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The nucleus of the city of Essen is the monastery founded in the middle of the 9th century. As archaeological evidence shows, this foundation took place in an area that was already populated. The name "Astnide" is also of older origin. It is interpreted as "place in the east", with a settlement Westendorp being the opposite pole.

Craftsmen, farmers and merchants settled north of the monastery district. In a miracle report about St. Liudger from the 11th century, this settlement is referred to as "civitas", but the development into a city in the legal sense was not completed until the 13th century. The "Bürgergemeinde Essen" is first documented in 1244. This year, representatives of the citizenship signed a contract with the abbess's ministerials for the construction of the city fortifications. The document is authenticated with the large city seal, which was in use until the end of the Ancien Régime. In 1272 the twelve "consules", the councilors, are named in a legal transaction.


In the period that followed, the city endeavored to break free from the abbess's rule and to gain imperial immediacy. In 1377, Emperor Charles IV (reigned 1346-1378) confirmed that the city and its citizens had been directly subordinate to the empire since ancient times, although five years earlier he had certified the abbess's sovereignty over the city. Since both parties had an imperial certificate, the clashes continued. The dispute could not be settled even with the "divorce letter" concluded in 1399.

The conflict intensified when the city professed its evangelical faith in 1563. A process initiated by the abbess did not bring any clarity after more than 100 years of negotiations, because the ruling of the Reich Chamber of Commerce of February 4, 1670 confirmed the abbess's sovereignty, but at the same time recognized all the rights of the city, including religious beliefs. So the conflict lasted until the end of the Old Kingdom.

Essen was a small town of little importance in the late Middle Ages and early modern times. In the 14th century, around 3,000 people lived on the walled area of ​​37 hectares. The number increased to 4,000-5,000 by the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), but then fell back to the old value.


Although Essen was nominally a member of the Hanseatic League via the so-called suburb of Dortmund, representatives from Essen were not present at the Hanseatic Days. The leading trade since the 16th century was the gun industry, which flourished during the Thirty Years' War. In the period that followed, rifle manufacturing was subject to strong economic fluctuations before it slipped into complete insignificance in the 18th century.


On August 3, 1802, Prussian troops occupied the city, which fell to Prussia in 1803 as compensation for the lost areas on the left bank of the Rhine, together with the monastery and Werden Abbey and the Elten monastery. In 1806 Essen came to the Rhine Department of the Grand Duchy of Berg. After 1815, Essen and the surrounding mayor's offices were part of the district of the same name, but in 1823 it was merged with the district of Dinslaken to form the district of Duisburg. In 1873 the city was separated from the Essen district, which was restored in 1859, and thus became a district. Although Franz Dinnendahl, a pioneer of steam engine construction, set up his workshop here and Friedrich Krupp made his first attempts to manufacture cast steel, Essen was still a small country town with 8,000 inhabitants (1846) until the middle of the 19th century. The development into a large city (1896) proceeded at an American pace and was based on three interdependent, mutually reinforcing factors: the upswing in mining after the successful penetration of the marl cover, the expansion of the railway network and the rise of the Krupp cast steel factory to a global corporation. Alfred Krupp not only invented the seamless wheel tire - his most important invention - but his company also supplied rails, axles and springs for the wagons. The production of cheap mass-produced steel thanks to the Bessemer process and armaments production also contributed to the growth of the Krupp Group. The latter in particular received a lot of public attention and made Essen a "cannon town". Essen was also a city of mining, because many colliery companies and mining associations (1858: Association for mining interests; 1893: Rheinisch-Westfälisches Kohlensyndikat; 1906: Zechenverband ) were based here.


The incorporations of 1901 (Altendorf), 1905 (Rüttenscheid), 1908 (Huttrop), 1910 (Rellinghausen), 1915 (Borbeck, Altenessen, Bredeney) and 1929 (Steele, Werden, Heisingen, Kupferdreh, Überruhr, Kray, Frillendorf, Schonnebeck, Stoppenberg, Katernberg, Karnap) made Essen the largest city in the Ruhr area. It consolidated its position as the "metropolis of the area", which experienced a considerable boom in many areas in the 1920s. Folkwang was to become a nationally known trademark of artistic creation. The buildings erected in these years (stock exchange, administration building of the Ruhrsiedlungsverband, Lichtburg, Deutschlandhaus In 2002, UNESCO included mine 12 of the Zeche Zollverein, an icon of mining architecture from 1932, on the list of world cultural heritage sites.


Because of its central location, the city has always been the focus of political disputes, for example during the revolutionary period in 1918/1919, the war in the Ruhr in 1920 and the occupation of the Ruhr in 1923-1925. Essen, which was celebrated in the Nazi state as the "armory of the Reich", although arms production in no way played the role at Krupp, as the propaganda suggested, was the target of numerous major attacks during World War II, which destroyed 93% of the city center. Of the former 660,000 inhabitants, only 285,000 lived in the city at the end of the war. After the war, Essen was subject to a fundamental structural change. Krupp no ​​longer produced steel, and mining had been in a crisis since the late 1950s, so that one colliery after the other had to close When the mining of Zollverein ceased on December 23, 1986, a long tradition that had had a decisive influence on the city ended: instead, trade and services gained greater importance.


Essen, whose urban area was enlarged again by the incorporation of Burgaltendorf (1970) and Kettwig (1975), has been a bishopric since 1958 and a university town since 1973.

The modernization process has not yet been completed. The successful application as European Capital of Culture 2010 will help him move forward, as will the relocation of ThyssenKrupp's headquarters from Düsseldorf to Essen.


Borsdorf, Ulrich (ed.), Essen. History of a City, Essen 2002.
Gerchow, Jan (ed.), The wall of the city. Essen before Industry 1244 to 1865, Bottrop / Essen 1995.
Wisotzky, Klaus, From the Imperial Visit to the Euro Summit. 100 years of Essen history at a glance, Essen 1996.


Information and documents on the city's history (website of the city of Essen). [Online]


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