The Medieval history of Germany is difficult to syynthesize because Germany lacked a clear geographic focus. The Germans like many other European peoples had all the preequisites for a nation state. The key question in Medieval German history is why a string, united nation state did not form. The Germanic tribes, probably originated from the peoples living along the Baltic Sea, dominatd much of northern Europe (500 BC). The German Tribes were part of a larger group of people the Celts. The history of the Germanic tribes beginning in the 2nd century AD through the 6th century is one of extended migration (Völkerwanderung) out of their native lands west. There were many reasons for this migration. They were attracted by the fruits of civilization developed in the Roman Empire. The dynastic history of Medieval Europe in many ways begins with Clovis and the Merovingian dynasty, but even more with Charlemagne and his successors. Charlemagne founded the first empire after Rome. His grandson Louis II became the first King of Germany.
The Saxon King Otto I founded the Holy Roman Empire. The Holy Roman Empire is a misnomer. It was not Holy, although the pope crowned the emperor, nor was it Roman. It was essentially a Germanic empire encompassing much of Western Europe and later was named by historians the First German Reich. he Salian Dynasty under Henry II became involved in thre The Empire was rocked by the Investiture Controversy in the 10th century and the struggle between Emperor Henry II and Pope Gregory VII. Although the Emperor established the principle of civil power, regional leaders used the controversy to significantly weaken the authority of the emperor within Germany and was a major reason that no centralized German state emerged as was the case in many other countries (England, France, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden) during the Medieval era. Several different dynasties ruled Germany during the Medieval Era. The first was the Merovingian dynasty founded by Clovis. It was the Hapsburgs that would lead Germany out of the Medieval Era and dominate Germany until after the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century. During the Roman imperial era the Germans pushed west. After the fall of Rome and the migrations west of the 6th century and 7th centuries, the Germans as begun by the Carolingians became increasingly concerned with the East. Germans played major roles in the 11th-13th centuries Crusades to free the Holyland from Islamic rule.
The origins of the Germans are obscure. Both the ethnic and geographic origins of the people speaking Teutonic languages are not known to history with any precission. The origins of these Grermanic people is still srouded in pre-history. The Germans certainly entered Europe well before the Roman era, but the ancient Germans left no written language and because they were semi-nomadic, the archeological remains are sparse. The Germanic people were probably formed from a mixture of races in the coastal region of northern Europe, perhaps especially around the Baltic Sea. They appear to have settled in the north-central plains of Europe sometime around the end of the 6th century B.C. All that is known with any prescision is that the Germanic tribes first appear in southern Scandinavia and along the North Sea and Baltic coasts south into modern Poland. These Germanic tribes then moved southward and east. The German tribes pushing south encountered the Romans at a period in their history that they were expanding north of the alps, setting in motion one of the titanic confrontations in history and one which was not completely resolved until World War II. The German Tribes moved into the central and southern area of modern Germany (100 BC). This brought them into contact with the Roman Empire moving north and east. At the time the Germans came in contact with the Romans they were still tribal, divided into three major groups. The western Germanic tribes are the ones who first contacted the Romans and their territory in the west and south became a province of the Roman Empire. The western Germans had settled an
area from the North Sea east to the Elbe, Rhine, and Main rivers. The Rhine became an boundary between the Germanic tibes and Roman territory when Julius
Caesar defeated the Suevian tribe (about 70 BC) and took possession of Gaul for Rome. Rome under Augustus continued its expansionary policy moving east and
had begun to esrablish a substantial presence east of the Rhine. Then a force of almost three entire Legions under the provincial governor Varus was destroyed by Germany's first great national leader, Arminius in the Teutoburg Forest (9 AD). This staggering defeat of epic proportions stoped the Roman drive east. It also helped maje the Rhine River abecome a landmark of almost mystic proportions to the Germans. The Romans used Germans in their army. Armenius had grown up in Rome and served in the Roman army. He was very familiar with Roman tactics and capabilities. As result of the battle, the Romans were driven west of the Rhine. The Romans built a 300-mile defensive line roughly along the Rhine during the 1st century AD.
