The travel destination: lower saxony in transition

Lower Saxony through the ages

The federal state of Lower Saxony is a modern construct, resulting from territorial realignments after World War II. The name Lower Saxony appears as early as the Late Middle Ages, after the privilege of electorship had been transferred to today’s Saxony. At that time, the division of the Saxon Imperial Circle resulted in the creation of the new Lower Saxon Imperial Circle early in the 16th century (1). It was only the 19th century, however, that saw the emergence of something like a proper Lower Saxon identity. This is expressed, in particular, by the adoption of the name “Lower Saxony” by associations dedicated to local and regional history and heritage, such as the “Historische Kommission für Niedersachsen und Bremen” (Historical Commission for Lower Saxony and Bremen).

In 1946, the state of Lower Saxony was formed from the formerly independent federal states of Hanover, Brunswick, Oldenburg and Schaumburg-Lippe. The three regional libraries of Lower Saxony reflect this territorial background. They represent the three largest of the new state’s constituent historical territories and document their cultural production and heritage.

The states of Hanover and Brunswick have their common origin in the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg, itself an offshoot of the older Duchy of Saxony, which was partitioned into the Duchy of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and the Principality of Lüneburg in 1269. Several further divisions and consolidations resulted in the eventual emergence of the Duchy of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (2) and the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg (3). The latter was joined to Great Britain in the personal union of 1714. In 1814, as a result of the Congress of Vienna, these two territories were transformed into the Duchy of Brunswick (Free State from 1922) and the Kingdom of Hanover (Prussian province from 1866) (4).

The creation of the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg (Free State from 1918/19) was another result of the Congress of Vienna. Its core territory was the Duchy (formerly County) of Oldenburg.

Lower Saxony’s smallest precursor state was the County of Schaumburg-Lippe (Principality in 1807, Free State in 1918), which emerged from the division of the County of Schaumburg in 1640.

Around 1700


Circulus Saxoniæ Inferioris : divisa in Ducatus Brunsvici, Zellæ, Holsatiæ, Meklenburgi et Bremæ, Archiepiscopatum Magdeburgi; et Episcopatus Hildesii et Halberstadii
Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Gerard Valck, Leonard Valk
Amsterdam, ca. 1700
Copper engraving , 46 x 58 cm
GWLB Mappe XVII, A, 13

The Principality of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel


Ducatus Brunsuicensis in ejusdem tres Principatus Calenbergicu[u] scilicet & Grubenhagense[e] (sub Electore Br. Lun.-Hannoveriano) et in Guelpherbitanum
Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Johann Baptist Homann
Nuremberg, ca. 1700-1800
Copper engraving , 47 x 57 cm
GWLB Mappe XIX, A, 4

The Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1714)

A New & Exact Map of the Electorate of Brunswick-Lunenburg and ye rest of ye Kings Dominions in Germany
Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Herman Moll
London, after 1716
Copper engraving , 59 x 99 cm
GWLB Mappe XIX, A, 10:1-2

Prussian province (1866-1946)


Handkarte der Provinz Hannover und der angrenzenden Länderteile
Cartographer/Engraver/Publisher: Albert Asche, Verlag: Verlag der Hahnschen Buchhandlung, Geographische Anstalt von Wagner & Debes
Leipzig/Hannover, 1913
Lithograph: 31 x 33 cm
GWLB Mappe XIX, C, 240

Today (2020)

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