The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation as an Order of Public Peace (‘Landfriedensordnung’)

Tuesday 23rd May, Senior Parlour, Gonville and Caius College, 5 – 6:30pm

Professor Siegrid Westphal (University of Osnabrück)

This paper focuses on an alternative view on German imperial and constitutional historiography in early modern history and it will answer the question: what held the Empire together?

The Perpetual Public Peace formed the central element of the imperial constitution from the 1495 Worms Diet to the demise of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. For this reason the Empire can be regarded as an order or system of Public Peace. The Public Peace agreed in the reign of Maximilian I was not formally or specifically defined and could thus be extended. It was powerful enough to settle a series of major security dilemmas and conflicts in the Holy Roman Empire over the next three centuries. Despite all conflicts and wars, the basic idea of Public Peace was so strong that it could be re-established after each and every crisis.

Taking the 1495 Diet of Worms and the results achieved there as the starting point of the development of an imperial constitution the paper will discuss the normative and institutional extension of the Order of Public Peace until 1806. In conclusion the paper will use a case study to assess the extent to which the idea of the Holy Roman Empire as a system of Public Peace was still very much a reality to the Emperor and the Empire in the eighteenth century.