Publication details

Herbsttagung 2022 des Konstanzer Arbeitskreises für Mittelalterliche Geschichte: Fragile Fürstenherrschaft im mittelalterlichen Zentraleuropa (12. bis 15. Jahrhundert)

Title in English Autumn Conference 2022 of the Konstanzer Arbeitskries for Medieval History: Fragile Princely Rule in Medieval Central Europe (12th to 15th Century)


Year of publication 2022
Type Conference
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

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Description The notion of failed states - a permanent structural weakening of political entities and their leadership - need not be limited to the modern era. Although conceptually elusive for medieval princes and kingship, comparable phenomena were already known and feared. Functioning rule was the product of consensual negotiation processes and integrative routines. A disturbance of the balanced power relations endangered the ruler's position and could lead to shifts in the tectonics of rule. Such negative dynamics, difficult to grasp in descriptions of constitutional realities and not yet the cause of systemic upheavals, are exemplified by the manifestations of a progressive contingency of rulers' claims to power in the late Middle Ages: a partial deconstruction of political patterns of legitimation, the self-empowerment of new forms and forums of participation and the appearance of new actors, a political revaluation of public opinion and attempts to manipulate it, and finally the use of the emerging trial and inquisition law as an instrument of power politics. As an expression of the perceived fragility of rule, this could result in its tendency toward permanent weakening-or in a regained strength through compensation and integration vis-a-vis the forces of criticism. Last but not least, the historiographical evaluation by contemporaries and in later reception is often formative for our present-day perception and classification of events. John I and Richard II in England, Charles VI in France, Ladislaus Postumus in Bohemia and Hungary, and Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia in the German Empire are probably the best known examples, but not the only ones. For a concept of "fragile princely rule" there is so far no typological or model explanatory approach. The conference intends to examine comparatively the handling of an experience of long-term political destabilization of rule for late medieval Central Europe. Exemplary topics for the lectures and discussions could be: 1. significant moments of crisis (childlessness, illness, usurpation, imprisonment, deposition, political murder), which could lead to the fragilization of rule. 2. cases of successful or failed ruler crisis management in situations that could not be solved with the usual political instruments (concessions to estates' participation, manipulations of dynastic succession). 3. situations of disruption and successful or unsuccessful restoration of power relations. The transformation and repurposing of instruments of rule and forms of communication that led either to the restoration of consensus in the existing power structure or to its permanent destabilization. 4. strategies of new actors in achieving their goals 5. historiography and reception. Manifestations and intentions of campaigns and propaganda to delegitimize rulers and their interest-driven interpretation 6. Constructed fragility. The emergence and use of political narratives. The main focus is on a European horizon, but it also allows for a comparative transcultural perspective, since it will primarily deal with the perception of and the handling of "ruling failure". This approach also seeks cooperation with related neighboring disciplines (history of law, literature and art, political science, cultural anthropology).
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