he was not in a higher tier than they were.

Martin Luther, another German ancestor, was a professor of theology at a university in Saxony. His creating of countless religious theses exposed papal corruption and argued for extensive reform of the church. Within decades, Germany's religious unity was shattered under the turmoil created. While Luther was not the only one critical of the church, his work was so well-received that he's credited as the founder of the Protestant Reformation.

Germany, known as the Holy Roman Empire, waned in power, but this decline made for the rise of other states such as Austria and Prussia. Prussia had originally had plans to unify with Germany but held off after Austria, who held similar aims, threatened war. It was not until fifteen years after their initial attempt that Prussia tried for unification again, this time going to war with Austria, winning, and forming the German Empire.

The German Empire, known as the Second Reich to differentiate it from the First Reich created by Charlemagne in 800 A.D., was an establishment based in compromise. The King of Prussia who had sought unification through force required acceptance as Kaiser (Emperor) by the rulers of those German states he had subjugated. By accepting him, they would be allowed to largely rule their lands with the same autonomy they had possessed before. The second agreement was to establish a weak representative body to be paired with the strong authoritative position held by the Kaiser. None were entirely pleased with these compromises.

In the aftermath of World War I, the Kaiser was forced to abdicate and the German republic was born. The republic did not last for long, however, as but a few years later the rise of Hitler began and with it opened the darkest chapter in German history.

Following World War II, Germany was split in half serving as a boundary between the east with the Soviets and communism, and the west with the Allies and democracy. This lasted for almost fifty years. It wasn't until November of 1989 that the infamous Berlin Wall, having been built almost thirty years earlier, was destroyed and Germany was united once more.

Despite its varied history, or perhaps because of it, German culture is incredibly deep, full of nuance, and is discovered by millions of travelers every year.

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