Germany, Federal Republic of (German Bundesrepublik Deutschland), major industrialized nation in central Europe, a federal union of 16 states (Länder). Germany has a long, complex history and rich culture, but it did not become a unified nation until 1871. Before that time, Germany had been a confederacy (1815-1867) and, before 1806, a federal empire comprising many separate and quite different principalities.

Germany is the seventh largest country in area in Europe, with a total area of 356,970 sq km (137,827 sq mi). The country has a varied terrain that ranges from low-lying coastal flats along the North and Baltic seas, to a central area of rolling hills and river valleys, to heavily forested mountains and snow-covered Alps in the south. Several major rivers and canals traverse the country and have helped make it a transportation center.

The country has a total of 83,029,536 people (2001 estimate). Germany is overwhelmingly urban, and most people lead a prosperous, comfortable lifestyle, with adequate leisure time and comprehensive social welfare benefits. Berlin is the capital and largest city, although Bonn, which was the provisional capital of West Germany, is still home to some government offices. The principal language is German, and two-thirds of the people are either Roman Catholic or Protestant.

Germans have made numerous noteworthy contributions to culture. Among the many outstanding German authors, artists, architects, musicians, and philosophers, the composers Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven are probably the best known the world over. German literary greats include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Thomas Mann.

Germany has a very large and modern industrial economy and is a leading producer of products such as iron and steel, machinery and machine tools, and automobiles. Germany is an economic powerhouse in the European Union (EU), and its currency, the deutsche mark (DM), is among the strongest in the world.

Its central location in Europe has made Germany a crossroads for many peoples, ideas, and armies throughout history. Present-day Germany originated from the ad 843 division of the Carolingian empire, which also included France and a middle section stretching from the North Sea to northern Italy. For centuries, Germany was a collection of states mostly held together as a loose feudal association. From the 16th century on, the German states became increasingly involved in European wars and religious struggles. In the early 19th century, French conquest of the German states started a movement toward German national unification, and in 1815, led by the state of Prussia, the German states formed a confederacy that lasted until 1867.

Once unified under Otto von Bismarck in 1871, Germany experienced rapid industrialization and economic growth. During the early 20th century it embarked on a quest for European dominance, leading it into World War I. Germany’s defeat in 1918 triggered political and economic chaos. An ultranationalist reaction gave rise to the National Socialist (Nazi) Party, which gained power in the 1930s and was led by Adolf Hitler. From 1939 to 1945 Nazi Germany fought in see World War II.

In 1945 the Allied Powers of Britain, the United States, France, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) defeated Germany in World War II. The Allies agreed to divide the country into four zones of occupation: the British, American, French, and Soviet zones. When the wartime alliance between the Western powers and the Soviet Union broke up in the late 1940s, the Soviet zone became the Communist-led German Democratic Republic (GDR), or East Germany. The three Western zones formed the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), or See also West Germany. Germany’s capital, Berlin, was divided in two by the rise of the two German states. In 1961 East Germany built the Berlin Wall and elaborate border fortifications to stop the exodus of millions of East Germans to the more prosperous and democratic West Germany. In 1989 the collapse of Communist rule in Eastern Europe was marked by the breaching of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of German reunification, which was governed under the West German Basic Law, or constitution. The two Germanys were reunited on October 3, 1990, as the Federal Republic of Germany. Despite its joy at unification, Germany faced a variety of social and economic problems as it tried to absorb millions of new citizens and to blend disparate cultures and institutions.


Germany ranks as the seventh largest country in Europe, after European Russia (the part of Russia west of the Ural Mountains), France, and Spain. Germany is bounded on the north by the North Sea, Denmark, and the Baltic Sea; on the east by Poland and the Czech Republic; on the south by Austria and Switzerland; and on the west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and The Netherlands. Stretching from the Baltic and North seas to the Alps, Germany measures 800 km (500 mi) from north to south; the country extends 600 km (400 mi) from west to east. In addition to coastline and mountains, the varied terrain includes forests, hills, plains, and river valleys. Several navigable rivers traverse the uplands, and canals connect the river systems of the Elbe, Rhine, see Main, and Danube rivers and link the North Sea with the Baltic.

A Natural Regions

Germany has three major natural regions: a lowland plain in the north, an area of uplands in the center, and a mountainous area in the south. The northern lowlands, called the North German Plain, lie along and between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea and extend southward into eastern Germany. The lowest point in Germany is sea level along the coast, where there are areas of dunes and marshland. Off the coast are several islands, including the Frisian Islands, Helgoland, and Rügen. The flat area was originally formed by glacial action during the Ice Age and includes an alluvial belt, southwest of Berlin, which is Germany’s richest farming area. Farther west, this belt supported the development of the coal and steel industries of the Ruhr Valley in cities such as Essen and Dortmund. Historically, the north German lowlands have been wide open to invasions, migrations, and trade with Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. East of the Elbe River, they also sustained large-scale agriculture and huge feudal estates once owned by the Prussian aristocratic elite.

The central uplands feature mountain ranges of modest height, separated by river valleys. Navigable rivers facilitated economic development by providing inexpensive transportation before the age of railroads and trucking. This region is located between the latitude of the city of Nürnberg and the Main River in the south and the latitude of Hannover in the north. Much of it is heavily forested and exploited for its timber. The region is marked by an abundance of waterpower. Intense cultivation and industrial development has occurred in cities such as Dresden and Kassel, located in the river valleys.

The mountainous region, or Alpine zone, in the south includes the Swabian and Franconian mountains, the foothills of the Alps, and two large forests, the Black Forest in the southwest and the Bavarian and Bohemian Forest in the east. Germany’s highest point is Zugspitze (2,962 m/9,718 ft) in the Bavarian Alps. Major cities in this area include Stuttgart and Munich. The region has traditionally relied on small-scale agriculture and tourism, but many high-technology industries began to develop there during the 1970s.

B Rivers and Lakes

Rivers have played a major role in German development. The Rhine River flows in a northwesterly direction from Switzerland through much of western Germany and The Netherlands into the North Sea. It is a major European waterway and a pillar of economic development. Its main German tributaries include the Main, Mosel, Neckar, and Ruhr rivers. The Oder River, along the border between Poland and Germany, runs northward and empties into the Baltic; it provides another important path for waterborne freight. The Elbe River originates in the Czech mountains and traverses eastern and western Germany toward the northwest until it empties into the North Sea at the large seaport of Hamburg. The Danube River connects southern Germany with Austria and Eastern Europe. Since the recent construction of the Rhine-Danube Canal, freight can be transported by barge from the North Sea to the Black Sea. Smaller rivers such as the Neisse and Weser also play a significant role as transport routes. There are several large lakes, including the Lake of Constance (Bodensee) in extreme southwest Germany and the glacial moraine lakes of Bavaria, but none of them have rivaled the importance of rivers in German economic development.

C Coastline

Germany’s coastline along the North Sea is characterized by vast stretches of tidal flats and several important seaports, including Hamburg, Bremerhaven, and Emden. Schleswig-Holstein, Germany’s northernmost state, is traversed by the vital Kiel Canal, which carries freight between the Baltic and North seas, eliminating the need for a shipping route around Denmark. Major seaports of the German Baltic coast include Kiel and Rostock. The coastline also features recreation areas, some on small islands off both coasts.

D Plant and Animal Life

Once a country of deep forests, Germany today includes mostly areas that have long been cleared. However, forest conservation since the 18th century has preserved large areas of oak, ash, elm, beech, birch, pine, fir, and larch. About one-third of the country is woodland. Of the many animals that once roamed the forests, deer, red foxes, hares, and weasels are still common, but these animals and wilder game such as wild boars, wildcats, and badgers depend increasingly on conservation efforts. Private hunting licenses are extremely expensive, and even fishing in the streams and lakes where edible species abound is not encouraged. Instead, there is a good deal of fish farming, including trout and carp; deer are also commercially produced to satisfy the demand for venison. Many species of songbirds migrate to Germany every year, as do storks, geese, and other larger fowl that fly in over the Mediterranean Sea from Africa. Herring, flounder, cod, and ocean perch are found in coastal waters.

E Natural Resources

The presence of coal and iron ore encouraged German industrial development in the late 19th century. Most of the deposits were found in close proximity to one another, allowing for the convenient use of coal as fuel first to process the iron into steel and then to manufacture products from the steel. The availability of inexpensive transport by water, and later by land, facilitated the growth of manufacturing and encouraged exports. The presence of certain minerals in great quantity, such as potash and salt, permitted the development of a chemical industry, including the production of fertilizers and pharmaceuticals. The availability of wood, petroleum, natural gas, brown coal (also known as lignite), and hydroelectric power further smoothed the path of German industrial progress.

F Climate

Germany has a mostly moderate climate, characterized by cool winters and warm summers. River valleys such as that of the Rhine tend to be humid and somewhat warmer in both winter and summer, whereas mountain areas can be much colder. Precipitation on the average is much heavier in the south, especially along the Alpine slopes, which force incoming weather fronts to rise and shed their moisture in the form of rain and snow.

G Environmental Issues

Germany is located in the middle of other industrial nations whose air and water pollution come into the country with the wind and rain, and in the rivers. Also every summer many automobiles, including those from other European countries, drive across Germany’s autobahn on their way to vacations in southern Europe. Among Germany’s homegrown environmental problems, the most important are probably those connected with industrial overdevelopment and automobile traffic.

A densely settled country, Germany has limited land, air, and water in which to bury and dissipate all the unhealthful and toxic wastes produced by its ever more intensive industrial development. Factory and automobile exhaust pollution is blamed for the widespread death of the forests from acid rain. Agricultural development has produced fertilizer and pesticide runoff into lakes and streams, burdening the groundwater supply. Germany also received some nuclear fallout at the time of the 1986 Chernobyl’ reactor meltdown in Ukraine (Chernobyl’ Accident). Public resistance halted the development of nuclear energy in Germany as people objected to the proposed sites of nuclear plants.

With unification, West Germany inherited the enormous pollution problems of East Germany, whose government had not dealt with serious environmental damage. Among the worst problems were the open remnants from strip mining and the legacy of the chemical industry, both located in southern East Germany. The poisoning of soil and groundwater by uncontrolled industrial and agricultural development required enormous expenditures for cleanup. The burning of brown coal, the only kind of coal abundant in East Germany, has led to health problems, including respiratory ailments and lung and heart disease.

Germany has developed a number of measures to address environmental problems of various sorts, ranging from controls on industrial emissions to identification of additives in food to smog control devices on vehicles. In the 1970s an environmental protest movement developed, and the Green Party—a political party that focuses on environmental issues—was formed. These two events led the major political parties to devote more attention to the environment because they felt they had to compete with the Green Party. The most remarkable result of this increased environmental awareness was the development of an “eco-industry,” a new manufacturing sector that makes pollution-control devices and other environmentally useful equipment. This industry has also produced new jobs, helping counter the fears of both trade unions and existing industries that environmental controls would cost jobs and handicap business. In addition, Germany has ratified various international environmental agreements on air pollution, biodiversity, climate change, endangered species, oceans, the ozone layer, wetlands, and whaling.


As is the case in many industrialized countries, the German population has become substantially older on the average since the early 1900s. This is a result of declining birth rates and the shrinking of family size from the large families common in the early 20th century to an average size of 3.5 members per household in the late 1990s. In addition, the numbers of single-parent and one-person households are increasing.

The German population is overwhelmingly urban. In 1994 Germany had 39 cities with more than 200,000 residents, and 12 metropolises with more than 500,000 residents. Three of Germany’s federal states are city-states: Berlin, Bremen, and Hamburg. Berlin is the capital and largest city. Germany’s population density is highest in the northwest, especially in North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen), which includes Germany’s old industrial heartland, the Ruhr Valley, and a number of large cities. Population density is lower in the former East Germany and in the more rural states of Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), and Bavaria.

A Ethnic Groups

A few ethnic minorities are represented in Germany, including the Danes of northern Schleswig-Holstein and the Sorbs of southeastern Brandenburg, who are descended from the Slavic tribes called the Wends. Foreign residents make up about 9 percent of Germany’s population. The largest group is Turkish, but there are also large numbers of East European refugees, as well as immigrants from European Union countries such as Italy, Spain, and Greece.

B Immigration

As a result of being defeated in both World War I and World War II, Germany lost large areas of land. After World War II, many ethnic Germans fled from lost territories and East European countries to what remained of Germany. About 8 million refugees fled from East Prussia, the Czech Sudetenland, and the region between the Oder and Neisse rivers in Poland. About another 3 million ethnic Germans fled from Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania, and other parts of Eastern Europe. Most of these ethnic Germans had lived for centuries in Eastern Europe. However, during and after the wars they were driven out, often with considerable violence and the loss of an estimated 2 million German lives. This process began with the collapse of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires in 1918 and the establishment of East European countries such as Czechoslovakia and Poland. The failed attempt of the Nazi Party to reconquer and expand German ethnic dominance by force led to the final flight and expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe.

Once they arrived from their trek to East and West Germany, these millions of ethnic German refugees became integrated rather quickly into German society. Many refugees continued to move from rural to urban areas, and from east to west as 2.5 million East Germans fled to West Germany before the Berlin Wall was built in 1961.

A second great population movement began in the 1950s as the rapidly expanding West German economy demanded a larger labor supply. To meet this demand, West Germany looked outside the country to fill labor needs. From 1955, under bilateral treaties with various countries that had underemployment, West Germany brought in thousands of so-called guest workers on limited-term contracts to work for a few years. When the economic boom slowed down in the early 1970s, West Germany stopped foreign recruitment and expected the guest workers to return to their home countries. However, most of them—including large numbers of workers from Turkey and Yugoslavia—did not leave. In addition, many workers had brought their families with them to share in Germany’s opportunities, living standards, and welfare benefits.

During the 1980s and 1990s Germany continued to experience waves of migration. The disintegration of Eastern European Communist regimes led ethnic Germans from as far away as Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Russia, and Romania to seek a new life in Germany, where the Basic Law offers them instant citizenship even if they do not speak the language. The crumbling of Communist rule in East Germany was also accompanied by a massive migration of East Germans to West Germany. Finally, since the late 1980s, hundreds of thousands of people a year from Sri Lanka, Lebanon, West Africa, and other countries have sought refuge in Germany under Article 16 of the Basic Law, which provides asylum for victims of political persecution.

Some Germans have not welcomed these immigrants; many believe that the immigrants came only to participate in Germany’s high living standards. Official responses to these different kinds of immigration challenges have been varied and at times inconsistent, especially since Germany is a federal country and different states and cities have widely varying labor needs and problems. Ethnic German “resettlers” and East German migrants still encounter prejudice even though they are German citizens. Asylum-seekers have been kept in hostels all over the country, barred from jobs and social integration while individual cases for political asylum are examined. This process can take years and has resulted in as many as 97 percent of them being turned away. By 1993 the major political parties agreed to a more restrictive procedure for the admission of asylum-seekers, which reduced their numbers by two-thirds.

C Principal Cities

Germany’s largest cities tend to be either the capitals of former or present states—for example, Berlin, the capital of former Prussia; Munich, the capital of Bavaria; and Dresden, the capital of Saxony (Sachsen). In addition, many of Germany’s largest cities are centers of important super-regional functions or part of industrial areas. For example, the Rhine-Ruhr area, the center of German heavy industry, is a vast population hub with five large cities: Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Dortmund, Essen, and Cologne. Because many people live in adjacent areas or towns and commute to the city, each of these urban centers accounts for far more people than just those living within the city limits.

The cores of many of these large cities and many smaller ones are quite old and have maintained their historic centers with authentically preserved old buildings and cathedrals. Many small towns, such as Rothenburg ob der Tauber in northern Bavaria, boast medieval towers, gates, and parts of their ancient city walls. Many medium-sized and larger cities also pride themselves on a rich, publicly subsidized cultural life of theater, opera, music festivals, and galleries, which add modern refinement to regional traditions.

D Language

The principal and official language of Germany is German, an Indo-European language (see German Language). Standard High German is used for official, educational, and literary purposes. Spoken German, however, differs from High German in the form of dozens of distinctive dialects and simplified street usage. One version, Low German, or Plattdeutsch, resembles Dutch and is spoken in the seaboard areas of the northwest. Southern dialects such as Swabian and Bavarian may be hard to understand for North Germans or for foreign visitors who learned only High German in school. There are small language minorities, such as the Sorbs of southeastern Brandenburg and the Danes of northern Schleswig-Holstein; both of these groups also have some cultural autonomy. The various immigrant populations also retain their separate languages, such as Turkish, Greek, Italian, Spanish, and Serbo-Croatian. However, the public schools insist that all children learn German.

E Religion

Religion in Germany plays a fairly small role in society. Church attendance in Germany is much lower than that in the United States. Under German law, all churches are supported by a modest church tax that is collected by the state.

Roman Catholicism was the dominant religion in medieval Germany until the major crises and reformation efforts of the 14th and 15th centuries. After that time, Protestant churches came to power in the majority of principalities of the north, east, and center of the Holy Roman Empire. The actual Reformation began with the publication of the Ninety-five Theses of protest by Martin Luther in 1517. After considerable religious and political conflict, the Peace of Augsburg of 1555 decreed that each ruler of the approximately 300 German principalities could determine the religion of the subjects. The Catholics eventually met the rapid spread of Protestantism with the Counter Reformation, which involved internal church reforms and a stricter interpretation of church doctrine. Religious strife finally culminated in the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), which devastated the country.

Roman Catholics, mainly concentrated in the south, make up about 34 percent of the German population. Protestants, the great majority of whom are Lutherans, make up about 35 percent of the people. Protestants live primarily in the north. The German Protestant churches form a loosely organized federation called the Evangelical Churches of Germany (EKD).

Only a very small percentage of Germans are Jewish. Until the 19th century, the Jewish community was segregated and barred from many activities in most German states. In 19th-century Prussia and with the unification of Germany in 1871, German Jews were granted equal status under the law. At that point, German Jews became integrated into cultural and economic life. More than 500,000 Jews lived in Germany in the early 1930s. By the end of World War II in 1945, most of them had been killed by the Nazis or had fled the country. Only about 40,000 Jews, mostly elderly people, lived in Germany in the late 1990s. With the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, however, some younger East European and Russian Jews began to settle in the larger cities of Germany, particularly Berlin.

F Education

Full-time school attendance in Germany is free and mandatory from age 6 to age 14, after which most children either continue in secondary schools or participate in vocational education until the age of 18. Kindergarten is not part of the public school system, although before unification East Germany had a nearly universal system of childcare facilities. Under the treaty of unification, the East German public education system was required to conform to the model in use in West Germany.

Education in Germany is under the jurisdiction of the individual state governments, which results in a great deal of variety. Most states in the former West Germany have a three-track system that begins with four years of Grundschule (primary school), attended by all children between the ages of 6 and 9. After this period, a child’s further educational program is determined during two “orientation grades” (ages 10 and 11). Those who are university-bound then enter a track of rigorous preparatory secondary education by attending a highly competitive, academic Gymnasium (junior and senior high school). Many Gymnasium students leave school at age 16 to pursue business careers. Others graduate at age 19 after passing a week-long examination called the Abitur. If they pass, they receive a certificate, which is a prerequisite for entering a university. The Gymnasium has three alternative focuses: Greek and Latin, modern languages, and mathematics and science. Only about one-tenth of German students graduate from the Gymnasium.

The overwhelming majority of German students attend either a six-year Realschule (postprimary school), which offers a mixture of business and academic training, or a five-year Hauptschule (general school) followed by further skills training and on-the-job experience in a three-year vocational program, or Berufsschule. From age 14 nearly all Realschule and Hauptschule students, both male and female, enroll in trade apprenticeship programs, which combine training in workshops, factories, or businesses with vocational schooling. Apprentices are supervised by a trade master and must demonstrate their mastery of the trade in examinations.

Since the German three-track system has often been accused of conforming to class distinctions, some states have opted instead for a comprehensive high school system that combines all the tracks within the same institution. The result is somewhat similar to an American high school, but far more competitive. Before unification, East Germany’s polytechnic high schools also provided a comprehensive program. However, since 1990, East German education has moved in the direction of West German models.

The Abitur is required for university entrance but there are alternative routes to it. Some students are permitted to change from one kind of school to another during the course of their education. Such midcourse changes are easiest at comprehensive high schools. Those who opt for three years of vocational training after tenth grade can also go on to specialized trade colleges, or Fachhochschulen. Schools of continuing education for adults, such as the many Volkshochschulen (German for “people’s colleges”), offer a variety of adult education courses and have some programs leading to diplomas.

Enrollments at German universities have quadrupled since the 1960s, which has caused the expansion of many old universities and the building of a number of new ones. Germany has quite a few venerable old universities, such as those of Heidelberg, Freiburg, Munich, Tübingen, and Marburg.

G Way of Life

High living standards, plentiful leisure time (three weeks or more of mandatory paid vacation), and comprehensive social welfare benefits distinguish German society. Germany has a highly urbanized society, with lifestyles that emphasize recreational, leisure, and physical fitness activities. Many Germans enjoy hiking, camping, skiing, and other outdoor pursuits. Soccer is the most popular sport in the nation, and many Germans belong to local soccer clubs. Germans are also known for their love of food, especially rich pastries, veal and pork dishes, and various types of sausages and cheeses. German-made wine and beer are famous all over the world. Also popular are lively social gatherings at outdoor beer or wine gardens or cellar restaurants where wine or beer is stored.

German society has undergone vast changes in recent years. Since the early 1960s, for example, television has homogenized popular culture and brought urban ways of thinking to rural areas. In fact, the rapid spread of automobile ownership in the 1950s and 1960s made rural isolation a thing of the past. The old village communities, whose cultural life was dominated by the parish and the elementary school, have almost disappeared. The one-room schools in which eight grades used to be instructed simultaneously no longer exist. Young women find that most of the traditional barriers to a career of their own choosing, in particular barriers to diversified vocational and higher education, have broken down. Women have also been freed from the constraints of the traditional family roles of motherhood and child rearing by birth control and a greatly lowered birth rate. On average, women in the late 1990s only have 1.5 children, compared to 3.5 children in the early 1900s.

Some people in the former East Germany look back fondly on the days before unification when their way of life was modest but also highly egalitarian. Unification brought greater personal freedom to East Germans, but the capitalistic market economy also brought the heightened competition and a hectic pace of life common in the West. The former East Germany still has considerably lower wage levels and living standards than the more prosperous West Germany. Many large state-owned manufactures and cooperative agricultural enterprises in East Germany did not survive the transformation to a market economy. In the first four years after unification, about three-fourths of the vast sector of public enterprises, both industrial and agricultural, that characterized the communist economy of East Germany were privatized, resulting in extremely high unemployment. The German government invests a great deal of money every year to modernize the infrastructure of roads, transport, communications, and housing in the former East Germany.

H Social Problems

Germany does not have large pockets of poverty or great economic disparity. Crime levels are substantially lower than those in the United States, and the possession of guns is controlled. However, there are substantial numbers of homeless people and problems of violence, alcoholism, and drug abuse. Nonviolent crimes, such as theft and burglary in urban areas, have increased since the 1970s. They occur often enough to make law and order a recurrent political campaign issue.

Since the 1960s violence and crime perpetrated by youths have increased steadily. Disruptive behavior and gang membership characterize some urban secondary schools. Neighborhood youth gangs sometimes engage in vandalism, car theft, and other crimes. Some teens have joined punk and skinhead groups, which may espouse drug use, violence, or racism. In addition, gangs of “soccer rowdies” frequently disrupt games or cause riots afterward.

In the early 1990s the great influx of foreigners, especially illegal aliens and asylum-seekers, coincided with the collapse of the East German Communist regime. Unification brought numerous economic and social problems to Germany, including increased taxes, budget deficits, housing shortages, strikes and demonstrations, unemployment, and rising crime rates. Enormous social changes and economic fears brought xenophobia (fear of foreigners) to the surface. While an angry public focused on the unwelcome strangers and competitors for scarce housing and other benefits, neighborhood youth gangs attacked visible aliens and set fire to their government-assigned housing shelters. At its peak in 1992 this antiforeign violence became the object of extraordinary media concern in Germany and abroad, where it was sometimes interpreted as a sign of German racism and the revival of Nazi activities. Massive counter-demonstrations drew millions of Germans opposed to racism and antiforeign violence.


The German people have made many noteworthy contributions to culture. However, the antecedents of contemporary German art, music, and literature are so thoroughly embedded in the broader European intellectual traditions as to defy most attempts to separate any specifically German cultural roots. A visitor, for example, can see abundant evidence of early medieval art and architecture in the many splendid cathedrals, monasteries, and castles of Germany, but these follow the same styles and style periods that are be found in other European countries—Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, baroque, and so on. German literature and music were similarly part of the larger European culture.

A Literature

From the beginnings of Germany in the 9th century through the Middle Ages, classical Latin was the language of literature and theology in the country. In the 12th and 13th centuries, a vernacular literature appeared, particularly of heroic epics told by wandering minstrel poets. Gottfried von Strassburg wrote Tristan und Isolt (1210) and Wolfram von Eschenbach wrote Parzival (about 1210), both of which deal with Christian themes from the French Arthurian cycle. The two most important epics of the Middle Ages—the Nibelungenlied (about 1200-1210) and the Gudrunlied (about 1210)—are based on pagan Germanic traditions.

Two important events—the construction of a printing press using movable type around 1450 by German printer Johannes Gutenberg and the translation of the Bible into German in 1521 by religious reformer Martin Luther—had a profound impact on Western culture as a whole. They also opened new possibilities for a specifically German literature, because they founded a uniform High German language above the regional dialects, and made it accessible to all who could read. Religious unrest and the Thirty Years’ War put an end to most German literary efforts until a revival occurred in the 18th century.

One of the first writers to stand out beyond Germany was 18th-century dramatist Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, whose play Nathan the Wise (1779; translated 1781) argued for religious toleration. Philosopher and literary critic Johann Gottfried von Herder was an important contemporary of Lessing. The revival of German literature was marked by two great literary movements, classicism and romanticism, which were united in the works of Germany’s greatest poets, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. The lyrical poetry and novels of Goethe and his drama Faust (1808-1832; translated 1834) and the plays and poems of Schiller brought together classical form and the romantic emotions that marked much of the literature to come. The great inspiration for this golden age of German literature was classical antiquity, which was considered admirable for its balance and perfection. The romantics, on the other hand, often used German folk materials, such as medieval history and the fairy tales collected by the Grimm brothers. Ancient Greek poetry inspired the romantic poems of Friedrich Hölderlin. The brothers August Wilhelm von Schlegel and Friedrich von Schlegel edited Athenaeum, which was the chief journal of the romantic movement, translated Shakespeare, and produced literary works based on classical antiquity.

In the mid-1800s the new literary schools of naturalism and symbolism developed. Naturalism regarded human behavior as controlled by instinct, social and economic conditions, and biological factors; it rejected free will. Naturalist playwright Gerhart Hauptmann explored hereditary factors that shaped the individual, while the work of symbolist poet Rainer Maria Rilke was marked by mystic lyricism and imagery. Austrian playwright and poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal created aesthetic moods. Great German novelists of the early 1900s include Thomas Mann, author of The Magic Mountain (1924; translated 1927) and other famous novels, and Alfred Döblin, who is best known for his novel Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929; translated 1931). The most influential expressionist writer was Franz Kafka, whose novels and short stories present a world of oppression and despair.

Social criticism was also a common theme in the early 1900s; it provided the primary focus for the novelist Robert Musil and the playwrights Arthur Schnitzler and Frank Wedekind. In 1929 Erich Maria Remarque published the antiwar novel Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front), with grimly realistic portraits of World War I. Writers like Hermann Hesse, author of Siddhartha (1922; translated 1951), drew on Indian philosophy and religion. The narrative epic theater of see Bertolt Brecht during the 1920s in Berlin specifically attacked capitalist, bourgeois society. German writing, like many German arts, suffered when the Nazi Party took control of Germany in 1933; led by Thomas Mann, many creative minds left the country and went into exile.

After World War II a new generation of German writers, which called itself Group 47, examined themes of overcoming the Nazi experience. Novelists Heinrich Böll, Günter Grass, and Uwe Johnson led this group. Playwrights Peter Weiss and Peter Handke and poets Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan made notable contributions to German literature in the late 1900s.

B Art and Architecture

Medieval German art and architecture were embedded in the dominant European styles of the time. No monumental painting or sculpture, however, has survived from the earliest period except the 9th-century Carolingian cathedral at Aachen, one of the most important circular buildings in Europe.

The cathedrals of Hildesheim and Magdeburg, the illuminated manuscripts, the sculpture, and the church paintings of the 10th century reflect the spirituality of Byzantine art and architecture. The 11th- and 12th-century cathedrals of Speyer, Goslar, Mainz, and Worms are outstanding examples of the Romanesque style, with rounded arches and dark interiors. The cathedrals of Strasbourg, Trier, and Cologne are fine samples of the Gothic style and its soaring pillars, pointed arches, and flying buttresses. In the 14th century a family of architects and artists, the Parlers, helped spread Gothic designs and sculpture throughout southern Germany, from Ulm to Nürnberg and Prague. During the Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries, the great German artist Albrecht Dürer created extraordinary woodcuts and copper engravings and pioneered ways of reproducing and disseminating art. Other well-known artists of the time include the painters Matthias Grünewald, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Hans Holbein the Younger, and the superb wood altars and sculptures of Tilman Riemenschneider.

Another style, the opulently ornamented baroque, flourished in the Catholic churches and monasteries and the secular palaces of southern Germany and Austria during the 17th and 18th centuries. Its rich ornamentation accompanied the renewed style of the Catholic church service of the Counter Reformation, which was a reaction to the Protestant preference for stripping churches of statuary and paintings of saints. Andreas Schlüter designed the Royal Palace in Berlin in 1706, and architect Balthasar Neumann built the Bishop’s Residence in Würzburg with a great stair hall and a reception room decorated with ceiling paintings.

Outstanding examples of late baroque, or rococo, style include the Wies Church near Munich in southern Bavaria, a vision of light and lightness built by Dominikus Zimmermann, the Benedictine Abbey of Melk on the Danube, and the Royal Zwinger Palace in Dresden, a creation of Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann. Rococo is distinguished by its fanciful use of curves and light, its flowing asymmetric lines, and its pierced shellwork. In the 19th century, great architects such as the painter and architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel designed many of the representative buildings in Berlin, and Gottfried Semper pioneered the revival of Renaissance styles in Dresden and Vienna. Artists of the German romantic period include Caspar David Friedrich, who painted meditative landscapes and seascapes, and Carl Spitzweg, who provided humorous glimpses of small-town life.

At the beginning of the 20th century, German art and architecture developed a range of new styles, beginning with the Jugendstil (see Art Nouveau), whose rich and colorful ornamentation and graceful curves left an indelible imprint on the rest of the century. The Bauhaus school of design, under the direction first of Walter Gropius and later of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, pioneered a functional, severely simple architectural style during the Weimar years. The Bauhaus also attracted great abstract painters such as Paul Klee and famous foreigners such as the Russian Wassily Kandinsky and the American Lyonel Feininger. In addition, the early 1900s produced the bitter caricatures of George Grosz, the tragic graphic art of Käthe Kollwitz, and the expressionist art of groups such as Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). Among the leading expressionists were painters Max Beckmann, who produced highly dramatic and energetic paintings, and Emil Nolde, who used contorted brushwork and raw colors to visually shock the viewer. The Nazis pilloried their work as “degenerate art.” As with German literature, nearly every leading figure in art and architecture fled Germany during the Nazi years, and only a few returned after 1945. In postwar Germany, artists of note include sculptor and performance artist Joseph Beuys and painter Anselm Kiefer, who explored themes of the German cultural crisis under dictatorship and total war.

C Music

The earliest roots of German music lie in monastic chants and religious music. In the 12th century the mystic abbess Hildegard of Bingen wrote stirring compositions and hymns that sought to free musical expression from narrow conventions. From the 12th century to the 14th century, wandering nobles and knights called minnesingers wrote and recited courtly love poems in the tradition of French troubadours and trouvères. Of the approximately 160 known minnesingers from this time period, the most famous are Walther von der Vogelweide and Reinmar von Hagenau. In addition to the minnesingers, a secular folk music tradition also developed. Some collections of student and vagabond songs survive, including the Carmina Burana verses of 13th-century Bavaria, which in the 20th century were set to music by Carl Orff. From the 14th to the 16th century the German middle class favored the rigid musical style composed by the poets and musicians who belonged to the Meistersinger guild.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, polyphonic music, in which simultaneous melodies were interwoven, arrived in Germany in the form of the Protestant chorale. In contrast to the music of the traditional Catholic service, the rousing Protestant chorale became the participant music of the faithful. Protestant leader Martin Luther himself contributed some of the most popular chorales, such as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” to this genre of sacred songs written in the vernacular. Other leading religious composers included Heinrich Schütz, Dietrich Buxtehude, and see Johann Pachelbel.

The age of baroque music, with its exuberant ornamentation, began with one of Germany’s greatest composers, Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach’s towering work of the early 1700s was admired for its artistic use of counterpoint. It includes the formal Brandenburg Concertos; four orchestral suites; concertos for violin, keyboard, and various wind instruments; preludes; fugues; and a huge volume of choral works, including his Christmas Oratorio, The Passion of St. Matthew, The Passion of St. John, and many cantatas. He also had two musically talented sons, Johann Christian Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, who became well-known composers in their own right. Two famous contemporaries of Bach were composers Georg Philipp Telemann and George Frideric Handel—who wrote more than 40 operas, chamber music, and the famous oratorio Messiah.

By the 1740s princely courts in such cities as Berlin, Dresden, Mannheim, and Vienna had emerged as sponsors of orchestral music and of composers and musicians. In Mannheim, for example, Johann Wenzel Anton Stamitz held the post of court composer. In Vienna, the Hungarian Esterházy princes extended their patronage to the immensely gifted and versatile Joseph Haydn, who gave the string quartet, the symphony, and the sonata their classic form. In Salzburg and also in Vienna in the late 1700s, child prodigy and musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart experimented with strains of the dominant Italian musical tradition until he developed his own unmistakable graceful and lyrical style. In his short but brilliant life he produced about 50 symphonies; concertos for piano, violin, and wind instruments; masses; and a requiem. His most famous operas, The Marriage of Figaro (1786) and Don Giovanni (1787), and lighter operatic pieces, The Magic Flute (1791) and The Abduction from the Seraglio (1782), still dominate the operatic stage.

The age of the French and American revolutions characterized the heroic emotion of the work of Ludwig van Beethoven, a student of Haydn’s in Vienna, who also revolutionized musical form and expression in the early 1800s. He used unorthodox harmonies in classical sonatas and symphonies to inspire exalted moods. His nine symphonies—including the Eroica (begun 1803) and the Symphony no. 9 (1824), with the famous Ode to Joy—five piano concertos, his violin concerto of haunting beauty, an opera, and a large volume of superb chamber music, including his brilliant string quartets, earned Beethoven a reputation as one of the greatest composers in the Western tradition. Another musical innovator of the 1800s, Franz Schubert, created the German lied (art song), usually a piece of romantic or lyrical poetry—some by Goethe—set to music and accompanied by a pianist. Schubert’s lieder cycles, such as The Miller’s Beautiful Daughter (1823), became the model for a long list of other romantic composers, including Hugo Wolf, Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms.

Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and Schubert had found Vienna a musical center of the highest creativity and the most refined musical tastes. But there was also a burst of more popular music with the Viennese waltzes of Johann Strauss the Younger and his immortal operettas Die Fledermaus (1874; The Bat) and Der Zigeunerbaron (1885; The Gypsy Baron). There were also other operetta masters such as Albert Lortzing and the Hungarian Franz Lehár, whose Merry Widow (1905) brought operetta into the 20th century. Other composers such as the prolific Anton Bruckner and Gustav Mahler—a genius of romantic expression in his song cycles—continued the Vienna tradition in a serious vein.

Many 19th-century German composers mixed the style of classicism with the less-structured, more spontaneous style of romanticism. Brahms, for example, tended more toward the classical in his four symphonies, his violin and piano concertos, his requiem, and his chamber music. Schumann’s haunting melodies, including symphonies, piano pieces, and chorales, were more on the romantic side. His talented wife, Clara Schumann, also composed romantic pieces. Classicist Felix Mendelssohn produced orchestral, choral, and chamber works.

German opera of the 19th century enjoyed a dramatic evolution at the hands of Carl Maria von Weber and Richard Wagner. Wagner developed a closer linkage between the music and the action on stage by using such devices as the leitmotiv, which presents a musical theme for each important figure or recurrent action. Both Weber and Wagner preferred themes from German history, particularly the Middle Ages. Among Wagner’s best-known operas are The Mastersingers of Nürnberg (completed 1867), The Flying Dutchman (1841), and the four-part epic cycle of the Ring of the Nibelungs (completed 1874). Later, Richard Strauss produced outstanding operas such as Der Rosenkavalier (1911), and Engelbert Humperdinck experimented with operas for children. At the same time, Austrian Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils Anton Webern and Alban Berg devised a revolutionary twelve-tone music that abandoned traditional melodies and harmonies for emphasis on rhythm and dissonance. Composer Kurt Weill collaborated with writer Bertolt Brecht on two of the great works of the German popular stage, The Three-Penny Opera (1928; translated 1933) and Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1930; translated 1956). Germany has also produced a multitude of talented orchestra directors, including Otto Klemperer and Kurt Masur.

As it did in other fields, the rise of the Nazi Party in the 1930s choked off German musical development. Hundreds of musical artists fled Germany during the years of the Third Reich. After the war, only a few new modern composers appeared, notably Karlheinz Stockhausen and his electronic music, and Hans Werner Henze, known for his lyrical modern operas. However, the classical music tradition continues in Germany with the performances and recordings of more than 150 major orchestras, including such world-renowned groups as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, and the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.

D Libraries and Museums

German cultural life has flourished in the many cities that were once the capitals of near-independent states. Their rulers sponsored the arts, music, and theater, and established many fine libraries, galleries, and museums that survived long after the dynasties were gone. The kings of Prussia founded the Prussian State Library (now the Berlin State Library-Prussian Cultural Heritage), the National Gallery, and the Museum of Greek and Roman Antiquities in Berlin. In Munich the Bavarian kings founded the Bavarian State Library, the Alte Pinakothek art gallery, and the famous Deutsches Museum, a museum of scientific and technological inventions. The kings of Saxony founded a splendid art collection in the Zwinger Palace in Dresden. In addition, excellent university libraries and many city and monastery libraries exist throughout the country. Records of the Nazi period are located in the Federal Archives in Koblenz and in the Berlin Document Center, which houses 25 million Nazi Party documents. A large number of private archives of businesses and individuals and fine private museums, such as the Wallraf Museum in Cologne, are also found in Germany.

E Contemporary Culture

The German people are very supportive of the arts. Four-fifths of the $2 billion cost of opera performances annually come from public subsidies. Since unification government funding for the arts has been drastically reduced. The cuts have been especially severe in united Berlin. Before 1990 East and West Berlin each supported their respective opera houses with public monies, particularly East Berlin, which supplied cheap tickets for the working class. After unification, Berlin ended up with two great opera houses and the excellent Comic Opera House, but it has only a fraction of the previous funding.

Popular music in Germany also enjoys a large audience. The concerts of German rock groups draw tens of thousands. Germans have their own groups and bands, and have also come to produce fine jazz in some of the big cities. However, much of the music and many of the artists are part of the international music scene. The popular music itself is overwhelmingly of American origin. The same is true of much of the television fare in Germany. Germany has not made much of an effort to limit the market share of American cultural imports.

The cultural inundation from Hollywood has long overwhelmed the native motion-picture industry. German films make up less than 10 percent of those shown in German theaters. The flourishing German film industry of the Weimar years, which produced well-known directors such as Fritz Lang, became a wasteland during and after World War II. In the 1960s and 1970s, however, with the help of government subsidies and television contracts, a few new directors nurtured a modestly successful film industry. Volker Schlöndorff, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Jürgen Syberberg, and Margarethe von Trotta were among the new filmmakers honored by the Young German Film Trust and at international film festivals such as those held in Berlin and Mannheim. Most Germans, however, are not familiar with their work.


When Germany became a nation in 1871, it was a latecomer in the race toward industrialization, which was dominated by Britain and France. Unification under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck resulted in a boom that made Germany an industrial leader by 1910. Germany’s economic development was based on an alliance of industrial business people with the Prussian aristocracy who controlled much of the land. It emphasized the production of coal and steel, machines and machine tools, chemicals, electronic equipment, ships, and, later, motor vehicles. Well-organized business, labor, and farm associations in league with the government produced a distinctive “organized capitalism,” different from the less regulated capitalism of Britain and the United States. This strong economy carried the country into two world wars and, despite Allied bombing from 1942 to 1945, survived largely intact.

After World War II ended in 1945, the Western powers saw the need to build up European economies in order to resist the threatened encroachment of the Soviet Union and Communism. To this end, the U.S. government in 1947 initiated the European Recovery Program, commonly called the Marshall Plan, which offered generous investment loans to all European countries that had been devastated by the war. Under the stewardship of economics minister Ludwig Erhard, the Marshall Plan helped launch a 20-year economic expansion in West Germany that raised living standards and industrial production far above prewar levels. This recovery is often described as West Germany’s “economic miracle.”

East Germany did not participate in the Marshall Plan and instead built up a Communist economic system. It instituted an economy based on central planning by a state commission that set all the wages and prices. Most private industries and farms were turned into state or cooperative enterprises. East Germany became one of the most industrialized and prosperous Communist countries.

However, after German unification in 1990, the great differences between the West and East German economic systems brought East Germany to near total collapse. Many East German workers abandoned their jobs for superior opportunities in the West, and East German consumers spurned their own products for Western goods. To make matters worse, the overvalued East German currency, the ostmark, was exchanged one-to-one for the West German deutsche mark (DM), whose street value was actually seven to ten times higher. This exchange plunged struggling East German enterprises into the highly competitive West German and international markets without protection. The East German enterprises now had to pay their debts and payrolls in higher-value DM while at the same time losing market share to the superior West German products that were becoming widely available. A wide range of West German goods became available on East German shelves. The Eastern European markets for East German exports disappeared, since many of these countries could not afford to pay in DM for East German goods previously attained by bartering their own products. Many East German enterprises failed. New private and public investments, most of them from West Germany, have since flowed into the former East Germany as its economy was restructured and privatized.

Germany’s economic development after unification had its ups and downs. In particular during a severe recession in 1992 and 1993, economic growth slowed down and, for a while, the economy even shrank somewhat before resuming its modest growth rate of between 1 and 3 percent. Throughout this period, however, Germany continued to pour tens of billions of dollars into the infrastructure of former East Germany, and it will continue to do so for several more years. In just the first seven years after unification, this involved an amount equivalent (in real, uninflated value) of 70 times the Marshall Plan aid to West Germany. In 1993 the eastern growth rate was at a gratifying 9.2 percent, while that of western Germany was only 2.3 percent and the national average was 2.9 percent. Growth in the former East Germany was led by the construction industry, which accounted for one-third of the East’s industrial output. The service sector and light manufacturing followed.

By 1994 the German economy had recovered from its slump. The export sector was the first to expand again, followed by investments and consumption. In spite of the recovery, per capita industrial output in the former East Germany was still only one-third that of the West, although its share of production for export was almost at West German levels. But, compared to other post-Communist economies, East German economic progress was far ahead of such countries as Poland and the Czech Republic. By 1998 economic growth was about 3 percent of GDP annually for Germany as a whole.

Despite higher taxes and some economic problems since unification, the German economy remains strong. Its large and very modern industrial economy has made Germany the economic powerhouse of the European Union (EU). More than one-half of both exports and imports are with EU countries. Its banks are strong in the EU, and the deutsche mark is one of the strongest currencies in Europe.

A Labor

In the past, West Germany had very low unemployment, and East Germany had full employment under its Communist system. In the early 1990s, however, unemployment in Germany increased. This increase was due to a number of problems, including industrial restructuring in former East Germany, declines in export orders brought about by recession in other countries, and monetary policies designed to curb inflation. In early 1997 unemployment hit a postwar high of 12.2 percent, with more than 4 million Germans out of work. In the west, the level was more than 9 percent, while eastern Germany’s rate was about 17 percent. Among the reasons for the sluggishness in job creation were the high wage rate common in Germany and the strong trade unions, which sought to protect existing wages and jobs.

Germany has a history of strong labor unions. The first German unions were founded in 1868 and grew into a mighty political and economic force until the Third Reich took over all labor organization in 1933. After 1945 the unions came back with redoubled force in the West under the German Trade Union Federation (DGB). In 1949 the DGB had 4.8 million members in 16 industrial federations and 101 unions. By 1989, on the eve of unification, there were 7.9 million DGB members. German unification briefly raised this figure by 50 percent before the number of members finally settled at about 9 million. The federations ranged from the powerful metalworkers and autoworkers with 2.7 million members to the leather workers with 22,000 members. Other important DGB federations were the Public Service Union and the Chemical, Paper, and Ceramics Workers. Major labor unions outside the DGB included the White Collar Employees, the Civil Service Union, and the Christian Workers Union.

East Germany meanwhile had organized the state-controlled Free German Trade Union Federation (FDGB). At its peak, the FDGB claimed a membership of 9.6 million, including pensioners, students, production workers, office employees, intellectuals, and professionals. The FDGB collapsed at the time of unification, and DGB organizers from the west moved in and offered East German workers their support during the transition to a market economy, which included waves of dismissals, reduced hours, and early retirements. The DGB conducted a series of strikes for higher wages and better working conditions for East German workers, beginning with large strikes of metalworkers and public employees in 1992 and 1993. However, in the mid-1990s wage differentials and lower levels of productivity still left workers in eastern Germany as much as 20 to 40 percent behind those in western Germany in various sectors. With the dismantling of some of the largest East German industrial conglomerates and agricultural collectives, whole regions became depressed areas of high unemployment, especially in the north and northeast.

B Manufacturing and Industry

Manufacturing and industry have long been important to German economic development, although recent global and European trends are forcing changes upon the German economy. Industry helped the country recover economically from World War II and from the unification of East and West Germany. Although the economy has long been moving in the direction of services, manufacturing and industry are still important in the country and accounted for 35 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 1995. Germany is a leading producer of such products as iron and steel, cement, chemical products, electronics, food and beverages, machinery and machine tools, and motor vehicles.

