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(swā`bēə), Ger. Schwaben, historic region, mainly in S Baden-Württemberg and SW Bavaria, SW Germany. It is bounded in the east by Upper Bavaria, in the west by France, and in the south by Switzerland and Austria. It includes the former Prussian province of Hohenzollern. The main physical features of Swabia are the Black ForestBlack Forest,
Ger. Schwarzwald, mountain range, SW Germany, extending 90 mi (145 km) between the Rhine and Neckar rivers. Feldberg is the highest (4,898 ft/1,493 m) peak. The range is covered by dark pine forests and cut by deep valleys and small lakes.
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; the valley of the upper Danube River, which rises there; the Swabian Jura, a mountain range that extends parallel to and N of the Danube; and the valley of the upper Neckar River. The Rhine and Lake Constance (sometimes called the Swabian Sea) form the western and southern borders. The easternmost section of Swabia is part of the Danubian plateau of Bavaria and is a Bavarian province (c.3,940 sq mi/10,205 sq km), with Augsburg as capital.


Swabia is rich in history and is a treasury of German architecture. Settled in the 3d cent. by the Germanic Suebi and AlemanniAlemanni
, Germanic tribe, a splinter group of the Suebi (see Germans). The Alemanni may have been a confederation of smaller tribes. First mentioned (A.D. 213) as unsuccessfully assaulting the Romans between the Elbe and the Danube, they later settled (3d cent.) in upper Italy.
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 during the great migrations, the region was also known as Alamannia until the 11th cent. (The Alemannic, or Swabian, dialects of the various regions of Swabia [in its largest sense] remain linguistically closely related.) It became one of the five basic or stem duchies of medieval Germany in the 9th cent., when it far exceeded its present boundaries, including also Alsace and Switzerland E of the Reuss River. In 1079 the duchy was bestowed on the house of HohenstaufenHohenstaufen
, German princely family, whose name is derived from the castle of Staufen built in 1077 by a Swabian count, Frederick. In 1079, Frederick married Agnes, daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, and was created duke of Swabia.
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, which in 1138 also obtained the imperial title.

On the extinction (1268) of the dynasty, Swabia broke up into small temporal and ecclesiastic lordships and lost its political identity. The Swiss part became independent in 1291 and the Hapsburg territories in Alsace passed to France in 1648, but Breisgau and the other Hapsburg domains in S Baden remained Austrian until 1803–6, except from 1469 to 1477, when they were ruled by Charles the Bold of Burgundy. The rest of Swabia was held in large part by the counts (later dukes) of Württemberg, by the margraves of Baden-Durlach, by the landgraves of Fürstenberg, by the princes of Hohenzollern, by the bishops of Strasbourg, Konstanz (Constance), and Augsburg, by several powerful abbeys, and by a multitude of petty princes, counts, and knights.

Most of the Swabian municipalities had obtained the status of free imperial cities (i.e., virtually independent republics) by 1300. Among them were Augsburg, Ulm, Schwäbisch Gmünd, Reutlingen, and Ravensburg. Their wealth, due mainly to commerce and industry, made them the most powerful element of the country, and they made their superior power felt by forming a series of leagues, starting in 1331. The Swabian LeagueSwabian League,
association of Swabian cities and other powers in SW Germany for the protection of trade and for regional peace. The Swabian League of 1488–1534 is the best known of the long series dating from the 14th cent.
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 of 1376–89 successfully opposed Emperor Charles IV but was eventually defeated by the count of Württemberg. The most important Swabian League was that of 1488–1534.

The chief Swabian cities accepted the Reformation in the 16th cent., but the countryside has remained divided between Catholics and Protestants to the present day. With the commercial revolution of the 15th and 16th cent. the Swabian cities temporarily lost most of their importance. (In the 19th cent. some, especially Stuttgart, revived as industrial centers.) When the Holy Roman Empire was organized in circles in the 16th cent., the Swabian Circle, similar in extent to the present region, was created. At the diet of Regensburg of 1801–3, which acted largely under the influence of Napoleon I, many of the small ecclesiastic and feudal holdings were taken over by Baden, Württemberg, and Bavaria.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



initially a medieval German duchy, later a historical region of southwestern Germany.

Swabia was originally settled by a German tribe, the Alamanni (Suevi), and comprised southwestern Germany, Alsace, and eastern Switzerland; in the tenth century it became one of the tribal duchies that made up the Kingdom of Germany. In the 11th century ducal power over most of Swabia was seized by the von Staufens (Hohenstaufens), who ruled until 1268; a smaller area was taken by the Zähringens, who ruled until 1218.

In the second half of the 13th century, Swabia disintegrated into a number of secular and ecclesiastical principalities, including Württemberg, Baden, the Hapsburg lands, and the bishoprics of Augsburg and Konstanz (Constance); the imperial cities, notably Augsburg, Ulm, and Konstanz, possessed large territories. Gradually all the Swabian lands in southwestern Germany—the areas that make up the historical region of Swabia—became part of Württemberg.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a region and former duchy (from the 10th century to 1313) of S Germany, now part of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria: part of West Germany until 1990
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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