History of Bremen (city)

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Bremen, 16th century

The German city of Bremen has a very long history. The area was settled in since 12,000 BC, and the modern city was developed in 1032, and it has since then gone through the hands of many countries and alliances, like the Hanseatic League, the Holy Roman Empire, the French Empire, the North German Confederation, the German Empire, and other German states, as well as being independent.

Prehistory[edit]

The marshes and moraines near Bremen have been settled since about 12,000 BC. Burial places and settlements in Bremen-Mahndorf and Bremen-Osterholz date back to the 7th century AD. Since the Renaissance, some scientists have believed that the entry Fabiranum or Phabiranon in Ptolemy's Fourth Map of Europe,[1] written in AD 150, refers to Bremen. But Ptolemy gives geographic coordinates, and these refer to a site northeast of the mouth of the river Visurgis (Weser). In Ptolemy's time the Chauci lived in the area now called north-western Germany or Lower Saxony. By the end of the 3rd century, they had merged with the Saxons. During the Saxon Wars (772–804) the Saxons, led by Widukind, fought against the West Germanic Franks, the founders of the Carolingian Empire, and lost the war.

Charlemagne, the King of the Franks, made a new law, the Lex Saxonum, which forbade the Saxons from worshipping Odin (the god of the Saxons); instead they had to convert to Christianity on pain of death. In 787 Willehad of Bremen became the first Bishop of Bremen. In 848 the archdiocese of Hamburg merged with the diocese of Bremen to become Hamburg-Bremen Archdiocese, with its seat in Bremen, and in the following centuries the archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen were the driving force behind the Christianisation of Northern Germany. In 888, at the behest of Archbishop Rimbert, Kaiser Arnulf of Carinthia, the Carolingian King of East Francia, granted Bremen the rights to hold its own markets, mint its own coins and make its own customs laws.

The city's first stone walls were built in 1032. Around that time trade with Norway, England and the northern Netherlands began to grow, thus increasing the importance of the city.

Germania, in the early 2nd century (Harper and Brothers, 1849)
View from the Bremen Cathedral in the direction of the Stephani-Bridge

In 1186 the Bremian Prince-Archbishop Hartwig of Uthlede and his bailiff in Bremen confirmed – without generally waiving the prince-archbishop's overlordship over the city – the Gelnhausen Privilege, by which Frederick I Barbarossa granted the city considerable privileges. The city was recognised as a political entity with its own laws. Property within the municipal boundaries could not be subjected to feudal overlordship; this also applied to serfs who acquired property, if they lived in the city for a year and a day, after which they were to be regarded as free persons. Property was to be freely inherited without feudal claims for reversion to its original owner. This privilege laid the foundation for Bremen's later status of imperial immediacy (Free Imperial City).

The tax obligations of city to the prince-archbishopric were both a burden and a lever of influence. The city participated in the Diets of the neighbouring Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen as part of the Bremian Estates; in the context of the Landtag the city could offer or withhold its consent on tax levies proposed by the prince-archbishop in his governance of the region. Since the city was the principal taxpayer, its consent for taxes was generally sought. In this way the city wielded fiscal and political power within the Prince-Archbishopric, while not allowing the Prince-Archbishopric to rule in the city against its consent. In 1260 Bremen joined the Hanseatic League.

Advent of territorial power[edit]

14th to 18th century: territories of the Free City of Bremen (red) and of the Archbishopric of Bremen (yellow); straits between lower Weser and Jadebusen

In 1350, the number of inhabitants reached 20,000. Around this time the Hansekogge (cog ship) became a unique product of Bremen.

In 1362, representatives of Bremen rendered homage to Albert II, Prince-Archbishop of Bremen in Langwedel. In return, Albert confirmed the city's privileges and brokered a peace between the city and Gerhard III, Count of Hoya, who since 1358 had held some burghers of Bremen in captivity. The city had to bail them out. In 1365 an extra tax, levied to finance the ransom, caused an uprising among the burghers and artisans that was put down by the city council after much bloodshed.

