Master Conrad von Thierberg used the fortress as a base for further campaigns along the Neman River and against Samogitia.
Memel was unsuccessfully besieged by Sambians in , and the scattered Sambians submitted by It became the main town of the Diocese of Curonia, with a cathedral and at least two parochial churches, but the development of the castle became the dominant priority. In the spring and summer of , a Lithuanian army led by Gediminas came up the Neman and laid siege to the castle of Memel after conquering the town, and devastated Sambia, forcing the Order to sue for a truce in October.
During the planning of a campaign against Samogitia, Memel's garrison of the Teutonic Order's Livonian branch was replaced with knights from the Prussian branch in Threats and attacks by Lithuanians greatly thwarted the town's development; the town and the castle were both sacked by Lithuanian tribes in , while Samogitians attacked workers rebuilding Memel in The rebuilt town received Kulm law city rights in Memel remained part of what became Prussia and Germany; the border to Lithuania remained unchanged until It was one of the longest-lasting borders in Europe, and is referred to in the now-unsung first verse of the German national anthem , which describes borders of German-speaking lands: It was the onset of a long period of prosperity for the city and port.
It served as a port for neighbouring Lithuania, benefiting from its location near the mouth of the Neman, with wheat as a profitable export. The Duchy of Prussia was inherited by a relative, John Sigismund , the Hohenzollern prince-electors of the March of Brandenburg in Brandenburg-Prussia began active participation in regional policy, which affected the development of Memel.
From —, the town was occupied by Sweden over several periods during the Polish-Swedish War of — and the Thirty Years' War. Prussian independence from Poland and Sweden was affirmed in the Treaty of Oliva in The construction of a defence system around the entire town, initiated in , noticeably changed its status and prospects. In November a small Swedish army invaded Prussian territory, but was unable to capture the fortress of Memel. By the beginning of the 18th century, Memel was one of the strongest fortresses Memelfestung in Prussia, and the town became part of the Kingdom of Prussia in Despite its fortifications, it was captured by Russian troops during the Seven Years' War in Consequently, from — the town, along with the rest of eastern Prussia, was dependent on the Russian Empire.
After this war ended, the maintenance of the fortress was neglected, but the town's growth continued.
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Memel became part of the province of East Prussia within the Kingdom of Prussia in In the second half of the 18th century Memel's lax customs and Riga 's high duties enticed English traders, who established the first industrial sawmills in the town. In , ships arrived in Memel, of which were English.
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In there was still an active English church in Memel, as well as a "British Hotel". The specialisation in wood manufacturing guaranteed Memel's merchants income and stability for more than a hundred years. Memel prospered during the second half of the 18th century by exporting timber to Great Britain for use by the Royal Navy. In , British ships visited the town to transport lumber from the Lithuanian forests near Memel.
In its imports consisted chiefly of salt, iron and herrings; the exports, which greatly exceeded the imports, were corn, hemp, flax, and, particularly, timber. The land around Memel suffered major economic setbacks under Napoleon Bonaparte 's Continental System. After the unification of Germany into the German Empire in , Memel had the distinction of being Germany's most northerly city.
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The development of the town in the 19th century was influenced by the industrial revolution in Prussia and the attendant processes of urbanisation. Even though the population of Memel increased fourfold during the 19th century, and had risen to 21, by , its pace of development lagged in comparison. The reasons for this were mostly political. Owing to the absence of heavy industry in the s and s, the population of Memel stagnated, although wood manufacturing persisted as the main industry. It remained the central point of the Baltic timber-trade.
By steamer services had been established between Memel and Cranz on the southern end of the Curonian Spit , and also between Memel and Tilsit. A main-line railway was built from Insterburg , the main East Prussian railway junction, to St.
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Petersburg via Eydtkuhnen , the Prussian frontier station. During the second half of the 19th century, Memel was a center for the publication of books printed in the Lithuanian language using a Latin-script alphabet — these publications were prohibited in the nearby Russian Empire of which Lithuania was a province. The books were then smuggled over the Lithuanian border. The German census lists the Memel Territory population as ,, of whom 67, declared Lithuanian to be their first language.
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The Germans greatly predominated in the town and port of Memel as well as in other nearby villages; the Lithuanian population was predominant in the area's rural districts. The French became provisional administrators of the region until a more permanent solution could be worked out. Both Lithuania and Poland campaigned for their rights in the region.
However, it seemed that the region would become a free city, similar to the Free City of Danzig. The revolt was carried out in January while western Europe was distracted by the occupation of the Ruhr.
The Germans tacitly supported the action, while the French offered only limited resistance. The annexation of the city had enormous consequences for the Lithuanian economy and foreign relations.
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