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Ulm is a city in the German Bundesland of Baden-Württemberg, situated on the river Danube, about 90 km south-east of Stuttgart and 140 km north-west of Munich. The city, whose population is estimated at 120,000 (2005), forms an urban district of its own (Germ.: Stadtkreis) and is the administrative seat of the Alb-Donau district. Ulm, founded around 850 AD, is rich in history and traditions as a former Imperial Free City (Germ.: Reichsstadt). Today, it is an economic center due to its varied industries, and it is the seat of a university (University of Ulm, founded in 1967). Internationally, Ulm is primarily known for its gothic cathedral and as the birthplace of Albert Einstein.
The oldest traceable settlement of the Ulm area began in the early neolithic period, around 5000 BC. Settlements of this time have been identified at the villages of Eggingen and Lehr, today districts of the city. In the city area of Ulm proper, the oldest find dates from the late neolithic period.
Ulm was first mentioned in 854 and declared an Imperial City (Germ.: Reichsstadt) by Friedrich Barbarossa in 1181. At first, its significance was due to the privilege of a Königspfalz, a place of accommodation for the medieval German kings and emperors on their frequent travels. Later, Ulm became a city of traders and craftsmen. One of the most important legal documents of the city, an agreement between the Ulm patricians and the trade guilds (Germ.: Großer Schwörbrief), dates from 1397. This document, considered an early city constitution, and the beginning of the construction of an enormous cathedral (Ulm Münster, 1377), financed by the inhabitants of Ulm themselves rather than by the church, demonstrate the assertiveness of Ulm's medieval citizens. Ulm blossomed during the 1400s and 1500s, mostly due to the export of high-quality textiles. The city was situated at the crossroads of important trade routes extending till Italy and was among the biggest cities in Germany, its area being second only to that of Nuremberg. These centuries, during which many important buildings were erected, also represented the zenith of art in Ulm, especially for painters and sculptors like Hans Multscher and Jörg Syrlin the Elder. During Reformation, Ulm became protestant (1530). With the establishment of new trade routes following the discovery of the New World (16th century) and the outbreak and consequences of the Thirty Years' War (1618-48), the city began to decline gradually. Around 1700, it was alternately invaded several times by French and Bavarian soldiers.
In the wars following the French Revolution, the city was alternately occupied by French and Austrian forces, with the former ones destroying the city fortifications. In 1803, it lost the status of an Imperial City (Germ.: Reichsstadt) and was absorbed into Bavaria. During the campaign of 1805, Napoleon managed to trap the invading Austrian army of General Mack and forced it to surrender in the Battle of Ulm. In 1810, Ulm was incorporated into the Kingdom of Württemberg and lost its neighborhoods on the other bank of the Danube, which became to be known as Neu-Ulm (New Ulm).
In the mid 19th century, the city was designated a fortress of the German Confederation with huge military construction works directed primarily against the threat of a French invasion. The city became an important center of industrialization in Southern Germany in the second half of the 19th century, its built area now being extended beyond the medieval walls. The construction of the huge cathedral, which had been interrupted in the 16th century due to economic reasons, was resumed and eventually finished (1844-91) in a wave of German national enthusiasm for the Middle Ages.
The city has very old trade traditions dating from medieval times, and a long history of industrialization, beginning with the establishment of a train station in 1850. The most important sector is still classical industry (machinery, especially motor vehicles; electronics; pharmaceutical industry). The establishment of the University of Ulm, which focuses on biomedicine, sciences and engineering, helped support the transition to high-tech industry in close connection to academic research, especially after the crisis of classical industries in the 1980s.
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