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Saxony

SAXONY

SAXONY. The rise of Saxony dates from 1423, when the Holy Roman emperor Sigismund gave the electorate and duchy of Saxony to Margrave Frederick of Meissen of the Wettin dynasty. The gift was consequential, unifying the regions of Thuringia and Saxony under the House of Wettin. In return, the strengthened Wettin princes were to guard the Bohemian border during the Hussite wars and protect the Holy Roman Empire's northeastern frontier against the Ottoman Empire. Saxony also possessed parts of the province of Meissen, of the Vogtland, of the Ore Mountains, and that portion of Franconia south of Schwarzburg.

POLITICS

The elector of Saxony was one of seven princes with constitutional authority to elect new emperors and was also the imperial vicar and president of the Imperial Council of Regency, making him second only to the emperor in terms of constitutional power within the empire. Saxon rulers, possessing lucrative salt and mineral mining rights, became financially powerful in the early modern era. This wealth, combined with the Wettins' ability to integrate lesser nobles and cities into their territorial system, made them the strongest of all north German princes by the late fifteenth century. Saxony's location on the northeastern fringe of the empire protected it from direct imperial and papal influence; indeed, the emperor and pope relied on Saxony to guard the Bohemian border.

Saxony was divided in 1485 by the ducal brothers Albert and Ernest. The partition left the dynasty in a perilous condition but can be explained by the fact that fifteenth-century princes regarded their lands as patrimonies and tended not to think territorially. The major towns in Albertine Saxony included Dresden, Leipzig, and Freiberg. Important towns located in the Ernestine portion included Zwickau, Torgau, and Wittenberg. During the sixteenth century none of these achieved a population over ten thousand. Because the electoral title was attached to the possession of territory around Wittenberg, the Ernestine branch retained (until 1547) the electoral dignity. Both lines passed laws that guaranteed the indivisibility of their domains and the succession of the eldest son. Neither line, however, was able to create an enclosed state. Contained within Saxon borders were a plethora of independent territories. These included the domains of the counts of Henneberg, Schwarzburg, and Mansfeld, the city of Erfurt, imperial abbeys, powerful monasteries, and wealthy bishoprics. Indeed, Lutheran visitation committees sent out in the 1520s to consolidate the Reformation often had to ask peasants whether their village lay within Saxony.

Ernestine Electors John the Constant (ruled 15251532), and his son, John Frederick the Magnanimous (ruled 15321547; died 1554), were devoted Lutherans who exercised less caution in the religious-political realm than had their predecessor Frederick the Wise (ruled 14861525), the elector famed for protecting Luther. At the Imperial Diet of Augsburg (1530), electoral Saxony led a group that presented a summary of Lutheran religious beliefs that is now called the Augsburg Confession. The inability of this diet to resolve religious differences and the perceived threat to national institutions within the empire encouraged John the Constant to form the Schmalkaldic League in 1531. This "defensive" league consolidated the gains of the Lutheran movement.

During the time of the league's ascendancy, the Holy Roman emperor, Charles V, had been preoccupied with external dangers presented by the Turks and by France. Peace with France (1544) and the Turks (1545), combined with a grant of money and troops from Rome, allowed Charles to confront the Protestant threat. In June 1546, Duke Maurice of Albertine Saxony, himself Lutheran, committed his domain and forces to the imperial cause against his cousin and rival. The decisive battle of the Schmalkaldic War (15461547), fought in April 1547 at Mühlberg, resulted in defeat for the league. The Wittenberg Capitulation (May 1547) transferred most of the Ernestine lands, and the electoral dignity, to Maurice. The Ernestine line was left scant territory around Weimar, Gotha, Eisenach, and Coburg, and a ducal title. Charles's decision to preserve the Ernestine line and his annexation of certain Wettin territories from Electoral Saxony indicated the rise of imperial might and foreshadowed the decline of Electoral Saxony as a political force.

In 1618 Elector John George I rejected approaches to become king of Bohemia. He continued instead a policy of helping the emperor maintain the empire's constitutional foundation, seeking to preserve his power as elector. As war loomed, John George, an enemy of Calvinism, pledged Saxony's support to the Catholic emperor. The first phase of the Thirty Years' War resulted in a persecution of Protestants throughout the empire. Though Saxony absorbed nearly 150,000 Bohemian refugees who had been forced into exile, its position within the Protestant world was compromised. In 1631 Saxony and Sweden allied against the empire, resulting in an invasion of Saxony. After a devastating defeat at Nördlingen, Saxony made peace with the empire in 1635. Saxony was not spared: until 1648 Swedish armies used it as their base and plundered it.

