Home >> Encyclopedia-britannica-volume-11-part-1-gunnery-hydroxylamine >> Herlin to Hidatsa >> Hesse



HESSE, one of the Lander of Germany, known until 1866 as Hesse-Darmstadt (q.v.). It consists of two main parts, separated by a narrow strip of Prussian territory. The northern part is the province of Oberhessen ; the southern consists of the contiguous provinces of Starkenburg and Rheinhessen. There are also a number of small exclaves about Homburg and Wimpfen on the north-west frontier of Wurttemberg. Oberhessen extends over the water-parting between the basins of the Rhine and the Weser. The Vogelsberg, a volcanic mass culminating in the Taufstein ft.), lies in the east of the province. In the west it includes spurs of the Taunus. Between these two systems lies the fertile tract watered by the Wetter, a tributary of the Main. Starken burg occupies the angle between the Main and the Rhine, and in its south-eastern part includes some of the ranges of the Oden wald. Rheinhessen is separated from Starkenburg by the Rhine, and has that river as its northern as well as its eastern frontier, except at the north-east corner. The territory is a fertile tract of low hills, rising towards the south-west into the northern extremity of the Hardt range.

The area and population of the three provinces of Hesse are as follow: sq. m. Oberhessen . . . . . . . . 12.69 Starkenburg 1158 664,447 Rheinhessen . . . . . . 542 419,848 Total . . . . . . . . 2969 1,42 6,847 The density per sq.m. is thus 481.

The chief towns of the Land are Darmstadt (the capital) and Offenbach in Starkenburg, Mainz and Worms in Rheinhessen and Giessen in Oberhessen. More than two-thirds of the inhabit ants are Protestants; the majority of the remainder are Roman Catholics, with some thousands of Jews. Education is compulsory, assisted by state grants. There is a university at Giessen and a technical high school at Darmstadt. More than three-fifths of Hesse is under cultivation. Grain crops, roots, fruit, tobacco and vines are grown. Minerals, in which Oberhessen is much richer than the two other provinces, include iron, manganese, salt and some lignite.

The constitution dates from 1919. The Landtag consists of 7o members, elected by all persons over 20 years of age who have resided three years in the province. It is elected for three years. The three provinces are divided for local administration into 18 circles and 987 communes.

The name of Hesse refers to a country which has had dif ferent boundaries and areas at different times. The name is de rived from that of a Frankish tribe, the Hessi. The earliest known inhabitants of the country were the Chatti, who lived here during the 1st century A.D. (Tacitus, Germania, c. 3o), and whose capital, Mattium on the Eder, was burned by the Romans about A.D. 15. "Alike both in race and language," says Walther Schultze, "the Chatti and the Hessi are identical." The Hessians were converted to Christianity after the fall of the Roman em pire, mainly through the efforts of St. Boniface ; their land was included in the archbishopric of Mainz; and religion and culture were kept alive among them largely owing to the foundation of the Benedictine abbeys of Fulda and Hersfeld. After the ac cession of Otto in 936 the land quietly accepted the yoke of the mediaeval emperors. From 1137 to 1247 Hesse formed part of Thuringia; and its history properly begins only with the eleva tion of the landgrave Henry of Hesse to the rank of Prince of the Empire in 1292.

For nearly 30o years the history of Hesse is comparatively uneventful. The land, which fell into two main portions, upper Hesse round Marburg, and lower Hesse round Cassel, was twice divided between two members of the ruling family, but no perma nent partition took place before the Reformation. A Landtag was first called together in 1387, and the landgraves were constantly at variance with the electors of Mainz, who had large temporal possessions in the country. In 1509 Philip (q.v.) became land grave, and by his vigorous personality brought his country into prominence during the religious troubles of the 16th century. Following the example of his ancestors, Philip cared for educa tion and the general welfare of his land, and the Protestant uni versity of Marburg, founded in 1527, owes its origin to him. When he died in 1567 Hesse was divided among his four sons into Hesse-Cassel, Hesse-Darmstadt, Hesse-Marburg and Hesse Rheinfels. The lines ruling in Hesse-Rheinfels and Hesse-Mar burg, or upper Hesse, became extinct in 1583 and 1604 respec tively, and these lands passed to the two remaining branches of the family. The small landgraviate of Hesse-Homburg was formed in 1622 from Hesse-Darmstadt. After the annexation of Hesse Cassel and Hesse-Homburg by Prussia in 1866, Hesse-Darmstadt remained the only independent part of Hesse.

