History of Hanover

Mother Earth Travel > Germany > Hanover > History

In 1156 the town of Hanover belonged to a Count of Lauenrode and was an unimportant place. The name 'Hanovere' was given to a group of farms on the banks of the Leine and was later passed on to the market-settlement founded by Count Hildebold between 1124 and 1141.

'EGO HANOVERENSIS SUM' were the words Henry The Lion had stamped on the Hanover silver coin in 1180 ' 'I am a Hanoverian'. This reminds one of John F. Kennedy's now world-famous declaration 780 years later: 'Ich bin ein Berliner', and shows that the great 12th century Welfe must have been an early fan of this town. Indeed it was The Lion who ordered that the (until that time fairly unimportant and only part of the 'Welfe' since about 1168) settlement be enlarged and reinforced. A decision that showed foresight and proved very important for the town.

The small fishing settlement developed into a town under the protection of the Dukes of Roden and was then sold to the Welfen. In 1241 Duke Otto granted the town the rights of a borough. This certificate is the oldest document of Hanover's history. By that time, Hanover was already a thriving community of established traders and craftsmen.

In the 14th century the city was fortified with a solid surrounding 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 the Marktkirche, all in the common brickwork style of northern Germany.

At that time Hanover became bigger and bigger. Its citizens were confident enough to profess their belief in the teachings of Luther by swearing an oath in the market square in 1533. In the Thirty Year War, in 1636, after the division of the inheritance of the rulers in the principality Calenberg, Prince George of Braunschweig and Lüneburg moved his residence to Hanover, which was relatively safe. A turning point in the history of the town. The citizens did not realise their luck and fought against the lord who would undermine their privileges.

Important trade routes from East to West, at the point where the north German lowland turns into the mountain range Mittelgebirge, were used again. The increasing importance of the North sea harbours strengthened the traffic on the North-South axis and added to Hanover's development. After the Seven Year War the embankments were pulled down and the city started growing again. Two boulevards were built in place of the large embankments, Georgstraße and Friedrichstraße (today Friedrichswall).

In the 19th century, after the Napoleonic wars, Hanover became a kingdom, and when the union with England was over, it got 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, worked in Hanover by appointment of the king.

A lot of important buildings in Hanover 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, as things developed, the city centre moved from the old town to Ernst-August Stadt.

In the 19th century the city started growing. Villages on the fringe were incorporated, but industralisation did not get going before 1866, when the Kingdom of Hanover was annexed by the Prussians.

Before that the King did not want any smelly, dirty and noisy industry in his city so Hanover's industrial development started in the village of Linden, which was incorporated into Hanover in 1920.

As the population grew, the new urban districts on the List, Linden, the East and North of the town began to grow. The villas, private residences and apartments from this period still characterise Hanover. This ring of residential areas was not as radically damaged by the bombs of the Second World War as the old part of town or the business areas.

After 1945 the British forces supported rebuilding Hanover. With the 'Wirtschaftswunder' Hanover once again became the largest site for trade fairs in West Germany. Thanks to its trade fairs, Hanover opened its doors to the international public. That the Expo 2000 will be held here has led to new excitement 'The third millennium will begin in Hanover', in the words of one self-confident advertising slogan.

Florian Brinkmann