Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe. Covering an area of, it lies between the Baltic and North seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, and France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands to the west.
Various Germanic tribes have inhabited the northern parts of modern Germany since classical antiquity. A region named Germania was documented before AD 100. Beginning in the 10th century, German territories formed a central part of the Holy Roman Empire. During the 16th century, northern German regions became the centre of the Protestant Reformation. Following the Napoleonic Wars and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the German Confederation was formed in 1815. In 1871, Germany became a nation state when most of the German states unified into the Prussian-dominated German Empire. After World War I and the German Revolution of 1918–1919, the Empire was replaced by the parliamentary Weimar Republic. The Nazi seizure of power in 1933 led to the establishment of a dictatorship, World War II, and the Holocaust. After the end of World War II in Europe and a period of Allied occupation, two new German states were founded: West Germany and East Germany. The Federal Republic of Germany was a founding member of the European Economic Community and the European Union. The country was reunified on 3 October 1990.
Today, Germany is a federal parliamentary republic led by a chancellor. With 83 million inhabitants of its 16 constituent states, it is the second-most populous country in Europe after Russia, as well as the most populous member state of the European Union. Its capital and largest city is Berlin, and its financial centre is Frankfurt; the largest urban area is the Ruhr.
Germany is a great power with a strong economy; it has the largest economy in Europe, the world's fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the fifth-largest by PPP. As a global leader in several industrial and technological sectors, it is both the world's third-largest exporter and importer of goods. A highly developed country with a very high standard of living, it offers social security and a universal health care system, environmental protections, and a tuition-free university education. Germany is also a member of the United Nations, NATO, the G7, the G20, and the OECD. Known for its long and rich cultural history, Germany has many World Heritage sites and is among the top tourism destinations in the world.
EtymologyThe English word Germany derives from the Latin Germania, which came into use after Julius Caesar adopted it for the peoples east of the Rhine. The German term Deutschland, originally diutisciu land is derived from, descended from Old High German diutisc "of the people", originally used to distinguish the language of the common people from Latin and its Romance descendants. This in turn descends from Proto-Germanic also originates.
HistoryAncient humans were present in Germany at least 600,000 years ago. The first non-modern human fossil was discovered in the Neander Valley. Similarly dated evidence of modern humans has been found in the Swabian Jura, including 42,000-year-old flutes which are the oldest musical instruments ever found, the 40,000-year-old Lion Man, and the 35,000-year-old Venus of Hohle Fels. The Nebra sky disk, created during the European Bronze Age, is attributed to a German site.
Germanic tribes and Frankish EmpireThe Germanic tribes are thought to date from the Nordic Bronze Age or the Pre-Roman Iron Age. From southern Scandinavia and north Germany, they expanded south, east, and west, coming into contact with the Celtic, Iranian, Baltic, and Slavic tribes.
Under Augustus, Rome began to invade Germania. In 9 AD, three Roman legions were defeated by Arminius. By 100 AD, when Tacitus wrote Germania, Germanic tribes had settled along the Rhine and the Danube, occupying most of modern Germany. However, Baden Württemberg, southern Bavaria, southern Hesse and the western Rhineland had been incorporated into Roman provinces. Around 260, Germanic peoples broke into Roman-controlled lands. After the invasion of the Huns in 375, and with the decline of Rome from 395, Germanic tribes moved farther southwest: the Franks established the Frankish Kingdom and pushed east to subjugate Saxony and Bavaria, and areas of what is today eastern Germany were inhabited by Western Slavic tribes.
East Francia and Holy Roman EmpireCharlemagne founded the Carolingian Empire in 800; it was divided in 843 and the Holy Roman Empire emerged from the eastern portion. The territory initially known as East Francia stretched from the Rhine in the west to the Elbe River in the east and from the North Sea to the Alps. The Ottonian rulers consolidated several major duchies. In 996 Gregory V became the first German Pope, appointed by his cousin Otto III, whom he shortly after crowned Holy Roman Emperor. The Holy Roman Empire absorbed northern Italy and Burgundy under the Salian emperors, although the emperors lost power through the Investiture controversy.