The Peace of Westphalia (1648) created a system that encouraged rivalries of power, and Saxony was quickly eclipsed by Austria, Bavaria, and Prussia. Both Frederick Augustus I (Augustus the Strong; ruled 16941733) and Frederick Augustus II (ruled 17331763) realized Saxony had to expand outside Germany to survive; each had himself elected king of Poland in an unsuccessful effort to broaden the Wettin dynasty's lands. The Saxon-Polish union did not elevate Saxony's power; rather, its economy declined due to the cost of assuming the Polish crown twice and of establishing a permanent standing army. Saxony's involvement in eighteenth-century conflicts like the Seven Years' War exposed its military frailty and contributed to further decline. Under the regency of Maria Antonia (17631768) and during the reign of Frederick Augustus III (17631827), Saxony benefited from enlightened reforms, fiscal responsibility, and a prudent foreign policy based on maintaining deferential relations toward greater powers.

ECONOMY

Between 1300 and 1600 Saxony had a diversified and robust economy. Mining, metallurgy, and smelting were crucial industries. Cobalt, tin, zinc, bituminous coal, iron, silverall indispensable commoditieswere mined in the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge). Copper was plentiful in parts of Thuringia, as was iron ore in eastern Saxony. The growing mining industry absorbed workers, sparing Saxony the destabilizing effects of the fifteenth century's rapid population growth. Sixteen new towns with populations over five thousand were founded in this era. A significant smelting industry existed in the Thuringian Forest. Merchants from southern Germany's wealthy cities were eager to invest in Saxony; the Fuggers of Augsburg established an important foundry at Georgenthal and a smeltery at Hohenkirchen. Lucrative salt mining operations also existed in Thuringia. Because mining in Saxony did not depend on a single mineral, the boom receded slowly.

Textile manufacturing provided another crucial segment of Saxony's economy. An internationally important flax and linen industry developed in southern Saxony, centered around Chemnitz. Over three hundred villages in Saxon-controlled Thuringia specialized in cultivating woad, a plant from which a valuable blue dye was extracted. These towns enjoyed a woad monopoly and, as a result, they prospered economically. A highly developed woolen industry also contributed to Saxony's economic strength. Moreover, Saxony was advantageously situated at the center of international trade routes. Leipzig emerged by the sixteenth century as the principal entrepôt in central Europe and hosted numerous international fairs. One of Europe's largest international cattle markets took place at Buttstädt.

Several factors allowed Saxony to limit the social unrest that befell other parts of Germany in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Though impartible inheritance was practiced east of the Saxon Saale River, the mining boom minimized the economic difficulties that this custom generated elsewhere. Labor-intensive viticulture along the Elbe River around Meissen and along the Unstrut River also absorbed excess population. Saxony thus suffered less from the strains of overpopulation than did other German parts of the empire. The Wettin lords successfully subordinated local nobles into a network of territorial estates, forestalling potential rivalries, and concurrently expanding the state's administrative apparatus in the countryside. Saxony also benefited from an "intermediary" system of landlordship, one based on both wage labor from free peasants and forced labor services performed on large demesnes. This unique form of landlordship kept the organization of rural communes at a rudimentary level and served to mitigate conflicts associated with the "crisis of feudalism." With the noteworthy exception of mining areas in Thuringia and the Ore Mountains, Saxony escaped the violence generated by the Peasants' War of 15241525 and avoided the rural unrest that plagued Upper Germany after 1570.

CULTURE

Saxony possessed impressive educational institutions: influential universities at Leipzig (1409), Wittenberg (1502), and Jena (1588); a number of remarkable secondary schools (Lateinschulen) for the privileged and gifted; and, after the Reformation, schools throughout the land to teach every boy and girl reading and writing. Leipzig also was an early center for book publishing (1480s) and for book trading. Humanist circles, encouraged by Duke George of Albertine Saxony (reigned 15001539) and Elector Frederick the Wise, emerged in Leipzig and Wittenberg. Thinkers such as Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, and Agricola made Saxony a leading center for humanism in Germany. All these factors were instrumental in making Saxony the birthplace of the Reformation and the home to its crucial events. Early modern Saxony's contribution to world culture cannot be underestimated: Lucas Cranach, Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, and Johann Gottfried von Herder were either born in Saxon lands or developed their talents within them.

See also Augsburg ; Augustus II the Strong (Saxony and Poland) ; Bach Family ; Cranach Family ; Dresden ; Handel, George Frideric ; Herder, Johann Gottfried von ; Holy Roman Empire ; Humanists and Humanism ; Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm ; Leipzig ; Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim ; Luther, Martin ; Lutheranism ; Melanchthon, Philipp ; Reformation, Protestant ; Schmalkaldic War (15461547) ; Thirty Years' War (16181648) ; Universities ; Westphalia, Peace of (1648) .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Blaschke, Karlheinz. Sachsen im Zeitalter der Reformation. Gütersloh, 1970.