In 1366, Albert II tried to take advantage of the dispute between Bremen's city council and the guilds, whose members had expelled some city councillors from the city. When these councillors appealed to Albert II for help, many artisans and burghers regarded this as a treasonous act, fearing that this appeal to the prince would only provoke him to abolish the autonomy of the city.

The fortified city maintained its own guards, not allowing soldiers of the Prince-Archbishop to enter it. The city reserved an extra very narrow gate, the so-called Bishop's Needle (Latin: Acus episcopi, first mentioned in 1274), for all clergy, including the Prince-Archbishop. The narrowness of the gate made it physically impossible for him to enter surrounded by his knights.

Nevertheless, on the night of 29 May 1366, Albert's troops, helped by some burghers, invaded the city. Afterward, the city had to again render him homage: the Bremen Roland, symbol of the city's autonomy, was destroyed; and a new city council was appointed. In return, the new council granted Albert a credit amounting to the then-enormous sum of 20,000 Bremen marks.

But city councillors of the previous council, who had fled to the County of Oldenburg, gained the support of the counts and recaptured the city on June 27, 1366. The members of the intermediate council were regarded as traitors and beheaded, and the city de facto regained its autonomy. Thereupon, the city of Bremen, which had for a long time held an autonomous status, acted almost completely independent of the Prince-Archbishop. Albert failed to obtain control over the city of Bremen a second time, since he was always short of money and lacked the support of his family, the Welfs, who were preparing for and fighting the Lüneburg War of Succession (1370–88).

By the end of the 1360s Bremen had provided credit to Albert II to finance his lavish lifestyle, and gained in return the fortress of Vörde along with the dues levied in its bailiwick as guarantee for the credit. In 1369 Bremen again lent money to Albert II against the collateral of his mint, which was from then on run by the city council, which took over his right to mint coins. In 1377 Bremen purchased from Duke Frederick I of Brunswick-Lüneburg many of the Prince-Archbishop's castles, which Albert had pledged as security for a loan to Frederick's predecessor. Thus Bremen gained a powerful position in the Prince-Archbishopric (ecclesiastical principality), in effect sidelining its actual ruler.

The declining knightly family of Bederkesa had become deeply indebted,[2]:29 and, having already sold many of their possessions, had even pawned half their say in the Bailiwick of Bederkesa (Amt Bederkesa) to the aspiring Mandelsloh family (a noble house, or Adelsgeschlecht). They lost the rest of their claims to the city of Bremen, when in 1381 its troops prevented the three Mandelsloh brothers from lending them to Albert II as territorial power.[2]:30 The Mandelslohs and other robber barons from the Prince-Bishopric of Verden and the Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen ravaged burghers of the city of Bremen as well as inhabitants throughout the Prince-Archbishopric.

Bederkesa Castle, since 1381 a stronghold of Bremen's rural possessions within the Prince-Archbishopric, the later secularised Duchy of Bremen

In 1381 the city's troops successfully ended the brigandage and captured the Castle of Bederkesa and its bailiwick. Thus Bremen gained a foothold to uphold peace and order in its forecourt on the lower course of the Weser. In 1386 the city of Bremen became the liege lord of the noble families holding the estates of Altluneburg and Elmlohe, who had previously been vassals of the Knights of Bederkesa. The city replaced in 1404 the old wooden statue of Roland, which had been destroyed in 1366 by the Bederkesa, with a larger limestone model; this statue has managed to survive six centuries and two World Wars into the 21st.

