Art historian at Mainz University participates in a new project on the history of royal residential cities

The long-term cultural studies project will examine the interaction between the bourgeois civil society and courtiers in urban environments


The Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities has given the green light for a new long-term cultural studies research project for which Professor Dr. Matthias Müller of the Institute of Art History at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) helped with the project proposal and will be acting as a project supervisor. The project started in January 2012 and will last 14 years. It has been granted a total of €5.8 million and is entitled "Royal Residential Cities in the Old Empire (1300-1800) – Urbanity in the integrative and competing relationships of domination and community." The project was accepted by the Joint Science Conference (GWK) as part of the Academy program of the eight German Academies of Sciences and Humanities. It will examine the interaction between bourgeois civil society and court society in the urban environment from the late Middle Ages to the Modern Period from the perspective of social, economic, cultural, and art historical aspects. The objective is to provide extensive new insights into the history of the pre-modern city and the process of urbanization.

The project's main center is located at Kiel University, where – in addition to Professor Dr. Matthias Müller – the Kiel historians Professor Dr. Gerhard Fouquet, Professor Dr. Olaf Mörke, and Professor Dr. Werner Paravicini are involved. Professor Müller will be providing expert supervision of several project participants of the Kiel Center at the Institute of Art History at Mainz University. The Academy program of the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities is the largest German research project in the humanities and it is being funded jointly by the federal and state governments.

The research project is aimed at providing comprehensive access to the information on royal residential cities of the late Middle Ages and early modern period. These were an important factor in European urbanization, an element linking urban and aristocratic-courtly ways of life, which were also involved in the evolution of feudal domination and the formation of the concept of the pre-modern state in the 14th to early 19th centuries. The underlying methodology of the project is characterized by three aspects. There will be interdisciplinary collaboration between the disciplines of social, economic, constitutional, and art history in order to promote an overlapping social and cultural historical approach to research. Secondly, much more attention than previously is being given to the quantitatively dominant small royal residential cities. Thirdly, the central guiding thesis of the project is that there was long-term competing complementarity between and integration of the courtly and non-aristocratic cultures. The research focus will be limited to the areas constituting the Holy Roman Empire in the late Middle Ages and early modern period, giving the project a truly European perspective.

The purpose of this new research project of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities is to compile a multi-volume analytic and systematic manual, which will also be made available online. In addition to the manual, other publications, related conferences, and the incorporation of project-related dissertations and postdoctoral research projects are planned.