What were the ranks in the Middle Ages

"History compact" is a new series of the Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft Darmstadt, in which presentations on the history of the Middle Ages and the modern era will appear in loose succession, which in their entirety are intended to represent the current state of knowledge of German and European history. The individual, self-contained, independent volumes are intended to present the main topics of university studies and key areas of science in a reliable, concentrated, clear and easy-to-read manner. Younger scientists have been recruited as authors, who are currently also supposed to present changed perspectives and new interpretations.

With every new series of historical overview presentations, the first thing to ask is the differences to the existing series of other publishers. These can mainly be found in the didactic concept: 1. Important terms or basic knowledge are explained separately for better understanding, whereby the corresponding paragraphs in the text are highlighted by indentation and their own headings. This will certainly help you understand and use terms more clearly. 2. Central sources, to which the text explicitly refers, are given excerpts in translation in boxes with a gray background, which makes the explanations more concrete and also ensures the link back to the sources by way of example. 3. The many subheadings structure and promote the clarity of the presentation. 4. At the beginning of those chapters that are not thematically but chronologically located, there are time tables with important dates and events or government dates. In some places this may be very useful, but when a book begins with a year-event list, one does not want to believe at first glance that "history [...] is no longer understood only as a sequence of events, Rule and politics [...] would no longer be the focus alone "(foreword by the editor). 5. The bibliography, structured according to the book chapters, is short and therefore a real selection in which one does not threaten to drown. Particularly noteworthy are the short comments that characterize and classify the respective work and thus facilitate access. 6. As in other series, these volumes are also provided with family tables and an index of persons and subjects.

The above-mentioned advantages will suit all readers who want solid information and who want to have all the necessary explanations at hand. There are no comments as a starting point for independent deepening and further work on specific points. In this respect, the volumes are indeed "suitable for a first encounter with the topic as well as for exam preparation, [...] as well as stimulating reading for those interested in history" (preface); The volumes, on the other hand, can only be described as "working basis for teachers and students" if one understands by them an overview and selection of literature and not the basis for independent further work. But there are other series for that.

In the following, the implementation of the concept in the three volumes previously published about the Middle Ages and their access are presented: Introducing the time of the Ottonians and Salier on 140 pages was not only since the increasing "obsolescence" of the "Gebhardt" and because of the considerable number of pages of others Books are a desideratum, but also a challenge given the intensity of the research in this area. Ludger Körntgen mastered it excellently. It is clearly structured and deals with the main subject areas and developments of its period, whereby the thematic access takes precedence over the presentation of the history of the event. The most important recent research fields are also recognizable and their results processed, for example on topics such as the emergence of the German Empire (albeit very briefly), consensual rule and conflicts, hierarchy and symbolic action (very broad), the meaning of the memoria, the role of the imperial church in the Otton and Salier times, investiture dispute and judgment on the reign of Empress Agnes. Perhaps a little too seldom reference is made to corresponding works in the literature list (by naming them) - with Empress Agnes, for example, the respective researcher is only mentioned in a less tenable partial thesis, but not in the reassessment of the entire period of reign. Especially in view of complex problems and difficult evaluations, it should be emphasized that the book is written in an understandable manner - which the students also confirm. They also benefit from the fact that definitions of terms, source excerpts and compilations of important groups of people are used in a very targeted manner for better understanding.

The bibliography is concentrated and kept up to date. The selection of the source collections is good for a more general audience. The focus of the literature selection is on monographs and anthologies. As a result, the selection for the individual chapters appears to be somewhat uneven. There are several monographs on Konrad II, but no title on Heinrich III, although there are important essays here. The comments are all very illuminating. Overall, this volume will be very much appreciated because of its compact presentation and its topicality.

