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The Holy Roman Empire Reconsidered

The Holy Roman Empire Reconsidered

Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 346
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  • Book Info
    The Holy Roman Empire Reconsidered
    Book Description:

    The Holy Roman Empire has often been anachronistically assumed to have been defunct long before it was actually dissolved at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The authors of this volume reconsider the significance of the Empire in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Their research reveals the continual importance of the Empire as a stage (and audience) for symbolic performance and communication; as a well utilized problem-solving and conflict-resolving supra-governmental institution; and as an imagined political, religious, and cultural "world" for contemporaries. This volume by leading scholars offers a dramatic reappraisal of politics, religion, and culture and also represents a major revision of the history of the Holy Roman Empire in the early modern period.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-992-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-ix)
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Volume Preface
    (pp. xi-xi)
  6. List of Contributors
    (pp. xii-xviii)
  7. INTRODUCTION: The Holy Roman Empire in History and Historiography
    (pp. 1-8)

    The Holy Roman Empire is increasingly presented in positive terms in historical scholarship. Recent studies contend that the empire provided a durable and dynamic political framework in central Europe from the Carolingian period until the Napoleonic era, one that protected the privileges and liberties of its constituents, while coordinating collective action. This reappraisal seeks to overturn a century of negative assessments of the empire and its institutions. During the Enlightenment, thephilosopheVoltaire notoriously—and acerbically—quipped that it was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. Since the nineteenth century, scholars have followed his lead, presenting the empire as...

  8. Section I. Presence, Performance, and Text

    • CHAPTER 1 Discontinuities: Political Transformation, Media Change, and the City in the Holy Roman Empire from the Fifteenth to Seventeenth Centuries
      (pp. 11-34)

      In modern historiography on pre-modern cities in the Holy Roman Empire, medieval and early modern towns represent two very different and distinct types of historical development. Because it is designated as one of those historical places where revolutionary developments took place, the medieval city has been seen as a force of historical and cultural significance (Kulturbedeutung).¹ There, a genuinely urban, political culture was established that constituted an alternative to the dominant feudal and aristocratic order. On the basis of theconiuratioof the burghers, it was constituted on the civic values of liberty and equality, and characterized by communal and...

    • CHAPTER 2 Overloaded Interaction: Effects of the Growing Use of Writing in German Imperial Cities, 1500–1800
      (pp. 35-48)

      Numerous travelogues and chronicles from the early modern period have survived and present a picture of a steady decay of the German imperial cities, particularly in contrast to larger territorial entities within the Holy Roman Empire. Furthermore, various reports from imperial commissions that visited these urban communities, clustered especially in the south of the empire, tell a similar story.¹ According to these portrayals, the free imperial cities were marked by deficient civic administration, economic and military impotence, and dwindling political influence until the collapse of the imperial order at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

      Many of the traditional approaches...

    • CHAPTER 3 Princes’ Power, Aristocratic Norms, and Personal Eccentricities: Le Charactère Bizarre of Frederick William I of Prussia (1713–1740)
      (pp. 49-70)

      Frederick William I of Prussia said, “wir sind Herr und König und können tun, was wir wollen.”¹ Perhaps more than any other prince in the Holy Roman Empire, Frederick William epitomized the tension between a ruler’s dynastic responsibilities and interests and his/her exceptional opportunity to pursue his/her own personal inclinations and eccentricities.²

      Frederick William’s refusal to follow the contemporary standards of behavior that applied to his position led contemporaries (and modern scholars) to discuss his “bizarre character.”³ Johannes Kunisch states that Frederick William was “exceptionally headstrong and bizarre.”⁴ Gerhard Ritter called Frederick William not only “half-barbaric,” but also “strange.”⁵ While...