Gagliardo, John G. Germany under the Old Regime: 1600 1790. London and New York, 1991.

Holborn, Hajo. A History of Modern Germany. The Reformation. Princeton, 1959.

Hughes, Michael. Early Modern Germany: 14771806. Philadelphia, 1992.

Karant-Nunn, Susan C. Zwickau in Transition, 15001547: The Reformation as an Agent of Change. Columbus, Ohio, 1987.

Scott, Tom. Society and Economy in Germany, 13001600. New York, 2002.

Wilson, Peter H. The Holy Roman Empire, 14951806. New York, 1999.

James Goodale

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Saxony

Saxony (săk´sənē), Ger. Sachsen, Fr. Saxe, state (1994 pop. 4,901,000), 7,078 sq mi (18,337 sq km), E central Germany. Dresden is the capital. In its current form, Saxony is a federal state of Germany, with its pre–World War II borders reinstated as of Oct., 1990. It lies in E Germany, bordered on the west by the German states of Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt, and Bavaria; on the south by the Czech Republic; on the east by Poland; and on the north by the German state of Brandenburg. The industrialized region is heavily polluted, due in large part to the mining of brown coal and uranium.

History

The geographic concept of Saxony has undergone great shifts and has acquired many meanings in the past 15 centuries. The land of the Saxons, Saxony was in Frankish times roughly the area in NW Germany between the Elbe and Ems rivers; it also included part of S Jutland. (This area corresponds in part to the state of Lower Saxony, created after World War II.)

The Duchy of Saxony

After Charlemagne's conquest (772–804) of the Saxons, their land was incorporated into the Carolingian empire, and late in the 9th cent. the first duchy of Saxony. Including the four divisions of Westphalia, Angria, Eastphalia, and Holstein, it occupied nearly all the territory between the Elbe and Saale rivers on the east and the Rhine on the west; it bordered on Franconia and Thuringia in the south. Duke Henry I (Henry the Fowler) of Saxony was elected German king in 919, and his son, Emperor Otto I, bestowed (961) Saxony on Hermann Billung (d. 973), a Saxon nobleman, whose descendants held the duchy until the extinction of the male line in 1106. Lothair of Supplinburg (see Lothair II) bestowed it on his Guelphic son-in-law, Henry the Proud, who was already duke of Bavaria.

In 1142 the duchy passed to Henry the Lion, son of Henry the Proud. The struggle between Henry the Lion and Emperor Frederick I ended with Henry's loss of all his fiefs in 1180. The stem duchy was broken up into numerous fiefs. The Guelphic heirs of Henry the Lion retained only their allodial lands, the duchy of Brunswick. The ducal title of Saxony went to Bernard of Anhalt, a younger son of Albert the Bear of Brandenburg and founder of the Ascanian line of Saxon dukes. Besides Anhalt, Bernard received Lauenburg and the country around Wittenberg, on the Elbe. These widely separate territories continued after 1260 under separate branches of the Ascanians as Saxe-Lauenburg and Saxe-Wittenberg.

Electoral Saxony

The Golden Bull of 1356 raised the duke of Saxe-Wittenberg to the permanent rank of elector, with the right to participate in the election of the Holy Roman Emperor. Electoral Saxony, as his territory was called, was a relatively small area along the middle Elbe. To the S of Electoral Saxony extended the margraviate of Meissen, ruled by the increasingly powerful house of Wettin. The margraves of Meissen acquired (13th–14th cent.) the larger parts of Thuringia and of Lower Lusatia and the intervening territories, and in 1423 Margrave Frederick the Warlike added Electoral Saxony; he became (1425) Elector Frederick I. Thus, Saxony shifted to E central and E Germany from NW Germany.

In 1485 the Wettin lands were partitioned between two sons of Elector Frederick II; the division came to be permanent. Ernest, founder of the Ernestine branch of Wettin, received Electoral Saxony with Wittenberg and most of the Thuringian lands. Albert, founder of the Albertine branch, received ducal rank and the Meissen territories, including Dresden and Leipzig. Duke Maurice of Saxony, a grandson of Albert and a Protestant, received the electoral title in the 16th cent.; it remained in the Albertine branch until the dissolution (1806) of the Holy Roman Empire.

