Today, we think of Prussia as a
historic region of northwestern Germany, which it was, but to
better understand Prussia, and its province of Westphalia in
particular, we need to go back to even further. The history
of these lands falls into four major time periods; pre-1806,
1806-1871, 1871-1918, and 1918-present.
Before Christ, the lands we refer
to today as Prussia were inhabited by various German tribes.
During the period of about 12 B.C. to 5 A.D., a series of battles
occurred, resulting in the Romans holding the territory for
a short time. During the 3rd century, tribes of German
peoples known as Saxons began moving into the area. The
Romans were ultimately defeated, and the Saxons took control of
the region. At this time, the area was known as Saxony.
There were three main tribes of Saxons who settled in three
primary areas: 1.) Westphalia, the western part of the
province, lay between the Lower Rhine and Weser Rivers, 2.)
or Engern in German, which lay on either side of the Weser
River, and 3.) Eastphalia, the eastern part of the
province, which lay between the Weser and Elbe Rivers. The
Saxons in these areas were known as Westphlians, Angrians, and
Eastphalians. Around the 12th century, the name Engern
disappeared and the area around the Weser became part of
Christianity was introduced in
Westphalia in the 7th century, and by the early 1100's, Westphalia
contained numerous principalities - e.g., church districts,
dioceses, and monasteries. By 1600, most Westphalians were
of Catholic faith, though the Lutheran and Protestant faiths were
In 1744, Ostfriesland, where the
village of Riepe is located, became part of the Kingdom of
1806 - 1871
Prior to 1806, the Kingdom of
Prussia was ruled by kings and was not part of Germany. In
1806, Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Europe, destroyed Germany as an
empire, and Prussia was forced to concede its possessions to
France. Westphalia's lands were reorganized - combined with
other lands and divided into new territories which were renamed.
During this period, the Westphalians were obliged to change their
nationality several times. The new structure, The Kingdom of
Westphalia, was established by Napoleon for his brother, Jerome.
In1813, the kingdom collapsed, and by 1815, when Napoleon and the
French were out of power, Prussia regained possession and control
of the land. In 1815, Ostfriesland became part of the
Kingdom of Hannover, and in 1866, the Kingdom of Hannover
(Hanover) was incorporated into Prussia.
1871 - 1918
Germany was reestablished as an
empire, King Wilhelm I became Emperor, and Prussia became a
province of Germany.
1918 - present
Prior to WWII, Prussia was the
largest and most important state in Germany, both industrially and
politically. The region that was Prussia was primarily
low-lying, level land, with mountainous areas in parts of the
north and southeast. The principle industries were
agriculture, cattle breeding, iron and coal mining, and
manufacturing. The area around the Ruhr River was
particularly rich with valuable iron and coal mines.
Numerous factories in this area supplied mining equipment and
machinery. Linen and other textile products were also
Westphalia remained a Prussian
province until 1945. In 1946, Westphalia was once again
reorganized. Combined with the province of Lippe, the area
was divided into the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia and Land of
Lower Saxony. After 1945, Prussia again was divided among
the four Allied occupation zones (British, French, U.S. and
Soviet). In 1947, Prussia was formally abolished as a state
by the Allied Control Council for Germany, and the land, once
again, was reorganized. Most of the former provinces became
part of the new states of the Federal Republic of Germany and the
German Democratic Republic. Russia acquired the northern
part of East Prussia, and Poland acquired the remainder of East
Prussia, as well as other parts.