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The Emperor's Old Clothes

Constitutional History and the Symbolic Language of the Holy Roman Empire

Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger
Translated from the German by Thomas Dunlap

356 pages, 17 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-805-0 $120.00/£85.00 Hb Published (August 2015)

eISBN 978-1-78238-806-7 eBook

Hb   Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Buy the ebook from these vendors

“Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger’s seminal study has reshaped how historians understand the importance of political ritual. Its conclusions about the trajectory of the Empire’s history during the early modern period have already provoked much debate. By making its claims accessible now in English, this translation will help to focus more Anglo-American attention on the burgeoning scholarly controversies surrounding the Empire’s nature. … it should become a standard on reading lists for all graduate students interested in early modern Europe or the study of historical ritual. Berghahn Books should be commended for its willingness to publish a translation of this important book.” · Archive for Reformation History

“Given the empire’s multitude of political units, varying in size, structure, and relative position, students and scholars of early modern German history are accustomed to sorting a profusion of names, places, titles, and events. Stollberg-Rilinger makes this difficult task more bearable, not only through her writing—by stating, rather than merely suggesting, the point of each vignette—but also, more importantly, by articulating a “logic” of the empire’s great constitutional complexity, and its transformation. Her descriptions, here skillfully rendered in Dunlap’s translation, show that legal history can vividly link the ideational and the material.” · Law & History Review.

For many years, scholars struggled to write the history of the constitution and political structure of the Holy Roman Empire. This book argues that this was because the political and social order could not be understood without considering the rituals and symbols that held the Empire together. What determined the rules (and whether they were followed) depended on complex symbolic-ritual actions. By examining key moments in the political history of the Empire, the author shows that it was a vocabulary of symbols, not the actual written laws, that formed a political language indispensable in maintaining the common order.

Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger is Professor and Chair of Early Modern History at the University of Münster. She is the author of Das Heilige Römische Reich Deutscher Nation: Vom Ende des Mittelalters bis 1806 (2009), Europa im Jahrhundert der Aufklärung (2000), and Rituale (2013). In 2005 she received the prestigious Leibniz Prize of the German Science Foundation, in 2003 the Prize of the Historical Collegium of the Bavarian Academy of Science.

Series: Volume 10, Spektrum: Publications of the German Studies Association
Subject: Early Modern History
Area: Germany

LC: DD125.S72513 2015

BISAC: POL016000 POLITICAL SCIENCE/Political Process/General; HIS014000 HISTORY/Europe/Germany; HIS037030 HISTORY/Modern/General

BIC: HBLH Early modern history: c 1450/1500 to c 1700; JPH Political structure & processes


List of Illustrations


Chapter 1. Creation and Depiction of the Empire: Worms, 1495
Chapter 2. Cleavage of the Sacral Community: Augsburg, 1530
Chapter 3. More Strife than Ever Before: Regensburg, 1653/54
Chapter 4. Parallel Worlds: Frankfurt-Regensburg-Vienna, 1764/65

Conclusion: The Symbolic Logic of the Empire


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