Rhineland (German: Rheinland, French: Rhénanie) is the name used
for a loosely defined area of
Western Germany along the Rhine, chiefly
its middle section.
3.2 Roman and Frankish conquests
3.3 Holy Roman Empire
3.4 French Revolution
3.5 Prussian influence
4 See also
6 Further reading
Rhine Province (green) as of 1830 superimposed on modern borders.
Historically, the Rhinelands refers (physically speaking) to a
loosely defined region embracing the land on the banks of the
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
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 on territory conquered by French troops. The
term covered the whole occupied zone west of the
Rhine (German: Linkes
Rheinufer) including the bridge-heads on the eastern banks. After the
collapse of the French dominated West Bank in the early 19th century,
the regions of Lower
Rhine and Jülich-Cleves-Berg were annexed to the
Kingdom of Prussia. In 1822 the Prussian administration reorganized
the territory as the
Rhine Province (also known as Rhenish Prussia), a
term continuing in the names of the German states of
Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia.
Following the First World War, the western part of
occupied by Entente forces, then demilitarized under the 1919 Treaty
of Versailles. 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.
Deutsches Eck, Koblenz
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,
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,
Nahe tributaries. The border of the
North German plain
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
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
strongly characterised by Roman influence, including viticulture. In
the core territories, large parts of the population are members of the
At the earliest historical period, the territories between the
Ardennes and the
Rhine were occupied by the Treveri, the
other Celtic tribes, who, however, were all more or less modified and
influenced by their Germanic neighbours. On the right 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
Usipetes and Tencteri.
Roman and Frankish conquests
Julius Caesar conquered the celtic tribes on the left bank, and
Augustus established numerous fortified posts on the Rhine, but the
Romans never succeeded in gaining a firm footing on the right 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.
The Frankish conquerors of the Rhenish districts were singularly
little affected by the culture of the Roman provincials they subdued,
and all traces of Roman civilization were submerged. 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
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.
Holy Roman Empire
By the time of Emperor Otto I (d. 973) both banks of the
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
Holy Roman Emperor weakened, the Rhineland
split up 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.
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:
the ecclesiastical electorates of
Cologne (without Westphalian
possessions) and Trier
the duchies of Jülich, Cleves, and Berg, forming the United Duchies
of Jülich-Cleves-Berg from 1521
County of Sponheim
County of Sponheim and numerous further Imperial Counties
the Free Imperial Cities of
Aachen and Cologne.
In spite of its dismembered condition, and the sufferings it underwent
at the hands of its French neighbours 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.
Main article: Left Bank of the Rhine
Peace of Basel
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
Regierungsbezirke of the Prussian
Rhine Province, 1905 map
A Prussian influence began on a small scale in 1609 by the occupation
of the Duchy of Cleves. A century later, Upper Guelders and
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
remained part of Prussia after Germany was unified in 1871.
Main article: Allied occupation of the Rhineland
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 kilometres east of the Rhine.
In 1920, under massive French pressure, the Saar was separated from
Rhine Province and administered by the
League of Nations
League of Nations until a
plebiscite in 1935, when the region was returned to Germany. At the
same time, in 1920, the districts of
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.
Main article: Remilitarization of the Rhineland
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
In 1945, the
Rhineland was the scene of major fighting as the Allied
invaders overwhelmed the German defenders.
In 1946, the
Rhineland was divided into the newly founded states of
North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate. North
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.
^ Dickinson, Robert E. (1964). Germany: A regional and economic
geography (2nd ed.). London: Methuen. pp. 357f.
^ Marsden, Walter (1973). The Rhineland. New York: Hastings House.
^ a b c d Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "
Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
^ T. C. W. Blanning, The French Revolution in Germany: Occupation and
Resistance in the
Rhineland 1792-1802 (1983)
^ Hajo Holborn, A History of Modern Germany, 1648-1840 (1964) pp
^ Michael Rowe, "Between Empire and Home Town: Napoleonic Rule on the
Rhine, 1799-1814," Historical Journal (1999) 42#2 pp. 643-674 in JSTOR
^ Michael Rowe, From Reich to state: the
Rhineland in the
revolutionary age, 1780-1830 (2003)
^ Ken Ford, The
Rhineland 1945: The Last Killing Ground in the West
Blanning, T. C. W. The French Revolution in Germany: Occupation and
Resistance in the
Rhineland 1792-1802 (1983)
Brophy, James M. Popular Culture and the Public Sphere in the
Rhineland, 1800-1850 (2010) excerpt and text search
Collar, Peter. The Propaganda War in the Rhineland: Weimar Germany,
Race and Occupation after World War I (2013) excerpt and text search
Diefendorf, Jeffry M. Businessmen and Politics in the Rhineland,
Rhineland Crisis, 7 March 1936 (1977)
Ford, Ken; Brian, Tony (2000). The
Rhineland 1945: The Last Killing
Ground in the West. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 1-85532-999-9.
Marsden, Walter (1973). The Rhineland. New York: Hastings House.
Rowe, Michael, From Reich to State: The
Rhineland in the Revolutionary
Age, 1780-1830 (2007) excerpt and text search
Sperber, Jonathan. "Echoes of the French Revolution in the Rhineland,
1830-1849," Central European History (1989( 22#2 pp 200-217
Rhineland Radicals: The Democratic Movement and the
Revolution of 1848-1849 (1992)