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Brandenburg

BRANDENBURG

BRANDENBURG. Brandenburg's importance stems from its position within the Holy Roman Empire and its association with Prussia and the Hohenzollern dynasty. The area that later became known as Brandenburg was conquered from the Slavs in 928, but was only loosely involved in imperial politics until the ruling Ascanian dynasty died out in 1320. Under imperial law, Brandenburg now reverted to the emperor's control, and it was entrusted first to the Wittelsbachs and then to the Luxembourgs as these families successively held the imperial title. Both used it to support their imperial ambitions, resulting in Brandenburg's elevation to an electorate in 1356, permitting its rulers to participate in the choice of all future emperors. As Luxembourg imperial rule crumbled in 1415, Emperor Sigismund gave Brandenburg to Frederick, burgrave of Nuremberg, who became Frederick I, elector and margrave of Brandenburg, initiating over five centuries of Hohenzollern rule.

Brandenburg covered 14,780 square miles (38,280 square kilometers) in northeastern Germany, and was divided into five "marches," or provinces. The Altmark lay west of the Elbe River and had its administrative center in the town of Stendal. The central Mittelmark stretched east from the Elbe to the Oder River and included the major towns of Berlin-Cölln, Frankurt/Oder and Brandenburg itself. The province of Pregnitz was to the northwest as far as the border with Mecklenburg and was governed from Perleberg. The Uckermark extended eastwards from Prignitz between the Mittelmark and the duchy of Pomerania and had its capital in Prenzlau. The fifth province, Neumark, lay east of the Oder and had few towns apart from the fortress of Küstrin (Kostrzyn).

The entire area was known as the "sandbox of the empire" because of its poor soil, which sustained only 250,000 inhabitants even by the mid-seventeenth century. Thanks to intensified land use and economic development, such as the digging of canals to improve riverine transportation to the Baltic and the North Sea, the population increased considerably in the eighteenth century, reaching 980,000. The people lived in 83 towns and 1,967 villages. One third of the latter were under the direct jurisdiction of the ruler and provided much of his total revenue. While urban magistrates exercised jurisdiction over a few of the other villages, most were controlled by the Brandenburg nobility who also dominated the territory's Estates, or representative assembly. Both the elector and the nobles introduced the manorial economy (Gutswirtschaft) from the early sixteenth century onwards, binding their dependent peasants to the land and requiring them to work two or more days a week on large fields of rye to produce cash crops for export to western European cities. While still profitable, this economy was reaching its natural limits by 1626 when it was plunged into deep crisis by Brandenburg's involvement in the Thirty Years' War. Berlin's population fell by 40 percent and that of the countryside by between 20 and 90 percent, depending on the region. Historians used to think that this situation uniformly benefited the nobility, who were able to create larger farms by seizing abandoned land. In fact, the shortage of labor increased the bargaining power of the surviving peasants, who demanded improved conditions, including wages for their obligatory work on their landlords' fields. The nobles were in a weak position when they negotiated with Elector Frederick William I, known as the "Great Elector" (ruled 16401688), at the territorial assembly in 1653. The resulting agreement, the Brandenburg Recess, confirmed rather than extended aristocratic power over serf labor in return for significant concessions to the elector, who ruthlessly consolidated his power over the next two decades.

The elector and his successors continued to protect the peasants against lordly exploitation, but their interest was primarily fiscal rather than humanitarian. They wanted a stable economic base of viable taxpayers, and they simply diverted profits from the lords' pockets into their own treasury. The economy remained depressed because of renewed warfare after 1655. It recovered slowly from the 1680s, and the population returned to its pre-1618 level by 1713. The nobles derived only limited benefit from these developments, because the Hohenzollerns imposed a form of limited conscription, known as the canton system, by 1733, taking regular drafts of peasants to maintain their inflated military establishment.

Many nobles were reconciled by court, military, and administrative appointments that provided alternative sources of wealth and prestige. However, others continued to oppose Hohenzollern absolutism, not least because of Brandenburg's experience of the Reformation. Lutheranism arrived relatively late, in 1535, and was not fully accepted until the reign of John George (ruled 15711598), who secularized church property and introduced church ordinances modeled on those of Saxony to the south. This reflected Brandenburg's junior status in imperial politics where the elector generally followed the lead of his more prestigious Saxon colleague. Elector John Sigismund (ruled 16081619) announced a radical new course by converting to Calvinism on Christmas Day 1613. Having only recently adopted Lutheranism, few Brandenburg nobles were prepared to follow the elector's lead, and Calvinism remained restricted to those most closely associated with the electoral family. Unsure of his position at home, the elector abandoned his support for Calvinists elsewhere in the empire and swung behind Saxony's policy of neutrality during the Thirty Years' War. By the time circumstances forced Brandenburg into the war, the electorate was linked dynastically to Prussia, and its subsequent political history is more appropriately discussed under that heading.