In 1411 the jointly ruling dukes of Saxe-Lauenburg, Eric IV and his sons Eric V and John IV, pawned their share in the Bederkesa bailiwick and castle to the Senate of Bremen, including all "they have in the jurisdictions in the Frisian Land of Wursten and in Lehe (Bremerhaven), which belongs to the aforementioned castle and Vogtei".[3] Their share in jurisdiction, Vogtei (bailiwick) and castle had been acquired from the plague-stricken Knights of Bederkesa.[3] In 1421, Bremen acquired also the remaining half of the rights of the Bederkesa knights, including their remaining share in Bederkesa Castle.[2]:30

During the 1440s, Bremen was often in conflict with the Dutch states. The city began offering contracts to pirates to attack its enemies, and it became a regional hub of piracy. These pirates targeted foreign shipping around the North Sea and captured numerous vessels. One notorious captain, known as Grote Gherd ("Big Gerry"), captured 13 ships from Flanders in a single expedition.[4][5][6]

In 1648 the Prince-Archbishopric was transformed into the Duchy of Bremen, which was first ruled in personal union by the Swedish Crown. In November 1654, after the Second Bremian War, Bremen had to cede Bederkesa and the settlement of Lehe to the Duchy of Bremen (Treaty of Stade, 1654).

Bremen and the Reformation[edit]

Bremen town hall

When the Protestant Reformation swept through Northern Germany, St Peter's cathedral belonged to the cathedral immunity district (German: Domfreiheit; cf. also Liberty), an extraterritorial enclave of the neighbouring Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen. In 1532, the cathedral chapter which was still Catholic at that time closed St Peter's after a mob consisting of Bremen's burghers had forcefully interrupted a Catholic Mass and prompted a pastor to hold a Lutheran service.

In 1547, the chapter, which had in the meantime become predominantly Lutheran, appointed the Dutch Albert Rizaeus, called Hardenberg, as the first Cathedral pastor of Protestant affiliation. Rizaeus turned out to be a partisan of the Zwinglian understanding of the Lord's Supper, which was rejected by the then Lutheran majority of burghers, the city council, and chapter. So in 1561 – after heated disputes – Rizaeus was dismissed and banned from the city and the cathedral again closed its doors.

However, as a consequence of that controversy the majority of Bremen's burghers and city council adopted Calvinism by the 1590s, while the chapter, which was at the same time the body of secular government in the neighbouring Prince-Archbishopric, clung to Lutheranism. This antagonism between a Calvinistic majority and a Lutheran minority, though it had a powerful position in its immunity district (mediatised as part of the city in 1803), remained dominant until in 1873 the Calvinist and Lutheran congregations of Bremen were reconciled and founded a united administrative umbrella Bremen Protestant Church, which still exists today, comprising the bulk of Bremen's burghers.

At the beginning of the 17th century, Bremen continued to play its double role, wielding fiscal and political power within the Prince-Archbishopric, but not allowing the Prince-Archbishopric to rule in the city without its consent.

Thirty Years' War[edit]

Soon after the beginning of the Thirty Years' War Bremen declared its neutrality, as did most of the territories in the Lower Saxon Circle. John Frederick, Lutheran Administrator of the Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen, desperately tried to keep his Prince-Archbishopric out of the war, with the complete agreement of the Estates and the city of Bremen. When in 1623 the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, which was fighting in the Eighty Years' War for its independence against Habsburg's Spanish and imperial forces, requested its Calvinist co-religionist Bremen to join them, the city refused, but started to reinforce its fortifications.

In 1623 the territories comprising the Lower Saxon Circle decided to recruit an army in order to maintain an armed neutrality, since troops of the Catholic League were already operating in the neighbouring Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle and dangerously close to their region. The concomitant effects of the war, debasement of the currency and rising prices, had already caused inflation which was also felt in Bremen.

In 1623 the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, diplomatically supported by King James I of England, the brother-in-law of Christian IV of Denmark, started a new anti-Habsburg campaign. Thus the troops of the Catholic League were otherwise occupied and Bremen seemed relieved. But soon after this the imperial troops under Albrecht von Wallenstein headed north in an attempt to destroy the fading Hanseatic League, in order to reduce the Hanseatic cities of Bremen, Hamburg and the Lübeck and to establish a Baltic trade monopoly, to be run by some imperial favourites including Spaniards and Poles. The idea was to win Sweden's and Denmark's support, both of which had for a long time sought the destruction of the Hanseatic League.

