It is a university town and home of the Regierungsbezirk Schwaben and the Bezirk Schwaben. Augsburg is an urban district and home to the institutions of the Landkreis Augsburg. It is the third-largest city in Bavaria with a population exceeding 264,000 citizens (after Munich and Nuremberg). After Neuss and Trier, Augsburg is Germany's third oldest city.
Augsburg is the only German city with its own legal holiday, the , celebrated on August 8 of every year. This gives Augsburg more legal holidays than any other region or city in Germany.
The city was founded in 15 BC by Drusus and Tiberius as 'Augusta Vindelicorum', on the orders of their stepfather Emperor Augustus. The name "Augusta Vindelicorum" means "Augusta of the Vindelici". This garrison camp soon became the capital of the Roman province of Raetia.
Early development was due to a 400-year affiliation with the Roman Empire, especially because of its excellent military, economic and geographic position at the convergence of the Alpine rivers Lech and Wertach, and with direct access to most important Alpine passes. Thus, Augsburg was the intersection of many important European east-west and north-south connections, which later evolved as major trade routes of the Middle Ages.
Historical spellings of the name of the city include "Ausburch" and "Ausbourch."
Augsburg was granted the status of a Free Imperial City on March 9, 1276 and from then until 1803, it was independent of its former overlord, the Prince-Bishop of Augsburg. Frictions between the city-state and the prince-bishops were to remain frequent however, particularly after Augsburg became Protestant and curtailed the rights and freedoms of Catholics.
With a strategic location as intersection of trade routes to Italy, the Free Imperial City became a major trading center. Augsburg produced large quantities of woven goods, cloth and textiles. Augsburg became the base of two banking families that rose to great prominence, the Fuggers and the Welsers. The Fugger family donated the Fuggerei part of the city devoted to housing for needy citizens in 1516, which remains in use today.
Thirty Years' War
Religious peace in the city was largely maintained despite increasing Confessional tensions until the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). In 1629, Ferdinand II issued the Edict of Restitution, which restored the legal situation of 1552 which again curtailed the rights of the Protestant citizens. The inequality of the Edict of Restitution was rescinded when in April 1632, the Swedish army under Gustavus Adolphus captured Augsburg without resistance.
In 1634, the Swedish army was routed at nearby Nördlingen. By October 1634, Catholic troops had surrounded Augsburg. The Swedish garrison refused to surrender and a siege ensued through the winter of 1634/35 and thousands died from hunger and disease. According to J. N. Hays, "In the period of the Swedish occupation and the Imperial siege the population of the city was reduced from about 70,000 to about 16,000, with typhus and plague playing major roles."
Nine Years' War
In 1686, Emperor Leopold I formed the League of Augsburg, termed by the English as the "Grand Alliance" after England joined in 1689: a European coalition, consisting (at various times) of Austria, Bavaria, Brandenburg, England, the Holy Roman Empire, the Palatinate of the Rhine, Portugal, Savoy, Saxony, Spain, Sweden, and the United Provinces. It was formed to defend the Palatinate from France. This organization fought against France in the Nine Years War.
Augsburg's peak boom years occurred during the 15th and 16th centuries thanks to the bank and metal businesses of the merchant families Fugger and Welser, who held a local near total monopoly on their respective industries. Augsburg's wealth attracted artists seeking patrons and rapidly became a creative centre for famous painters, sculptors and musicians notably birthplace of : the Holbein painter family. In later centuries the city was the birthplace of the composer Leopold Mozart and the playwright Berthold Brecht. Rococo became so prevalent that it became known as “Augsburg style” throughout Germany.
End of Free Imperial City status and Industrial Revolution revival
In 1806, when the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved, Augsburg lost its independence and was annexed to the Kingdom of Bavaria. In 1817, the city became an administrative capital of the Oberdonaukreis, then administrative capital in 1837 for the district Swabia and Neuburg.
During the end of the 19th century, Augsburg's textile industry again rose to prominence followed by the connected machine manufacturing industry.
Augsburg was historically a militarily important city due to its strategic location. During the German re-armament before the Second World War, the Wehrmacht enlarged Augsburg's one original Kaserne (barracks) to three: Somme Kaserne ((housing Wehrmacht Artillerie-Regiment 27)); Arras Kaserne ((housing Wehrmacht Infanterie Regiment 27)) and Panzerjäger Kaserne (housing Panzerabwehr-Abteilung 27 (later Panzerjäger-Abteilung 27). Wehrmacht Panzerjäger-Abteilung 27 was later moved to Füssen.
During World War II, one subcamp of the Dachau concentration camp was located outside Augsburg, supplying approximately 1300 forced labourers to local military-related industry, most especially the Messerschmitt AG military aircraft firm headquartered in Augsburg.
In 1941 Rudolf Hess without Hitler's permission secretly took off from a local airport and flew to Scotland to meet the Duke of Hamilton, and crashed in Eaglesham in an attempt to mediate the end of the European front of World War II and join sides for the upcoming Russian Campaign.
The Reichswehr Infanterie Regiment 19 was stationed in Augsburg and became the base unit for the Wehrmacht Infanterie Regiment 40, a subsection of the Wehrmacht Infanterie Division 27 (which later became the Wehrmacht Panzerdivision 17). Elements of Wehrmacht II Battalion of Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment 99 (especially Wehrmacht Panzerjäger Kompanie 14) was composed of parts of the Wehrmacht Infanterie Division 27. The Infanterie Regiment 40 remained in Augsburg until the end of the war, finally surrendering to the United States when in 1945, the U.S. Army occupied the heavily bombed and damaged city. .
Following the war, the three Kaserne would change hands confusingly between the American and Germans, finally ending up in US hands for the duration of the Cold War. The former Wehrmacht Kaserne became the three main US barracks in Augsburg: Reese;, Sheridan and FLAK. US Base FLAK had been an anti-aircraft barracks since 1936 and US Base Sheridan "united" the former infantry barracks with a smaller Kaserne for former Luftwaffe communications units.
An American military presence in the city started with the 11th Airborne Division, followed by the 24th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Seventh Corps Artillery, 701st Military Intelligence Brigade and finally the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, which returned the former Kaserne to German hands in 1998. Originally the Heeresverpflegungshauptamt Südbayern and an Officers' caisson existed on or near the location of Reese-Kaserne, but was demolished by the occupying Americans.
Historical population development: