Cite JOURNAL ARTICLE
Kirchgenossen an der Macht. Vormoderne politische Kultur in den “Pfarreirepubliken“ von Gersau und Dithmarschen
Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung, Vol. 41 (2014), Iss. 2 : pp. 187–230
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Prof. Dr. Beat Kümin, Department of History, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, United Kingdom
This essay examines the political culture of highly autonomous rural communes in the Holy Roman Empire. Given the ecclesiastical roots of collective organization, the Swiss village of Gersau and the land of Dithmarschen in present-day Schleswig-Holstein are interpreted as two types of “parish republics“. Following contextual and methodological remarks, the argument draws on a range of sources to assess constitutional principles, political practices, self-reflection and external perceptions. In contrast to the general trend of centralization and confessionalization, the two parish republics ran their own religious and secular affairs over several centuries, embarking on independent diplomatic and military missions along the way. Internally, political regimes were characterized by broad participation and the location of sovereignty at the communal base, even though certain families acquired particular prominence. Domestic chronicles allow insights into communal identities, the awareness of collective freedom and sometimes fierce conflicts. External observations reveal a complex mixture of curiosity, respect and disapproval. Overall, Gersau and Dithmarschen illustrate the existence of alternative political trajectories and the significance of rural republicanism in the premodern period.