Berlin is the capital of Germany.
The earliest evidence of settlements in today's Berlin central areas is a wooden beam dated from approximately 1192. The first written mention of towns in the area of present-day Berlin dates from the late 12th century. The central part of Berlin can be traced back to two towns. Cölln on the Fischerinsel is first mentioned in a 1237 document, and Berlin, across the Spree in what is now called the Nikolaiviertel, is referenced in a document from 1244. The former is considered to be the "founding date". From the beginning, the two cities formed an economic and social unit. In 1307, the two cities were united politically. Over time, the twin cities came to be known simply as Berlin.
In 1435, Frederick I became the elector of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, which he ruled until 1440. His successor, Frederick II Irontooth, established Berlin as capital of the margraviate, and since then members of the Hohenzollern family ruled in Berlin, first as electors of Brandenburg, then as kings of Prussia, and finally as German emperors. In 1448 citizens rebelled in the "Berlin Indignation" against the construction of a new royal palace by Frederick II Irontooth. This protest was not successful, however, and the citizenry lost many of its political and economic privileges. In 1451 Berlin became the royal residence of the Brandenburg electors, and Berlin had to give up its status as a free Hanseatic city. In 1539, the electors and the city officially became Lutheran.
The Thirty Years' War between 1618 and 1648 had devastating consequences for Berlin. A third of the houses were damaged and the city lost half of its population. Frederick William, known as the "Great Elector", who had succeeded his father George William as ruler in 1640, initiated a policy of promoting immigration and religious tolerance. With the Edict of Potsdam in 1685, Frederick William offered asylum to the French Huguenots. More than 15,000 Huguenots went to Brandenburg, of whom 6,000 settled in Berlin. By 1700, approximately 20 percent of Berlin's residents were French, and their cultural influence on the city was immense. Many other immigrants came from Bohemia, Poland, and Salzburg.
Kingdom of Prussia, 18th century
With the coronation of Frederick I in 1701 as king (in Königsberg), Berlin became the new capital of the Kingdom of Prussia (instead of Königsberg); this was a successful attempt to centralize the capital in the very outspread Prussian Kingdom, and it was the first time the city began to grow. In 1740 Frederick II, known as Frederick the Great (1740–1786), came to power. Berlin became, under the rule of the philosophically oriented Frederick II, a center of the Enlightenment. Following France's victory in the War of the Fourth Coalition, Napoleon Bonaparte marched into Berlin in 1806, but granted self-government to the city. In 1815 the city became part of the new Province of Brandenburg.
German Empire, 19th and 20th century
The Industrial Revolution transformed Berlin during the 19th century; the city's economy and population expanded dramatically, and it became the main rail hub and economic center of Germany. Additional suburbs soon developed and increased the area and population of Berlin. In 1861, outlying suburbs including Wedding, Moabit, and several others were incorporated into Berlin. In 1871, Berlin became capital of the newly founded German Empire. On 1 April 1881 it became a city district separate from Brandenburg.
Improvements to the infrastructure were needed; in 1896 the construction of the subway (U-Bahn) began and was completed in 1902. The neighborhoods around the city center (including Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain and Wedding) were filled with tenement blocks. The surroundings saw extensive development of industrial areas East of Berlin and wealthy residential areas in the South-West. In 1920, the Greater Berlin Act incorporated dozens of suburban cities, villages, and estates around Berlin into an expanded city. This new area encompassed Spandau and Charlottenburg in the west, as well as several other areas that are now major municipalities. After this expansion, Berlin had a population of around four million.
During the Weltkrieg
The Weltkrieg led to hunger in Berlin: in the winter of 1916/1917, 150,000 people were dependent on food aid, and strikes broke out. However, after the peace treaty with Russia Germany was able to receive food from the newly created states in Eastern Europe, such as Ukraine.