In May 1625, Duke Christian IV of Holstein was elected – in the latter of his functions – by the Lower Saxon Circle's member territories commander-in-chief of the Lower Saxon troops. In the same year Christian IV joined the Anglo-Dutch military coalition. Christian IV ordered his troops to capture all the important traffic hubs in the Prince-Archbishopric and commenced the Battle of Lutter am Barenberge, on 27 August 1626, where he was defeated by the Leaguist troops under Johan 't Serclaes, Count of Tilly. Christian IV and his surviving troops fled to the Prince-Archbishopric and established their headquarters in Stade.

Roland

In 1627 Christian IV withdrew from the Prince-Archbishopric, in order to oppose Wallenstein's invasion of his Duchy of Holstein. Tilly then invaded the Prince-Archbishopric and captured its southern part. Bremen shut its city gates and entrenched itself behind its improved fortifications. In 1628, Tilly turned on the city, and Bremen paid him a ransom of 10,000 rixdollars in order to spare it a siege. The city remained unoccupied throughout the war.

The takeover by the Catholic League enabled Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor, to implement the Edict of Restitution, decreed March 6, 1629, within the Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen including the city of Bremen. In September 1629 Francis William of Wartenberg, appointed by Ferdinand II as chairman of the imperial restitution commission for the Lower Saxon Circle, in carrying out the provisions of the Edict of Restitution, ordered the Bremian Chapter, seated in Bremen, to render an account of all the capitular and prince-archiepiscopal estates (not to be confused with the Estates). The Chapter refused, arguing first that the order had not been authorised and later that due to disputes with Bremen's city council, they could not freely travel to render an account, let alone do the necessary research on the estates. The anti-Catholic attitudes of Bremen's burghers and council was to make it completely impossible to prepare the restitution of estates from the Lutheran Chapter to the Roman Catholic Church. Even Lutheran capitulars were uneasy in Calvinistic Bremen.

Bremen's city council ordered that the capitular and prince-archiepiscopal estates within the boundaries of the unoccupied city were not to be restituted to the Catholic Church. The council argued that the city had long been Protestant, but the restitution commission replied that the city was de jure a part of the Prince-Archbishopric, so Protestantism had illegitimately taken over Catholic-owned estates. The city council replied that under these circumstances it would rather separate from the Holy Roman Empire and join the quasi-independent Republic of the Seven Netherlands.[7] The city was neither to be conquered nor to be successfully besieged due to its new fortifications and its access to the North Sea.

In October 1631 an army, newly recruited by John Frederick, started to reconquer the Prince-Archbishopric — helped by forces from Sweden and the city of Bremen. John Frederick returned to office, only to implement the supremacy of Sweden, insisting that it retain supreme command until the end of the war. With the impending enforcement of the military Major Power of Sweden over the Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen, which was under negotiation at the Treaty of Westphalia, the city of Bremen feared it would fall under Swedish rule too. Therefore, the city appealed for an imperial confirmation of its status of imperial immediacy from 1186 (Gelnhausen Privilege). In 1646 Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor, granted the requested confirmation (Diploma of Linz) to the Free Imperial City.

Swedish reaction[edit]

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
135020,000—    
181035,800+0.13%
183043,700+1.00%
185055,100+1.17%
1880111,900+2.39%
1900161,200+1.84%
1925295,000+2.45%
1969607,185+1.65%
1995549,357−0.38%
1998550,000+0.04%
2001540,950−0.55%
2005545,983+0.23%
2006546,900+0.17%
2009[8]547,685+0.05%
2012548,319+0.04%
2014[9]548,547+0.02%
Territory of the Imperial City of Bremen on a late 18th century map

