Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online

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Executive editor of the English version: Andrew Colin Gow

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The Encyclopedia of Early Modern History is the English edition of the German-language Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. This 15-volume reference work, published in print between 2005 and 2012 and here available online, offers a multi-faceted view on the decisive era in European history stretching from ca. 1450 to ca. 1850 ce. in over 4,000 entries.
The perspective of this work is European. This is not to say that the rest of the World is ignored – on the contrary, the interaction between European and other cultures receives extensive attention.

New articles will be added on a regular basis during the period of translation, for the complete German version see Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit Online.

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Baal Shem

(4 words)

See Saint
Date: 2019-10-14

Back-to-Africa movement

(6 words)

See Western African world
Date: 2019-10-14

Badisches Landrecht

(811 words)

Author(s): Neschwara, Christian
1. Origins and scope The legal system of Baden, which became a grand duchy upon joining the Confederation of the Rhine in 1806, was highly fragmented on account of successive expansions of its original territory since 1803 (see also  Reichsdeputationshauptschluss). New efforts to construct a unified state were complemented by the goal of creating a “general” national law for Baden - a Badisches Landrecht - which would both be a modern summary of existing civil law and promote the new national identity of Baden. Badisches Landrecht was originally the name for the reforms of the  Landre…
Date: 2019-10-14

Bailiff (law)

(850 words)

Author(s): Oestmann, Peter
A bailiff (German: Gerichtsvollzieher) in his capacity as a court official is responsible for  enforcing the decisions and writs of execution of a court of law. The existence of the office depends on two fundamental decisions of the legal order. On the one hand, the office of the bailiff is an expression of the state’s monopoly on violence. Private individuals, in particular the victorious party in litigation, may not enforce their rights personally; only the state power - personified by the bailif…
Date: 2019-10-14


(1,487 words)

Author(s): Göttmann, Frank
1. Occupation The key elements of the baking trade were already in place by the 15th century: the occupational and social corporations, the form of business and organization of work, access to and qualification for the trade, production techniques, and official quality control [5]. Some of these structures spread to smaller communities and villages on the model of the larger towns, through official policey orders, and via itinerant traders (Tramping, journeymen). The crucial function of the baking trade in distributing the staple foods…
Date: 2019-10-14

Balance of payments

(1,582 words)

Author(s): Rössner, Philipp Robinson
1. Terminology and method The balance of payments is a measure of the financial and commercial transactions between one country and others; it is an important tool for identifying and assessing global interrelations and interactions. It is subdivided into sub-balances for commodities trade; the services provided by banks, dispatches and payment transactions; and asset transfers and capital flow. In modern national economies, the balance of payments also includes changes in the balance of the central bank. While the balance of payments must always be balanced per definition…
Date: 2019-10-14

Balance of power

(2,438 words)

Author(s): Strohmeyer, Arno
1. Definition Concepts of powers or forces in balance were found in the early modern period in many spheres of life, e.g. economics (balance of trade), medicine (balance of humors), philosophy (balance of passions), physiology (nutritional balance, kinematics), astronomy (balance of attraction and repulsion), and politics (balance of power). This wide range is reflected in the German terminological history. The German Gleichgewicht (“balanceˮ, “equilibriumˮ) as a translation of the Latin  aequilibritas and similar terms, did not appear before the 16th century, …
Date: 2019-10-14


(854 words)

Author(s): Laufhütte, Hartmut | Böhm, Elisabeth
The ballad is a genre of relatively short narrative verse texts, usually rhymed and often strophic, sometimes with refrains. A narrative generally presents an unusual occurrence in a teleological structure. This presentation may be serious, humorous, or ironic, and this superficial mode of presentation may contrast with the implicit purpose of the account. Although there are specific generic schemata of interpretation (e.g. moral instruction) that may encourage the reader to analyse the narrativ…
Date: 2019-10-14


(2,483 words)

Author(s): Jacobshagen, Arnold
1. Concept Ballet is the general term for the form of display dance, or stage dance, that was typical of early modern Europe from the late 16th century, as distinct from non-theatrical forms of dance, such as cultic, social, or popular dance. The historical development of ballet unfolded in the context of the history of European musical theater (primarily courtly). In terms of the history of material, form, and style alike, it was closely connected with the key genre of the musical theater, opera,…
Date: 2019-10-14

Ball game

(1,106 words)

