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Bretschneider, F., Duhamelle, C. Fraktalität. Raumgeschichte und soziales Handeln im Alten Reich. Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung, 43(4), 703-746.
Bretschneider, Falk and Duhamelle, Christophe "Fraktalität. Raumgeschichte und soziales Handeln im Alten Reich" Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung 43.4, , 703-746.
Bretschneider, Falk/Duhamelle, Christophe: Fraktalität. Raumgeschichte und soziales Handeln im Alten Reich, in: Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung, vol. 43, iss. 4, 703-746, [online]


Fraktalität. Raumgeschichte und soziales Handeln im Alten Reich

Bretschneider, Falk | Duhamelle, Christophe

Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung, Vol. 43 (2016), Iss. 4 : pp. 703–746

5 Citations (CrossRef)

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Author Details

Dr. Falk Bretschneider, École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Centre de recherches interdisciplinaires sur l’Allemagne (CRIA), 96 boulevard Raspail, F-75006 Paris

Prof. Dr. Christophe Duhamelle, École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Centre d’anthropologie religieuse européenne (CARE), 10 rue Monsieur le prince, F-75006 Paris

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Fractality. Spatial History and Social Action in Early Modern Germany

Over the last four decades, research on the early-modern Holy Roman Empire has undergone a dramatic renaissance, which has entailed the production of a considerable amount of research on and a positive reinterpretation of this political body. The outlook and the methods of this Reichsgeschichte, however, are likely to allow space for further proposals. This article aims to show how different approaches to the early-modern German society (e.g. the Empire-focused and the territories-focused approaches; social, political and confessional/religious history; legal history; the divisions introduced by classifications in the archives) can be reconciled and recombined by viewing the imperial space as a social construct which had, in turn, many effects on society. This proposal is based on a metaphor inspired by mathematics: “fractality“, a notion that highlights some specific features of the Holy Roman Empire, such as the complexity and density of its borders, the absence of an undisputed centre or of a clear hierarchy of scales, and the easy, reciprocal switching and mirroring from one level to the other. Bearing this metaphor in mind, it is possible to study local or more global events from a different perspective and to escape the somewhat rigid classifications between historical fields, as well as to find tools for a multi-scale analysis that emphasises the specificity of the Empire as a society in a broad comparative horizon.

First, this article presents the historiographical background and the methodological implications of “fractality“ in the Holy Roman Empire, and proceeds with some concrete examples to show how different spatial scales are simultaneously activated by the agents in various domains (in the case of banishment, or of confessional/religious conflicts, for example) in a way that cannot be explained without considering the characteristics of the imperial space and imperial society as a whole.