The kingdom of Germany was formed when the Frankish empire of Charlemagne was divided among his grandsons in 843 A.D. The western portion, which became Germany, consisted of a group of tribal states over which the king had very limited power. In 911 the rulers of the various states assumed the privilege of electing their king. Although many of the elected monarchs were strong sovereigns who managed to hold the country in a state of unity, the independent-minded princes sought constantly to throw off all central authority.

From 962 until the mid-17th century the German monarch was also the Holy Roman emperor. By the time of the Thirty Years' War (1618-48), the title of emperor had become hereditary in the family of Hapsburg who ruled Austria, one of the larger German states. The emperor had lost all control over Germany outside his family's domain. By the Peace of Westphalia (1648) sovereignty was granted to the princes of about 300 German states, and the country became known as the Germanies. It remained part of the Holy Roman Empire in name only.

A movement toward unity in the 19th century brought Austria and Prussia, the largest states, into competition for leadership. Austria had extended its domain to include Hungary and other territory east of Germany proper, while Prussia had been strengthening its control over the smaller German states. By 1867 Prussia was the dominant German power. The Austrian empire was separated from the rest of the Germanies, which in 1871 were united under Prussia in the German Empire. From then until after World War II Germany was a single, unified nation.

Important dates in Germany
c. 1000 B.C. Tribes from northern Europe began to arrive in what is now Germany.
A.D. 486 Clovis, a Germanic king, defeated the Roman governor of Gaul (now mainly France).
800 Charlemagne's empire was established.
843 The Treaty of Verdun divided Charlemagne's empire.
962 Otto I was crowned emperor of what later became the Holy Roman Empire.
1438 The Habsburg family of Austria began almost continuous rule of the Holy Roman Empire.
1517 The Reformation began in Germany.
1618-1648 The Thirty Years' War devastated much of Germany.
1740-1786 Frederick the Great made Prussia a great power.
1806 The Holy Roman Empire came to an end.
1815 The German Confederation was established at the Congress of Vienna.
1848 Revolution broke out, but it failed.
1866 Prussia forced Austria out of German affairs.
1867 Prussia established the North German Confederation.
1870-1871 Germany defeated France in the Franco-Prussian War, and the German Empire was founded.
1914-1918 The Allies defeated Germany in World War I, and the German Empire ended.
1919 The Weimar Republic was established.
1933 Adolf Hitler began to create a Nazi dictatorship.
1939-1945 The Allies defeated Germany in World War II, ending Hitler's dictatorship. They divided Germany into four military occupation zones in 1945.
1948-1949 A Soviet blockade failed to force the Western Allies out of Berlin.
1949 East and West Germany were established.
1953 The Soviet Union crushed an East German revolt.
1955 East and West Germany were declared independent, and joined opposing Cold War military alliances.
1961 The East German Communists built the Berlin Wall to prevent East Germans from escaping to West Berlin.
1973 East and West Germany ratified a treaty calling for closer relations between the two nations. Both nations joined the United Nations (UN).
1989 East Germany opened the Berlin Wall and other border barriers, and allowed its citizens to travel freely to West Germany for the first time since World War II.
1990 East Germany held free elections in March, resulting in the end of Communist rule there. In October, East and West Germany were unified and became the single nation of Germany.