Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online

Get access Subject: History

Executive editor of the English version: Andrew Colin Gow

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.

Subscriptions: Brill.com

Early modern period

(8,922 words)

Author(s): Jaeger, Friedrich
1. Historical periodization and terminological history 1.1. Epochs in historical thoughtTerms of periodization are of great importance to processes of historical understanding, for they lend temporal order and structure to sequences of events and developments that in immediate experience lack definition. As methodical instruments of research, they provide historical processes with chronological and thematic contexts, and with these, cultural meaning (Epoch). As the example of “early modern period” illustr…
Date: 2019-10-14


(1,842 words)

Author(s): Sieglerschmidt, Jörn
1. Key concepts and their history Prehistoric and ancient terminological categories pervaded early modern concepts of earth. Like other elements (fire, air, water), earth was part of creation myths, coming about through the overcoming of chaos by separation and the ordering (Order [system]) of the elements (often also the separation of heaven and earth, light and darkness). Gender allocations also played an important part in the binary tetradic structure of the premodern doctrines of elements, substan…
Date: 2019-10-14

Earth, history of

(982 words)

Author(s): Kempe, Michael
In his commentary on Genesis (1535-1545), Martin Luther touched upon a process of decay of the earth in the context of salvation history. In this view, the growing incidences of erosion and natural catastrophe corresponded with the accumulation of human sin, so that the earth had now become “an aged man” ( ein alter greys) [1. 619]. Similar views are expounded, echoing the classical topos of the mundus senescens (Latin “ageing world”), in many geogonies (stories of the formation of the earth) and earth histories of the Renaissance, and in many Genesis comm…
Date: 2019-10-14


(2,649 words)

Author(s): Glaser, Rüdiger | Rohr, Christian
1. Introduction 1.1. The geotectonic causes of earthquakesEarthquakes are expressions of ongoing tectonic processes that are caused by sudden releases of pressure. They can be classified by location, either as intraplate disturbances on faults like the Rhine Rift Valley, or as interplate earthquakes, where two tectonic plates meet and subduct, or by depth, as shallow-focus or deep-focus quakes. Most damage is done by relatively weak but shallow earthquakes. Along faults, visible slippages of several meters can occur.The so-called mainshock is often preceded by smaller f…
Date: 2019-10-14

Earth sciences

(12 words)

See Earth, history of | Geography | Geology | Mineralogy
Date: 2019-10-14


(4 words)

See Land rights
Date: 2019-10-14

East Asian art

(4,048 words)

Author(s): Chang, Sheng-Ching | Mittag, Achim | Trede, Melanie | Jungmann, Burglind | Wahlen, Kyu-Hee
1. Introduction Chinese porcelain, Japanese lacquerware, Korean ceramics - the influences of East Asian motifs, forms of artistic expression, uses of material, and ornamentation on the development of European art in the early modern period were many and varied, and often powerfully inspiring (Chinoiserie). However, the impact of European works on the arts in China, Japan, and Korea is less well-known.The most visible manifestation of European art in East Asia was in architecture. Striking examples of Jesuit sacred architecture included the Church of St.…
Date: 2019-10-14

East Asian economy

(6,801 words)

Author(s): Mittag, Achim | Schottenhammer, Angela | Mathias, Regine
1. IntroductionEver since Marco Polo's travel journal in the Late Middle Ages, China has been seen in Europe as a land of flourishing trade and great wealth. Even in the mid-18th century, it was still characterized as an “earthly paradise” [1. vi]: “Trade in China is done in gold, silver, precious stones, porcelain, silk, calico, spices, rhubarb and other apothecaries' wares, tea, lacquered objects, and the like. The trade among the provinces is so great that they have no need of selling their wares outside” (“Der Handel in China bes…
Date: 2019-10-14

East Asian religions

(3,267 words)

Author(s): Gentz, Joachim
1. East Asia as part of the “Orient” As yet, there was no such category as “East Asian religions” in the early modern period. Nor were perceptions of the phenomena that would come under such a category today unanimous. For one thing, early modern Europe had a range of world views and underlying anthropological assumptions that informed the understanding of non-European cultures and religions, and for another, there were variegated interpretations of the diverse empirical findings of those who traveled i…
Date: 2019-10-14

East Asian societies

(8,545 words)