Nevertheless, Sweden, represented by its imperial fief Bremen-Verden, which comprised the secularised prince-bishoprics of Bremen and Verden, did not accept the imperial immediacy of the city of Bremen. Swedish Bremen-Verden tried to remediatise the Free Imperial City of Bremen (i.e., to make it switch its allegiance to Sweden). With this in view, Swedish Bremen-Verden twice waged war on Bremen. In 1381 the city of Bremen had imposed de facto rule in an area around Bederkesa and west of it as far as the lower branch of the Weser near Bremerlehe (a part of present-day Bremerhaven). Early in 1653, Bremen-Verden's Swedish troops captured Bremerlehe by force. In February 1654 the city of Bremen managed to get Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor, to grant it a seat and the vote in the Holy Roman Empire's Diet, thus accepting the city's status as Free Imperial City of Bremen.

Ferdinand III demanded that Christina of Sweden, Duchess regnant of Bremen-Verden, compensate the city of Bremen for the damages caused and restitute Bremerlehe. When in March 1654 the city of Bremen started to recruit soldiers in the area of Bederkesa, in order to prepare for further arbitrary acts, Swedish Bremen-Verden enacted the First Bremian War (March to July 1654), arguing that it was acting in self-defense. The Free Imperial City of Bremen had meanwhile urged Ferdinand III to support it, who in July 1654 asked Charles X Gustav of Sweden, Christina's successor as Duke of Bremen-Verden, to cease the conflict, which resulted in the First Stade Recess [de] (November 1654). This treaty left the main issue, the acceptance of the city of Bremen's imperial immediacy, unresolved. But the city agreed to pay tribute and levy taxes in favor of Swedish Bremen-Verden and to cede its possessions around Bederkesa and Bremerlehe, which was why it was later called Lehe.

In December 1660 the city council of Bremen rendered homage as Free Imperial City of Bremen to Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor. In 1663 the city gained a seat and a vote in the Imperial Diet, despite sharp protest from Swedish Bremen-Verden. In March 1664 the Swedish Diet came out in favour of waging war on the Free Imperial City of Bremen. Right after Leopold I, who was busy with wars against the Ottoman Empire, had enfeoffed the minor King Charles XI of Sweden with Bremen-Verden, while the neighbouring Brunswick and Lunenburg-Celle was occupied by succession quarrels and France not opposed, Sweden started the Second Bremian War (1665–66) from its Bremen-Verden fief.

The Swedes under Carl Gustaf Wrangel laid siege to the city of Bremen. The siege brought Brandenburg-Prussia, Brunswick and Lunenburg-Celle, Denmark, Leopold I and the Netherlands onto the scene, who were all in favour of the city, with Brandenburgian, Cellean, Danish, and Dutch troops at Bremen-Verden's borders ready to invade. So on 15 November 1666 Sweden had to sign the Treaty of Habenhausen, obliging it to destroy the fortresses built close to Bremen and banning Bremen from sending its representative to the Diet of the Lower Saxon Circle. From then on no further Swedish attempts were made to capture the city.

In 1700 Bremen introduced – like all Protestant territories of imperial immediacy – the Improved Calendar, as it was called by Protestants, in order not to mention the name of Pope Gregory XIII. So Sunday, 18 February of Old Style was followed by Monday, 1 March New Style.

19th century[edit]

Territory of the Free City of Bremen since 1800

The harbour of Vegesack became part of the city of Bremen in 1803. In 1811, Napoleon invaded Bremen and integrated it as the capital of the Département de Bouches-du-Weser (Department of the Mouths of the Weser) into the French State. In 1813, the French – as they retreated – withdrew from Bremen. Johann Smidt, Bremen's representative at the Congress of Vienna, was successful in achieving the non-mediatisation of Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck, by which they were not incorporated into neighbouring monarchies, but became sovereign republics. Bremen joined the North German Confederation in 1867 and four years later became an autonomous component state of the new-founded German Empire and its successors.

