1. Discipline: The State and the Churches in Early Modern Europe
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chapter 1 Discipline: The State and the Churches in Early Modern Europe Heinz Schilling Translated by Jeremy Gaines e can summarize the results of the decades of debate on Gerhard Oestreich’s concept1 of a “fundamental process” of social disciplining in early modern times primarily controlled by the state—and it is a debate that has most recently taken place on an international level—by citing the formula expressed by Fernand Braudel back in 1959 in opposition to Otto Brunner, namely that today “to cross the multiple thresholds of history, all doors are good.”2 Indeed, as to researching social control and disciplining in Old European—or, if that smacks too much of Otto Brunner, in Medieval and early modern times—any door is good today for historians as long as it offers an unobstructed path to a better understanding of the exceptionally complex and varied occurrences that they endeavor to grasp with these or similar concepts. Initially, in the sometimes fierce debate with Gerhard Oestreich, any focus on state or otherwise institutionally steered disciplining “from above” was immediately suspected of being ideological—at least in German research circles. Today, a consensus is once again possible on integrative methods that try to interweave micro- and macrohistorical approaches in social and cultural history.3 Even the once so fiercely contested question on the “correct” terminology and concepts can now be viewed more flexibly and liberally, as is shown not least by the concept behind the essays in this volume.4 On this basis we can now discern once more which of Oestreich’s observations, irrespective of how they were conditioned by the time when they were written, were trailblazing and can be taken up in the current perspective, whereby today’s vantage point is far more wide ranging in terms of subject matter and theoretical edifice. Formal social control and the institutions of early modern discipline are thus the object addressed in the essays in the first part of this volume on social 25 W Spierenburg_Vol_1_Ch_1_2nd.qxd 6/22/2004 2:37 PM Page 25 control in early modern Europe.5 Methodologically speaking, here the usual choice of perspective is “from above.” At the same time, the context addressed is highly complex and diverse—proof that in recent years in this institutional segment of research into social disciplining the focus of study and observation has been expanded greatly. Originally, attention concentrated almost exclusively on the state as well as its institutions and agents, in other words the political elite, the judiciary, police, and so forth. In particular, scholars scrutinized absolutist and authoritarian forms, while social control by the Estates and Republican modes were only rarely considered. By contrast, the spectrum presented below is broader and more differentiated, both geographically and in terms of constitutional typologies , as well as with regard to subject matter and themes. The articles are primarily concerned with nonabsolutist societies such as Ireland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Alongside the state institutions and control mechanisms in the narrow sense, the articles also look at the Church and ecclesiastical discipline, legislation on marriage and families, art and architecture, and that is also only a selection from an even larger diversity of topics that are currently at the center of interest in this sector of research on disciplining. Social Control and Church Discipline As early as the nineteenth century, historians started to concern themselves with the Church and ecclesiastical discipline as institutions of social control—and in this volume it is in particular Ute Lotz-Heumann who focuses on these through the example of the history of Ireland,6 an area to date hardly treated in this context at all. In other words, scholars tackled the subject long before the emergence of a social and criminal history that addressed law enforcement, deviance, and punishment in the secular, civil domain. However, this early interest in Church discipline tended to center on the causes celèbres of a history of the sinfulness of those who had turned their backs on a purely Christian life, viewed as a histoire scandaleuse.7 Church discipline started to attract the attention of a professional social history and history of mentality as of the 1960s, encouraged by the Annales School in France, not to mention the church and social historians in the English-speaking world who were interested in investigation of the history of mentality through statistics.8 Initially, the interest homed in almost exclusively on the explicit Church discipline of the Calvinist or reformed Presbyterians of France...


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