Large-scale manufacturing enterprises are concentrated in several areas. The most important industrial area encompasses the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which includes the steel-producing Ruhr region. The Ruhr region is one of the most intensely developed industrial areas in the world, and a large majority of Germany’s iron, steel, and bituminous coal comes from this area. Its early and intense development also make this region the equivalent of a rustbelt area in the United States, where traditional manufacturing is in decline and unemployment is high. The area around the confluence of the Rhine and Main rivers forms another major industrial region, comprising the cities of Frankfurt am Main, Wiesbaden, Mainz, and Offenbach. They produce metals, electronic equipment, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and motor vehicles. To the south, Stuttgart and Munich are also manufacturing hubs. Their products include aircraft, textiles and clothing, office machinery, optical instruments, and beer. Berlin, the Hannover-Brunswick area, and the port cities of Hamburg, Bremen, Kiel, and Wilhelmshaven are other important industrial centers.

Since unification, East German industry has suffered from a number of problems stemming from the long years when it was protected from international and West German competition. Some industries—such as chemicals and plastics, shipbuilding, textiles, and motor vehicles—lost their markets to superior or less expensive West German or foreign products. All suffered from redundancy of labor, which made it necessary to halve most of the industrial labor force, leading to mass unemployment. Most industrial equipment was antiquated, and it especially lacked the automated and computerized advancements that had swept Western industry in the 1980s. After unification in 1990, Germany broke up most large eastern corporations and transferred them from state ownership into private hands. Some enterprises were taken over by their own managers; most were bought in bits and pieces by West German or foreign investors. By the late 1990s, former East Germany was well on its way in moving from a predominantly manufacturing economy toward an increasingly service-oriented economy.

C Mining

Mining plays a small part in the German economy. Several minerals, however, are produced in sizable quantities. Hard coal deposits are mined in the Ruhr area and the Saarland. Brown coal, also known as lignite, is mined in the foothills of the Harz Mountains; near Cologne; in southeastern Brandenburg; and in central Germany. Before 1990 brown coal satisfied about three-fifths of East Germany’s energy needs, but caused enormous environmental problems. Since unification, East German brown coal extraction has been reduced, and the number of coal miners was cut from 133,000 to 28,000 by 1995. The federal government shut down the least productive East German mines and covered open strip mines with vegetation. However, brown coal continues to supply about one-third of the electricity needs of Germany. In addition, nuclear energy and hard coal, which burns more cleanly than brown coal, are gaining in importance. The German government subsidizes both the hard coal and brown coal industries.

Iron ore production declined in West Germany by the mid-1980s because the country was importing it at a cheaper rate than its own production would have cost. Germany’s potash salts industry ranks as one of the largest exporters of potash-based fertilizers in the world. The deposits are located mostly in Thüringen in central Germany. Four-fifths of the potash is exported. Thüringen also has significant amounts of copper.

D Farming

Farming has a minor role in the German economy. Together with forestry and fishing, farming accounts for about 10 percent of the GDP in the former East Germany as compared to 1 percent in the country as a whole. Only 3 percent of the labor force is involved in these sectors. Germany imports about one-third of its food. The nation’s principal crops are wheat, potatoes, sugar beets, and barley. The fruit industry is also important, producing apples and grapes, some of which are used to make Germany’s famous wines. In addition, farmers raise livestock, including hogs, cattle, sheep, and poultry.

Since 1950 the numbers of farms and farmers have dropped dramatically. Most farms are small—only 2 percent are larger than 100 hectares (about 250 acres). The smaller farms, located mostly in the west, are often owned and operated by families who support themselves with other jobs. The competitive pressure of the European Economic Community (EEC, now EU) helped drive many West German farms out of business. Another factor was the general rise in urban wages and living standards that induced many young farmers to leave farming for better-paying jobs in the city and led to the gradual disappearance of the farmhands required to operate most farms. A third reason was the better education and mobility of rural youth, which broke down the rural isolation that had once kept many Germans on the farm.

In East Germany, a drive for agricultural collectivization in the 1950s eliminated small and medium-sized farms and expropriated large landholdings. The Communist government considered farming to be no different from industrial production and strove for large-scale mechanization of the resulting large cooperatives and state farms. All farmers were forced into production cooperatives whose number shrank further over the years while the number of people employed in farming dropped from 17 percent in 1960 to 10.6 percent of the total labor force by the end of the 1980s.

West German farm lobbies have been powerful in extracting subsidies and favorable governmental policies. The Common Agricultural Policy of the EU also regulates farming, and its subsidies have created some embarrassing situations of overproduction. German unification, among other things, demonstrated the economic superiority of well-managed small and medium-sized farms in the West over the collective and cooperative giant farms of East Germany. The latter proved quite inadequate to the tasks of marketing and meeting refined consumer demands, and generated huge problems of air and water pollution. They also failed to inspire desire in their cooperative farmers to take back and maintain their own original farm properties once the collectives were broken up.

E Forestry and Fishing

Environmental management and conservation have played increasingly important roles in German forestry and fishing. Forests cover 32 percent of German territory, much of it mountainous. Only 34 percent is cultivated. The forests sustain timber production and wood products, such as furniture, construction materials, and toys, that use pine, oak, elder, linden, and more valuable kinds of wood. The harvesting of timber, however, has always had to be supplemented with imports. The law requires forest owners to maintain their forestland consistently and to replant harvested and thinned-out areas. Public concern with the depletion of this resource led to the enactment of the Forest Preservation and Promotion Act of 1975 and to the progressive withdrawal of forestland from commercial exploitation. Since the early 1980s, increasing industrial pollution and automobile emissions have been blamed for a tree blight that has already affected half of the nation’s forests, causing leaves and needles to drop and slowing tree growth. This damage was discovered, on unification, to be particularly high in the forests of East Germany, since the Communist government had made no effort to control or even monitor environmental damage.

Germans consider their woodlands and forests important recreation areas, especially near cities, where they are regarded as the ideal antidote for the stresses and pollution of urban life. The states with the largest forests are Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, and Rhineland Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz), but there are also densely forested areas in the northeast and in the south of former East Germany.

The fishing industry of West Germany declined beginning in the 1970s, reflecting the expansion of other countries’ fishing zones and the consequent depletion of fish stocks in the remaining open waters. As a result, the West German saltwater fishing fleet shrank from 110 boats in 1970 to a mere 16 by the end of the 1980s. The catch shrank in the same period, netting only one-sixth of the herring, one-third of the codfish, and one-half of the salmon that had been caught in 1970. By comparison, the collectivized East German fisheries suffered smaller losses and built up a large fleet for use in the North Atlantic and the Baltic. In the early 1990s Germany’s annual catch included marine fish such as Atlantic herring, blue mussel, Atlantic mackerel, cod, and varieties of flatfish. Domestic fish production, especially of carp and trout, has increased greatly by raising the fish in ponds and by systematic fish management on rivers and lakes. Unification, however, brought major problems to East Germany’s outdated and inefficient fishing fleets and equipment. Rostock, the chief East German fishing port, has high unemployment as do several other German fishing ports along the North Sea and Baltic coasts.

F Energy

German industrial development in the 19th century was fueled by coal. The use of coal declined in the 1970s and 1980s. However, East German brown coal remained important in the 1990s for electricity production and as fuel, despite being a major source of air pollution. Oil and natural gas and hydroelectric power were only a small source of electrical energy, but were major energy sources for heating and manufacturing.

German dependence on petroleum imports, the oil crisis of the 1970s, and an expanding appetite for more energy shifted attention to the potential of nuclear energy. By the mid-1980s, 19 nuclear plants were supplying 36 percent of the public electricity needs in West Germany, and more plants were in the planning stage. Following the Chernobyl’ nuclear disaster in 1986, however, massive environmental protests stiffened public resistance to nuclear energy (see Chernobyl’ Accident). Further construction of nuclear power facilities was halted for fear of accidents and lawsuits and because of the difficulties of disposing of the radioactive waste. Instead, West Germany embarked on a program of energy savings, including increasing the efficiency of automobile engines and heating plants. Alternative and renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy, have also been developed, but there is little hope that they could ever supply a major part of Germany’s huge needs.

Nuclear plants still provide 29.06 percent of the nation’s electricity. While many reactors in Germany were shut down, there were 19 plants that continued to function in 2000. The considerable uranium deposits in Saxony and Thüringen, which had been strip-mined and left open to the elements under the East German government, were sealed up. A government-owned company, Wismut GmbH, worked to complete the environmental cleanup. The Federal Ministry of Environmental Protection, along with other Western nations, has raised funds to assist Eastern European countries with measures to shut down or replace all Chernobyl’-type reactors.

G Currency and Banking

The basic unit of German currency is the deutsche mark, or DM (1.84 marks equal U.S.$1; 1999 average). The mark is divided into 100 pfennige. Germany and 11 other members of the EU are in the process of changing over from their national currencies to the single currency of the European Union, the euro. The euro began to be used on January 1, 1999, for electronic transfers and for accounting purposes. Euro coins and bills will be issued in 2002, at which time German currency will cease to be legal tender.

On January 1, 1999, control over German monetary policy, including such things as setting interest rates and regulating the money supply, was transferred from the former central bank of Germany, the Bundesbank, to the European Central Bank (ECB). The ECB is located in Frankfurt, Germany, and is responsible for all monetary policies of the European Union.

Germany’s financial institutions include hundreds of lending banks and savings banks, thousands of larger credit cooperatives, and dozens of mortgage institutions and banks. Securities are traded at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The German capital market is characterized by a large share of fixed-interest securities, in particular local government and real estate bonds.

One of the biggest challenges to the German banking system was the instability of the DM that resulted from the merging of the East and West German currencies in July 1990. The East German ostmark had not been traded on international currency markets and could be bought on the street at rates as low as seven ostmarks to one DM. Yet, to gain East German trust in unification, the West German government agreed to allow East Germans to redeem up to 4,000 ostmarks of their bank savings at a one-to-one exchange rate for the DM. As East German private savings amounted to 70 billion ostmarks, the total money supply of DM rapidly increased by 20 percent. Attempts to control the resulting inflation by raising interest rates destabilized the finances of other European states and may have contributed to the international financial crisis of 1992.

H Foreign Trade

Germany is a significant trading nation and one of the export leaders of the world, in close competition with Japan and the much larger United States. Germany’s main trading partners are countries in Europe, such as France, the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, and Italy, and the United States. Before unification, there was a considerable volume of trade or barter between East Germany and West Germany. When the two Germanys united, however, the insatiable hunger of East Germans for West German goods—especially cars, video recorders, and color television sets—boosted West German retail trade and made many West Germans rich. Once East German appetites were satisfied, and the East Germans rediscovered the worth of their own products, the German trade balance returned to its positive preunification levels.

I Transportation

autobahnGermany has a highly developed transportation system including a limited-access superhighway known as the autobahn. There is no speed limit on the autobahns, but frequent reconstruction projects and congestion keep the speed down. Since East German roads had not been upgraded and expanded much since the 1930s and the volume of motor vehicles on them rose greatly after unification, a large part of the funds transferred from the West have gone to expand the German highway system.

The country’s extensive passenger and freight rail system played a major role in German economic development. Most of the railroads were government-owned until 1993, when legislation was approved to privatize them. They are now under private ownership as Bundesbahn A.G. High-speed intercity lines serve major German cities such as Hamburg and Munich, Frankfurt and Dresden, and Hannover and Bremen.

Germany has major navigable inland waterways and canals. The canals, such as the Mittellandkanal, supplement the traffic routes of the major rivers; some canals, such as the Kiel Canal and the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, connect major bodies of water. Duisburg, Magdeburg, Mannheim, and Berlin are large inland ports, and Hamburg, Bremen, Bremerhaven, Emden, Lübeck, Rostock, and Stralsund are major seaports. An extensive underground pipeline system conveys crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas.

Air transportation of passengers and goods is served by several international airports, including Frankfurt and Munich, and many regional airports. There are 660 airports, including 13 major ones. Germany’s principal airline, Deutsche Lufthansa A.G., was formerly operated by the government but is now privately owned.

J Communications

The German Basic Law guarantees the freedom of the press. Germany has high newspaper readership and a well-informed population. In 1996, the country had 375 daily papers, with a total daily circulation of 25.5 million copies. Major daily publications include the Frankfurter Allgemeine, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Welt, and the Berlin Tagesspiegel. Der Spiegel and Die Zeit are weeklies with national circulation. Party-owned and government-run publications in the former East Germany were privatized after 1989.

The three major German public television channels are financed by fees tied to the ownership of television sets. The channels are organized into 12 broadcasting regions, each with several radio stations. The channels produce their own shows or purchase foreign films and programs. Additional private and foreign channels and cable television are available. Television ownership is nearly universal.

The German telephone system is modern, automatic, and also nearly universal. The system relies on satellites, cable, and microwave radio relay (MRR) networks. Before unification, this state of development did not apply to East Germany, where only the government and the secret police had efficient communications at their disposal. Since 1990, however, massive Western transfer payments have given East Germany a highly advanced communications systems, although the distribution of private telephones has not yet caught up with West German standards.

Deutsche Post A.G. controls the collection and distribution of mail. Deutsche Telekom A.G. oversees the growing national and international telecommunications operations.

K Tourism

Germany’s beautiful scenery and varied culture attract many tourists, both foreign and domestic. Tourists tend to favor the resorts of the North and Baltic seas, the Alps, the forests of the southern uplands, and the valleys of the Rhine, Main, Mosel, Neckar, upper Elbe, and Danube rivers. Since unification, tourists have gained access to the natural parks of former East Germany, such as those of the Oder Valley or the Rügen peninsula. Tourists also flock to Germany’s many medieval cities, including those along the so-called Romantic Road from Würzburg to Augsburg, and to the baroque wonders and art collections of Dresden. Large numbers of tourists attend famous music and theater festivals, such as the Wagner Opera Festival at Bayreuth and the Passion Play in Oberammergau. Ski resorts in the Alps draw many people, as do the numerous noteworthy spas and health resorts, such as Bad Kissingen and Bad Schandau.


After Germany was defeated in World War II, the Allied forces of France, Britain, the United States, and the USSR divided the country into four zones. In 1948 France, Britain, and the United States merged their zones into one region while the Soviet Union imposed Communist rule over its zone. In 1949 this division of Germany was perpetuated by the creation of East and West Germany.

In West Germany, a council composed of members of the state legislatures created the Basic Law, or constitution, in 1948 and 1949. It was approved by the state legislatures and by U.S., British, and French occupation authorities. The Basic Law established West Germany as a parliamentary democracy and a federation of states. It has been amended many times, most recently in the 1990s to help anchor the unification of East and West Germany in the constitution. At that point, Germany decided to reconstitute the five original states of East Germany and to admit them, one by one, into the federal union without changing the basic structure of the West German system. The Unity Treaty of 1990 permitted East Germany to retain some of its laws that conflicted with West German statutes until the all-German parliament could bring about a uniform settlement.

Between 1991 and 1993 a joint legislative commission on constitutional reform worked on a series of proposals, some of which have since been approved. One was a series of amendments anticipating the Maastricht Treaty and other linkages with the EU. Another proposed the privatization of the federal railway and postal systems. There was also a lengthy list of additional constitutional rights and guarantees, such as rights to a place of work and adequate housing, and a guarantee of state protection of the environment. Most of these are quite controversial and have not yet been enacted. A two-thirds vote of both houses of the parliament is necessary to amend the Basic Law.

A Federal Union

The kind of federalism set forth in the Basic Law is based on German federal traditions and differs from the federal system of the United States. German federalism concentrates legislative power at the federal level and places administrative and judicial powers at the state level. Each state has a popularly elected legislature, which chooses a minister-president or a first mayor (in Hamburg and Bremen) to serve as chief executive. There is very little for the 16 state assemblies to legislate because the Basic Law subordinates most state legislative powers to the federal government. However, the states formulate some educational and cultural policies and maintain police. The administration of all laws, including federal laws, is almost exclusively in the hands of the states. Federal administration—except for the foreign service, border protection, and defense—is limited to the personnel of federal cabinet ministries and institutes. These federal bodies collect statistics and draw up legislative bills for policy-making. Even taxation is mostly federally legislated and state administered, including the largest sources of revenue, income and corporation taxes. These taxes are shared by the state and federal levels and, in part, are redistributed from the richer to the poorer states.

The key German federal institution is the Bundesrat (Federal Council), which is the representative of the state governments and has the final say in disputes between states and between the states and the federal government. The Bundesrat is the upper house of parliament but its members are state ministers or civil servants and are not elected; instead their respective state governments appoint them. Of Germany’s 16 states, the four largest—North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, and Bavaria—are all in the west and tend to predominate in the Bundesrat. The five states of former East Germany—which are mostly poor and, with the exception of Saxony, small in population—play a lesser role in federal politics.

B Executive

Germany has a parliamentary head of government, or prime minister, called the chancellor. The chancellor is chosen by a majority of the popularly elected lower house of parliament, the Bundestag (Federal Assembly), usually by a coalition of parties. The chancellor selects a cabinet of about 20 ministers from among the parties in the coalition. The Basic Law gives the chancellor the authority to determine the guidelines of government policy and to select and dismiss the ministers. The chancellor can be removed from office only if the Bundestag elects a successor or when the Bundestag itself is reelected. Due to the existence of strong, disciplined parties, Germany has a stable system of government with little turnover. Gerhard Schröder has served as chancellor since 1998.

The federal president, the head of state, is elected for a five-year term by the Bundesversammlung (Federal Convention), which consists of the members of the Bundestag and an equal number of members from the state legislatures. The president’s functions are largely ceremonial and nonpartisan. The president receives foreign ambassadors and promulgates laws but has no authority to make policy.

C Legislature

The federal parliament consists of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. The Bundestag is popularly elected at intervals of no more than four years. All citizens who are 18 years of age or older may vote. The electoral law is complex: Of the members of the Bundestag (the number varies but is usually about 670), one-half are elected by pluralities from single-member districts, geographical areas that each have one representative. The rest are elected by a proportional system, in which the ballots name only parties, not candidates. A party must receive a minimum of 5 percent of the national popular vote for representation. The final distribution of each party’s seats in the Bundestag is also adjusted in proportion to the total popular vote. Regional or minority parties that succeed in winning pluralities in at least three electoral districts are exempt from the 5 percent minimum. The Bundestag is organized into topical legislative committees, such as for foreign affairs and for agriculture. The committees discuss and modify appropriate bills, but nearly all bills originate with the chancellor’s cabinet.

The 69-member Bundesrat is appointed by the 16 state governments. Representation is determined by population, with each state having no less than three and no more than six seats. The four largest states each have six-member delegations; the four smallest states—Saarland, Hamburg, Bremen, and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern—each have three-member delegations; and all the other states have four seats each. This ratio actually favors the smaller and smallest states because it gives them a veto over any action that requires a two-thirds majority, such as constitutional amendments. Each state delegation must vote as a block and according to the instructions of its state government. In its legislative role, the Bundesrat has only a suspensive veto (whereby it can delay but not actually prevent the passage of bills approved by the Bundestag) over most legislation. The exception to this is bills that deal with the administrative responsibilities of the state governments, which are the more important bills before parliament. On these, the Bundesrat has a veto, which cannot be overridden.

D Judiciary

Germany follows civil law (or Roman law) procedures and organization, which differ substantially from American and British common law. Judges play a more activist role, and attorneys a lesser one, than in an American courtroom. In a typical German criminal trial, a panel of judges hears the case. The panel includes the investigating judge, who conducts a prior investigation of the facts of the case and decides if it should be tried at all. The states’ ministries of justice appoint and promote most judges.

German courts at the state level form separate hierarchies depending on the kind of law that they administer: civil, criminal, administrative, social insurance, financial, or labor law. Each state system is headed by a high court, and there is one federal court for each of these specialties. However, plaintiffs may appeal their cases up to the appropriate federal court only if they can demonstrate that similar cases involving the same federal laws have been interpreted differently by the high courts of other states. In such a case, the federal court gives a binding interpretation of the law in question.

Germany also maintains a separate, non-Roman law system of constitutional courts, which interpret their respective state constitutions and the Basic Law. The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe is the most important. It has a total of 16 judges, 8 selected by the Bundestag and 8 by the Bundesrat. A judicial candidate must receive a two-thirds majority vote, thus ensuring a broad consensus on the selection. The Federal Constitutional Court comprises two panels. One panel deals with the bill of rights, articles 1 to 20 of the Basic Law; the other panel judges disputes among federal bodies, among states, and between levels of government. The court has invalidated about 800 federal and state laws and regulations and given its interpretation on well over half of the articles of the Basic Law. A large part of its work involves citizens’ complaints about violations of the bill of rights. It has even heard foreign policy issues, including cases on the constitutionality of treaties.

E Political Parties

Several political parties are represented in the Bundestag. Since 1998 the ruling party has been the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Germany’s oldest party. Founded in 1875, the SPD has developed from a Marxist socialist workers’ party into a broadly based people’s party, which now also emphasizes Christianity and humanism. The SPD supporters include trade union workers and white-collar and public employees, especially teachers. In recent years, the SPD has championed environmentally oriented economic reforms, environmental concerns in general, women’s rights, and the rights of asylum-seekers. Since 1998 Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has presided over a so-called Red-Green coalition between the SPD and the Green Party (see Green Parties).

The Green Party has been gaining strength since it was first represented in the Bundestag in 1983. The Greens support environmentalism, feminism, and pacifism. Despite the enormous environmental problems in former East Germany, the Greens have had little support there. They have, however, joined forces with Federation 90, a party that has grown out of the East German citizen movements that first opposed the Communist dictatorship.

The major opposition party is the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which is closely allied with the Christian Social Union (CSU) of Bavaria. The CDU/CSU controlled the government from 1982 to 1998, usually in a coalition with the much smaller Free Democratic Party (FDP). This coalition brought about German unification in 1989 and 1990 against considerable opposition. The CDU and the CSU were both established in 1945. Under Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the CDU/CSU alliance was conservative on economic and social questions, such as abortion rights, although it supported the welfare state, which provided a wide range of social services to its citizens. Among the CDU/CSU supporters are churchgoing Catholics and Protestants from all walks of life, farmers, and nonunion workers. The FDP, founded in 1948, is a party of liberal and libertarian business and professional people, white-collar workers, and farmers.

Also represented in the Bundestag is the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), the successor to the state-run Communist Party of East Germany. The PDS voters are white-collar employees from former East Germany, including many university-educated and highly trained civil service and management professionals who are discontent with unification. The PDS has almost no support outside of former East Germany and tries to represent the regional interests of this area.

Other parties run candidates in every election but have not yet managed to gain representation in the Bundestag. Some have won seats in state legislatures. Among them are radical right groups such as the Republicans, the German People’s Union, and the National Democrats.

F Social Insurance

Germany has one of the most comprehensive and generous systems of health, old age, disability, and unemployment insurance in the world. A large part of the population benefits from the welfare system, which includes child support, public housing, and veterans aid. The welfare state accounts for about one-third of the national budget. Basic universal health care and old age and disability pensions are financed equally by employer and employee contributions. Better-paid employees, managers, and business and professional people usually supplement their benefit levels by buying additional private insurance. Employers pay for accident insurance. Long-term nursing care for the elderly is financed by payroll taxes. Parliament sets the rates of these insurance programs, which are administered by boards staffed by trade unions and employers’ associations.

The German welfare state began in the 1880s with Bismarck’s old age and disability insurance, and it has always enjoyed broad support. With the birth of West Germany in 1949, the welfare programs continued to grow due to a social partnership between business and labor, as well as the social market economic policies of the CDU/CSU governments. These programs were based on the common belief that a well-ordered welfare state can be highly productive at the same time that it takes care of its weaker members. A law passed in 1957 tied West German public pensions to rising wage levels. In 1990 the average pension after a career of gainful employment was about 70 percent of the last income before retirement. On the downside, such a generous welfare state results in high tax rates for social security.

Before unification in 1990, East Germans enjoyed a modest but very egalitarian system of social insurance. Subsidized rents, food, transportation, and recreation made their modest pension levels quite comfortable. Unification raised East German pensions, but it has also brought higher prices as the subsidies are ended.

G Defense

Since 1955 West German external security has been tied to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). East Germany was similarly tied to the Warsaw Pact until 1990. Even in peacetime, all major units of the German army and air force were assigned to NATO operational command, leaving no separate German army under German command. The final negotiations toward international recognition of united Germany gave Germans a choice of whether or not they wanted to continue in the Western alliance or to become a neutral nation; they chose NATO. As a condition of being accorded international sovereignty in 1990, Germany pledged to limit its armed forces to 370,000 troops and to continue to foreswear the production and use of nuclear, bacteriological, and chemical weapons. The cap on military forces meant that the West German NATO forces of about 500,000 and the East German forces of 200,000 were halved. The East German army was dissolved, and West Germany invited East German military personnel, but not high officers, to apply for transfer to the Bundeswehr (Federal Army).

About two-thirds of the Bundeswehr consists of army units, while the remaining one-third is naval and coastal and air forces. Half of the military personnel are regulars or extended-service volunteers for terms ranging from 2 to 15 years. The other half are conscripts who are drafted for 10 months. All men 18 years of age or older must serve in the military. Large numbers of persons subject to the draft opt instead for the status of conscientious objector, which obliges them to spend two years in civilian service in hospitals, old age homes, and other civilian settings.

After the defeat of the German forces in World War II, major efforts were undertaken to reduce the militaristic spirit of the German armed forces. Officers and soldiers were educated to be “citizens in uniform.” The Basic Law ensured civilian control over the military, specifying that in peacetime the defense minister has the supreme command over the Bundeswehr. If the Bundestag declares a “state of defense,” the command passes to the chancellor. The Bundestag also controls the defense budget, and its Defense Committee oversees the organization and procedures of the military. In addition, the Bundestag appoints a defense ombudsman to handle complaints by enlistees on subjects such as officer misconduct and other abuses.

Germany was accustomed to the presence of foreign military forces after it was defeated in World War II. From the beginning of the 1945 Allied occupation, 250,000 American troops and as many as 360,000 Soviet soldiers were stationed in West and East Germany, along with a huge quantity of lethal weapons ranging from tanks and planes to nuclear-armed missiles. The presence of foreign army units and recurrent military maneuvers were a constant reminder to the German people of how closely they lived to possible open warfare. A major change in German life occurred in the early 1990s when most NATO countries reduced their forces in Germany, the Americans to under 100,000 troops. The Russians completed the withdrawal from their bases in East Germany in 1994. The final and most symbolically meaningful exodus was the departure in 1994 of the token troops from four nations that had kept Berlin an occupied city since 1945.

H International Organizations

In addition to NATO, Germany is a member of numerous European and international groups. Both Germanys were members of the United Nations (UN), and united Germany joined the UN in 1990. Germany also participates in UN agencies such as the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Germany belongs to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Communications Satellite Corporation (INTELSAT), and Interpol (the International Criminal Police Organization).


Germany lacked any clearly defined geographical boundaries until modern times. The idea of a single German people, or Volk, is likewise a relatively recent development, largely invented by 19th- and 20th-century writers and politicians. From ancient times, several ethnic groups have mixed to shape the history of Germany, resulting in a stunning diversity of cultures and dialects. Political definitions of Germany have tended to reflect this ambiguity, at various times including many regions that today are sovereign nations (such as Austria and Switzerland) or parts of other countries (such as France, Poland, Russia, and Hungary). Modern Germany is the product of centuries of social, political, and cultural evolution. This history section provides a brief survey of that evolution.

A Early History

The forests of Germany were occupied during the Old Stone Age by bands of wandering hunters and gatherers. They belonged to the earliest forms of Homo sapiens, who lived about 400,000 years ago. Neandertal people, who were similar to modern humans in many ways, first appeared about 100,000 years ago in the Neander Valley near Düsseldorf. By about 30,000 years ago, the Neandertals had disappeared, but another human group, the Cro-Magnon—known for spectacular cave drawings, such as those at the famous site at Lascaux, France—had appeared in Europe. See also Human Evolution: Early Homo sapiens.

About 7000 bc Homo sapiens societies experienced a crucial transformation, which archaeologists have labeled the Neolithic, or New Stone Age, revolution. During this period, many groups began producing their own food through agriculture and the domestication of animals. Their permanent settlements and more stable food supply in turn triggered a significant increase in population. The indigenous hunters of central Europe encountered farming peoples migrating up the Danube Valley from southwest Asia in about 4500 bc. These populations mixed and settled in villages to raise crops and breed livestock.

A1 Bronze Age Peoples

The Bronze Age began in the region of central Germany, Bohemia, and Austria in about 2500 bc with the working of copper and tin deposits by prospectors from the eastern Mediterranean. Around 2300 bc new waves of migrating peoples arrived, probably from southern Russia. These so-called Indo-Europeans were the ancestors of the Germanic peoples who settled in northern and central Germany, of the Celts in the south and west, and of the Baltic and Slavic peoples in the east. Their language was the precursor of all modern languages in those regions, including English, German, and all of the Romance (Latin-based) languages (see Indo-European Languages).

From 1800 to 400 bc, Celtic peoples in southern Germany and Austria developed a succession of advanced metalworking cultures. They introduced the use of iron for tools and weapons. Teutons, Germanic tribes of obscure northern origin, absorbed much of the Celtic culture and eventually displaced the Celts. The various ancient peoples known collectively as Germans represented a diverse assortment of Celtic and Teutonic peoples and cultures. The Latin word Germanus is probably derived from an ancient Celtic word for a neighboring Teutonic tribe. The term was later applied by the Romans to a variety of peoples in western and central Europe.

A2 Germans and Romans

From the 2nd century bc to the 5th century ad northern Germanic and Celtic tribes, constantly pressed by new migrations from the north and east, were in contact with the Romans, who controlled southern and western Europe. The writings of Romans Julius Caesar and Cornelius Tacitus describe these encounters and provide almost the only accounts of life among these so-called barbarian peoples. In general, the Romans denounced the Germans for heavy drinking, relentless fighting, and atrocities such as human sacrifice. But Romans also commended the virtue of Germanic women as well as the overall absence of any avarice among the tribes.

In 101 and 102 bc the Cimbri and the Teutons were defeated by Roman general Gaius Marius as they were about to invade Italy. 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 several times to extend their rule to the Elbe River, but their efforts were halted at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in ad 9. The Rhine and Danube rivers became the boundaries of Roman territory, connected by a line of fortifications, or limes, that extended from Colonia (Cologne) to Bonna (Bonn) to Augusta Vindelicorum (Augsburg) to Vindobona (Vienna). Most of the peoples within Roman Germany were gradually assimilated as auxiliary Germanic troops by the empire, often employed against Germanic raiders from outside the limes.

In the 2nd century the Romans prevented confederations of Franks, Alamanni, and Burgundians from crossing the Rhine into the empire. By the 4th and 5th centuries, however, the population pressures outside the empire 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 poured into and eventually overran the empire.

B Medieval Germany

Scholars continue to debate at what point it is possible to speak of Germany or a German state. Even though the Romans had often grouped several peoples under the name Germans, it is doubtful that most of these groups viewed themselves as connected in any cultural, linguistic, or political sense. The formation of an eastern Frankish kingdom in the 9th century seems a watershed event in German development (see Holy Roman Empire), although this kingdom featured a diversity of cultures and political allegiances. Most of the medieval “German” rulers actually considered themselves kings of the Romans, and, later, Roman emperors. Not until the 15th century did the emperors officially add “of the German nation” to their title.

On the other hand, it is undeniable that the medieval emperors who called themselves Roman were in fact Germans. During the 10th to 13th centuries, their state, the Holy Roman Empire, was the most powerful in Europe, dominating not only German lands but northern Italian city-states as well. In turn, the decline of the Holy Roman Empire marked a period in which political power was fragmented among many German princes. By the time that the late-15th-century emperor Maximilian attempted to revive imperial authority and institutions, the division of power among German princes had become entrenched. Even his powerful grandson, Charles V, was eventually forced to recognize the political pluralism of Germany, which prevailed until the late 19th century.

B1 The Origins of a German State (486-911)
B1a Frankish Kingdoms

Throughout western Europe and northern Africa, the political and cultural bonds of the Roman Empire were gradually replaced by a multitude of successor states. In 486 the Salian chieftain Clovis defeated the last Roman governor in Gaul and established a Frankish kingdom that included southwestern Germany. Clovis and his successors, known as the Merovingian dynasty, succeeded in uniting many Germanic tribes under one king. Following his conversion to Christianity in about 500, Clovis formed a special relationship with the bishop of Rome (later known as the pope). He forcibly converted his subjects from the Arian form of Christianity to the Roman version (see Arianism). During the following century, many monasteries and churches were built in the Merovingian kingdom, usually sponsored by the king or wealthy nobles.

In 751 the Merovingian dynasty was overthrown by the Frankish noble Pepin the Short. In order to boost his own claims to legitimate rule, Pepin secured the endorsement of the kingdom’s bishops and the pope; this was the beginning of a long tradition of church leaders conferring kingship. The rule of Pepin’s son Charles had a major impact on German and European history. Known as Charlemagne (Charles the Great), the ambitious king expanded the Frankish kingdom to include large parts of modern-day Germany and Italy during his long reign (768-814). He fought the Slavs south of the Danube River, annexed Bavaria, and ferociously subdued and converted the pagan Saxons in the northwest. Charlemagne was received in Rome as the champion of Christianity and restorer of the western empire. Just as importantly, he supported the papacy against Rome’s restive populace. On Christmas Day in 800, he was crowned emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III, thereby reviving the Roman imperial tradition in the west as well as setting a precedent for dependence of the emperors on papal approval.

B1b The Carolingians

Charlemagne’s empire, known as the Carolingian Empire, assumed many of the traditions and social distinctions of the late Roman Empire, but it also introduced some key innovations. Charlemagne persuaded Alcuin of York, considered the greatest scholar of the day, to come to his palace at Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) and establish a new school to train clerks and scholars in classical Latin. The official language of the court and of the church was Latin, but Franks in Gaul adopted the Latinate vernacular that became French, while Franks and other Germanic tribes in the east spoke various languages that were ancestors of modern German.

Charlemagne granted large landholdings, known as fiefs, to many tribal military leaders, or dukes. In addition, he appointed numerous Frankish aristocrats to the lesser posts of count (the head of a smaller district called a county) and margrave (the count of a border province). These aristocrats were kings in miniature, with all of the administrative, judicial, and military authority of the emperor within their respective districts. Each county had a parallel ecclesiastical, or church, district, called a diocese, that was headed by a bishop with authority in all church matters. Both counts and bishops were vassals of the emperor, and were overseen by traveling representatives of the emperor, known as missi dominici. Every year, both counts and bishops attended a general assembly where they would advise the emperor and hear his directives.

The empire was vulnerable to tribal dissension and did not long survive Charlemagne’s death in 814. In 843 the Treaty of Verdun divided the Carolingian Empire into three parts: East Francia (roughly modern-day Germany), West Francia (roughly modern-day France), and, separating the two, an area running from the North Sea through Lotharingia (modern-day Lorraine) and Burgundy to northern Italy. In 870 the middle kingdom was divided, with Lotharingia going to East Francia and the rest to West Francia. The Carolingian dynasty in East Francia came to an end in 911 when the last of Charlemagne’s descendents died without an heir.

B1c The Tribal Duchies

By the 10th century, East Francia was being buffeted from the north and east by new waves of pagan invaders. Rival tribes of Vikings, Magyars (Hungarians), and Moravians virtually tore East Francia apart. As royal authority declined, the feudal dukes, counts, and other members of the aristocracy gradually made their fiefs hereditary. Increasingly, they established their own local governments and provided defense for their people. The greatest secular lords in East Francia were the rulers of five stem (tribal) duchies: Franconia, Swabia, Bavaria, Saxony, and Lorraine. Lesser warriors joined noble or princely retinues out of tribal loyalty and in exchange for smaller grants of land and other gifts. Common people worked the fields of warriors and nobles in return for protection and a share of the crops.

B2 Growth of the Holy Roman Empire (911-1250)

Following ancient German tradition, the kings of East Francia did not automatically inherit the throne. Instead, they were elected by the wealthiest and most powerful nobles of the realm at the time—a group that was subject to change as fortunes rose and fell. None of these families wanted to be subject to another family or to a strong king so they often chose weak kings who were not a threat to the nobles’ power.

Once elected, medieval German kings had three major concerns. One was checking rebellious nobles; for this they often relied on the support of bishops and abbots. The second was controlling Italy and preserving the imperial coronation by the pope, which they considered an essential part of the Carolingian heritage. The third was territorial expansion to the north and east, especially after 955, when the Viking and Magyar threats subsided.

B2a Otto I, the Great, and the Saxon Kings

The first strong king of East Francia was Otto I. Elected in 936, Otto combined extraordinary forcefulness, dignity, and military prowess with great diplomatic skill and genuine religious faith. Determined to create a strong centralized monarchy, Otto married his relatives into the families of the duchies in order to gain control over them. This backfired, however, as his family members began to plot against him to usurp his power. After several dangerous uprisings, Otto began to break up the duchies into nonhereditary fiefs granted to bishops and abbots. By bringing these church figures into the court, Otto ensured their loyalty and was able to use their literacy to produce correspondence and legislation. The counts maintained their judicial functions from Carolingian times, but the church leaders were used much as Charlemagne had used the missi dominici—as the king’s representatives throughout the realm. Otto’s successors continued this Ottonian system of making alliances with the church and shifting toward a more formalized state.

Otto also defended his realm from outside pressures. In the west, he strengthened his hold on Lorraine and gained influence over Burgundy. In the north and east, he defeated the Danes and Slavs and permanently broke the power of the Magyars at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955. Wishing to emulate Charlemagne as the divinely sanctioned emperor, Otto established the archbishopric of Magdeburg in 968 and other dioceses as centers of civilization in the conquered lands.

In 951 Otto began the disastrous policy of German entanglement in Italy. He was perhaps tempted by the prosperity of the area and its political vacuum in the wake of feudal disorder and Saracen (Muslim) invasions. During his second Italian campaign in 962, Otto was crowned emperor by Pope John XII, who was grateful for Otto’s help against encroaching Italian nobles from the north and Byzantine Greeks and Saracens from the south. By a treaty called the Ottonian Privilege, Otto guaranteed the pope’s claim to most of central Italy in exchange for the promise that all future papal candidates would swear allegiance and loyalty to the emperor. This treaty effectively united the German monarchy and the Roman Empire until 1806, when the Holy Roman Empire, as it came to be called, was dissolved.

Otto’s successors in the 10th and 11th centuries continued his domestic and Italian policies as best they could. Otto II established the Eastern March (now Austria) as a military outpost; the influx on settlement from within the empire effectively Germanized the local population. He attempted to secure southern Italy, but was defeated by the Saracens. Otto III ruled from Rome. He supported the monastic reform movement originating in Cluny (Burgundy) that encouraged a more austere, disciplined, and prayerful life within monasteries and convents. The childless Henry II, gentle and devout, also encouraged the Cluniac movement and sent out missionaries from his court.

B2b Salian Kings

From 1024 to 1125 German kings were chosen from the Salian line of Franconia, which was related to the Saxons. The Salians brought the empire to its height, both in terms of power and territorial expansion, but also initiated a period of intense religious and political strife. The rulers often faced difficulties with the German princes both in securing election as king and then in maintaining power.

Powerful rival dynasties developed during this period. These included the Wittelsbachs of Bavaria, the Welfs of Saxony, and the Hohenstaufens (sometimes called Staufers) of Swabia. Rivalry between the last two families led to a long international division between their respective allies in both Germany and Italy. In Italy the Welf allies were known as Guelph and the Hohenstaufen allies as Ghibelline (see Guelphs and Ghibellines).

The first Salian kings consolidated their power in Germany and were able to maintain control over the papacy. Conrad II, who ruled from 1024 to 1039, was clever and ruthless. He asserted royal authority over princely opposition by making the fiefs of lesser nobles hereditary, thus undermining their dependence on the princes, and by appointing ministariales, non-nobles responsible directly to him, as officials and soldiers. He also seized Burgundy, strengthened his hold on northern Italy, and became overlord of Poland.

Conrad’s son (Henry III), who ruled until 1056, was possibly the first undisputed king of Germany. A pious visionary, he tried with little success to introduce to an empire torn by constant civil strife the Truce of God, a weekly respite from warfare lasting from Wednesday night to Monday morning. His ecclesiastical reforms were somewhat more successful, particularly his efforts to end simony, the practice of buying and selling church offices. At the same time, he continued to exercise strong control over the church in Germany, appointing key church figures as his vassals as well as deposing three rival popes and creating four new ones, most notably the reform-minded Leo IX.

In 1056 Henry IV, while still a child, succeeded his father. During his mother’s regency, long-restive princes annexed much royal land in Germany, while the Normans seized control of Italy. Henry IV sought to recover lost imperial power, but his efforts to retrieve crown lands aroused the Saxons, who had always resented the Salian kings. He crushed a Saxon rebellion in 1075 and proceeded to confiscate land, thus intensifying their enmity.

B2c Investiture Controversy

In addition to his struggle with the German princes, Henry also became involved in a controversy with the papacy over who would appoint clergy in Germany. The ensuing struggle was known as the Investiture Controversy.

Pope Gregory VII wanted to free the church from secular control and forbade lay investiture (the appointment of clergy by nonclerical officials). The German kings, however, wanted to appoint major church officials such as bishops, because they were powerful vassals of the king. Henry retaliated by having the pope deposed by an episcopal synod at Worms in 1076. The pope promptly excommunicated Henry, which denied him the benefits and privileges of church membership, and released all of his subjects from their oath of loyalty to him, a move that pleased the princes. To keep his crown, Henry cleverly sought to see the pope at Canossa in the Apennines in January 1077. He waited outside the palace for three days as a barefoot penitent in the snow. Thinking he had succeeded in humiliating a disobedient emperor, Gregory forgave Henry.

The princes, however, felt betrayed and elected a rival king, Rudolf of Swabia, triggering nearly 20 years of civil war. In 1080 Gregory again excommunicated Henry, who had continued to practice lay investiture, and recognized Rudolf as emperor. When Rudolf died later that year, Henry marched on Rome, free from the threat of Rudolf’s forces. He deposed Gregory by force and installed the rival pope Clement III in his place; Clement crowned Henry emperor in 1084. Henry returned to Germany to continue the civil war against a new rival king. Henry’s son, Henry V, betrayed and imprisoned him and forced him to abdicate in 1106.

The treacherous and greedy Henry V continued his father’s struggle for supremacy, but was ultimately unsuccessful. Suffering military defeats, he lost control of Poland, Hungary, and Bohemia. Despite the support of churchmen, ministeriales, and the towns, he could not suppress the princes, who forced the weary emperor and Pope Callistus II to compromise on investiture. Pope and emperor accepted the Concordat of Worms in 1122, which stipulated that clerical elections in Germany were to take place in the presence of the emperor without simony and that the emperor was to invest the candidate with the symbols of worldly office before a bishop invested him with the spiritual ones. The pope had the better of the bargain, but the struggle was not resolved and the rivalry between empire and papacy contributed in many ways to the decline of the German monarchy.

B2d The Guelph-Ghibelline Conflict

Throughout the 12th and 13th centuries, the rivalry centered around two princely families: the Hohenstaufen, or Waiblingen, family of Swabia, and the Welfs of Bavaria and Saxony. The rivalry extended to Italy where the Hohenstaufens were known as the Ghibellines and the Welfs as Guelphs. The Hohenstaufens held the German and imperial crowns, while the Welfs were allied with the papacy.

When Henry V died childless in 1125, the princes passed over his nephews, Frederick and Conrad Hohenstaufen, and chose Lothair, Duke of Saxony, as Henry’s successor. When he became allied with the pope, however, and was crowned Emperor Lothair II in 1133, the Hohenstaufen princes and their allies refused to recognize the coronation and rose up in revolt. At Lothair’s death in 1137, the princes chose Conrad Hohenstaufen, rather than Lothair’s powerful Welf son-in-law and heir, Henry the Proud of Bavaria and Saxony. Civil war erupted again, this time between the charming but weak Conrad III and the Welf dukes Henry the Proud and his son, Henry the Lion. Peace was temporarily restored at Conrad’s death by the election of his nephew Frederick, a Hohenstaufen whose mother was a Welf.

B2e Frederick I, Barbarossa

Intelligent, handsome, warlike, and judicious, Frederick I, known as Frederick Barbarossa, ruled from 1152 to 1190. Regarding himself as the successor of Augustus, Charlemagne, and Otto the Great, he took the title Holy Roman Emperor and spent most of his reign shuttling between Germany and Italy, trying to restore imperial glory to both regions and coming closer than any other medieval ruler to this goal.

In the north, Frederick joined Germany and Burgundy by marrying Beatrice, heiress to Burgundy. He then declared an imperial peace, and to ensure it he placated the Welfs by recognizing Henry the Lion as duke of Saxony and Bavaria. But when Henry refused to contribute troops to a critical Italian campaign, Frederick and jealous princes exiled him as a traitor. Henry’s duchies were split up, with Bavaria going to the Wittelsbach family, who would remain its rulers until the modern unification of Germany.

In the south, Frederick made six expeditions to Italy to assert full imperial authority over the pope and the Lombard city-states, a group of northern Italian cities that had organized to resist Frederick’s imperial claims in Italy. On his first trip in 1155, he was crowned emperor by Pope Adrian IV. During the next 20 years he was successful in defeating a variety of alliances between the popes and the Italian city-states, capturing Rome itself in 1166. During his fifth Italian expedition, though, he was defeated by the Lombard League at the Battle of Legnana in 1176, partly because he lacked the crucial support of Henry the Lion. The subsequent Peace of Constance recognized the autonomy of the Italian cities, which remained only nominally subject to the emperor. Stubbornly, Frederick made one last trip, gaining new support among the quarrelsome cities. He resigned as emperor in 1190 in favor of his son Henry VI and set out to lead the Third Crusade, in which he died.

B2f The Last Hohenstaufen Kings

More ambitious even than his father, Henry VI wanted to dominate the known world. To secure peace in Germany, he put down a rebellion by the returned exile Henry the Lion and then restored him to power. He forced the northern Italian cities to submit to him, and on the basis of an inheritance claim through his Norman wife, he seized Sicily. Intending to create an empire in the Mediterranean, he exacted tribute from North Africa and the weak Byzantine emperor. However, when Henry died suddenly in 1197 while planning a new crusade, his empire immediately fell apart. The German princes refused to accept his young son, Frederick II, as king and thus initiated a new civil war between backers of the Hohenstaufen Philip of Swabia and those of the Welf Otto of Brunswick. When Otto invaded Italy, Pope Innocent III secured the election of Frederick II in 1211 on the promise that the young king would give up Sicily so as not to surround papal territory.

