The Imperial City during the Peasants’ War

Mühlhausen|Thüringen, 12th February – 14th February 2024

Eleventh 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.)


In 1962, the prominent church historian Bernd Moeller (1931–2020) published a small study on the subject of “Imperial City and Reformation.” The author’s ground-breaking work, which was recognised far beyond the field of church history, became a milestone in the research of early modern Imperial Cities and stimulated numerous new investigations. 60 years later, the 11th conference of the Mühlhausen Working Group on the History of Imperial Cities is now dedicated to the role of the Imperial Cities in the Peasants’ War. The focus is on Moeller’s argument that the Imperial Cities played a prominent role in this conflict, similar to their key role during the Protestant Reformation, although the peasant revolts were decidedly rural in origin.


Against the background of the fundamental question of the role of the Imperial City status in the Peasants’ War, various aspects of the rebellion are examined. We will shed light on the causes of the conflict, on the forms of violence that were used, but also on the de-escalation mechanisms employed. The question is, who were the drivers of the uprising and who were the leaders of the resistance in the Imperial Cities? Which enemy stereotypes existed, and was the resentment really directed predominantly against the nobility and clergy? We will also discuss to what extent the Peasant’s War, as a political issue for the Imperial Cities, had an effect both internally and externally and what consequences participation brought about. By examining the events in two episcopal cities (Mainz and Brixen) and how they dealt with the unrest, additional levels of comparison are added. Also investigated will be the question of why the Duchy of Bavaria, in contrast to the neighbouring regions of Allgäu, Franconia or Swabia, remained relatively quiet during the Peasants’ War.

From 1524 to 1525, “peasant-friendly” preachers, such Christoph Schappeler and Thomas Müntzer, whose lives were fundamentally changed by their involvement in the uprising, played a key role in the conflict. As actors of the Imperial Cities, they represent important intermediaries between the urban and the rural population.

To the conference program

Table of contents and foreword of the conference publication
Studien zur Reichsstadtgeschichte (SRG) are published by Michael Imhof Verlag.

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