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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(983 words)

Author(s): Luminati, Michele
1. DefinitionAn oath is understood to be the invocation of God as witness to the veracity of a statement or promise. Oaths link the legal and religious orders and, as an ethnological phenomenon, are one of the fundamental legal and religious practices of the ancient European world down to the fall of the  ancien régime. An oath always consists of speech and gesture. The formula of an oath is often constructed as a conditional self-cursing, whereby God serves as the avenger of perjury. Typical oath-making gestures include the raising one’s hand while swearing, and touching holy objects.Mic…
Date: 2020-04-06

Oath of truce

(873 words)

Author(s): Blauert, Andreas
1. GeneralMedieval legal sources occasionally designate an oath of truce (German Urfehde) with the Latin terms caucio or confirmatio (a “guarantee” or “promise” under oath). In the Lexicon juridicum (1721) of Samuel Oberländers, a late contemporary of oaths of truce, describes them as “a kind of guarantee [ Caution]” or an “assurance under oath” [3. 724 f.], with which the person swearing the oath of truce forewent vengeance or, originally, the further conduct of a feud. Modern scholars understand the mature oath of truce of the 16th and 17th cen…
Date: 2020-04-06


(12 words)

See Discipline | Family | Parental rights and obligations | Redemption
Date: 2020-04-06


(1,008 words)

Author(s): Dlugaiczyk, Martina
1. Form and originAn obelisk (Latin obeliscus, from Greek obelískos) is a tall, usually slender stone pillar, quadratic in cross-section and narrowing towards the top, ending in a pyramidal capstone (pyramidion). In 16th and 17th-century terminology, the words obelisk and pyramid were interchangeable. There is also the umbrella term meta, which denotes the conical columns in the ancient circus, positioned at the turning points at the ends of the spina (the central wall to be rounded by the chariot racers).Authentic reports on the original meaning of “obelisk” are lackin…
Date: 2020-04-06


(1,809 words)

Author(s): Lehmann-Brauns, Sicco | Jordan, Stefan
1. ConceptAs a scientific ideal of the 19th century, objectivity denotes the aim of achieving knowledge independent of the subject of the scientist. Given the emphatically normative sense appertaining to the claim of objectivity from the 19th century, it is astonishing to note that the specifically modern usage of the term dates only from the late 18th century [6].From the days of scholasticism to the verge of the 19th century, the Latin esse objective denoted the merely conceptual, the cognitively intended [3. 45]. The scholastic categories of the subjective and objective…
Date: 2020-04-06

Obligation, law of

(10 words)

See Contract (private law) | Private law
Date: 2020-04-06

Obscenity, obscene literature

(5 words)

See Pornography
Date: 2020-04-06


(2,632 words)

Author(s): Steinle, Friedrich
1. ConceptObservation (Latin observatio) is the main source of empirical knowledge, and together with experiment represents the key procedure of natural science and the empirical spheres of the humanities and social sciences (Empiricism). As directed attention focused on specific objects or aspects of objects, observation is also found in non-scientific spheres of life, for example in a draftsman observing her subject, a soldier enemy lines, a roulette player his fellow players, or a passer-by eyeing suspicious figures in a car park.Friedrich Steinle2. Traditions of scientif…
Date: 2020-04-06


(1,073 words)

Author(s): Mommertz, Monika
1. ConceptObservatories were pioneering installations in the emergence of early modern natural science and its epistemologies, ideals, and practices. During the early modern period, an observatory was understood in a broader sense as a place for the observation of celestial or terrestrial phenomena, and in a stricter sense usually as a building equipped with scientific instruments for the regular and continuous observation of celestial phenomena (synonyms including Latin  specula /“lookout”; turris mathematica or  astroscopeia/“mathematical/astroscopic tower”;…
Date: 2020-04-06


(997 words)

Author(s): Osten, Philipp
1. ConceptObstetrics is an umbrella term for the fields of medicine concerned with childbirth (from Latin obstare, “to stand before,” referring to the midwife standing alongside the mother giving birth). Sometimes, the term was confined to the activities of males assisting at birth as distinct from the work of the midwife, regardless of whether the assistants concerned were surgeons, accoucheurs, or academic doctors. However, this was not a mandatory distinction. In the Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and English language areas in particular, where obstetr…
Date: 2020-04-06

Occasional composition

(2,265 words)

Author(s): Kremer, Joachim
1. DefinitionLike occasional verse, occasional compositions are written for special occasions, such as births (Childbirth), weddings, deaths, and church or political memorial days. They thus form part of festival culture in the broadest sense, and are dependent on the constant evolution of festival customs. It follows from this that such compositions were placed in a situative context greater than the work itself, one that the music itself recalls or permits to be recalled a posteriori. This is apparent, for instance, from the high regard for occasional works in th…
Date: 2020-04-06

Occasional services

(1,503 words)

