For this article, I have picked five moments from the history of Germany spanning a period of about a thousand years. No particular reason; I just thought it would be interesting.
The 9th-century emperor Charles the Fatwas not fat. But he did have trouble finding an heir because he had no legitimate son. He tried to adopt Louis III of France, but he died. So he tried to adopt Louis’s brother Carloman, but he died. Then he tried to get the Pope to legitimize his illegitimate son, but the Pope died. He finally managed to adopt Louis the Blind. But when he became Emperor, he pointlessly invaded Italy, a move which eventually lost him the throne. The Golden Bull of 1356 was not an animal: it was a law regulating elections.
Yes: in order to avoid wars of succession and the constant interference of the Pope, the Holy Roman Empire decided it would be a good idea if its kings and emperors were elected. Not everybody could vote, though: only a handful of so-called Prince-Electors; originally seven, later nine. Not exactly a democracy.
When Martin Luther translated the Bible into German, he accidentally started a civil war. Ordinary Germans could now read what the Bible actually said, and they discovered that the church and state had been lying to them. According to the Bible, God provides enough food for everybody, and so there was no reason that most of them should have been starving. This led to the Peasants’ Revolt, which swept across southern Germany and cost thousands of lives.
Luther himself was horrified and suggested the rebels should be killed like mad dogs. The Thirty Years War lasted literally 30 years, from 1618 to 1648. At the end of it, the Holy Roman Empire was made up of 382 separate territories. It was another couple of centuries before Otto von Bismarck was able to unite Germany into one nation-state.
And to achieve that, he had to provoke a war with France. He did this by writing up an account of an apparently successful meeting between the King of Prussia and the Ambassador of France in such a way as to make it look as if Prussia had insulted France. You may have heard of the hyperinflation in Germany between the First and Second World Wars, but do you know how bad it was? Well, in 1918 it cost 15 pfennigs to send a letter.
By January 1923, the price had risen to 50 marks, and then everything went crazy. During October of that year, the price rose from two million to ten million. And a couple of weeks later, it cost one a billion marks just to send a letter. By this time, banknotes were being printed with a face value of 100 trillion. And just to keep up with demand, nearly 1800 printing presses were working 24 hours a day. Remember, you can always send me a postcard at this address. You can also find me elsewhere on the web: visit rewboss.com to find out how.