Westphalia, which means western plain, is the contemporary Bundesland, or state, of Nordrhein-Westfalen. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, the Saxons inhabited the territories in north central Germany. Westphalia was a part of the old duchy of Saxony, which included most of the land between the Rhine and the Elbe between the 9th and 12th centuries. In the 9th century, the Frankish Emperor Charlemagne incorporated Saxony and the other German duchies into the Carolingian Empire. Charlemagne's conquest brought temporary unity to the duchies, but the collapse of the Carolingian Empire loosened these bonds of common order. Tribal consciousness and local particularism fought all centralizing influences until the late 19th century.
Under powerful dukes, the duchies of Saxony, Franconia, Swabia, Lorraine and Bavaria, which were originally districts of the Carolingian Empire, became independent political entities in the 10th and 11th centuries. However, in 911, the German dukes recognized the need for a common leader and they elected Henry of Saxony as their king. The most powerful of this line of Saxon kings was Otto I, who became king of Germany and persuaded the Dukes of Lorraine, Franconia, Swabia and Bavaria to act as his attendants in the coronation ceremony at Aachen. The King subordinated the dukes, made the German Church a national institution, and fused the German tribes into a powerful state. Most importantly, Otto was crowned emperor by Pope John XII in 962, which marked the genesis of the medieval Holy Roman Empire. In the 12th century, Frederick Barbarossa of the House of Hohenstaufen attempted to build a lasting foundation for the German Empire. In 1180, Frederick placed Henry the Lion of the Welfen family, who was the Duke of both Bavaria and Saxony, under ban and divided up his former duchy. Eventually the duchy of Westphalia was under the control of the Archbishopric of Cologne, a powerful church and state government.
During the Reformation, Westphalia remained Catholic and Saxony converted to the Protestant faith. Westphalia has often been associated with the important Treaty of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years War, but divided Germany's kingdoms and principalities into Protestant and Catholic regions. Following the French invasion during the Napoleonic Wars, Westphalia was declared a Kingdom but it soon fell under Prussian dominance. In the 19th century, the course of Westphalian history was drastically altered. After the Congress Of Vienna in 1815, the various German states began to move toward the creation of a modern and united German nation. After the Revolutions of 1848, and the rise of Otto von Bismarck, Germany expanded territorially, developed its economy, and emerged as a great world power. German Unification was proclaimed in 1871, by which time Germany had attained roughly the size and boundaries it would have in the 20th century.
Nordrhein-Westfalen is the most industrialized and populous state in the western part of Germany, and it is situated between the Weser and the Low Countries. This German state consists of the lower Rhineland, which includes the Ruhr region, which is the most industrialized area in the world and is named the Kohlenpott or the coal pot. The state of Nordrhein-Westfalen also encompasses the northern edge of the Rhenish mountains and the bain around Munster. The eastern part of the state is a vast forest region.
The chief industries in Nordrhein-Westfalen are mining, mechanical engineering, textiles, glass, chemicals and tourism. The city of Duesseldorf is the present capital of Nordrhein-Westfalen, combining the northern part of the former "Rheinprovinz" and Westphalia. The city of Bochum has coal mines, heavy and chemical industries, and a space exploration institute. Dortmund is Westphalia's largest city, a former Imperial City or Reichsstadt, and was a member of the Hanseatic League, a trading and commercial organization of the Middle Ages designed to foster trade among the European states. Nordrhein-Westfalen also is the site of Bonn and Cologne, the latter of which is famous for its museum of original settlement by the Romans and its beautiful historic cathedral.
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