The history of the Germanic tribes beginning in the 2nd century AD through the 6th century is one of extended migration (Völkerwanderung) out of their native lands west. There were many reasons for this migration. They were attracted by the fruits of civilization developed in the Roman Empire. The Emperor Hadrian built the Roman Limes or
fortifications, but were often surrounded by increasingly German populations as the Germans leaked across the porous bordr. Those Germans participated in the rich fruits of civilization. They were also being pressured by war-like people from the East like the Huns. This is the era of German history that was to provide material the great heroic epics that were to be popularized by Wagner. This push west was to play a major role in the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century. As part of their migration West, the Germans greatly expanded the area of Western Europe under their control. The various Germanic tribes founded a series of kindoms in newly conquered territory carved out of the Western Roman Empire. The Ostrogoths, Visagoths, and other Germanic tribes moved into Italy Spain, and even North Africa foundg kingdoms there. Most of these kingdoms lasted only short periods, in part because they were rapidly ansorbed by Roman or other local populations. Only two of these Germanic kingdoms enduerd for any considerable period--the Franks in Gaul and Anglo Saxons in Britain. The Frankish tribes in the 6th century established control over Roman Gaul and created the first civilized German state.
The dynastic history of Medieval Europe in many ways begins with Clovis and the Merovingian dynasty, but even more with Charlemagne and his successors. Charlemagne founded the first empire after Rome. His grandson Louis II became the first King of Germany.
The Saxon King Otto I founded the Holy Roman Empire. The Holy Roman Empire is a misnomer. It was not Holy, although the pope crowned the emperor, nor was it Roman. It was essentially a Germanic empire encompassing much of Western Europe and later was named by historians the First German Reich. he Salian Dynasty under Henry II became involved in thre The Empire was rocked by the Investiture Controversy in the 10th century and the struggle between Emperor Henry II and Pope Gregory VII. Although the Emperor established the principle of civil power, regional leaders used the controversy to significantly weaken the authority of the emperor within Germany and was a major reason that no centralized German state emerged as was the case in many other countries (England, France, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden) during the Medieval era. Several different dynasties ruled Germany during the Medieval Era. The first was the Merovingian dynasty founded by Clovis. It was the Hapsburgs that would lead Germany out of the Medieval Era and dominate Germany until after the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century. The East Frankish kingdom ubder the Salian dynasty by the 11th century was becoming a German kingdom. Henry II's desire to build a centralized state in territory with independent-minded nobels led him into a conflic with Pope Gregory VII in what has become known as the Investiture Controversy.
Many countries have borders almost prordanined by geography. Island nations like England , Ireland, and Japan are the most obvious. Peninsular nations like Spain and Italy are also obvious. Even France has boundaries largely set by geography. German on the other hand and no clearly set boundaries and thus its geographic focus has varied widely over tume. The Germans struggled with the Slavs in the east. In the west the boundary was a matter of dynastic expediency upon the breakup of Charlemagne's Empire in the 9th century. The Rhine is the most celebrated border of Germany. The victory of Armenius in the Teutoburg Forest (9 AD) made the Rhine the western border of Germany and later a river of almost mustic proportions in the German mind. Throughout much of Medieval history the Rhine ran through the central area of German territory and thus played a role in building cohesion among Germans. Not until the wars of Louis XIV in th 17th century did the Rhine become a symbol of the frontier between Germny and France. As such the river took on great national meaning in both countries. "The Watch on the Rhine!" or "Die Wacht am Rhein!" is one of the most famous patriotic songs in German history. Max Schneckenburger wrote "The Watch on The
Rhine" in 1840. It became very popular among Prussian and other German troops during the Franco Prussian War (1870-71).
Germans during the Middle Ages pushed east into lands occupied by the Slavs and Blts. Historians now use the term "Der Drang nach Osten". This term was not used in the Middle Ages. Rather the Germans at the time used the term "Ostsiedlung" or "east colonization". It was the German effort to expand their culture, language, and settlement east. The Germans had been push west by the Huns, Avars, and other nomadic warriors from Central Asia. These pressure from Central Asia subsided and Eastern Europe was settled by Slavs and Balts. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Germanic tribes over ran the West and established medieval kingdoms. These kingdoms, especially the ones in the east began to push east to expand their territory. After the Darl Ages the comonies of Europe began to increase as commerce quickened and agricultural technology increased yields. The result was an expanding population. German at the time was the Holy Roman Empire. Germans from the Rhenish, Flemish, and Saxon territories of Empire eastwards began tomigrate east into the less-densly populated areas of the Baltic and Poland. This population movements were supported by the German nobility and the medieval Church. It was also supported by Slavic kings and nobility. This is because the increased population and the skills of the German settlers meant increased income and taxes. Much of this migration was peaceful. There were also military campaigns launched against the Poles and still pagan Balts. This is sometimes referred to as the Northern Crusades. One of the Baltic tribes attacked was the Prussei (1018-1285) and the future state of Prussia would take on the name of the defeated tribe. The Teutonic Knights played a major role in the conquest of the Balts. Konrad of Masovia invited the Knights to northern Poland. The Teutonic Knights became a Polish vassal (1466). Der Drang nach Osten is a German term that appeared in the 19th century with the rise of German nationalism. It became a centerpiece of NAZism culminating in Germany's World War II invasion of Poland and the Soviet Union.
