The Rhineland (German : Rheinland, French : Rhénanie, Dutch : Rijnland, Latinised name: Rhenania) is the name used for a loosely defined area of Western Germany along the Rhine, chiefly its middle section.
Historically, the Rhinelandsrefers (physically speaking) to a loosely defined region embracing the land on the banks of the Rhine in Central Europe, which were settled by Ripuarian and Salian Franks and became part of Frankish Austrasia. In the High Middle Ages, numerous Imperial States along the river emerged from the former stem duchy of Lotharingia, without developing any common political or cultural identity.
A "Rhineland" conceptualization did not evolve until the 19th century after the War of the First Coalition, when a short-lived Cisrhenian Republic was established. The term covered the whole French conquered territory west of the Rhine (German: Linkes Rheinufer), but also including a small portion of the bridgeheads on the eastern banks. After the collapse of the French empire, the regions of Jülich-Cleves-Berg and Lower Rhine were annexed to the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1822 the Prussian administration reorganized the territory as the Rhine Province (Rheinprovinz, also known as Rhenish Prussia), a tradition that continued in the naming of the current German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia.
Following the First World War, the western part of Rhineland was occupied by Entente forces, then demilitarized under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and then the 1925 Locarno Treaties. German forces remilitarized the territory in 1936, as part of a diplomatic test of will, three years before the outbreak of the Second World War.
To the west the area stretches to the borders with Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands; on the eastern side it encompasses the towns and cities along the river and the Bergisches Land area up to the Westphalian (Siegerland) and Hessian regions. Stretching down to the North Palatine Uplands in the south, this area, except for the Saarland, more or less corresponds with the modern use of the term.
The southern and eastern parts are mainly hill country (Westerwald, Hunsrück, Siebengebirge, Taunus and Eifel), cut by river valleys, principally the Middle Rhine up to Bingen (or very rarely between the confluence with the Neckar and Cologne) and its Ahr, Moselle and Nahe tributaries. The border of the North German plain is marked by the lower Ruhr. In the south, the river cuts the Rhenish Massif.
The area encompasses the western part of the Ruhr industrial region and the Cologne Lowland. Some of the larger cities in the Rhineland are Aachen, Bonn, Cologne, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Essen, Koblenz, Krefeld, Leverkusen, Mainz, Mönchengladbach, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Oberhausen, Remscheid, Solingen, Trier and Wuppertal.
Toponyms as well as local family names often trace back to the Frankish heritage. The lands on the western shore of the Rhine are strongly characterized by Roman influence, including viticulture. In the core territories, large parts of the population are members of the Catholic Church.
At the earliest historical period, the territories between the Ardennes and the Rhine were occupied by the Treveri, the Eburones and other Celtic tribes, who, however, were all more or less modified and influenced by their Germanic neighbors. On the East bank of the Rhine, between the Main and the Lahn, were the settlements of the Mattiaci, a branch of the Germanic Chatti, while farther to the north were the Usipetes and Tencteri.
Julius Caesar conquered the Celtic tribes on the West bank, and Augustus established numerous fortified posts on the Rhine, but the Romans never succeeded in gaining a firm footing on the East bank. As the power of the Roman empire declined the Franks pushed forward along both banks of the Rhine, and by the end of the 5th century had conquered all the lands that had formerly been under Roman influence. By the 8th century, the Frankish dominion was firmly established in western Germania and northern Gaul.
On the division of the Carolingian Empire at the Treaty of Verdun the part the province to the east of the river fell to East Francia, while that to the west remained with the kingdom of Lotharingia.
By the time of Emperor Otto I (d. 973) both banks of the Rhine had become part of the Holy Roman Empire, and in 959 the Rhenish territory was divided between the duchies of Upper Lorraine, on the Mosel, and Lower Lorraine on the Meuse.
As the central power of the Holy Roman Emperor weakened, the Rhineland disintegrated into numerous small independent principalities, each with its separate vicissitudes and special chronicles. The old Lotharingian divisions became obsolete, and while the Lower Lorraine lands were referred to as the Low Countries, the name of Lorraine became restricted to the region on the upper Moselle that still bears it. After the Imperial Reform of 1500/12, the territory was part of the Lower Rhenish–Westphalian, Upper Rhenish, and Electoral Rhenish Circles. Notable Rhenish Imperial States included:
In spite of its dismembered condition and the sufferings it underwent at the hands of its French neighbors in various periods of warfare, the Rhenish territory prospered greatly and stood in the foremost rank of German culture and progress. Aachen was the place of coronation of the German emperors, and the ecclesiastical principalities of the Rhine played a large role in German history.
