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I. The City
Since the first third of 13th century Lüneburg tended to achieve economic and political independence from its sovereign. Both became possible through the revenues of the salt production the town’s council increasingly succeeded to draw upon. It was in 1229 that the so called salt wealthy (“Sülzbegüterten”) received the right to elect every year the saline master (“Sodmeister”) as directing official of the saline. He was ordinarily a member of the council’s families. In 1227 and 1239, Lüneburg achieved for its citizens customs privileges in Brunswick and Hamburg. In 1269, the salt wealthy acquired the saline’s “Pfannenschmiede” and in 1273 the new saline in connection with the prohibition to create new salt productions within the dukedom of Lüneburg. In 1293, the sovereign sold the coining privilege of the dukedom to the states, the town of Lüneburg giving the better part of the money.
The salt production connected Lüneburg with Lübeck, the most important export harbour for salt. The town belonged to the Saxon towns alliance of 1246/66 and only some time later to the Wendish one as well. To mediate between both quarters was an important function of Lüneburg in the Hanseatic League. That Lüneburg was a full member of the “Towns Hanse” is marked by its co-financing the expedition against Denmark and partaking in the Diet in Lübeck 1363.
The trade monopoly of the long time rare salt made Lüneburg bloom up to about 1600, not only economically, but culturally as well. Although without residence since 1371, Lüneburg’s central function was preserved. It was only due to early absolutistic maintenance of power that a gradual recession of Lüneburg set in. The town remained connected to the Hanseatic League through 17th century, after it had sent representatives to about 350 Hanseatic diets, mostly of quarters or thirds, and been host to 23 diets. In 1615, Lüneburg for the last time took part in an Hanseatic enterprise and sent troops, together with Lübeck, Hamburg, Bremen, Bremen and Magdeburg, to free Brunswick from the siege by its sovereign.
It was only in the second half of 19th century that Lüneburg could recover from the endurances and demolitions of the wars in 17th and 18th centuries, finding connection to modern travel infrastructure through the construction of the railway to Hanover. The old salt mine developed into an enterprise of chemical industry while the salt-water bath as its branch became a regional health institution of not too small importance.
Through establishing more factories not only the industrial potential grew, but since the last third of 19th century the town also tended to break through its medieval frontiers. The Hanoverian Landdrostei and later on the Prussian Bezirksregierung augmented the centrality of the town. A number of courts and educational institutions were added.
Through both World Wars Lüneburg was not destroyed, yet for a long time the town suffered from a lack of jobs and mansions. An extraordinary amount of refugees came to Lüneburg. Some these refugees, however, founded new businesses und thus created highly needed jobs. Although the British occupation troops who continued to use the German military institutions were an economic factor, they as well hindered the growth of the civil economic site Lüneburg. It was only in the 60s that a raising tendency was perceptible influencing the town’s development as well. Around the old town new living quarters grew and since the 70s protecting the substance of historical buildings gained new importance. The fixing of sanitation quarters helped to preserve the character of the old town as a living quarter. Whole ensembles were classified as monuments, not only individual buildings the most important of them obviously the town hall erected from the end of 13th through the beginning of 18th century. In the meantime, the town is aiming to be received in the list of world cultural heritage together with the surrounding protected landscapes.
Two infrastructure projects that are important for future developments have been completed in the last quarter of 20th century, the construction of the Elbe side canal and the highway A 250 (today named A 39). Still more important was the conversion of relinquished barracks into mansions and a campus university, the Leuphana.
Lüneburg’s population in Hanseatic times was between 10.000 and 12.000 inhabitants and increased in the beginning of 30years war to about 14.000. The wars in 17th and especially 18th century made the number decrease to about 9.500. It was only in the beginning of 19th century that a noticeable change set in and the state of population of the Hanseatic times was reached again. The population gradually increased till World War II up to 39.000, afterwards it reached for a short time about 65.000, and today it is around 72.000. Incorporations occurred in 1943 and in the course of the county reform in 1974. Since 1994, Lüneburg is major centre (Oberzentrum) and part of the metropole region Hamburg.