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Frankfurt Am Main


FRANKFURT AM MAIN. Frankfurt's position as a leading center of international commerce and finance as well as the site of the German emperor's election originated in the medieval period and remained the principal source of wealth and pride for the early modern city. Location on the Main River twenty miles east of its junction with the Rhine provided access to two major waterways at a point where, by 1450, some twenty-six land routes linked far-flung trading interests throughout Europe. Continental prominence of Frankfurt's two annual fairs dated from the decline of the Champagne fairs and lasted through the eighteenth century, with fluctuations that meant commercial preeminence among German cities in the fourteenth century, decline relative to Augsburg and Nuremberg from the fifteenth into the seventeenth century, then reinvigoration by Netherlandish and Jewish immigrants, whose commercial and financial operations combined with an already flourishing printing industry and book trade to produce a second major economic surge from the late sixteenth century into the 1630s. Relatively speedy recovery from the Thirty Years' War (16181648) brought the city's third great boom in the century after 1670, when its importance and fame as a center of European trade and high finance were at their highest, even as Hamburg and Leipzig were overtaking Frankfurt's lead.

Similar fluctuations marked population developments: from a medieval high of about 10,000 (1385), fifteenth-century decline left 7,600 inhabitants (1499), then a long upswing raised totals to 12,000 (1555) and 20,000 (1620). Disease, death, and dislocation rather than warfare brought decline to about 17,000 (1655), but the city fared relatively well, recovered, and grew to 24,000 (1675) and 27,500 (1700). Compared with this impressive increase after the Thirty Years' War, eighteenth-century growth was more modest but probably brought the city to 36,000 by 1790. Demographic dynamics were strongly influenced throughout by immigration, which brought commercial opportunities and wealth, internal economic rivalries, remarkable cultural and religious diversity (exemplified notably in a compulsory but contested toleration of 3,000 Jews in the local ghetto by 1709), and intermittent political conflicts.

Close ties to medieval German rulers had resulted in significant benefits, especially unchallenged status as a royal or imperial city (enjoying considerable self-governance under the emperor's direct authority) and the site for imperial elections. This special relationship with the ruler, further underscored in Frankfurt's choice as the normal location for imperial coronations after 1562, remained crucial, even when strained by the city's Lutheran Reformation, citizens' plundering of the ghetto (1614), and the council's attempt at unlimited governance over the seventeenth century. Often internal conflicts involved appeals for imperial intervention, which usually reinforced aristocratic rule against guild opposition (1366, 1525, 16121616) but sometimes modified oligarchical tendencies (1612, 17121732) by expanding the ruling elite and recognizing the claims and influence, however unequal, of diverse interests (artisanal and noncommercial as well as mercantile and financial) within the city. Thus Frankfurt absorbed gradual change while preserving an uneasy coexistence of social forces and a decidedly conservative cultural tone, perhaps exemplified best in a strong orthodox Lutheranism that, alongside a pietistic heritage from Philipp Jakob Spener's work there (16661686), meant late introduction of full religious toleration and of Enlightenment institutions.

See also Commerce and Markets ; Free and Imperial Cities ; Holy Roman Empire ; Jews and Judaism ; Pietism ; Thirty Years' War (16181648) .


Dietz, Alexander. Frankfurter Handelsgeschichte. 4 vols in 5. Frankfurt, 19101925. Reprint, Glashütten im Taunus, 19701974.

Frankfurter Historische Kommission, ed. Frankfurt am Main: Die Geschichte der Stadt in neun Beiträgen. Sigmaringen, 1991.

Koch, Rainer. Grundlagen bürgerlicher Herrschaft: Verfassungsund sozialgeschicht-liche Studien zur bürgerlichen Gesellschaft in Frankfurt am Main (16121866). Wiesbaden, 1983.

Kracauer, Isidor. Geschichte der Juden in Frankfurt am Main, 11501824. 2 vols. Frankfurt, 19251927.

Soliday, Gerald L. A Community in Conflict: Frankfurt Society in the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries. Hanover, N.H., 1974.

Voelcker, Heinrich, ed. Die Stadt Goethes: Frankfurt am Main im XVIII. Jahrhundert. Frankfurt, 1932.

Gerald L. Soliday

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"Frankfurt Am Main." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

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Frankfurt am Main

Frankfurt am Main, Germany: see Frankfurt.

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"Frankfurt am Main." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 15 Dec. 2017 <>.

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