The first German steamship was manufactured in 1817 in the shipyard of Johann Lange. In 1827, Bremen, under Johann Smidt, its mayor at that time, purchased land from the Kingdom of Hanover, to establish the city of Bremerhaven (Port of Bremen) as an outpost of Bremen because the river Weser was silting up. The shipping company Norddeutscher Lloyd (NDL) was founded in 1857. Lloyd was a byword for commercial shipping and is now a part of Hapag-Lloyd.

Beck's Brewery was founded in 1873 and remains in operation today as part of Anheuser-Busch InBev. In 1872, the Bremen Cotton Exchange was founded.

20th century[edit]

The Soviet Republic of Bremen existed from January to February 1919 in the aftermath of World War I, before it was overthrown by Gerstenberg Freikorps.

Proclamation of the Revolutionary Republic of Bremen (Bremer Räterepublik) in front of the town hall, 15 November 1918

Henrich Focke, Georg Wulf and Werner Naumann founded Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau AG in Bremen in 1923; the aircraft construction company as of 2010 forms part of Airbus,[citation needed] a manufacturer of civil and military aircraft. Borgward, an automobile manufacturer, was founded in 1929, and is today part of Daimler AG.

The villages of Grohn, Schönebeck, Aumund, Hammersbeck, Fähr, Lobbendorf, Blumenthal, Farge and Rekum [de; nds] became part of the city of Bremen in 1939. The Bremen-Vegesack concentration camp operated during World War II.

Allied bombing destroyed the majority of the historical Hanseatic city as well as 60% of the built up area of Bremen during World War II.[10] The British 3rd Infantry Division under General Lashmer Whistler captured Bremen in late April 1945.[11]

In 1946 Bremen's mayor Wilhelm Kaisen (SPD) travelled to the U.S. to re-establish Bremen's statehood, as Bremen had traditionally been a city-state, in order to prevent its incorporation into the state of Lower Saxony in the British zone of occupation. In 1947 the city became an enclave, part of the American occupation zone surrounded by the British zone.

In 1947, Martin Mende founded Nordmende, a manufacturer of entertainment electronics. The company existed until 1987. OHB-System, a manufacturer of medium-sized space-flight satellites, was founded in 1958.

The University of Bremen, founded in 1971, is one of 11 institutions classed as an "Elite university" in Germany, and teaches approximately 23,500 people from 126 countries.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT • LacusCurtius • Ptolemy's Geography — Book II, Chapter 10 • DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT". uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2016-02-10. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b c Otto Edert, Neuenwalde: Reformen im ländlichen Raum, Norderstedt: Books on Demand, 2010. ISBN 978-3-8391-9479-9.
  3. ^ a b In the Middle Low German original: "wes zee hebben an gherichte in Vreslande . . . unde an Lee, dat to deme vorscrevenen slote unde voghedie höret", here after Bernd Ulrich Hucker, "Die landgemeindliche Entwicklung in Landwürden, Kirchspiel Lehe und Kirchspiel Midlum im Mittelalter" (first presented in 1972 as a lecture at a conference of the historical work study association of the northern Lower Saxon Landschaftsverbände held at Oldenburg in Oldenburg), in: Oldenburger Jahrbuch, vol. 72 (1972), pp. 1—22, here p. 13.
  4. ^ "Bremen Piracy and Scottish Periphery: The North Sea World in the 1440s » De Re Militari". deremilitari.org. Retrieved 2017-11-11.
  5. ^ Pye, Michael (2015-04-15). The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe. Pegasus Books. ISBN 9781605987538.
  6. ^ Nicolle, David (2014-04-20). Forces of the Hanseatic League: 13th–15th Centuries. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781782007807.
  7. ^ Dutch independence was finally confirmed by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.
  8. ^ "Bremen (Germany)". citypopulation.de. Retrieved 2016-02-10. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ "Bremen (Germany): Counties & Cities – Population Statistics in Maps and Charts". citypopulation.de. Retrieved 2016-02-10. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ Sir John Smythe Bolo Whistler: The Life of General Sir Lashmer Whistler Frederick Muller Ltd 1967