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Encyclopedia > Schwaben

Swabia (German Schwaben) is a historic region in Germany and a language area. The area consists largely of the present-day state of Baden-Württemberg, as well as the Bavarian administrative district of Swabia. In the Middle Ages, most of modern Switzerland and Alsace (nowadays belonging to France) was also considered to be a part of Swabia.



Swabia, whose name derives from the Suebi, a Germanic tribe that inhabited the region, was one of the original stem duchies of the German Kingdom, as it developed in the 9th and 10th centuries. The Hohenstaufen Dynasty (The dynasty of Frederick Barbarossa), which ruled the western Holy Roman Empire in the 12th and 13th centuries, arose out of Swabia, but following the death of the last Hohenstaufen, Conradin, the original duchy broke up into much smaller units. Two major dynasties which arose out of the region were the Habsburg and the Hohenzollern, which also contained the Dukes of Württemberg and the Margraves of Baden. The region proved to be one of the most divided in the Empire, containing, in addition to these princes, numerous free cities, ecclesiastical territories, and smaller counts and imperial knights.

Fearing the power of the greater princes, the cities and smaller secular rulers of Swabia joined together to form the Swabian League in the 15th century. The League was quite successful, notably expelling the Duke of Württemberg in 1519 and putting in his place a Habsburg governor, but the league broke up a few years later over religious differences inspired by the Reformation, and the Duke of Württemberg was soon restored. The region was quite divided by the reformation. While secular princes like the Duke of Württemberg and the Margrave of Baden-Durlach, as well as most of the Free Cities, became Protestant, the ecclesiastical territories (including the bishoprics of Augsburg, Constance, and others) remained Catholic, as did the territories pertaining to the Habsburgs, Hohenzollerns, and to the Margrave of Baden-Baden.

In the wake of the territorial reorganization of the Empire of 1803, the shape of Swabia was entirely changed. All of the ecclesiatical estates were secularized, and most of the smaller secular states, and all of the free cities, were mediatized, leaving only Württemberg and Baden as Swabian states. Much of Eastern Swabia became part of Bavaria, forming what is now the Bavarian administrative region of Swabia.

Famous Swabians


Modern Era



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