Saxon Kings of Poland

The rivalry between Saxony and Brandenburg (after 1701 the kingdom of Prussia) was a decisive factor in later Saxon history, as was the election (1697) of Augustus II (who was Frederick Augustus I as elector of Saxony) as king of Poland; the election led to an economic partnership between the declining Poland and Saxony, whose prestige was thereby diminished. In the War of the Austrian Succession, Saxony adhered to what had become its traditional wavering policy, changing sides in the middle of the conflict. The death (1763) of Augustus III ended the union with Poland.

The period of Saxon rule in Poland marked a time of economic and social decay but of cultural and artistic flowering. Augustus II and Augustus III were lavish patrons of art and learning and greatly beautified their capital, Dresden. The universities of Wittenberg and Leipzig had long been leading intellectual centers, and 18th-century Leipzig led in the rise of German literature as well as in music, which reached its first peak in J. S. Bach.

The Kingdom and Province of Saxony

Saxony sided with Prussia against France early in the French Revolutionary Wars, but changed sides in 1806. For this act its elector was raised to royal rank, becoming King Frederick Augustus I. His failure to change sides again before Napoleon's fall cost him (1815) nearly half his kingdom at the Congress of Vienna. The kingdom of Saxony lost Lower Lusatia, part of Upper Lusatia, and all its northern territory including Wittenberg and Merseburg to Prussia. Its principal remaining cities were Dresden, Leipzig, Chemnitz, and Plauen. The larger part of the territories ceded in 1815 were incorporated with several other Prussian districts into the Prussian province of Saxony, with Magdeburg its capital. (This was united after 1945 with Anhalt to form the state of Saxony-Anhalt.) The kingdom sided (1866) with Austria in the Austro-Prussian War and was defeated. It was forced to pay a large indemnity and to join the North German Confederation. From 1871 until the abdication (1918) of Frederick Augustus III, it was a member state of the German Empire.

The State of Saxony

The kingdom of Saxony became the state of Saxony after 1918 and joined the Weimar Republic. Dresden became its capital. In the 19th and early 20th cent. Saxony became one of the most industrialized German states, with a noted textile industry. Chemnitz became its main industrial center and Leipzig its chief commercial hub.

After World War II the state of Saxony was reconstituted (1947) under Soviet occupation; it lost a small district E of the Lusatian Neisse, but gained a part of Silesia W of the Neisse. The postwar state became part of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1949. From 1952 to 1990 Saxony was divided into the East German districts of Handeburg Halle, Leipzig, and Cottbus; the districts produced about a third of East Germany's gross domestic product. In 1990, prior to German reunification, the districts were reintegrated as a state.

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Saxony

Saxony

A medieval duchy of northern Germany whose leaders, since 1356, had the privilege of taking part in the election of the Holy Roman Emperors. In 1422, the Wettin dynasty was established by Margrave Frederick II. During the sixteenth century, Saxony became a hotbed of Protestant activism, and the Saxon elector Frederick III extended his protection to Martin Luther, the monk who founded the Protestant movement in Germany. After Luther's open declaration of a radical new doctrine in the Ninety-five Theses, he was summoned to Rome by the pope to answer for his heresy. Frederick intervened, however, and the pope relented, also granting Luther safe passage to the Diet of Worms and sheltered at the Wittenberg Castle. Protestantism first took hold in Saxony under Frederick's successor John, who ordered Luther's new doctrine to be preached in his domains and formed the Schmalkaldic League to defend Saxony against the very Catholic emperor Charles V. John's successor John Frederick was defeated at the Battle of Mühlberg in 1547. Protestantism triumphed in Saxony, however, when Lutheranism became the official religion in the early seventeenth century and all other faiths were banned. Renaissance architects raised new palaces and churches in the capital city of Dresden, and the State Library founded in 1556 became the finest collection in Germany, gathering books and manuscripts from Europe, Asia, and the Ottoman domains.

See Also: Luther, Martin; Prussia; Reformation, Protestant

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Saxony

Saxony Federal state and historic region in e central Germany; the capital is Dresden. Initially it referred to the homeland of the Saxons in nw Germany. It then successively became a Duchy, a collection of fiefdoms, an electoral region, a Duchy again, and finally (1815–71) comprised the Prussian Province of Saxony and the Kingdom of Saxony. After 1945, the Province of Saxony was united with Anhalt to form the state of Saxony-Anhalt with Magdeburg as its capital. From 1871 to 1918, the Kingdom of Saxony was part of the German Empire. In the aftermath of World War I, the kingdom was made a state of the Weimar Republic, with Dresden as its capital. After World War 2, it joined the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Following German reunification in 1991, it became a state in the Federal Republic of Germany. Area: 18,409 sq km (7106 sq mi). Pop. (1999 est.) 4,459,686.

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