For centuries Bavaria was ruled as a duchy in the Holy Roman Empire, a patchwork of nations that extended from Italy to the North Sea. In the early 19th century, a conquering Napoleon annexed Bavaria, elevated it to the rank of kingdom and doubled its size. The fledgling nation became the object of power struggles between Prussia and Austria and, in 1871, was brought into the German Reich by Bismarck.
Bavaria was the only German state that refused to ratify the Basic Law (Germany’s near-constitution) following WWII. Instead, Bavaria’s leaders opted to return to its prewar status as a ‘free state’, and drafted their own constitution. Almost ever since, the Land (state) has been ruled by the Christlich-Soziale Union (CSU), the arch-conservative party that is peculiar to Bavaria. Its dominance of a single Land’s politics is unique in postwar Germany. Its sister party, the CDU, operates in the rest of the country by mutual agreement.