Outstandingly accomplished in many fields, Frederick II, who reigned from 1212 to 1250, was called Stupor Mundi (Wonder of the World). Determined to keep Sicily as his base of operations, he revised his coronation promise to the pope, giving up Germany rather than Sicily to his young son Henry. In exchange for the German princes’ support of his Italian campaigns, Frederick allowed them to usurp many of his own powers, making them virtually kings in their own territories. On the empire’s eastern frontier, he granted a fief to the Teutonic Knights, a military religious order that eventually created the Prussian and Baltic states, on the condition that they convert the natives to Christianity.

In Sicily, Frederick suppressed the local nobility, reformed the laws, founded the University of Naples, and kept a brilliant court, where he shone as scientist, artist, and poet. He was also an excellent soldier, diplomat, and administrator, and led a successful crusade to Jerusalem in 1228. In his absence, however, Pope Gregory IX invaded Sicily. Frederick quickly returned and made peace with the pope, but by 1237 he was waging battle against a second Lombard League of cities in northern Italy. Once again, their ally, the pope, excommunicated Frederick, but this time Frederick responded by seizing the papal states. Gregory’s successor, Innocent IV, fled to Lyon and declared the emperor deposed.

Frederick died before he could secure his position against the league, however, and under his successor, Conrad IV, the Hohenstaufens were finally ousted from Sicily. The empire then suffered the turmoil of the Great Interregnum (1254-1273), during which two non-Germans—Richard of Cornwall and Alfonso X of Castille—claimed the crown, although neither was ever crowned. The German princes, meanwhile, exploited the absence of an emperor, further solidifying their own political independence. At the very time that French and English kings were centralizing their power, German lands moved ever further into political pluralism and fractured authority. The Great Interregnum marked a decisive turning point in the history of Germany and the empire, beginning the slow decline of real imperial power.

B3 Decline of the Empire and Growth of Habsburg Power (1250-1519)

By the end of the 13th century, dynastic realignments resulted in the gradual replacement of the stem duchies by several new principalities. Three of the new dynastic powers in particular—the Habsburg, Wittelsbach, and Luxemburg families—struggled to secure the imperial crown. In 1273 the electors ended the Great Interregnum by choosing Rudolf of Habsburg, a minor Swabian prince who was unable to repossess the lands that the principalities had usurped. Instead, Rudolf I concentrated on aggrandizing his own dynastic holdings. Aided by the Wittelsbachs and others, he defeated the rebellious Ottokar II of Bohemia and took the lands of Austria, Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola (modern Slovenia). The Habsburgs thus became one of the most powerful dynasties in the empire.

Rudolf reigned until 1291, and his two immediate successors were deposed and murdered by the princely electors. Still seeking a weak emperor, in 1308 they chose Henry, count of Luxemburg. Anxious to restore imperial claims to Italy, Henry VII crossed the Alps in 1310 and temporarily subdued Lombardy. He died in 1313 while trying to conquer Naples from the French. His death precipitated a civil war that raged until the Wittelsbach candidate for the throne, Louis the Bavarian, defeated his Habsburg rival at the Battle of Mühldorf in 1322. Louis IV reigned until 1347.

At Rhense in 1338, the electors made the momentous declaration that henceforth the king of the Germans need only be the majority choice of the electors, instead of the unanimous one as was previously the case. This decision averted a civil war. They also declared that he would automatically be emperor without being crowned by the pope. This was reflected in the king’s title, official by the 15th century: Holy Roman Emperor of the German Nation.

The popes, of course, objected to this change. Clement VI immediately opened negotiations with Charles, king of Bohemia and grandson of Henry VII. In 1347 Charles was chosen by five of the seven electors, who had deposed Louis IV. Charles IV diplomatically ignored the question of papal assent. In the Golden Bull of 1356, he specified the seven electors as the archbishops of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne, the count palatine of the Rhine, the duke of Saxony, the margrave of Brandenburg, and the king of Bohemia. Because the bull made their lands indivisible, granted them monopolies on mining and tolls, and secured monetary gifts from all imperial candidates, these seven rulers were now the strongest of all German princes.

Charles then began building a great state in the east by entrenching his own dynasty in Bohemia, buying Brandenburg (which allowed him to become one of the seven electors), and taking Silesia from Poland. To obtain cash, he encouraged the silver, glass, and paper industries of Bohemia. He also oversaw a major cultural revival, adorning his capital Prague with new buildings in the late Gothic style and founding the first German university in Prague in 1348.

Charles’s son, Sigismund, who reigned from 1410 to 1437, was involved in calling the Council of Constance (1414-1418). The council invited the popular religious reformer John Huss to come to the assembly under imperial protection to present his views. Huss’s proposals for ecclesiastical reform challenged not only the authority of many church figures but also the political and cultural dominance of Germans in a predominantly Czech region. When he arrived in Constance, Huss was immediately imprisoned, tortured, and burnt at the stake as a heretic. His death was considered a martyrdom by many Czechs in Bohemia and led to a series of confrontations, known as the Hussite Wars, during the 1420s and 1430s. While the more radical branches of the revolt were suppressed, moderates won some concessions from both Sigismund and the church in exchange for reconciliation.

When Sigismund died without an heir, the electors unanimously chose his Habsburg son-in-law Albert of Austria as Emperor Albert II. Albert died shortly thereafter, in 1439, but from that time on the imperial crown became in practice, although not officially, hereditary in the Habsburg line. Albert’s cousin and successor Frederick III successfully reunited different branches of the Habsburg family that had been previously split by inheritance, but he lost Hungary and Bohemia and sold Luxemburg to France. He also continually struggled with the German princes and the ever-encroaching Ottoman Empire on his eastern borders. In 1486 the princes forced him to cede his authority to his son Maximilian, but he retained the title of Holy Roman Emperor until 1493.

Maximilian I, who reigned from 1486 to 1519, was a knight and art patron. He enthusiastically laid many plans for the empire, but these never materialized. His chief success was in arranging marriages to benefit his family. By his own marriage to Mary of Burgundy, he acquired a rich territory that included thriving Dutch and Flemish towns. By marrying his son, Philip the Handsome, to Joanna, daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille, Maximilian ensured for his heirs all of the expanding Spanish empire, including possessions in Italy and the Americas. He betrothed his grandson Ferdinand to the heiress of Hungary and Bohemia, thus adding those states to his inheritance. The office of emperor meanwhile had become an increasingly symbolic position, to be used in the next five centuries to further Habsburg dynastic ambitions.

B4 Life in Germany During the Middle Ages
B4a Feudal Society

With the decline of the Roman Empire and particularly with the onset of Viking and Magyar raids during the 9th and 10th centuries, political authority became increasingly fractured and localized throughout western and central Europe. The model for political authority developed from the Roman and Frankish tradition of seignorialism. In this tradition, large landowners provided farmland and protection to their tenants in return for taxes and labor. This tradition gradually evolved into a variety of forms, collectively known as feudalism.

In general, all types of feudal relations in the Middle Ages shared two features. First, and most importantly, all political relationships were based on personal bonds, or contracts, between two individuals, whether between king and noble or noble and peasant. Such mutual loyalty had been the basis for the comitatus, a group of warriors in ancient German societies. By the time of Charlemagne, the formation of a lord-vassal relationship between two warriors, or nobles, was increasingly formalized, usually involving the exchange of military service and loyalty for land. Land tenure—the key to personal wealth and power—was the second universal element of feudal relations. In most instances, kings were the largest landowners, and they secured the support of other nobles by giving each of them an estate, or fief.

By the beginning of the 11th century, most parts of Germany were dominated by aristocrats. Everywhere nobles monopolized the right to bear arms. They held supreme jurisdiction within their own lands and dispensed all types of justice. Only taxation, which was considered an exceptional and generally temporary practice in medieval Europe, required the approval of the emperor and all of the other nobles. The German nobles and the emperor gathered irregularly and in different locations in an imperial assembly, or diet, eventually called the Reichstag. A similar meeting within a territory, or land, was called a Landtag.

The German nobility ranged from the powerful seven electors and the princes of more than 240 states to the minor imperial knights who held fiefs directly from the emperor. Violent conflicts among noble families were common throughout the Middle Ages and usually aimed at expanding a dynasty’s landholdings. Arranged marriages provided another method of dynastic expansion and consolidation. Beginning in the 11th century, many families constructed castles, both for defense and as a sign of social importance.

About 90 percent of the German population during the Middle Ages lived in small, rural communities and worked on the land. In many regions peasant families entered into an unfree relationship with landowners, commonly known as serfdom. Serfs were required to give part of their labor to the landlord. The majority of those who worked the soil in Germany, though, were free tenant farmers who gave nobles a share of their annual harvest as rent. Peasants—all of those who farmed the land and bred livestock—relied on local secular and ecclesiastical patrons for various kinds of protection, both from invaders and criminals as well as from natural disasters such as famine and flood.

The material conditions of the peasants’ lives were generally harsh. Infant and child mortality was exceptionally high: One out of two babies born did not reach adulthood. Most Germans lived in one-room wooden or mud shacks with all the members of their family and even some domesticated animals. The diet consisted largely of bread, some vegetables, and beer or wine. Meat was expensive and generally reserved for holidays and other special occasions. Whether tenant or serf, peasants relied on the lord for most services—including milling and baking—and were required to provide him with their own labor at certain times. Famine and taxes occasionally drove some individuals to revolt, but the result was always violent suppression. More often peasants negotiated with landlords for better conditions or simply fled to the nearest city.

B4b Population Growth and Movement

At the end of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, there were probably only about 700,000 people in the area of modern Germany. These numbers rose gradually to about 3 million by the year 1000. As elsewhere in Europe, the population of Germany then boomed for the next three centuries, possibly growing as high as 12 million people by the end of the 13th century. In addition to contributing to the growth of towns, the growing number of people increased the demand for food and arable land. One result was the push to the east, a deliberate policy of German settlement of various areas east of the Oder, Vistula, and Memel rivers. From the 12th century to the 14th century, recruiters, working for German lords, led wagon trains of Germans to settle thinly populated Slavic lands. Monastic orders such as the Cistercians and the Premonstratensians also came to the new frontier. The Teutonic Knights moved their headquarters to Marienburg in eastern Germany and led a crusade against the pagan Prussians. The knights’ defeat in 1242 by Russian prince Alexander Nevsky marked the eastern limit of German expansion, but by then most of modern-day eastern Germany, northern Poland, and the Baltic states had been overrun by German settlers. Tensions between German and Slavic cultures in these areas have endured into modern times.

The later Middle Ages were dominated by the plague, a deadly disease known as the Black Death. Perhaps as many as 5 million Germans—about one-third of the population—died during the first wave of plague from 1348 to 1350, and subsequent outbreaks prevented the population from recovering to preplague levels until 1500. For those peasants and workers who survived, the decrease in the labor supply generally meant more favorable leases and wages. In the eastern lands, however, nobles reacted in the opposite manner. Determined not to lose their privileges, they brutally cracked down on their tenants, introducing what is known as a second serfdom, with even more oppressive feudal demands.

B4c Commerce and the Growth of Towns

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, urban centers everywhere in Europe declined dramatically. By the beginning of the 11th century, however, trade revived and towns began a three-century growth spurt. A few, such as Trier and Cologne, were based on Roman settlements, but the majority were new centers, some connected to nearby castles or monasteries. In eastern Germany, cities such as Breslau (modern Wrocław, Poland) and Königsberg (modern Kaliningrad, Russia) developed as part of deliberate colonization. Cologne and Frankfurt prospered greatly because they were on the routes that traders traveled between Germany and the large merchant fairs of Champagne, in what is now northeastern France. Mainz grew because it lay on the trade route across the Alps to Italy. Of the 3,000 German towns established by 1300, almost all were small, with populations under 1,000. Cologne, the largest city in medieval Germany, had a population of 30,000 at its peak in the early 14th century.

As their economic power grew, the cities’ demands for freedom from attack and from feudal tolls often led to war with neighboring nobles. Shrewd town magistrates were able to use the ongoing struggle between German emperors and princes to their own benefit. Beginning with Frederick Barbarossa in 1183, emperors granted some cities complete political autonomy and the right to form alliances in exchange for tax revenues. These were called imperial cities. Most were located in southern Germany and formed defensive unions such as the Swabian League.

Meanwhile, in the north, several German and Scandinavian towns—particularly Lübeck, Hamburg, and Bremen—combined forces to form the powerful trade association of the Hansa, or the Hanseatic League. At its peak in the early 15th century, the league monopolized all trade on the Baltic and throughout northern Europe. The league constructed canals and roads, arranged commercial treaties, and even waged war.

In Switzerland, eight city-states, or cantons, won their independence from the Habsburgs in the 13th century. They were eventually joined by others in the Helvetic (Swiss) Confederation, which has endured to this day. As befitted a decentralized empire, no one city gained undisputed prominence, although Prague served as the imperial capital during the 14th and 15th centuries.

During the later Middle Ages, the cities became increasingly important in an expanding money economy. In the south, the imperial cities of Nürnberg and Augsburg, home of the Fugger Bank, thrived on mining and trade with Italian city-states. The growth of trade was accompanied by a marked increase in production of finished goods beginning in the 12th century. Throughout Germany, skilled artisans organized themselves into guilds devoted to a particular specialty, for example weaving. The guild was a local monopoly that held complete power over production quality and quantity, prices, and admission into its ranks. By the late Middle Ages, guilds had gained for their members the most powerful economic and political positions in the cities.

The medieval city was dominated by a few powerful people, just as the countryside was. The key difference was that in the cities, the various merchant and craft guilds (both virtually hereditary by the 15th century) struggled with one another for political power. Those who were successful dominated the town councils. Beginning in the 12th century, these councils legislated on a variety of matters, including safety, hygiene, and social behavior. The majority of the urban population—artisans, shopkeepers, day laborers, and the destitute—had no say in governing the city.

Many German cities included Jews who in theory were under the special protection of the emperor, but in fact they endured countless organized attacks, or pogroms, throughout the Middle Ages. By the end of the 13th century, most German cities required all Jews to live within an enclosed district (ghetto), supposedly for their own safety, but sporadic persecutions persisted.

B4d Technological Developments

During the Middle Ages, the productivity of agriculture increased as a result of several technological advances. The proliferation of the heavy-wheeled plow by the 6th century greatly improved production on German lands but also required much animal power—from two to eight oxen per plow. As a result, many farmers gathered in small settlements with common livestock and fields. By the 9th century, the introduction of the collar and harness permitted horses to do the same work as oxen; developments such as the tandem harness (two teams, one behind the other) and the horseshoe improved productivity even more. Undoubtedly the greatest agrarian innovation of the early Middle Ages was the three-field rotation. Common by the 9th century, this method allowed farmers to improve their annual yield and avoid exhausting the soil by rotating crops on three fields—one for a winter wheat, one for a spring crop (such as oats, barley, peas, or beans), and one left unused. An agricultural revolution during the 11th and 12th centuries witnessed the clearing of millions of acres of forests and swamps for cultivation as well as the introduction of the windmill, which harnessed the power of the wind to mill grain or pump water.

The two areas of technological innovation most prominent in late medieval Germany were mining and printing. By the late 15th century, a series of inventions and improved techniques resulted in a fivefold increase in central European mining output. Saxon methods of extracting pure silver from the lead alloy in which it was often found helped expand the money economies of Europe. Increased iron production also meant more and stronger pumps and other machine parts and a related boom in construction work and shipbuilding.

The invention of movable metal type was one of the most significant developments of all human history. Johannes Gutenberg discovered a durable alloy of lead, tin, and antimony that allowed books and other writings to be duplicated in a fraction of the time needed for manuscript copying. Gutenberg’s Bible, completed around 1455, was the first major work to be printed. Within 50 years, more than 250 cities throughout the empire and Europe had one or more printing shops operating full time. The impact of the printing press on society is still being explored, but it is clear that it touched the lives of many more than the 10 percent of the population who could read.

B4e Religion and the Church

Ancient Germanic peoples worshiped many gods, usually distinguishing between the greater sky gods, such as Wodin and Thor, and the lesser divinities who dwelled in fields, trees, and streams. The first recorded Christian missionary to the Goths was Ulfilas in the 4th century, who preached the Arian version of Christianity. This version was considered heretical because it denied the full divinity of Jesus Christ. Ulfilas and his successors converted almost all of the German peoples within the empire. Clovis and the Franks reconverted them to orthodox (Catholic) Christianity beginning in the 6th century.

The Frankish kingdom established a special relationship with the Roman church that continued under the Carolingians. Charlemagne enthusiastically encouraged missionary work among the Germans, which was largely completed by the end of his reign in 814. The pagan Slavs of eastern Germany, Poland, and the Baltic states were also eventually converted.

By the 10th century, numerous German monasteries and convents were operating under the Benedictine rule. This rule of daily life for monasteries was established by Saint Benedict of Nursia and stressed communal living, physical labor, prayer, and study. However, not all the monasteries adhered strictly to the rule. This prompted a monastery in Cluny, in central France, to lead a reform movement to restore strict adherence to the Benedictine rule. The Cluniac movement was well organized because all the monasteries were responsible to the central abbey in Cluny. The movement attracted support from many kings and bishops who supported monastic reform. The widespread following and strict rule of the Cluniacs made the movement a powerful force for stability in the Catholic Church.

Although this movement had little impact in German lands until the late 11th century, from that time on aristocratic and imperial families established numerous monasteries and convents. Parish churches and grandiose cathedrals also multiplied during this period and with them the number of clerics. The social background and duties of the clergy mirrored the hierarchical nature of the larger society. Positions of power, such as bishop (head of a diocese) and abbot (head of a monastery) tended to be held by members of aristocratic families, while parish priest and other lower positions went to individuals of peasant or worker status.

Converts often blended secular and even pagan ideas and practices with those of Christianity. This intermingling eventually resulted in a great diversity of local religious traditions in medieval Germany. Religious practices were woven into civic and village processions, festivals, and other communal gatherings.

There was no standardized training for parish priests, so sometimes they taught beliefs considered heretical by Rome. In southern Germany, followers of Peter Waldo, who were known as Waldenses, were especially critical of wealthy and powerful clerics during the 12th and 13th centuries. Another major challenge to the church came from John Huss, who in the early 15th century advocated reducing the clergy’s authority, both in secular and ecclesiastical matters.

Perhaps the most distinctive German contribution to medieval Christianity was in the area of mysticism, the idea that an individual could achieve personal union with the divine. The Benedictine nun Hildegard of Bingen was the most famous mystic of the High Middle Ages and inspired a cult of followers long after her death in 1179. One of the most influential mystics of the later Middle Ages was Meister Eckhart, a Dominican theologian who became a popular preacher in the Rhineland. Eckhart taught that union with God could be achieved through emptying the self and allowing the divine spark to enter. Some of his ideas were declared heretical after his death, but his influence on German spirituality as well as literature was profound. The works of his disciples Heinrich Suso and Johannes Tauler represent some of the greatest German literary achievements of the later Middle Ages.

Beginning in the late 14th century, many of the teachings of the Rhineland mystics were incorporated in a movement called Modern Devotion. Also known as the Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life, this group established several houses in northern Germany and The Netherlands where lay people and clerics could meditate. Most of these houses also maintained small grammar schools where children—most notably Erasmus and Martin Luther—were taught to read and write.

B4f Intellectual Developments

During the early Middle Ages, the centers of scholarship were the monasteries. In the 9th century, the so-called Carolingian Renaissance did much to revive the literary arts of classical Latin, but the number of individuals who could read and write remained small and for the most part limited to clerics. By the 12th century there were more than 200 small cathedral schools in Europe. By the next century, many of these had expanded or been absorbed into new institutions of learning called universities. The first German university was founded by Charles IV in Prague in 1348, eventually followed by similar institutions in Vienna (1356), Heidelberg (1386), Cologne (1388), Erfurt (1392), Leipzig (1409), Tübingen (1477), and Wittenberg (1502).

C The Age of Religious Strife (1519-1648)

Dramatic changes occurred in Germany and other European societies during the next period, which historians call the early modern era. During this time, Christianity was divided by the Reformation and the Americas were explored. Both had profound effects on politics, economies, and society. Another force for change was the new mass medium of the printing press, which carried diverse ideas, news, and entertainment to large audiences.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, territorial rulers and city councils in Germany expanded their authority, often in conjunction with religious changes stemming from the Reformation. At the same time, capitalism expanded and the population grew, resulting in widespread inflation throughout the period and a greater polarization of wealth within German society. On the other hand, many of the basic structures of medieval life—dynastic politics, predominantly agrarian economies, and low standard of living—remained largely constant throughout the period.

C1 Charles V

When Charles V succeeded his grandfather Maximilian as Holy Roman emperor in 1519, he was already hereditary lord of a vast assortment of territories. Due to a combination of politically astute dynastic marriages and fortuitous accidents, he had inherited the French Burgundian lands as well as the Netherlands (modern Holland and Belgium), the Habsburg’s Austrian and Bohemian holdings, and the kingdoms of Aragon and Castille (modern-day Spain), including all of the Spanish territories in the newly discovered Americas.

Charles made a concerted effort to consolidate and institutionalize the empire. He expanded the number of imperial districts to facilitate the raising of armies and money for imperial wars against the Ottoman Empire. His 1532 criminal code, known as the Carolina, was widely copied throughout German cities and principalities, providing some limited standardization to the widely diverse laws and customs of Germany.

On the whole, though, German princes and cities resisted what they perceived as imperial encroachments on their prerogatives. Although Charles had ruled more territory than any European leader since Charlemagne, by the time he abdicated in 1556 the Holy Roman Empire was more politically fractured than at any time since the Great Interregnum of the 13th century.

C2 Habsburg Conflicts with the French

In 1494 the French had invaded Italy, and Europe’s two most powerful dynasties—the Habsburgs and the Valois, the French ruling family—engaged in a series of military conflicts aimed at dominating the continent. At first, Maximilian and the Habsburgs only joined leagues of Italian cities in fighting the Valois and supplied arms and troops to the Italians. After the battle of Marignano in 1515, though, the Valois ruler Francis I resumed expansionist policies in Italy and in 1519 even presented himself as a candidate for Holy Roman emperor.

When the Habsburg Charles was elected instead, lingering resentment over Burgundian territory now in Charles’s possession led to the first Habsburg-Valois war, from 1521 to 1526. In a decisive battle at Pavia in 1525, Francis was captured and forced to renounce all claims to Milan, Naples, Genoa, and the duchy of Burgundy. Alarmed by Charles’s growing power, Pope Clement VII and Henry VIII of England joined Francis in the League of Cognac, leading to the second Habsburg-Valois war. After two years of disastrous consequences for all participants, little had changed, except that Charles gave up Burgundy. In 1535 the house of Valois once more made a claim on Milan and marched into the duchy of Savoy. Charles counterattacked in southern France, thus initiating the third Habsburg-Valois war, which ended in a stalemate three years later.

Tensions continued during the next 20 years, with further outbreaks of war in 1542, 1551, and 1557. Finally, in 1559, both sides were financially and psychologically exhausted and sued for peace. The resulting Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis gave the Habsburgs control over Italy, the free county of Burgundy, and most of The Netherlands. The Valois maintained the duchy of Burgundy, most of Piedmont (Piemonte) and Savoy, and parts of the Rhineland.

C3 Wars with the Ottoman Empire

Under the ambitious sultan Süleyman I, the Ottoman Empire in the 1520s began to expand into the eastern Habsburg holdings in Austria and Hungary. After Süleyman’s armies defeated imperial forces at Mohács in 1526, they moved on to besiege Vienna. The same year, Charles made concessions to Protestant princes at the imperial diet in Speyer to gain their support for a counteroffensive. The Ottomans were temporarily checked, but by 1532 they once again threatened Vienna, forcing Charles to make another truce with Protestant rulers in return for their military assistance. After three years of fighting, Charles succeeded in capturing Tunis and halting the Ottoman advance for the time being.

Meanwhile, Francis I signed an alliance with the Ottoman Empire and made plans to reopen an offensive while the emperor was occupied in the Mediterranean. A truce was reached in 1545, but for the next 25 years imperial and Ottoman troops skirmished in southern Europe until the imperial troops achieved a smashing defeat of the Ottoman navy at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. While all European rulers, particularly the Habsburgs, remained concerned about the Ottoman threat for the next century, Ottoman advancement had been halted.

C4 The Protestant Reformation

Martin Luther, one of the most important figures in all of German history, was a monk and theology professor at the University of Wittenberg. Through his studies, he gradually developed an alternate interpretation of how Christians obtained salvation. In his interpretation, an individual could be saved only through faith, not through good works, as the Catholic Church taught. His famous posting of the Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Wittenberg cathedral in 1517 was a call for reforming certain abuses within the Catholic Church, such as the selling of indulgences, remissions of sin granted by the Church. By 1520, however, Luther had decided that his interpretation of Christianity was incompatible with that of the existing church. Within six months, he published three significant pamphlets that stated his belief in salvation by faith alone, described how the Roman church had deviated from the Scriptures, and called on the German princes to take a more active role in governing the church within their territories.

Pope Leo X issued a papal bull, an official statement giving Luther until the end of 1520 to recant or face excommunication; the reformer replied by publicly burning the bull and all the books of canon (church) law. The following year Emperor Charles V summoned Luther to defend himself at the imperial diet in Worms. When Luther attended and refused to bend before the assembled heads of Germany, he was outlawed. Fortunately, his powerful patron Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony, ignored the ban and instead installed Luther at Wartburg castle, where Luther began to translate the New Testament into German.

C5 Diversity of the Early Reformation

Luther’s evangelical ideas found fertile soil in diverse parts of German society. The imperial knights Ulrich von Hutten and Franz von Sickingen took up Luther’s appeals to the German nobility to rid their land of Roman Catholic influences. In 1522 they launched an armed offensive against church lands that was crushed within a year.

In 1524 a much larger and more destructive revolt, known as the Peasants’ War, spread from southwestern Germany up the Rhine to the heart of the empire. By 1525 more than 500,000 peasants had taken up arms, making a variety of demands on their feudal lords. These peasants often mingled Luther’s language and ideas with their own complaints about taxation and the loss of traditional feudal rights, such as the use of common lands.

Luther, however, claimed that the rebelling peasants had misunderstood him, and that spiritual equality before God was not the same as social or political equality in the world. He urged the princes to strike down those who upset the social order intended by God. The princes did just that, massacring as many as 100,000 peasants. The largest peasant revolt in German history was crushed, as were the hopes of all those seeking a radical social reformation.

From the mid-1520s on, the German Reformation entered an urban phase, in which city magistrates assumed importance. Throughout the empire, local reformers persuaded the leaders of all but 5 of the 60 imperial cities to embrace Luther’s reforms. The resulting religious reform ordinances varied. Some cities thoroughly revised all church rituals; others stressed reform of morals and public decency. Most allowed priests to marry and transferred control over all church property and offices to the municipal government.

Meanwhile, some Swiss cantons had come under the influence of theologian Huldreich Zwingli, who developed the Reformed Christian movement. Zwingli disagreed with Luther on some important questions of doctrine and favored a more thoroughly integrated theocracy, with almost no division between church and state. This religious tradition continued through the work of Heinrich Bullinger in Zürich and John Calvin in Geneva.

There were many other interpretations of Luther’s evangelical message, and many who disagreed were persecuted by Lutherans and Catholics alike. The Anabaptists were a universal target of persecution. These small groups of believers, who called themselves Brethren or simply Christians, accepted Luther’s emphasis on faith and Scriptures but also believed in the extremely unpopular practice of adult baptism. Because all of the people of the time had already been baptized as infants, baptizing adults was considered double baptism, a capital offense since the late Roman Empire. Most Anabaptists were also pacifists and thus easy prey for persecution. The one major exception was the Anabaptist citizenry of the city of Münster, whose leader, Jan of Leyden, declared a theocratic kingdom in 1534. Few issues so united the Protestant and Catholic princes of Germany, who raised a huge siege against the city, breaking through in 1535 and executing hundreds. From this period on, the Anabaptist movement remained exclusively pacifistic, as is evident in the followers of Menno Simons, founder in the 16th century of the Mennonites, and in the 17th-century Amish.

C5a Conflict and Compromise

In 1529, at a meeting of the diet in Speyer, Ferdinand, Charles V’s brother, attempted to reinstate the ban on Luther and his followers that Charles V had suspended to gain the princes’ support for a campaign against the Ottomans. Several of the delegates protested, and the term Protestant came to be associated with the movement. The next year, led by Luther’s associate Melanchthon, the Protestant delegation presented a conciliatory statement or creed, which has come to be known as the Augsburg Confession. This concise summary of Lutheran beliefs was rejected by the Catholic princes, leading Protestants to form the defensive Schmalkaldic League in 1531. Eventually the league included seven princes and 16 cities.

During the 1530s and early 1540s Charles was mostly preoccupied with the Ottoman threat. In 1545, however, he turned his attention to the Schmalkaldic League. In 1547 his troops soundly defeated a Saxon army at Mühlberg, and the emperor’s ascendancy was assured. In 1548, at the peak of his power, Charles issued the Augsburg Interim, an attempt to end religious division within the empire by some minor concessions to Lutherans. This interim settlement failed to appease Protestant princes and threatened to provoke a much more destructive civil war within the empire.

A compromise was reached in the Peace of Augsburg, which Charles reluctantly accepted in 1555. This treaty became the foundation for religious coexistence in Germany for the next three centuries. Most importantly, it granted the princes and cities full sovereignty regarding religion. Each ruler could choose either Lutheranism or Catholicism as the official religion of his territory (the Reformed and Calvinist creeds, while not prohibited, were not recognized by the Peace of Augsburg). He was free to treat nonconformist subjects as he wanted, sometimes forcing them to migrate or convert. Religious segregation, rather than toleration, seemed the only solution, and for the rest of the century at least, it seemed to work.

C5b The Confessional Age

When Charles abdicated in 1556, his vast empire was divided, with the Spanish and Burgundian lands going to his son Philip II and the imperial title and German lands going to his brother Ferdinand I. Within the German cities and territories, however, religious tensions continued to mount as governments attempted to establish confessions of faith among their respective populaces, mostly along Lutheran lines. By the 1540s, several newly converted princes had joined the attempt, simultaneously creating new courts and officials to oversee the process. The Protestant Reformation continued to spread.

Meanwhile, a Catholic reform council met for three extended sessions between 1545 and 1563 in the north Italian city of Trent, assessing which teachings and practices required changes and to what degree (see Counter Reformation). In general, the council reaffirmed almost all Catholic doctrine on salvation and the sacraments, while also laying a blueprint for extensive clerical and lay reform at the diocesan level. When Catholic bishops turned to the task of implementing reforms and even attempting to win back Protestant converts, one of their greatest assets was a new religious order, the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. The Jesuits relied heavily on education, setting up schools and universities in Germany and throughout Europe. With the backing of rulers such as the Wittelsbachs of Bavaria, the Habsburgs of Austria, and the archbishops of Salzburg, Bamberg, and Würzburg, the Jesuits helped create a Catholic bloc in the southern part of the empire, which has remained predominantly Catholic to this day. In more mixed or predominantly Protestant areas, though, the Jesuits often escalated religious tensions.

Emperor Ferdinand I was more savvy in politics than Charles had been. For most of his reign, Ferdinand attempted to reconcile the two religious camps within the empire; at the same time, he built up the centralized bureaucracy of his Austrian territories. At his death in 1564, his lands were divided equally among his three sons, and Maximilian II assumed the throne. Both Maximilian II and his successor, Rudolf II, were intensely preoccupied with the Ottoman threat. As in other times of increased military spending, the emperors generally deferred to the princes and cities on a variety of issues in exchange for new taxes. Meanwhile, several small and medium-sized Calvinist states that had developed in spite of the Peace of Augsburg formed close political ties with one another.

The combination of weak imperial rule and intense religious differences increased political tensions within the empire. In 1608 Protestant delegates walked out of the imperial diet, protesting that the empire favored Catholics. German Lutheran and Calvinist states then formed the Protestant Union, a defensive league that was answered by the formation of the German Catholic League. During the reign of the exceptionally weak emperor Matthias, from 1612 to 1619, the empire narrowly averted several crises. Finally, in 1618, the anticipated war came, setting into motion a series of conflicts that have come to be known as the Thirty Years’ War.

C5c The Thirty Years’ War

The trouble began in Protestant Bohemia (in what is now the Czech Republic). In 1619 the Czechs refused to accept the Catholic Ferdinand II as king or future emperor. In 1618 they had set up their own government, supported by several Protestant states. After the death of Matthias, they chose the Protestant elector Frederick V of the Rhineland-Palatinate as their king. Ferdinand, however, crushed the Bohemian forces at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. Frederick was exiled, and Catholicism was restored by force. The rebelling Bohemian nobles were fined, deprived of their lands, or killed.

The second phase of the Thirty Years’ War began in 1625. After the Battle of White Mountain, Spanish troops under Philip III had occupied part of the Palatinate in support of Ferdinand. German Protestant princes objected to the presence of these Spanish troops on German lands. The princes supported an invasion of Germany by the Protestant king Christian IV of Denmark, who was financed largely by the Dutch and the English. Christian was defeated, and in 1629 the victorious Ferdinand issued the heavy-handed Edict of Restitution, which ordered the return of all Catholic Church property seized by Protestants since 1552.

The third phase of the war began when the Lutheran king Gustav II Adolph of Sweden, who had long wanted to extend Swedish control over the Baltic, invaded Pomerania as the champion of the Protestant princes. The Swedish army won a brilliant victory at Breitenfeld in 1631 and swept down to take Mainz and Prague. Following Gustav’s death on the battlefield in 1632 the war dragged on, accomplishing little but the devastation of the German countryside. In 1635 a truce was declared, and Ferdinand’s unpopular Edict of Restitution was revoked.

In the fourth phase, the Catholic French, who wanted to undermine the Habsburgs, paid subsidies to the Protestant Swedish army to continue fighting. French troops also crossed the Rhine into German territories. After another 13 years of destruction, Emperor Ferdinand III and the princes were ready for peace.

C5d The Peace of Westphalia

The long war ended in a draw, finalized by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. By the terms of the treaty, the sovereignty and independence of each of the almost 300 states of the Holy Roman Empire were fully recognized, leaving the emperor virtually powerless. In addition, as in the Peace of Augsburg, the religion of each German state was to be determined by its prince; this time, however, Calvinist Christianity was included with the Lutheran and Catholic faiths as an option. The religious status quo of 1624 was accepted, meaning that the Habsburg lands, the south, and the west remained predominantly Catholic, while Protestants were permitted to retain previously acquired lands.

The war had several devastating effects on Germany. Politically, the Holy Roman Empire continued in name, but it had lost all claim to effective governing power. Economically and socially, Germany lost about one-third of its people to war, famine, and emigration as well as much of its livestock, capital, and trade. Many towns, especially in the north, were destroyed or bankrupt, and manufacturing and middle-class investment were extremely low. Bands of refugees and mercenaries roamed the countryside, seizing what they could. In the midst of poverty and social unrest, many states became even more authoritarian, further weakening what little popular political autonomy remained.

C6 Life in Germany During the 16th and 17th Centuries
C6a Population

In 1500 Germany had a population of about 14 million. This number climbed to about 18 million by 1600. However, over the next 50 years the population dropped dramatically. This drop is usually attributed to the destruction of the Thirty Years’ War, but serious famines, plague outbreaks, and emigration had a large effect as well. Some areas, notably Bohemia and Franconia, lost more than three-fourths of their people. Although the casualties of war and the spread of typhoid and venereal diseases by soldiers certainly affected the population, the war alone cannot account for all of the demographic decline.

There were about 4,000 towns in Germany by 1500, still mostly small. Only Nürnberg, Strasbourg, Augsburg, Vienna, Lübeck, and Magdeburg had more than 30,000 inhabitants. In most German cities, citizenship became even more restricted. Usually ownership of property was required in order to be a citizen, and eligibility to serve on the council was monopolized by a few local wealthy families. Many municipal governments became much more active in their regulation of urban life. Sporadic pogroms against Jews and Roma (Gypsies) continued in German cities.

C6b Economic Developments

From the late 15th century on, several German cities, particularly Augsburg and Nürnberg, experienced significant economic growth. In addition to various local guild industries and regional trade, some German merchants and bankers became involved with larger, more wide-reaching ventures. The most famous of these family firms was the Fugger company of Augsburg, which had become the largest financial organization in Europe by the early 16th century. The Fuggers’ virtual monopoly on all gold, silver, and copper mining in central Europe endowed its leaders with great political influence. By the time of the Thirty Years’ War, however, these family firms were losing their power, being replaced by even larger royal and international enterprises.

Low crop yields made German farmers susceptible to misfortunes. Large-scale droughts and famines invariably led to widespread disease, migration, and starvation. Urban workers faced rampant price inflation and falling wages. While some peasants and small property holders expanded their real estate during this period, the majority of urban and rural poor moved closer to destitution and homelessness.

C6c Religion

The introduction of Christian pluralism into German society had profound results. Religious conversions of political rulers were common and had widespread implications for subjects and foreigners alike. Religious segregation, rather than toleration, was the rule until the 19th century. Several regions in the north and east developed almost exclusively Lutheran populations, and many localities in the south became overwhelmingly Catholic. Mixed populations, particularly in imperial cities such as Augsburg, did exist, but they were rigidly segregated by religious affiliation.

Meanwhile, despite the efforts of both Protestant and Catholic reformers, many people continued beliefs and practices with pre-Christian origins. The common belief in magic helped fuel a widespread fear of witches. Throughout Europe, as many as 100,000 individuals were executed as witches, mostly between 1550 and 1650. Of these, perhaps three-quarters of the prosecutions took place within the Holy Roman Empire. Most accusations in Germany quickly developed into local panics and large-scale purges. Prosecutions were common in Protestant and Catholic lands alike. See also Witchcraft: Diabolical Witchcraft.

C6d Intellectual Developments

Intellectual life in Germany was deeply affected by both the Protestant Reformation and by the Renaissance. Renaissance learning came to Germany from Italy through the writings of Conradus Celtes, Willibald Pirkheimer, Sebastian Brant, Johann Reuchlin, and Ulrich von Hutten. The Renaissance emphasized the importance of classical studies and looked to ancient Greece and Rome as models. Several writers, including von Hutten and Pirkheimer, became important proponents of Luther’s early reforms, as did the poet-shoemaker Hans Sachs. This combination of classical learning and Reformation thinking was also apparent in the arts. Among painters, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Holbein the Younger, and Albrecht Dürer lent their talents to the Reformation, providing extremely effective visual representations of religious and church themes.

The link between German Protestantism and education was especially strong. Almost all of the early leaders of the Reformation had a university education and were strong advocates of education as a tool for moral and social reform. Luther urged parents to send their children to school and established a new genre of religious literature with his catechisms for children. Luther’s colleague Melanchthon aided several German rulers and city councils in establishing public grammar schools and high schools. Melanchthon’s model stressed a humanist curriculum of Greek and Latin combined with religious instruction. Catholic reformers, particularly the Jesuits, also established educational institutions in Germany during the second half of the 16th century.

In the natural sciences, physician Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus challenged the prevailing orthodoxy on the internal origin of all illness, paving the way for pathology. On the death of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler inherited both his teacher’s astronomical charts and his position as director of Emperor Rudolf II’s observatory in Prague. Using complex mathematical calculations, Kepler developed three laws of planetary motion—most importantly, that the planets orbit the sun in elliptical rather than circular fashion.

D Germany During the Baroque Age (1648-1792)

The art historians’ term baroque is often applied to the segment of German history from 1648 to 1792, especially to the institutions, devotional practices, and ornate art forms associated with the declining Habsburg empire. The baroque age in Germany did not witness any dramatic changes in the social, political, or religious order. The period did see, however, the traditional rituals and prerogatives of the old regime increasingly challenged by such developments as the rising state of Prussia, the Enlightenment, neoclassicism, and naturalism. These forces would ultimately transform Germany.

D1 Dynastic Wars of Expansion

The Treaty of Westphalia curbed but hardly ended the expansionist ambitions of German dynasties such as the Austrian Habsburgs. Scarcely had they recovered from the Thirty Years’ War when the princes and the emperor plunged into new dynastic struggles. In the west, German princes were involved in several wars as French king Louis XIV strove to extend his territory past the Rhine. In the War of the Devolution (1667-1668), Great Elector Frederick William of Brandenburg accepted a large sum of money from Louis in return for political support. In the Dutch War (1672-1678) Frederick William turned against Louis and the French, who were allied with Sweden. He fought off a Swedish invasion and conquered western Pomerania, but was forced to give up these conquests at the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1679. He later benefited Brandenburg by offering refuge to Huguenots (French Calvinists), whom Louis had exiled. About 20,000 Huguenots migrated east, bringing French culture and skills such as weaving. Louis’s invasion of the Rhineland-Palatinate led to the war of the League of Augsburg (1688-1697), in which he won Strasbourg and Alsace.

The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) was fought over the right of Louis XIV’s grandson, Philip of Anjou (see Philip V), to inherit the Spanish throne. Bavaria sided with France, because Louis promised the Bavarian elector the crown of the Spanish Netherlands (roughly modern-day Belgium). Brandenburg supported the successive emperors Leopold I and Joseph I in return for imperial recognition of Prussia as a kingdom. Other European states also allied with the empire to block unification of France and Spain. Battles waged in Bavaria and western Germany brought havoc and ruin. When both sides were exhausted, they accepted the Peace of Utrecht (1714), in which Austria gained the Spanish Netherlands, Naples, Milan, and Sardinia.

Meanwhile the German princes turned their own expansionist ambitions toward the north and east. In the First Northern War (1655-1660), the emperor and the elector of Brandenburg supported Poland and Denmark against Charles X Gustav of Sweden. In the Great Northern War (1700-1721), which paralleled the War of the Spanish Succession, Saxony, Poland, Brandenburg-Prussia, Hannover, Denmark, and Russia all joined forces against Sweden. At the war’s end, the treaties of Stockholm and Nystadt restored Poland to Augustus II, transferred Stettin and West Pomerania from Sweden to Brandenburg-Prussia, and gave Sweden’s eastern Baltic lands to Russia.

D2 Wars with the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman threat from the east had been effectively checked since the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. By the middle of the 17th century, however, the destruction of the Thirty Years’ War had made the empire’s eastern frontiers again vulnerable. Ottoman forces invaded Hungary in 1663, but imperial troops managed to defeat them and win a 20-year truce. France’s Louis XIV and the Hungarians, both eager to check the Habsburgs, encouraged Ottoman aggression against them. When the truce expired, the Ottomans besieged Vienna in 1683. Imperial troops, combined with those of Jan III Sobieski of Poland, rescued the city, and the Ottomans were driven beyond the Danube. As a result, Austria compelled Hungary to recognize the Habsburg right to inherit the Hungarian crown. The Ottoman wars continued until the brilliant general Prince Eugene of Savoy led imperial troops to victory at Senta in northern Serbia in 1697. By the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699, the Habsburgs regained most of Hungary from the Ottomans. The country, ravaged and greatly depopulated due to the conflict, was resettled with German veterans, and imperial authority from Vienna was imposed.

D3 Austrian-Prussian Rivalry

By 1740 the German states of Austria and Prussia had emerged as the chief rivals for dominance in central Europe. Austria had been the core territory of the Habsburg family since the 13th century. The Habsburgs had built their power and land by acquiring territory through diplomacy and dynastic marriages and had become one of the most powerful states in Europe by the beginning of the Reformation. However, religious and dynastic wars, Ottoman invasions in the 17th century, and growing conflict with Prussia had weakened the state by the early 1700s.

D3a Growth of Prussia

The Hohenzollern family, which had been granted Brandenburg in the 15th century, also held a number of other territories in the west. Outside the empire to the east, the Hohenzollerns had inherited Prussia as a Polish duchy in 1618 and converted it into an independent kingdom in 1701. Gradually, all the Hohenzollern lands came to be known as the kingdom of Prussia.

Unlike many other European dynasties, the Hohenzollerns enjoyed an unbroken (and therefore uncontested) series of male heirs from 1640 to 1786. These rulers were thus able to focus their efforts on building an efficient centralized state, a task that most of them successfully pushed forward. Frederick William of Prussia, known as the Great Elector, reigned from 1640 to 1688. He was a sturdy, hardheaded soldier determined to unite his disparate possessions into a modern military state. He created an efficient, honest bureaucracy that filled the treasury and ran the country for the benefit of a large standing army. By 1678 he had established a military force of 40,000 that absorbed more than 50 percent of the state’s revenue. His intellectual and artistic son Frederick paid more attention to building palaces and promoting the arts than to the army. He did, however, obtain the title king of Prussia from the emperor.

Frederick’s son, Frederick William I, developed a centralized financial system and a standing army of 90,000 by the time of his death in 1740. Frederick II, the Great, was equally at home on the battlefield and enjoying French literature and music in his palace near Berlin. He refined and reorganized the Prussian government, economy, and army.

D3b War of the Austrian Succession

Emperor Charles VI, anxious to keep Habsburg lands unified, issued the Pragmatic Sanction in 1713, declaring that his only child, Maria Theresa, should succeed him. When he died in 1740, the electors of Bavaria and Saxony rejected the Pragmatic Sanction on the grounds that they themselves had prior claims through their wives. Frederick II of Prussia offered his support to Maria Theresa in exchange for the rich province of Silesia. When she refused, Frederick promptly invaded Silesia, precipitating the War of the Austrian Succession. The Bavarians, Saxons, and French invaded Austria and Bohemia, while Britain, the Dutch Republic, and Russia came to the aid of Austria. Alarmed by Frederick’s military victories, Maria Theresa made peace with him in 1742, ceding Silesia. Austria and its allies then succeeded in driving the French from Bohemia and conquering Bavaria. By the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1745), Maria Theresa’s husband, Franz, Duke of Lorraine, was recognized as emperor, although it was she who actually ruled. In exchange, Maria Theresa returned Bavaria to the Wittelsbachs and allowed Prussia to keep Silesia.

D3c The Seven Years’ War

The emergence of Prussia as a major power led to a radical shift of alliances and to new hostilities. Austria, determined to reconquer Silesia, made an alliance with Russia as well as its old rival France. Prussia, anticipating encirclement, struck first in 1756 by invading Saxony and Bohemia, thus beginning the Seven Years’ War. Despite good leadership, Frederick II found himself pressed by many enemies. He was conveniently rescued by the death of Elizabeth of Russia in 1761 and the succession of Peter III, who admired Frederick and immediately made peace with him. The exhausted French also wanted peace, and hostilities ended in 1763 with all territories restored to prewar status.