At the Peace of Basel in 1795, the whole of the left bank of the Rhine was taken by France. The population was about 1.6 million in numerous small states. In 1806, the Rhenish princes all joined the Confederation of the Rhine, a puppet of Napoleon. France took direct control of the Rhineland until 1814 and radically and permanently liberalized the government, society and economy. The Coalition of France's enemies made repeated efforts to retake the region, but France repelled all the attempts.
The French swept away centuries worth of outmoded restrictions and introduced unprecedented levels of efficiency. The chaos and barriers in a land divided and subdivided among many different petty principalities gave way to a rational, simplified, centralized system controlled by Paris and run by Napoleon's relatives. The most important impact came from the abolition of all feudal privileges and historic taxes, the introduction of legal reforms of the Napoleonic Code, and the reorganization of the judicial and local administrative systems. The economic integration of the Rhineland with France increased prosperity, especially in industrial production, while business accelerated with the new efficiency and lowered trade barriers. The Jews were liberated from the ghetto. There was limited resistance; most Germans welcomed the new regime, especially the urban elites, but one sour point was the hostility of the French officials toward the Roman Catholic Church, the choice of most of the residents.The reforms were permanent. Decades later workers and peasants in the Rhineland often appealed to Jacobinism to oppose unpopular government programs, while the intelligentsia demanded the maintenance of the Napoleonic Code (which was stayed in effect for a century).
A Prussian influence began on a small scale in 1609 by the occupation of the Duchy of Cleves. A century later, Upper Guelders and Moers also became Prussian. The Congress of Vienna expelled the French and assigned the whole of the lower Rhenish districts to Prussia, who left them in undisturbed possession of the liberal institutions to which they had become accustomed under the French.The Rhine Province remained part of Prussia after Germany was unified in 1871.
The occupation of the Rhineland took place following the Armistice with Germany of 11 November 1918. The occupying armies consisted of American, Belgian, British and French forces. Under the Treaty of Versailles, German troops were banned from all territory west of the Rhine and within 50 kilometers east of the Rhine.
In 1920, under massive French pressure, the Saar was separated from the Rhine Province and administered by the League of Nations until a plebiscite in 1935, when the region was returned to Germany. At the same time, in 1920, the districts of Eupen and Malmedy were transferred to Belgium (see German-Speaking Community of Belgium).
Shortly after, France completely occupied the Rhineland, strictly controlling all important industrial areas. The Germans responded with passive resistance and hyperinflation; the French gained very little of the reparations they wanted. French troops did not leave the Rhineland until 1925.
On 7 March 1936, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles, German troops marched into the Rhineland and other regions along the Rhine. German territory west of the Rhine had been off-limits to the German military.
In 1945, the Rhineland was the scene of a major fighting as the Allied invaders overwhelmed the German defenders.
In 1946, the Rhineland was divided into the newly founded states of Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Rhineland-Palatinate. North Rhine-Westphalia is one of the prime German industrial areas, containing significant mineral deposits, (coal, lead, lignite, magnesium, oil, and uranium) and water transport. In Rhineland-Palatinate agriculture is more important, including the vineyards in the Ahr, Mittelrhein, and Mosel regions.
Westphalia is a region of northwestern Germany and one of the three historic parts of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It has an area of 20,210 square kilometres (7,800 sq mi) and 7.9 million inhabitants.
North Rhine-Westphalia, commonly shortened to NRW is a German state (Land) in Western Germany. With more than 17.9 million inhabitants, it is the most populous state of Germany. Covering an area of 34,084 square kilometres (13,160 sq mi), it is the fourth-largest German state by size. Apart from the city-states, it is also the most densely populated state in Germany.
The Electoral Palatinate or the Palatinate (Pfalz), officially the Electorate of the Palatinate, was a country that was part of the Holy Roman Empire. Counts palatine of the Rhine served as prince-electors (Kurfürsten) from "time immemorial," were noted as such in a papal letter of 1261, and were confirmed as electors by the Golden Bull of 1356.
A Regierungsbezirk means "governmental district" and is a type of administrative division in Germany. Four of sixteen Bundesländer are split into Regierungsbezirke. Beneath these are rural and urban districts.
Berg was a state—originally a county, later a duchy—in the Rhineland of Germany. Its capital was Düsseldorf. It existed as a distinct political entity from the early 12th to the 19th centuries.
The County of Mark was a county and state of the Holy Roman Empire in the Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle. It lay on both sides of the Ruhr river along the Volme and Lenne rivers.
