Protagonists of Imperial Cities

Mühlhausen|Thüringen, 28th February – 1st March 2022

Ninth academic conference of the Mühlhausen-based Working Group “History of the Free Imperial Cities”, in cooperation with the Friedrich Christian Lesser Foundation and the Historical Society of Mühlhausen (Mühlhäuser Geschichts- und Denkmalpflegeverein e. V.)


The ninth conference of the Working Group is dedicated to the protagonists of the Imperial Cities. To complement the traditional focus on elites, this conference seeks to expand the scope by looking into less well-known groups – not only the clergy but also scholars, not only patricians but also civil servants, not only merchants but also artisans. The focus will be on three aspects of agency: How did these protagonists cope with conflicts? What career paths were open to them? And how did they present themselves in their environment? Bringing these questions together we will be asking what makes Imperial Cities so special in this regard. We will be discussing upward mobility within various social groups, its underlying conventions, but also attempts to overcome them. The societies of Imperial Cities allowed for various paths of action, for instance the accumulation of offices, or the pursuit of multifarious interests and objectives. In times of crisis protagonists saw ways to explore new career opportunities, and changing societies required to reassess established practices and career paths. Ceremonies, rituals, and ways of representation played a central role. Court cases, for instances, were held in public, council elections were concluded with a public ceremony, handicraft traditions were highly conventionalized and served to integrate the city society. Many forms of representation must be distinguished. Often only a crisis made conventions visible. Conflicts forced people to take sides, to support or to oppose various agendas and interests. The society of the Imperial Cities allowed for a wide spectrum of solution strategies. One might choose to align oneself with Emperor, or to distance oneself.  Many protagonists insisted on their right to more self-determination, and various alliances within the city society helped to overcome conflicts.

To the conference program

Table of contents and foreword of the conference publication
Studien zur Reichsstadtgeschichte (SRG) are published by Michael Imhof Verlag.
Here you can find an overview of all conferences.