Bitterly disappointed, Maria Theresa devoted herself to internal affairs. She gradually reorganized the government and established uniform taxes, a customs union, and state-supported elementary schools. She encouraged commoners as well as nobles to take government and army positions. Pious, warmhearted, and tactful, she was an extremely popular monarch. Her idealistic son, Joseph, with whom she did not always agree, succeeded her in 1780. Joseph II strove impatiently to create an efficient, modern bureaucracy without regard for local customs or prejudices.

Both Prussia and Austria looked to the east for territorial expansion. Prussia had long been anxious to annex the Polish territory separating Brandenburg and Prussia. Austria, ever regretting the lost Silesia, also looked to Poland for compensation. Both countries feared the Russians, who were exercising greater and greater control over Poland, and who had deposed the Polish king in 1764. A weak Poland seemed ample excuse for intervention, and in 1772 Austria, Prussia, and Russia agreed to the first partition of Poland. This partition reduced Poland’s area by about one-quarter. In 1792 the Russians secretly organized a revolt within Poland that gave Russian and Prussian forces an excuse to occupy the country and further reduce Polish territory by about two-thirds. After another Polish attempt to regain territory in 1794, the remainder of the country was divided between Prussia, Austria, and Russia in 1795.

D4 Life in Germany During the Baroque Age
D4a Social Changes

Almost a century passed before Germany’s population recovered to a level near that of before the Thirty Years’ War, reaching about 20 million in 1750. Frequent harvest failures, disease, and unemployment left about a quarter of the population destitute, leading to widespread migration within the empire and the growth of a criminal underclass in many cities. Emigration was another option, and more than 200,000 Germans had left for the Americas by the end of the 18th century. Urban populations continued to grow, most dramatically in the Prussian capital of Berlin, which grew from 6,000 in 1640 to 55,000 in 1700, and to 150,000 in 1800. The much older and more cosmopolitan Austrian capital of Vienna had a population of 210,000 by 1800.

The social order of the Middle Ages remained strikingly unchanged. Serfdom was abolished in 1773 in Prussia but was still widely practiced. In Austria it was abolished in 1781 but restored at Joseph’s death in 1791. West of the Elbe, free peasant farmers continued to constitute the largest social group, with domestic servitude the single largest occupational category (10 to 15 percent of the general population). Landed aristocrats often intermarried with wealthy merchant families. The new political identity of citizen became more common in the mid-18th century but was still often used interchangeably with the designation subject. Some princely states, most notably the archbishoprics of Salzburg and Würzburg, developed elaborate court cultures and patronized the arts. In Prussia, many members of the nobility were drawn into the newly professionalized army.

D4b Technological and Economic Developments

The period from 1650 to 1800 was one of general economic stagnation in German lands, with most enterprises remaining small. The majority of manufacturing was performed by local guilds and cottage industry. Economically, guilds continued to be powerful, but politically their authority as well as that of the free cities declined precipitously beginning in 1650. Prussia during the 1670s was typical. Its rulers eliminated most self-government in the towns and dominated all secular and ecclesiastical appointments. Prussian rulers also attempted to improve commerce by building new canals and improving roads as well as by introducing standard weights and measures throughout German lands. However, great economic obstacles resulted from the multitude of German states. For example, a voyage on the Rhine from Basel to Rotterdam involved 38 separate tolls.

Agricultural production also remained relatively low. Some high-grade fodder crops were introduced in Prussia, and potatoes from the Americas became a common crop in western German lands, particularly in the Rhineland. The eastern nobility operated large personal estates whose produce provided them with most of their income. German landowners in the west derived most of their agricultural income from the rents paid by tenants.

D4c Religion and Philosophy

In the late 17th and early 18th centuries Germany experienced a variety of religious and intellectual developments, from Lutheran Pietism and Baroque Catholicism to Enlightenment philosophy and the beginnings of empirical science.

Although official state religions remained largely unchanged in the years following the Peace of Westphalia, cultural expressions of faith by German Protestants and Catholics accelerated at an unprecedented pace. In the predominantly Catholic south, this was evident in a revival of public processions, pilgrimages, shrines, and highly ornate church decoration. Meanwhile, in the largely Lutheran north, Philipp Jakob Spener, the former court chaplain at Saxony, called for a revival of evangelical preaching and lay fervor in his influential work Pia Desideria (1675; Pious Desires, 1964). The resulting movement, known as Pietism, spread rapidly throughout Lutheran Germany.

Religious segregation was the rule, with most states maintaining an official religion. An exception was Prussia, whose rulers were among the first to appreciate the economic benefits of religious toleration. They gladly accepted not only tens of thousands of fellow Calvinists who had been expelled from France and Salzburg, but also welcomed Lutherans, Catholics, and Jews. Joseph II of Austria issued an edict of toleration for all non-Catholic Christians in 1781 and a similar decree for Jews the next year. Assimilation was especially important to the emperor, however, and he attempted to put loyalty to the state above particular religious devotions. He tried to force all Jewish subjects except rabbis to abandon their traditional clothing; he also halted all synagogue construction and required Jews to pay a toleration tax. These Austrian and Prussian examples of toleration were followed reluctantly by Bavaria and Württemberg in 1803, Baden in 1818, Hesse in 1831, and Saxony in 1841.

During the Age of Enlightenment, the writings of the French philosophes were undeniably influential in Germany. The belief in representative government, or government by all people instead of merely the nobility, began to gain popularity. The philosophes also placed great importance on the discovery of truth by the use of individual human reason and through the observation of nature, instead of by the study of authoritative sources such as Aristotle and the Bible.

The spirit of critical and objective inquiry, universal in literate Europe in the 18th century, produced several remarkable German philosophers, including Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Immanuel Kant. Educational reforms led to the establishment of mandatory grammar schools for girls and boys. By the end of the century at least half of the population had some formal schooling. The number of German newspapers increased from 57 in 1700 to almost 200 in 1800.

E Nationalism and Unification (1792-1871)

In the 18th century, Enlightenment theories of representative government inspired a desire for national unification and liberal reform among some Germans. In the 19th century, France’s expansion after the French Revolution (1789-1799) and especially under Napoleon I had the unintended effect of pushing Austria and Prussia together and arousing a sense of German national identity.

E1 The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars

The success of the French Revolution greatly alarmed Austria and Prussia. Fearing that revolutionary ideas would spread and jeopardize their own governments, the two countries signed the Pillnitz Declaration in 1791, which offered to intervene militarily on behalf of the French king. This declaration only served to anger the French, and in April 1792 France declared war on Austria and Prussia, defeating them soundly at Valmy in September. For the next 20 years, the German states engaged in five wars of defense against the well-trained and unified armies of revolutionary and Napoleonic France. The first war resulted in the French occupying all German territory west of the Rhineland by 1794, an event that would have profound consequences for all Franco-German relations thereafter. A second war from 1799 to 1802 also ended in German defeat.

In 1806, to compensate the western German states for their losses, Napoleon reorganized them into the Confederation of the Rhine, at the same time greatly reducing their number. The 17 members of the confederation broke away from the Austrian Holy Roman Empire, effectively dissolving it. Prussia then declared war on France. On October 14, 1806, a combined Prussian-Austrian army was decisively routed by Napoleon at the Battle of Jena. The next year, Napoleon conquered Prussia, and in the crushing Treaty of Tilsit, he forced it to cede all land west of the Elbe and to pay enormous war indemnities. In 1809 Austria led a fourth German war against France while Napoleon was occupied in Spain, but in the process lost even more land. In all, almost two-thirds of the German population changed rulers during this period.

Finally, Napoleon’s disastrous 1812 retreat from Moscow encouraged the allies to make another effort. Frederick William III of Prussia, joined by Austria and Russia, led the so-called War of Liberation, in which Napoleon was ultimately defeated at Leipzig in 1813. All French territory in Germany was “liberated” and the Confederation of the Rhine was dissolved. After much bloodshed, the allies took Paris in April 1814.

At the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815), the victors redrew the map of Europe. Austria gave up the Austrian Netherlands and its Swabian lands in the west, but was compensated by receiving Salzburg, Tirol, Lombardy, Venice, and Illyria and Dalmatia on the Adriatic Sea. Prussia lost most of its Polish territory but gained much of Saxony and Swedish Pomerania, as well as land in the Rhineland and Westphalia, including the undeveloped iron and coal resources of the Ruhr and Saar areas.

E2 Liberalism and Early Nationalism

The Congress of Vienna formally recognized replacement of the Holy Roman Empire and its more than 240 states with the German Confederation of 39 states, including four free cities. The confederation was represented by a powerless assembly. Opinions differed on what the new confederation should be. Many Germans wanted to fashion a liberal, progressive government on British and French models, with a constitution guaranteeing popular representation, trial by jury, and free speech. They also hoped for national unification. Such ideas were especially popular among middle-class professionals and university students. These aims also appealed to the various restive peoples within the Austrian empire.

Liberalism and nationalism were bitterly opposed by the rulers of Prussia and Austria, as well as by the recently crowned kings of Bavaria, Hannover, Württemberg, and Saxony, who begrudgingly granted constitutions and dreaded any encroachment on their individual power. Austria, Prussia, Russia, and Britain formed the Quadruple Alliance to suppress—by force if necessary—any threat to the Vienna settlement. At an 1819 conference of German rulers in Karlsbad, Austrian foreign minister Prince Klemens von Metternich proposed governmental action to prevent any potential revolutionary activity in the German Confederation. This was supported by the German rulers, who pushed it through the confederation’s assembly. Frederick William III of Prussia blocked reforms planned by his ministers.

In 1834 Prussia organized a customs union of 18 German states, which Austria refused to join. While this organization facilitated economic growth throughout Germany, its political significance as an early German union was minor.

E3 Revolution and Reaction

The July Revolution in Paris in 1830 set off liberal uprisings in many German states. At Metternich’s urging, the confederation forbade public meetings and banned petitions. Nevertheless, in early 1848, another wave of revolutions, again beginning in Paris, washed over Europe. Nationalist groups revolted in Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, Galicia, and Lombardy. Metternich resigned under pressure, and Austrian emperor see Ferdinand I resigned in favor of his young nephew Francis Joseph I. Violent uprisings also took place in Bavaria, Prussia, and southwestern Germany. The frightened rulers agreed to send delegates to an assembly in Frankfurt, promising a constitution and improved civil rights.

By October 1848, however, the rebellions were crushed. In Austria, a liberal constitutional assembly was dissolved, and a constitution providing highly centralized, although representative, government was imposed. Hungary, which had declared itself a republic, was forcibly subdued. In Prussia, Frederick William IV imposed an authoritarian constitution.

Meanwhile, the Frankfurt Assembly wrote a liberal constitution for a united Germany under a hereditary emperor. Austria refused to allow its German lands to be included, so the assembly regretfully decided that Germany should consist of the German states without Austria. For lack of an alternative, they offered the crown to Frederick William, who refused it. The assembly dispersed in failure. By 1850 the authoritarian German Confederation was restored and most of the revolutionaries and liberals had been exiled or imprisoned.

E4 Prussia and German Unification

After the failure of the Frankfurt Assembly, both Prussia and Austria put forth conflicting plans for German union. William I of Prussia was determined that neither Austria nor a newly aggressive France should thwart Prussian ambitions. He and his chief minister, Prince Otto von Bismarck, decided that Prussia must become unassailable and that unification must occur on Prussian terms.

Bismarck was a Prussian Junker (landless aristocrat) of forceful intellect, overbearing manner, and deep loyalty to the crown. Drawing on three decades of diplomatic experience, he astutely combined shrewd diplomacy with militarism in order to eliminate Austrian influence.

As a preliminary, Bismarck bought the neutrality of Russia, Italy, and France with friendly treaties. He then invited Austria in 1864 to join an invasion of Schleswig-Holstein, two Danish duchies. The Austrians and Prussians quickly defeated the Danes but soon fell out over control of the conquered duchies. On that excuse, Bismarck launched the Seven Weeks’ War against Austria in 1866. Skillfully coordinating three armies, Prussian general Helmuth von Moltke quickly defeated the Austrians at Königgrätz. Bismarck, however, did not want to alienate Austria irrevocably and therefore made an easy peace. Austria gave up Venice to Italian nationalists, while Prussia annexed Schleswig-Holstein, Hannover, and other states. In 1867 Bismarck organized the North German Confederation of 22 states without Austria; that year Austria became the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary.

Bismarck next maneuvered a war with France, partly to overcome southern German fears of an enlarged Prussia by gaining their support in military action. In 1870 the aggressive French emperor Napoleon III unwisely pressed William I to promise that a Hohenzollern would never take the vacant Spanish throne. Bismarck distorted William’s account of the incident to make it seem as if the French had been insulted and then published the account. The outraged French declared war. Stirred by new national loyalty, the southern German states joined forces behind Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War. Prussia’s seasoned armies conquered the disorganized French at Sedan and, after a long siege, took Paris in 1871. With these events, Bismarck convinced the southern German states that Prussian control was inevitable. At Versailles on January 18, 1871, he persuaded a reluctant William to become head of a restored German Empire, the Second Reich.

E5 Life in Germany During the 19th Century
E5a Society and Population

The population of German lands grew from about 20 million in 1750 to 33 million in 1816, and up to 52 million by 1865. Increased social and geographic mobility contributed to the growth of urban centers. By the end of the century, some cities had exploded in population—for example, Hamburg grew from 132,000 to 768,000 people and Munich went from 45,000 to 422,000. Housing in most of these cities unfortunately lagged far behind population growth, spawning dreadful urban slums. For most of the period, though, almost three-quarters of the population continued to live in communities of under 2,000 people. Infant and child mortality rates remained appallingly high, and illegitimate births rose from 15 percent in the early 19th century to 25 percent by mid-century.

Not until the Napoleonic Wars did the social structure of German states show some sign of change. Prussia had freed its peasantry in 1807, but had then given much of the land to landowners to compensate them for lost labor, leaving many peasants without the means to sustain themselves. Although serfdom was threatened by political liberalism and growing urban centers, it only collapsed fully following the revolutions in 1848. During the 1850s Metternich and rulers in other German states were working to strengthen the politically conservative arrangements of the Congress of Vienna, but their efforts were undermined by an economic boom of massive proportions that was quickly making factory workers the largest occupational category. This boom also increased the influence of middle-class business people and wealthy industrialists and weakened the political and economic authority of nobles and guilds. German aristocrats turned their attention to the government and the military.

E5b Economic and Technological Developments

This boom was the result in part of the Industrial Revolution, which hit Germany with full force in the 1850s. In the next two decades, economic and technological growth exploded. Coal production in German lands went from 3.8 million metric tons to 21.5 million metric tons and the annual industrial growth rate of 10.2 percent was the highest in the world. By 1862 a massive network of roads and railway lines connected all German cities. The boom in industrial manufacturing was the final death knoll for the guilds. In Austria they were officially abolished in 1859; elsewhere in Germany, they ceased during the next decades. By the time of unification, the new German empire had become one of the major industrial powers of the world.

E5c Intellectual Developments

The dominant literary spirit at the beginning of the 19th century is generally called Romantic, referring to an emphasis on sensation, natural beauty, and folk culture. Although many of its proponents were clearly reacting against the Enlightenment elevation of reason over the senses, it is an oversimplification to view the two movements as opposites or as incompatible. Already in his 1781 publication, Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant was seeking to find a middle way between reason and faith. Another child of the Enlightenment, Johann Gottfried von Herder, sought to combine the rational and irrational to find truth. Herder thought of nationality in linguistic rather than political terms; his emphasis on the common social experience and culture of a relatively diverse population, however, in many ways paved the way for later political unification.

Under Wilhelm von Humboldt, the education system of Prussia was reorganized to stress the individuality of the student and the moral duty of the state to educate its citizens. Elementary schools emphasized experience rather than memorization. Secondary schools, or Gymnasien, combined classical, Christian, and patriotic values to prepare middle-class students for the university. The University of Berlin, founded by Humboldt in 1809, became an outstanding center of humanistic, historical, and, especially, scientific studies. German research universities in turn produced some of the greatest scientific minds and discoveries of the century: natural scientist Baron Alexander von Humboldt; chemist Justus Baron von Liebig; Robert Koch, founder of modern bacteriology; psychologist and philosopher Wilhelm Max Wundt; and medical researcher and mathematician Hermann von Helmholtz.

F Modern Germany (1871-present)

The history of the prosperous nation of modern Germany includes two devastating wars and the country’s subsequent recoveries. The recent unification of East and West Germany is in many ways another triumph, but it has also brought new problems and challenges.

F1 The Second Empire

During the years between unification of the German states and World War I, Germany enjoyed a period of peace and relative prosperity, the latter closely tied to rapid industrialization and increased production. By the eve of the war, the empire’s economic and demographic growth had made it one of the three major powers of Europe. A series of imperialist conflicts and political misjudgments led Germany into a disaster in World War I.

F1a Bismarck’s Foreign Policies

Having sufficiently enlarged Prussia with the Franco-Prussian War, the Iron Chancellor, as Bismarck was called, worked for peace. He constructed a series of alliances with Austria, Italy, and Russia designed to protect Germany from aggression. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Bismarck mediated a settlement in the Balkans, where various Slavic groups kept rebelling against the decaying Ottoman Empire. Largely to please the merchant class, he consented to Germany’s acquiring colonies in Africa and the Pacific, most notably in Cameroon, South-West Africa (Namibia), East Africa (Tanzania), part of New Guinea, and the Marshall Islands. Unlike Britain and France, however, Germany found its colonies valuable chiefly for prestige.

F1b Bismarck’s Domestic Policies

The first years of the new empire saw a rapid economic growth in a variety of enterprises. Bismarck encouraged industrialization, using the iron and coal resources of the Ruhr and Saar areas, and promoted free trade. This liberalizing of the economy and the resulting economic boom led to the expansion of German industry, especially the railroads, and also the growth of many small, private companies. Following an economic crash in 1873, though, the German government began to shift away from these liberal free-trade policies, with few restrictions on imports, toward protectionist measures that introduced tariffs on imports to protect German manufacturers. While these policies gradually stabilized the economy, they also encouraged the concentration of industries into large conglomerates that were protected from foreign competition by the government.

The political structure of the Second Empire reflected Bismarck’s fundamental distrust of democratic rule in general and of various parties and groups in particular. The empire’s 25 relatively sovereign states had various forms of government. They were ruled by a Bundesrat (federal council) of princes dominated by Prussia and a Reichstag (imperial assembly) of elected deputies. The executive leader of the government, the chancellor, was responsible only to the emperor. The emperor in turn dictated all foreign policy and possessed the exclusive right to interpret the constitution. Bismarck’s autocratic scorn for parliamentary government was matched only by his anxiety over two growing political factions within the Reichstag: the Roman Catholic Center Party and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Bismarck, a Protestant, shared many German Protestants’ fears about the political power of the pope and the Catholic Church. After 1870, when the First Vatican Council enhanced papal authority by declaring the pope infallible on matters of dogma, Bismarck initiated the so-called Kulturkampf (culture struggle). This movement suggested that Catholic allegiances were not only intellectually backward but were also dangerous to German security. For most of the decade, many religious orders (especially the Jesuits) were suppressed, and disobedient priests were dismissed, imprisoned, or exiled. Ironically, the legal persecution only consolidated support for the Catholic Center Party, which doubled its popular vote in 1874. Finally, in 1879, the Kulturkampf eased, chiefly because Bismarck needed to gain the Center Party’s support against the liberals in order to pass high protective tariffs on imports.

The chancellor next turned his wrath on another powerful group with international ties, the SPD, founded in 1875. Blaming the SPD for two attempts by non-Socialists to assassinate the emperor, he had a new Reichstag elected that supported his desired tariffs and outlawed the Socialists. To forestall workers’ demands and to ensure healthy army recruits, Bismarck provided state insurance for sickness, accidents, and old age. Once again, however, Bismarck’s attempts at political suppression failed, and the outlawed SPD won a large number of seats in the election of 1890. Stunned, Bismarck prepared to abolish the constitution. However, he was suddenly dismissed by the new emperor, William II, who wished to rule in his own right and to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy.

F1c William II’s Policies

William’s foreign policy focused on expanding Germany’s colonial empire and building a massive navy. Both policies led to increased political tensions with Britain and Russia. As tensions grew, the major European countries formed opposing alliances. Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary formed the Triple Alliance in 1882. Germany considered the Triple Alliance an indispensable counterbalance to the alliances made by France, Russia, and Britain. By 1907 France, Russia, and Britain had formed the Triple Entente. In the name of the preservation of peace, Europe was now divided into two armed camps.

In contrast to his reckless foreign policy, which by its provocative military buildup increased tensions in Europe and risked war, William pursued an extremely conservative domestic policy. He allowed a few extensions of social insurance programs and trade union laws, but overall he strongly favored industrialists and large landowners. Many of these wealthy capitalists actively supported the naval buildup, as did other imperialist groups intent on an arms race with France and Britain. At the same time, the SPD continued to gain support, garnering one-third of the Reichstag vote in 1903 and becoming the largest party in the assembly in 1912. However, the nationalist parties, which disagreed with the Socialists’ opposition to the military buildup and imperial expansion, refused to work with the Socialists. Consequently, parliament was deadlocked, which enhanced the power of the aggressive emperor.

Antagonisms between the two armed camps in Europe intensified with crises in Morocco and the Balkans. In 1905 and again in 1911, William intervened in Morocco, which France claimed, in order to protect German colonial interests in Africa. Austria’s 1908 annexation of the Ottoman provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina spoiled Serbia’s hopes of gaining them.

But the spark that set off World War I was the assassination, with Serbian knowledge, of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. Following the assassination, in June 1914, Germany rashly assured Austria of full support, and the Austrians sent Serbia an ultimatum that Serbia could not accept. All the major powers then acted with headlong speed, believing that military advantage depended on rapid mobilization of their armies. Austria declared war on Serbia. Russia, an ally of Serbia, then mobilized its troops against Austria and Germany. On August 1, Germany gave Russia 12 hours to demobilize and then, receiving no answer, declared war on Russia and its ally France. Soon France and eventually Britain followed, and within days all of the major European powers were at war.

F2 World War I

The outbreak of war aroused in Germany—as in England and France—enthusiastic and naive outbursts of patriotism and dreams of romantic adventure. Devastating death tolls soon brought home the ugly reality of modern warfare to all participants. Patriotic fervor remained strong, however, even in the darkest moments of death and deprivation. Conservative members of the German military refused all efforts at a negotiated peace, extending the bloodiest war in history for a total of four years at a cost of more than 6 million German lives.

F2a Course of the War

The German high command hoped that a quick conquest of France would secure the western front and release forces to fight in the east. Avoiding the fortified French frontier, German armies moved through neutral Belgium, hoping to take Paris by surprise, but the Germans encountered greater resistance in Belgium than expected. Their violation of international law by invading Belgium brought Britain to the aid of France and destroyed all sympathy for Germany and its allies.

German forces nearly reached Paris before they were turned back at the extremely bloody Battle of the Marne in September 1914. The two sides then dug trenches for a ferocious four-year war of attrition. Meanwhile, the Russians attacked on the east, plunging Germany into a two-front war.

The Germans defeated the ill-equipped Russians several times, but they could make no headway on the western front. The Allies—as the countries fighting against Germany were called—blockaded Germany to cut off food and raw materials, causing extensive hardship and rationing of supplies. In 1916 some antiwar socialists broke from the SPD to form the Independent Social Democratic Party, but military leaders, particularly General Erich Ludendorff, dominated the government and prevented any compromise for peace. Desperate to break the blockade, the Germans declared unrestricted submarine warfare. After several American ships were sunk, the United States entered the war in April 1917. The next year, Russia, in the throes of political revolution, sued for peace, which was concluded by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. Freed in the east, the German army launched a final, all-out offensive in the west, but the Allies slowly turned the tide.

Recognizing the situation as hopeless, the German high command urged William to let a new civil government sue for peace, particularly since U.S. president Woodrow Wilson insisted on dealing with civilians. William grudgingly appointed Prince Max of Baden chancellor. While Prince Max negotiated with Wilson, fighting continued, sailors mutinied, socialists staged strikes, workers and members of the military formed Communist councils, and revolution broke out in Bavaria. On November 9, 1918, Prince Max announced the abdication of William II and his own resignation as chancellor. Prince Max handed over the government to Friedrich Ebert, leader of the SPD. That same day, Philip Scheidemann, a member of the new government, proclaimed a new republic. Germany agreed to an armistice taking effect on November 11.

F2b Treaty of Versailles

Having surrendered and changed governments, Germans expected a negotiated peace. But the Allies were determined to receive reparation for their losses and to see that their enemy was never again in a position to endanger them. Accordingly, they imposed the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles on Germany in 1919. Germany was forced to surrender Alsace-Lorraine to France and West Prussia to Poland, creating a Polish corridor between Germany and East Prussia. Germany also lost its colonies and had to give up most of its coal, trains, merchant ships, and navy. It had to limit its army and submit to occupation of the Rhineland for 15 years. Worst of all, Germany had to accept full responsibility for causing the war and, consequently, pay its total cost—more than $30 billion in gold. These last provisions particularly rankled, since Germans did not consider themselves any more guilty than anyone else and could not possibly pay all that was demanded.

The Treaty of Versailles, justifiable from the Allies’ immediate point of view, did not ensure lasting peace. Germany was neither crushed completely—as some of the victors had demanded—nor encouraged to return to the European community. Instead, by accepting the treaty, the new German government gained a bad name among it citizens and crippled its chances of success, while fueling feelings of bitterness later exploited by the Nazis.

On February 16, 1919, a national assembly, led by the SPD, met in Weimar, Thuringia, to write a new constitution. The constitution adopted on July 31, 1919, transformed the German Empire into a democratic republic, known as the Weimar Republic.

F3 The Weimar Republic (1919-1933)

The short-lived Weimar Republic has become a symbol of many things to subsequent observers. To Nazis, it embodied the humiliation of an imposed settlement and an “un-German” cosmopolitanism that they considered decadent. To post-Nazi Germans, it was a beacon of pre-Hitler democracy. Finally, to many cultural scholars, the period of the Weimar Republic was a fascinating time when the old and the new in German society collided and blended, often producing enduring works of art and literature.

F3a Politics and Government

The Weimar constitution provided all of the basic civil rights common to other democratic countries: universal suffrage and freedom of speech, of press, of movement, and of association. Although the right to private property was recognized, plans were made to nationalize several key industries. The reform-minded Friedrich Ebert of the SPD was the Republic’s first president, from 1919 to 1925. He was succeeded by the elderly war hero Paul von Hindenburg, who was president until his death in 1934.

For most Germans, the Weimar government bore the stigma of defeat. In addition, as a parliamentary government, it was opposed on principle by both conservative militarists and revolutionary socialists. Both sides, using private armies, frequently tried to overthrow the government. In 1919 the Communist Spartacists under Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg tried unsuccessfully to overturn the government, and in 1920 a much more dangerous rightist military revolt, the Kapp Putsch, was put down.

F3b Economic and Political Crises

The economic situation of Germany during the first five postwar years made the political situation even more precarious. Because Germany could not meet reparations requirements, France invaded the industrial center of the Ruhr in 1923, seizing control of all its coal deposits. The German government encouraged the workers to resist passively, and it printed vast amounts of devalued money to pay them. Before July 1922, the value of the Reichsmark had already dropped from about 4 to 493 to the dollar, but during the next 16 months it plummeted to 4.2 trillion to the dollar. The resulting inflation wiped out the savings, pensions, insurance, and other forms of fixed income of most middle-class and working-class Germans.

In 1924 the Dawes Plan was implemented to ease the German reparations burden and provide for foreign loans. The brilliant chancellor and foreign minister Gustav Stresemann reorganized the monetary system and encouraged industrial growth. For the next five years, Germany enjoyed relative peace and prosperity, gradually fulfilling its obligations under the Versailles treaty. In 1925 England, France, Italy, and Germany signed the Treaties of Locarno, which finally established the western borders of Germany and began the withdrawal of occupation forces along the Rhine. In 1926 Germany was admitted to the League of Nations.

The worldwide depression of the 1930s, however, plunged the country once more into disaster. Millions of unemployed Germans, disillusioned by capitalist democracy, turned either to the Communist Party or to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), the party of National Socialism, or Nazism. By 1930 the Nazis were the second largest party in the Reichstag.

F4 The Third Reich (1933-1945)

Probably no regime in the 20th century or any other has been so closely identified with institutionalized terror and evil as that of the Third Reich under the control of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Its rise and demise had worldwide consequences, and its legacy continued to shape the identity of Germans long afterward.

F4a Hitler and National Socialism

A failed artist and former army corporal in World War I, Adolf Hitler hated aristocrats, capitalists, Bolsheviks (Communists), and liberals, as well as Jews and other so-called non-Aryans. He had already tried to topple the government in the ill-fated “beer hall putsch” of 1923. This early abortive attempt at revolution occurred when Hitler (then chairman of the NSDAP), the right-wing general Ludendorff, and several Nazi supporters stormed a Munich beer hall and forced local political leaders to declare their support for the “national revolution.” Nazi attempts to take over the Bavarian War Ministry were quickly defeated, however, and Hitler was sentenced to five years in prison for treason.

Released after serving less than one year, he immediately rejoined the NSDAP, and in 1926 again became its leader. Hitler used his public speaking gifts to win supporters for the Nazi cause, seizing every opportunity to denounce the unpopular Weimar government as weak and decadent. He also proposed giving the jobs of Jews—whom he painted as parasitical and villainous—to deserving Germans. In return for restoring Germany’s former glory and honor, he asked for the unconditional loyalty and obedience of all patriotic Germans. To reinforce his message, his followers, brown-shirted storm troopers, sporadically harassed and attacked Communists, Jews, and other enemies of the National Socialists.

In 1927 the entire Nazi membership was only 40,000. Yet by the depths of the depression of 1932, the Nazis were the most successful party in the country, although still garnering only 38 percent of the vote. Many right-wing military and civilian leaders thought that Hitler could be effectively manipulated and so, with the backing of several prominent businessmen, they succeeded in having him named chancellor on January 30, 1933.

Their belief that Hitler would be a Nazi figurehead was soon shattered, however. To secure supreme power for himself as the nation’s Führer (leader), Hitler blamed a fire in the Reichstag building on the Communists, banned the Communist Party, and called new elections. Even in this highly coercive atmosphere, the Nazis still did not obtain an absolute majority in the new Reichstag. Nevertheless, together with their political allies, they succeeded in passing the revolutionary Enabling Act, which granted the government dictatorial powers over all aspects of German life.

F4b Totalitarian Germany

Armed with this power, Hitler set out to create a new totalitarian, nationalist empire, the Third Reich. The groundwork had been laid in the old Prussian militarist tradition and in World War I, when the military ran the government. From that foundation, Hitler proceeded with formidable efficiency. He consolidated legislative, executive, judicial, and military authority and then assumed that authority himself. He also became head of state after the death of President von Hindenburg in 1934. The Nazis combined extreme nationalism and political authoritarianism to produce a fascist state, akin to the states created in Italy by Benito Mussolini and in Spain by Francisco Franco.

All political parties except the Nazis were banned. Strikes were forbidden and the unemployed were enrolled in labor camps or the army as Germany strove to be economically self-sufficient. Unemployment plummeted from 6 million to less than 2 million by July 1935. A professional army, enlarged by conscription, was established to carry out Hitler’s plan for conquest. Hermann Wilhelm Göring oversaw the buildup of the new German air force. Paul Joseph Goebbels directed a sophisticated system of propaganda employing the mass media of publishing, film, and radio. Children were thoroughly indoctrinated at every turn, especially in groups such as the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls. Spectacular rallies were staged to galvanize the German public into support for Hitler’s agenda.

Backing up the propaganda were various bureaus of organized brutality, most notoriously the secret police, or Gestapo, and Hitler’s elite bodyguard, known as the SS (Schutzstaffel), both eventually under Heinrich Himmler. Together with other military and civilian departments, these groups had virtually free rein to arrest, torture, imprison, and execute anyone who challenged the government.

F4c The Holocaust

Already in 1933, the Nazi government had begun construction of concentration camps to imprison enemies of the regime, including political opponents, as well as Jews, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, Communists, religious dissenters, Jehovah’s Witnesses, professional criminals, and prostitutes. Many people fled the country as Nazi repression became increasingly severe, particularly after the 1935 enactment of the Nürnberg Laws, which deprived German Jews of citizenship and various civil rights. Once the international attention of the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936 had passed, Jewish firms were systematically liquidated or purchased for a fraction of their actual value. Sporadic attacks on Jewish individuals and property were also common. The most dramatic was Kristallnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”) on November 9, 1938, when Nazis and their sympathizers randomly killed more than 90 Jews, set fire to synagogues, and smashed the windows of thousands of Jewish-owned stores. Hundreds of thousands of Jews fled the country to escape persecution, but many more could not or would not leave.

When Germany occupied Poland in September 1939, Polish Jews were killed or forced into walled ghettos, where many died of starvation and illness. The conquests of France, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Denmark, Yugoslavia, and Greece brought hundreds of thousands more Jews under German rule. Following its invasion of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in June 1941, the German army sent in death squads to execute nearly 1 million Jews in Russia, Belorussia, and Ukraine.

In the growing number of concentration camps throughout the expanded German empire, Jews and other inmates were exploited as forced laborers; when no longer able to work, they were killed by gassing, shooting, or fatal injections. Inmates were also used for medical experiments. By January 1942 Hitler’s staff had formulated a “final solution” to what they called “the Jewish problem.” Extermination centers were built to kill entire populations in the most efficient manner possible; at full operation, the gas chambers and crematoria at Auschwitz and Birkenau could kill up to 9,000 people within 24 hours. By the end of the war, Jewish dead numbered between 5.6 million and 5.9 million, an unprecedented act of genocide later known as the Holocaust. Hundreds of thousands of other “inferior” or “treasonous” individuals also perished in German camps during the 12 years of the Third Reich.

F4d Opposition and Resistance

Although many people in the countries occupied by Germany collaborated with Germany’s extermination of Jews and others, there was also substantial resistance. Before invasion, Bulgaria, Hungary, Finland, and Italy refused to deport Jews to Germany. Widespread partisan resistance also existed in the occupied territories. Jews resisted with armed uprisings in Tarnow, Radom, Bedzin, and Białystok, as well as in the camp at Sobibór. For three weeks in 1943, the 65,000 Jews remaining in the Warsaw ghetto battled German police attempting a final roundup of Jews.

Within Germany, opposition to Hitler came from two different groups. The first comprised those individuals who felt a moral or philosophical repugnance to the Nazi state and thus defied it openly or passively. Many members of the German Evangelical Church formed a splinter institution known as the Confessing Church that openly opposed Nazi racism and brutality. Its leaders were imprisoned, exiled, or—as in the case of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer—executed. A number of Catholic clerics and lay people also resisted without official church support. Some students and teachers at the University of Munich formed an underground resistance movement (“The White Rose”) but were eventually apprehended and executed in April 1943. Socialists and Communists who had escaped Nazi roundups also fought the fascist government, although with negligible results.

The second type of German resistance to Hitler came from highly placed individuals who believed that Hitler’s leadership and methods had grown erratic and thus threatened Germany. This group, which included civil servants, military staff officers of various ranks, and members of the East Prussian aristocracy, engaged in a conspiracy to remove him. Their very late—and unsuccessful—attempt to kill Hitler with a bomb on July 20, 1944, led to a bloodthirsty purge and a series of especially brutal public executions.

F5 World War II
F5a Prelude to World War II

The massive destruction of World War I did not resolve the international tensions within Europe and in many ways the Treaty of Versailles made the situation worse. Germany’s revived militarism and expansionism under the Nazis were met with concern by other Europeans, but the painful memory of World War I led them to make concessions in order to avoid another violent conflict. Hitler manipulated such war weariness to Germany’s advantage as long as possible and then launched the very war that Europeans had feared.

Hitler threatened and bluffed the European powers into allowing him gradually to revise Germany’s boundaries. His goal, to unite all ethnic Germans and give them Lebensraum (living space), did not seem unreasonable to some foreign statesmen, who recognized that the Versailles treaty had been unjust. At the time, no single demand of Hitler’s seemed worth risking war to protest. In 1933 Germany left the League of Nations, and in 1935 it began to rearm—virtually unopposed—occupying the Rhineland the next year. It then signed an anti-Communist pact with Japan and made an alliance with Fascist Italy, agreements which led to the creation of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis in 1940. In 1938 Germany declared an Anschluss (union) with Austria, with little resistance from other powers or the Austrians themselves. In Munich later that year, Britain, France, and Italy signed the Munich Pact. This pact permitted Hitler to occupy the German-populated Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia in exchange for his promise that Germany would then be satisfied. The Munich Pact later became the symbol of the disastrous consequences of appeasing an aggressor.

In March 1939 Hitler broke his word and occupied the remainder of Czechoslovakia. In August, dramatically reversing his anti-Communist policy, he made a surprising nonaggression pact with the USSR; this pact contained a secret promise to split Poland between Germany and the USSR. His repeated demands for Danzig (Gdańsk) in the so-called Polish Corridor led to a Polish-British pact and Polish mobilization. On September 1, Germany invaded Poland, and Britain and France promptly declared war on Germany. World War II had begun.

F5b Course of the War

In a few weeks of Blitzkrieg (lightning war), mechanized German divisions easily overwhelmed the ill-equipped Poles, taking western Poland. The Soviets seized the eastern part. In 1940 Germany swallowed Denmark, Norway, and the Low Countries and invaded France, which rapidly collapsed. With relish, Hitler forced the French to sign an armistice in the same train car where the Treaty of Versailles had been imposed on Germany 20 years earlier. Hitler then blockaded Britain and launched air raids and bomb attacks. In 1941, to aid faltering Italian forces, he sent troops to North Africa, Greece, and Yugoslavia. Then he suddenly turned toward the east and invaded the USSR, breaking his nonaggression pact. As the Soviets retreated eastward, German armies engulfed the agriculturally rich Ukraine.

At this point, Hitler was master of continental Europe, although Britain was still resisting. In 1942 the United States entered the war after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and dramatically increased its shipments of supplies and personnel to Britain and the USSR. Hitler then ordered total mobilization of people and resources. Throughout Europe, conquered peoples, especially Slavs and Jews, were executed or enslaved in German war factories, while occupied countries were drained of food and raw materials.

By 1943 the tide had begun to turn. The German army’s supply lines in the USSR were overextended, and following Germany’s defeat at Stalingrad (modern Volgograd), the Germans were forced to retreat westward. The Allies defeated Axis forces in North Africa and invaded Italy. Meanwhile, from 1942 on, German cities and factories were systematically bombed from air bases in England, resulting in huge civilian casualties. The single-night fire bombings of Hamburg in 1943 and Dresden in 1945 caused 60,000 and 135,000 fatalities respectively. Although defeat appeared inevitable, Hitler refused to surrender. The war dragged on as British and U.S. forces invaded Normandy (Normandie) in June 1944 and swept inexorably east, while the Soviets closed in from the other front. Just before Soviet tanks rolled into Berlin in April 1945, Hitler committed suicide. Germany surrendered the following month.

F6 Life in Germany During the 20th Century
F6a Population

The most significant demographic change of the early 20th century in Germany was increased urbanization. In 1871 only 36.1 percent of the population lived in cities; by the onset of World War I, the figure had risen to more than 60 percent, with the greatest population increase occurring in cities with more than 100,000 people. The overall population of Germany also grew considerably during this period, from 45 million in 1871 to 68 million in 1915; however, the toll of the two wars was heavy. In the postwar divided Germanys, West Germany experienced its biggest growth during the 1950s, increasing from 48 million to 54 million people, while the population of East Germany remained at about 17 million. At the time of reunification in 1990, the total German population was about 82 million.

F6b Economic and Technological Developments

Germany’s massive industrial buildup during the mid-19th century continued in the 20th century. By 1914, for instance, German coal production equaled that of the world’s largest producer, Britain. Numerous German technological innovations and scientific discoveries contributed to the nation’s industrial growth. In the automobile industry, the invention by Gottlieb Daimler of the gasoline motor and power carriage were complemented by Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel’s invention of the engine that bears his name. Daimler’s partnership with Karl Benz eventually yielded the world-famous Mercedes Benz and other car lines, rivaled by models from Bavarian Motor Works (BMW) and Volkswagen. In 1900 a dirigible airship was devised by Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin. From 1901 to 1930 German scientists won 26 Nobel prizes in chemistry, physics, and medicine. Although most known for giants in quantum physics such as Albert Einstein and Max Planck, Germany’s scientific community has made numerous contributions in every area of the natural and social sciences.

F7 Two German States

On May 7, 1945, Germany presented its unconditional surrender. At the Potsdam Conference the preceding February, the Allies had divided the soon-to-be-defeated Germany into four military occupation zones—French in the southwest, British in the northwest, American in the south, and Soviet in the east. Berlin, in the Soviet sector, was also divided into four zones. Territories east of the Oder and Neisse rivers were administered either by Poland or by the Soviet Union and were eventually absorbed by those countries. In 1947 the Saar region was put under separate French administration. In 1945 and 1946 an international tribunal was held at Nürnberg to try Nazi leaders. Almost all were executed or imprisoned for war crimes and crimes against humanity (Nürnberg Trials).

The years from 1945 to 1947 were economically desperate times for all Germans. During this period, more than 10 million refugees fled or were expelled from the Soviet zone and elsewhere in the East. These people posed a grave problem in the Western zones, where food and housing were already scarce, but once economic activity revived they provided valuable labor and skills.

F7a Economic Rivalry

Britain, the United States, and eventually France distrusted the USSR, which they saw as expansionist. To counter the USSR, they sought to rebuild Germany into a major Western European power. In 1947 the U.S. and British zones were combined into one administrative unit, called Bizonia, and the French zone was later added to form Trizonia. In the Western zone, the former German currency was abolished in 1948, and a new, stable currency, the deutsche mark, was introduced. United States aid under the Marshall Plan helped revive the private economy. This was the start of the reconstruction that eventually transformed West Germany into the most prosperous country in Europe.

In the Soviet zone, a very different economic system developed. All landholdings of more than 100 hectares (250 acres) were broken up and distributed to small farmers and landless workers. Banks were nationalized. Many factories were dismantled and shipped to the Soviet Union as partial reparation for war damages. What industry remained was mostly nationalized.

F7b Political Rivalry

The Soviet Union and the United States also built rival political regimes: In the East, the Communist-dominated Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) ruled; in the Western zones, the Communist Party was banned and the dominant party was the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). In June 1948 the Soviet Union tried to force the Western powers out of Berlin by blocking all roads to the city. The United States organized an airlift that supplied West Berlin for 11 months, until the blockade was lifted in May 1949.

The practical polarization of Germany was finally legalized by the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), or West Germany, on September 21, 1949. Although Berlin was still occupied by all four allied powers, West Berlin (the American, French, and British zones) was administered as part of the republic. The Western powers granted the new state internal self-government, and it established a new provisional capital in Bonn. Konrad Adenauer, head of the CDU, was the first chancellor; Theodor Heuss was elected its first president. On October 7 the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or East Germany, was formed in the Soviet zone. For a more complete discussion of the history of that country, See East Germany.

F7c The Cold War Period

In 1952 the Western occupation powers and West Germany signed the Bonn Convention, officially ending military occupation, although Western troops remained in West Germany as allies. The Western powers also agreed to the rearmament of the country. In 1955 they granted West Germany full independence and membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) defense system. However, the former occupation powers continued their presence in West Berlin and reserved the right to deal with the Soviet Union in matters concerning German reunification.

In 1956 the West German government reintroduced military conscription, which was vigorously opposed by the Social Democratic Party (SPD). In 1958 the SPD also demanded the withdrawal of all foreign troops from both Germanys and the limitation of the German military to conventional weapons. A strong CDU showing in national elections later that year encouraged proponents of a rearmed West Germany and a strong NATO nuclear force. In 1957 the Saar returned by popular referendum to West Germany, and the country joined the European Economic Community.

Under Adenauer, West Germany was stable and prosperous. From 1951 to 1957 the gross national product rose 75 percent, with annual per capita income doubling during the same period. Industrial growth was aided by tax laws favoring business owners and by large private investment. The workforce was augmented first by a large influx of highly skilled immigrants, who were among the more than 3.5 million refugees from East Germany. Later, so-called guest workers came from Italy, Spain, and Turkey. The result was a period of rapid industrial expansion and prosperity known as the Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle). Funded by its growing industrial wealth, the government built an army and expanded the social welfare system.

The government continued to prosecute some Nazi war criminals and paid reparations to the new state of Israel, but by the 1950s some former Nazis began to return to high positions. Giant corporations with a Nazi past also continued to dominate the West German economy, particularly Krupps, Flicks, and I. G. Farben. By 1960 West Germany attained an export surplus of $1 billion. At the time of Adenauer’s retirement in 1963, West Germany was a leading political and economic force in Europe.

In East Germany the SED was in firm control, aided by the State Security Police, or Stasi. East Germany pursued a much more rigorous process of denazification than West Germany, prohibiting former Nazis from working in education, law, or the armed forces. High production quotas and food shortages led to worker revolts that were suppressed. Many dissatisfied East Germans, especially skilled workers, continued to flee to the West. In August 1961 East German authorities constructed a barrier around West Berlin, which they called an “anti-Fascist protection wall.” Within a year, barbed wire fences and ditches were replaced with the monumental stone cordon known as the Berlin Wall.

Adenauer was succeeded as West German chancellor by two other CDU leaders, Ludwig Erhard from 1963 to 1966 and Kurt Georg Kiesinger, who was supported by a CDU-SPD coalition, until October 1969. During this period, the West German government pursued a policy of constructive engagement with East Germany and the Soviet bloc known as Ostpolitik (eastern policies), aimed at improving political and trade relations. In 1968, though, a new East German constitution proclaimed the Democratic Republic a separate “socialist state of German nationality” and declared unification impossible until West Germany also became socialist. Ostpolitik was partly abandoned after East German and other Warsaw Pact forces overthrew the newly progressive government of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. The government had been moving away from the Communist system and had loosened its ties with the USSR.

In 1969 the SPD won enough votes to form a ruling coalition with the small Free Democratic Party (FDP). The new chancellor, Willy Brandt, a former mayor of Berlin, revived Ostpolitik. In 1970 he concluded a treaty with the USSR recognizing Europe’s postwar boundaries. A four-power accord on Berlin was then signed, and in 1972 East and West Germany recognized each other’s sovereignty. The next year both countries were admitted to the United Nations. In 1974 Brandt resigned when it was discovered that a member of his personal staff was an East German spy.

By the early 1980s the ruling SPD-FDP coalition—in power since Brandt’s resignation under Chancellor Helmut Schmidt—was weakened by inflation and unemployment. In 1982 the FDP decided to switch its support to the CDU. As a result, Schmidt resigned and a new chancellor, Helmut Kohl, was elected. About this time, a new fourth party, the Greens, came to prominence in the Bundestag (the lower house of parliament) on an environmental and pacifist platform. However, the ruling coalition of the CDU, the FDP, and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) continued to hold power.

