Lower Courts and Conflicts in the Village

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Published 10 January 2024 in Keeping the Peace in the Village: Conflict and Peacemaking in Germany, 1650-1750 https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198898474.001.0001 Online ISBN: 9780191999406 Print ISBN: 9780198898474 Publisher: Oxford University Press


This book examines the state formation in Germany from the perspective of social practice at the local level in the century after the end of the Thirty Years’ War, 1650–1750. Based on extensive archival research in local court records from four small territories in Southwest Germany, the study demonstrates the active role rural people took in shaping how they were governed. Rural society was of course riddled with conflicts of all kinds, yet people consistently sought to settle disputes and bring peace to their communities. In this effort, people turned increasingly to the law courts provided by their rulers, using them to strengthen existing methods of settling conflicts. The consequence of this process was popular support for the small states that provided those legal services. The local court records that underpin this study provide many examples of conflict and peacekeeping. The analysis of these sources shows real people, women and men, interacting in particular spaces. Conflicts of all kinds appear in the sources, especially honor conflicts sparked by verbal insults, but also drunken brawls, sexual assaults, family disputes, and routine fist fights. An analysis of the gender dynamics of conflicts, as well as an examination of the places and spaces where disputes occurred, deepens our understanding of the dynamics of rural society. The argument for state formation from below and the dense analysis of life in villages are the unique characteristics and mutually reinforcing hallmarks of this study.



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