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Political Developments until 1815

The Origins of Saxon History

In AD 929, King Henry I builds a castle in the middle of a Slavic area, in order to protect the German settlers who are starting to arrive there. The resulting Meissen margraviate becomes the cradle of Saxony. The 800-year dominance of the Wettiner dynasty begins 160 years later. After a first flowering of economy and culture, mining leads the way to a rapid upturn in trade activities. Saxony develops steadily to become one of the richest German states. After the Thirty Years War, the badly affected state at first loses ground. However, under the rule of King Augustus the Strong, Saxony resumes economic and cultural progress. This progress manifests itself in particular by the baroque buildings in Dresden and and the foundation of the Meissen porcelain factory (1710). In 1813, Saxony fights alongside Napoleon in the Battle of Nations, loses and is forced to accept substantial losses of territories and population at the Congress of Vienna. Saxony joins the German Confederation.


500 BC Start of Germanic immigration to the current Saxony.

100-600 BC The Hermandur dynasty rules the Saxon area. Parts of West Saxony belong to Thuringia.

Around AD 600 The area is populated by the Slavic Sorbs from today's Poland and Czech Republic.

929 After the subjugation of the Sorb Daleminzers, the Saxon duke and German king Henry I establishes the margraviate of Meissen. In anticipation of German settlement in the middle of the Slavic area, he builds a castle on a mountain plateau (today's Meissen) by the Elbe river.

1089 Count Henry I von Eilenburg is awarded the margraviate of Meissen as fiefdom. An 800-year dominance of the Wettiner dynasty in Saxony begins. The German nobles and spiritual leaders in the region are reinforced by the arrival of peasants and townsmen as part of the German expansion to the east. Today's Meissen region becomes the core of Saxony.

From 1200 The first economic boom begins under the rule of margrave Otto the Rich (1156-1190).

1165 Leipzig is recognised as a city, followed in 1216 by Chemnitz and Dresden. Economic development attracts numerous immigrants and many new settlements appear. A major silver discovery in Freiberg unleashes the 'first silver rush' in 1268, comparable to the gold rush in America of the 19th century.

1307 The Wettiners win the Battle of Lucka (1307) against the German emperor, and extend their area of rule.

1409 The German teachers and students who had emigrated from Prague are given a new university in Leipzig.

1423 In appreciation of the victorious battle against the Hussites, Emperor Sigismund awards Wettiner margrave Frederick the Belligerent the defunct Duchy of Saxony-Wittenberg (a line which has died out and was previously held by the Prince-Electorate of Sachsen). The Wettiner becomes Elector (and is awarded the title of Imperial Marshall), while the name Saxony transfers to the Wettiner territory. Dresden becomes the official residence of the Elector in 1464.

1485 The Leipzig Separation in 1485 between the brothers Ernest (founder of the Ernestinian dynasty) and Albrecht the Courageous (founder of the Albertinian dynasty) leads to a permanent division of the Wettiner lands. The Albertinian dynasty begins to form the core of Saxony, initially ruling northern Thuringia and the margraviate of Meissen, once again selecting Dresden as their official residence.

1517 With the posting of Luther’s theses in Wittenberg, the Reformation is underway. The Ernestinian Elector Frederick the Wise provides a sanctuary for Luther at Wartburg castle.

1547 The reformist princes (including, at this time, the Ernestinian line) are defeated in the Schmalkaldian War. The Elector title transfer to the Albertinian line, which stayed loyal to the emperor.

1569 Augustus, Elector of Saxony, recovers the Vogtland from the Lords of Plauen.

1600 Major ore deposits are discovered, and lead to further mines opening in the Ore Mountains. The discovery of a rich silver vein leads to a huge influx of people. Trade and crafts begin to flourish. Saxony develops steadily to become one of the richest German states.

1618-1648 Saxony changes sides during the Thirty Years War: initially neutral, then on the Swedish-Protestant side, then after the death of Gustav Adolf, Saxony makes peace with the emperor's followers in Prague. In return, the margraviates of Upper Lausitz and Lower Lausitz, mortgaged in 1623, are awarded to Saxony in the Prague peace agreement (1635). Peace with Sweden is only achieved in 1645 in Kötzschenbroda. The Thirty Years War causes Saxony to lose about half its population, partly because of repeated outbreaks of plague. Saxony is largely devastated, and after the Westphalian peace agreement of 1648, it suffers an increasing decline of influence within the empire.

1694-1733 Saxony is subject to the rule of Elector Frederick Augustus I (the Strong), who converts to Catholicism in 1697 in order to win the Polish crown. Saxony experiences an economic and industrial renaissance, which mainfests itself in the baroque buildings of Dresden, and the foundation of the Meissen porcelain factory (1710).

1733-1763 Frederick Augustus II rules both Saxony and Poland. Saxony clashes repeatedly with Prussia. At the end of the Seven Years War, Saxony loses influence, territory and the Polish crown in 1763.

1806-1815 During the Napoleonic Wars, Saxony changes sides again. Initially fighting against the French, Frederick Augustus III (after an interim peace agreement and the title of king, after joining the Rhine Confederation) fights on the side of Napoleon at the Battle of Nations and is defeated and imprisoned. At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Saxony loses two-thirds of its territories and a third of its population to Prussia, and joins the German Confederation.



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