Author(s): Mittag, Achim | Mathias, Regine | Eggert, Marion
1. IntroductionThe term for “society” now (and in this specific sense only since the second half of the 19th century) current in  China, Japan, andKorea (pronounced in Chinese shehui, Japanese shakai, Korean sahoe), consists of the two Chinese characters for “earth altar” ( she) and “meeting” ( hui). The reference to the “earth altar” where the local deity of a village was venerated [35] signals the great importance of religious ideas and practices to the social cohesion of the family, associations, neighborhood networks, municipalities, secret societies…
Date: 2019-10-14


(1,513 words)

Author(s): Noller, Matthias | Stichler, Thomas
1. Concept and subjectThe Christian festival of Easter commemorates the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the most important and the oldest festival of Christendom, and the key one in terms of the constitution of the faith. Its origins are entwined with the Jewish Passover or Pesach, an annual festival week: firstly in historical terms, for according to the New Testament the events of Easter took place during Passover, and secondly theologically and typologically (Jewish Passover lamb; Chr…
Date: 2019-10-14

Eastern African world

(4,517 words)

Author(s): Bley, Helmut
1. The diversity of Africa 1.1. The view from outside Africa is generally seen as one entity [21]; [16], but from two different perspectives. Since the 1960s, historical study of Africa has focused on the subsaharan part of the continent. Afrocentric positions, represented for instance by the Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Diop, object to this as a racist construct, particularly because it excludes Egypt, with its high culture of Antiquity [8].The term “Africa” itself, which dates from Roman times and has a similar history in Arabic usage, referred at the beg…
Date: 2019-10-14

Eastern Europe

(9,352 words)

Author(s): Nolte, Hans-Heinrich
1. Methodological introductionTo a large extent, the present-day subdivision of the European continent dates back to the 18th century. Concepts of the European Enlightenment are often only of limited value in the 21st century. The explanatory value of the very word “continent” is contested [37]; [40]. In spite of all confessional divisions, the foundation of early modern Europe was Christianity, and it was not until 1856 and the Treaty of Paris that a non-Christian realm, the Ottoman Empire, was admitted “to the advantages of general law and the European compact” [3. 100].To exp…
Date: 2019-10-14

Eastern European economy

(7,912 words)

Author(s): Adamczyk, Dariusz
1. Introduction 1.1. Demographics Eastern Europe was in a state of economic growth from the 15th century. Forests were being cleared and new villages and towns established. Clearance farmers pushed steadily farther northeast in the 16th century. The population of the Christian states of Eastern Europe thus rose from 21.6 million in 1500 to 31.5 million in 1600. Some 6-7 million people lived in Poland-Lithuania in the 16th century, around 6.5 million in the Russian Em…
Date: 2019-10-14

Eastern European religious cultures

(3,815 words)

Author(s): Nolte, Hans-Heinrich
1. Religious diversityAlthough none of the three great Abrahamic revealed religions originated in Eastern Europe, all three had many millions of devotees here (until the eradication of the Jews by a western power, Germany), and as shamanism survived alongside them, there were also even Lamaist groups (Lamaism; cf. fig. 1). In early modern Eastern Europe, then, people followed the teachers of Jerusalem, Constantinople, Rome, Mecca, Wittenberg, and Lhasa, but did not systematically “cleanse” the sta…
Date: 2019-10-14

East India companies

(2,686 words)

Author(s): Nagel, Jürgen G.
1. European perspectivesAt the turn of the 17th century, the European trade with Asia was placed on a new footing (China trade, India trade, Japan trade). The monopoly previously held by the Portuguese crown was dissolved by privileged capital companies from Western Europe, and these subsequently proved a more efficient form of organization [3]; [14]. Their mercantile orientation in combination with state protection (national monopoly status) and rights of overseas sovereignty (the overseas companies operated their own armies and navies on behalf …
Date: 2019-10-14

Ecclesiastical historiography

(1,747 words)

Author(s): Beutel, Albrecht
1. Humanism and ReformationWhereas late medieval ecclesiastical historians [13] preferred the genres of chronicles, annals, and vitae (Biography; Hagiography), Humanism brought epoch-making changes of direction with its new critical and philological erudition and its programmatic turn to the texts of Antiquity ( ad fontes, “to the sources”). The invention of printing also led to the production of a wide range of reliable editions in Christian historiography, including first Latin, later Greek sources, culminating in the recovery o…
Date: 2019-10-14

Ecclesiastical law

(5,792 words)