  9. Section II. Symbolic Meaning, Identity, and Memory

    • CHAPTER 4 The Illuminated Reich: Memory, Crisis, and the Visibility of Monarchy in Late Medieval Germany
      (pp. 73-92)

      Writing toward the close of the thirteenth century, the German polemicist Alexander von Roes returned a dismal judgment on his times. In the half century between Frederick II’s imperial coronation and the Council of Lyon in 1274, the “Roman Empire” had so declined as to pass almost out of remembrance. In fact, it had reached a point from which it could “not decrease any further without being completely destroyed.”¹ The image of an empire stunted and diminished after its ostensible heyday in the high-medievalKaiserzeitremains an all-too-familiar one, nourished in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by the nationalist...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Production of Knowledge about Confessions: Witnesses and their Testimonies about Normative Years In and After the Thirty Years’ War
      (pp. 93-106)

      No doubt about it, Christoph Wippermann, an eighty-year-old Lutheran witness from Wiedenbrück, said things the interrogators were glad to hear. Yes, Holy Communion had been administered in both kinds before the Jesuits’ appearance. No, he had never been taught that the Pope should be the head of Christendom, nor had he ever been instructed that the Holy Scripture should be interpreted in the manner of the Roman Catholic Church, and not a single word had been spoken about purgatory.¹ Thus, his testimony gave evidence that the church of Wiedenbrück had been a Lutheran church in the year 1624—the Peace...

    • CHAPTER 6 Staging Individual Rank and Corporate Identity: Pre-Modern Nobilities in Provincial Politics
      (pp. 107-124)

      Modern historiography continues to emphasize the significance of pre-modern provincial estates for early modern society. Research therefore focuses mainly on conflicts that the estates had to face while trying to participate in the ruler’s political decision-making.¹ In recent years, historical interest has shifted from an analysis of the growth of central power to the question of how political participation and social order were demonstrated and renewed by the estates.² However, these corporations were not alone in using the provincial diets as a platform to communicate their claims. Individual participants also demonstrated both their political influence and rank at a diet....

    • CHAPTER 7 The Importance of Being Seated: Ceremonial Conflict in Territorial Diets
      (pp. 125-142)
      TIM NEU

      “In German, the word ‘parliament’ means ‘talking-shop.’”¹ In suggesting this “translation,” Houston Stewart Chamberlain—racial ideologist and anti-Semite—joined a notorious group of men who despised elected representative assemblies. Later on, not only Hitler, but also Lenin defamed parliaments literally as talking-shops.² However intolerable such invectives sound today, they do contain a grain of etymological truth.

      The German loanwordParlamentand its cognates in the other European languages stem from the Old French verbparler, which literally means “to talk.” In etymological terms, then, parliaments are primarily places of oratory and discourse. In pre-modern times, the word was used to...

  10. Section III. Ceremony, Procedure, and Legitimation

    • CHAPTER 8 Ceremony and Dissent: Religion, Procedural Conflicts, and the “Fiction of Consensus” in Seventeenth-Century Germany
      (pp. 145-162)

      Thumbing one’s way through the protocols of territorial assemblies, one is easily lulled into an impression of serene harmony among the members of thecorpus mysticum, in which all things necessary for the common good are provided with dutiful alacrity. The inaugural solemnities having been performed, the prince or his representative makes his formalProposition. Thecuriaethen separate from one another to consult and to offer emendations. After the proposals and counterproposals have been considered and reconciled, the chambers cast their corporate ballots on the finalRecess, and with its sealing, the well-being of the body politic is assured...

    • CHAPTER 9 Contested Bodies: Schwäbisch Hall and its Neighbors in the Conflicts Regarding High Jurisdiction (1550–1800)
      (pp. 163-176)

      In February 1661, Hans Ulrich Welck, a subject of the imperial town of Schwäbisch Hall, fell from his horse on the way from Gründelhart to his place of residence in nearby Hellmannshofen. In the process, he injured himself so badly that people thought he was near death. At the accident site, both Schwäbisch Hall and the margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach claimed theFraisch(orHochgerichtsbarkeit)—the high jurisdiction—and thereby the competence for investigating major violent crimes as well as fatal accidents. Gründelhart and Hellmannshofen were part of theHerrschaft Vellbergthat Schwäbisch Hall had acquired in 1595. The town of...