The East Frankish kingdom ubder the Salian dynasty by the 11th century was becoming a German kingdom. Henry ??'s desire to build a centralized state in territory with independent-minded nobels led him into a conflict with Pope Gregory VII in what has become known as the Investiture Controversy. German kings attempted to glorify their crown by linking it, through Charlemagne, with the great Roman Empire. They assumed the tittle of "Roman emperors" and came to be crowned or in essence annoited by the popes in Rome--virtually an alliance with the papacy. The strength of the emperor did not mean that the feudal German princes were deprived of their power or convinced to accept subserviance to the emperor. The emperor had used the princes of the German Church to help subdue the temporal princes. Many began to wield
increasing power of their own and to inert a degree of independence. In some cases this mean independence from both the Emperor and the pope in Rome. Of course here the papacy resisted. These threads in German history converged in a major confrointation after the elderly, but reform-minded monk Hildebrand was elected pope as Gregory VII and challenged the Emperor Henry IV's right to invest German bishops. Henry attempted to convince the pope to convince German churchmen to support the monarch in his struggle with the German feudal princes. Eventualy Henry had to submit to Gregory in the cekebrated encounter at Canossa (1077). His successor ultimately had to accept the compromise of the Concordat of Worms (1120). As a result of the protracted struggle between the emperors and the papacy the secular princes of the Empire achieved much of the authority they sought from the
central authority of the emperor. The German princes benefitted from their alliance with Rome. It can be argued that Germany did not. The German monarchy was never able to create a centralized monarchy like other European counties, in lrge measure the result of the Investiture Controversy. Germany before the Investiture Controversy was the strongest power in Europe. This changed after the contoversy. Germany in the mid-11th century because of its essential union under the emperor and resulting power was secure from foreign attack. Germany did not again achieve this level of security until the unification in the 19th century.
Germans played major roles in the 11th-13th centuries Crusades to free the Holyland from Islamic rule. Conrad II of Germany played a orincipal role in the Second Crusade (1147-87). Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I died en route to the Third Crusade (1189-92). German children were among the two tragic contingents of children involved in the Children's Crusade (1212). Emperor Frendetick II conducted the Sixth Crusade (1228-29). The Teutonic Knights which were formed during the Crusades played an important role during Medieval German history in the East.
The Teutonic Knights are the Teutonic Knights of St. Mary's Hospital at Jerusalem (Ordo domus Sanctæ Mariæ Theutonicorum). There are in German known as the Deutscher Orden. They originated as a brotherhood formed by crusading German knights besiging Acre (1190). After the Crusaders took Acre, the Teutonic Knights set up their headquarters there. Pope Clement recognized them (1191). The members took religious vows. Their avowed purpose was to give medical aid to pilgrims to the Holyland. The Pope ordered them to take and hold Jerusalem. They were based at Acre. The Order seeing that the Crusades could not succeed in the Holyland, moved their headquarter to Venice. The Order conceived of religious crusades in Eastern Europe where prospects for teritorial conquest seemed more propitious. Pagan tribes still existed in Eastern Europe and from time to time threatened or conducted raids into neigboring Christain kingdoms.
The Hanseatic League was a mercantile association of medieval German cities. It was not a clearly delineated with cities joining and withdrawing from the League and participating to various degrees. The Leagues origins are not well understood. The name of the League aooears to come from the German word Hansa which mean a company or group of merchants merchants trading in foreign countries. The Leafue is strongly associated with the German push eastward in the Baltic and Slavic areas. These were areas populated by peoples without major urban centers. The Germans as he Romans built military and administrative posts which developed into towns and trading centers. Manu important cities in the Baltic today originated with the Teutonic Knights and other Germans pushing easts. The population of these coties was heavily German while the much larger rural popuilation was heavily sergs of Baltic or Slavic origins. Merchant guilds formed in these towns began to form relationships with guilds in other towns. One reason that it was German towns which formed this League was that, unlike other European countries, was not developing a strong centralized state that could protect their unterests. In addition German merchants were involved in the German push east and found themselves in towns surrounded by large non-German populations.