In the 1980s West Germany emerged as a leading economic power, along with Japan and the United States. West German leadership in the international arena became more prominent in the late 1980s, as it supported the birth of new democracies in Eastern Europe. Kohl’s political coalition was confirmed in elections in 1983 and 1987. The two German republics achieved better relations with new financial and travel accords in 1984, and East German president Erich Honecker paid his first official visit to West Germany in 1987.

F8 Reunified Germany

In the late 1980s the Communist regimes and economies of Eastern Europe showed increasing signs of strain, and wide-ranging democratic reforms were instituted in many of these countries. Hungary and other Soviet-bloc countries began to ease travel restrictions to the West, prompting several thousand East Germans to emigrate to West Germany via these socialist nations. By October 1989 the East German government was in crisis; President Honecker resigned and his successor, Egon Krenz, promised reform. Finally, on November 9, the government wearily admitted that the Berlin Wall no longer served any function.

Jubilant East and West Germans attacked the wall, tearing much of it down, and more than 200,000 East Germans streamed into West Germany. The West German government provided aid to the new immigrants and a massive infusion of capital to the ailing East German economy. Interim governments in East Germany pressed for union with West Germany as a means of stabilizing the country’s disintegrating social and economic structures. In July 1990 West Germany and East Germany merged their financial systems.

In many ways, this introduction of the West German mark into East Germany was a prime example of the somewhat unbalanced relationship between the two Germanys during the course of unification. In every case where a decision was made on whether to follow the way of the East or the way of the West, the West was chosen. It came to seem as if East Germany had been defeated by its sister nation and was being systematically dismantled. This situation caused growing friction between East and West, both during and after the reunification process.

Actual reunification was achieved on October 3, 1990. East Germany officially dissolved, and all of its citizens became citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany. The first all-German elections were held in December, with the coalition led by Helmut Kohl scoring a decisive victory. On June 20, 1991, the newly elected Bundestag, representing both East and West, named Berlin the new capital of Germany. The transfer of administration from Bonn was largely completed by the end of 1999, although some government offices remained in Bonn.

In October 1993 a unified Germany became the 12th and final nation to ratify the Treaty on European Union, also known as the Maastricht Treaty. This treaty created the European Union (EU) from what had been the European Community. The members of the EU were committed to a common economic and foreign policy. In 1993 Germany also renewed its bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. A major roadblock to achieving this status was removed in July 1994, when a German constitutional court decided that the German military could participate in UN peacekeeping operations outside of NATO.

A historic moment occurred in August 1994 as the last Russian troops left Berlin, signaling the conclusion of a complete pullout from Eastern Europe by the former Soviet Union after almost 50 years of occupation. Eight days later, the final 200 Allied troops also left Berlin, marking the first time since World War II that the city had not been host to foreign troops.

F9 Adaptations to Reunification

While Die Wende (the change) brought together long-separated families and friends, it also brought numerous economic and social problems to Germany. These included housing shortages, unemployment, and increases in crime and right-wing violence against foreigners, and led to strikes and demonstrations.

Initially, especially in the autumn of 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell, Germany experienced universal euphoria. But the practical aspects of integrating the two countries were complex. The policies of Kohl’s administration did not address the complexities; instead, they simply imposed West German practices onto the East. As a result, two large problems emerged.

The first major problem was the cost. Providing goods and services to the eastern part of the country proved a severe strain for western Germany. Western Germany lost more money than expected, while eastern Germany did not get appreciably richer. Large transfers of capital from the west to the east to improve the infrastructure of the former GDR led to budget deficits. These deficits were made worse by an economic recession, which the government fought by cutting social services, increasing taxes, and reducing government subsidies. The government also privatized industries in the east that were too costly to support.

Unification increased the market for consumer products, but it also significantly affected the strength and competitiveness of the German economy. Many of the industries in the east, used to being protected under the Communist system, were far too inefficient to be competitive in Western markets. To bring these industries up to speed required time and capital, which slowed the German economy overall. Public and private investment sought to bridge the gulf between the two Germanys in standards of living, industrial performance, and infrastructure, but the task remained immense.

The second large, overriding problem was the anger of the relatively poor eastern Germans whose way of life was being destroyed. As eastern state industries were closed and sold, hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs. Many also lost their homes under a new law permitting the repossession of land or property that could be proved to have been illegally confiscated by the Nazi or Communist governments. Salaries in the east remained lower than western salaries for exactly the same jobs, and state pensions were also lower. Eastern television and radio stations, periodicals, and familiar consumer products disappeared. Most important of all, the unemployment rate in the east was several times higher than the prevailing rate in the west. In the port city of Rostock, unemployment was particularly high. Rostock had been East Germany’s largest port; with unification, it could not compete with the major western ports of Hamburg and Kiel, and most of its workforce lost their jobs.

The political past of East Germany continued to trouble the unified nation. In 1991 each East German citizen won the right to see his or her complete file that had been compiled by the East German Stasi. Many people learned that they had been betrayed by close friends and associates; many others who had been informers were overcome with guilt. It also came out that the East German secret police had hired West Germans to track and kill defectors and critics of the East German government. Erich Honecker, who had found asylum in the Chilean embassy in Moscow, was returned to Berlin to face political charges in July 1992. The charges were later suspended due to Honecker’s poor health, and he died in 1994. In 1997 Egon Krenz and two codefendants were given prison terms for their roles in the deaths of East Germans who had attempted to flee to the West before 1989. The defendants were responsible for giving border guards shoot-to-kill orders, which led to nearly 600 deaths between 1961 and 1989.

F10 Recent Events

Enormous social changes and economic fears also contributed to problems of xenophobia and attacks on foreigners. Since the end of World War II, West Germany had addressed its often acute labor shortage by permitting immigrants to live and work there. Guest workers, many from Turkey and Italy, worked full-time and brought families to West Germany, but they were not allowed to become citizens. By the 1990s Germany had nearly 2 million guest workers. In addition, 440,000 people seeking political asylum entered the country in 1992, an increase of 71 percent from 1991. Of these, almost a third were from the former Yugoslavia.

These groups became the target of attacks, often by neo-Nazi and other illegal right-wing groups. In 1992 there were about 2,300 attacks on foreigners, and 17 people were killed. Although the number of attacks declined the next year, the activities of right-wing groups continued. The German government responded with a strict crackdown on such groups, particularly in the eastern states, but it also revised its liberal asylum policy in 1993. Despite these measures, antiforeigner violence continued, with hundreds of attacks recorded annually throughout the 1990s. About half of all such attacks occurred in the east, which is home to just one-fifth of the nation’s population.

In the national elections of October 1994, Kohl’s coalition government of the CDU, CSU, and FDP retained its majority in the Bundestag, but saw it sharply reduced from a margin of 134 seats to just 10. Kohl was reelected chancellor for his fourth consecutive term, and in 1996 he surpassed Adenauer as the longest-serving chancellor in postwar Germany.

In early 1997 Germany’s unemployment rate reached 12.2 percent, its highest level since World War II. Among the reasons cited for the increase were an economic downturn, cold weather that hampered the construction industry, and high wages. These economic difficulties underlined the challenges Germany faced in meeting the strict economic criteria outlined in the Maastricht Treaty for adopting the euro, the new single currency of the European Union. Many Germans worried that efforts to meet the qualifying criteria, which included low annual budget deficits and low rates of inflation, could further weaken the German economy. Facing a growing budget deficit, Chancellor Kohl announced plans to cut Germany’s welfare system by billions of dollars. His proposal, which called for reducing unemployment and sick-pay benefits, drew immediate protests from labor unions and the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Despite austerity measures and cuts in spending, German unemployment continued to rise throughout 1997, and there were growing calls in Germany to postpone or even abandon the move to the euro in 1999. Kohl continued to firmly back the new single currency, even as his popularity declined over his seeming inability to end spiraling unemployment and growing inflation. In September, only a year before national elections, Kohl was faced with an 18.3 percent unemployment rate in the former East Germany. Although traditionally the east tended to support Kohl’s governing coalition, this high unemployment was seen as a potential disaster for Kohl in the coming 1998 election as dissatisfaction with his policies grew.

In February 1998 the German unemployment rate hit a new high of 12.6 percent for the nation as a whole and 21.1 percent in eastern Germany. This prompted large protests from unemployed workers throughout the country, many of whom called for Kohl’s replacement. In May 1998 Germany officially agreed to adopt the euro as a new single European currency. The euro was scheduled to be phased in between 1999 and 2002.

As the September 1998 elections approached, Kohl’s popularity continued to fall while unemployment remained stubbornly high. In the elections, Kohl and his CDU/CSU coalition were swept from office by the Social Democratic Party of Gerhard Schröder. The SPD gained 46 additional seats in the 669-seat Bundestag, winning a total of 298. Kohl’s ruling coalition lost 49 seats to finish with 245. Shortly after the election, the SPD formed a coalition with the environmentalist Green Party, which had the third strongest showing in the election. The Green Party’s 47 seats gave Schröder a total of 345, ten more than he needed for a majority. This Red-Green coalition, as it came to be called, marked the first time that the Green Party had entered Germany’s national government.

The new government’s legislative program called for reducing taxes for low-income families, restructuring the military, easing the process by which immigrants can become German citizens, and, perhaps most controversially, closing nuclear power plants in Germany. Schröder said his top priority would be to reduce Germany’s high unemployment.

In December 1999 representatives of German government and industry announced plans to establish a $5.2 billion compensation fund for people who worked as slave laborers and forced laborers in Nazi-era Germany. The announcement came after months of negotiations between German representatives, Jewish groups, and the United States government. More than 1 million people were expected to be eligible to receive compensation from the fund.

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London, England


londonLondon (England), city, capital of the United Kingdom. London is situated in southeastern England along the Thames River. With a population of about 7 million, this vast metropolis is by far the largest city in Europe, a distinction it has maintained since the 17th century. In the 19th century it was the largest and most influential city in the world, the center of a large and prosperous overseas empire. Although it no longer ranks among the world’s most populous cities, London is still one of the world’s major financial and cultural capitals.

By European standards, London is physically spread out and dispersed, without a predominant focal point. It therefore defies easy general description, as the city’s character is found in its diverse and distinct sections. Many of these sections began as separate villages, and today they maintain some of their individual identities. London’s image is partly defined by its past, as its major buildings and institutions represent 2000 years of community history. Its image is also the product of a new multiethnic mix of people and the creative impulse of the new popular culture of “Cool Britannia,” a phrase Britain’s promoters conceived in the mid-1990s to portray Britain as modern and trendy.

London’s climate is generally mild and damp, although it can be erratic. This region is one of the driest parts of Britain, and the average annual rainfall is only 750 mm (30 in). However, the weather is generally cloudy, and some rain is liable to fall on half the days of the year. With a mean temperature in July of about 18° C (about 64° F), London has warmer summers than most of the island, although heat waves are infrequent and seldom last long. Temperatures rarely go above 26° C (78° F). Winters are relatively frosty, however, and the mean temperature in January is 4° C (40° F). Fog frequently develops in winter. In the past, foggy days were aggravated by smoke, resulting in London’s traditional “pea-soupers.” However, since the use of coal has significantly declined, these have largely disappeared.


city of londonLondon’s metropolitan area extends for more than 30 miles at its widest point, covering some 1610 sq km (620 sq mi). This vast urban territory is divided into 33 political units—32 boroughs and the City of London. At the core of this immense urban area is Central London. Most of Central London is located north of the Thames, on a gentle slope that rises to the north. It contains about 12 of the 33 political units, including the City of London, the City of Westminster, and districts in the West End. The City of London is the traditional heart of the city and stands as its own political unit. The City of Westminster is the seat of the national government. Much of the outer portion of this huge conglomeration of people and activities is made up of low-rise residential development.

A The City of London

The historical center of London is now a relatively small area still known as the City, which covers only about 2.6 sq km (about 1 sq mi). The City is capitalized, to distinguish it from the larger metropolis. This is where London began as a Roman colonial town around ad 50, at the point where the Romans built the first bridge in London. Today this area is one of the world’s leading financial centers. Most of the financial activities are crowded along Threadneedle Street, near the intersection known as the Bank, which includes the huge Bank of England complex, the Royal Exchange, and the Stock Exchange. The permanent residential population of the City is now less than 6000, but about 350,000 commute here daily to work. The only large residential portion of the City is the Barbican Centre, a concrete complex of towers, parking garages, and pedestrian walkways located on the northern edge of the City. The Barbican was built to replace older buildings destroyed in World War II (1939-1945), when the Germans heavily bombed London.

Some of the City’s older elegance and significance remains despite the architectural havoc caused by the Blitz and postwar developers. The most prominent landmark is Saint Paul’s Cathedral, designed by English architect Christopher Wren to replace the original church, which was destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666. At the City’s eastern boundary is the Tower of London, where the Crown imprisoned many important figures. It was begun in the 11th century by the Norman invader, William the Conqueror, to awe a city he had not completely conquered. Successive monarchs added to the original, central White Tower, and built walls to enclose the 7-hectare (18-acre) site. Its function now is primarily ceremonial, although it still guards the Crown Jewels.

Some of the City’s traditional functions have disappeared. The newspaper industry was concentrated in the Fleet Street area for centuries, but during the 1980s the Times and other papers moved to highly automated quarters at the Docklands in the East End. The old wholesale fish market, Billingsgate, located for centuries on the river between the Tower and London Bridge, also moved to the Docklands.

B The City of Westminster

The City of Westminster, about two miles upstream from the City of London, emerged as England’s political and religious center of power after the 11th century. At the heart of Westminster is Westminster Abbey, begun by Edward the Confessor in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 13th century. It has always been closely associated with the monarchy and is used for such state occasions as coronations and royal funerals. It is also a giant mausoleum, and more than 3000 notable people are buried there. Statues and monuments line the magnificent nave. Virtually across the street are the Houses of Parliament, officially called the New Palace of Westminster. Farther west is the monarch’s permanent residence in London, Buckingham Palace.

To the north, Trafalgar Square links the political and religious section of Westminster to the rest of west London. This square is a modest version of the great ceremonial squares of Europe, and was built in dedication to British naval commander Viscount Horatio Nelson, whose monument is at the square’s center. It has long been a popular site for large-scale political demonstrations. Some significant buildings, such as the National Gallery, are on the square. On the northeast corner is Saint Martin-in-the-Fields, the classical-style church designed by James Gibbs in the 1720s.

C The West End

london west endTo the west and north of Trafalgar Square is the West End, which is usually regarded as the center of town because it is London’s shopping and entertainment hub. The busiest shopping area is Oxford Street, where such large department stores as Selfridges, John Lewis, and Marks and Spencer are located. Other well-known shopping areas include Knightsbridge, the location of Harrods department store; and Piccadilly, where Fortnum and Mason specializes in fine food. The main entertainment attractions are scattered throughout the Soho and Covent Garden sections, northeast of Piccadilly. Soho and Covent Garden were created as residential areas in the 17th century, but now are home to shops, theaters, and street entertainers. The Royal Opera House and most of London’s 40 or so major theaters are here, as are the large movie houses, and hundreds of restaurants, cafés, and bars.

Located just west of Soho and Covent Garden in the West End is a more residential area. Much of the urban design here is based on the residential square, an imitation of European precedents, with uniform houses built around an open space. The houses on these squares were often built for the aristocracy and the upper middle class. The relatively dense development of this area is broken up by a series of Royal Parks, areas once owned by the Crown, including Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, and Regent’s Park.

In the northern part of the West End is Bloomsbury, the city’s traditional intellectual center, with its concentration of bookshops and homes of writers and academics. In the early 20th century a number of famous writers, critics, and artists who lived here became known as the Bloomsbury Group. Here, too, is the British Museum, one of London’s chief tourist attractions. Nearby is the giant complex of the University of London, whose various colleges and departments have taken over much of Bloomsbury.

D The East End and Docklands

east end londonThe East End, beyond the City of London and the Tower, has long been the home of London’s docks and immigrants. It has frequently been characterized by slums, poverty, and crime. This is the area where the notorious criminal Jack the Ripper prowled. Some portions, such as Bethnal Green, were slums during the Victorian period. Many poorer immigrants and working-class Londoners still reside in the East End, but its weekend street markets are very popular, especially Petticoat Lane, which runs along the length of Middlesex Street. Although Middlesex Street is no longer the center of the clothing trade, its merchandise is still geared toward apparel. Much of the old dockyard area has been abandoned and is being redeveloped as the Docklands, an ambitious project designed to lure London’s financial activities away from the congested City. The heart of the Docklands is the Isle of Dogs, a peninsula where the Royal Kennels were once situated.

E North London

north londonNorth London was made up of satellite villages until the 19th century when the underground railroad (known locally as the Tube) opened this area up to development. Camden Town, on Regent’s Canal, has a popular weekend market that sells inexpensive clothing and jewelry. Farther north are elegant 18th-century villages, such as Hampstead, a center for writers; and Highgate, renowned for London’s best-known cemetery, which includes the grave and a large bust of Karl Marx. A central fixture of north London is the 324-hectare (800-acre) Hampstead Heath, a large public park.

F South London

south londonThe area south of the Thames has long been regarded with disdain by the rest of the city. For centuries Southwark, originally the area around the southern end of London Bridge, was the disreputable entertainment center of London, with brothels, bars, and theaters outside of the City’s jurisdiction. The sacred and the profane lived in close proximity here. Not far from the infamous Bankside, where brutal sports like cockfighting and bearbaiting took place, was the beautiful Southwark Cathedral, which dates from the 13th century. Bankside was also the location of Elizabethan theaters, which were restricted in the City because they were considered places of vice. One of these, the Globe Theatre, where William Shakespeare put on his greatest plays, was recently reconstructed.

Farther along the river to the west is the South Bank Centre cultural complex, begun as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951. The Festival of Britain was a vehicle for lifting the spirits of Londoners after the trials of World War II. The most important building in the center is the Royal Festival Hall, a concert hall that was built for the festival. The Royal National Theatre and the National Film Theatre are also part of the South Bank Centre.


The population of metropolitan London in mid-1996 was about 7 million, which represents about 12 percent of Britain’s total population of 58.8 million. The population has declined since 1951, when more than 8 million people lived in London. Since 1985, however, the city has been growing at the rate of about 10,000 people per year. London’s population is heavily concentrated by British and North American standards, with a population density of about 4480 persons per sq km (about 11,400 per sq mi).

London has always attracted immigrants from Britain’s towns and villages. In the mid-19th century, half of the people of London had been born outside the city. During the Irish Famine of the 1840s, there was an influx of people from Ireland. At the turn of the century, Eastern European Jews settled in the East End. Chinese immigrants settled near the docks in the East End during the late 19th century, creating a Chinatown at Limehouse. More recently, Chinese immigrants, mostly from Hong Kong, have formed the highly visible Chinatown in the Soho area of the West End.

Since World War II, two groups of immigrants have transformed London into one of the most multiethnic capitals in Europe. One of these groups is usually referred to simply as “Asian,” and refers to those who originally came from the Indian subcontinent. The 525,000 people in this diverse group speak many languages—Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu—and belong to several religions, such as Hinduism, Islam, or Sikh. Some of these subgroups are associated with particular districts or professions. Southall, near Heathrow Airport, is primarily Punjabi, with Sikhs forming the largest religious group. They have established the largest Asian shopping district in London, centering on The Broadway and South Road. The Bangladeshis have congregated in Spitalfields in the East End where they specialize in the garment industry and the catering trades. Many Asians have started their own businesses, purchased and renovated older terrace housing (row houses), and entered professions in law, medicine, and finance.

A second influential group is the black population, which represents about 425,000 people, mostly from the Caribbean, but recently also from African countries such as Somalia and Ethiopia. During the late 1940s Jamaicans were the first and largest group to emigrate from the Caribbean. They tended to settle in south London, notably in Brixton, which still has a large black community. Jamaicans are also noted for their distinctive Rastafarian culture, made popular by reggae artists such as Bob Marley. Immigrants from Trinidad, Dominica, and Saint Lucia reside in Notting Hill, once one of the West End’s most run-down areas, but now one of London’s trendiest multicultural neighborhoods. Other areas with significant black populations are Hackney and Harringay in northeast London.

A Institutions of Higher Learning

Although Britain’s most prestigious universities are located outside London, the city attracts large numbers of students seeking postsecondary education and has a vast array of colleges, universities, academies, and institutes. The centrepiece of this educational establishment is the University of London in Bloomsbury, founded in 1836. It is made up of a number of colleges, schools, and attached institutes, which range from the London School of Economics and Political Science to King’s College and several medical schools. Lesser-known universities in London include Kingston University and the University of Westminster. London is also the home of a host of related institutions offering advanced education in the fine arts, such as the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the Royal College of Music, the Royal Ballet School, and the London Contemporary Dance School.

B Performing Arts

London is one of the world’s great centers for classical and popular culture. It has enjoyed a reputation for superb theater since the time of Shakespeare in the 16th century. The variety ranges from the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Centre and the Royal National Theatre at the South Bank Centre, to the West End’s commercial theaters. Major musicals, such as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera and Cats, dominate the West End scene. Classic and contemporary works are also presented in places such as the Drury Lane Theatre.

royal opera houseThe lavish Royal Opera House is the home of the Royal Opera Company and the Royal Ballet, while the English National Opera performs operas in English at the London Coliseum, and the Spitalfields Market Opera brings chamber opera to this East End area. Regular seasons of classical and modern dance are performed by the Royal Ballet, the English National Ballet, the London Contemporary Dance Theatre, the Rambert Dance Company, and several others. The sheer number of symphony orchestras is impressive and includes the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, as well as smaller ensembles such as the English Chamber Orchestra and the Academy of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields. Some of the most well-known concert halls in the world provide venues for the cornucopia of performances in London. These halls include the large Royal Festival Hall in the South Bank Centre, the Barbican Concert Hall, the splendid iron-and-glass-domed Royal Albert Hall, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, and Wigmore Hall, known for its excellent acoustics. Free lunchtime concerts are given in a number of historic churches, such as Saint Martin-in-the-Fields and Saint Mary-le-Bow.

The popular music scene in London is dynamic and in a constant state of flux. Major performances take place in some of the larger concert halls, others in megavenues, such as Earl’s Court and Wembley Arena, when major bands come to London on world tours. Examples of the diverse offerings in the 1990s include jazz at Ronnie Scott’s, indie rock (music produced on independent labels) at the Amersham Arms, world music at the Africa Centre, and dozens of dance clubs. Black musicians are a significant force in British popular music. Not only are black bands an important part of the London dance scene, but black musicians promote reggae music and British versions of American soul music. There are also radio stations devoted to music by black artists.

C Museums and Galleries

british museumLondon itself is a living museum, with more than 2000 years of history and culture. But it also boasts one of the greatest concentrations of significant museums (more than 100) of any city in the world. The jewel in this cultural crown is the British Museum, with 4 km (2.5 mi) of galleries and more than 4 million exhibits. Its collections range from Egyptian and classical antiquities to exhibits on Roman and Anglo-Saxon Britain, China, Japan, India, and Mesopotamia. The Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington displays an important and varied collection of applied arts. Decorative arts on display range from tapestries, furniture, and sculptures to paintings, clothing, and metalwork. Across the street are the Natural History Museum with its dinosaurs, and the Science Museum, which includes a renowned section on the history of medicine. The Museum of London, next to the City’s Barbican Centre, effectively introduces visitors to London’s history by walking them through successive eras chronologically.

London is a major repository of the greatest Western art and a creative center for contemporary artists. The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square contains Britain’s premier art collection, with holdings from every major European art school. Next door is the National Portrait Gallery, with thousands of striking portraits of Britons, both the well known and the unfamiliar. The Tate Gallery contains the principal collection of British art and modern international art. The smaller Courtauld Institute Galleries specialize in works by impressionists and postimpressionists. Commercial galleries exhibit the best of what is currently being produced in London and internationally, such as the Saatchi Collection in Saint John’s Wood, a growing contemporary collection established in a former warehouse; and Flowers East in the East End, which features artwork by young British artists.

Other specialty museums are the National Army Museum; the Theatre Museum, which traces the history of the performing arts; and the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI), focused on the history of film and with a vast array of motion pictures and moviemaking equipment. Some excellent smaller museums are Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, based on this eccentric and talented architect’s own home and drawings, and the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood, which specializes in dolls and toys.

D Cultural Events

Annual cultural events demonstrate a broad range of interests among Londoners. The best known of the classical music festivals is the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts (“the Proms”). Held in the Royal Albert Hall from July to September, they have been a London tradition for more than a hundred years. A wide selection of classical works is offered, at relatively low prices, ending with the celebrated “Last Night at the Proms,” when concertgoers can indulge their nostalgia for the former British Empire by belting out “Rule Britannia,” “Land of Hope and Glory,” or “Jerusalem.” Other annual events are the six-week Dance Umbrella, featuring new works by young artists and choreographers; the London Film Festival, held at cinemas throughout the city every November, which features the best new films from around the world; and the Soho Jazz Festival every fall.

Notting Hill CarnivalOne of London’s most popular public events is the Notting Hill Carnival, held each year during the August Bank Holiday (last weekend in August). This Caribbean street festival originated out of dance parties organized in the 1950s by Trinidadians. The festival features dozens of bands playing soca, soul, and reggae music and Caribbean food sold on the streets. Costume parades are the main attraction. More than a million revelers take part in the festival, making this one of the largest street festivals in the world.

E Recreation

While London is intensively built up, it has a plentiful supply of green space set aside for parks, playgrounds, and sports fields. The largest open space in central London is Hyde Park and its western extension, Kensington Gardens. At the northeast corner of Hyde Park is Marble Arch, which originally stood in front of Buckingham Palace. Separating Hyde Park from Kensington Gardens is the Serpentine, a lake created for boating and swimming. Directly to the east, two other Royal Parks, Green Park and Saint James’s Park, provide a continuous stretch of greenbelt ending at the heart of Westminster. Other major parks include Battersea Park, with many activities for children; Hampstead Heath, with its expanse of grassland and woodland; and Regent’s Park, where the London Zoo is located.

Sports are big business in London. Football, the sport known as soccer in the United States, draws huge crowds for matches between two north London rivals, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. The Football Association Cup Final is held annually at Wembley Stadium, which is scheduled to be replaced with a new 90,000-seat facility by 2004. World-class tennis takes place on the grass courts at Wimbledon each summer, and Lord’s, the home of English cricket, hosts the international Test matches between England and its former colonies.


London is at the heart of Britain’s economy. More than one-third of Britain’s population and economic activity is concentrated in southeastern England, in and around London. The annual size of London’s economy, estimated in 1997 to be about $122 billion, is comparable to the economies of industrialized nations. More than a hundred of the world’s major companies have their headquarters in London.

What Londoners do for a living has changed considerably since the city was a commercial and industrial center in the 19th century. Manufacturing has steadily declined and today accounts for only 10 percent of total employment. The printing and publishing industry is now a leading employer. Also important are electrical and electronic engineering; food, drink, and tobacco; and chemicals and synthetic fibers.

Far more important is the services sector, which employs 85 percent of London’s workforce. This is led by financial and business services concentrated in the City and, to a lesser extent, in the rejuvenated Docklands business district. London is a major global financial center, rivaled only by Tokyo and New York. It leads other cities in the number of international banks, the amount of foreign lending, the activity of the foreign exchange market, and the size of its international insurance business. Many banks are clustered around the Bank of England, insurance companies around Lloyd’s of London, and stockbrokers around the London Stock Exchange.

london stock exchangeBritish companies traditionally focused their services on only one of these activities. However, with the deregulation of the London Stock Exchange in 1986, known as the Big Bang, many large integrated merchant banking and securities companies arrived from abroad to offer a variety of financial services. In response, London merchant banks, such as Warburg’s, joined with stockbrokers and foreign banks in new “financial supermarkets” that are able to provide a range of services to customers under one roof.

Tourism is another important part of the services sector. London attracts more than 24 million visitors annually, more than half of them from outside the country. Serving tourists is thought to employ at least 300,000 Londoners.

London is the hub of the national transport system of arterial roads, motorways, railway lines, and air connections. Port facilities left the traditional Docklands area starting in the late 1960s for newer accommodations that spread out along the Thames all the way to the river’s estuary on the North Sea, in what is known as the East Thames Corridor. The new Port of London, the largest port in Britain, has 84 independently operated wharves and terminals that handle more than 50 million tons of imports and exports annually. Four airports serve the city: Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest international airports, to the west; Gatwick to the south; Stansted to the northeast; and City Airport, to the east, for business travelers to continental Europe. London’s internal transportation system is one of the most extensive in the world. According to London Transport, the public body that operates the transit system, in 1995 and 1996 almost a million people traveled into central London each weekday morning, 83 percent of them by public transport. Of these commuters by public transport, 40 percent traveled by British Rail, the rest on London Transport’s network of buses and underground trains.


Westminster londonLondon is identified with the center of British government as represented by the concentration of power in Westminster. Ironically, London itself has had a rather uneasy relationship with the central government since William the Conqueror guaranteed the City a degree of autonomy by not making the citizens change the way they ran the City when he took power; he did not want to upset his position by going against the citizens of the strongest city in England.

Efforts to deal with the problems of a greatly expanded community in the 19th century began with the creation of the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1855, which provided the different neighborhoods with common services such as sewerage, fire services, parks, and slum clearance. The next stage was the establishment of the London County Council (LCC) in 1889 (whose jurisdiction did not include the City). The LCC eventually expanded to include public ownership of such services as gas, water, electricity, and transport. The LCC was replaced in 1965 by the Greater London Council (GLC) when the present system of 32 borough councils plus the City of London was set up. In this two-tiered system, local boroughs set property tax rates and were responsible for housing, local planning, local parks, and other local issues. The top tier, the GLC, handled overall planning, traffic control, roads, sewage, garbage disposal, and protected heritage sites.

Tension between the national government and London’s government increased dramatically after Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was elected in 1979. She often clashed with the GLC, which was dominated by the Labour Party. Led by Ken Livingstone (nicknamed “Red Ken” by London newspapers), the GLC spent money on the arts, on improvement projects in ethnic neighborhoods, and on subsidized fares for public transport. Livingstone was one of the loudest critics of Thatcher’s economic policies. Thatcher retaliated against what she perceived as the GLC’s wasteful spending by abolishing it in 1986, leaving each of the 33 separate units to operate by themselves. Any larger-scale coordination of the Greater London area was in the hands of the central government itself.

Since the defeat of the Conservatives in 1997, the new Labour government headed by Tony Blair has moved to restore London’s municipal autonomy. In a referendum in May 1998 Londoners overwhelmingly favored the government’s proposals for a Greater London Authority, with a mayor elected to a four-year term and a 25-member elected assembly, to run the city. In May 2000, Ken Livingstone, the former head of the Greater London Council, was elected mayor of London in a landslide.


Like everything else about London, its current problems are also immense. The most obvious is the growing social polarization of the rich and the poor. The unemployment rate in London in 1996 was 10%, compared to the national unemployment average of about 7% for the United Kingdom. Much of this unemployment is a result of the decline in manufacturing jobs and manual and unskilled labor work, as substantial employment growth takes place in sectors such as advertising, marketing, and computing, which require technical and professional skills.

Recent government policies have accentuated the situation. As in other Western nations, cutting taxes has enriched a growing middle class and led to a consumer boom. But lower taxes have also meant less government spending on health, welfare, and public housing, which has weakened Britain’s welfare state. The spending cuts in the social welfare areas have accentuated class differences, and the disparity is evident when contrasting expensive new developments like the Docklands with the decaying public housing complexes that have not been maintained to the proper standards. It remains to be seen whether national and metropolitan policies will attempt to bridge the growing gap between those who do and don’t benefit from the new prosperity.

Another issue is London’s decaying physical infrastructure. London has an aging and crumbling housing stock, more than a third of which were built before 1919, and some 232,000 dwellings do not meet government standards for human habitation. London has one of the most comprehensive bus and underground systems in the world, moving some 6.2 million passengers daily, but parts of the system are old and poorly maintained, leading more people to use cars. Since London was primarily built before the automobile age, its streets cannot handle the increased traffic. According to the Times of London, the average speed of traffic in the morning rush hour has dropped from 23 km/h (14 mph) in the mid-1970s to 18 km/h (11 mph) in the mid-1990s. Solutions include a massive reinvestment in public transport, and changing many streets from one-way to two-way traffic, rather than building freeways to handle the increased automobile traffic.

A Roman and Saxon London

London was founded as a communications center by the Romans shortly after they invaded Britain in AD 43. Known as Londinium, the town was located at the northern end of the bridge the Romans had built across the Thames, on a route to their provincial capital at Colchester in eastern England. Londinium’s rectangular plan was typical of Roman colonial towns, with two main streets intersecting at the large basilica, or public building, about where the Bank of England stands today. Other elements of the urban fabric were a forum, a temple complex, a governor’s palace, a wharf along the river for landing, a large fort (portions of which can still be seen at the Barbican Centre), and a great wall, built about ad 200, which roughly enclosed the area that later became the City.

The Romans withdrew from London and Britain in the early 5th century, and little is known about the city until the Saxons, under Alfred the Great, regained the city from Danish invaders in the 9th century. At the end of the Saxon period, which lasted until the 11th century, London’s population is estimated to have been between 10,000 and 12,000, about a third of what it had been under the Romans. London’s commercial role depended on its strategic location between the wool-growing areas of England, which were located north of London and in East Anglia, and the manufacturing towns of the Netherlands. The foundations for some of London’s most enduring features were laid during the Saxon years. One such feature, London’s various and unique neighborhoods, resulted from the Saxons modifying the Romans’ orderly street pattern into an informal settlement made up of scattered villages. And the twin poles of the future London, with the monarchy and government in the west (Westminster) and business in the east (the City), hail back to the last Saxon king, Edward the Confessor. He moved his palace two miles west of the walled city to be near the church he was building, Westminster Abbey.

B Medieval London

The Norman conquest in 1066 set the stage for mixing French into London’s Saxon character. William the Conqueror, who had himself crowned William I of England, built a great tower “against the fickleness of the vast and fierce population.” The original portion, the 27-m (90-ft) stone White Tower, was whitewashed to intensify its dramatic appearance. It was both a royal residence and a jail for political prisoners. The tower’s Romanesque style, with its rounded arches, still conveys a sense of solidity and strength. William also guaranteed the city would retain the rights and privileges it had under the Saxons, such as its local court system run by elders.

During this period, London emerged as the English capital and as an active commercial city on the fringe of the northern European trading system. The commercial City, where most people lived and worked, filled in the walled area of the old Roman site. The monarchy and court resided at Westminster, connected to the City by the Strand, which later developed into a major street. In 1300 London’s total population was probably about 35,000, less than half that of Paris, the largest city in Europe. In the 1340s about a third of London’s residents fell victim to the Black Death (bubonic plague), but the population recovered to about 40,000 by 1500.

London’s place in the international wool trade led many foreign traders to take up residence in the City: Danes, Germans, Flemings, and especially northern Italians, who established themselves as bankers. Local trade was concentrated in two large markets, Cheapside (cheap was the Saxon word for “market”), a general produce market, and Eastcheap, a market for fish and meat. Side streets specialized in products still remembered by names such as Milk Street, Bread Street, Poultry Lane, and Ironmonger’s Lane. The main fish market was at Billingsgate quay on the river.

During this period, artisans started organizing into guilds, which not only set standards for their particular craft but helped and protected their artisans. Along with the merchants, the guilds effectively governed the City and regulated its trade. The first mention of a mayor dates back to 1189. A Common Council, a group of citizens that met regularly with the city elders on common affairs, dates from the 14th century. The seat of civic government for the City was, and still is, the Guildhall, whose current building dates to the 15th century.

The bustling commercial city was also an actively religious community. At Westminster, the original Romanesque Westminster Abbey was replaced in stages in the 13th century by the present magnificent French Gothic structure (see Gothic Art and Architecture). In the City, the Old Saint Paul’s Cathedral was greatly enlarged during the 13th century, with a spire rising to more than 140 m (450 ft). There were small parish churches on almost every street. Dozens of monasteries, set in large grounds, dominated many parts of the city. Convents and hospitals of various orders were located in the suburbs.

The medieval labyrinth of London was characterized by narrow, congested streets lined with tiny shops and houses built of wood and plaster, with second stories jutting out beyond the ground floor. This tendency to cluster into crowded spaces even applied to London Bridge, which was considerably more than just a river crossing. A new stone bridge was begun in 1176 to replace the old wooden bridge that had been repaired and rebuilt multiple times over the preceding 1000 years. The new bridge was crowded with houses and shops and even a chapel.

C Tudor and Stuart London

Between 1485 and 1600 London’s population grew to 200,000, then by the end of the 17th century shot up to 575,000, surpassing Paris as the largest city in Europe. During this period, the city was the center of a tremendous expansion in trade, colonization, and finance. This immense growth was exemplified by the establishment of the Royal Exchange in the 1560s by financier Sir Thomas Gresham; the founding of the English East India Company in 1600; the organizing of joint stock companies by London investors to colonize Ireland and Virginia early in the 17th century (see Ulster Plantation); and the founding of the Bank of England by City merchants in 1694. London was also the center of the English cultural Renaissance, particularly in literature, with major figures such as Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and William Shakespeare.

The urban fabric of London was transformed in this period, partly due to Henry VIII dissolving the Catholic monasteries in the 1530s as part of the English Reformation. Aristocrats acquired these former church properties from the king and opened them to development, which led to building inside and outside the City walls on a large scale. An example was the development of Covent Garden as a residential square by the earl of Bedford, whose family had obtain this valuable property once associated with Westminster Abbey. One of London’s first squares, Covent Garden was designed by architect Inigo Jones in the early 1630s. As the king’s surveyor general, Jones brought classical architectural style to London with such buildings as the Banqueting Hall in 1619 and the Queen’s Chapel in 1623. Classical architecture, modeled after ancient Greek and Roman architecture, is known for its use of columns, arches, and vaults.

London survived the disruption of the English Revolution during the 1640s and 1650s, and like much of southeastern England, supported the Parliamentary cause against the king. More devastating to London was the Great Plague of 1665, which killed as many as 100,000 Londoners, and the Great Fire of London that followed in the next year. In three terrifying days in September 1666, 80 percent of the City burned to the ground, including Saint Paul’s Cathedral, 87 churches, and 13,200 houses.

Rebuilding London after the fire took place quickly using the tangle of preexisting property lines and streets, in spite of hopes for a more formal plan by architect Christopher Wren. New building regulations dictated the use of brick rather than wood as a way to prevent future calamities. Wren’s designs for the new Saint Paul’s, with its great dome and baroque towers, made it a key symbol of the modernized city. He also designed about 50 parish churches, such as Saint Bride’s off Fleet Street.

D Georgian London

London grew quickly during the Georgian age, between 1714 and the 1830s. By 1801 the population of the city and its outlying areas had passed the 1 million mark, and by 1837 was close to 2 million. London was the hub of an immense empire (in spite of losing its American colonies in the American Revolution), its wealth coming from trade with the East and West Indies. Trade and shipping were facilitated by the building of giant new docks early in the 19th century, such as the West India Dock and the London Dock in the East End, to replace the old, crowded port located between London Bridge and the Tower. Culturally, it was the age of Dr. Samuel Johnson, London’s most literary and crusty defender: “You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

Georgian London, however, was becoming two cities, based on wealth and residence. The West End emerged as the residential and shopping center of the wealthy. Aristocrats who owned large rural estates developed them into London suburbs, using the residential square as the focal point of formally planned districts, unlike anything in older parts of London, where development was more unsystematic. Grosvenor, Bedford, Belgrave, and Russell squares were all built during the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Thousands of terraces (row houses) were built in the uniform Georgian style, many with extravagant interiors by fashionable architects such as Robert Adam and John Nash. Nash also designed palatial terraces, including Cumberland Terrace at Regent’s Park in the 1820s. The Greek Revival style of classicism, with its straight lines and columns, dominated the design of a number of public buildings built in the early 19th century, such as the British Museum, University College, and the National Gallery. Nash’s major public planning ventures included Regent Street in 1812, designed as a grand processional leading to the north, and Trafalgar Square in the 1830s, in honor of Admiral Horatio Nelson.

The other Georgian London was the East End, with its dockyards, and the islands of poverty scattered through the rest of the city. Child mortality, disease, and crime were prevalent in these areas. The desperate situation was worsened by high consumption of gin. Social violence, crime, and major demonstrations were common, especially during the early reign of George III. Notable during this period were the riots led by John Wilkes in the late 1760s, in which he called for freedom of the press and political reforms, and the Gordon Riots of 1780, headed by Protestant leader Lord George Gordon against pro-Catholic legislation. An official police force (the world’s first) was authorized by Parliament and organized by Sir Robert Peel in 1829, replacing the policing done by parish constables and private watchmen.

E Victorian and Edwardian London

The phenomenal population growth between 1837 and 1914 made London the world’s largest city. Between 1851 and 1901, London’s population went from 2.5 million to 6.5 million. London was Britain’s economic powerhouse and the center of a burgeoning empire. Suburban expansion of an unprecedented scale swallowed up former countryside and villages in all directions. Residential housing in the City declined as it became a commercial and financial enclave.

The railroads were key engines of change in the city. Among the earliest was the London and Birmingham, which connected the manufacturing center to London’s northern suburbs at Euston Station by the late 1830s. Eventually the inner city was ringed by lavish railway stations, such as Saint Pancras, a sort of medieval fairy-tale castle built in the 1860s. The underground railway began in the 1860s and, with electrification in the 1890s, was able to use deep tunnels to bring passengers to the heart of the city. The old London Bridge was replaced by a modern version in the 1830s, and the Tower Bridge, a marvel of modern engineering, opened in 1894, to become London’s most recognizable landmark. The large glass-and-iron Crystal Palace, built for the Great Exhibition of 1851, symbolized London’s place as the capital of the industrial age. The most spectacular public building of the age was the New Palace of Westminster, the Houses of Parliament, designed by Sir Charles Barry in 1835 and completed in 1860, which ushered in the new Gothic Revival style of the Victorian era, with its use of ornate decoration, spires, and towers.

London’s reputation for progress was matched by its image as a city of degradation and poverty. The railways slashed their way through slum districts, displacing thousands. The slums of the East End and Soho received particular attention from observers and writers. Some of the novels of Charles Dickens portrayed the human misery in graphic terms, as did Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and London Poor, based on research carried out in the 1840s and 1850s. Charles Booth’s massive 17-volume Life and Labour of the People of London, published between 1891 and 1903, helped pressure the new London County Council to take action by providing public housing and by taking over public ownership of gas, water, electricity, and transport. Efforts to solve London’s problems by building new “garden cities,” such as Letchworth in the early 1900s, were popular with reformers but did little to alleviate the situation in the metropolis as a whole. Garden cities were planned communities in gardenlike settings and included industry as well as homes so that residents would not have to commute to London on a daily basis.

F Twentieth-Century London

London was still the largest city in the world at the beginning of the century, but was surpassed by New York by 1920. London continued to grow, however, between the world wars, and peaked at more than 8 million people in 1951. During the interwar years there was an increased expansion to the suburbs, made possible by the extension of the underground and the automobile. The London County Council built council housing in both the inner city and in the suburbs, which relieved the housing shortage, and developers emphasized semidetached suburban homes. (A semidetached house is one that shares a common wall with another residence.)

German bombings during World War II, especially the Blitz between September 1940 and May 1941, devastated vast areas of London, particularly in the City and the East End. As many as 30,000 Londoners died, and another 50,000 were injured. More than 130,000 houses were destroyed. After the war, contractors tore down older buildings and put up acres of concrete-and-glass towers in places like the Barbican and around Saint Paul’s. The concrete, bunkerlike South Bank Centre was an attempt to rejuvenate the desolate area south of the river with a new cultural complex. London also experienced an influx of immigrants from the West Indies during the 1950s, and racial and class tensions flared in the late 1950s in the Notting Hill area, where many immigrants from the Caribbean had settled.

In the “swinging sixties” London had a brief fling as a center of youth culture, pop music, fashion, and film. But industry left the city, and the population declined to 7.3 million in 1971. A massive initiative took place in the 1980s to redevelop the East End’s abandoned Dockland area into a business center. This resulted in the construction of the 250-m (800-ft), stainless steel Canary Wharf Tower, the tallest building in the United Kingdom, and the Docklands Light Railway to transport people to the new Docklands. This development has only been partially successful and remains relatively isolated from other parts of London.

Socially, racial unrest occurred in the 1980s in Brixton, an area noted for its high crime, as tensions flared between white police and black residents. Central London was the site of a massive riot in 1990 after the Conservative government replaced the property tax with a community charge tax. Londoners were irate because the new tax, soon dubbed a poll tax, set a fixed amount to be paid per person rather than taxing people according to their income level. Londoners have also had to endure periodic bomb attacks by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Although London has suffered some growing pains through its history, there are reasons to be optimistic about its future. Its population is increasing again. Major buildings, such as the British Museum and the Royal Opera House, are being extensively renovated. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre has been reconstructed in Southwark, near its original location, complete with thatched roof and natural lighting, in an effort to regenerate the spirit of the city’s most creative, dramatic era. And a new general spirit of enthusiasm suggests that London will continue to be one of the world’s great cities.

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Vatican City


Italy - Rome - Vatican CityVatican City, independent state, under the absolute authority of the pope of the Roman Catholic church. It is an enclave within Rome, Italy, with an area of 44 hectares (110 acres). The smallest independent country in the world, Vatican City was established in 1929 under terms of the Lateran Treaty, concluded by the Italian government and the papacy after many years of controversy. This treaty was superseded in 1984 by a new concordat, which, like its predecessor, recognized the full sovereignty of the Holy See (the jurisdiction of the pope) within the state of Vatican City. For the history of the papal territories before 1929, see Papal States.