Hesse-Philippsthal, an offshoot of Hesse-Cassel, was founded in 1685 by Philip (d. 1721), son of the Landgrave William VI. Hesse-Barchfeld was founded in 1721 by Philip's son, William (d. 1761). Both these divisions were mediatized. Hesse-Nassau a province of Prussia was made in 1866 from part of Hesse-Cassel and part of the duchy of Nassau.

Hesse-Cassel.—The earliest ruler of Hesse-Cassel with much claim to remembrance is Charles (167o-173o) who was the first to adopt the system of hiring his soldiers out to foreign powers as mercenaries, as a means of improving the national finances. Frederick II. (176o-85) hired out 22,000 Hessian troops to England for about £3,191,000, to assist in the war against the North American colonies. The reign of the next landgrave, William IX. (1785-1821), was an important epoch in the history of Hesse-Cassel. For the loss in 18o1 of his possessions on the left bank of the Rhine he was in 1803 compensated by some of the former French territory round Mainz, and at the same time was raised to the dignity of Elector (Kurfurst) as William I. In 18o6 he made a treaty of neutrality with Napoleon, but after the battle of Jena the latter, suspecting William's designs, occupied his country, and expelled him. Hesse-Cassel was then added to Jerome Bonaparte's new kingdom of Westphalia; but after the battle of Leipzig in 1813 the French were driven out and on Nov. 21 the elector returned in triumph to his capital.

The elector signalized his restoration by abolishing with a stroke of the pen all the reforms introduced under the French regime, repudiating the Westphalian debt and declaring null and void the sale of the crown domains. Everything was set back to its condition on Nov. 1, 18o6; even the officials had to descend to their former rank, and the army to revert to the old uniforms, and powdered pigtails. The estates, indeed, were summoned in March 1815 but the attempt to devise a constitution broke down; their appeal to the federal diet at Frankfurt to call the elector to order in the matter of the debt and the domains came to nothing owing to the intervention of Metternich; and in May 1816 they were dissolved, never to meet again. William I. died on Feb. 27, 1821, and was succeeded by his son, William II. Under him the constitutional crisis in Hesse-Cassel came to a head. He was arbitrary and avaricious like his father, and moreover shocked public sentiment by his treatment of his wife, a popular Prussian princess, and his relations with his mistress, one Emilie Ortlopp, created countess of Reichenbach, whom he loaded with wealth. The July revolution in Paris gave the signal for disturbances; the elector was forced to summon the estates; and on Jan. 5, 1831, a constitution on the ordinary Liberal basis was signed. This constitution, though repeatedly evaded by the electors, was not formally repealed till 1852, after armed Austrian and Bavarian intervention following on the general defeat of the revolutionary movements of 1848-49. Continual dissensions followed and the 1831 constitution was restored in 1862. In 1866 when the elector threw in his lot with Austria, his troops were defeated and his lands annexed by Prussia.