The German Eike von Repgow (today Reppichau in Anhalt) collected German law (especially feud and land law) of the East Saxons (East Westphalians) between 1215 and 1235. The reeve of the monastery Graf von Hoyer at Quedlinburg asked him to do this. Von Repgow put his collection of laws in the context of a larger world order of God. His work by the 14th century had become so important that it was used in whole Northern Germany and Eastern Europe (think of founding of cities by German knights (Deutscher Orden) orders there.
It is regarded as the first and most codification in writing of German law.
Some Germans Franciscans at Augsburg in 1275 wrote an adaptation of the Sachsenspiegel but with alterations to South German law. it was called "Schwabenspiegel" and in fact the reedited version of the Sachsenspiegel called “Deutschenspiegel” (translated the North German to South German) had been used for it. The former used especially Latin and canonical law and was translated into Latin, French, and Czech. It was mainly used in Southern Germany and Switzerland. It is regarded as an important source how the Germans step by step adopted the principle of Roman law.
The Holy Roman Empire of the German nation became the effective organization of Germany after the Investiture Controversy. It was not, however, an exclusively German political unit. The Empire included the Burgundian inheritance (the Carolingian "middle kingdom"
') and parts of Italy and the Netherlands, which were not German in any ethnic or linguistic sense. Nor were national loyalties and sensibilities nearly as important in Medieval Europe as would be the case in the 19th century after the French Revolution. Certainly Germany was the nucleus of the Empire. The emperors were Germans and might hve built a powerful empire in central Europe that could have dominated Europe. This did not occur although the Hapsburgs came close to it. Instead the possession of non-German possessions served to involve the Empire in foreign quarrels which drained its resources and exacerbated domestic differences. These problems would come tofruition in the Reformation.
A German reader tells us about a group of carpenters called "Freie Gesellen" or
Hamburger Zimmerleute" that wear a special destinctive costume: a long mantle with baggy long trousers both in black, a black hat with broad Krempe and a small bundle all in black. To add they have a special kind of stick called Knotenstock. Furthermore they roam the country looking for work (mainly on foot or sometimes public transport) Certain customs of the guilds have survived in their organisation as well. I think they were formed in the 15th or 16th century. We are not sure at what age Germans began doing this or if they began as apprentices.
In Germany as in the rest of Europe, formalized schools and education disappeared with the fall of the Roman Empire. The only formal schooling that continued was that of the Christain Church where some lireracy was necessary to read the Bible and for scholary discussion, primarily on doctrinal matters. Only slowly did formal schooling reappear, most notably in the late Medieval era. Art in the Medieval era was primarily focused on the glorifuicatiin of God. The depiction of children and schooling was rarely attempted. There are, however, a few images, primarily from the late Medieval era. They provide us a glimse not only of the state of education at the time, but at the wat boys dressed for school.
Three movements and events signaled the end of the Medieval Europe. Germany played an important role in all thre, but especiallt the Reformatiin and the Thirty Years war.
The Renaissance was born in Italy and gradually moved north to Germany.
The Protestan Revolution was the religious struggle during the 16th and 17th century which began as an effort to reform the Catholic Church and ended with the splintering of the Western Christendom into the Catholic
and Protestant churches. Combined with the Renaissance which preceeded it, the reformatuin marked the end of the Medieval world and the beginning of a modern world view. The French Revolution which followed the Reformation in the 18th century marked the beginning of our modern age. Conditions developing in Medieval Europe laid the groundwork for the Reformation. The Reformation began when a German monk, Martin Luthur nailed his 95 Thesis on the church door in Wittenberg (1517). Luthur was offended by the papal sale of indulgences by
which the Renaissance popes were fiancing the splendid new church of St. Peters in Rome. Luthur's concern with indulgences were soon mixed with a complex mix of doctrinal, political, economic, and cultural issues that would take Ruropean Church anfd temporal leaders nearly two centuries to partially resolve and several devestating wars, especially the 30 Years War in Germany. Western Christendom would be left permanently split and even the Cathloic Church
profoundly changed. Changes in man's view og himself and the Church were to also affect his view relative to the state and many in Europe began to question royal absolutism and divinr right monarchy, a process leading to the French Revolution.
Germany was ravaged by the Thirty Years War. The Thirty Years War was the most bloody and destructive war ever fought in Europe until the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century. It was actually a series of wars involving most European countries, but fought primarily in Germany. The war was exceedingly brutal, in part because of the religious passions of the Reformation. The struggle was between Catholic and Protestant princes aided by non-German coregilionalists. While initially a religious war, the fighting was
complicated by dynastic rivalries and the desire of the Sweeds and French to curb the power of the German Holy Roman Empire dominated by the Hapsburgs. It is believed that about 6 million civilians, mostly Germans, perished in the conflict.
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