Brunswick, or Braunschweig, is a city located in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is north of the Harz Mountains. It was a very influential and power hub for commerce in medieval Germany. Brunswick was a member of the Hanseatic League from the 13th to the 17th century. Brunswick was the capital city of three successive states: the Principality of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (1269–1432, 1754–1807, and 1813–1814), the Duchy of Brunswick (1814–1918), and the Free State of Brunswick (1918–1946). In the present day, Brunswick is
the second-largest city in Lower Saxony and a major centre of scientific research.
While the exact date of the establishment of Brunswick is unclear, it can be narrowed down that it was a merger of two settlements - one founded by Brun, a Saxon count who died in 880 and another founded by Count Dankward. The city of Brunswick was first mentioned in documents from the St. Magni Church in 1031, which gave the city's name as Brunesguik. Brunswick was ruled by the Brunoids, a Saxon noble family, until the 12th century where through marriage it fell to the House of Welf. Henry the Lion of the House of Welf became duke of SAxony in 1142 and made Brunswick the capital of the state. From 1156 onwards, it also included the Duchy of Bavaria. Henry the Lion turned Dankwarderode Castle into his own Pfalz and further developed the city to represent his authority. During his rule, the Cathedral of St. Blasius was built. A statue of a lion was erected in front of the castle and would later become the city’s landmark. In 1182, Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa asked Henry the Lion for military aid and when Henry refused he was banished. He went into exile in England as he had previously established connections with the English crown through his marriage to Matilda, daughter of King Henry II and sister of Richard the Lionheart. Henry’s son, Otto, would regain influence and become the Holy Roman Emperor.
Brunswick became an important center for trade during the Middle Ages. From the 13th century to the 17th century, Brunswick was a part of the Hanseatic League. By 1600, Brunswick was the seventh largest city in Germany. By the 18th century, Brunswick was not only an important economic center, but a political and cultural one as well. Dukes such as Anthony Ulrich and Charles I became patrons of the arts and sciences after being influenced by the philosophy of the Enlightenment. In 1745, Duke Charles I founded the Collegium Carolinum, predecessor of the Brunswick University of Technology. This attracted intellects and creatives such as Jakob Mauvillion, Lessing and Leisewitz to the city.
In 1806, Brunswick was captured by the French during the Napoleonic Wars and a year later it became a part of the short-lived Napoleonic Kingdom of Westphalia. After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Brunswick was made capital of the re-established independent Duchy of Brunswick. After the July Revolution in 1830, Duke Charles II was forced to abdicate. His absolutist style of governing, allowed for the prosperity of the upper-class at the expense of the lower class. During the night of September 7-8, 1830, the ducal palace was stormed by an angry mob and completely destroyed by arson. Charles II was succeeded by his brother, William VIII. William’s rule was marked by liberal reforms. In 1871, Brunswick became a constituent state of the German Empire. Industrialization of the 19th century caused a rapid growth of population in the city. On December 1, 1838, the first section of the Brunswick–Bad Harzburg railway line connecting Brunswick and Wolfenbüttel was opened. It was the first railway line in Northern Germany and was operated by the Duchy of Brunswick State Railway.
At the end of World War I, on November 8, 1918, Duke Ernest Augustus was forced to abdicate by a socialist workers council. On November 10, the council proclaimed the Socialist Republic of Brunswick under one-party government by the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD). In 1919, an uprising led by the communist Spartacus League was defeated by Freikorps troops. In December 1921, a new constitution was approved for the Free State of Brunswick, which was a parliamentary republic within the Weimar Republic. Brunswick became the second state in Germany where the Nazi party participated in government after the Landtag election of 1930. The NSDAP formed a coalition with a variety of right-wing and conservative parties and Brunswick’s minister of the interior, Dietrich Klagges, helped the NSDAP organize a large SA rally in the city. On October 17-18, 1931, 100,000 SA troops marched through the city and fights broke out between Nazis, socialists and communists leaving several injured or dead. On February 25, 1932, the state of Brunswick granted Hitler German citizenship to allow for him to run in the 1932 presidential campaign in Germany. The Nazis carried out several attacks on political enemies in Brunswick. In 1933, after the Nazis secure power, several state institutions were established in Brunswick, including the SS-Junkerschule, Hitler Youth Academy for Youth Leadership, and the Luftfahrtforschungsanstalt in Völkenrode. Several arms factories were also established in Brunswick making it one of the centers of the German arms industry. During World War II, Brunswick was a headquarters for the Wehrkreis XI and the garrison city of the 31st Infantry Division. During the war, thousands of Eastern people were brought into the city to do forced labour. A subcamp of the concentration camp Neuengamme was established in Brunswick in 1944 where hundreds of prisoners died. On October 15, 1944, an Allied air raid destroyed a large majority of the old town in Brunswick, along with most of the city’s churches.
After World War II, the Free State of Brunswick was dissolved by the Allied occupying authorities. It ceased being a capital and most of the land was incorporated into the newly formed state of Lower Saxony. Due to its proximity to the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, Brunswick struggled economically. On February 28, 1974, the rural district of Brunswick was incorporated into the city of Brunswick which increased its population. Efforts were made in the 1990s to reconstruct historical buildings that had been damaged during World War II.
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