My research focuses on the complex relationships between political structures and judicial practices, within the context of the Holy Roman Empire, the Confederation of the Rhine and the German Confederation. I plan to re-evaluate the perceived connections between law and political sovereignty within the context of German supranational regimes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. My thesis will examine the interconnections between judicial practice, governance, citizenship and state-building within the multi-layered political structures that existed in German-speaking Central Europe between 1770 and 1866. I have purposely chosen this broad chronology in order to bridge significant gaps in existing historiography between the early modern and modern history of German-speaking Europe. In addition this wide time-span will allow for productive comparisons between the three major supranational political entities which existed in German-speaking Europe during this era.
I will challenge standard narratives of linear change and the customary emphasis on rational, planned reforms based on liberal ideals of citizenship and justice. Instead, I will explore how far changes in legal jurisdictions were contingent on circumstances like war, political upheaval, ideological shifts, social pressures and political expediency. At its heart, my thesis will engage critically with the standard assumption that the centralising, sovereign national state represented the norm for modern European political development. The German experience suggests that while political fragmentation and overlapping, multi-layered structures certainly created conflicts, they also offered new opportunities for legal resolutions. Whilst the highly complex constitutional and judicial systems of the Empire have often been criticised as a weakness which contributed to its ‘inevitable’ collapse, I will assert that legal process was continually reformed through, albeit in an ad-hoc and inconsistent manner.
I will be presenting an introduction to my project with more detailed examples from my first chapter at the Graduate Seminar in History: 1680-1850 on 13th November at 4:15pm in the Beckington Room at Lincoln College.
- 1st Class BA (Hons) in German and History at the University of Kent (2011-15), including a year studying at Ruprecht-Karls Universität Heidelberg.
- MSt British and European History (1500-Present) at the University of Oxford (2016-17). My MSt thesis focused on the development of the German Confederation as a diplomatic, military and political structure between 1815 and 1847, using Bavaria and Württemberg as case study states.