Protokonstitutionalismus – Die Reichsverfassung in den Wahlkapitulationen – Grundrechtliche Gewährleistungen

Tuesday 31st January, Senior Parlour, Gonville and Caius College, 5-6:30pm

Professor Wolfgang Burgdorf (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich)

Supported by the DAAD Cambridge Research Hub with funds from the German Federal Foreign Office (FFO)

The Wahlkapitulations of the Old Reich were documents formulated by the Elector-Princes, which Emperors-elect had to pledge to uphold before their coronation. To the jurists of the early modern period, they were ‘the quintessence of all Imperial laws’ and the German ‘Magna Carta’. As Wolfgang Burgdorf shows, after 1519 the Wahlkapitulations brought many elements into the polity of the Old Reich that later were also found in ‘constitutional’ polities, such as a list of fundamental rights. Moreover, it was through the Wahlkapitulations that the older fundamental laws of the Empire – the Golden Bull of 1356, the 1555 Religious Peace of Augsburg and even the 1648 Peace of Westphalia – were reinforced, as if they were inserted ‘word for word’ into the text. Thus the Wahlkapitulations formed a codified constitution avant la lettre. When discussing the Old Reich, it is therefore justified to speak of ‘proto-constitutionalism.’

Please note that this talk will be delivered in German.