History in Hannover

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Richard Ong

The town of Hannover was founded sometime in the early Middle Ages as a small rural settlement on the high banks of the River Leine at the crossing of two important ancient trading routes. One of them crossed the river in a shallow ford close by. The small settlement of the ferry and fishermen developed into a town under the protection of the Dukes of Roden who had a castle built on the opposite side of the river. The Dukes of Roden sold the prospering town to the Welfen.

In 1241 Duke Otto granted the town the rights of a borough. This certificate is the oldest document of Hannover's history. At that time, Hannover was already a thriving community of confident traders and craftsmen. In the 14th century the city was fortified with a solid city wall. There were three gates in the wall: the Leintor, Aegidientor and Steintor. Three gothic churches were built in the same century, Aegidienkirche, Marktkirche and Kreuzkirche.

A hundred years later the old town hall was built next to Marktkirche also in the common brickwork style of northern Germany. For a few centuries little changed in the life of Hannover. Then in 1636 in the Thirty Years War the Duke of Calenberg decided that it was better to live in a well-fortified city and made Hannover his residence. The old monastery by the river was converted into the duke's castle. On the other side of the river a new part of the town was built to house all the people who worked for the court. It was called "Calenberger Neustadt".

In 1714 the duke left Hannover to became King of England. And again - few changes occured during the time of the personal union with England. After the Seven Years War the embankments were pulled down and the city started growing again. In the place of the large embankments two boulevards were built, the Georgstraße and the Friedrichstraße (today Friedrichswall).

In the 19th century, after the Napoleonic Age was over, Hannover became a kingdom and when the union with England was finished it had its own king, Ernst August, whose monument now stands in front of the Central Station. At that time G.F. Laves, a well-known architect of the time, worked in Hannover by appointment of the king. A lot of important buildings in Hannover are based on his plans, like the Leineschloß, the Castle of Herrenhausen (destroyed in the war), the opera house, Waterloo Square and the Central Station. Between the station and the old town the Ernst-August Stadt was built, new trades and companies were established there, so in the course the city centre moved from the old town to Ernst-August Stadt.

In the 19th century the city really started growing. Villages on the fringe were incorporated, but industralization did not get going before 1866, when the Kingdom of Hannover was annexed by the Prussians. Before that the king did not want any smelly, dirty and noisy industry in his city. So Hannover's industrial develoment started in the village of Linden, which was incorporated into Hannover in 1920. After 1866, during the "Gründerzeit", Hannover's industry boomed. The Mittellandkanal and the motorway connected the growing city to the modern traffic network.

The Second World War dealt a heavy blow to Hannover's economy. Almost two thirds of the buildings were destroyed or burnt out and a lot of people lost their homes. Also a large number of refugees from the East had to be accommodated. It was a hard life, but after 6.3 million cubic metres of rubble were removed, the rebuilding of Hannover began.

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