Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online

Get access Subject: History

Executive editor of the English version: Graeme Dunphy

The Encyclopedia of Early Modern History is the English edition of the German-language Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. This 15-volume reference work, published in print between 2005 and 2012 and here available online, offers a multi-faceted view on the decisive era in European history stretching from ca. 1450 to ca. 1850 ce. in over 4,000 entries.
The perspective of this work is European. This is not to say that the rest of the World is ignored – on the contrary, the interaction between European and other cultures receives extensive attention.

New articles will be added on a regular basis during the period of translation, for the complete German version see Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit Online.

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(2,057 words)

Author(s): Fritscher, Bernhard
1. Mineralogy and meteorology Geology, the study of the structure and history of the Earth, is an invention of the early modern period. As an independent discipline, it was a product of middle-class culture and national aspirations in the 18th and 19th centuries. Nevertheless, many of its issues were already discussed in antiquity. Before the middle of the 18th century, such matters as the origins of rocks and mountains, changes in the distribution of land and sea, erosion and sedimentation, and the…
Date: 2019-03-20


(3,551 words)

Author(s): Epple, Moritz
1. Historical development: overview From Greek antiquity onwards, the cultures of the Mediterranean considered geometry - the study of figures on the plane and in space - to be the epitome of an exact science, relying on strict proofs based on precisely formulated assumptions. Geometry moreover represented science’s most powerful language for expressing relations of size, trumping the arithmetica universalis. Its domain extended from direct measurement of spatial proportions through astronomy and optics to the art of construction.The early modern era witnessed a remar…
Date: 2019-03-20


(945 words)

Author(s): Neschwara, Christian
1. Medieval originsThe German word Gerichtsbote, widespread since the mid-14th century, indicates lower-level court personnel (Judiciary); it derives from the terms Büttel (Beadle )and Fronbote (assistants a judge might call upon during certain judicial proceedings), which were used as synonyms in sources such as the Sachsenspiegel (ca. 1225). The tasks performed by the Gerichtsbote included announcing ( fürbieten) the convening of court (Trial procedure), serving notice of lawsuits, issuing summons and delivering the explanations and rulings of t…
Date: 2019-03-20


(5 words)

See Judicial authority
Date: 2019-03-20

German Confederation

(2,331 words)

Author(s): Kohl, Gerald
1. Concept The German Confederation (German Deutscher Bund) was “an association in international law of the sovereign German princes and free cities” (“ ein völkerrechtlicher Verein der deutschen souveränen Fürsten und freien Städte” (Art. 1 WSA = Wiener Schlussakte). Between 1815 and 1866, it joined together essentially the same territories that had until 1806 formed the Holy Roman Empire (Imperial constitution). Major territorial changes occurred in 1839, with the loss of the western part of Luxembourg and the addition of Limbur…
Date: 2019-03-20

German Customs Union

(6 words)

See Zollverein
Date: 2019-03-20

German Dualism

(1,884 words)

Author(s): Derndarsky, Michael
1. Definition Disregarding all other bipolar power constellations in the medieval and early modern Holy Roman Empire, German Dualism primarily denotes the rivalry between the Habsburgs and Hohenzollerns (or simply Austria and Prussia), the duration and political intensity of which, after the Habsburgs established themselves as the early modern Imperial dynasty, far exceeded those of early differences between the House of Austria and, for instance, Saxony or Bavaria.Michael Derndarsky 2. German Dualism in the Holy Roman Empire German Dualism dates back to the changes…
Date: 2019-03-20

German Historical School

(2,131 words)

Author(s): Haferkamp, Hans-Peter
1. Definition The German Historical School – which owes its name to Friedrich Carl von Savigny’s call for the establishment of a “historical school” of law in 1814/1815 [5]; [4] – exercised a formative intellectual influence on 19th-century German jurisprudence; despite its specific goals in legal historiography, it is frequently also considered a representative of historicism. Opposing philosophical systems based on natural law, the “arbitrariness” of a legislature, but also “common sense,” Savigny called for the estab…
Date: 2019-03-20

Germania illustrata

(822 words)

Author(s): Müller, Gernot Michael
The phrase Germania illustrata is the title of a publishing project (never realized) of the German humanist K. Celtis; had it been realized, it would have been the earliest humanist presentation of the geography and history of Germany. But as a plan that Celtis pursued from 1495 until his death in 1508 and worked on at length within the circle of German humanists, the Germania illustrata documents his sustained interest in discussions of the German nation, which pioneered a specifically humanistic nationalism (Nation, nationalism) [1. 251–379].The primary sources for the …
Date: 2019-03-20

