Arndt Brendecke, Wolfgang Burgdorf, eds. Wege in die Fruehe Neuzeit: Werkstattberichte, eine Linksammlung sowie Bildmaterialien zu Muenchen in Dreissigjaehrigen Krieg und zur Hexenverfolgung auf CD-ROM. Neuried: ars una, 2001. 304 pp. EUR 15.00 (paper), ISBN 978-3-89391-519-4.
Reviewed by Marie Baxter (Department of History, University of Chicago)
Published on H-German (November, 2004)
"Fruehe Neuzeit" auf Deutsch
This volume consists of eleven articles concerning different aspects of current research on early modern Europe. It is accompanied by a CD-ROM containing three sections: a collection of links to websites focusing on early modern history, a selection of images relating to witch trials taken from the holdings of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, and a collection of brief texts (including images) about Munich in the Thirty Years' War.
The articles in the body of the book (not including an introductory article by Winfried Schulze) are organized into four topic areas--research paradigms (three articles); diplomacy and international relations (two articles); new research on the Old Reich (four articles); and a section on new media (one article and a brief note on the information contained in the accompanying CD-ROM). They were originally presented as lectures at the fourth conference of the Munich Kontaktstudium fuer Geschichtslehrer in October 2000 at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet. The articles are not intended to provide a comprehensive survey of new research in the field, but rather to serve as examples of recent research conducted at Munich. The majority of the authors are young scholars working under the aegis of Winfried Schulze in the Historical Seminar, or for Bavarian state television (Ruth Kohlndorfer) or for various digital history projects (Gregor Horstkemper, Torsten Reimer, and Margarete Wittke).
The goal of the conference at which the papers were presented was to provide teachers of history at the Gymnasium level a way of interacting with the on-going research of professional historians. Teachers of history would then integrate recent research findings into their curriculum planning and teaching practice, while academic historians in their turn would receive feedback from the Gymnasium level enabling them to gauge the relevance of their work for the next generation of students (p. 8). Accordingly, the material available on the CD-ROM included with the volume is intended for use in classroom instruction.
In the volume's introductory essay ("Die Fruehe Neuzeit zwischen individueller Erfahrung und strukturgeschichtlichem Zugriff: Erfahrungen, Defizite, Konzepte"), Winfried Schulze provides an overview of the origin, meaning, and uses of the concept "Fruehe Neuzeit" in the historical profession in Germany. He traces the use of the term itself--which is in many ways distinct from the term "early modern" as used by historians in the English-speaking world--to the early years of the twentieth century. He then turns to the conceptual uses of "Fruehe Neuzeit" as a means of periodization and as a paradigm embodying the essential conditions of modernization. Schulze addresses the strategies used by historians to create and conceptualize this field. One approach uses broader structural elements (constitutional, political, or social-historical factors) to create or posit an overall order, while another perspective uses individual experience(s) as a means of both organization and analysis. The confrontation between these two perspectives has raised a problem that Schulze identifies as a central issue for the historical profession today: how can all the small, detailed, incomplete aspects of historical research be integrated into a broader perspective? What concepts will allow historians to obtain an ordered view of the chaos inherent in the phenomenon as a whole (p. 28)? Schulze concludes that the field cannot move forward without focusing on research at the micro-level (an approach assumed to be identical with the perspective he identified earlier as using individual experience(s) as its ordering principle). He cites as exemplary in this area the recent work by German historians on Ego-Dokumenten (p. 34). He also warns that the ultimate utility of the broader perspective must not be forgotten, for it provides a way to make the multiplicity and richness of the micro-perspective comprehensible. Schulze's essay appears in a slightly altered form (but with the same title) in a 2002 Festschrift for Johannes Kunisch.