Author(s): Albrecht, Christian
1. DefinitionIn Protestant churches, occasional services (from Latin  casus, “case, occasion”) are worship services that unlike Sunday or Christmas services are not held on regularly recurring days but “on occasion” (as needed), especially on biographically significant occasions or at special public events or events in the life of the congregation. The core of the occasional services were the sacrament of baptism along with confirmation, weddings, and burials; there were also church dedications and vari…
Date: 2020-04-06

Occasional verse

(3,080 words)

Author(s): Stockhorst, Stefanie
1. Concept and history Occasional or casual poetry (German Gelegenheitsdichtung, French  poésie de circonstance, Italian  poesia d'occasione) is a utilitarian literary form, its purpose being to honor its addressee(s) on a particular occasion, sometimes in response to a commission from the addressee or a third party. A phenomenon of patronage, its tradition dates back to Greco-Roman antiquity. It was already found among Greek (e.g. Sappho, Alcaeus, Pindar, Anacreon) and Roman poets (Catullus, Ovid, Horace). At the dawn of the early modern period, the Silvae (“Woods”) of Pub…
Date: 2020-04-06

Occident (Abendland)

(2,518 words)

Author(s): König, Hans-Joachim | Repgen, Konrad
1. ConceptLike “Orient” (cf. Orientalism), the term “Occident” shifted in meaning in the course of early modern global cultural contact and encounters between the so-called Christian West and Islam, and of European expansionism and colonialism, from a geographical term without political freight to a value category of cultural politics. Derived from the Latin  occidens [ sol] (“setting [sun]”), it originally denoted the evening and those regions lying towards evening, that is in the west or a westerly direction, in accordance with the Roman co…
Date: 2020-04-06


(2,147 words)

Author(s): Stengel, Friedemann | Reichmuth, Stefan
1. EuropeOccultism took institutional shape in Europe in 1875, with the foundation of the Theosophical Society by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott (Theosophy). At the same time, it developed as a theoretical system opposed to contemporary materialism and directed against the established churches, and closely associated with 19th-century esoterica. The essence of this theory was the assumption of immaterial, supra-sensory forces arising from a “fluid,” “astral light,” or “animal so…
Date: 2020-04-06


(2,972 words)

Author(s): Carl, Horst
1. DefinitionIn Roman law, occupation (Latin  occupatio) denotes seizure as a form of acquisition of property. In the early modern period, the term was modified by the adjective  bellica, which pointed to war as the legal basis for such acquisition, thus transferring it to the sphere of public law. It was in common use in the context of the law of war (War, law of), government law, and international law. The endpoint was reached with the concept of occupation in modern international law, which views military occupation ( occupatio bellica) of a territory as existing when the actua…
Date: 2020-10-06

Occupational illness

(1,300 words)

Author(s): Gadebusch-Bondio, Mariacarla
1. DefinitionOccupational illnesses constitute a group of diseases that can be addressed as consequences of pathogenic working conditions (Occupational pathology). This definition had already appeared in the monograph of B. Ramazzini on the diseases of workers, published in 1700 (see 4. below), but occupational illnesses played scarcely any role in common understandings of illness until well into the 19th century. Neither the catchwords work, profession, and illness in Zedler’s 18th-century  Lexikon nor the definitions of French  travail and maladie in the  Encyclopédie…
Date: 2020-10-06

Occupational medicine

(1,503 words)

Author(s): Eckart, Wolfgang Uwe
1. Ramazzini and his precursors Early modern occupational medicine began with the seminal treatise of the Italian physician Bernardino Ramazzini,  De morbis artificium diatriba (Modena 1700; “Investigation of the Diseases of Artisans and Craftsmen”), clearly comparable in its significance for early industrial hygiene to Morgagni’s De sedibus et causis morborum (Bologna 1761; “On the Seats and Causes of Diseases”) for pathological anatomy. In it Ramazzini described in details the various illnesses of the most important occupational groups of…
Date: 2020-10-06

Occupational migration

(2,129 words)

Author(s): Lucassen, Jan | Lucassen, Leo
1. Definition Occupational migration is a form of mobility in whichmigrants pursue the freely chosen aim (in contrast to forced migration) of working temporarily (in contrast to permanent emigration) in a different place. This aim is primarily economically motivated (in contrast to refugees of conscience). As a rule, the migrants do not intend to work steadily for several years, like soldiers, sailors, domestics, and many journeymen (Temporary migration) but for relatively short periods…
Date: 2020-10-06

Occupational mobility

(2,727 words)

Author(s): Leeuwen, Marco H.D. van | Lesger, Clé |
1. Limiting social mobilityThe three main forms of social mobility are (1) intergenerational mobility, (2) intragenerational mobility (occupational or career mobility), and (3) marital mobility (Social mobility). In all three, the main indicators are profession, possession (Possession [law]), and social prestige [7]; [9].During the early modern period, social status at birth was of paramount importance and acted as a brake on all three forms of social mobility (Estates, society of). It was particularly important among the nobility, w…
Date: 2020-10-06
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