Germani, myth of

(1,272 words)

Author(s): Hirschi, Caspar
1. Tacitus and his Humanist readers The various cultural regions of the Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages still had very different origin myths. The Latin term Germani was accordingly used in a variety of senses, without referring to any particular ethnic entity [1. 326 f.]. This changed with the rediscovery of Tacitus’ Germania (mid-15th century) and its export to Germany via Italian Humanism. Tacitus described the Germani as aboriginal inhabitants of pure descent. From around 1500, German Humanists drew on this to construct, within a shor…
Date: 2019-03-20

German law, studies of

(641 words)

Author(s): Frassek, Ralf
In a legal and legal-historical context, the German term Germanistik designates the study of Germanic and, later, German law; it may also indicate the scholars who work primarily with the sources of this law. Although the term Germanistik remains in use today within the context of legal history for the study of German law, the general meaning of the word has shifted since the mid-19th century to indicate the study of the Germanic languages and literature (Philology). This article is focused on the traditional sense of  Germanistik, the study of German law.The transition from the Mid…
Date: 2019-03-20

German New Humanism

(1,372 words)

Author(s): Walther, Gerrit
1. The phenomenonThe German term  Neuhumanismus (“Neohumanism, New Humanism”), coined by Friedrich Paulsen in 1885 [11. 191–195], denotes an educational movement (Bildung) that originated in the 1770s in Germany in reaction against utilitarian concepts of education rooted in the Enlightenment. In contrast to education in Germany’s western and eastern neighbors, it celebrated the ancient Hellenic world as the epitome of true, good, and beautiful humanity (Antiquity, reception of). In the first half of the 19t…
Date: 2019-03-20

German Revolution (1848/9)

(3,274 words)

Author(s): Langewiesche, Dieter
Because it broke out in March, the German Revolution of 1848 is also, particularly in Germany, called the “March Revolution.” However, such a term is imprecise, for many of the revolutionary actions and events in the German lands lasted into 1849. 1. Two revolutions: aims, participants, actions The German Revolution of 1848/49 had three aims: establishing a constitutional state, establishing a nation state, and social reform. One key issue was institutional modernization, and only this issue is remembered when present-day democrats lay claim…
Date: 2019-03-20

German unification

(875 words)

Author(s): Kohl, Gerald
The term “German unificiation” or Pan-Germanism denotes the striving of the so-called German nationalist movement for political unification in the sense of Herder’s German nation defined by language and culture. The ius publicum imperii of the 18th century already used  Einheit (“unit[y]”) as a measure for adjudging the imperial constitution: it implied not centralism, but a balance of power between the Emperor and the Imperial estates. It therefore became increasingly difficult, given the territorial rulers’ growing sense of sover…
Date: 2019-03-20


(936 words)

Author(s): Kondratowitz, Hans-Joachim von
As defined by Max Weber, gerontocracy is a traditional authority principle that was dominant in many of the patriarchially organized states of ancient Greece in various institutional forms and was reserved to free males of aristocratic origin. Later, however, in the Roman Republic, it also determined the structures of political decision-making. In the early modern period, the term became synonymous with all kinds of exercise of authority in which men defined socially as “old” dominated the decis…
Date: 2019-03-20


(1 words)

See Opera
Date: 2019-03-20


(820 words)

Author(s): Rehm, Ulrich
The term  gesture refers to the human capacity for expression based on body language, posture, and movement, both in the sense of involuntary expression of emotion (e.g. fig. 1 below) and also in the sense of deliberate communication (e.g. fig. 2 below). The German term Mimik (Mime ), unlike English  mime, by contrast, is limited to facial expression alone, although until well into the 19th century it was also used as a synonym [8. 152–162]. Physiognomy is distinguished from gesture and mime in that it denotes character traits permanently associated with the body a…
Date: 2019-03-20


(744 words)

Author(s): Mittag, Jürgen
The term  Gewerke was common throughout German-speaking Europe; it first appeared in the context of medieval mining, where initially it meant people engaged in mining in general. Later it came to mean one or more participants in a mining venture (pit) who owned shares and produced as a consortium. Even in the Middle Ages, the term was also used in the sense of technical or construction jobs that traditionally were performed by a crafts and trades guild. The members of the guild, the guildsmen, were likewise called Gewerken in German.Legally mines could be acquired by both natura…
Date: 2019-03-20
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