The volume by Gudrun Gleba on monasteries and orders in the Middle Ages deals with a topic that is very central to the Middle Ages and, as a thematic cross-section, fits perfectly into this series. It is first of all impressive because of its structure, in which chapters on general questions of monastic life (such as: "rule of life, habit, place of life" or "words, texts, books, libraries") alternate with chapters on specific expressions at certain times (for example " Monastic reforms in the early and high Middle Ages "or" order of knights "). However, if one begins to read the first chapter on the beginnings of Christianity, which could not have been presented in such detail, one immediately encounters gross errors and skewed representations: The Pauline letters are to be found in today's editions of the Bible "among the teaching texts" (a today's Bible edition does not have this heading at all, biblical scholars count the letters under the didactic texts) and should have addressed the congregations of Corinth, Galathea (instead of: Galatia), Ephesus, Philip (instead of: Philippi), Colossa (instead of: Kolossai or Colossae) and Thessaloniki, and his Vita names "many of these places as places of his martyrdom"; Paul was persecuted and imprisoned several times, but according to the unanimous opinion of the sources he suffered martyrdom in Rome. "Jesus Christ" is used by Gleba not only as a genitive, but also as a nominative or accusative, which explains the ciborium as a "censer". Such errors or skewed representations can be found again and again, especially when Gleba leaves the monasteries known to her in order to explain the general fundamentals of Christian faith or cult, for example in the chapter on the liturgical books (the Septuagint encompasses much more than just the five Books of Moses!) Or to describe historical backgrounds, for example in the background for Urbans II's crusade call from 1095 (Urban, sometimes also referred to as Urban V, wanted to win back the holy places and, because this was "not accessible through diplomatic negotiation seemed "- had that been attempted? - and he" had no army ", called for a military solution; the previous call for help by the Byzantine emperor is not mentioned at all) or in the description of the regulations of the Worms Concordat (the king had the elected bishop handed over the baton, which he just renounced). The explanations of central terms are not always unproblematic either. Source excerpts appear rather seldom and irregularly; the references to the source citations repeatedly only cite literature in which only these excerpts can be found without reference being made to the edition; sometimes the corresponding title is not even listed in full in the bibliography. A source on immunity is only about free choice of abbot, not about immunity, which is related to an erroneous understanding of immunity on the part of the author (37). With the selection of sources in the selected bibliography, the addressees are expected to do things that are difficult to cope with (for example, with reference to the Acta Sanctorum or to seven volumes of sources on Bernhard von Clairvaux, which the author apparently found too laborious to use because she preferred a quotation second hand, see above 78). There are not always comments on literature, others sometimes give rise to misconceptions; there are only three titles for "memoria" for the chapter "business enterprises, rulers and places of remembrance", nothing else.

These serious reservations should not deny that the bibliography offers many current titles and that some chapters on monastic life and its development give a good overview and are in some cases well-written. Basically, it should be asked why the area of ​​the life of the monastery is nowhere explicitly discussed, which despite all the differences is closely interwoven with the monastic life. Every now and then canons and canons are briefly mentioned, but without any explanation that would be inevitable for the target audience of the series; Gandersheim and Quedlinburg are sometimes referred to as a monastery, sometimes as a monastery. Particularly with regard to the development of women's communities, a lot has happened in research recently that would have been worth mentioning (question of perspective: life in the monastery as a decadence of monastic life or as an independent form of spiritual life). It is also unclear why, for example, the history of the orders of knights continues into the 20th century, although otherwise only the Middle Ages are dealt with according to the title.

All in all, readers of the book are required to be very discerning if they want to profit from it.

The third volume by Martin Kaufhold, published in 2002, is dedicated to the Interregnum (1250-1273), a relatively limited topic compared to the other two. It remains to be seen whether it can be counted under the "central topics of science", which should be included in the row next to the "main topics of university studies". In any case, the author, identified by his habilitation thesis on this topic, is extremely knowledgeable about the source and gives a clear overview of changed questions and new insights into this otherwise rather neglected topic. He is concerned with an understanding of the political order of a time that lacked a strong kingship (but not a kingship at all), but which nonetheless developed forward-looking strategies through arbitration to solve problems and conflicts. Kaufhold particularly emphasizes the importance of this procedure for the election of the Roman-German king, because it was aimed at integrating possible deviants. The history of Germany is not viewed in isolation, but in its amalgamation with and against the background of different or comparable developments in other European countries such as England or France, but also Flanders or Castile or the Roman Curia. By going back to the time of the late Staufer, the film on the background of which the time of the interregnum can be seen becomes clear. The book therefore gives a competent insight into new perspectives on research, which are bundled again in a summary at the end.

The didactic means of the series such as explanations of terms and source excerpts are used in a targeted manner. The many time tables with up to 11 dates for a chapter over a period of two years would have been better grouped into a few in order to preserve their overview. The 150 pages of space have evidently tempted to repeat, in any case it seems to be more than was didactically necessary even for readers without prior knowledge. On the other hand, the limited nature of the topic allows the emergence of new scientific findings to become clear in such a volume, for example by clarifying the premises of certain previous assessments that clear the way for changed perspectives or that on the basis of a new analysis the circumstances of the origin and the horizon of a source whose statement must be relativized. This is one of the reasons why the volume is very rewarding for both a first and an in-depth encounter with history in general and the Interregnum in particular.

Two more volumes in the series will soon offer an overview of two broad topics: "Crusades" by Nikolas Jaspert and "Illness and Medicine in the Middle Ages" by Kay Peter Jankrift. The latter volume in particular, which presents a topic that is otherwise rather difficult to understand and not dealt with in other series, will also offer specialist historians an insight into a highly interesting area of ​​which they normally know little about.

Gertrud Thoma