- A principality, successively a Margraviate, Electorate and Grand Duchy, in southwestern Germany (after 1918 a Land in the Weimar Republic);
- A Nazi Party Gau;
- A Land in the postwar period
1. The Margraviate had taken its name from a former Roman spa (once called Aquae, now Baden-Baden), which stands on the edge of the Black Forest, northeast of Strasbourg, south of Karlsruhe.
The House of Zähringen, the rulers of Baden for more than 800 years, originally held lands in the Breisgau, in the southwest of modern Germany. Count Berthold became Duke of Carinthia in 1061, and, though he failed to establish himself there, it gave a title to his eldest son, whom he had made Marquis of Verona. The Marquis, who died young, married a Countess of Calw, who brought Baden to the family: her son called himself Margrave (his father’s title) of Baden (his mother’s inheritance) from 1112. The family acquired lands, mainly east of the Rhine and west or northwest of the Black Forest, over several centuries, though it was not until Napoleonic times that the parcels of territory became linked in a continuous land that looked like a tilting L with a large serif at its head.
The principal lands acquired by the Margraves of Baden in the middle ages were:-
- Lands in the southern Breisgau around Sausenberg (in the corner formed where the Rhine turns northwards), the territory given by the Zähringer Duke of Carinthia to his son, Marquis Hermann I. This territory was expanded over the years by the acquisition of Lörrach, Rotteln and Badenweiler;
- The lands brought by Countess Judith of Calw around Baden and Rastatt, which were later expanded to the east by the piecemeal acquisition of the County of Eberstein between 1283 when Old Eberstein came to Baden and 1667 when more lands came Baden’s way with the extinction of the Eberstein family;
- Between these two territories, but separated from them both, the Margraves of Baden obtained the County of Hachberg or Hochberg, which extended across country north of Freiburg-im-Breisgau;
- Lands to the north of the territory around Baden came piecemeal into the possession of the Margraves in the early 13th century, including Durlach, in the northwest, in 1211 and Pforzheim, in the northeast, which came by marriage to the elder daughter of the Count Palatine Henry I (d.1227), a member of the Welf family;
- From 1442 the Margraves had rights in the lordship of Lahr, which lay in the area between their Baden and Hachberg lands. These rights arose from the financial difficulties of the lords of Lahr. Eventually in 1626 the Margrave of Baden-Baden got full control over Mahlberg, south of Lahr, and of a parcel of land north of Lahr.
- In the 15th century Baden gained rights in the County of Sponheim, whose lands lay between the Rhine and the Mosel, rights which were shared with the Electors Palatine and the Counts Palatine of Zweibrücken. Eventually in the 18th century these lands, instead of being jointly held, were partioned between the owners.
Baden thus consisted of several groupings of land, separated from one another by other princely territories. The Margraves followed the normal German custom of partitioning lands amongst male heirs. There were several partitions, two of them of long duration. The first of these was the separation of the northern (Baden) and southern (Hachberg) lands, c.1200. The Margraves of Hachberg in their turn partitioned their lands into Hachberg and Sausenberg in 1297, the former reuniting with Baden in 1415, the latter in 1503, during the reign of the Margrave Christopher. When Christopher abdicated in 1515, he repartitioned his lands amongst his three sons. Philip, the second son, who had received the northern lands, including the rights in Sponheim, died without a son in 1533, and this led to a new partition in 1535, which endured until 1771. The elder of the surviving brothers added Sponheim to the central lands around Baden to form Baden-Baden. The younger, who held the southern lands of Hachberg and Sausenberg (collectively known as the Markgräflerland), added the northern lands around Durlach and Pforzheim, the River Alb acting as the boundary between the two Badens: his lands were known as Baden-Durlach after 1565, the year in which his successor moved residence from Pforzheim to Durlach. The Baden-Baden line temporarily lost their lands, 1594-1622, because of financial difficulties, whilst the Baden-Durlach line were turned out in 1634 for championing the Protestant cause, but were restored in 1648.
In 1771 the last Margrave of Baden-Baden died, and Charles Frederick of Baden-Durlach, who had succeeded as a child in 1738, now became Margrave of Baden pure and simple. By the time he expired, in 1811, after a reign of 73 years 1 month, he had seen his territory greatly expanded. He had been promoted to the rank of Elector in 1803, becoming Grand Duke of Baden in 1806. In 1803 Baden added the lands of several Imperial cities and those of some secularised ecclesiastical principalities, including the Bishopric of Constance, and parts of those of Speyer and Strasbourg. But its principal gain was the eastern half of the Electoral lands of the Palatinate, including the capital, Heidelberg (the western half, like Baden’s share of Sponheim, had become French when the French made the Rhine their frontier). In 1805 the Elector gained the Duchy of Breisgau, former Austrian land, from the heir to the Duke of Modena. In 1806 the mediatisation of the lesser princes gave Baden Löwenstein-Wertheim and the Principalities of Leiningen, in the north, and Fürstenberg, in the south. In 1810 Baden and Württemberg exchanged some lands to make their lands more coherent; Baden, for example, gained the former Nellenberg, thus joining together its lands on the northern shores of Lake Constance (Bodensee).
In the Empire Baden had belonged to the Swabian Circle; with the Empire’s end in 1806, Baden became a founding member of the Confederation of the Rhine, and in 1815, of the new German Confederation. When the Confederation disappeared in 1866, Baden became fully independent, but only until 1871, when it joined the new German Empire. When that in turn came to an end in 1918, Baden ceased to be a Grand Duchy and became one of the Länder of the Weimar Republic.
2. For the Nazi Party, Baden constituted a Gau, headed by a Gauleiter, who was also, after the Nazis had taken power, the Governor (Statthalter) of the Land. Gau and Land boundaries coincided, unlike many of the Nazi Gaue. After the French defeat in 1940 the lands in Alsace-Lorraine that Germany had lost in 1918 were added to the Third Reich. Those in Alsace were added to the territory ruled by the Gauleiter of Baden in August 1940, and from 1941 the Gau was commonly called Baden-Elsass. It occupied the whole Rhenish region between the Vosges and the western Black Forest, until Alsace was liberated in the winter of 1944-5.
In 1945 Baden ceased to exist in its previous form. Its lands were divided between the French and American Zones of Occupation, the boundary between them being an eastward continuation of the frontier between France and the Palatinate. As a result, two Länder included former Baden territory: Württemberg-Baden (U.S. Zone) and Baden (French). In 1952 the present Land of Baden-Württemberg was created from Württemberg-Hohenzollern, Baden, (both in the French zone) and Württemberg-Baden (in the U.S, Zone)
3. Land. In 1947, in the southern, French-occupied sector of the former Baden, a Land was formed which took the name of Baden. In 1952 it became one of the three Länder that combined to form the Land of Baden-Württemberg, the former Land becoming the administrative region (Regierungsbezirk) of Südbaden. In 1971 the regions of Baden-Württemberg were changed; most of the 1947 Land of Baden is now in that of Freiburg.