Mittelfranken (Middle Franconia) History

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Regional Research > Germany, after 1989 > Bavaria > Mittelfranken (Middle Franconia) > Mittelfranken (Middle Franconia) History


General Information Middle Franconia

History of Middle Franconia

Nowadays Middle Franconia became part of the Kingdom of Bavaria only in 1803/1806/1810. Before that Middle Franconia consisted a long time of many separate sovereign states, territories of Imperial Free Cities and numerous ecclesiastical holdings. And in fact this was true for the whole region of Franconia (Franken) - that never was a united historical, political entity - which includes also Upper Franconia and Lower Franconia.

In 1803 after the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss quite a few of these smaller sovereign states, plus Imperial Free Cities (after the Mediatization) and ecclesiastical holdings (after the Säkularisation) in this region lost their sovereignty and were already incorporated into the Electorate of Bavaria.

Yet large parts of Middle Franconian territory belonged in the past to the Imperial Free City of Nürnberg and the two Franconian Markgrafschaften: Margravate Brandenburg-Ansbach and partwise to the Margravate Brandenburg-Bayreuth (the so-called beyond Gebuergs-part). The Margraves of Brandenburg-Ansbach were one line of the Franconian lines of the House of Hohenzollern. They played for nearly 500 years a prominent role in Middle Franconias history and as well in that of Franconia as a whole. The Margraves of Brandenburg- Ansbach (Principality) were former Burggrafen of Nürnberg (1192) who became also Electors of Brandenburg-Ansbach (after acquisition of Mark Brandenburg, 1415). The other Franconian line of the Hohenzollern were the Margraves of Brandenburg-Bayreuth (Principality), who own territory (the so-called beyond Gebuergs-part) in the west of nowadays Middle Franconian area.

In 1769 after the Bayreuth-line of the Hohenzollern extinct the Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach took over the other Margravate too and ruled both Franconian Principalities (Brandenburg-Ansbach and Brandenburg-Bayreuth). In 1792 Margrave Carl Alexander of Brandenburg-Ansbach sold his Margravates to the Kingdom of Prussia (ruled by the Prussian line of the House of Hohenzollern). The Margravates were protestant and made up a major part of current day Middle Franconian territory - and so, for a short period in time Middle Franconia became Prussian (1792-1806).

Meanwhile the Electorate of Bavaria (Kurfürstentum Bayern), under pressure from French Emperor Napoleon became part of the Rheinbund (Confederation of the Rhine). When in 1806 Prussia declared war on Napoleon (see: Napoleonic wars, Fourth Coalition) the states within the Rheinbund, amongst them Electorate of Bavaria, kept neutral. Napoleon defeated Prussia and won the war. For his cooperation in this conflict the Elector of Bavaria (a French ally) was raised to King of Bavaria in 1806. And Napoleon awarded parts of the territory of his Prussian enemy - the Franconian Margravate of Brandenburg-Ansbach - to the then Kingdom of Bavaria in 1806. The other Franconian Margravate Brandenburg-Bayreuth (incl. the so-called beyond Gebuergs-part) Napoleon kept for himself and place it under French military jurisdiction, until finally in 1810 he handed it over to the Kingdom of Bavaria too.

That way large parts of current day Middle Franconia were incorporated into the Kingdom of Bavaria, to whom until 1806/1810 they had neither historical, political nor religious bonds or relations. For most of the protestant Franconian`s - who for centuries were hohenzollerisch and since 1791/92 Prussian - the Kingdom of Bavaria at that time was a foreign country and a pure catholic one too, plus an ally of Napoleon. And the protestant Franconia (since 1527) did not wanted to be dominated by the Bavarian Catholicism. The Bavarian-Franconian contrast lead to deep-rooted ambivalent feelings that influenced relations between the Franconians (Franken) and the Old-Bavarians (Altbayern) in the 19th century and can sometimes even still be felt today.

Other Historical Events Relevant For Genealogists

  • After the 30-jährigen Krieg (1618-1648, 30 year-war) the countryside, cities and villages were devastated or completely destroyed, churches were robbed. In some areas more then 50% of the population had died, the cultivation of the fields had stopped, farms and homesteads were empty and devoid of inhabitants.
  • In the following centuries the depopulated countryside filled only slowly once again with people. With people who came from other areas and with people who had to leave their home area due to religious reasons. Especially the protestant ruling Margraves of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Bayreuth took in Exulanten (protestantische Glaubensflüchtlinge, protestant religious refugees) from Austria (see here: Franconia Literature, Genealogical Literature, Exulanten in Franken). In the church books of protestant parishes of this timeframe, behind the names is very often the reference aus dem Ländlein ob der Enns or from Austria. And around 1670 in some rural parts of Middle Franconia (Margravate Ansbach) nearly 50 % of the population were Exulanten or their descendants.
  • The Franconian ruling noble lords were trying to re-populate their territories and to gain new subjects (Untertanen) and so beside Austrian Protestants and French Hugenotten they also made concession for Jews and allowed them settlements within their territories. The Jews were under particularly existential pressures because of prohibition for them to settle (Niederlassungsverbot) and due to the on-and-off persecutions in many areas of Europe. The gratitude of this minority to settle in a place were often expensive payments, which they had to make to the ruling noble lords. Following this a larger number of jewish settlements and communities developed on Middle Franconian area.
    For example, in 1840 off the over 4,100 Jews in Bavaria most of them lived in the Middle Franconian town Fürth (Bayern), where more then half (2,535) of the Bavarian Jews were at home. Before 1933 there existed in Bavaria nearly 200 jewish communities, most of them in Middle Franconia and Lower Franconia. See here also:
  • After WW2 (after 1945) many catholic so-called Sudetendeutschen (Sudeten Germans) settled also in Middle Franconia. At the end of WW2 the Sudeten Germans (as millions of other people from Eastern Europe) were forcefully evicted from their homelands of many centuries (e.g. Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia). The Free State of Bavaria took in a large number of these evicted people (ca. 1,9 Mio.), took them under its protection and regards them as the fourth ethnic tribes of Bavaria (see Bavaria, Ethnology, The Fourth Tribe). After 1945 in some areas of Middle Franconia the newly settled Sudeten Germans made up nearly 50 % of the original population.

Other Links

see also:

Counties and Independent Cities in Administrative District Mittelfranken (Middle Franconia)

Ansbach (City) | Erlangen (City) | Fürth (City) | Nürnberg (City) | Schwabach (City) |
Counties: Ansbach | Erlangen-Höchstadt | Fürth | Neustadt an der Aisch-Bad Windsheim |
Nürnberger Land | Roth | Weißenburg-Gunzenhausen |

Administrative Districts in the Federal State Bavaria

Mittelfranken (Middle Franconia) | Niederbayern (Lower Bavaria) | Oberbayern (Upper Bavaria) | Oberfranken (Upper Franconia) |
Oberpfalz (Upper Palatinate) | Schwaben (Swabia) | Unterfranken (Lower Franconia) |

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