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The Formation and Visualisation of the Social and Political Order of Princes in late Medieval Europe. A Comparative Study between the Empire and England


This project examines the formation and differentiation of princely elites in pre-modern European rank societies. The project concentrates on the late Middle Ages (1200–1500), a key period in these processes, with geographic focus on the Empire and England. In both polities new princely elites emerged during this period. Yet, they did so in the context of the establishment of two different monarchical principles, the elective kingship in the Empire and the hereditary kingship in England. In the Empire, the electoral princes became a distinctive group and constituted themselves as the pillars of the imperium. In England, the title of duke appears to have been introduced to distinguish members of the royal family from other magnates. In examining these complex social and political processes in both polities the project contributes to establish a typology of different ways of constructing societies in pre-modern Europe using an interdisciplinary, comparative approach. The project combines history, architectural and art history, archaeology and semiotics to analyse princely actions, princely architecture and heraldry. In so doing we will endeavour to determine the strategies developed and deployed by princes in late medieval Europe to represent and improve their rank and thus their significance. The comparison sheds light on several key issues such as whether the emperorship, unique in Europe, enabled the development of a king-like position for (electoral) princes, and how in different political contexts the position of the magnates in relation to each other and the king was communicated and perpetuated. This project breaks new ground on several frontiers. Interconnecting different disciplines, it crosses existing subject boundaries and thus opens up new ways of fruitful cooperation. By comparing the Empire with England the project also transgresses the traditional boundaries of national history, thus helping to establish a European perspective in medieval studies.

Call for proposal

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Host institution

EU contribution
€ 900 000,00
69117 Heidelberg

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Baden-Württemberg Karlsruhe Heidelberg, Stadtkreis
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Jörg Henning Peltzer (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Norbert Huber (Dr.)
Total cost
No data

Beneficiaries (1)