Vatican City is situated on Vatican Hill in northwestern Rome, just west of the Tiber River. It is surrounded by medieval and Renaissance walls and has six gates. Many of the most renowned artists and architects of the Italian Renaissance were commissioned by popes to work on the Vatican’s buildings. The most imposing and important edifice is Saint Peter’s Basilica. Built for the most part between the 15th and 17th centuries, and designed by artists, including Bramante, Michelangelo, and Gianlorenzo Bernini, it is the world center of Roman Catholic worship. In front of the basilica is the great Piazza San Pietro (Saint Peter’s Square). The other major edifice is the Palace of the Vatican, also known as the Papal Palace. It is a complex of buildings that contains more than 1,000 rooms and houses the papal apartments, the government offices of the Roman Catholic church, several chapels and museums, and a library. The most famous portions of the palace are the Sistine Chapel, with its great ceiling frescoes painted by Michelangelo (restored 1980-1990); and Raphael’s Rooms, papal apartments with frescoes painted by the Italian artist Raphael. The Vatican’s museums are outstanding and include the Gregorian Museum of Egyptian Art; the Gregorian Museum of Etruscan Art; the Pio Clementino Museum, with a superlative collection of antiquities; the Chiaramonti Museum; and the Vatican Pinacoteca, with representative works by Italian masters. The Vatican Library has a priceless collection of ancient manuscripts and more than 1 million bound volumes. Also within the Vatican’s walls are the Government Palace and the Vatican Gardens.


Vatican City is governed by the pope, who has absolute executive, legislative, and judicial powers. The executive powers are delegated to a governor, who is responsible directly to the pope. In the exercise of his legislative powers, the pope is advised and assisted by the Sacred College of Cardinals and by the various Sacred Congregations. The judicial powers are exercised by tribunals; appeals from their decisions are heard by the sacred Roman Rota and by the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature. The Secretariat of State represents the Holy See in diplomatic relations with foreign powers. Swiss Guards maintain internal security and protection of the pope; the Piazza San Pietro is subject to the authority of the Italian police. Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer palace outside Rome, as well as other buildings located in Rome but outside of Vatican City, are endowed with extraterritoriality.

Vatican City has its own currency (equal to the Italian lira) and postal system. It also has a railroad station and radio station, and manages its own telephone and telegraph services. Government expenditures in 1994 were $175 million. A daily newspaper and an official monthly journal are published, as are books and pamphlets in numerous languages. Population (1997 estimate) 850.

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Rhodes island, Greece

rhodesRhodes (island, Greece) (ancient Rhodus or Rhodos; modern Greek Ródhos), island, southeastern Greece, in the Aegean Sea, near Turkey, grouped for administrative purposes with the Dodecanese Islands. The island has a maximum length, from northeast to southwest, of 72 km (45 mi); its maximum width is 35 km (22 mi). A longitudinal mountain range traverses the central portion of the island. Atáviros, the highest peak, is 1,200 m (4,000 ft) above sea level. In the region between the sea and the central range the terrain is generally hilly, with numerous gently sloping valleys. Rhodes has a healthful climate and is noted for its fertile soil. Among the leading crops produced on the island are cotton, fruit, grain, sponges, and tobacco. The chief community on the island is Rhodes, the administrative center of the Dodecanese Islands.

Archaeological discoveries indicate that Rhodes figured prominently in the Aegean civilization of ancient times. In the 2nd millennium bc, when the island first appears in history, it was inhabited by the Dorians, and its chief towns were Camirus, Lindus, and Ialysus. These towns were flourishing commercial centers with colonies scattered throughout the Aegean basin. For many centuries the history of the island is obscure, but the three cities are recorded as members, in the 5th century bc, of the Delian League, a confederacy of Greek states under the leadership of Athens. The three cities broke with Athens in 412 bc. In 408 bc the city of Rhodes, constructed according to designs by the Greek architect Hippodamus of Miletus, was completed. Throughout most of the following century, the island was involved in the internecine wars of Greece. In 332 bc Rhodes submitted to the sovereignty of Alexander the Great. On the death of Alexander in 323 bc the citizens of Rhodes revolted and expelled the Macedonians.

rhodes lagunaRhodian prosperity and political power attained great heights during the 3rd and 2nd centuries bc. The city became a renowned cultural center, particularly noted for its plastic and pictorial art. Rhodian achievements in these fields found climactic expression in the paintings of Protogenes (flourished 4th century bc) and in the work of Chares (flourished 3rd century bc), creator of the celebrated Colossus (circa 280 bc). In the 1st century bc Rhodian sculptors executed the famous Laocoön. The Rhodians were staunch allies of Rome during this period. In 48 bc they aided Julius Caesar in his struggle against the Roman general and statesman Pompey the Great and the Roman Senate. Another Roman general, Gaius Cassius Parmensis (flourished 1st century bc), one of the assassins of Caesar, invaded Rhodes in 42 bc. He massacred the friends of Caesar, seized the public wealth, and rifled the temples. This attack broke the power of Rhodes, but the city long continued to maintain its prestige as a seat of learning.

Under the Roman Empire Rhodes enjoyed a measure of nominal independence. In ad395, on the division of the Roman Empire, Rhodes was attached to the Byzantine Empire. It remained under Byzantine control until 1309, when it was occupied by the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem. In 1522, after a sanguinary Ottoman siege led by Sultan Süleyman I, the knights were forced to evacuate the island. Ottoman sovereignty over Rhodes lasted until the Italo-Turkish War (1911-1912), when it was taken by Italy. The island was ceded to Greece in 1947. Area, 1,400 sq km (540 sq mi); population (1981) 87,831.

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Venice, Italy


italy veniceVenice (Italy) (Italian Venezia), city and seaport in northeastern Italy, in Veneto Region, capital of Venice Province. Venice is situated on 120 islands formed by 177 canals in the lagoon between the mouths of the Po and Piave rivers, at the northern extremity of the Adriatic Sea. Because of its historic role as a naval power and commercial center, the city is known as the “Queen of the Adriatic.” A railroad and highway causeway connect Venice with the mainland. Long sand bars, or barrier beaches, on the outer side of the lagoon serve as protection against the sea. The islands on which the city is built are connected by about 400 bridges. The Grand Canal, about 3 km (about 2 mi) long, winds through Venice from northwest to southeast, dividing the city into two nearly equal portions. The Giudecca Canal, about 400 m (about 1310 ft) wide, separates Giudecca Island, on the extreme south, from Venice proper. No motor vehicles are permitted on the narrow, winding lanes and streets that penetrate the old city, and the bridges are for pedestrians only. For centuries the most common method of transportation was by gondola, a flat-bottomed boat propelled by a single oar. Today, the gondolas are used mainly by tourists; motor launches carry almost all the freight and passenger traffic in Venice.

Modern Venice has faced many challenges, including loss of population to other areas and physical damage from flooding, sinkage, air and water pollution, and age. After severe flooding in 1966, an international effort to preserve historic Venice was coordinated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and many structures were renovated and preserved. Flooding has occurred throughout the history of the city; it is caused when high tides combine with storm winds, and has been combatted with experiments using mechanical barriers. The sinkage of buildings and other structures, caused by the drainage of underground aquifers, has been addressed by limits on groundwater usage and the construction of an aqueduct from the nearby Alps.


veniceThe basis of the Venetian economy is tourism; along with the beauty of the architecture and canals and the many art and cultural attractions, there are numerous film festivals and other events throughout the year that draws visitors. The city is also famous for its glassware, mirrors, and glass beads, most of which are manufactured on the nearby island of Murano. Venetian lace, made chiefly on the island of Burano, is notable. On the mainland, in Mestre and Marghera, are shipbuilding facilities and many industrial plants, including steelworks, foundries, and chemical factories. Since World War II (1939-1945), many Venetians have moved to these areas seeking jobs and housing. The Marghera port, which handles most of the area’s seagoing traffic, is reached by a channel that is an extension of the Giudecca Canal.


venice st marks squareVenice is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The city buildings and decorations, from Byzantine to Renaissance styles, show great artistic achievement. The works of the Venetian school of painting and art are represented throughout Venetian palaces, public buildings, and churches.

The center and most frequented part of the city is Saint Mark’s Square. At the eastern end are Saint Mark’s Cathedral and the Doges’ Palace (Palazzo Ducale), the two most important and imposing structures in Venice. The cathedral—begun about 828, reconstructed after a fire in 976, and rebuilt between 1047 and about 1071—is considered an outstanding example of Byzantine architecture. The palace—begun about 814, destroyed four times by fire, and each time rebuilt on a more magnificent scale—is a remarkable building in Italian Gothic with some early Renaissance elements. The northern side of the piazza is occupied by the Procuratie Vecchie (1496) and the southern side by the Procuratie Nuove (1584), both built in Italian Renaissance style. During the time of the Venetian republic these buildings were the residences of the nine procurators, or magistrates, from among whom the doge, or chief magistrate, was usually selected.

doges-palaceAlong the two palaces and their extension, the Atrio or Fabbrica Nuova (1810), extend arcades with cafés and shops. Near the Doges’ Palace stand two famous granite columns erected in 1180, one bearing the winged lion of Saint Mark and the other Saint Theodore of Studium on a crocodile. The most conspicuous feature of the city is the campanile, or bell tower, of Saint Mark, which is about 91 m (about 300 ft) high; it was built between 874 and 1150 and reconstructed after it collapsed in 1902.

In the rear of the Doges’ Palace is the famous Bridge of Sighs, which connects the palace with public prisons and was the route by which prisoners were taken to and from the judgment hall. The most famous of the three bridges spanning the Grand Canal is the Rialto (1588), lined with a double row of shops. The Grand Canal, the principal traffic artery of Venice, is lined with old palaces of the Venetian aristocracy, among which are many structures of historical and architectural renown. bridge-of-sighsFarther north, near the lagoon, is the 15th-century Church of San Giovanni in Bragora, a domed and columned edifice in the Italian Gothic style and once the funeral church of the doges. In its vicinity is the greatest monument in Venice, the 15th-century equestrian statue of the Venetian general Bartolomeo Colleoni, the work of the Florentine artist Andrea del Verrocchio. The same section is the site of the Arsenal, a former center of shipbuilding, and public gardens. Islands extend to the east in the direction of the Lido, an island reef outside the lagoon that is famous as a bathing beach and recreational resort. Great museums, such as the Ca’ d’Oro (located in a Gothic palace on the Grand Canal), and historic churches are found throughout the city. The Libreria Vecchia (Old Library) contains about 13,000 manuscripts and more than 800,000 books, some of immense value. The University of Venice was founded in 1868.


The area around Venice was inhabited in ancient times by the Veneti. According to tradition, the city was founded in ad 452, when the inhabitants of Aquileia, Padua (Padova), and other northern Italian cities took refuge on the islands of the lagoon from the Teutonic tribes that invaded Italy during the 5th century. They established their own government, which was headed by tribunes for each of the 12 principal islands. Although nominally part of the Eastern Roman Empire, Venice was virtually autonomous. In 697 the Venetians organized Venice as a republic under an elected doge. Internal dissension disturbed the course of government during the following century, but the threat of foreign invasion united the Venetians. Attacks by Saracens in 836 and by the Hungarians in 900 were repulsed. In 991 Venice signed a commercial treaty with the Saracens, initiating the Venetian policy of trading with the Muslims rather than fighting them. The Crusades and the resulting development of trade with Asia led to the establishment of Venice as the greatest commercial center for trade with the East. The republic greatly profited from the partition of the Byzantine Empire in 1204 and became politically the strongest European power in the Mediterranean region. The growth of a wealthy aristocracy gave rise to an attempt by the nobles to acquire political dominance, and, although nominally a republic, Venice became a rigid oligarchy by the end of the 13th century. In the 13th and 14th centuries Venice was involved in a series of wars with Genoa, its chief commercial rival. In the war of 1378-1381, Genoa was compelled to acknowledge Venetian supremacy. Wars of conquest enabled Venice to acquire neighboring territories, and by the late 15th century, the city-state was the leading maritime power in the Christian world.

The beginning of Turkish invasions in the middle of the 15th century marked the end of Venetian greatness. Thereafter, faced with attacks by foreign invaders and other Italian states, its power faded, and the discovery of a sea route to the Indies around the Cape of Good Hope by the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama in 1497-1498 accelerated the decline. In 1508 the Holy Roman Empire, the pope, France, and Spain combined against Venice in the League of Cambrai and divided the Venetian possessions among themselves, and although Venice reacquired its Italian dominions through astute diplomacy in 1516, it never regained its political power.

In 1797 the Venetian Republic was conquered and ended by Napoleon Bonaparte, who turned the territory over to Austria. In 1805 Austria was compelled to yield Venice to the French-controlled kingdom of Italy but regained it in 1814. A year later Venice and Lombardy (Lombardia) were combined to form the Lombardo-Venetia Kingdom. The Venetians, under the Italian statesman Daniele Manin, revolted against Austrian rule in 1848, and a new republic was established. Austria, however, reestablished control a year later. In 1866, after the Seven Weeks’ War, Venice became part of the newly established kingdom of Italy.

Population (2000 estimate) 277,000.

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Genoa, Italy tourist information


genoa italyGenoa (Italian Genova; ancient Genua), city, northwestern Italy, capital of Genoa Province, in Liguria Region, a seaport on the Gulf of Genoa (an arm of the Ligurian Sea). The city lies beside a fine natural harbor at the foot of a pass in the western Apennines. It rivals Marseille, France, as the leading European port of the Mediterranean Sea and is the commercial center of the heavily industrialized sections of Piedmont (Piemonte) and Lombardy (Lombardia), the rich agricultural regions of northern Italy and of central Europe. The harbor facilities, which were heavily damaged during World War II, have been expanded and modernized. Shipbuilding is the leading industry of Genoa. Other important industries are the manufacture of iron and steel products, motors and automotive parts, refrigeration equipment, munitions, chemicals, soap, and the processing of agricultural products. Processing plants include sugar and edible-oil refineries, canneries, tanneries, breweries, and distilleries.

The old quarter of the city covers a narrow strip of coastal plain east and north of the old port, which was enlarged in modern times by the addition of an outer harbor protected by breakwaters. Industrial and residential sections were developed east and west along the shore and on the hills back of the old port. In the heart of the old quarter is the Romanesque-Gothic Church of San Donato, dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, and, on the harbor front, is the Palazzo San Giorgio, which was built in the 14th century by order of the first Genoese doge, Simone Boccanegra, and which later became the seat of the powerful Bank of Saint George.

Work on the Cathedral of San Lorenzo in Genoa was begun, according to some accounts, with the first rich booty from the Crusades. The cathedral, consecrated in 1118, contains a wealth of art treasures. The massive 16th-century Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale), former residence of the doges, now houses the law courts. On the Piazza San Matteo are the houses of the Doria family and the Church of San Matteo, founded by the family in 1125 and containing the tomb of the Genoese admiral and statesman Andrea Doria. Toward the northwest, near the Stazione Marittima, at which ocean liners dock, stands the 13th-century Church of the Annunziata, noteworthy for its interior containing many fine works of art. The birthplace of Christopher Columbus is also among the historic places of Genoa. The city is the seat of the University of Genoa (1471).


Genoa’s history goes far back into ancient times. A city cemetery, dating from the 4th century bc, testifies to the occupation of the site by the Greeks, but the fine harbor probably was in use much earlier. Destroyed by the Carthaginians in 209 bc, the town was rebuilt by the Romans, who used it as a base during their wars with the Ligurians (see Liguria). Under the Romans, the city enjoyed municipal rights and exported skins, wood, and honey.

Little is known of Genoese history from the fall of the Roman Empire (476) until the 11th century, by which time the city had become a maritime republic governed by consuls. Genoa then contributed ships to the campaign against Saracen corsairs in Italian waters. The Genoese, in alliance with Pisa, eventually drove the Saracens from settlements on the islands of Corsica and Sardinia, which thereafter became prizes in a long naval war between the two city-states. In the 12th century the Genoese extended their mastery over the adjacent coast and nearby mountain valleys and laid the foundations of future naval greatness and prosperity. Genoese ships transported Crusaders to the Middle East and returned laden with booty. Genoese merchants, profiting from the newly awakened European demand for goods from the Middle East, were to be found in all the principal centers of trade. Genoese forts and trading posts spread through the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and eventually into the Black Sea. Their trade, facilitated by friendly relations with the Byzantine Empire, brought Genoa and Venice into increasing rivalry, which broke into open warfare in the mid-13th century, just as Genoese power reached its height. At the Battle of Meloria (1284), Genoa crushed Pisa, the power of which thereafter declined; the Venetians were defeated at Curzola in 1299. The oligarchy of prosperous merchants and bankers that had ruled the Genoese Republic after 1257 subsequently dealt on equal terms with the courts of popes and kings. Genoese expansion, in fact, had been largely the work of citizens whose primary concern was the advancement of their private interests. As a result, the city was torn between factions contending for control of the government. The rival groups did not hesitate to call in outside powers to aid them. Even the dogeship, the institution of first magistrate, established in 1339, was unable to master the ensuing disorders. Although the struggle sapped Genoese strength, and despite continued bitter rivalry with Venice, the Genoese largely held their own for several decades. In 1380, however, their fleet fell into Venetian hands at Chioggia, a blow from which their naval power never recovered. Venice drew far ahead, and Genoese overseas possessions were lost one by one, although the last, Corsica, was held until 1768, when it was ceded to France. Internal strife finally ended under the rigid dogeship that Andrea Doria had established with the help of the Holy Roman emperor in 1528, and Genoa prospered as a shipbuilding port and banking center. Although powerful neighbors, France and Piedmont, dominated the city, Genoese independence was respected until 1797, when Napoleon Bonaparte abolished the dogeship and incorporated Genoa into the newly organized Ligurian Republic, which in turn was absorbed by the French Empire in 1805. The city was annexed by the kingdom of Sardinia in 1815. In the last quarter of the 19th century the port of Genoa was widened and modernized, and the city attracted a variety of industries that process imported raw materials and goods for export. During World War II repeated bombings heavily damaged the industrial sections and harbor of the city. Population (2000 estimate) 636,000.

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Modern Venice

italy veniceVenice. The mere name summons associations from its astonishing 1,500 years, an incomparable legacy of art, politics, and commerce. Ten million visitors a year arrive to marvel at the remains of its glory, the architecture and paintings, and to be seduced by the dreamlike allure of a place that seems to exist somehow apart from real life, a kind of baroque elegy adrift in its lagoon, floating in mist and shadow, entranced by the ceaseless murmur of the water as it never tires of kissing the stones.

But Venice is not a dream. In these days it is facing more than its share of reality. In fact, as the episode of the bus petitions demonstrated yet again, Venice at heart is a classic small town, trapped in the body of a monument.

To begin with, Venice actually is small. The sweep of the vistas across the Venetian Lagoon, the immense, moody arc of the sky, the grandiose facades all give the illusion of amplitude; it comes as a shock to learn that Venice, dense as a diamond, covers a mere three square miles. You could walk from one end to the other in an hour. And you will walk, because the streets are usually the size of an average sidewalk, or less. Walking, as much as the surrounding water, dictates the shape of Venetian life: the reasonable pace, the sudden street-corner encounters with friends, the pause to talk. Among the many things the Venetians love about their town—no cars, virtually no crime—this intimacy is the best. They like to say their city is like a living room.

Is Venice still sinking? This is the question everybody outside Venice seems to ask. In a word, yes, though the rate has slowed, mainly because the pumping of groundwater for industries on the mainland has been stopped. The catastrophic flood of November 4, 1966, inundated parts of the city with as much as four feet of water for 24 hours. Since then, a tremendous international effort has been made to repair the palaces and churches, restore the works of art, and protect the surrounding lagoon from future tidal calamity.

But today a rising tide of troubles is more likely to swamp the city. A new sense of desperation seems to have taken hold. Businesses have moved out; the population has shrunk over the past 30 years from 138,000 to a mere 70,000; 1,500 people a year leave Venice, especially young families unwilling to cope with the cost of living, finding a good job and an affordable house or apartment. These are the unglamorous facts of life in any city, but in Venice they have been compounded by the political favoritism and corruption that have beset the rest of Italy.

Venetians can’t get over the fact that while everyone seems to love their city, hardly anyone seems to care about them. Randolph Guthrie is president of an American committee called Save Venice, which raises some $500,000 a year to restore the buildings and works of art. But, he admits, “There’s no point in preserving the artifacts if the city itself can’t survive.”

Venice’s fate is also tied to a city just across the bridge that no one ever hears of: Mestre. Since 1926 the political entity called Venice has included Mestre, which with about 180,000 people is more than twice the size of island-Venice. As a city planner put it bluntly to me, “Venice is not a city, it’s a small village. Mestre is a city.” Thus the mayor of Venice is responsible for two virtually opposite towns, each inevitably convinced that he secretly favors the other.

As in any small town, Venetians can be conservative, self-absorbed, addicted to gossip, obsessed by minutiae, full of opinions, and amazingly quick to note the speck in their brother’s eye. They are also kind, curious, and generous. Most of them have known one another from birth. They are also essentially island people, living offshore in their own self-contained universe. “I don’t like going to the mainland,” one elderly gondolier told me, with a flourish. “When I need mountain air, I go to the top of the Accademia Bridge.” The Venetians even speak their own language, a sibilant tongue from which most of the consonants have long since been worn away. I suspect they may like the notion of being difficult to understand; in any case, it may be one of the few ways they can sustain at least the illusion of privacy in what must be one of the world’s most public cities.

“The Venetian really closes himself in,” said Ninalee Craig, once married to a Venetian count. “But there are eyes everywhere in Venice. If I left the palazzo to go to the Piazza San Marco, by the time I got there, two cousins and three nieces would know what color hat I was wearing.”

Today the sadness and anxiety of the Venetians have become something more complex than you could account for by listing the problems. It is a sensation deeply involved with their own lost grandeur, the echo of the centuries when Venice was an independent city-state, ruler of the eastern Mediterranean, providing ships and funds to crusaders’ armies, and deviser of a form of government so tolerant and stable for its day that the framers of the United States Constitution studied it. Venice fell to Napoleon in 1797; then came an Austrian army, then annexation to Italy. Some remnant of anguish remains, a synthesis of longing and fatalism. And there is that unfathomable beauty.

“Venice is a place that overwhelms you,” Clarenza Catullo said frankly as we sat at dinner one winter evening. She is a senior assistant at a museum; her Venetian parents moved to the mainland, but she moved back. “Every time I leave Venice, I have not only psychological pain but physical pain too. Deep pain. It’s stupid; I can’t explain it. When you’re away, you feel that something is lost. Because here people are different, relationships are different, houses are different, everything is different. When I see the lagoon from the airplane, I thank God that I’m back.”

Dawn in Venice. The water awakens first. Along the smaller canals there is a tentative rippling. The air is chilly with three kinds of coolness: from the darkness, the stones, and the damp. Beneath a translucent violet sky the Grand Canal is empty, except for the faithful Number 1 water-bus, the local, progressing along the litany of the stops (S. Silvestro, S. Angelo, S. Tomà, pray for us …) toward the more open water of the Basin of San Marco and beyond it to the slender barrier island called the Lido. Although the streets are still deserted as the water-bus pulls up to the floating bus stop, I am surprised to see so many passengers, people already going to or from work. To the east a dull, orange sun, so huge and flat it seemed cut from paper, began to lift itself slowly above the pinnacles, domes, and towers. Above the tangled finials of the Basilica of San Marco, it paused. The water made little clapping sounds.

In the dawn light, joggers appear along the wider pavements at the water’s edge. At a corner of the Campo San Vio, the rich smell of bread pours from the bakery into the street. At 6:00, up in the farther reaches of the quarter called Cannaregio, Andrea Cerini, a former professional soccer player, is opening up his newsstand. Men on their way to work will begin to buy copies of Il Gazzettino, one of two local papers dependably full of cranky letters to the editor, the latest in the operatic political wrangles over every aspect of city life, and a steady supply of obituaries in this aging town (the average age is 46, the highest in Italy). Later, students on their way to the nearby school of nursing will stop in for candy, cigarettes, ballpoint pens. Even later, housewives will come for stamps, lottery tickets, water-bus tickets.

By 7:30 the canals have begun to rumble with the workaday barges. They move heavily, unfurling heavy waves, usually with a dog at the prow as self-appointed guard, lookout, and alarm system. The barges are loaded with anything: bags of cement powder, towering stacks of clean hotel laundry, mounds of luggage, crates of bottled mineral water. At the Rialto market, just beyond the famous bridge, Luigi Smerghetto has just finished loading his barge with the day’s orders of produce and is about to begin his rounds. Paola Cristel, my interpreter, and I climb aboard.

The Grand Canal looks remarkably less grand viewed above piles of cauliflower, oranges, and broccoli. There are transport companies, but Luigi is independent. He lives on the nearby island of Sant’ Erasmo and is up every morning at 4:00, sometimes not getting home again till past 8:00 at night. He’s been doing this for 20 years.

We cross the wide Giudecca Canal toward the island cluster called La Giudecca and head for #517, Amerigo Avezzu’s shop. Here Luigi unloads the daily standing order of leeks, celery, oranges, tomatoes, bananas, eggplant, and a huge bag of California walnuts. We proceed to the canteen for the power company, leaving cartons of fennel and bags of potatoes destined to form part of the day’s 400 lunches. Then we tie up at the water entry to the Passageway of the Grapes, and Francesco Sambuco arrives with a helper to carry the produce to his stand in the nearby square.

The Venetians say that their city is expensive because everything has to arrive by boat. It sounds logical, but Amadeo Rumor, president of a small transportation company at the Rialto market, disputes this. It’s not that boat transport is inherently more costly, he says, but that the price of goods and labor is high. Because there isn’t enough space in the city for large warehouses, cargoes have to be smaller and are therefore more costly. And to move any item from the boat to its destination requires people, usually pushing some variety of wheelbarrow. The narrow streets and bridges dictate a boutique approach to commerce, and until there is no more water, this will undoubtedly be the case.

Venetians don’t worry about the water the way outsiders do. They’re used to high water; although it can occur as often as 40 times a year, usually between November and May, it doesn’t necessarily rise very high, and in any case it doesn’t stay more than a few hours.

Slithering, sucking, sloshing through the silvery fog in winter, the aquamarine radiance of spring, the brilliance of noon in summer, when the tops of the waves seem to be scattered with blinding chips of glittering mica, the water is never silent. Venetians even call the mainland terra ferma, as if their own city were somehow less than solid. The floating bus-stop platforms creak and sway, the pavements undulate. The entire city seems suspended in a liquid medium: You not only hear the water, you feel it. In the winter the damp, chill fog seeps into your skin; in the summer the air can be soggy and heavy.

To the inevitable question, Francesco Bandarin replies, “Venice will always sink.” Bandarin has been working with a group called the Consorzio Venezia Nuova (New Venice Consortium) to restore the lagoon. “Venice wasn’t built very high, and the city is built on sand, silt, and hard clay, which tend to compact. It’s not much each year, but over history this natural sinking alone comes to 30 inches. Then when they pumped out the groundwater on the mainland, the entire area sank almost another five inches.

“I don’t think there’s much you can do,” he concludes matter-of-factly. “You can’t lower the sea or raise the city.”

But memories linger of the disastrous flood of 1966. Because that flood was the result of an unprecedented combination of circumstances, the likelihood of another is small. Yet there was an irresistible urge to try to do something to control the tide. The result: A vast floodgate project informally called Operation Moses.

A series of empty metal caissons would be submerged at the three entrances to the lagoon; with the arrival of an unusually high tide, the caissons would be filled with air to float up and form a barrier against the incoming water. But ten years have passed since the project was begun. Now public enthusiasm has waned; money is short. The prototype is parked beside the Arsenal, waiting for more funds to be approved.

Happily, scores of more humble projects well under way in the lagoon are already benefiting Venice. The consortium is restoring tidal marshes, reclaiming shoreline, and building jetties on the string of barrier islands to prevent beach erosion. It also monitors polluting runoff from the 720-square-mile drainage basin that empties into the lagoon, especially the agricultural chemicals that for years have been feeding floating mats of voracious algae. It hopes, perhaps ten years from now, to have brought pollution under better control. For the moment it simply controls the algae, sending out a flotilla of machines to rip it out.

The worst offenders along the shoreline, primarily the petrochemical plants in Porto Marghera, have either adopted more stringent controls on effluents or closed. “In the late eighties we reduced the toxic pollution to one-fifth,” Alberto Bernstein, the consortium’s environmental planner, told me. But the public seems ever ready to believe the worst. “You may have clear water that is toxic and green, muddy water that is not,” he says. “The mayor says he used to be able to swim in the lagoon when he was little, but it was much more dangerous then than it is now.”

Actually low tide is as much of a problem as high tide. Because of political wrangling over how to spend certain allotments of money, the canals have not been dredged for 30 years. Consequently some canals have silted up to the point where they are dry at low tide, a serious problem for ambulances and fireboats. Finally, though, money and a reasonable plan for using it are both in hand, and dredging began last fall. The engineers thought it best to wait till then; they weren’t sure the tourists could stand it.

Midday in venice. On a springtime Saturday the flood of tourists is rising. I had heard Venetians complaining, but it wasn’t until now that I could see what they meant. I was hurrying to an appointment not far from the Piazza San Marco, which is where every tourist eventually heads, and it was clear I wasn’t going to make it. The streets were completely filled with sluggish streams of people shuffling along, looking in shopwindows, peering around, stopping suddenly to grapple with their maps. It was maddening. I couldn’t understand why they had to take up every inch of space, oblivious to everyone else. I asked them to excuse me, and I began to push.

Tourists are at the core of most debates about the future of life in Venice. The Venetians know they need tourists in order to survive but can’t figure out how to reduce their impact, how to make coping with them every day somehow less of a struggle. Apart from the inconvenience, their constant presence represents a kind of silent battle for emotional ownership. And the commercial diversity of the city has shrunk drastically over the years; though the port and the glass furnaces are still active, beleaguered artisans and small shopkeepers struggle to prosper as taxes consume up to half of their gross. Everyone senses a danger for the city in depending almost completely on tourists for survival.

“We have 50,000 visitors between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.,” said Silvio Testa, a political reporter for Il Gazzettino.”I think the main point is that in Venice there should be a new class formed by businessmen working to revitalize Venice but not bound only to tourism. To give back to Venice the character of a complete city.”

The irony is sharp. The power of Venice was largely based on commerce; rice, coffee, sugar, spices found their way to Europe through Venetian hands. Even without considering Marco Polo, a random look at just a few street names reveals the city’s former strength: the Street of the Spice Dealer, of the Almond Dealer, of Beans, Wine, Oil, Iron Pots, Oysters, the Gondola Yard; inevitably, the Street of Lawyers and, my own favorite as a sort of subcontractor, the Street of the Assassins. The stupendous palaces and churches were the outward and visible sign of the almost inconceivable wealth of these businessmen, yet it is the allure of these palaces and churches that now provides the city’s only economic muscle. In a way, the Venetians have become victims of the very beauty that sustains them; no one asks or expects more of the city than just to be there. “The problem is that Venice is beautiful,” Mara Vittori, a young Venetian, told me. “That’s all.”

Two critical events showed the pressure at its worst. On “black Sunday,” May 3, 1987, some 150,000 tourists arrived in the city; it was one of several days that spring when the police had to be called out to deal with the crush. Then, on July 15, 1989, the rock band Pink Floyd gave a concert from a raft tied up near the Piazza San Marco. Hordes of fans—reportedly 200,000—overwhelmed the city, leaving mountains of trash. The breakdown seemed complete when one young man was videotaped urinating against the doors of the basilica. “I understand that tourism is a big resource and that we earn a lot of money without doing anything,” said a retired Venetian businessman. “But there will be a point at which it won’t work anymore.”

To be fair, it doesn’t appear that many Venetians do much to resist or reduce the general sense of degradation. To stand on the crest of the Rialto Bridge, for instance, admiring the elegant sweep of the Grand Canal, is almost inevitably to hear the approaching gondola bearing an accordion player and a tenor bellowing “Santa Lucia” or “’O Sole Mio!,” which are songs from Naples. (One especially horrifying day the tenor switched to singing “My Way.”) When you ask the gondoliers why you hear these songs so often, and not Venetian ones, the answer is a bland “People ask for them.”

Gianfranco Mossetto is one of several people I met who are trying to come up with new ideas on how to improve the situation. Young, energetic, and a professor of economics, he is the new deputy mayor for culture, tourism, and museums. He has even published a book with the intriguing title The Economics of Art Cities.

“Economically speaking, there is a difference between a useful good and a beautiful one,” he told me eagerly. His office is on the Piazza San Marco, and his windows look straight into the face of the basilica. As he spoke, I watched the sinking sun set the angels’ wings on fire and strike sparks of gold from the mosaics. I wasn’t sure why beauty could not also be useful. But this was exactly his point.

The crux of the problem is how to preserve the artistic heritage while accommodating the hordes who come to admire it. “If you have 120,000 people in a town like Venice, as we did last Saturday, you run the risk of having the good destroyed,” Mossetto said. “You can’t afford it.” His solution: Ration access to the city. This could mean either selling tickets to limit the total number of people allowed into the city or organizing itineraries so they don’t all arrive at San Marco by the same route at the same time. The theory makes sense, but many Venetians aren’t convinced.

“Mossetto’s not Venetian, and he’s very rational,” said one young professional woman. “My friends think his ideas are a bit too strict. It’s not democratic. This isn’t Russia.”

I suppose every activity could eventually be traced to tourism, but there is a sturdy, workaday Venice devoted primarily to itself (in fact, 40,000 people commute into Venice to work every day). The street sweepers and trash collectors throwing piles of plastic bags of garbage into the hydraulic maw of a waiting barge; the neighborhood barber, through whose shopwindow I glimpsed a serious little boy perched high in the chair, watching his haircut as if it were happening on television; architects drawing plans for somebody’s new kitchen or extra bathroom. Dry cleaners, bus drivers, grave diggers, bank tellers.

Meanwhile, somewhere in or around the church of San Pantalon, Don Ferruccio Gavagnin is also hard at work. He is always working: He’s the priest of what is technically the smallest parish in Venice, but his congregation won’t stay small. “The other priests are a little bit jealous,” he says. “But I can’t refuse people. If they need help, they know they can find me.”

Don Ferruccio has been at San Pantalon for the past 26 of his 41 years as a priest. He’s balding, compact, and his keen, kind eyes framed by steel-rimmed glasses miss nothing. He has a tendency to bustle, and a let’s-get-on-with-it way of talking. He’s up at 5:00 to pray, do paperwork, and look after his 93-year-old mother, who lives with him in the small house attached to the church. At 7:00 he opens the church, and eventually, being a shepherd, he heads out to check on his flock.

In and out of shops and cafés, a quick cup of coffee, a quick word, a smile, a wave—into the butcher shop, into the optician’s shop, into the firemen’s headquarters (he’s their parish priest). We stride down the street past the church of San Silvestro—”The ugliest church in Venice”—we pause in the church of the Carmini, where he speaks with one of the friars about the bishop’s impending visit. I notice that the friar smiles at him with particular coolness—the interparish rivalry continues.

There’s always too much to do. Catechism classes, visiting the sick in four different hospitals, planning a funeral or a wedding. “Yesterday was a hard day, and at the end of the day I received two young people who asked me to marry them. They met at a hospital—they both had an eye disease. I told the boy ‘You probably didn’t see her properly.’”

I can’t lure Don Ferruccio into a long conversation; he has no time, and less inclination. Favorite Bible story? He twinkles at me; not a chance. Besides, “I don’t believe in words,” he tells me briskly. “I believe in fact. Words are not important.”

There is a long, slender crack in the austere, dark-brick facade of the church of San Pantalon. Don Ferruccio says it’s always been there; a surveyor recently reported that it might, or might not, get worse over time. As long as Don Ferruccio is there, I don’t think it would dare get worse.

Evening in Venice. The twilight sky gleams with opal and silver, the mainland succumbs to the mist. The dancing water in the lagoon glows with the light it has been gathering all day. The Venetians begin to turn homeward. It is a domestic moment of the day in what at heart is a deeply domestic city. By 9:00 the shutters will be closed, dinner will almost be finished, the televisions will begin to come on. They are at home.

But homes are one of the biggest problems in Venice. Any discussion of the city’s prospects ends up with housing. The basic difficulty is an exotic tangle of laws that, in one way or the other, work against both the owners and the tenants.

The price of housing is just as problematic. With 23,000 students attending the two universities and several smaller institutions, rents keep rising. If an owner can charge six students the equivalent of $400 each every month, he’s not likely to offer the space to a Venetian for less. There’s something about Venetians cutting one another out of their own city in this way that especially stings.

But worst of all are the empty houses. Over the years many foreigners—Americans, Japanese, French, even wealthy Italians—have bought houses in Venice. They restore them, which is good, but they use them mainly for vacation.

“On the street where I live, there remain only three Venetian families,” one Venetian man told me. “Most of the other houses have been bought by strangers. They just come to stay for 15 days each year. The top floor of the palace facing my house has been bought by Fiat heiress Susanna Agnelli, and she comes to Venice maybe two or three days a year. It would have been better if it had been sold to people living in Venice—even if very wealthy people, but living here.”

Venetians know the houses in the same intimate way they know one another.

“Do you see that little yellow house?” Sandro Gaggiato, an art dealer, asked me as he rowed me down the Grand Canal in his small boat toward the Rialto Bridge. I saw it, flanked by two impressive palaces that are undoubtedly in the guidebooks. “That’s where my wife and I lived just after we were married. We had such a wonderful view….”

“Do you see that red house?” I heard a man saying as I walked down a street near the Campo San Barnaba. “I was born there, behind the window with the balcony. I lived there till I was 22. My mother used to put tomatoes on the windowsill to ripen, and I would throw them at the gondoliers….”

“I love this corner,” Paola, my interpreter, suddenly said as we turned near the Campo Sant’ Angelo. “That was our first house in Venice. I was nine. We lived on the top floor. I remember there was a cat on the roof next to ours, and she had babies. We used to throw her little pieces of meat….”

Claudio Orazio, the new deputy mayor for housing, is working hard to help Venetians move back. He recognizes—as do most Venetians—that the big challenge is to encourage middle-class people to stay in Venice, till now the very class least likely to qualify for municipal help.

“Housing is the main reason people move out,” Orazio explained. “There are enough habitable houses in Venice, so the main problem is the money.”

New programs are already under way: low-cost loans to help homeowners make repairs and subsidies to young families trying to buy their first home. Orazio is also beginning to induce owners to be more willing to rent. “The point is to make them aware that solving the problem of housing is important for everybody,” he said. “It’s a problem of Venice.”

The problems of Venice. On a golden spring afternoon, I wandered along the shore of Poveglia, a deserted island in the lagoon. To the northwest, on the hazy shoreline, were the metal towers and pinnacles of the industrial zone of Marghera, flaring with gas burn-off, a kind of infernal mirror image to the towers and pinnacles of Venice. It was difficult to judge which seemed more unreal. I wondered why Venice’s problems had come to seem so overwhelming. I remembered an exchange between two young professional women.

“One good thing is that there are people willing to do things for Venice,” Gilda had been saying. “They still believe in this town and Venetians, and they do everything they can to bring it alive again. But most of them aren’t Venetians—they’re foreigners.”

“It’s just because the Venetians are lazy,” Giovanna retorted.

“Maybe they’re used to belonging to a golden circle,” Gilda mused. “They’re used to having people do things for them.”

“They just care for themselves, and that’s it,” Giovanna said firmly. “If you look at most Venetian houses, inside they’re beautiful. They don’t care about the facades, but everything is new inside. They don’t care what people see outside. ‘Why do I have to do it and not somebody else?’ That’s the question each Venetian is asking himself.”

The Venetian outlook: My notes are littered with the things they say about themselves. “The Venetian will complain even if he doesn’t need to,” said Enrico Mingardi at the ACTV. “He has a lot of habits he doesn’t want to change.”

“These problems aren’t so difficult to solve,” said Giulio Zannier, an architect. “But everything you do in Venice, you find someone who says, ‘No, we can’t do it.’”

“They just live for the day, because they were merchants, living by chance with no way to plan,” said a young woman who works as a tourist guide. “So they say, ‘This is today—why worry about tomorrow?’”

The real problem, Deputy Mayor Mossetto believes, is that the town lacks a ruling class and has been at the mercy of a string of political opportunists. This is true. Yet some Venetians also acknowledge that there hasn’t been any need, till now, to try to change. With the constant donations of money, the endless supply of tourists, and the years of political scavenging and manipulation, the Venetians have become passive, introverted. They recognize the problems but can’t see how to get a grip on them. Yet their love for their city seems to grow at the same rate as their frustration. “The quality of life is very high here,” Gilda said simply. “If you care about life.”

Night in Venice. The streets are silent, except for the sound of my heels as I walk slowly toward the Grand Canal. I pass through a tiny street smelling of jasmine and cat urine and am just crossing the Bridge of the Tree when I hear music: a woman singing to a piano accompaniment. I pause. Looking up, I see the slightly open shutters of a Gothic window; golden light slips out with the sweet, unaffected melody. A young couple stops, then a middle-aged blond woman in a red dress. Nobody speaks. We simply stand there together in the empty street, unable to leave.

For the first time that day I wasn’t thinking about the problems. I was remembering some of the people who weren’t waiting for someone else to come up with an idea. I thought again of the elderly gondolier; he’d said, “There is a hand that sustains Venice, an army of angels with chains of gold that keep it up.” It had seemed extravagant at the time.

Near the Campo Santo Stefano is Giuliano Nalesso’s classical music shop. Every day recorded music ripples into the Street of the Spice Dealer as a kind of benediction. Often it is pieces by the great Venetians, especially Vivaldi, whose shimmering music seems to be the water itself transcribed for orchestra.

“Until eight years ago there wasn’t a music shop in Venice,” Nalesso told me as we sat in the courtyard among various pieces of Venetian sculpture. “I was a violin teacher in the conservatory, and the professors and students were forced to go outside. Venice, the center of the world of music in the 16th century! So I invented myself as a shopkeeper. It was an abandoned courtyard, and the shop used to be a potato warehouse.”

Now he sells not only tapes and CDs but also books, instruments, and sheet music; he even prints music. But he is looking at more than business. “I want to speak about transformation,” he said thoughtfully. “This very place where we’re sitting could show what Venice could be in the future. Restore the buildings and create cultural activities too.”

It is because of Nalesso that live music also pours from the quartets playing at two cafés in the Piazza San Marco. “This city was born for music,” he said. “So every corner should resound with music. And the attitude of the citizens should change. A new type of Venetian citizen should be created with a grand cultural conscience. We should be aware that every step is on holy pavement.”

And the lost Venetians have been comforted today. On the northern edge of the city there is a shelter called Betania, where for ten years a gentle deacon named Tiziano Scatto has tended the homeless. Anyone who needs a good dinner can come here any night of the week; they can also have a shower, wash their clothes, be seen by a doctor or dentist, talk with a psychologist or a lawyer.

“The idea was not only to create a shelter,” Tiziano explained as we sat in the tranquil upstairs kitchen with its high white walls, “but to create a testimony of the church in Venice. You have to love the poorest people, because through the love of your brother you can reach God.” This is not the only organized shelter in Venice, but it may be the most personal. As surprised as I was to discover derelicts in Venice—50 to 60 people come to Betania every day, primarily men—it was even more remarkable to learn that as many as 400 Venetians volunteer to help them.

“We don’t only try to assist people,” Tiziano said in his quiet way, “but also, when we can, to restore them. In this way six years ago we opened a place where people could go and talk about themselves, in order to find out what was really the problem, or to help them find work.

“And at the end we also provide the coffin when they die.”

What kind of future could there be for a city like this? Rinio Bruttomesso is the director of the International Centre Cities on Water and a professor of urban design. He thinks about this question in a large way.

“You can’t always think about Venice; you must think about Mestre too,” he told me one hot afternoon in late spring. We opened the windows over the canal, but that tenor kept drifting by below and we finally had to close them again. “We should think of Venice as a metropolitan area. Then we’d have some sort of way to choose activities for Venice that are better for its particular urban fabric.

“I think in the future the waterfront area will be a crucial spot for linking Venice and Mestre.” He pointed on a map to the shoreline. “We’ve been studying how we can replan this area where the oil refineries are. In my opinion in ten to fifteen years these refineries will close. So this could be a very important area for Venice.”

He is especially keen on establishing ashore a scientific and technological park, which could naturally draw on the two universities in Venice and the nearby University of Padua. I had heard others, including the new mayor, mention this idea. The talent is already there, and the benefits to the city would be many.

“A lot of people are realizing that we are arriving at a crucial moment for the future of Venice,” Bruttomesso said frankly. “Will it become just a museum? The strange thing is, we realize it’s a crucial moment and we should make a choice. But there’s no will and no ability to create a consensus.

“I foresee the risky thing is that in 20 years, no decision will have been made. And on your next visit you’ll find a city with 40,000 people, merchants, Carnival mask sellers, and this would be the end of Venice. It would be Disneyland, not Venice, even if we’re very close to Disneyland now.”

Disneyland. It’s a word that is often spoken with a kind of horror, because the Venetians know that, as Giuliano Nalesso put it, “The real life of the city is in the normal things.” They can’t imagine living in a city in which, in fact, nothing is real anymore.

I walked to the top of the Accademia Bridge and gazed at the Grand Canal. The city was silent, except for the murmur of the water. It was as if, behind the veil of darkness, Venice was returning to her true self, a creature of the lagoon rising on the brimming water trying to join the stars. I often heard Venetians talk about the canals as the city’s blood; they didn’t see that they themselves were its blood. The city felt deserted, a suddenly terrible sensation. Venice without Venetians?

“We are still in time to save Venice,” a friend had told me with conviction. “Anyone who loves Venice is a part of Venice. We can still save what we have.”

Why should Venice be saved? I used to think the answer was obvious. But the answer has become more elusive, though no less compelling. I think the Venetians would simply say, because our children were born here and our parents are buried here. It’s home.

One darkening winter afternoon I was out on the lagoon having a rowing lesson. The shallow water was clear as glass and perfectly smooth except for small patches scuffed by the breeze. The pale sun set, and the distant skyline blurred, woven into the soft fibers of the gathering fog. We paused to simply float, and invisible wavelets made gentle stroking sounds against the boat. Then out of the darkness came the heavy, tolling note of the bell in the campanile of San Marco. It is the voice of Venice. The city had completely disappeared, yet the bell was surprisingly strong. At that moment it all seemed very sad. So why do I remember it with so much happiness?

Restaurants in Venice

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Milan, Italy Tourist Information


demetrio-carrasco-galleria-vittorio-emanuele-ii-milan-italyMilan (Italian Milano; ancient Mediolanum), city, northern Italy, capital of Milano Province and of Lombardy Region (Lombardia). The second largest Italian city in population (after Rome), it is a leading commercial, financial, and manufacturing center of Italy and a major center of intellectual and artistic life. Milan is mainly a modern city, surrounded by industrial suburbs. It has many tall apartment and office buildings in the business district and extensive residential and industrial sections. A subway system was opened in 1964. The principal square is the Piazza del Duomo, at one end of which stands the Duomo, or cathedral, a huge Gothic structure of white marble, begun in 1386 and completed in 1965. To the southwest of the Piazza del Duomo is the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio (ad 386). Near the basilica is the 15th-century Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Adjacent to the church is a former Dominican monastery, in the refectory of which is the famous fresco Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.


milano plazzo di breraAmong institutions devoted to culture in Milan is the 17th-century Palazzo di Brera, which houses the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, a library, and the Brera Art Gallery. The Palazzo dell’Ambrosiana houses the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, which was opened in 1609 and was perhaps the first public library in Europe. Milan also has excellent museums of art, historical events, and natural history; the Institute for the Study of International Politics; the world-famous Teatro alla Scala opera house; a noted conservatory of music; and several universities.


