1902 Encyclopedia > Schleswig-Holstein


SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN, a maritime province in the north-west of Prussia, formed out of the once Danish duchies of Schleswig-Holstein and Lauenburg, is bounded on the W. by the German Ocean, on the N. by Jutland, on the E. by the Baltic, Liibeck, and Mecklenburg, and on the S. by Mecklenburg and the lower course of the Elbe (separating it from Hanover). It thus consists of the southern half of the Cimbric peninsula, and forms the connecting link between Germany and Denmark. In addition to the mainland, which decreases in breadth from south to north, the province includes several islands, the most important being Alsen and Fehmarn in the Baltic, and Bom, Sylt, and Fohr in the North Sea. The total area of the province is 7280 square miles, 450 of which belong to the small duchy of Lauenburg in the south-east corner, while the rest are divided almost equally between Holstein to the south of the Eider and Sehleswig to the north of it. From north to south the province is about 140 miles long, while its breadth varies from 90 miles in Holstein to 35 miles at the narrower parts of Sehleswig.

Schleswig-Holstein belongs to the great North-German plain, of the characteristic features of which it affords a faithful reproduction in miniature, down to the continua-tion of the Baltic ridge or plateau (see GERMANY) by a range of low wooded hills skirting its eastern coast and culminating in the Bungsberg (570 feet), a little to the north of Eutin. This hilly district contains the most productive land in the province, the soil consisting of diluvial drift or boulder clay. The central part of the province forms practically a continuation of the great Luneburg Heath, and its thin sandy soil is of little use in cultivation. Along the west coast extends the " Marsh-land," a belt of rich alluvial soil formed by the deposits of the German Ocean, and varying in breadth from five to fifteen miles. It is seldom more than a few feet above the sea-level, while at places it is actually below it, and it has consequently to be defended by an extensive system of dykes or embankments, 25 feet high, resembling those of Holland. The more ancient geological formations are scarcely met with in Schleswig-Holstein. The contrast between the two coast-lines of the province is very marked. The Baltic coast, about 300 miles in length, has generally steep well-defined banks and is very irregular in form, being pierced by numerous long and narrow fjords, which run deep into the interior of the land and often afford excellent harbours. The islands of Alsen and Fehmarn are separated from the coast by very narrow channels. The North Sea coast (200 miles), on the other hand, is very low and flat, and its smooth outline is interrupted only by the estuary of the Eider and the peninsula of Eiderstedt. Dunes or sand-hills, though rare on the protected main-land, occur on Sylt and other islands, while the small unprotected islands called " Halligen " are being gradually washed away by the sea. The numerous islands on the west coast probably formed part of the peninsula at no very remote period, and the sea between them and the mainland is very shallow and full of sandbanks. The climate of Schleswig-Holstein is mainly determined by the proximity of the sea, and the mean annual temperature, varying from 45° Fahr. in the north to 49° Fahr. in the south, is rather higher than is usual in the same latitude. Bain and fog are frequent, but the climate is on the whole very healthy. The lower course of the Elbe forms the southern boundary of Holstein for 65 miles, but the only river of importance within the pro-vince is the Eider, which rises in Holstein, and after a course of 120 miles falls into the North Sea, forming an estuary 3 to 12 miles in breadth. It is navigable from its mouth as far as Bendsburg, and the waterway between the two seas is completed by a canal from Bendsburg to Kiel. The new Baltic Canal, which is to be navigable for large vessels, will also intersect Holstein. There are numerous lakes in north-east Holstein, the largest of which are the Ploner See (12 square miles) and the Selenter See (9 square miles).

Of the total area of the province 58'3 per cent, is occupied by tilled land, 28'5 per cent, by meadows and pastures, and only 6'4 per cent, by forests. The ordinary cereals are all cultivated with success and there is generally a considerable surplus for exportation; rape is grown in the marsh lands and flax on the east coast, while large quantities of apples and other fruit are raised near Altona for the Hamburg and English markets. In 1883 the province contained 156,534 horses, 727,505 cattle, 320,768 sheep, 268,061 pigs, and 42,580 goats. The marsh lands afford admirable pasture, and a greater proportion of cattle (65 per 100 inhabitants) is reared in Schleswig-Holstein, mainly by small owners, than in any other Prussian province. Great numbers of fat cattle are exported to England. The Holstein horses are also in request, but sheep-farming is comparatively neglected. Bee-keeping is found a productive industry, and in 1883 the province possessed 113,836 hives. The hills skirting the bays of the Baltic coast are generally pleasantly wooded, but the forests are nowhere of great extent except in the duchy of Lauenburg. The fishing in the Baltic is productive ; Eckernforde is the chief fishing station in Prussia. The oysters from the beds on the west coast of Sehleswig are widely known under the misnomer of "Holstein natives." The mineral resources of the province are almost confined to a few layers of rock-salt near Segeberg. The manufacturing industry is also insignificant and does not extend much beyond the large towns, such as Altona, Kiel, and Flensburg. The shipbuilding of Kiel and other seaports is, however, important; and lace is made by the peasants of North Sehleswig. The commerce and shipping of Schleswig-Holstein, stimulated by its position between two seas, as well as by its excellent harbours and waterways, are much more prominent than its manufactures. Kiel is the chief seaport of Prussia, while an oversea trade is also carried on by Altona and Flensburg. The main exports are grain, cattle, horses, fish, and oysters, in return for which come timber, coal, salt, wine, and colonial produce. The trading fleet of Schleswig-Holstein in 1884 consisted of 713 vessels (142 steamers), with a total burthen of 115,600 tons ; more than half the ships belonged to the North Sea coast, but 90 per cent, of the steamers and 65 per cent, of the tonnage must bo credited to the Baltic.