The separate history of Hesse-Darmstadt begins with the partition of Hesse in 1567. In 1622 Hesse-Hom burg was cut off from it to form an apanage for Frederick (d. 1638) a brother of the reigning landgrave. Hesse-Darmstadt sided with the imperialists in the Thirty Years' War, during which it suffered very severely from the ravages of the Swedes. In this struggle Hesse-Cassel took the other side, and the rivalry be tween the two landgraviates was increased by a dispute over Hesse-Marburg, the ruling family of which had become extinct in 1604. This quarrel was interwoven with the general thread of the Thirty Years' War, and was not finally settled until 1648, when the disputed territory was divided between the two claim ants. During the 18th century the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War dealt heavy blows at the prosperity of the landgraviate, which was always loyal to the house of Austria. Louis IX. (1719-9o), who served in the Prussian army under Frederick the Great, is chiefly famous as the husband of Caroline (I "the great Landgravine," who counted Goethe, Herder and Grimm among her friends and was described by Frederick the Great as f ernina sexu, ingenio vir. In April 179o, just after the outbreak of the French Revolution, Louis X. an educated prince who shared the tastes and friendships of his mother, Caroline, became landgrave. He supported Napoleon with troops from 1805 to 1813, but after the battle of Leipzig he joined the allies. In 1815 the congress of Vienna made several changes in the area and boundaries of Hesse-Darmstadt. Louis secured again a district on the left bank of the Rhine, including the cities of Mainz and Worms, but he made cessions of territory to Prussia and to Bavaria and he recognized the independence of Hesse-Homburg, which had recently been incorporated with his lands. However, his title of grand-duke taken in 1806 was con firmed, and as grand-duke of Hesse and of the Rhine he entered the Germanic confederation. Soon the growing desire for liberty made itself felt in Hesse, and in 1820 Louis gave a constitution to the land; various forms were carried through; the system of government was reorganized, and in 1828 Hesse-Darmstadt joined the Prussian Zollverein (q.v.). Many concessions were made to the popular will by Louis III. in the revolutionary year 1848, but during the subsequent reaction these were withdrawn, and the period between 1850 and 1871, when Karl Friedrich Reinhard, Freiherr von Dalwigk (1802-8o), was chiefly responsible for the government of Hesse-Darmstadt, was one of repression, although some benefits were conferred upon the people. Dalwigk was one of Prussia's enemies, and during the war of 1866 the grand-duke fought on the Austrian side, the result being that he was com pelled to pay a heavy indemnity and to cede certain districts, in cluding Hesse-Homburg, which he had only just acquired, to Prussia. In 1871 Hesse-Darmstadt became one of the states of the new German empire. After the withdrawal of Dalwigk from public life at this time a more liberal policy was adopted in Hesse. Many reforms in ecclesiastical, educational, financial and admin istrative matters were introduced, and in general the grand-duchy may be said to have passed largely under the influence of Prussia. Since the annexation of Hesse-Cassel by Prussia in 1866 the grand-duchy was known simply as Hesse. The grand ducal house lost its power in the revolution of Nov. 1918 together with the rest of the reigning German princes.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.-H. B. Wenck, Hessische Landesgeschichte (FrankBibliography.-H. B. Wenck, Hessische Landesgeschichte (Frank- fort, 1783-1803) ; C. von Rommel, Geschichte von Hesse (Cassel, 182o-58) ; F. Munscher, Geschichte von Hesse (Marburg, 1894) ; F. Gundlach, Hesse and die Mainzer Stiftsfehde (Marburg, 1899) ; Walther, Literarisches Handbuch fur Geschichte and Landeskunde von Hesse (Darmstadt, 1841 ; Supplement, 1850-69) ; K. Ackermann, Bibliotheca Hessiaca (Cassel, 1884-99) ; Hoffmeister, Historisch genealogisches Handbuch fiber alle Linien des Regentenhauses Hesre (Marburg, 1874) ; H. Bechtobheimer, J. R. Dieterich and K. Strecker, Beitriige zur Theinhessischen Geschichte (Mainz, 1916), and the Zeit schri f t des V eyeins fur hessische Geschichte (1837-1904).

a former landgraviate and electorate of Germany, now the district of Cassel in the Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau. (See HEssE.) a former grand duchy of Ger many, after 1866 commonly known simply as Hesse (q.v.).

formerly a small landgraviate in Ger many, came into separate existence in 1622, and after being mediatized or absorbed for long periods was finally incorporated in Prussia in 1866. (See HEssE.) a province of Prussia, bounded by West phalia, Waldeck, Hanover, the province of Saxony, the Land of Thuringia, Bavaria, Hesse and the Rhine Province. There are small detached portions in Waldeck, Thuringia, etc. ; on the other hand the province enclaves the province of Oberhessen belong ing to the Land of Hesse, and the circle of Wetzlar belonging to the Rhine province. Hesse-Nassau was formed in 1867-8 out of territories which accrued to Prussia after the war of 1866, namely, the landgraviate of Hesse-Cassel and the duchy of Nassau, in addi tion to the territory of Frankfort-on-Main, and certain other small districts. It is now divided into the Bezirke of Cassel (Hesse) and Wiesbaden (Nassau q.v.).

The province has an area of 6,502 sq.m., and had a population in of 2,533,497, being the fourth most densely populated province in Prussia. The south-west part is composed of primary rocks, the east of secondary. The east and north parts lie in the basin of the river Fulda, which near the north-eastern boundary joins with the Werra to form the Weser. The Fulda rises in the Wasserkuppe (3,1I7 ft.), on the Rhongebirge, which consists of volcanic rocks. The Main forms part of the southern boundary, and the Rhine the south-western; the western part of the province lies mostly in the basin of the Lahn. In the south-west are the Taunus, and the Westerwald, which rise to over 2,000 ft.

The province is hilly and not rich agriculturally, but its forests, the richest in Prussia, give it a large timber trade. The chief trees are beech, oak and conifers. Cattle are bred, while the vine is cultivated chiefly on the slopes of the Taunus. Iron, coal, copper and manganese are mined. The mineral springs are important, including those at Wiesbaden and Homburg. The chief manu facturing centres are Cassel, Eschwege, Frankfort, Fulda, Hanau and Hersfeld. The province is divided for administration into 41 circles (Kreise) .

a German landgraviate, which was founded about the year 1700 by a descendant of Maurice, land grave of Hesse-Cassel (d. 1632), and was broken up in (See HEssE.)

province, prussia, hesse-cassel, hesse-darmstadt, land, rhine and cassel