Center of Research

Our research center covers a variety of fields, for example Gender, Warfare, Violence, History of Science and Medicine, History of Ideas and History of Everyday Life and mentalities; the periods covered ranging from the 1600s to the 1800s.

Current Research
Prof. Dr. Maren Lorenz

Body dominance. Confessional Marriage Courts in the Hohenlohe Territories inbetween Political Procedure and Personalized Conflict, 1648–1806.

Funding over a period of three years starting in 2022 is provided by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). Our research project is divided into three sections:

Section 1: Communicating, governing and reacting. Consistorial administrative action as governmental process and multilateral interaction, 1648–1806.

Section 2: Body control. Confessional Marriage Courts in the Hohenlohe Territories between (population-) political procedure and personal conflict, 1648-1806.

Section 3: Reflecting on “Ehedispense” (matrimonial dispensations) as a medium of confessional and population policy on the basis of parish reports and marriage court records from Hohenlohe, 1648-1806.

The project combines Gender and Body History with Praxeology and Administrative History. It is set to examine how Gender is constitutional to the stabilization of authority and rule in early modern state-building by employing the concepts of Governmentality and Biopolitics of French philosopher Michelle Foucault (e.g. gender and body norms, attributions of the self and of others).

Therefore, the project aims to explore the matrimonial court system of Hohenlohe, consisting of catholic and protestant consistories. It is presumed that consistories were used as stabilizing institutions of the early modern state, which is indicated by the fact that control over the consistories was exercised by several noble lineages of the ruling family respectively their high level church and administrative officials. Thereby, stately power penetrated many levels of analysis and reached out right down to the level of the individual’s body.

Research in the archive of the Hohenlohe territory offers many advantages, amongst them the possibility to analyze direct interventions of the rulers and their officials to assert influence on the life of their subjects because of the absence of intermediary instances. Considering these unique circumstances, research will especially concentrate on the administrative procedural regarding marriage, sexuality and procreation and its relevance for population politics. Additionally, the evaluation of consistorial records promises to reveal divergent images and roles of masculinity and femininity as well as different ideas of the institution of marriage.

In that regard, conflicts about entering into matrimony or dissolving a marriage can reveal the confluence of administrative proceedings, authoritative intervention and non-governmental interests (family, neighborhood, work environment and community).

In the course of our research, we will pay special attention to sources that reveal partly competing norms and administrative practices, the role of civil servants and priests as liaisons between rulers and subjects, and the influence of competing confessional interests.

Dr. Daniela Rüther
"The other side of the counter. Female clerks in food retail stores in the first half of the 20th century"

Own position (DFG-Project)

During the corona crisis, female clerks in the food retail sector have experienced an unprecedented level of social recognition. The role that sales staff played in the rise of today’s large and dominant supermarket chains during the 20th century has not yet been researched. In Germany, the success story of large-scale food retailing, considered to be a pioneer in the development of mass consumerism, focuses on the efficiency and profitability of this business model and ignores the elementary factor: the women behind the counter. The research project presented here aims for the first time to deconstruct the still prevailing narrative of mass-market retail. Empirical analysis of female sales staff is intended to generate insights not only into a more differentiated picture of the saleswoman, but also of female employment in general. In this respect, the research project contributes to the newly revived history of the world(s) of labor in Germany.

Impression from the first lockdown. It shows that the 'generic masculine' simply hides the gender dimension that is still central to branch stores.
Impression from the first lockdown. It shows that the 'generic masculine' simply hides the gender dimension that is still central to branch stores.
© Daniela Rüther

Project duration: 36 months
Project Manager: Dr. Daniela Rüther
Contact: Daniela.Ruether [at]

Christina Schröder (M.A.)
PhD Project: The Female Body as an Object of Political-Dynastic Negotiations – Perspectives on Alleged and Actual Pregnancies of Aristocratic Widows in the 17th and 18th Centuries (working title)

The doctoral thesis entitled “The Female Body as an Object of Political-Dynastic Negotiations – Perspectives on Alleged and Actual Pregnancies of Aristocratic Widows in the 17th and 18th Centuries” [working title] investigates cases of pregnant or allegedly pregnant widows, taking into account gender and body historical perspectives and approaches of the Neuere Kulturgeschichte. In doing so, various self as well as social perceptions will be considered, to which the female body was subjected during this extraordinary state between certainty and uncertainty, visible, noticeable, and invisible signs and between final confirmation or denial of pregnancy. This process has often been negotiated in the area of conflict of the somatic perception and knowledge of women on the one hand, and the expert knowledge of frequently consulted doctors and midwives on the other.

The focus of the doctoral thesis will be on those cases in which widows had not given birth until the death of their spouse or had not produced a living heir at the time of the latter’s death, thus not having fulfilled the duty of securing the family line. Given the high dynastic, domestic, and public status that descendants had for aristocratic families in the early modern period, even an alleged pregnancy of a recently widowed princess meant an extension of her individual scope of action as potential preserver of the respective line. Furthermore, it will be scrutinized if the mere suspicion of an existing pregnancy was sufficient to set in motion numerous political-dynastic processes and negotiations between various agents and institutions with regard to claims to power, inheritance, and dominion. In addition, the in-depth study of individual cases from the 17th and 18th centuries will allow for understanding and negotiating the contemporary discourses about the complex issues of fertility, procreation, pregnancy and offspring. The main objective of the planned analysis is to contribute to the still fragmentary history of the aristocratic female body and the management of aristocratic pregnancies. Apart from that, new insights into the (daily) lives of noble widows can be obtained, which have previously only been explored rudimentarily.