See also Berlin ; Frederick William (Brandenburg) ; Hohenzollern Dynasty ; Holy Roman Empire ; Prussia ; Saxony ; Thirty Years' War (16181648).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Baumgart, Peter, ed. Ständetum und Staatsbildung in Brandenburg-Preußen. Berlin and New York, 1983.

Enders, Lieselott. "Die Landgemeinde in Brandenburg: Grundzüge ihrer Funktion und Wirkungsweise vom 13. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert." Blätter für Deutsche Landesgeschichte 129 (1993): 195256.

Fürbringer, Christoph. Necessitas und Libertas. Staatsbildung und Landstände im 17. Jahrhundert in Brandenburg. Frankfurt am Main, 1985.

Göse, Frank, ed. Im Schatten der Krone: Die Mark Brandenburg um 1700. Potsdam, 2002.

Hagen, William W. Ordinary Prussians. Brandenburg Junkers and Villagers 15001840. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 2002.

. "Seventeenth-Century Crisis in Brandenburg. The Thirty Years War, the Destabilization of Serfdom, and the Rise of Absolutism." American Historical Review 94 (1989): 302335.

Materna, Ingo, and Wolfgang Ribbe, eds. Brandenburgische Geschichte. Berlin, 1995.

Nischan, Bodo. Prince, People and Confession: The Second Reformation in Brandenburg. Philadelphia, 1994.

Pröve, Ralf, and Bernd Kölling, eds. Leben und Arbeiten auf märkischen Sand. Bielefeld, 1999.

Schultze, Johannes. Die Mark Brandenburg. 5 vols. Berlin, 19611969.

Peter H. Wilson

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Brandenburg (state, Germany)

Brandenburg (brän´dənbŏŏrk), state (1994 est. pop. 2,540,000), c.10,400 sq mi (26,940 sq km), E Germany. Potsdam is the capital; other leading cities include Cottbus, Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, and Brandenburg. The state of Brandenburg consists of the former Prussian province of Brandenburg minus those parts of the province lying E of the Oder and Neisse rivers in Poland (see Germany). It became (1949) one of the states of the German Democratic Republic, was abolished as an administrative unit in 1952, and was reestablished as a state in 1990 shortly before the reunification of East and West Germany. Berlin is situated in, but is administratively separate from, Brandenburg. A 1996 referendum on whether to merge the two entities into a single state was approved by residents of Berlin but rejected by voters in Brandenburg.

Drained by the Havel, Spree, and Oder rivers, the region encompassed by the state has many lakes and pine forests. The Spree Forest, in Lower Lusatia, is inhabited by Slavic-speaking Wends, remnants of the population that inhabited Brandenburg at the time of its acquisition (12th cent.) by Albert the Bear. The Slavic principalities had been previously subdued by Charlemagne but had regained their independence. In the 10th cent. the German kings organized the North March, a small area on the Elbe, which was bestowed on Albert the Bear in 1134. Albert expanded his territory, and in 1150 he inherited the principality of Brandenburg from its last Wendish prince. The March of Brandenburg, as Albert's lands were called, were colonized by Germans and became Christianized. Albert's descendants, the Ascanians, ruled Brandenburg until their extinction in 1320.

Emperor Louis IV, a Wittelsbach, gave (1323) the vacant fief to members of his own house, but Emperor Charles IV (who confirmed the margraves of Brandenburg as electors of the Holy Roman Empire) forced the Wittelsbachs to surrender it and conferred (1373) it on his son Wenceslaus. When Wenceslaus became (1378) German king, Brandenburg went to his brother, later Emperor Sigismund, who in 1417 formally transferred it to Frederick I of the house of Hohenzollern. Among Frederick's early successors were Albert Achilles (reigned 1470–86), who introduced primogeniture as the law of inheritance of the Hohenzollern family, and Joachim II (reigned 1535–71), who accepted the Reformation in 1539. In the 17th cent. the electors of Brandenburg acquired (1614) the duchy of Cleves and other W German territories and (1618) the duchy of Prussia (roughly, the later East Prussia). Although it suffered heavily in the Thirty Years War (1618–48), Brandenburg emerged as a military power under Frederick William, the Great Elector (reigned 1640–88), who acquired E Pomerania and freed Prussia from Polish suzerainty. His son, Elector Frederick III, in 1701 took the title "king in Prussia" as Frederick I. The later history of Brandenburg is that of Prussia.

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Brandenburg

Brandenburg One of a series of moraines which mark the southern limit of Weichselian ice (see Devensian), extending some 500 km across the north German Plain. A Russian equivalent extends a further 2000 km into European Russia.

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"Brandenburg." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Brandenburg." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brandenburg-0

"Brandenburg." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Retrieved August 15, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brandenburg-0

Brandenburg

Brandenburg One of a series of moraines which mark the southern limit of Weichselian ice, extending some 500 km across the N. German Plain. A Russian equivalent extends a further 2000 km into European Russia.

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"Brandenburg." A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Brandenburg." A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. . Retrieved August 15, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brandenburg

Brandenburg

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"Brandenburg." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Brandenburg." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved August 15, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brandenburg