Author(s): Weitzel, Jürgen | Klippel, Diethelm | Synek, Eva
1. Foundations of Catholic and Protestant ecclesiastical lawThe ecclesiastical law of the early modern period is characterized by the loss of the religious unity that shaped the Middle Ages. In a revolutionary departure [2. 503] following the Lutheran Reformation in 1517, alongside the law of the Roman Catholic Church, summarized in the  Corpus Iuris Canonici, there now stood a different basic understanding of the role of law in the church. The recognition of Protestant teaching as having equal rights (in the 1555 Peace of Augsburg, 1555) and the…
Date: 2019-10-14

Ecclesiastical sociology

(5 words)

See Ecclesiastical statistics
Date: 2019-10-14

Ecclesiastical statistics

(864 words)

Author(s): Christophersen, Alf
Attempts to record mass phenomena in numbers, that is, statistically, go all the way back to the high cultures of the 3rd millennium BCE. In the modern period statistics developed in various areas (e.g. in university statistics in the 17th century, then political arithmetic). Basic to this were efforts to record legal structures - a concern which, under Enlightenment influence, was to lead in the theological field to proofs of the existence of God [3].The medieval administrations of a communal and ecclesiastical character provide comprehensive material for historic…
Date: 2019-10-14


(3 words)

See Church
Date: 2019-10-14


(2,272 words)

Author(s): Lehmann-Brauns, Sicco | Kanz, Roland
1. Philosophy 1.1. Concept and overviewThe term eclecticism (from Gk. eklégein, “select”) goes back to Diogenes Laertius's (3rd century CE) description of the ancient philosopher Potamon of Alexandria, who was not a member of any of the well-known schools of philosophers but rather in each case selected from them all that which seemed right to him.Since the Renaissance the term eclecticism has been used correspondingly in characterization of a method which, in accordance with Paul's dictum, “test everything; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5,21…
Date: 2019-10-14


(4 words)

See Pastoral poetry
Date: 2019-10-14

École Polytechnique

(1,000 words)

Author(s): Dhombres, Jean
1. Foundation and conceptual orientation Unlike the practical schools of engineering of the  Ancien Régime, the institution founded in Paris during the French Revolution as the École centrale des travaux publics in 1794, and renamed École Polytechnique (its name to this day) the following year, taught mathematical and scientific theory as the basis for engineering and technical professions. Their theorization of professional training was a model that led the way across Europe. During the 19th century, professors and graduates of the École Polytechnique also had a key in…
Date: 2019-10-14


(3 words)

See Environment
Date: 2019-10-14

Economic cycle (circulation process)

(1,158 words)

Author(s): Köster, Roman
1. Concept Modern economic theory uses the term economic cycle first in reference to a particular relationship between consumers and producers or households and businesses, which is characterized by contrary flows of goods and finance. While businesses supply households with goods and services and pay them wages as employers, the consumers supply producers with the production factor of labor and spend their income on the goods and services provided by the producers. This mode…
Date: 2019-10-14

Economic cycle (fluctuation)

(1,479 words)

Author(s): Pfister, Ulrich
1. ConceptThe term economic cycle here relates to deviations from the long-term track of the growth (Economic growth) of a national economy. Fluctuations in economic activity, measured by the gross economic product of goods, may be seasonal in nature or extend for a period of years. Long-term variations are the so-called Kuznets-cycles, lasting approximately 25 years, observed in particular in connection with migration (Occupational migration; Emigration; Mobility) and development investments in …
Date: 2019-10-14

Economic ethics

(5,069 words)

Author(s): Köster, Roman | Mittag, Achim
1. Europe 1.1. TermThe term economic ethics refers, first, to the attitudes that underlie actions in the individual economy; secondly it describes normative notions of right and just economic activity. The setting of social standards in economic activity does not necessarily coincide with actual practices; divergences give cause for economic-ethical reflection.How a particular economic ethics becomes effective in the economy is evident on the basis of the question of the connection between economic-ethical notions and the relevant economic ord…
Date: 2019-10-14

Economic growth

(3,293 words)

Author(s): Hesse, Jan-Otmar | Pfister, Ulrich
1. Concept and elementsEconomic growth is the increase of available goods and services in a national economy (Economy, political). It is often indicated as the annual rate of growth of the economy on a per capita basis. The raising of economic performance can arise by means of three processes: (1) growth achieved by a strengthening of investment of the production factors work, capital and land is called extensive economic growth; in this case, a permanent increase in economic performance per capita…
Date: 2019-10-14

