Breslau (Lat. Vratislavia) is first mentioned by the chronicler Thietmar, bishop of Merseburg, in A.D. 1000, and was probably founded some years before this date. Early in the 11th century it was made the seat of a bishop, and after having formed part of Poland, became the capital of an independent duchy in 1163. Destroyed by the Mongols in 1241, it soon recovered its former prosperity and received a large influx of German colonists. The bishop obtained the title of a prince of the Empire in 1290.[1] When Henry VI., the last duke of Breslau, died in 1335, the city came by purchase to John, king of Bohemia, whose successors retained it until about 1460. The Bohemian kings bestowed various privileges on Breslau, which soon began to extend its commerce in all directions, while owing to increasing wealth the citizens took up a more independent attitude. Disliking the Hussites, Breslau placed itself under the protection of Pope Pius II. in 1463, and a few years afterwards came under the rule of the Hungarian king, Matthias Corvinus. After his death in 1490 it again became subject to Bohemia, passing with the rest of Silesia to the Habsburgs when in 1526 Ferdinand, afterwards emperor, was chosen king of Bohemia. Having passed almost undisturbed through the periods of the Reformation and the Thirty Years' War, Breslau was compelled to own the authority of Frederick the Great in 1741. It was, however, recovered by the Austrians in 1757, but was regained by Frederick after his victory at Leuthen in the same year, and has since belonged to Prussia, although it was held for a few days by the French in 1807 after the battle of Jena, and again in 1813 after the battle of Bautzen. The sites of the fortifications, dismantled by the French in 1807, were given to the civic authorities by King Frederick William III., and converted into promenades.

In March 1813 this monarch issued from Breslau his stirring appeals to the Prussians, An mein Volk and An mein Kriegesheer, and the city was the centre of the Prussian preparations for the campaign which ended at Leipzig. After the Prussian victory at Sadowa in 1866, William I. made a triumphant and complimentary entry into the city, which since the days of Frederick the Great has been only less loyal to the royal house than Berlin itself.

See Bürkner and Stein, Geschichte der Stadt Breslau (Bresl. 1851-1853); J-Stein, Geschichte der Stadt Breslau im 19ten Jahrhundert (1884); O Frenzel, Breslauer Stadtbuch ("Codex dipl. Silisiae," vol. ii. 1882); Luchs, Breslau, ein Führer durch die Stadt (12th ed., Bresl. 1904).

[1] In 1195 Jaroslaw, son of Boleslaus I. of Lower Silesia, who became bishop of Breslau in 1198, inherited the duchy of Neisse, which at his death (1201) he bequeathed to his successors in the see. The Austrian part of Neisse still belongs to the bishop of Breslau, who also still bears the title of prince bishop.