Author(s): Behringer, Wolfgang
1. Educational ideal From the Renaissance on, Humanist pedagogues attempted to associate the love of ball games with ancient traditions (e.g. Galen), but the modern term derives not from the Latin pila but from the Germanic  ball (Italian  palla). Humanist teachers and princes’ tutors of the 15th century, like Vittorino da Feltre and Guarino da Verona, ennobled the ball game by placing it alongside equestrian exercises. Baldassare Castiglione’s Courtier ( Cortegiano, 1528) admitted it to the Olympus of noble education. Ball games went to the heart of the ed…
Date: 2019-10-14


(1,069 words)

Author(s): Epple, Moritz
Ballistics (the science of the behavior of projectiles) was one of the disciplines that played a key role in the emergence of the new science of the 16th and 17th centuries. It provided both a motivation and one of the trickiest applications for mechanics as a mathematical science of motion. It was also related, not always straightforwardly, with early modern weaponry and artillery.Two concepts of the motion of a projectile were in competition. First, it was possible to see the phenomenon as the motion of a body through a continuous medium. Alternativel…
Date: 2019-10-14

Balloon flight

(1,122 words)

Author(s): Riha, Karl
The invention of balloon flight and experimentation with it caused a worldwide sensation at the end of the 18th century; it broke with attempts to imitate the flight of birds (Aviatics) and relied instead on new scientific knowledge of Aeronautics based on a gas “lighter than air.” Besides demonstrating the physical principle, the the first hot-air balloon ascent by the brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier on June 5, 1783, in Annonay, near Lyon, produced extraordinary fascination with the ost…
Date: 2019-10-14

Baltic sea region

(11 words)

See Baltic trade | Dominium maris Baltici
Date: 2019-10-14

Baltic trade

(1,141 words)

Author(s): Tielhof, Milja van
1. Overview In the early modern period, several of the most traveled maritime routes passed through the Baltic (Trade territory). The Baltic rim provided goods that were inherently scarce in Western Europe: grain, construction timber (wood), and building materials like tar and pitch, flax, potash, iron and copper (see also Eastern European economy). Most of the grain was shipped from Danzig (Gdansk) and other ports on the southern Baltic coast, while copper and iron came primarily from Sweden; tim…
Date: 2019-10-14

Bambergische Halsgerichtsordnung

(6 words)

See Constitutio Criminalis Carolina
Date: 2019-10-14


(1,007 words)

Author(s): Simon, Thomas
The word “ban” (German Bann) has a wide range of meanings in both ecclesiastical and secular usage; here we exclude the ecclesiastical sense of Anathema. Essentially the word means a “command” or “order” in general. A ban was a command reinforced by a sanction: if it was not obeyed, the ban penalty (frequently called simply a ban) would be imposed.  1. Middle Ages The ban as an authoritative command first appears in early medieval sources as a royal ban, and that was the focus of earlier studies [4. 121]. The structure and substance of feudal authority below the level of the ki…
Date: 2019-10-14

Band of robbers

(7 words)

See Robber band
Date: 2019-10-14


(2,401 words)

Author(s): Bretschneider, Falk
1. Terminology and origins The term banishment describes forms of coercion that force individuals or groups to leave their present abode; their destination may be prescribed or not (Forced migration). Unlike exile, in the early modern period the term referred not only to expulsion from one’s homeland but also to geographical exclusion that in principle could end up anywhere. Usually—though not always—banishment was associated with violation of sovereign boundaries. Over the course of early modern hist…
Date: 2019-10-14


(1,394 words)

Author(s): North, Michael
1. Early modern period The term bank goes back to Middle Latin bancus, which is the term for a money-changer’s table ( bancherii). Key features of bank activity are the granting of credit (with the help of property and investment capital), payment on behalf of creditors, and exchange. It was only in the course of the late Middle Ages that various categories of banking formed in Italy: international merchant-bankers, local exchangers and bankers as well as pawnlenders (Middle class). Out of these there developed such institutions as public exchange banks and the pawnbrokers ( monti di …
Date: 2019-10-14


(840 words)

Author(s): Tschopp, Silvia Serena
The term Bänkelsäng, first encountered in the 1730 work of Johann Christoph Gottsched, refers to a form of public singing performance which (as “street-ballad”) spread throughout Europe from the early 17th century onwards, flourished in the 19th century and continues to be performed in a number of European countries, such as Italy [3], to the present day. The German term derives from the small bench ( Bänkel) on which the street singers stood, so as to be better seen and heard, during their appearances at annual markets and fairs, in public houses and in front…
Date: 2019-10-14
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