Economic liberalism

(1,207 words)

Author(s): Goldschmidt, Nils
1. PrinciplesEconomic liberalism is based on the ideas of political liberalism, but in the 19th century it developed into a movement in its own right. Economic liberalism can be taken to mean the aspiring bourgeoisie's practice of imposing economic and entrepreneurial interest by political means (cf. Middle class). Its main features were: the freeing of the economy from state guidelines, that is, in particular a low tax burden, free trade and freedom of contract in the context of liberal labor an…
Date: 2019-10-14

Economic order

(2,050 words)

Author(s): Goldschmidt, Nils
1. TerminologyAn economic order can be understood as the totality of all formal and informal rules that apply to the organizational structure and operation of a national economy and the associated economic processes, along with all the institutions responsible for the design, governance, and administration of the political economy (Economy, political) [12]. The economic order can be thought of as the economic form, realized historically or currently, in which particular economic processes actually take place; it can also be interpreted as a spe…
Date: 2019-10-14

Economic policy

(2,444 words)

Author(s): Goldschmidt, Nils
1. GeneralThe object of economic policy is the systematic action of political and especially state agents with the purpose of influencing economic processes. An existing state of the economic situation (Economy, political) considered unsatisfactory is to be brought closer to a target state by means of economic policy [2]. Unlike the economic order, economic policy does not focus on the entire organizational structure of the economy but on individual measures, their functionalities and interaction. Nevertheless economic policy and economic …
Date: 2019-10-14

Economics, classical

(5 words)

See Classical economics
Date: 2019-10-14


(6,834 words)

Author(s): Plumpe, Werner | Köster, Roman
1. Introduction 1.1. GeneralBetween the 15th and 19th centuries, the economy – understood as an umbrella term for the material replication of human life and the specific nature of the associated material exchange relationships – underwent a dramatic process of change. This change cannot be reduced to obvious phenomena like the increase in manufactured goods and services and the associated rise in the general level of prosperity, the proliferation of technological knowledge, and the expansion of tra…
Date: 2019-10-14

Economy, political

(6,222 words)

Author(s): Plumpe, Werner | Köster, Roman
1. Definition 1.1. MeaningThe term  political economy has three overlapping meanings:1) As used in Old Europe, the term originally meant the internal economic and social constitution of a systematic order structured and guaranteed by authority;  as yet no distinction was made or even possible between the particular analytic and normative meanings (Oeconomica of Old Europe).2) Subsequently (and in part contrary to this older meaning [45]) the term came to denote the theory of economic relationships and their configuration (actual or potential) at the hand…
Date: 2019-10-14


(1,663 words)

Author(s): Langthaler, Ernst
1. Bridge between nature and societyBesides institutions of political and economic control, social and cultural anthropologists speak of ecotypes in the sense of  “system(s) of energy transfers from the environment to man” as major forces driving the development of rural society. The term  ecotype originated in biology [14] and was later applied to human populations; it denotes a dual adaptation: of society (Society [community]) to the natural environment – for example by choosing native crop plants and livestock – , and of nature to the …
Date: 2019-10-14


(4 words)

See Picture description
Date: 2019-10-14


(6 words)

See Disputation | Unions, ecclesiastical
Date: 2019-10-14


(3 words)

See Legislation
Date: 2019-10-14

Edict of Nantes

(1,408 words)

Author(s): Birnstiel, Eckhart
1. Legal basisThe Edict of Nantes was issued in April 1598 by King Henri IV of France. It was the last in a series of pacification edicts from the time of the French Wars of Religion (1562-1598;  Religion, wars of), intended to bring about peaceful coexistence among the religious parties. Particularly noteworthy among these legal texts were [3]: the Edict of Saint-Germain, also called the Edict of January or the Edict of Toleration (Regent Catherine de Medici in the name of Charles IX, January 1562), which guaranteed the Protestants freedom of consc…
Date: 2019-10-14

Edificatory literature

(2,357 words)

Author(s): Eybl, Franz
1. “Edification” and edificatory literature '’Edification'’ denotes advancement in the Christian faith, both individually and collectively. In the Bible, the architectural and artisanal metaphor of building up already suggests two levels of meaning: the subjective level of individual belief, but also – in the spirit of the community of believers – the social level of the congregation and the church (see 1 Cor 8; 10:23; 14). Both were to be fostered and “built up” by means of appropriate pa…
Date: 2019-10-14


