War and Dissolution: The Reich, 1792–1806

Joachim Whaley

in Germany and the Holy Roman Empire

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199693078
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732256 | DOI:

Series: Oxford History of Early Modern Europe

War and Dissolution: The Reich, 1792–1806

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There was no German revolution but the Reich was dragged into war with France following disputes over German property confiscated by France and over the activities of French émigrés in Germany. The war soon exhausted German resources. Prussia made peace with France at Basle (1795). Finally the Reich was obliged to accept the Peace of Lunéville (1801); the German territories west of the Rhine were annexed by France. There were various manifestations of unrest in Germany, discussions by intellectuals of the meaning of events in France, and proposals for the Reich's reform and modernisation. The only successful reform was the secularisation of the Reichskirche, whose lands were used to compensate those who had lost property to France {Reichsdeputationshauptschluss). Many of the larger territories attempted to swallow up their smaller neighbours, but few wanted to abandon their thousand-year-old quasi-federal union. Napoleon forced Francis II to dissolve the Reich in 1806.

Keywords: Revolutionary wars; left bank of the Rhine; émigrés; Peace of Basle; Peace of Lunéville; annexation; unrest; discussion of France; reform of the Reich; secularisation; compensation; Reichsdeputationshauptschluss; Francis II; Napoleon; dissolution

Chapter.  44887 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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