1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Schleswig-Holstein

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SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN, a province in the north-west of Prussia, formed out of the once Danish duchies of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg, and bounded W. by the North Sea, N. by Denmark (Jutland), E. by the Baltic Sea, Lübeck and Mecklenburg, and S. by the lower course of the Elbe (separating it from Hanover). It thus consists of the southern half of the Cimbric peninsula, and forms the connecting link between Germany and Denmark. (For map, see Denmark.) In addition to the mainland, which decreases in breadth from south to north, the province includes several islands, the most important being Alsen and Fehmarn in the Baltic, and Röm, Sylt and Föhr of the North Frisian chain in the North Sea. The total area of the province is 7338 sq. m., 450 of which belong to the small duchy of Lauenburg in the S.E. corner, while the rest are divided almost equally between Holstein to the south of the Eider and Schleswig to the north of it. From north to south the province is about 140 m. long, while its breadth varies from 90 m. in Holstein to 35 m. at the narrower parts of Schleswig.

Schleswig-Holstein belongs to the great North-German plain, of the characteristic features of which it affords a faithful reproduction in miniature, down to the continuation of the Baltic ridge or plateau by a range of low wooded hills skirting its eastern coast and culminating in the Bungsberg (538 ft.), a little to the north of Eutin. This hilly district contains the most productive land in the province, the soil consisting of diluvial drift or boulder clay. The central part of the province forms practically a continuation of the great Lüneburg Heath, and its thin sandy soil is of little use for cultivation. Along the west coast extends the “Marshland,” a belt of rich alluvial soil formed by the deposits of the North Sea, and varying in breadth from 5 to 15 m. It is seldom more than a few feet above the sea-level, while at places it is below it, and it has consequently to be defended by an extensive system of dykes or embankments resembling those of Holland.

The more ancient geological formations are scarcely met with in Schleswig-Holstein. The contrast between the two coast-lines of the province is marked. The Baltic coast has generally steep well-defined banks and is irregular, being pierced by numerous long and narrow inlets (Föhrden) which often afford excellent harbours. The islands of Alsen and Fehmarn are separated from the coast by narrow channels. The North Sea coast is low and flat, and its smooth outline is interrupted only by the estuary of the Eider and the peninsula of Eiderstedt. Dunes or sand-hills, though rare on the protected mainland, occur on Sylt and other islands, while the small flat islands called Halligen are being washed away where not defended by dykes. The numerous islands on the west coast probably formed part of the peninsula at no remote period, and the sea between them and the mainland is shallow and full of sandbanks.

The climate of Schleswig-Holstein is mainly determined by the proximity of the sea, and the mean annual temperature, varying from 45 F. in the north to 49 F. in the south, is rather higher than is usual in the same latitude. Rain and fog are frequent, but the climate is on the whole healthy. The Elbe forms the southern boundary of Holstein for 65 m., but the only river of importance within the province is the Eider, which rises in Holstein, and after a course of 120 m. falls into the North Sea, forming an estuary 3 to 12 m. in breadth. It is navigable from its mouth as far as Rendsburg, which is on the Kaiser Wilhelm (Kiel-Elbe) canal, which intersects Holstein. There are numerous lakes in north-east Holstein, the largest of which are the Plöner See (12 sq. m.) and the Selenter See (9 sq. m.).

Of the total area of the province 57% is occupied by tilled land, 22% by meadows and pastures, and barely 7% by forests. The ordinary cereals are all cultivated with success and there is generally a considerable surplus for export. Rape is grown in the marsh lands and flax on the east coast, while large quantities of apples and other fruit are raised near Altona for the Hamburg and English markets. The marsh lands afford admirable pasture, and a greater proportion of cattle (65 per 100 inhabitants) is reared in Schleswig-Holstein, mainly by small owners, than in any other Prussian province. Great numbers of cattle are exported to England. The Holstein horses are also in request, but sheep-farming is comparatively neglected. Bee-keeping is a productive industry. The hills skirting the bays of the Baltic coast are generally pleasantly wooded, but the forests are nowhere of great extent except in Lauenburg. The fishing in the Baltic is productive; Eckernförde is the chief fishing station in Prussia. The oysters from the beds on the west coast of Schleswig are widely known under the misnomer of “Holstein natives.” The mineral resources are almost confined to a few layers of rock-salt near Segeberg. The more important industrial establishments, such as iron foundries, machine works, tobacco and cloth factories, are mainly confined to the large towns, such as Altona, Kiel and Flensburg. The shipbuilding of Kiel and other seaports, however, is important; and lace is made by the peasants of north Schleswig. The commerce and shipping of Schleswig-Holstein, stimulated by its position between two seas, as well as by its excellent harbours and waterways, are much more prominent than its manufactures. Kiel is one of the chief seaports of Prussia, while oversea trade is also carried on by Altona and Flensburg. The main exports are grain, cattle, horses, fish and oysters, in return for which come timber, coal, salt, wine and colonial produce.

The population of the province in 1905 was 1,504,248, comprising 1,454,526 Protestants, 41,227 Roman Catholics and 3270 Jews. The urban and rural communities are in the proportion of 4 to 6. The great bulk of the Holsteiners and a large proportion of the Schleswigers are of genuine German stock, but of the 148,000 inhabitants in the north part of Schleswig 139,000 are Danish-speaking. Among the Germans the prevalent tongue is Low German, but the North Frisians on the west coast of Schleswig and the North Sea islands (about 19,000 in all) still speak a Frisian dialect, which, however, is dying out. The peninsula of Angeln, between the Gulf of Flensburg and the Schlei, is supposed to have been the original seat of the English, and observers profess to see a striking resemblance between this district and the counties of Kent and Surrey. The peasants of Dithmarschen in the south-west also retain many of their ancient peculiarities. The boundary between the Danish and German languages is approximately a line running from Flensburg south-west to Joldelund and thence north-west to Tondern and the North Sea coast; not more than 15% of the entire population of the province speak Danish as their mother-tongue, but the proportion is far larger for Schleswig alone, where there is also a considerable bilingual population. The chief educational institution in Schleswig-Holstein is the university of Kiel.

Schleswig is the official capital of the province, but Altona and Kiel are the largest towns, the latter being the chief naval station of Germany. Kiel and Friedrichsort are fortified, but the old lines of Düppel have been dismantled. The province sends 10 members to the Reichstag and 19 to the Prussian Abgeordnetenhaus (house of deputies). The provincial estates meet in Rendsburg.

For the history of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein see Schleswig-Holstein Question below.