- A strategically important waterway in northern Germany. The first plans to link the Baltic and the North Seas by a canal date from the Middle Ages. After the war with Denmark in 1864, Prussia secured herself the right to build a canal through the duchy of Schleswig. It took another 22 years, however, before the Reichstag eventually adopted the project on March 16, 1886. Although the facilitation of trade played a part in the decision, the canal was primarily built for military purposes. The building of the waterway also gave new strategic importance to the North Sea island of Heligoland, which had belonged to Great Britain since 1814. Guarding against a British bridgehead off the German shore and close to the new canal, Chancellor Leo von Caprivi succeeded in securing the island for the Reich in the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty on July 1, 1890 in exchange for Zanzibar and other African territories.After Wilhelm I had launched the construction works of the waterway on June 3, 1887, Wilhelm II inaugurated the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal in dedication to his grandfather on June 26, 1895. As the canal was navigable for ships of the size of up to 135 meters of length, 20 meters of breadth and 8 meters of gauge, big warships could now easily and securely be moved from the Baltic into the North Sea and vice versa: a potentially decisive room for maneuver in naval tactics. Because the post- Dreadnought ships were considerably larger, however, the canal required an upgrading only 10 years after its opening. The extension works started in 1907 and were duly completed on July 23, 1914, only weeks before the outbreak of World War I. In 1948, after World War II, the Kaiser Wilhelm-Kanal was renamed Nord-Ostsee-Kanal or Kiel Canal.See also <
>; < >; < >; < >.FURTHER READING:Behling, Frank. Kiel-Canal: 100 Jahre Nord-Ostsee-Kanal. Kiel: Alte-Schiffe-Verlag, 1995.ULRICH SCHNAKENBERG
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.