Milan leads Italian cities in the manufacture of chemicals and textiles. Other important products include aircraft, automobiles, foodstuffs, clothing, glass, leather and rubber goods, machinery, pharmaceuticals, and plastics. The city has a large book and music publishing industry, many banks, and the principal stock exchange of Italy. An international trade fair is held annually in Milan in April.


milanAncient Mediolanum is believed to have been founded by a Celtic people. Captured by the Romans in 222 bc, it flourished under the Roman Empire and became the residence of the emperors of the West in the 4th century ad . The city was sacked by the Huns under Attila in about 450 and was destroyed by the Goths in 539. By the end of the 8th century the city had begun to prosper again. During the Middle Ages, Milan was governed by a number of archbishops, under whom the city had a certain degree of independence. The archbishops, however, gradually lost their temporal power to the lower feudal nobility, who transformed Milan into a prosperous commune in the 11th century. In 1162 Milan was razed by troops under Emperor Frederick I. The city recovered sufficiently to help secure the victory (1176) of the Lombard League over Frederick near Legnano. The victory opened a new period of prosperity. In 1277 a noble family, the Visconti, succeeded in wresting control of the city from the ruling Della Torre family; the Visconti ruled until 1447. The reign of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, 1st duke of Milan (1351-1402), was a particularly prosperous period and was regarded as a golden age. In 1450 the Italian soldier Francesco Sforza seized power and founded a line that remained firmly in control of Milan until 1500, when the city was conquered by France. The Sforzas continued to rule as puppets of successive foreign invaders, including the French, the Swiss, and the Austrians. The Sforza line died out in 1535, and soon thereafter Milan came under the rule of Spain. Spain ruled until 1713, when the city was ceded to Austria by the terms of the Peace of Utrecht. Napoleon ousted the Austrians in 1796 and made Milan the capital of the Cisalpine Republic.

Restored to Austria in 1815, Milan became a center of Italian patriotic resistance, and in 1848 it briefly expelled the Austrians. In 1859, the Italians, aided by the French, freed Milan from Austrian control. In 1861 Milan joined the kingdom of Italy and subsequently prospered. During World War II it was heavily bombed. In the postwar period Milan experienced great commercial expansion and urban renewal. Population (2000 estimate) 1,301,000.

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Pisa, Leaning Tower of

Pisa, Leaning Tower of

pisa towerPisa, Leaning Tower of, the campanile, freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of Pisa, Italy. Like the cathedral and associated baptistery, the tower was built in the Romanesque style. Adjacent to the three structures is a cemetery, or camposanto (Italian: literally, holy field, originally meant to hold sacred soil from the holy land).

The tower is renowned for its marked tilt. This spectacular irregularity has tended to obscure the fact that it is also a magnificent example of Romanesque architecture and decoration. Begun in 1173, the eight-story round tower is 55 m (180 ft) tall and 16 m (52 ft) in diameter at the base. The ground floor is encircled by a blind arcade, or series of walled-in arches. Six additional levels of open galleries, consisting of round arches supported on columns, are surmounted by the bell chamber, somewhat smaller in diameter. Although the tower’s ancient bells remain in place, they are no longer rung. The interior of the tower is occupied by a 294-step spiral staircase that leads to the bell chamber. The exterior is adorned with fine multicolored marbles and excellent carved work. The doorway, which is especially ornate, features grotesque carvings of animals.

Construction of the campanile stretched over a period of nearly 200 years, partly because of delays caused by the tower’s persistent structural problems. By the time the first three stories were completed, one side of the tower had already begun to sink into the soft soil, and construction was halted for nearly 100 years. The first attempts to counter the lean of the structure were made in 1275, when construction resumed. By 1301 six stories were complete, and the tower was finished about 1350.

At its summit, the structure tilts about 5 m (16 ft) from the vertical, and the lean is said to be increasing at a rate of about 1 mm (about 1/25 of an inch) per year. Italian physicist Galileo conducted his famous experiments with gravity and the relative speed of falling objects from the top story of the tower. The structure has been closed to the public since 1990 due to safety and conservation concerns.

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Italy, tourist information


italyItaly (Italian Italia), republic in southern Europe, bounded on the north by Switzerland and Austria; on the east by Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea; on the south by the Ionian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea; on the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Ligurian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea; and on the northwest by France. It comprises, in addition to the Italian mainland, the Mediterranean islands of Elba, Sardinia, and Sicily, and many lesser islands. Enclaves within mainland Italy are the independent countries of San Marino and Vatican City; the latter is a papal state mostly enclosed by Rome, the capital and largest city of Italy. The area of Italy is 301,323 sq km (116,341 sq mi).


More than half of Italy consists of the Italian Peninsula, a long projection of the continental mainland. Shaped much like a boot, the Italian Peninsula extends generally southeast into the Mediterranean Sea. From northwest to southeast, the country is about 1,145 km (about 710 mi) long; with the addition of the southern peninsular extremity, which extends north to south, it is about 1,360 km (about 845 mi) long. The maximum width of the mainland portion of Italy is about 610 km (about 380 mi) in the north; the maximum width of the peninsula is about 240 km (about 150 mi). On the northern frontiers are the Alps, which extend in a wide arc from Ventimiglia on the west to Gorizia on the east, and include high peaks such as Monte Cervino (4,478 m/14,692 ft) and Monte Rosa, which rises to its highest point (4,634 m/15,203 ft) in Switzerland just west of the border. The highest point in Italy is near the summit of Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco), on the border of Italy, France, and Switzerland; the peak, located in France, is 4,807 m (15,771 ft). Between the Alps and the Apennines, which form the backbone of the Italian Peninsula, spreads the broad Plain of Lombardy, comprising the valley of the Po River. The northern Apennines project from the Maritime Alps along the Gulf of Genoa to the sources of the Tiber River. Monte Cimone (2,163 m/7,097 ft) is the highest summit of the northern Apennines. The central Apennines, beginning at the source of the Tiber, consist of several chains. In the eastern portion of this rugged mountain district is Monte Corno (2,912 m/9,554 ft), the highest Apennine peak. The southern Apennines stretch southeast from the valley of the Sangro River to the coast of the Gulf of Taranto, where they assume a more southerly direction. High peaks of the Apennine ranges of the Calabrian Peninsula, as the southern extremity of the Italian Peninsula is known, include Botte Donato (1,929 m/6,329 ft) and Montalto (1,957 m/6,422 ft). The Apennines form the watershed of the Italian Peninsula. The main uplifts are bordered by less elevated districts, known collectively as the sub-Apennine region.

Only about one-third of the total land surface of Italy is made of plains, of which the greatest single tract is the Plain of Lombardy. The coast of Italy along the northern Adriatic Sea is low and sandy, bordered by shallow waters and, except at Venice, not readily accessible to oceangoing vessels. From a point near Rimini southward, the eastern coast of the peninsula is fringed by spurs of the Apennines. Along the middle of the western coast, however, are three stretches of low and marshy land, the Campagna di Roma, the Pontine Marshes, and the Maremma.

The western coast of Italy is broken up by bays, gulfs, and other indentations, which provide a number of natural anchorages. In the northwest is the Gulf of Genoa, the harbor of the important commercial city of Genoa. Naples, another leading western coast port, is situated on the beautiful Bay of Naples, dominated by the volcano Mount Vesuvius. A little farther south is the Gulf of Salerno, at the head of which stands the port of Salerno. The southeastern end of the peninsula is deeply indented by the Gulf of Taranto, which divides the so-called heel of Italy (ancient Calabria) from the toe (modern Calabria). The Apennine range continues beneath the narrow Strait of Messina and traverses the island of Sicily, where the volcano Mount Etna, 3,323 m (10,902 ft) high, is located. Another active volcano rises on Stromboli, one of the Lipari Islands (Isole Eolie), northwest of the Strait of Messina. In addition to volcanic activity, Italy is also plagued by frequent minor earthquakes, especially in the southern regions.

A Rivers and Lakes

Italy has many rivers, of which the Po and the Adige are the most important. The Po, 652 km (405 mi) long, is navigable for about 480 km (about 300 mi), and with its tributaries affords about 970 km (about 600 mi) of inland waterways. The Adige, 410 km (255 mi) long, enters Italy from the Austrian province of Tirol (Tyrol), flows east, and, like the Po, empties into the Adriatic. The beds of these rivers are slowly being elevated by alluvial deposits from the mountains.

The rivers of the Italian Peninsula are shallow, often dry during the summer season, and consequently of little importance for navigation or industry. The chief peninsular rivers are the Arno and the Tiber. From its sources in the Apennines, the Arno flows west for about 240 km (about 150 mi), through a well-cultivated valley and the cities of Florence and Pisa. The Tiber rises not far from the sources of the Arno and runs through the city of Rome. Both the northern and peninsular regions of Italy have numerous lakes. The principal lakes of northern Italy are Garda, Maggiore, Como, and Lugano; the peninsular lakes, which are considerably smaller, include Trasimeno, Bolsena, and Bracciano.

B Climate

The climate of Italy is highly diversified, with extremes ranging from frigid in the higher elevations of the Alps and Apennines, to semitropical along the coast of the Ligurian Sea and the western coast of the lower peninsula. The average annual temperature, however, ranges from about 11° to 19°C (about 52° to 66°F); it is about 13°C (about 55°F) in the Po Valley, about 18°C (about 64°F) in Sicily, and about 14.5°C (about 58°F) in the coastal lowlands. Climatic conditions on the peninsula are characterized by regional variations, resulting chiefly from the configurations of the Apennines, and are influenced by tempering winds from the adjacent seas. In the lowlands regions and lower slopes of the Apennines bordering the western coast from northern Tuscany (Toscana) to the vicinity of Rome, winters are mild and sunny, and extreme temperatures are modified by cooling Mediterranean breezes. Temperatures in the same latitudes on the east of the peninsula are much lower, chiefly because of the prevailing northeastern winds. Along the upper eastern slopes of the Apennines, climatic conditions are particularly bleak. The climate of the peninsular lowlands below the latitude of Rome closely resembles that of southern Spain. In contrast to the semitropical conditions prevalent in southern Italy and along the Gulf of Genoa, the climate of the Plain of Lombardy is continental. Warm summers and severe winters, with temperatures as low as -15°C (5°F), prevail in this region, which is shielded from sea breezes by the Apennines. Heaviest precipitation occurs in Italy during the fall and winter months, when westerly winds prevail. The lowest mean annual rainfall, about 460 mm (about 18 in), occurs in the Apulian province of Foggia in the south and in southern Sicily; the highest, about 1,520 mm (about 60 in), occurs in the province of Udine in the northeast.

C Natural Resources

Italy is poor in natural resources, much of the land being unsuitable for agriculture due to mountainous terrain or unfavorable climate. Italy, moreover, is seriously deficient in basic natural resources such as coal. The most important mineral resources are natural gas, petroleum, lignite, sulfur, and pyrites. Other mineral deposits include lead, manganese, zinc, mercury, and bauxite. Many of these deposits are on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. However, they had been heavily depleted by the early 1990s. Italy is rich in various types of building stone, notably marble. The coastal waters of Italy teem with fishes, of which sardine, tuna, and anchovy have the greatest commercial importance. Freshwater fishes include eels and trout.

D Plants and Animals

The flora of the central and southern lowlands of Italy is typically Mediterranean. Among the characteristic vegetation of these regions are trees such as the olive, orange, lemon, palm, and citron. Other common types, especially in the extreme south, are fig, date, pomegranate, and almond trees, and sugarcane and cotton. The vegetation of the Apennines closely resembles that of central Europe. Dense growths of chestnut, cypress, and oak trees occupy the lower slopes, and at higher elevations, there are extensive stands of pine and fir.

Italy has fewer varieties of animals than are found generally in comparable areas of Europe. Small numbers of marmot, chamois, and ibex live in the Alps. The bear, numerous in ancient times, is now virtually extinct, but the wolf and wild boar still flourish in the mountain regions. Another fairly common quadruped is the fox. Among the predatory species of bird are the eagle hawk, vulture, buzzard, falcon, and kite, confined for the most part to the mountains. The quail, woodcock, partridge, and various migratory species abound in many parts of Italy. Reptiles include several species of lizards and snakes and three species of the poisonous viper family. Scorpions are also found.

E Environmental Issues

Industrial and urban pollution is a major concern in Italy. Sulfur dioxide emissions that have been linked with health problems and damage to buildings have decreased since 1970, but progress in cleaning the air has been slower than in other European countries. Nitrogen oxide emissions are still on the rise, however, linked with continued growth of the transportation sector. Electric cars are becoming a popular solution to air-quality problems in urban areas. Up to 10 percent of Italy’s forests have been damaged by air pollution. Levels of water pollution from farm chemicals and human waste are high in some rivers and in the Adriatic Sea. Extreme levels in 1988 and 1989 caused widespread eutrophication (oxygen depletion) of the marine environment in this region, and the government declared an emergency.

Nature conservation has been practiced in Italy since Roman times. There are currently five national parks, each independently administered. In addition, there are many other types of smaller protected areas. The lack of a national system of protected areas with centralized administration has impeded efforts to create new preserves and to legally protect existing ones. A nationwide forest inventory was completed in 1988. The government provides incentives for forest preservation and tree planting. About 22.1 percent (1995) of the country is forested, of which 42 percent is managed for tree harvest and only one-quarter is mature forest. A significant proportion of forests is under private management. Forest biomass has increased in recent years due to a decline in human encroachment on mountain habitats. Since the early 1980s Italy has had fairly comprehensive laws and guidelines protecting the sea and coastlines, although enforcement and implementation has been irregular.

Italy has ratified numerous international environmental agreements, including the World Heritage Convention and agreements concerning air pollution, biodiversity, climate change, endangered species, hazardous wastes, marine dumping, the nuclear test ban, the ozone layer, ship pollution, tropical timber, wetlands, and whaling. Regionally, Italy is party to the European Wild Birds Directive and the Council of Europe (CE), under which dozens of biogenetic reserves have been designated. Ten specially protected marine areas exist in Italy under the Mediterranean Action Plan. Several transborder parks have been established with France and Switzerland.


The Italian population consists almost entirely of native-born people, many of whom identify themselves closely with a particular region of Italy. The country can be generally divided into the more urban north (the area from the northern border and the port of Ancona to the southern part of Rome) and the mostly rural south (everything below this line, which is called the “Ancona Wall” by Italians). The more prosperous north contains most of Italy’s larger cities and about two-thirds of the country’s population; the primarily agricultural south has a smaller population base and a more limited economy. In recent decades the population has generally migrated from rural to urban areas; the population was 67 percent urban in 1999. The overwhelming majority of the people speak Italian (see Italian Language), one of the Romance group of languages of the Indo-European family of languages (see Italic Languages). German is spoken around Bolzano, in the north near the Austrian border. Other minority languages include French (spoken in the Valle d’Aosta region), Ladin, Albanian, Slovenian, Catalan, Friulian, Sardinian, Croatian, and Greek.

A Population Characteristics

According to the 1991 census, Italy had a population of 56,778,031. The 2001 estimated population is 57,679,825, giving the country an average population density of 191 persons per sq km (about 496 per sq mi).

B Political Divisions

Administratively, Italy is divided into 20 regions, each of which is subdivided into provinces and communes.

C Principal Cities

The capital and largest city of Italy is Rome (population, 2000 estimate, 2,644,000), which is a famous cultural and tourist center. Other cities with large populations include Milan (1,301,000), an important manufacturing, financial, and commercial city; Naples (1,003,000), one of the busiest ports in Italy; Turin (904,000), a transportation junction and major industrial city; Palermo (684,000), the capital and chief seaport of Sicily; Genoa (636,000), the leading port in Italy and a major trade and commercial center; Bologna (381,000), a major transportation center and agricultural market; Florence (377,000), a cultural, commercial, transportation, and industrial center; Bari (332,000), a major commercial center; Catania (338,000), a manufacturing and commercial city of Sicily; and Venice (277,000), a leading seaport and a cultural and manufacturing center.

D Religion

The dominant religion of Italy is Roman Catholicism, the faith of about 98 percent of the people. However, the Catholic church’s role in Italy is declining; only about 25 percent of Italians attend mass regularly, and a law ratified in 1985 abolished Roman Catholicism as the official state religion and ended mandatory religious instruction in public schools. The constitution guarantees freedom of worship to the religious minorities, which are primarily Protestant, Muslim, and Jewish.

E Education

The Italian impact on European education dates back to the ancient Roman educators and scholars, outstanding among whom were Cicero, Quintilian, and Seneca. Later, during the Middle Ages, Italian universities became the model for those of other countries. During the Renaissance, Italy was the teacher of the liberal arts to virtually all Europe, especially for Greek language and literature. The educational influence of Italy continued through the 17th century, when its universities and academies were Continental centers of teaching and research in the sciences. After a decline during the 18th and 19th centuries, Italian education regained international notice in the 20th century, partly as a result of the method for teaching young children developed by Maria Montessori.

The modern educational system of Italy dates from 1859, when a law was enacted providing for a complete school system that extended from the elementary through the university levels. Improvements were introduced later in the 19th century. In 1923 the philosopher Giovanni Gentile, minister of public instruction under Benito Mussolini, promoted complete governmental control of education, and the control was reinforced by the School Charter of 1939. With the collapse of fascism in 1944, however, Italy undertook to organize the school system along democratic lines. The constitution of 1947 and later laws raised the general educational level and encouraged experimentation, such as televised adult education (telescuola).

Traditionally, the goal of the Italian educational system has been to establish a well-trained minority rather than a widely educated majority. Children aged 3 to 5 may attend kindergarten. Education is free and compulsory for all children aged 6 through 14. The compulsory term includes five years of elementary and three years of secondary education. The required part of secondary education is taken in a lower secondary school. This period may be followed by study in a higher secondary school to gain specialized training or to prepare for university entrance. Higher secondary studies leading to university entrance may be taken in classical, scientific, teacher-training, technical, or business schools. A student may also enter an art institute or conservatory of music. Areas of specialized training include industry and agriculture.

E1 Elementary and Secondary Schools

In the 1995 school year about 20,361 primary schools with some 256,920 teachers were giving instruction to about 2.8 million pupils. Some 4.6 million students were enrolled in secondary schools.

E2 Universities and Colleges

Much attention is given to higher education in Italy. During the last quarter of the 19th century, the gain in Italian university graduates was about seven times the corresponding rate of increase of the Italian population. Some 1.9 million students were enrolled in higher education in Italy in 1996-1997. Examinations held three times a year are mainly oral. Six Italian universities were founded in the 13th century and five in the 14th. The oldest is the University of Bologna, dating from the 11th century, and the largest is the University of Rome, with about 217,000 students. Other notable institutions are those of Bari, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Padua (Padova), Perugia, Pisa, Siena, and Trieste.

F Culture

From antiquity to modern times, Italy has played a central role in world culture. Italians have contributed some of the world’s most admired sculpture, architecture, painting, literature, and music, particularly opera. Although the nation was politically unified less than 150 years ago, the Italians do not consider themselves to be a “new” people, but see themselves instead as the descendants of the ancient Romans. Moreover, regional differences persist because of natural geographical boundaries and the disparate cultural heritage that has come down from the Greeks, Etruscans, Arabs, Normans, and Lombards. Regional particularism is evident in persistent local dialects, holidays, festivals, songs, and regional cuisine. Central to all Italian life is the tradition of the family as a guiding force and focus of loyalty.

Many of the great Italian painters, such as Giotto, Fra Angelico, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, and Amedeo Modigliani, are covered in separate articles in the encyclopedia, as are famous Italian composers such as Antonio Vivaldi, Gaetano Donizetti, Giacomo Puccini, Gioacchino Rossini, and Giuseppe Verdi. See also Architecture; Italian Literature; Motion Pictures, History of; Music, Western; Opera; Painting; Sculpture.

F1 Libraries and Museums

Italy is rich in important library collections. Among the largest and most valuable libraries are the national libraries in Florence, Naples, and Rome. Several universities also have large libraries. Smaller collections, rich in local manuscripts and incunabula (books printed before 1501), are found in most Italian cities.

World-famous art collections are housed in numerous Italian cities. Among the most important art museums are the Uffizi Gallery and Medici Chapel in Florence, the National Museum in Naples, and, in Rome, the Villa Giulia Museum, the Galleria Borghese, and the National Gallery of Modern Art. Vatican City has important art collections in its museums and chapels, the most famous of which is the Sistine Chapel. An international biennial exhibition of visual arts in Venice is world renowned.


A largely agricultural country before World War II (1939-1945), Italy has developed a diversified industrial base in the north, which contributes significantly to the economy. In 1999 the gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $1.17 trillion, or about $20,310 per capita; industry contributed 26 percent to the value of domestic output, services 71 percent, and agriculture (including forestry and fishing) 3 percent. Italy essentially has a private-enterprise economy, although the government formerly held a controlling interest in a number of large commercial and manufacturing enterprises, such as the oil industry (through the Italian state petroleum company) and the principal transportation and telecommunication systems. In the mid-1990s Italy was transferring government interest in many enterprises to private ownership. An ongoing problem of the Italian economy has been the slow growth of industrialization in the south, which lags behind the north in most aspects of economic development. Government efforts to foster industrialization in the south have met with mixed results, as problems with the workforce and the overriding influence of the criminal groups known collectively as the Mafia have discouraged many large corporations from opening operations there. Many southerners have migrated to northern Italy in search of employment. Unemployment remains a problem throughout the country, however; the unemployment rate remains at about 12 percent of the working-age population. The large national debt has also plagued Italy’s economy: The national budget of Italy in 1998 included revenue of $484 billion and expenditure of $522 billion. In keeping with provisions of the Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union, Italy is attempting to reduce its budget deficit. Progress was evident by 1996, with the debt reduced to 7 percent of GDP, although still far from the goal of 3 percent.

A Agriculture

Some 38 percent of the land area of Italy is cultivated or used for orchards; agriculture, with fishing and forestry, engages 7 percent of the labor force. Variations of climate, soil, and elevation allow the cultivation of many types of crops. Italy is one of the leading nations in the production of grapes and ranks among the world’s foremost wine producers. Italian wine production totaled about 6.4 million cubic meters (1.7 billion gallons) in the early 1990s. Italy also is one of the world’s leading producers of olives and olive oil. The output of olives was about 2.4 million metric tons annually in the early 1990s, and production of olive oil was about 435,000 metric tons. Chief field crops, with 2000 production in metric tons, included vegetables such as tomatoes (15.7 million), maize (10.3 million), wheat (7.3 million), sugar beets (12.3 million), potatoes (2.1 million), rice (1.3 million), and soybeans (1 million). Other field crops are barley, rye, artichokes, chili peppers, and watermelons. Orchard crops, prominent in the Italian economy, include apples, peaches, pears, oranges, figs, dates, and nuts. Dairy farming is a major industry. About 50 kinds of cheese are produced, including Gorgonzola, pecorino, and Parmesan. The livestock population in 2000 numbered 7.2 million cattle, 11 million sheep, 8.4 million hogs, 1.4 million goats, 280,000 horses, and 123 million poultry.

B Forestry and Fishing

The forestry industry is limited in Italy, and much wood must be imported. Most of the old-growth forests were harvested, first by the Romans in antiquity and then in the 19th century. The resulting soil erosion has also hampered industry. However, some advances have been made in recent years, and the timber harvest in 1999 was 11.1 million cubic meters (393 million cubic feet). The catch of the country’s substantial fishing industry in 1997 was 562,196 metric tons. Among the species harvested are mussels, shrimp, prawns, sardines, trout, striped venus, hake, anchovies, and octopus.

C Mining

Mining contributes only a small portion of the annual national product, but production of some minerals is sizable. Lead production, for example, totalled 6,000 metric tons in 1999. Production of fossil fuels in 1999 included 53.7 million barrels of crude petroleum and 17.6 billion cubic meters (620 billion cubic feet) of natural gas. Other mineral resources include barites, lignite, pyrites, fluorspar, sulfur, and mercury.

D Manufacturing

Since World War II, Italian industry has expanded rapidly, and Italian products have gained worldwide popularity. In the early 1990s the annual production of the textile industry, one of the largest and most important, included 245,100 metric tons of cotton yarn. Annual production of the chemical industry, which is also important to the national economy, included sulfuric acid (2.8 million metric tons), ammonia (1.4 million), and caustic soda (964,800). Among other major industries are the manufacture of motor vehicles, iron and steel, rubber, heavy machinery, electrical ware (particularly household electronic products), and foodstuffs, particularly pasta. Annual production of passenger cars totaled 1.5 million in the early 1990s. Shipbuilding, the processing of hemp and tobacco, and sugar refining are also important. Leading manufacturing centers include Genoa, Milan, Rome, and Turin.

E Energy

Italy generates only about a quarter of the energy it consumes, relying mostly on imported fossil fuels. Some 80.22 percent of Italy’s yearly output of electricity is generated in thermal plants burning petroleum products, natural gas, coal, or lignite, and most of the remainder is produced in hydroelectric facilities. The country’s nuclear energy program was abandoned because of public opposition following the 1986 accident at Chernobyl’ in Ukraine. In 1999 Italy’s annual output of electricity was 248 billion kilowatt-hours.

F Currency and Banking

The unit of currency in Italy is the lira, consisting of 100 centesimi (1,817 lire equal U.S.$1; 1999 average). The Bank of Italy is the Italian national bank. A public institution, the Bank of Italy has branches in each provincial capital. In addition, Italy has many private banks. The 1990 Banking Act introduced a number of changes in the country’s banking system, reducing public ownership of banks and loosening regulations on external and foreign capital, as part of the move by the European Community (now the European Union) toward free capital movement within Europe and currency union. Milan and Rome are major financial centers.

Italy and 11 other members of the EU are in the process of changing from their national currencies to the single currency of the European Union, the euro. The euro began to be used on January 1, 1999, for electronic transfers and for accounting purposes. Euro coins and bills will be issued in 2002, at which time Italian currency will cease to be legal tender.

On January 1, 1999, control over Italian monetary policy, including such things as setting interest rates and regulating the money supply, was transferred from the Bank of Italy to the European Central Bank (ECB). The ECB is responsible for all monetary policies of the European Union. The Bank of Italy joined the other EU countries that adopted the euro as part of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB).

G Foreign Trade

Increased trade between Italy and the other member countries of the European Union characterized the 1970s and 1980s. The dependence of Italy on imported coal, petroleum, and other essential raw materials usually yields an unfavorable balance of trade. This imbalance is partly offset by the tourism industry, remittances from Italian nationals in foreign lands, and shipping revenues. In 1999 Italian exports earned $228 billion per year and imports cost $213.8 billion. Exports include machinery, motor vehicles, clothing, textile yarn and fabrics, footwear, iron and steel, fruit and vegetables, and wine. Imports include machinery and transportation equipment, petroleum, metals, chemicals, textile yarn and fabrics, and meat.

Exports increased in the early 1990s when the lira was devalued against other European currencies, making Italian manufactures less expensive to foreign buyers. Rising exports helped pull Italy from a recession, which in the early 1990s produced the sharpest economic fall in the postwar era. Nearly three-fifths of Italian trade is with members of the European Union. Principal markets for Italy’s products are Germany, France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Switzerland. Chief sources for imports are Germany, France, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and the United States.

H Transportation

With 1,457 vessels in 2000, Italy has one of the world’s largest merchant fleets; its total displacement was 6.6 million gross registered tons. The country’s chief seaports include Genoa, Trieste, Taranto, and Venice. Italy is served by 16,031 km (9,961 mi) of operated railroad track, much of which is electrified. The government operates most of the rail lines. The country has about 654,676 km (about 406,797 mi) of roads, including some 7,000 km (some 4,300 mi) of limited-access highways (autostrada). One of the longest automobile tunnels in the world, the Mont Blanc Tunnel linking Italy and France, was opened in 1965. The two countries also are linked via the Mount Frejus vehicular tunnel, opened in 1980. Alitalia, the state airline, provides both domestic and international service. The country’s busiest airport is near Rome; the largest international airport is Malpensa Airport near Milan.

I Communications

Since the abolition in 1976 of the Italian government’s monopoly on broadcasting, the number of stations in the country has increased to more than 160 radio and 80 television broadcasters. While the number of daily newspapers remains small relative to Italy’s population, total circulation was 6 million in 1996, or 104 copies for every 1,000 residents. Readership in the north and central portion of the country accounts for four-fifths of the sales. Local and regional publications, including those produced by political parties and by the Roman Catholic church, are an important part of Italy’s communications network. Influential dailies include Corriere della Sera and Il Giorno, in Milan; La Repubblica, in Rome; and La Stampa, in Turin. In 1997 Italy had 880 radios and 528 televisions for every 1,000 people.

J Labor

Italy’s labor force in 1999 was 26 million; some 38 percent were women. In the early 1990s, approximately 9.9 million workers belonged to three major trade union federations: the Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, or CGIL (some 4.6 million members), associated with the Socialist Party and the Democratic Party of the Left; the centrist Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori, or CISL (about 3.8 million); and the Unione Italiana del Lavoro, or UIL (1.5 million). Labor union contracts set wages and salaries in every major field.

K The Mafia

A loosely affiliated network of criminal groups that first developed in Sicily during the late Middle Ages, the Mafia has historically been one of the most powerful economic and social forces in Italy. By the late 19th century, the Mafia, known for its familial structure, ruthless violence, and strong code of silence (omertà), controlled the Sicilian countryside, infiltrating or manipulating local authorities, extorting money, and terrorizing citizens. During the 20th century, except for a period of repression by Benito Mussolini from the 1920s until the end of World War II in 1945, the Mafia continued to expand its influence over both legal and illegal operations in Italy, especially in the south. The Mafia’s influence was exported to other countries by emigrants, and by the 1970s the Mafia controlled a large part of the world’s heroin trade. Renewed government prosecution of Mafia figures and activities beginning in the mid-1980s, and a series of political scandals linking many Italian politicians with the Mafia, gave rise to hopes that Mafia influence in Italy would eventually decline.


Italy has been a democratic republic since June 2, 1946, when the monarchy was abolished by popular referendum. By the terms of the constitution that became effective on January 1, 1948, the reestablishment of the Fascist Party is prohibited; direct male heirs of the house of Savoy (see Savoy, House of) are ineligible to vote or hold any public office and are, in fact, banished from Italian soil; and recognition is no longer accorded to titles of nobility, although titles in existence prior to October 28, 1922, may be used as part of the bearer’s name. Although Italy’s tumultuous politics have produced more than 50 different governments since the advent of the democratic system, order is maintained through a well-established bureaucracy that supports the elected offices.

A Executive

The president of Italy is elected for a seven-year term by a joint session of parliament augmented by three delegates from each of the 20 regional councils except that of Valle d’Aosta, which sends only one. The president, who must be at least 50 years old, is ordinarily elected by a two-thirds majority. The president has the right to dissolve the Senate and Chamber of Deputies at any time except during the last six months of his tenure. The president usually has little to do with the actual running of the government. These duties are in the hands of the prime minister—who is chosen by the president and must have the confidence of parliament—and the Council of Ministers. The prime minister (sometimes called the premier) generally is the leader of the party that has the largest representation in the Chamber of Deputies.

B Legislature

The Italian parliament consists of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies elected by popular suffrage for five-year terms of office. For many years, Italian citizens voted for political parties, and individual representatives were named by party leaders in a proportional manner. But as a result of corruption scandals in the early 1990s, a number of public referendums were passed in April 1993 that mandated a more direct electoral system. Beginning with the elections of March 1994, three-fourths of the 630 seats in the lower-house Chamber of Deputies and an identical proportion of the 326 elected seats in the upper-house Senate are now filled by direct candidate ballot, as in the United States. The other 25 percent of Senate seats are filled by a system of proportional representation. There are also life members in the Senate, a group made up of past presidents and their honorary nominees (each president is entitled to make up to five such appointments). Citizens must be 25 years of age or older to vote for senators; in all other elections, all citizens over age 18 are eligible to vote.

C Judiciary

Italy has a Supreme Court of Cassation (Corte Supreme di Cassazione), which is the highest court of appeal in all cases except those concerning the constitution. There is also a constitutional court, which is analogous in function to the Supreme Court of the United States, and is composed of 15 judges. Five of the judges are appointed by the president of the republic, five by the Senate and Chamber of Deputies jointly, and five by the supreme law courts. The criminal justice system includes district courts, tribunals, and courts of appeal.

D Local Government

Italy is divided into 20 regions, which are subdivided into a total of 94 provinces. Each region is governed by an executive responsible to a popularly elected council. The regional governments have considerable authority. The chief executive of each of the provinces, the prefect, is appointed by, and answerable to, the central government and in fact has little power. An elected council and a provincial executive committee administer each province. Every part of Italy forms a portion of a commune, the basic unit of local government, which may range in size from a small village to a large city such as Naples; there were more than 8,000 communes in the early 1990s. Each commune is governed by a communal council elected for a four-year term by universal suffrage. Each council elects a mayor.

E Political Parties

During the first half of the 1990s, in the face of widespread political scandal, Italy moved from a coalition system of politics that had long been dominated by a single party to a more splintered system of powerful new parties and alliances. The centrist Christian Democratic Party, which had been part of 52 consecutive coalitions that had ruled Italy since 1948, dissolved in January 1994. Its members formed two separate parties, the Popular Party and the Christian Democratic Center Party. A new right-wing party, Forza Italia (“Go, Italy”), led by media magnate Silvio Berlusconi, then emerged as a leading political group. The far-right National Alliance, a successor of the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement, also gained prominence during the 1990s.

The major left-wing party became the Democratic Party of the Left, the new name adopted in 1991 by the Italian Communists, one of the largest Communist parties in Western Europe. The party renounced its Communist past and adopted more moderate policies, but a smaller splinter group, the Communist Refoundation, continued to espouse Marxist principles. The Northern League-Federal Italy (known as the Northern League until 1995), begun in the 1980s as a protest party, has advocated increased regional autonomy, at times calling for Italy to be split into several federated republics. The country’s minor parties include the Green Party, the Liberal Party of Italy, several Socialist parties, the Republican Party of Italy, the Radical Party, and the anti-Mafia Network Party.

F Health and Welfare

A government-run national health service, created by legislation enacted in 1978, has the goal of providing free medical care for all citizens. In 1996 Italy had one hospital bed for every 154 people and one physician for every 216 people. Social-welfare insurance, funded largely by employers, is extended to the infirm and the aged, as well as to people pensioned by the state, farmers, unemployed agricultural workers, and apprentices. Life expectancy at birth was estimated at 83 years for women and 76 years for men in 2001; the infant mortality rate was 6 per 1,000 live births.

G Defense

The armed forces of Italy have been greatly expanded since the country joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. In 1999 the Italian permanent armed forces totaled 250,600 people, with an army of 153,000, a navy of 38,000, an air force of 59,600, and a central staff. Compulsory military service for men extends for ten months. Italy will phase out peacetime conscription by 2003, opening the way for the creation of a voluntary military force.


For the history of Italy to the 5th century ad, see Ancient Rome and Roman Empire. For additional data on the development of modern Italy, see Etruscan Civilization; Florence; Genoa; Lombardy (Lombardia); Milan; Naples; Papal States; Savoy, House of; Sicily; Tuscany; Venice.

A The Middle Ages

In ad 476 the last independent Roman emperor of the West, Romulus Augustulus, was dethroned by the invading Germanic chieftain Odoacer, who thereupon succeeded to the throne. In 488 Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, invaded Italy and, after defeating and slaying Odoacer, became the sole ruler in Italy. Theodoric ruled until his death in 526. In 535 Justinian I, emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire (see Byzantine Empire), dispatched the great general Belisarius to expel the Germanic invaders from Italy. A fierce war ensued, ending in 553 with the death of Teias, the last of the Gothic kings. The Byzantine rule was of short duration, however, for in 572 Italy was invaded by the Lombards, another Germanic tribe. Alboin, their king, made Pavia the capital of his realm, and from that city he launched a series of campaigns that eventually deprived the Byzantine power in Italy of everything except the southern portion of the province and the exarchate of Ravenna in the north. The country’s most important religious leaders of the time were the archbishops of Ravenna.

A1 Religious Conflict

After the death of Alboin in 572, the Lombards for a time had no king. Separate bands thereupon united under regional leaders known as duces. The Lombards, like the Goths before them, espoused the heretical creed called Arianism, with the result that they were in perpetual religious conflict with the native Italians, who overwhelmingly supported orthodox Christianity. This conflict was intensified as the temporal power of the popes increased. At length, Agiluf, a new Lombard king who reigned from 590 to 615, was converted to orthodox Christianity, and for some time comparative harmony prevailed. To consolidate their political power, however, the Lombards began to encroach on papal territory, even threatening Rome, the center of church authority. In 754 Pope Stephen II summoned help from the Franks, who had accepted the spiritual authority of the church a century earlier. Under the vigorous leadership of Pepin the Short and his son, Charlemagne, the Franks conquered the Lombards, deposing the last Lombard king in 774. On Christmas Day, 800, Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the West by Pope Leo III.

When the Saracens subdued Sicily and threatened Rome in the 9th century, Pope Leo IV called on King Louis II, Charlemagne’s great-grandson, who checked the progress of the invaders. The Muslims overran southern Italy after Louis died and compelled the popes to pay tribute. For many years thereafter, the history of Italy is the record of the rise and fall of successive petty kings. Chief among them were Guido of Spoleto; Berengar I of Friuli, Holy Roman emperor; and Hugh of Provence. The period of anarchy ended in 962, when the Germanic leader Otto I, after obtaining possession of northern Italy and the Lombard crown, was crowned emperor by Pope John XII. This event is considered by some to mark the establishment of both the Holy Roman Empire and the German nation.

A2 The Papacy Versus the Holy Roman Empire

Until the close of the Middle Ages the Holy Roman emperors claimed and, in varying degrees, exercised sovereignty over Italy, but for practical purposes imperial authority became completely nominal by the beginning of the 14th century. Meanwhile, the south of Italy had remained under Byzantine and Lombard sway. In the 11th century, however, the Normans broke the Byzantine power and expelled the Lombards. The Normans united their territorial conquests in Italy in 1127 with Sicily, which they had wrested from the Saracens. These developments coincided with a resurgence of papal power, long secondary to that of the emperors. Imperial and papal friction reached a peak in the Investiture Controversy. By the Concordat of Worms, negotiated in 1122, the emperor surrendered to the college of cardinals the right to elect the pope. Simultaneous with the increasing influence of the papacy, strong opposition to the continued rule of the Holy Roman emperors appeared in the form of the rising Italian city-states. In Italy the feudal system had never attained the high degree of development characteristic of France and Germany (see Feudalism). The relative weakness of Italian feudalism was due in great part to the survival of Roman traditions and to the large number of cities in Italy, for feudalism was a rural rather than an urban phenomenon. The northern cities in particular defied the power of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I, who fought fierce but inconclusive wars with them. At length the Lombard League, an alliance of Italian cities, was formed in 1167; Frederick was vanquished at Legnano in 1176, and in 1183, with the signing of the Peace of Constance, the cities of northern Italy secured virtual autonomy. A final and unsuccessful attempt to crush both the papacy and its allies was made by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, the last great ruler of the royal house of Hohenstaufen. Italy itself was divided by the struggles between imperial partisans (the Guelphs) and their opponents (the Ghibellines). These names continued to be the designations of fiercely contending parties long after the Holy Roman emperors had lost their hold on the country. See Guelphs and Ghibellines.

Meanwhile, in 1266, southern Italy and Sicily came under the domination of the French house of Anjou. In 1282, however, Sicily threw off the French yoke and placed itself under the power of Aragón. See Sicilian Vespers.

A3 The Rise of The City-States

Through commerce, some of the northern Italian cities had meanwhile grown wealthy and had established oligarchic governments that were tending to become democratic. The prosperous merchants of these cities, having secured their independence from the authority of the Holy Roman emperors, soon began to contest the authority of their powerful nobles. Gradually, these nobles were divested of their power and compelled to abandon their extensive landholdings. Venice, by its participation in the Fourth Crusade, had secured extensive possessions in the Byzantine East and had developed a far-reaching trade empire. Pisa, Genoa, Milan, and Florence had likewise become powerful. A bitter struggle for ascendancy soon developed between Genoa and Venice. The conflict ended with a Venetian victory toward the close of the 14th century.

In every city of northern and central Italy the population had long been divided into Guelphs and Ghibellines. The former party was substantially progressive in character, the latter conservative. Civil strife was almost incessant, and the triumph of one party frequently resulted in the banishment of members of the other. On occasion, the banished party sought to regain power with the aid of other cities, so that city often warred against city, producing a shifting succession of alliances, conquests, and temporary truces. This turbulence was highly disadvantageous to commerce and industry, the chief interests of the northern cities. In consequence, the office of podesta, or chief magistrate, was established to mediate the differences of the contending parties. It proved ineffective, however, and the podesta came in time to be primarily a judicial officer. His place as head of the city was taken by a “captain of the people,” representing the dominant party. This position was usually held by a noble. The people, longing for peace, acquiesced in the establishment of centralized authority. Thus, almost every city came to have its despot, or absolute ruler; the office in many cases became hereditary in some noble families, such as the Scala at Verona, the Este at Ferrara, the Malatesta at Rimini, and the Visconti and later the Sforza at Milan. Under the rule of the despots, wealth increased, life became more luxurious, and literature and the arts flourished. Gradually, the smaller cities passed under the influence of the larger ones.

A4 Period of Prosperity

By the middle of the 15th century Italy had achieved great prosperity and comparative tranquility. The country stood in the forefront of European nations culturally, having pioneered the great revival of learning and the arts (see Renaissance). Preeminent in this revival was Tuscany, which had produced the great poet Dante Alighieri and the painter Giotto. Near the end of the 15th century Italy became the object of a succession of aggressive wars, waged by France, Spain, and Austria, which culminated in the ascendancy of the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs. In 1494 King Charles VIII of France undertook to conquer the kingdom of Naples, then under the rule of the house of Aragón. Charles was induced to conduct this campaign by the Milanese regent Ludovico Sforza and by the citizens of Florence, who were restive under the Medici family. He invaded Italy, occupied Naples, and concluded a treaty with Florence, by the terms of which the Medici were expelled and the pope was brought to submission. In consequence, however, of a league formed against him by Spain, the pope, the Holy Roman emperor, and the Italian cities of Venice and Milan, Charles was forced to retire from Naples and fight his way out of Italy. This French invasion, although it produced no great political results, was highly important as a means by which Italian culture was disseminated throughout Europe.

B The Early Modern Age

During the 16th century the various states on the Italian Peninsula fell prey to armies from the more centralized countries of the north. In 1499 King Louis XII of France, successor to Charles VIII, subjugated Milan, which changed hands several times between the French and the Habsburgs. In 1501 Ferdinand V of Castile, who had also been king of Sicily since 1468, reunited Naples and Sicily under one crown. The rivalry between Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor, and King Francis I of France led to another French invasion of Italy in 1524. With the Florentines, Genoese, and Venetians as allies, the French were successful at first, but they were ultimately defeated. In the Peace of Cambrai (1529) Francis renounced all his claims to territory in Italy. Although he renewed the conflict in the 1540s, Charles’s domination over Italy could not be broken. On the extinction of Milan’s Sforza dynasty in 1535, Charles also took control of that duchy, which became part of his Spanish Habsburg realm. Milan remained a Spanish possession for almost 200 years. Of the various free cities of Italy a few survived, and of these only Genoa and Venice remained influential. Venice, in its last notable achievement as an independent city, conquered the Pelopónnisos (Peloponnesus) in 1684, but lost it in 1715.

During the 18th century Italy remained divided and controlled by foreigners. Until 1748 it was the site of a succession of European wars, while the balance of power shifted. Venice turned eastward, the papacy became increasingly insular, and Florence no longer had a central role in the area. The duchy of Savoy, located between France and the Habsburg possessions in Italy, became a major force in the area. Duke Victor Amadeus II emerged from the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) with power and prestige. The Peace of Utrecht (1713) awarded him a royal title and Sicily, which he ceded to Austria in exchange for Sardinia in 1720. The Utrecht treaties also transferred Spain’s holdings in Italy to the Austrians, who exercised dominion in the peninsula throughout most of the second half of the 18th century.

B1 The Napoleonic Period

In 1796 Napoleon Bonaparte, later emperor Napoleon I of France, invaded Italy. His victories led to the Treaty of Campo Formio (1797), establishing the Cisalpine and Ligurian republics, with the former’s capital at Milan and the latter’s at Genoa. Venice and its territory were given to Austria. Napoleon was crowned king of Italy at Milan in 1805. The next year he took possession of the kingdom of Naples. The island of Sicily, however, was preserved for the Neapolitan Bourbons by the British fleet. Naples was granted first to Napoleon’s brother Joseph and later to his brother-in-law Joachim Murat. By 1810 even Rome was incorporated into the French empire.

Napoleon’s hold on Italy was weakened by his defeat at Leipzig in 1813 as the Austrians invaded northern Italy and a British fleet occupied Genoa. The Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) led to a restoration of Austrian domination of the peninsula, but Sardinia recovered Piedmont (Piemonte), Nice, and Savoy and acquired Genoa.

C The Risorgimento

The Italian resistance to Austrian domination, characterized by a growing movement for national unity and independence, has been termed the Risorgimento. Despite suppressive measures by the petty despots who relied on Austrian statesman Prince Klemens von Metternich’s diplomacy and threat of military intervention to preserve their rule, a network of secret societies challenged the traditional order. These societies, especially the Carbonari of southern Italy, played a key role in the revolutions of 1820, which were suppressed by Austria.

C1 Nationalist Movements

The July Revolution of 1830, which drove the Bourbons from the throne of France, had repercussions in Italy. In 1831 insurrections erupted in the Papal States. A congress of representatives from its constituent areas (except Rome and a few cities in the march of Ancona) met in Bologna and adopted a constitution establishing a republican form of government. Responding to the request of Pope Gregory XVI, Austria intervened to suppress the revolutionary movement in the papal domain and placed Bologna under military surveillance.