Jülich is a town in the district of Düren, in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. As a border region between the competing powers in the Lower Rhine and Meuse areas, the town and the Duchy of Jülich played a historic role from the Middle Ages up to the 17th century.
The Cisrhenian Republic was a client state of the French Revolutionary Wars. It was proclaimed in 1797 on the Left Bank of the Rhine under French occupation.
The Rhine Province, also known as Rhenish Prussia (Rheinpreußen) or synonymous with the Rhineland (Rheinland), was the westernmost province of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Free State of Prussia, within the German Reich, from 1822 to 1946. It was created from the provinces of the Lower Rhine and Jülich-Cleves-Berg. Its capital was Koblenz and in 1939 it had 8 million inhabitants. The Province of Hohenzollern was militarily associated with the Oberpräsident of the Rhine Province.
The Duchy of Jülich comprised a state within the Holy Roman Empire from the 11th to the 18th centuries. The duchy lay west of the Rhine river and was bordered by the Electorate of Cologne to the east and the Duchy of Limburg to the west. It had territories on both sides of the river Rur, around its capital Jülich – the former Roman Iuliacum – in the lower Rhineland. The duchy amalgamated with the County of Berg beyond the Rhine in 1423, and from then on also became known as Jülich-Berg. Later it became part of the Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg.
The Duchy of Cleves was a State of the Holy Roman Empire which emerged from the medieval Hettergau. It was situated in the northern Rhineland on both sides of the Lower Rhine, around its capital Cleves and the towns of Wesel, Kalkar, Xanten, Emmerich, Rees and Duisburg bordering the lands of the Prince-Bishopric of Münster in the east and the Duchy of Brabant in the west. Its history is closely related to that of its southern neighbours: the Duchies of Jülich and Berg, as well as Guelders and the Westphalian county of Mark. The Duchy was archaically known as Cleveland in English.
Roer[ʁo.ɛʁ] was a department of the French First Republic and later First French Empire in present-day Germany and the Netherlands. It was named after the river Roer (Rur), which flows through the department. It was formed in 1798, when the Southern Netherlands and the left bank of the Rhine were occupied by the French. The department was formed from the duchies of Jülich and Cleves, the part of the Archbishopric of Cologne left of the Rhine, the Free City of Aachen, the Prussian part of the duchy of Guelders and some smaller territories. In 1805 the city of Wesel was added to the department. The capital was Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen).
The Duchy of Lower Lotharingia, also called Northern Lotharingia, Lower Lorraine or Northern Lorraine, was a stem duchy established in 959, of the medieval Kingdom of Germany, which encompassed almost all of the modern Netherlands, central and eastern Belgium, Luxemburg, the northern part of the German Rhineland province and the eastern parts of France's Nord-Pas de Calais region.
The Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire. It comprised territories of the former Duchy of Lower Lorraine, Frisia and the Westphalian part of the former Duchy of Saxony.
The Duchy of Westphalia was a historic territory in the Holy Roman Empire, which existed from 1102 to 1803. It was located in the greater region of Westphalia, originally one of the three main regions in the German stem duchy of Saxony and today part of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The duchy was held by the Archbishops and Electors of Cologne until its secularization in 1803.
Jülich-Cleves-Berg was the name of two former territories across the modern German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the modern Dutch province of Gelderland. From 1521 to 1666, the territory was a combination of states in personal union, all reichsfrei territories of the Holy Roman Empire. The name was resurrected after the Congress of Vienna for a short-lived province of the Kingdom of Prussia between 1815 and 1822.
The Province of Jülich-Cleves-Berg was a province of Prussia from 1815 to 1822. Jülich-Cleves-Berg was established in 1815 from land annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia from France and the Grand Duchy of Berg, and was dissolved in 1822 when it was merged with the Grand Duchy of the Lower Rhine to form Rhine Province.
The Grand Duchy of Berg, also known as the Grand Duchy of Berg and Cleves, was a territorial grand duchy established in 1806 by Emperor Napoleon after his victory at the Battle of Austerlitz (1805) on territories between the French Empire at the Rhine river and the German Kingdom of Westphalia.
North Rhine-Westphalia was established by the British military administration's "Operation Marriage" on 23 August 1946 by merging the Rhine province with the province of Westphalia. On 21 January 1947, the former state of Lippe was merged with North Rhine-Westphalia.
The Left Bank of the Rhine was the region north of Lauterbourg that is now in western Germany and was conquered during the War of the First Coalition and annexed by the First French Republic.