(1,294 words)

Author(s): Müller, Gernot Michael
1. Definition and basicsIn the broad sense, for example in the phrase  editio princeps (“first edition”), the term  edition applies to any printed work; in literary usage, it denotes an edition of a manuscript or printed text based on philological criteria, claiming to reproduce it as authentically as possible, that is, in conformity with the author’s intent. Depending on the era of the work being edited, realization of this claim must confront a variety of limits. While the modern editor of works written since t…
Date: 2019-10-14

Editorial team German edition

(83 words)

Dr. Brigitte Egger (editorial manager) Petra Enderle M.A. Florian Freitag M.A. Florian Hoppe Dipl.-Germ. Matthias Knopik M.A. Susanne Mall M.A. Mirjam Neusius M.A. Simone Schäfer M.A. Thomas Stichler M.A. With collaboration of Ruth Becker M.A. Kai Fabian Fürstenberg M.A. Franz Hackenberg M.A. Janina Hecht M.A. Nora Heinzelmann M.A. Patrizia Herdtle Claus R. Kullak M.A. Matthias Noller M.A. Natalia Pfau M.A. Torben Quasdorf Dipl.-Germ Sigrid Roßkopf M.A. Johannes Wespel M.A. Torsten Wiegand M.A. Melanie Wohlfahrt M.A. Sebastian Zimmermann M.A.
Date: 2019-10-14


(5,400 words)

Author(s): Walter, Peter | Becker, Rainald | Putz, Hannelore | Roggenkamp, Antje | Bryner, Erich
1. General See Childhood; Pedagogy; SchoolPeter Walter2. Late medieval religious education and HumanismDuring the Middle Ages, transmission of at least the rudiments of religious teaching and practice was considered primarily the task of the family. Contrary to the assumption of earlier researchers, however, besides their own religious practice and the preaching of the church (Sermon), there do not appear to have been sermons addressed specifically to children [6. 278]). The tools available to parents included brief written guides, which could be acquired an…
Date: 2019-10-14

Educational policy

(2,295 words)

Author(s): Walther, Gerrit
1. DefinitionThe term '’educational policy'’, which did not come into common use until the 1960s, denotes the sphere of cultural policy that involves the educational system: the efforts of the government (Sovereign power) and elite leadership to promote their goals by establishing and favoring institutions of Bildung and instruction and to combat the corresponding institutions of the opposition. In this sense, educational policy was an important area of early modern politics, an essential element…
Date: 2019-10-14

Educational reform

(5 words)

See Educational policy
Date: 2019-10-14

Education, Protestant theory of

(1,670 words)

Author(s): Albrecht, Christian
1. Religious rootsThe early modern Protestant theory of education was not specifically bourgeois or political; it was conceived primarily in theological terms. Its development was intimately linked to the lifestyle and worldview of contemporary Christianity, especially Protestantism.The roots of the Protestant theory of education (Ger. Bildung) lay in the area of mystical theology. The Old High German noun  biliden, which already had a connection with  imago (“image”) and  forma (“form”) as well as  imitatio (“imitation”) and  formatio (“process of formation”); in …
Date: 2019-10-14

Ego documents

(1,336 words)

Author(s): Behringer, Wolfgang
1. Concept and subject Unlike autobiographies, ego documents are not intentionally manufactured testimonies of individuals. They therefore encroach from the conscious tradition into the sphere of what J.G. Droysen called the Überreste (“remains”). The type can include documents created in the context of administrative procedures and legal proceedings (e.g. Supplication, interview records, witness interrogations) as well as products of arts and crafts. Decipherment of the factual “remains” often requires knowledge of the hist…
Date: 2019-10-14

Egyptian religion

(4 words)

See Esoterica
Date: 2019-10-14


(1,550 words)

Author(s): Walther, Gerrit
1. Theology and languageModern Egyptology was born on September 27, 1822, when Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832) presented his Lettre à M. Dacier to the Paris Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres. The document provided the basis for the decipherment of the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs [8]; [9]. European scholars had begun researching the writing, language, and culture of Ancient Egypt from the 15th century, but they had done so mostly from the perspective of the theological problem of the relationship between Egyptian and…
Date: 2019-10-14
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