After the 1831 death of King Charles Felix of Sardinia, the crown passed to Charles Albert, prince of Savoy and Piedmont, who, as regent, had proposed granting his people a constitution in 1821. Believing that Charles Albert still held liberal views, the Italian patriot Giuseppe Mazzini exhorted the new king to serve as liberator of Italy. The king answered this appeal by ordering Mazzini’s arrest; nevertheless, patriotic Italians continued to look to the Sardinian monarchy for leadership.

From exile in Marseille, France, Mazzini in 1831 established an organization called Giovane Italia (Young Italy) to spread the ideals of nationalism and republicanism to the Italian people. Its goals were education and insurrection, and it inspired several revolutions. As these uprisings were suppressed, some Italians questioned the use of radical tactics, suggesting that the national movement required a more responsible leadership.

The neo-Guelph movement sought to establish an order in which the pope would exercise political as well as spiritual leadership in Italy. In 1846 the nationalist and neo-Guelph movements were quickened by the election of Pope Pius IX, who was perceived as being a liberal and a nationalist. The pope immediately began an extensive program of reforms in the Papal States. An amnesty was proclaimed for political offenders, political exiles were permitted to return, freedom of the press was introduced, the highest government offices were opened to laymen, and a consultative chamber was created to suggest new reforms. The pope’s example was followed by the rulers of Lucca, Tuscany, and Piedmont. Instead of allaying the revolutionary movement, however, the reforms of 1846 and 1847 only intensified it. In January 1848 the people of Palermo drove out the forces of Ferdinand II, king of the Two Sicilies, who responded to the revolutionary outburst on the mainland by granting his Italian subjects a constitution. At the same time Leopold II, grand duke of Tuscany, issued a constitution for his duchy. In Turin, Charles Albert, encouraged by Conte Camillo Benso di Cavour, also promised to issue a constitution. Pope Pius IX reluctantly consented to a constitution for the Papal States, although he began to regard the course of events with some apprehension.

C2 The Uprisings of 1848

The outbreak of revolution in Vienna in 1848, which drove Metternich from power, served as the signal for an uprising in Milan on March 18. The populace drove the Austrian troops out of the city on March 22. The Austrians were also expelled from Venice, and a Venetian republic was proclaimed. The autocratic rulers of Parma and Modena were forced to abandon their thrones. In Piedmont the nationalists called for a war of liberation to drive the Austrians from Italian soil. After some hesitation, Charles Albert mobilized his army and marched to the assistance of Lombardy, which he entered on March 26, acclaimed as the liberator of Italy.

Italian hopes were dashed when at the end of April the pope refused to join in the war, in mid-May the revolution in Naples collapsed, and on July 24 the Piedmontese were defeated in battle by the Austrians. By the subsequent armistice the Piedmontese gave up Lombardy. Charles Albert later denounced this armistice, only to be badly defeated in battle at Novara in March 1849. He then abdicated the Sardinian throne in favor of his son, Victor Emmanuel II.

C3 The Revolution in Rome

Meanwhile, Pius IX was denounced by radicals in the Papal States for failing to join the war of national liberation. A popular insurrection in Rome led the pope and his closest adviser, Cardinal Giacomo Antonelli, to flee the capital in November 1848. In his absence the temporal power of the pontiff was abolished and a republic was proclaimed. Early in 1849 Cardinal Antonelli appealed to the Roman Catholic powers of France, Austria, Spain, and Naples to overturn the Roman Republic. Despite the efforts of Mazzini, at the head of the government, and the military leadership of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Austrians moved into the north, the Spanish and Neapolitans invaded from the south, and a French force occupied Rome in July 1849. The papal regime was restored.

C4 Garibaldi and Cavour

Victor Emmanuel remained faithful to the liberal constitution promulgated by his father and retained the tricolor flag, a symbol of free Italy, thus encouraging political refugees from the restored conservative states of the peninsula to find asylum in Sardinia. In 1852 Cavour became the Sardinian prime minister and in 1855 led his country into the Crimean War on the side of Britain and France. At the peace conference in Paris in 1856, Cavour, with the connivance of French Emperor Napoleon III, aired the Italian question as an international problem. In 1858 he met secretly with Napoleon to plot a Franco-Sardinian war against Austria for the liberation of Italy; war erupted in 1859. The Franco-Italian coalition won the battles of Magenta and Solferino, which proved costly. Fearing the consequences of a long war, Napoleon deserted the Italians and unilaterally concluded a preliminary agreement in July 1859 with the Austrians. The Sardinians then accepted the terms formalized in the Treaty of Zürich: Austria ceded most of Lombardy to France, which in turn transferred the Lombard cities of Peschiera and Mantua (Mantova) to Sardinia. Elsewhere, the drive for a united Italy accelerated. In a series of plebiscites in 1860 the people of Romagna and the duchies of Parma and Modena voted for union with Sardinia. France, in return for its collaboration, obtained the regions of Nice and Savoy. In April 1860 Palermo rose against Francis II, king of the Two Sicilies. In May, Garibaldi, with Cavour’s secret support, led an expedition from Genoa to aid the Sicilian revolt. Garibaldi soon took control of Sicily, and in August he attacked the Neapolitan mainland, entering Naples on September 7. Francis fled to the fortress of Gaeta. The Sardinian government, while sympathetic to Garibaldi’s conquest, had officially maintained a policy of neutrality. When Garibaldi threatened to march on Rome, which was protected by French forces, Cavour became alarmed. With Napoleon’s consent, he moved his forces into the Papal States to block Garibaldi. In the process, Sardinia absorbed the bulk of the Papal States, leaving the pope with Rome and its immediate environs. Meanwhile elections in Naples and Sicily and in the Italian regions of Marche and Umbria all favored union with Sardinia.

D The Kingdom of Italy

On March 17, 1861, the kingdom of Italy was proclaimed, with Victor Emmanuel II as king and Cavour as prime minister. Italy, however, was not complete; Rome and Venice remained outside the kingdom. Cavour, who planned for their peaceful inclusion, died in June. The next year Garibaldi went to Sicily and organized a march on Rome. Fearing French intervention, the Italian government denounced Garibaldi. He and his followers, who had landed in Calabria, were blocked by the troops of Victor Emmanuel and compelled to surrender in August 1862. In 1866 Italy became the ally of Prussia in the Seven Weeks’ War against Austria, and at its end acquired Venice. Rome remained elusive, however, as a combined Franco-papal force defeated a renewed effort by Garibaldi and his followers at Mentana in 1867. In 1870 French reverses in the Franco-Prussian War induced Napoleon III to withdraw his troops from Rome, and the Italians were finally able to enter the city. An October plebiscite favored union with the Italian kingdom, and in July 1871, Rome became the capital of a united Italy.

D1 Colonial Ventures

When Victor Emmanuel died in January 1878, his son, Humbert I, succeeded to the Italian throne. During his reign, Italy concluded the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1882, marking the division of Europe into two hostile camps. Humbert was assassinated by an anarchist on July 29, 1900, and his son, Victor Emmanuel III, ascended the throne. Meanwhile, prompted by the examples of France and Britain and by the desire to distract attention from economic and social problems at home, the government had launched a colonial program. In early 1885 an Italian expedition occupied a portion of East Africa. These territories were consolidated in 1890 into the colony of Eritrea. In that year Italy established a protectorate over the Somali coast south of British Somaliland. Prime Minister Francesco Crispi then decided to move from the coastal territories and take over the heartland of Ethiopia. The Italians, however, suffered a serious defeat at Ādwa (Aduwa) in 1896 and had to recognize Ethiopia’s independence. Elsewhere, Italian troops moved into Libya in 1911 and, at the end of the ensuing Italo-Turkish war, Italy’s possession of the Libyan coast was confirmed.

D2 Prewar Italy

From 1901 to 1914 Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti dominated Italy, which experienced political, social, and economic modernization. Giolitti has been criticized for interfering in the electoral process, tolerating protectionism, and creating a virtual parliamentary dictatorship, but he has also been hailed as the maker of modern Italy. During his tenure a number of reforms were introduced: The right of workers to strike for higher wages was recognized; changes in electoral law greatly increased male suffrage; Roman Catholics were drawn into Italy’s political life; and the first major legislation on behalf of the economically depressed south was passed. In foreign affairs, relations were improved with France, while Italy remained in the Triple Alliance. During the Giolitti era Italy’s rate of industrial growth was 87 percent, and workers’ wages grew by more than 25 percent despite a shortened workday and the introduction of a guaranteed day of rest. In many ways Italy was a democracy in the making; this progress was halted by participation in World War I.

D3 World War I

When World War I began in August 1914, the Italian government brushed aside the Triple Alliance and declared its neutrality. Subsequently, after having signed the secret Treaty of London with the Allied powers, Italy declared war on Austria and the Ottoman Empire, and then declared war against Germany about a year later. Italy sent a large force into the Trentino region, in the southern Tirol. In 1916 the Austrians launched a series of attacks northeast of Trent and along the eastern bank of the Adige River, capturing the towns of Asiago and Asiero. Most of the lost territory was later regained by Italian forces, which then mounted an offensive along the Isonzo River in Venezia Giulia, capturing Gorizia on August 9. The Italian armies made little progress thereafter. In October 1917 a combined Austro-German force attacked the Italian defenses, winning a dramatic victory at Caporetto in Venezia Giulia. The Italians fell back, abandoning both Gorizia and the Karst Plateau. The enemy threatened the Italian line from the Julian Alps to the Adriatic Sea. The Italians retreated to the Piave River; reinforced by small numbers of French and British troops, they consolidated their defenses and were able to fight off an Austrian force that attacked in June 1918. The Italians and their allies assumed the offensive, culminating in their smashing victory in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto (October 24-November 4). The Italian army then occupied Udine and Trent, while the navy landed troops at Trieste. Meanwhile, on November 3, the Austro-Hungarian government and the Allies had signed an armistice. Italian casualties during the war totaled more than half a million. In the treaties that followed, Italy acquired the Trentino, Trieste, and the South Tyrol, but did not get all the territory promised in the Treaty of London—notably Dalmatia and Fiume. In November 1920 Italy and the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later renamed Yugoslavia) signed the Treaty of Rapallo; Fiume was established as a free state, and Italy renounced its claims to Dalmatia.

D4 The Postwar Years

From 1919 to 1922 Italy was torn by social and political strife, inflation, and economic problems, aggravated by the belief that Italy had won the war but lost the peace. Armed bands with a strong nationalist bias, known as the Fascisti (see Fascism), fought Socialist and Communist groups in Rome, Bologna, Trieste, Genoa, Parma, and elsewhere. During Giolitti’s final ministry from 1920 to 1921, some semblance of normality returned. He formed a National Bloc of Liberals, Nationalists, and others, including Fascists, but he failed to gather a stable parliamentary majority because the two largest political parties, the Socialists and the newly formed Catholic Popular Party, withheld their support. Giolitti then resigned. His departure precipitated a period of uncertainty. Many landowners feared that their estates would be seized by the peasants; the middle class and the industrialists feared that Italy would become a Soviet-style republic; and conservative Roman Catholics worried that socialism, communism, and atheism threatened the religious order. On October 24, 1922, the Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, emboldened by the support of conservatives and former soldiers, demanded that the government be entrusted to his party. He threatened to seize power by force if his conditions were refused. As the Fascisti mobilized for a march on Rome, Prime Minister Luigi Facta resigned. On October 28 Victor Emmanuel called on Mussolini to form a new government.

D5 The Fascist Dictatorship

Although he was given extraordinary powers to restore order, Mussolini initially governed constitutionally. He headed a coalition government in 1923 that included Liberals, Nationalists, and Catholics, as well as Fascists. After the violence of the 1924 elections and the murder of the Socialist Party deputy Giacomo Matteotti in 1924, Mussolini moved to suspend constitutional government. He proceeded in stages to establish a dictatorship by forbidding the parliament to initiate legislation; by making himself responsible to the king alone; by ordering parliament to authorize him to issue decrees having the force of law; by establishing absolute censorship of the press; and, in 1926, by suppressing all opposition parties.

D5a Economic Measures

In 1928 further measures were taken to transform the nation into a Fascist state. Supreme power was theoretically lodged in the Fascist Grand Council, making up the top leadership of the party, with the prime minister as chairman. The Grand Council was to select the list of candidates for the Chamber of Deputies and to be consulted on all important business of the government, especially the choice of an heir to the throne and successor to Mussolini. Mussolini scored one of his greatest diplomatic triumphs in 1929, when he concluded the Lateran Treaty between the Italian state and the Holy See. This settled the 60-year-old controversy concerning the temporal power of the pope by the creation, at Rome, of Vatican City. In 1934 another step was taken in the reorganization of the economic life of Italy with the formation of 22 corporations, or guilds, representing workers and employers in all phases of the economy. Each corporation included Fascist Party members on its governing council and had Mussolini as its president. These councils were organized into a National Council of Corporations.

During the world economic depression that began in 1929, the Fascist government increasingly intervened to prevent the collapse of a number of industries. The construction of new factories or the expansion of old ones without governmental consent was prohibited. The government reorganized the iron and steel industries, expanded hydroelectric plants, and embarked on other public works projects. The military was also expanded and strengthened. Near the end of 1933, Mussolini announced that the Italian Chamber of Deputies would be called upon to legislate itself out of existence and to transfer its functions to the National Council of Corporations. This step was finally taken in 1939. The Chamber of Deputies was replaced by a Chamber of Fasci and Corporations, composed of some 800 appointive members of the National Council of Corporations. In their respective industries the corporations were entrusted with regulating prices and wages, planning economic policies, and discharging other economic functions.

D5b Relations with Germany

The appointment in 1933 of Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany was greeted cautiously by the controlled Italian press. Hitler in turn expressed friendship for Italian fascism. A German-Italian axis was not immediately formed, however, and a temporary improvement in Franco-Italian relations resulted from German attempts to force the incorporation of Austria into the Third Reich of Germany in 1934. Mussolini rushed 75,000 Italian troops to the Italo-Austrian frontier, announcing that he would intervene if Germany took overt action. Italy drew even closer to its allies of World War I in 1935, when, along with France and Britain, it formed the Stresa Front, organized in protest against Germany’s repeated violations of the Treaty of Versailles.

D5c The Ethiopian Campaign

The event that upset European alignments and brought the Fascist and Nazi dictatorships into close accord was Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Generally regarded as within the Italian sphere of influence, Ethiopia was bound to the Fascist state by many commercial and diplomatic pacts, but Italy sought every opportunity to integrate it into the Italian colonial empire. The Ethiopian war was preceded in 1935 by a Franco-Italian accord, by which Italy agreed to support French opposition to German rearmament in exchange for French concessions in Africa. Britain, regarding aggressive Italian expansion as a menace to British interests, vigorously opposed Mussolini’s plan.

The Italian invasion of Ethiopia began on October 3. Four days later the Council of the League of Nations declared Italy guilty of violating its obligations under the League Covenant and imposed economic sanctions against the aggressor. The league’s failure to enforce these sanctions, however, contributed largely to the Italian victory. On May 9, 1936, Mussolini formally annexed Ethiopia and proclaimed King Victor Emmanuel III emperor. Within a month, the country was incorporated, along with Eritrea and Italian Somaliland, into a single colony, Italian East Africa. In October 1936, after Germany had recognized the Italian conquest, Hitler and Mussolini concluded an agreement providing for joint action in support of their common goals.

D5d The Spanish Civil War

New stresses on the Italian economy were caused by Mussolini’s active espousal of General Francisco Franco’s cause in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Italian troops played an important role at the battles of Málaga and Santander, the Italian air force participated in many engagements, and Italian submarines allegedly sank many neutral ships bound for Loyalist ports with oil, food, and other supplies for the Republican armies. On the Guadalajara front, Italian forces were routed by the Spanish Loyalists in March 1937. An official report put Italian casualties at some 4,000 killed and 15,000 wounded.

D5e The Berlin-Rome Axis

By 1937, cooperation between Italy and Germany had begun to produce results. Following Mussolini’s visit to Germany in September, Italy announced its adherence to the Anti-Comintern Pact between Germany and Japan, and soon thereafter withdrew from the League of Nations. The first major consequence of Italian policy toward Germany was Mussolini’s refusal to aid Austria when that republic was absorbed by Germany in March 1938. Meanwhile, the increasing influence of Nazi racist doctrines on Fascist Italy found expression in a series of measures designed to curb the activities of Italian Jews, including a law that excluded all Jews from civil and military administrations. During the negotiations for the Munich Pact in 1938 and the subsequent dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, Mussolini gave firm support to Hitler’s demands. The two dictators signed a military assistance pact in May 1939. This move followed the German seizure of Bohemia and Moravia and the Italian annexation of Albania.

D6 World War II (1939-1945)

When World War II began in September 1939, Mussolini took the position that he was under no obligation to aid Germany militarily because he had made it clear to the Nazis that Italy would not be prepared for war until 1942.

D6a Entry into the War

German successes during the first year of the war, however, led Mussolini to reverse his policy. In June 1940, when France lay prostrate in defeat and Britain alone faced the powerful German armies, Italy entered the war and granted France an armistice. In August 1940, Italian forces in East Africa occupied British Somaliland, and the following month Fascist armies in Libya and Italian East Africa began a gigantic pincers movement designed to overwhelm British defenses in Egypt. On October 28, 1940, Fascist forces in Albania invaded Greece, apparently to divert British forces from Egypt and to secure bases on the Greek peninsula. The invasion failed, however, as the Greeks drove the Italians from Greece and Albania. This debacle, followed by British victories in the Mediterranean and in Egypt, rocked the Fascist regime to its foundations. Mussolini had to ask Hitler for aid, and thereafter Italian policy in all fields fell increasingly under German control. Sweeping changes in the Fascist military hierarchy were instituted, but these and other reforms failed to restore the morale of the Italian people.

D6b Occupation of the Balkans

In 1941 Italy suffered successive military and naval disasters and growing economic privation caused by an Allied blockade. Anti-Fascist sentiment spread throughout the population. The successful end of the Balkan campaign, as a result of German intervention, somewhat offset the Fascist reverses, however, as Italy acquired several new territories. By arrangement with Germany, almost all Greece was occupied by Italian troops. Many Italians soon realized that their territorial gains in the Balkans were largely illusory, because the Germans actually controlled these areas. Also, Italy was forced to pay an increasingly high price for Hitler’s military assistance. Italian foodstuffs and other commodities ran low as large shipments were sent to the Third Reich in return for German coal and oil. Italy declared war on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on June 22, 1941, on the day of the German invasion, and five weeks later the first Italian division was sent to the Soviet front. As difficulties developed in the German offensive, Hitler became more pressing in his demands on Mussolini.

D6c The United States Enters the War

At the same time, relations between the United States and Italy were approaching a showdown. In March the U.S. government had seized 28 Italian merchant ships in U.S. ports and arrested crew members who sabotaged the vessels on orders from the Italian naval attaché in Washington, D.C. The immediate recall of the attaché was demanded, whereupon Italy forced the recall of the U.S. military attaché in Rome. When Italian assets in the United States were impounded in June, similar measures were taken against U.S. assets in Italy. The alienation reached a climax in December, after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, when Mussolini declared war on the United States.

The outlook for Fascist Italy in 1942 was gloomy. In North Africa, temporary Italo-German gains were liquidated by a vigorous British offensive. Axis forces, including the Italians, suffered serious reverses in the Soviet Union. Italian occupation troops in Albania, Yugoslavia, and Greece suffered heavy losses from guerrilla bands.

D6d German Control

At home the Italian people endured a bitter winter with short rations of food and fuel. Increasing German control of all phases of Italian life, corruption and inefficiency among Fascist officials, and evasion of the rationing laws by the wealthy and influential contributed to their demoralization. In October the British launched a series of bombing raids against the industrial cities of northern Italy. As advancing British and American forces in North Africa established air bases in Algeria and Cyrenaica, southern Italy was also bombed. The political prestige of the Fascist regime continued to decline. In February 1943, hoping to turn the tide, Mussolini assumed full responsibility for both political affairs and military operations. When the Axis forces in Tunisia collapsed in May, he established a council of defense to prepare for an Allied invasion of the Italian mainland. All efforts to bolster defenses and raise morale, however, were nullified by the Allied air raids.

D6e Invasion of Italy

On July 10, 1943, following the capitulation of the strategic Italian island of Pantelleria in the Mediterranean, Allied forces invaded Sicily. Six days later, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill addressed a joint radio message to the people of Italy urging their surrender to avoid greater devastation. The next day Allied planes dropped leaflets over Rome advising of a possible raid on military installations in its vicinity, but assuring that the utmost care would be taken to avoid destruction of residential buildings and cultural monuments. About 500 Allied bombers then attacked railroad yards, war factories, and airfields near the city.

The bombing precipitated a large-scale exodus of the Roman population and brought the political crisis to a climax. During the raid Mussolini was at Verona, conferring with Hitler on measures to meet the next phase of the Allied invasion. On his return to Rome he was confronted with a demand for a meeting of the Fascist Grand Council to consider the Italian military crisis. After a stormy debate, the session concluded with a no-confidence vote against Mussolini. King Victor Emmanuel on July 25 asked for Mussolini’s resignation and placed him in military custody. He summoned Marshal Pietro Badoglio to form a new ministry. The Badoglio cabinet soon decreed the liquidation of all Fascist organizations.

D6f Surrender and Armistice

The fall of Mussolini precipitated clamorous peace demonstrations throughout Italy. Meanwhile, the Allies continued their advance in Sicily. Churchill offered Italy the choice of breaking off its alliance with Germany or suffering destruction; General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Allied commander in chief, promised the Italian people an honorable peace and a beneficent occupation if they ended their aid to the German war effort. In mid-August, a representative of Prime Minister Badoglio arrived in Lisbon with an offer to join the Allies against Germany when the Allied invasion of the Italian mainland began. American and British staff officers were dispatched to negotiate with the Italian emissary on the basis of Italy’s unconditional surrender. The armistice was signed on September 3, the day the invasion of southern Italy began.

D6g The Battle for Italy

The announcement of the armistice set off a furious race between the Allies and the Germans for possession of the territories, bases, arms and supplies, communications, and other war facilities formerly under Italian control. A large Anglo-American amphibious force landed on the beaches of Salerno just south of Naples, hoping to drive inland and trap the German units facing the British Eighth Army farther south. The Germans, however, held off the invasion force until German units in southern Italy could retire. They also seized the cities and strategic centers of northern and central Italy, disarmed Italian troops, and rounded up thousands of suspected enemies. On September 10 they occupied Rome, from which King Victor Emmanuel III and Badoglio had fled two days earlier. The Allies were more successful in the race for control of the Italian fleet. In response to a message from the Allied naval commander in the Mediterranean, virtually all seaworthy Italian warships left their bases at La Spezia and other Italian-held ports to surrender to the Allies in accordance with the armistice terms.

The Germans retained the support of pro-Fascist Italians by announcing in September that a Fascist National Government had been established in opposition to the Badoglio government and was functioning in the name of Mussolini. The former dictator had been rescued from prison by German parachute troops, thus balking Badoglio’s promise to deliver him to the Allies.

D6h War Declared on Germany

In line with pledges made to the Allies and to the Italian people, Prime Minister Badoglio declared war on Germany on October 13 and reorganized his government on a broader, more democratic basis. Seeking to induce leaders of various anti-German political groups to enter his cabinet, he conferred with leaders of six political parties, disbanded by Mussolini, which had united to form a National Liberation Front. These liberal elements, however, would consent to form a representative government only if Victor Emmanuel abdicated. The king refused, and Badoglio declined any part in a move to oust him. As a temporary solution, he organized a so-called technical government of nonparty experts to carry on administrative functions. In November the Committee of National Liberation voted no-confidence in the Badoglio government and called on the king to abdicate.

D6i The King Retires

In April 1944 the king announced his decision to withdraw from public affairs and to appoint his son Humbert, later King Humbert II, as lieutenant general of Italy, the appointment to become effective on the entry of Allied troops into Rome. This cleared the way for a government representing the National Committee of Liberation. The Allied armies liberated Rome on June 4, and Victor Emmanuel transferred all royal authority to Humbert. The party leaders of the Committee of National Liberation, however, unanimously refused to serve in the Badoglio government, and the position of prime minister was given to Ivanoe Bonomi, who formed a coalition government.

Because the new government was under Allied jurisdiction and control, its plans for domestic reforms were largely nullified. American and British officials, fearful of anything that might impede the Allied war effort, vetoed all proposals for social and economic change. Allied authorities also frowned on Italian anti-Fascist volunteers and resistance fighters, most of whom were radicals. The new cabinet largely agreed on basic political issues. Middle-class liberals and proletarian radicals were united in the belief that the armistice terms should be modified and that Italy should be allowed to reshape itself into a self-governing democracy. Communists and Socialists, elsewhere bitter adversaries, advocated economic reform. Even Communists and Roman Catholics found areas of agreement.

D6j A Hard Winter

The winter of 1944 to 1945 was a period of intense suffering, particularly in the ravaged areas left by the retreating Germans. Throughout the central provinces were burned villages, idle or flooded fields, and ruined factories, railroads, power plants, and bridges. Some 800,000 hectares (some 2 million acres) of arable land were uncultivated, and prices of necessities rose prohibitively. As a result of the widespread misery, the Action and Socialist parties sharply criticized Bonomi’s leadership. Industrial stagnation, mass unemployment, and skyrocketing inflation, however, continued to frustrate the government in its efforts to rehabilitate the national economy.

D6k Death of Mussolini

The final Allied offensive in Italy began in April 1945, and by the end of the month the German armies had been completely smashed. Mussolini, his mistress, and several of his high-ranking colleagues were captured by Italian partisans at a small town near Lake Como. The entire group was summarily tried and, on April 28, executed. Northern Italians inflicted brutal vengeance on Mussolini’s followers after the German surrender on May 2. More than 1,000 Fascists were shot in Milan alone.

D6l Rise of De Gasperi

In accordance with a previous pledge Bonomi resigned after the liberation of northern Italy. A coalition government, representing the entire Committee of National Liberation, was then formed. The new government, headed by Ferruccio Parri, leader of the Action Party, was little more than a stopgap regime, however; it was unable to grapple effectively with the problems confronting Italy. In October, monarchists and leaders of the Liberal Party accused Prime Minister Parri of violating the truce on the question of the monarchy, and he subsequently resigned. The ensuing crisis was accompanied by riotous demonstrations in southern Italy against the high cost of living. The Committee of National Liberation finally offered the premiership to Alcide De Gasperi, a Christian Democrat. He took office on December 9.

The year 1946 was one of unparalleled hardship for most of the Italian people. Although the privations provoked occasional civil unrest, the general mood of the populace was apathetic during the campaign preceding the national referendum and elections for a constituent assembly in June. The prevalence of opposition to the monarchy was indicated in April, when the convention of the Christian Democratic Party voted by a ratio of 3 to 1 in favor of a republic. King Victor Emmanuel III abdicated on May 9, and his son ascended the throne as Humbert II.

E The Republic

Nearly 25 million voters, about 89 percent of the eligible electorate, which for the first time included women, voted in the general elections of June 2 and 3, 1946. Of the voters, 54.3 percent chose a republic. On June 10, when the popular mandate was officially proclaimed, Italy became a de facto republic. Three days later King Humbert abdicated and left the country.

E1 Principal Parties

In the vote for the Constituent Assembly the Christian Democrats won a plurality of 207 seats and emerged as the dominant party in Italy. The Socialist Party won 115 seats, the Communists gained 104 seats, and four minor parties shared the remaining 117 seats. On June 28 Enrico de Nicola, a member of the Liberal Party, was elected provisional president of the republic. De Gasperi remained as prime minister.

In the deliberations preceding approval of the new republican government by the Constituent Assembly, irreconcilable disagreements between the Communists and Christian Democrats became evident. This friction was intensified by persistent semifamine and the generally chaotic Italian economy. As the prestige of the De Gasperi government declined, the Socialist and Communist parties drew together. Municipal elections in November 1946 indicated a decline in Christian Democratic support and gains for the Communist, Socialist, and rightist parties.

E2 Paris Peace Conference

The despairing mood of the Italians was meanwhile aggravated by preliminary decisions of the Big Four (France, Britain, the United States, and the USSR), as revealed at the Paris Peace Conference in July 1946. These decisions contemplated the internationalization of Trieste, the cession of several territories, and the award of $100 million in reparations to the USSR. The proposed treaty provided also for additional reparations to other nations victimized by fascism, for severe restrictions on the Italian armed forces, and for British administration of Italian East Africa, pending a Big Four agreement on final disposition of the colonies. Despite popular protests, the treaty was signed at Paris on February 10, 1947, and was subsequently ratified by the Italian Constituent Assembly, with Communist and Socialist delegates abstaining; it came into effect on September 15. Allied occupation forces withdrew from Italy shortly thereafter. Although the Italian people generally opposed the peace treaty, many were mollified by the attitude of the U.S. government, which had helped to frustrate Soviet demands for harsher terms and had also concretely demonstrated its friendly intentions toward Italy.

E3 Political Violence

Early in 1947 the Italian Socialist Party, reflecting a trend in Europe, split into two groups on the issue of collaboration with the Communists. Pietro Nenni, foreign minister in De Gasperi’s cabinet and a leader of the pro-Communist faction, resigned on January 15. The entire cabinet then withdrew, and De Gasperi formed another coalition ministry, including both Communists and Socialists. Relations between the leftists and moderates deteriorated steadily thereafter. In the mounting Cold War between the Western democracies and the Soviet bloc, Italians chose sides according to their ideology. During this period the extreme right, composed mainly of former adherents of Mussolini and monarchists, became increasingly bold. On May 1 an armed band attacked a Communist-led parade at Greci, Sicily, killing eight people. The incident precipitated a cabinet crisis from May 13 to 31, when De Gasperi formed a ministry of Christian Democrats and nonparty specialists, excluding both Communists and Socialists. The new regime immediately began a purge of leftists from important public positions.

Bitter political strife followed. By means of mass demonstrations, general strikes, and other tactics the leftists tried to dislodge the De Gasperi government. Reflecting hostility to the Italian government, the USSR in the United Nations Security Council vetoed Italy’s application for United Nations (UN) membership. At the same time the Italian Communist Party became a founding member of Cominform. See International.

E4 Parliamentary Elections

Meanwhile, the Constituent Assembly had drafted a constitution for Italy. Approved on December 22, 1947, by a vote of 453 to 62, the document became effective on January 1, 1948. The ensuing national election campaign was one of the most bitter and dramatic in Italian history. Coinciding with an intensification of the Cold War, the contest brought Italy to the verge of civil war. Displays of force became a central feature in the strategy of many parties. The Communist-led coalition, operating through the General Confederation of Labor, frequently used strikes as a political weapon. In reprisals against the Left, the government confiscated arms and ammunition and conducted intimidatory military demonstrations in various urban areas. Pope Pius XII sanctioned anti-Communist activity by the Italian clergy.

In the elections on April 18 and 19 the Christian Democratic Party won overwhelmingly. It received nearly 49 percent of the vote, giving it 307 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 151 in the Senate. The Popular Front, the coalition of Communists and left-wing Socialists, won 182 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 31 in the Senate. The right-wing Socialists elected 33 deputies; the remaining 52 seats went to minor parties.

E5 Communist Opposition

The decisive mandate to the Christian Democrats markedly reduced political tension in Italy. Because of the relative strength displayed by the Communists, however, reconciliation of the differences that had divided the nation appeared unlikely. On May 11, Luigi Einaudi, the candidate of the Christian Democrats and right-wing Socialists, was elected president of the Italian republic. De Gasperi was reappointed prime minister.

Supplies and credits made available under the Marshall Plan (see European Recovery Program) had meanwhile begun to flow into Italy, creating favorable conditions for reconstruction of the national economy. Adhering to their policy of irreconcilable struggle against the plan, Communists promoted a widespread strike for higher wages. The movement culminated on July 2 in a general 12-hour walkout. Within two weeks Italy was plunged into another grave crisis as the result of the attempted assassination of Palmiro Togliatti, head of the Italian Communist Party. The General Confederation of Labor, charging the government with political responsibility, immediately called a nationwide general strike to force its resignation. During the next two days riotous demonstrations occurred in practically every city of Italy. Peace was restored only by the mobilization of more than 300,000 troops and police.

E6 Foreign Problems and Treaties

In 1949 the Popular Front confined its struggle against the Christian Democratic regime chiefly to the chambers of parliament. The principal object of Communist attacks during this period was the proposed North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). With the unanimous approval of his cabinet and a large majority of the Chamber of Deputies, however, De Gasperi signed the treaty at Washington, D.C., on April 4, 1949.

The Big Four meanwhile had failed to agree on the disposition of Italian prewar colonies in Africa, and the matter had been referred to the United Nations (UN). On November 21, 1949, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the issue. Its salient features included provisions for granting independence to Italian Somaliland after 10 years as a UN trust territory under Italian administration; for granting independence to Libya by January 1, 1952; and for disposition of Eritrea on the basis of a report to be prepared by a UN special commission.

Italy continued to collaborate with the Western democracies after its ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty. The government announced in July 1950 that the Italian army would be built up to 250,000, the limit imposed by the World War II peace treaty. Further expansion of the military establishment was announced the following December. The Western countries subsequently waived the clauses of the peace treaty concerning restrictions on Italy’s rearmament.

In June 1952 the Italian parliament ratified the Schuman Plan creating the European Coal and Steel Community, which would become the European Community (now the European Union).

E7 Fall of De Gasperi

In an attempt to improve the effectiveness of the executive branch of the government, the Christian Democrats and their allies secured passage, in March 1953, of an electoral reform bill ensuring the party in power of a working majority in parliament. The bill provided that a party or coalition polling 50 percent or more of the popular vote would receive 65 percent of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

Parliamentary elections were held on June 7 and 8. The Christian Democrats emerged again as the strongest party, this time with 40 percent of the votes. The Communists were second (22.6 percent), and the parties of the Right, which registered the biggest gains (12.7 percent as compared with 4.2 percent in 1948), were third. De Gasperi was succeeded as prime minister by Giuseppe Pella, former minister of the treasury, who won the neutrality of the Socialists and the support of the monarchists. Intraparty differences, however, brought about the collapse of several governments in the following two years.

Late in 1953 the question of the future status of the Free Territory of Trieste brought Italy and Yugoslavia to the verge of war, but tensions abated after the United States, Britain, and France agreed to work out a formula acceptable to both sides. The subsequent settlement in 1954 allocated a zone including the city of Trieste to Italy; Yugoslavia received the rest of the Trieste region. Italy became a member of the United Nations in 1955.

E8 Christian Democratic Governments

The repudiation of Joseph Stalin at the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in February 1956 plunged the powerful Italian Communist Party into confusion, and it disillusioned the left-wing Socialists and weakened their alliance with the Communists. After the Hungarian uprising in October of that year, the number of Communist sympathizers dwindled. The decline of the party strengthened democratic forces.

In the elections held on May 25 and 26, 1958, the center coalition obtained majorities in both houses of parliament. A new coalition government composed of Christian Democrats and right-wing Socialists and led by Amintore Fanfani was sworn in on July 2. He was succeeded in January 1959 by Antonio Segni, whose cabinet consisted entirely of Christian Democrats. Widespread criticism of the visit by President Giovanni Gronchi to the Soviet Union in February 1960 led to the fall of the government later that month. In July, Fanfani returned to office and, with the voting support of three centrist parties, obtained approval of a cabinet composed entirely of Christian Democratic ministers. Two years later, former Prime Minister Segni, who was foreign minister in Fanfani’s government, was elected to the presidency.

Local elections in 1962 demonstrated strong popular support for the progovernment parties, and the Communists lost strength for the first time in many years. Subsequently, dissension arose among the parties supporting the government. It had its base in Communist criticism of Fanfani’s policies, including charges that the prime minister had failed to stimulate domestic economic reforms and to secure the removal of NATO missile bases from Italy. Although the parties agreed in January 1963 to continue their support of his government, it was weakened by the results of parliamentary elections on April 28 and 29. The popular vote for the Christian Democrats declined to 38.3 percent, while the Communist vote increased to 25.3 percent. Fanfani resigned on May 16 but remained head of a caretaker government until Giovanni Leone, president of the Chamber of Deputies, formed a temporary Christian Democratic minority government.

E9 Opening to the Left

In October the moderate elements of the left-wing Italian Socialist Party, led by Nenni, agreed to enter a center-left government for the first time since 1947. A four-party coalition cabinet was then organized by the Christian Democrat Aldo Moro, who assumed the position of prime minister in December.

During 1964 the conservative and left-wing elements in the government persistently and fundamentally disagreed. The situation was rendered more serious by signs that the six-year economic boom would be ending because the factions were unable to agree on a policy to counter the threatened downturn. On March 4, 1965, however, the four parties in the coalition government agreed to set aside their political differences in order to take unified action against the economic slump. Throughout 1965 and 1966 the government headed by Moro maintained the confidence of the coalition parties.

E10 Social Upheavals

Since the late 1960s Italy has experienced dramatic social, economic, political, and religious developments. In 1968 students demanding educational reforms clashed with police on university campuses in Rome and other cities, and workers called general strikes to urge an overhaul of the social security system. Feminist issues became more important as a divorce law was adopted in 1973 and abortion was legalized in 1978. Problems of inflation, unemployment, and currency outflows increased with the 1974 recession and Italy’s huge oil import bills. Government deficits rose rapidly; massive international loans were needed to avert bankruptcy.

Throughout this period, Italy’s political system struggled to cope with the pace of change. The late 1960s and early 1970s were characterized by a series of short-lived, mainly coalition governments, led by the Christian Democrats. For a short period in 1974 the country was without a government altogether. As Italy’s economic problems worsened and a wave of extortive kidnappings and political violence swept the country, public confidence in the government declined, and support for the Communist Party, led by Enrico Berlinguer, increased.

In the June 1975 regional elections the Communists won 33 percent of the vote and pressed the government to support a long-term alliance between Communism and Roman Catholicism. In parliamentary elections in June 1976 the Communists made more gains, winning 35 percent of the vote; the Christian Democrats won 39 percent. The Christian Democrat leader Giulio Andreotti formed a new government with Communist support; by July 1977 the Communists were permitted a voice in policy making. The Andreotti government fell in January 1978 when the Communists insisted that the country’s economic crisis required emergency rule, with Communists holding cabinet positions. Finally, in March, Andreotti formed a new Christian Democrat government with formal support from the Communists. The eventual loss of Communist support led to Andreotti’s resignation in January 1979.

E11 Urban Terrorism

Violence and lawlessness, which had plagued Italian society throughout the 1970s, took more virulent forms toward the end of the decade. Outraged by the Communists’ decision to ally themselves with the government, extreme left-wing terrorists preyed on politicians, police, journalists, and businessmen. In March 1978 former Prime Minister Aldo Moro was kidnapped by a fanatical left-wing group, the Red Brigades, which made Moro’s release contingent on the freeing of other terrorists from Italian jails. The government refused to deal with Moro’s captors, and he was subsequently found murdered.

E12 Shifting Alignments

From June 1979 to June 1981 the Christian Democrats led the government, as they had for more than three decades. In 1981, however, Giovanni Spadolini, a leader of the small Republican Party, became the first post-World War II prime minister who was not a Christian Democrat. Another series of cabinet crises in August 1983 led to the formation of a government under Bettino Craxi, Italy’s first Socialist prime minister since the war. He served until March 1987, the longest tenure of any postwar leader. During his term, in 1984, Roman Catholicism lost its status as Italy’s state religion, as the government signed a new concordat with the Vatican to replace the Lateran Treaty of 1929.

Craxi’s term was followed by several short-lived governments in the late 1980s. In July 1987 Christian Democrat Giovanni Goria became prime minister; his five-party coalition broke up in March 1988, and Ciriaco De Mita, leader of the Christian Democrats’ left wing, came to power. A year later De Mita was ousted as party secretary, and in May 1989 he resigned as prime minister. Then in July Andreotti returned for his sixth time as prime minister. Divisions among Christian Democrats and the five-party coalition led to his resignation in March 1991, but when no one else was able to form a government, Andreotti did so again in April, remaining in office for another year.

The collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe precipitated changes in Italy as well. In 1991 the Italian Communists renamed themselves the Democratic Party of the Left, downplaying their former atheism and emphasis on class conflict in favor of issues such as the environment, feminism, and the economic disparity between the country’s industrial north and the poverty-ridden south. The Socialist Party, still led by Craxi, tried to unify the left and renamed itself the Party of Socialist Unity. Meanwhile, the separatist Northern League gained popularity by criticizing central government waste and advocating a federal system that would grant more regional autonomy.

Voters showed their lack of confidence in all established parties in elections held in April 1992. The once-dominant Christian Democrats received 29.7 percent of the vote, an all-time low. The renamed Communists, in second place, drew 16.1 percent, down from 26.6 percent in 1987; the Socialists were third, with 13.6 percent.

The voter backlash resulted from a combination of factors, including a poor economy, high unemployment, and the public revelation of widespread political corruption and Mafia influence at high levels of the government. In the years that followed, thousands of individuals, including hundreds of politicians as well as judicial and business leaders, were investigated or arrested on charges that included taking bribes and granting political and economic favors. As a result of the scandal, Craxi was forced to resign his position as head of the Socialist Party in early 1993. In July 1994, facing arrest for accepting bribes, he fled to Tunisia, where he remained in self-imposed exile until his death in 2000.

In April 1993 Italian voters approved eight governmental reform referendums, which revised the country’s electoral system and ended state funding of political parties. Soon after the elections Prime Minister Giuliano Amato resigned and was replaced by the head of the Bank of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

In March 1994 a newly formed right-wing coalition called the Freedom Alliance was voted into power, winning 58 percent of the vote; the left-wing coalition received 34 percent of the vote, and the once-dominant centrist parties drew only 7 percent. The Freedom Alliance was composed of the new Forza Italia party, a creation of media magnate Silvio Berlusconi; the far-right National Alliance; and the Northern League. With 25 percent of the vote, Forza Italia was the election leader, and Berlusconi was named prime minister, with the Freedom Alliance holding a majority in the Chamber of Deputies and forming the strongest force in the Senate. But Berlusconi’s coalition collapsed in December 1994 when the Northern League withdrew from the alliance. Berlusconi, who was also facing investigation on bribery charges, resigned as prime minister.

In January 1995 Lamberto Dini, Berlusconi’s treasury minister, was appointed prime minister by President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro to lead a politically neutral, transitional government. Dini’s government passed an austerity budget to deal with Italy’s worsening economy, which included a crippling national deficit and a devalued lira. It also oversaw efforts to reform the regional electoral system and state pension system and to enact rules governing political access to television. Dini resigned in January 1996, but continued in office until elections were held in April.

E13 The Prodi Governments

The April 1996 elections brought another change as a coalition known as the Olive Tree won the chance to form a new government. The alliance’s largest member was the Democratic Party of the Left; it also included former Christian Democrats and Dini’s newly formed Italian Renewal Party. Olive Tree gained control of the Senate and a plurality, 284 seats, in the Chamber of Deputies. Romano Prodi, an economics professor, was sworn in as prime minister, pledging to cut spending and reduce unemployment.

The corruption scandals continued, engulfing prominent politicians as well as business leaders and others. Former Prime Minister Andreotti was charged with selling favors to the Sicilian Mafia in exchange for votes and political support. In January 1996 Berlusconi went on trial on charges of bribing tax police to gain favorable treatment for one of his media companies. In January 1997 the year-long trial was declared null and void when the presiding judge resigned after being accused of bias against the defendant. In February a new trial began for Berlusconi, who continued to lead the opposition Forza Italia party. Berlusconi was accused of falsifying the price of a film company bought by one of his companies in 1989. He was found guilty in December 1997 and given a 16-month suspended sentence. He was also convicted of bribery and corruption by a Milan court in 1998.

E13a Economic Reforms

In November 1996 Italy moved to rejoin Europe’s currency system by admitting the lira into the European exchange rate mechanism (ERM); the lira had been withdrawn from the ERM in 1992. After heated debate, Prime Minister Prodi won parliamentary approval the following month for his 1997 budget. The budget contained a series of austerity measures aimed at reducing the budget deficit to 3 percent by the end of 1997 in accordance with EU requirements for participating in a common European currency. The measures taken by Prodi’s government ultimately paid off, as Italy met the requirements to join the common currency. In May 1998 Italy officially agreed to adopt the euro, the new currency. The euro was scheduled to be gradually phased in between 1999 and 2002.

E13b Natural Disasters

In September 1997 two large earthquakes struck the region of Umbria, in central Italy. In the town of Assisi, the famous Basilica of San Francesco was severely damaged. The basilica, which contains many famous paintings and frescoes by artists of the early Italian Renaissance, is one of the most visited Roman Catholic shrines in Italy. The first quake occurred in the middle of the night on September 26, causing extensive damage to villages in the area as well as at the Basilica of San Francesco. The second quake struck several hours later as people were assessing damage to the basilica, collapsing a large part of the its ceiling and killing four people.

In May 1998 heavy rains caused massive mudslides centered around the city of Sarno in the Campania region. Rescue efforts were hampered by the hot weather immediately after the slides, which caused the mud to harden quickly. It is estimated that up to 300 people may have died in the slides. Experts say that deforestation and construction of buildings on soft or unstable land may have contributed to the disaster.

E14 Recent Events

In October 1998 Prodi lost a parliamentary confidence motion by only one vote. Massimo D’Alema, a former Communist and head of the Democratic Party of the Left, put together a broad center-left coalition that took power in the Italian parliament. D’Alema replaced Prodi as prime minister, becoming the first ex-Communist to serve in that position. The new prime minister hoped to stabilize the Italian government with proposals for electoral reform, but a national referendum on the issue was narrowly defeated in April 1999 when it failed to receive the required percentage of voter turnout to validate the election.

In May 1999 former prime minister Carlo Azeglio Ciampi was elected president. In December of that year, in the face of widening cracks in his ruling coalition, D’Alema resigned as prime minister. After negotiations between the opposition parties failed to produce a government, D’Alema returned to office at the head of a slightly smaller center-left coalition. This new government, however, was equally short-lived, and after his coalition sustained heavy losses in regional elections in April 2000, D’Alema resigned for good. He was replaced by former prime minister Giuliano Amato, who had served as treasury minister in D’Alema’s cabinet.

The center-left’s control of government came to an end in national elections in May 2001, when a conservative alliance led by Berlusconi captured a majority of seats in the upper and lower houses of parliament. Berlusconi’s winning alliance included his own Forza Italia party, which emerged from the elections as the nation’s largest single party; the National Alliance; and four smaller conservative groups. As Italy’s new prime minister, Berlusconi pledged to lower taxes, streamline the state bureaucracy, and modernize Italy’s sluggish economy.

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