The population of the province in 1880 was 1,127,149, compris-ing 1,111,383 Protestants, 8903 Roman Catholics, and 3522 Jews. The urban and rural communities are in the proportion of 4 to 6. About 38 per cent, of the population are supported by agriculture, 26 per cent, by manufacturing industry, 10 per cent, by trade, while 12 per cent, are domestic servants and day-labourers, 6 per cent, is absorbed by the official and professional classes, and 5^ per cent, by those who returned no occupation. The great bulk of the Holsteiners and more than half the Schleswigers are of genuine German stock, but there are about 150,000 Danes in the north part of Schleswig. Among the Germans the prevalent tongue is Low German, but the North Frisians on the west coast of Schleswig and the North Sea islands (about 30,000 in all) still speak a Frisian dialect, which, however, is gradually dying out. The peninsula of Angeln, between the Gulf of Flensburg and the Schlei, is supposed to have been the original seat of the English, and most observers profess to see a striking resemblance between this district and the counties of Kent and Surrey. The peasants of Dithmarschen also retain many of their ancient peculiarities. The boundary between the Danish and German languages is approxi-mately a line between Flensburg and Tondern ; not more than 15 per cent, of the entire population of the province speak Danish as their mother-tongue. The chief educational institution in Schleswig-Holstein is the university of Kiel; and the excellence of the ordinary school system is proved by the fact that in 1883-84 the Schleswig-Holstein recruits showed a smaller proportion of illiter-acy (O'll per cent.) than those from any other part of the German empire. Schleswig is the official capital of the province, but Altona and Kiel are the largest towns, the former being also the headquarters of an army corps and the latter the chief naval station of Germany. Kiel and Friedrichsort are fortified, and the old lines of Diippel are also maintained. The province sends ten members to the reichstag and nineteen to the Prussian house of deputies. The provincial estates meet in Rendsburg.

History.—The history of the southern part of the Cimbric peninsula is the record of a struggle between the Danes and the Germans, ending in the meantime in favour of the latter. The earliest inhabitants of whose existence we have any trace seem to have been of German stock, and German authorities maintain that it was the emigration to England of the Jutes and Angles that first gave the Scandinavian or Danish element scope to develop in the district. In the early part of the ninth century we find Charlemagne in conflict with the Danish rulers of South Jutland or Schleswig1 and establishing a " Danish mark " between the Eider and the Schlei. Some attempt to introduce Christianity was also made at this time by Bishop Ansgarius, but it was not till the middle of the following century that the new creed found anything approaching to general acceptance. In 1027 the Danish king Knud (the English Canute) obtained from Conrad the recognition of Schleswig's independence of the empire, and henceforth the Eider became the recognized boundary between Germany and Denmark ('' Eidora Romani terminus imperii"). Schleswig, though a Danish province, was not merged in the other possessions of Denmark, but enjoyed a certain measure of independence under the rule of viceroys or dukes chosen from the younger sons of the royal house. One of the most vigorous of these rulers was Knud Laward (1115-1131), who extended his sway over the Wendish district of Wagria (see below) and held it as a fief of the German empire. He was thus the first ruler of Schleswig to hold that singular double relationship to the king of Denmark and the German empire which afterwards became so important a factor in the history of the country. Valdemar, son of Knud, became king of Denmark, and Knud's grandson, King Valdemar II., conferred the duchy of South Jutland or Schleswig on his son Abel in 1232. The terms of this investment afterwards became a fertile subject of dispute between the dukes and the crown, the former maintaining that they held their land as an hereditary and inalienable fief, while the kings argued that the fief was revocable at pleasure. The dukes, however, assisted by their kinsmen, the counts of Holstein, succeeded in establishing their position and finally remained in undisputed possession of their duchy. In 1326 Duke Valdemar V. of Schleswig was raised to the throne of Denmark through the influence of his uncle, Count Gerhard of Holstein, to whom in return he ceded his duchy. Valdemar had to abdicate in 1330 and received his duchy back again, granting, however, the " Constitutio Valde-maria," wdrich ensured the rights of eventual succession in Schleswig to the Holstein counts. This compact came to fruition in 1375. when the male ducal line became extinct, and Margaret of Denmark formally recognized the union of the two territories in 1386. Henceforth we have the same prince ruling over Schleswig and Holstein, holding the first as a fief of the Danish crown and the other as a fief of the German empire.