Schulze's article serves as the "position paper" for the volume, and provides a framework for the research presented in the other articles--which range from a re-interpretation of the Ottoman source genre known as Nasihatname literature (advice directed to young people by elders), to an examination of scholarly "clichés" such as late humanism and the fin de siecle, to a questioning of the role of the Old Reich as a state. Among these articles, three in particular stand out. The contribution by Markus Friedrich ("Zwischen 'Spaethumanismus' und 'Standeskultur'. Neuere Forschungen zur intellektuellen und sozialen Situation von Gelehrten um 1600") analyzes the contextualizing of ideas about who was considered a member of the scholarly community and who was not; Friedrich focuses on a controversy at the University of Helmstedt surrounding a theologian named Daniel Hofmann. An essay by Ruth Kohlndorfer on a sixteenth-century diplomat ("Haeretiker, Astronom und kaiserlicher Gesandter: Andreas Dudith [1533-1589]. Ein Beispiel fuer Lebenswelt und Arbeitsweise eines europaeischen Diplomaten im 16. Jarhundert") examines Dudith's career and life experiences in order to propose a cultural history of diplomacy. In his essay, "Das 'Normaljahr' 1624 des Westfaelischen Friedens. Ein Versuch zum Einfrieren der Zeit," Ralf-Peter Fuchs views the concept of the Normaljahr as a ground-breaking attempt to use a chronological conceit (the particular date of January 1, 1624) as a means of legitimating and regulating confessional co-existence, thus balancing the needs and demands of the common people (who for the most part had little trouble accommodating the daily co-existence of the different confessions) and of rulers and other influential powers (who sought to promote one specific set of confessional goals).
For North American scholarly audiences, this collection of essays occupies a rather odd niche. The CD-ROM included with Wege in die Fruehe Neuzeit epitomizes some of the contradictions of the collection as a whole. It guides the user to some very useful sites of interest to early modernists: for instance, links to digital editions such as Alciato's Book of Emblems (1621) and Zedler's Universal-Lexikon (1732) and to topic-oriented sites such as "Computatio" (specializing in late medieval and early modern reckoning systems) and "reformiert online" (a virtual library and a gallery of information on Calvinist history and theology, sponsored by the Johannes a Lasco Bibliothek in Emden). Also included, however, are sites such as The Napoleon Series and the Library of Congress website "American Memory: Map Collections 1544-1999," as well as other sites focusing on French, English, Spanish, or American history between 1500 and 1900. Many of these links are familiar to a North American audience (such as the Library of Congress sites); others are very specific and less familiar, but are not presented in any systematic way that explains why they were chosen and what criteria were used. The two sections of the CD-ROM devoted to witch trials and to Munich during the Thirty Years' War contain brief articles and accompanying images, designed to present interested lay people and students with reliable information and suggestions on further sources to examine, a goal that succeeds admirably. I imagine that this would work very well in a German school setting; if I taught in a Gymnasium, I would certainly wish to use the information on this CD-ROM as part of a teaching unit on early modern Germany, the Thirty Years' War, or the history of Munich. North American historians, however, cannot use this material with undergraduates because of the language barrier; and for graduate-level work, the information is too "encyclopedia-style" and not comprehensive enough.
This volume might be suitable for purchase by major research libraries; the articles by the younger German scholars are fresh and relevant, although the essay by Schulze is duplicated in a more readily available volume and the contents of the CD-ROM would not be of use in North American classrooms. On the other hand, for anyone who can read German and who is interested in how other historians are trying to bring together academic research at the university level with the teaching of history at the Gymnasium or undergraduate/community college level, this volume would be useful and thought-provoking.
. Winfried Schulze, "Menschen und Strukturen in der Geschichte Alteuropas," in Menschen und Strukturen in der Geschichte Alteuropas. Festschrift fuer Johannes Kunisch zur Vollendung seines 65. Lebensjahres, ed. Helmut Neuhaus and Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger. Historische Forschungen, Bd. 73 (Berlin: Duncker und Humblot, 2002), pp. 71-90.
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Marie Baxter. Review of Brendecke, Arndt; Burgdorf, Wolfgang, eds., Wege in die Fruehe Neuzeit: Werkstattberichte, eine Linksammlung sowie Bildmaterialien zu Muenchen in Dreissigjaehrigen Krieg und zur Hexenverfolgung auf CD-ROM.
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