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The Reichstag Building in Berlin
History and Information
A Brief History of Berlin
Berlin is the largest city in Germany and lies on the Rivers Spree and Havel. It is thought that Berlin started as a small fishermen's settlement but the town was not built until the 13th-century. When Germany was still a group of small independent states, about two hundred years later, the Hohenzollerns established themselves as leaders and rulers of the state of Brandenburg. Shortly after they moved to Berlin and made it their capital.
The first signs of Berlin becoming prosperous was in about 1640 when Frederick William became ruler of Brandenburg. He made big changes to the town including building a canal to join the River Spree with the River Oder so trade with the Baltic Sea was possible. Near the city he settles a number of French Huguenots who had fled from France, where they were being persecuted because of their Protestant religion, as France was a Roman Catholic country. The Huguenots were a clever and hard-working people who started many of the trades that became so important to Germany later. Frederick William's successor became the first king of Prussia which was a much larger German state and the most powerful, of which Berlin then became the capital.
When these separate states joined together in 1871, Berlin was made the capital of the new German Empire which made the city even more important. Berlin flourished and grew considerably at the end of the 19th-century and between 1870 and 1890 its population doubled. Railways and canals became important features of Berlin and they stretched out in all directions. This transport network attracted trade with Russia and Poland bringing barges full of wheat, rye and timber, while the railways brought cattle and wool from central Europe. Many fine dual carriageway roads, known as autobahnen, were to be built too. These roads ran almost straight to other important cities.