    • CHAPTER 10 Conflict and Consensus Around German Princes’ Unequal Marriages: Prince’s Autonomy, Emperor’s Intervention, and the Juridification of Dynastic Politics
      (pp. 177-190)

      From a modern point of view, the marriages of the early modern higher nobility seem to be the result of relatively basic strategic interests. But we should remember two things. First, these interests were nothing less than the pillar upon which the privileged status of the noble families rested and, in a certain sense, they were fundamental principles of the society of orders as a whole. So, marrying within one’s own rank or even into a higher rank was an indispensable precondition to maintaining one’s own status, and advancing the political and economic interests and connections of the noble house...

    • CHAPTER 11 Power and Good Governance: The Removal of Ruling Princes in the Holy Roman Empire, 1680–1794
      (pp. 191-210)

      By 1680, witch trials were still far from unusual in the Holy Roman Empire. What was unusual in the principality of Vaduz and Schellenberg was the high number of convictions. In these relatively small areas, with a population of no more than 1,600 adults, 122 cases were opened and fifty-four people lost their lives between 1678 and 1680.¹ Count Ferdinand Carl Franz saw no reason to interfere with these verdicts, as the property of the accused fell to him upon their executions.² Part of these gains helped to ameliorate the burden of the county’s ruinous tax system, explaining the initial...

  11. Section IV. Imperial Institutions, Confession, and Power Relations

    • CHAPTER 12 Marital Affairs as a Public Matter within the Holy Roman Empire: The Case of Duke Ulrich and Duchess Sabine of Württemberg at the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century
      (pp. 213-228)

      The instrumental character of marriage among the ruling classes during the late Middle Ages and early modern era is undisputed in historical research. Yet, the view that “emotional and material interests”¹ need not preclude one another has done nothing to change this general insight, nor has it deeply influenced the trend, particularly evident in cultural studies, to devote more attention to feelings.² Although the bourgeois concept of love-marriage, increasingly propagated since the eighteenth century, may not be viewed as a guarantee of a successful bond, it is at least viewed as its prerequisite. Indeed, in Western-oriented societies, marriages arranged for...

    • CHAPTER 13 The Corpus Evangelicorum: A Culturalist Perspective on its Procedure in the Eighteenth-Century Holy Roman Empire
      (pp. 229-248)

      TheCorpus Evangelicorum, the Protestant group at the imperial diet, is prominent in the historiography of both the Holy Roman Empire and its legal traditions. Scholars have stressed theCorpus’s role in the confessional quarrels of the empire, and have offered subtle reflections about its role during different phases of the eighteenth century as well as interpretations of the religious constitution of the empire. However, they have not examined how the association of the ProtestantReichsständemade its decisions.¹ Nor have they analyzed what mechanisms determined the outcome of its internal consultations. While the religious policies of single members have...

    • CHAPTER 14 Gallican Longings: Church and Nation in Eighteenth-Century Germany
      (pp. 249-264)

      In 1763, a canon law treatise by the suffragan bishop of Trier, Niklaus von Hontheim, took aim at the papal “monarchy” and accused the papacy and the curia of illegitimately accruing power and jurisdiction. Hontheim, writing under the pseudonym Febronius, argued that the pope should be granted only honorary primacy among bishops, and that the papacy had falsely acquired jurisdictional supremacy over the church through centuries of mistaken legal assumptions and even forgery. Hontheim asserted that the pope’s “legitimate power” should be limited to a largely honorary primacy in the church. Much of the book dealt with the structures and...

  12. CONCLUSION: New Directions in the Study of the Holy Roman Empire—A Cultural Approach
    (pp. 265-270)

    The Holy Roman Empire has received much attention from historians in the past twenty years. Historians’ interest in the topic has not only resulted in the numerous brilliant case studies on the actors, institutions, and politics of the Holy Roman Empire,¹ but has also led to a fundamental discussion about what the empire actually was. There are two major approaches to the question. The first, put forward by Georg Schmidt, stresses the statehood of the empire, although in terms characteristic of the early modern state. Schmidt discusses theReichs-Staat(a term used since the seventeenth century) as a “composite state”...

  13. Glossary
    (pp. 271-272)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-318)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 319-328)