Under the Hohenstaufen emperors, German princes encouraged German settlement to the south and east . Members of the Hanseatic League, mostly north German towns, prospered in the expansion of trade. Population declined starting with the Great Famine in 1315, followed by the Black Death of 1348–50. The Golden Bull issued in 1356 provided the constitutional structure of the Empire and codified the election of the emperor by seven prince-electors.
, Protestant Reformer
Johannes Gutenberg introduced moveable-type printing to Europe, laying the basis for the democratization of knowledge. In 1517, Martin Luther incited the Protestant Reformation; the 1555 Peace of Augsburg tolerated the "Evangelical" faith, but also decreed that the faith of the prince was to be the faith of his subjects. From the Cologne War through the Thirty Years' Wars, religious conflict devastated German lands and significantly reduced the population.
The Peace of Westphalia ended religious warfare among the Imperial Estates; their mostly German-speaking rulers were able to choose Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, or the Reformed faith as their official religion. The legal system initiated by a series of Imperial Reforms provided for considerable local autonomy and a stronger Imperial Diet. The House of Habsburg held the imperial crown from 1438 until the death of Charles VI in 1740. Following the War of Austrian Succession and the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Charles VI's daughter Maria Theresa ruled as Empress Consort when her husband, Francis I, became Emperor.
From 1740, dualism between the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and the Kingdom of Prussia dominated German history. In 1772, 1793, and 1795, Prussia and Austria, along with the Russian Empire, agreed to the Partitions of Poland. During the period of the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic era and the subsequent final meeting of the Imperial Diet, most of the Free Imperial Cities were annexed by dynastic territories; the ecclesiastical territories were secularised and annexed. In 1806 the Imperium was dissolved; France, Russia, Prussia and the Habsburgs competed for hegemony in the German states during the Napoleonic Wars.
German Confederation and Empirein 1815
Following the fall of Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna founded the German Confederation, a loose league of 39 sovereign states. The appointment of the Emperor of Austria as the permanent president reflected the Congress's rejection of Prussia's rising influence. Disagreement within restoration politics partly led to the rise of liberal movements, followed by new measures of repression by Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich. The Zollverein'', a tariff union, furthered economic unity. In light of revolutionary movements in Europe, intellectuals and commoners started the revolutions of 1848 in the German states. King Frederick William IV of Prussia was offered the title of Emperor, but with a loss of power; he rejected the crown and the proposed constitution, a temporary setback for the movement.
King William I appointed Otto von Bismarck as the Minister President of Prussia in 1862. Bismarck successfully concluded the war with Denmark in 1864; the subsequent decisive Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 enabled him to create the North German Confederation which excluded Austria. After the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War, the German princes proclaimed the founding of the German Empire in 1871. Prussia was the dominant constituent state of the new empire; the King of Prussia ruled as its Kaiser, and Berlin became its capital.
In the Gründerzeit period following the unification of Germany, Bismarck's foreign policy as Chancellor of Germany secured Germany's position as a great nation by forging alliances and avoiding war. However, under Wilhelm II, Germany took an imperialistic course, leading to friction with neighbouring countries. A dual alliance was created with the multinational realm of Austria-Hungary; the Triple Alliance of 1882 included Italy. Britain, France and Russia also concluded alliances to protect against Habsburg interference with Russian interests in the Balkans or German interference against France. At the Berlin Conference in 1884, Germany claimed several colonies including German East Africa, German South West Africa, Togoland, and Kamerun. Later, Germany further expanded its colonial empire to include holdings in the Pacific and China. The colonial government in South West Africa, from 1904 to 1907, carried out the annihilation of the local Herero and Namaqua peoples as punishment for an uprising; this was the 20th century's first genocide.
The assassination of Austria's crown prince on 28 June 1914 provided the pretext for Austria-Hungary to attack Serbia and trigger World War I. After four years of warfare, in which approximately two million German soldiers were killed, a general armistice ended the fighting. In the German Revolution, Emperor Wilhelm II and the ruling princes abdicated their positions and Germany was declared a federal republic. Germany's new leadership signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, accepting defeat by the Allies. Germans perceived the treaty as humiliating, which was seen by historians as influential in the rise of Adolf Hitler. Germany lost around 13% of its European territory and ceded all of its colonial possessions in Africa and the South Sea.