The history of Holstein before its union with Schleswig has been partly indicated in the foregoing paragraph. Nordalbingia, or the land to the north of the Elbe, was inhabited by the Saxons, under whom it was divided into four gaus or hundreds :—DITHMARSCHEN (q.v.) on the west, Holstein proper or Holtsaten ("men of the forest") in the middle, Wagria on the east, and Stormarn on the south. The Nordalbingians were the last of the Saxons to be sub-dued by Charlemagne (804), who gave Wagria to his Wendish allies the Obotrites, and established a Wendish mark on their frontier at the same time that he established a Danish mark on the Eider. The other three gaus were incorporated with the duchy of Saxony, Dithmarschen being included in the countship of Stade while Holstein and Stormarn had a count of their own. In 1110 the countship of Holstein was conferred upon Adolphus I. of Schauenburg, who founded the influential line that eventually ruled over Schleswig-Holstein. Wagria was added to Holstein by Adolphus II. about 1140. In the beginning of the 1 Stli century the Danish kings extended their sway over all German territory to the north of the Elbe, and their conquests were confirmed by an imperial grant in 1214. This state of affairs, however, was of no long continuance, and Adolphus III. of Holstein succeeded in re-establishing his independence in 1225. The Holstein family now became split up into several branch-lines, of which that of Rendsburg proved the most lasting and important. A daughter of this line married Duke Abel of Schleswig, and the Holstein counts lent faithful aid to their kinsmen in resisting the encroachments and claims of the kings of Denmark. In the distracted state of Denmark at the beginning of the 14th century Count Gerhard of Holstein became the practical ruler of the kingdom, but preferred to place the crown on the head of his nephew Valdemar. Legally speaking, Holstein remained a mediate lief of Saxony; but with the decline of the Saxon duchy this relationship became obscured, and, when the Holstein lands were created a duchy in 1474, the new duke held his lands directly from the emperor.

In 1448 the royal line of Denmark became extinct, and the crown was offered to Adolphus VII. of Schleswig-Holstein, who refused it for himself but exerted his influence to secure it for his nephew Christian of Oldenburg. Adolphus died in 1459, leaving no sons. Christian was the legal heir of Schleswig, but his claims to Holstein were by no means so strong. The estates of Schleswig-Holstein, however, decided in his favour on the plea that the duchies could not be separated, and exacted from him a confirma-tion of this indissoluble connexion. It was also formally stipulated that the duchies should never be actually incorporated with the kingdom of Denmark, while the hereditary nature of the fief was given up and the estates acquired the right to choose as their duke any one of Christian's descendants. This Succession Act was the basis of the union of the two duchies for the next four hundred years, and the practical contradiction between their own inseparable connexion and their feudal duty to different sovereigns is at once the cause and the explanation of the complicated " Schleswig-Holstein question."

Now follows a series of endless shiftings, divisions, and reunions of the two duchies. After 1580 the various collateral lines of the Oldenburg family thus formed are represented by two main branches,—the royal or Gliickstadt line and the Gottorp or ducal line. In the division of Schleswig-Holstein between these two no regard was paid to the boundary of the Eider ; each of them ruled over detached parts of both duchies, though the whole of Schleswig was still under the sovereignty of Denmark and the whole of Holstein under that of Germany. Practically Schleswig came to be regarded merely as a part of Denmark, while Holstein's connexion with Germany preserved for it a flicker of independence. In 1660 Denmark became an absolute monarchy and the principle of female succession was acknowledged. As in Schleswig-Holstein the right of inheritance was confined to the male line, the policy of Denmark was vigorously directed towards doing away as far as possible with all separate rights in the duchy and to getting the Gottorp or ducal portions into the possession of the crown. This policy was naturally more successful in Schleswig than in Holstein, and in 1721 Frederick IV. was able to gain the guarantee of the powers for the incorporation of the wdiole of Schleswig with the Danish monarchy. He had, however, to give up his claim to Holstein. In 1762 the Holstein-Gottorp line succeeded to the throne of Russia in the person of Peter III., and this led in 1773 to an agreement by which the Gottorp line resigned its share of Holstein to the king of Denmark in exchange for Oldenburg and Delmen-horst. The whole of Schleswdg-Holstein thus came once more under the sway of a ruler who was at the same time king of Denmark.

The period from 1773 to 1846 was one of peace for the duchies, with considerable progress in material prosperity. The fall of the German empire in 1806 released Holstein for a time from any connexion with a power outside of Denmark, but in 1815 the Danish monarch had to enter the German Confederation for Holstein and for the recently acquired duchy of LAUENBURG (q.v.). A strong feeling of German patriotism gradually arose in Holstein, affecting part of Schleswig also, and dissatisfaction with the delay of the Danish crown in recognizing the constitutional rights of the duchies led to the events forming the recent history of Schleswig-Holstein. These will be found described with some detail in the articles DENMARK (vol. vii. pp. 88, 89) and GERMANY (vol. x. pp. 507, 509-512). (J. F. M.)


This use of the term "duchies" anticipates a little, as Holstein was not made a duchy till 1474. Dithmarschen, indeed, which was supposed to be a part of ducal Hclstein, was not subdued' till 1559.

r The name of Schleswig did not come into general use for this part of the Cimbric peninsula until tiie end of the 14th century.

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