About Bavaria > History

The History of Bavaria

Bavaria‘s history dates back many centuries. The origins of the old stem duchy of Bavaria (Baiern) can be traced all the way back to the year 555 AD.

Overview (important data):

  • 555 AD - Oldest historical evidence of a Bavarian duchy
  • 788 - End of the old stem duchy
  • 1180 - End of the new stem duchy
  • 1180 to 1918 - Reign of the Wittelsbach line
  • 1255 - First division of the country
  • 1506 - Reunification of the duchy
  • 1623 - Bavaria proclaimed electorate
  • 1806 - Bavaria proclaimed kingdom
  • 1871 - Bavaria becomes part of the newly founded Deutsche Reich
  • 1918 - End of the monarchy, Bavaria becomes a "free state"
  • 1949 - Bavaria made part of the new Federal Republic of Germany

Map Kingdom of Bavaria from 1808 (150KB)

At the time of Emperor Augustus reign, the area south of the Donau river called Old Bavaria, occupied by the Celts, became part of the Roman Empire.

Following the demise of the Roman rulership, Celts, Germans invading from the North, and the remaining Romans together formed the tribe of the Bajuwares.

Evidence of the existence of a Bavarian duchy goes back to 555 AD, when it became part of the Franconian territory under the rule of the Merowingers. The victory of Karl the Great over Bavarian Duke Tassilo III in 788 marks the end of the so-called Old Duchy.

The demise of the Carolingians enabled the reemergence of the sovereignty held by the Bavarian dukes within the so-called New Duchy. However, conflict with the Ottones once again led to a marked dependency on the German kingdom. Beginning in the year 1070, the Bavarian dukes regained some of their former power under the rulership of the Welfs. The conflict between the Staufers and the Welfs ended with the victory of Staufer Friedrich I Barbarossa over Welf Henry the Lion in 1180, leading to the ultimate seccession of the Marcha Orientalis (Ostarrichi), which is later to become Austria, as well as to the end of the New Duchy.

From 1180 to 1918, Bavaria, as territorial duchy, is under the reign of the Wittelsbach line. It experiences a period of numerous divisions into separate duchies, which do not come to an end until the so-called primogeniture law is issued in 1506. In the following counter-reformation, Bavaria takes up a leading position and emerges from the Thirty-Year War with gains in territory as well as its ascent to becoming an electorate in 1623.

During the War of Austrian Succession, absolutist Bavaria is temporarily occupied by Austria. During Napoleon`s reign, Bavaria at first sides with France and is able to achieve large gains in territory through secularization and mediatization.

In 1806, Bavaria is proclaimed kingdom. It switches sides in time, so that, by supporting Napoleon"s opponents, Bavaria manages to keep a major part of its territorial gains in its role as victor at the Congress of Vienna (Wiener Kongress) in 1814.

Under King Ludwig I, Munich expanded into an arts and university town. In the course of the "March turbulences" (Märzunruhen) in 1848, he was forced to resign from the throne as a result of his affair with dancer Lola Montez. Ludwig II went down in history as the "Fairy-tale King" (Märchenkönig) due to the construction of Neuschwanstein and other castles.

In 1866 (Prusso-Austrian War), Bavaria experiences defeat against Prussia alongside Austria. In 1871, Bavaria becomes part of the newly founded Deutsche Reich. However, it receives so-called "reservation rights" (it keeps its own postal, railway and army systems).

Bavarian history: Prince Elector MaximilianIn 1918, the Wittelsbach monarchy crumbled during the so-called "Novemberunruhen" (November Revolution) in Germany. On November 9, 1918, Bavaria is proclaimed a "free state". Socialist groups manage to install a council republic for a short period of time.

At the time of the Weimar Republic, Bavaria is made stage of the Hitler-Putsch in 1923. Between 1933 and 1945, Bavaria, as an administrative unit under the National Socialists, loses most of its importance; it does, however, take on a certain trailblazer role in regard to national socialist measures.

During World War II, Bavarian towns, such as Wuerzburg, Munich or Nuremberg are subject to vast destruction. Following the occupation by American troops, Bavaria becomes part of the newly founded Federal Republic of Germany as a federal state (1949). An economic upturn follows, as well as the development from an agrarian state to a modern industrialized state.

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