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Look Inside Ordinary Prussians

Ordinary Prussians
Brandenburg Junkers and Villagers, 1500–1840


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Part of New Studies in European History

  • Date Published: November 2007
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521037006

£ 40.99

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About the Authors
  • This book gives voice, in unusual depth and immediacy, to ordinary villagers and landlords (Junkers) in the Prussian-German countryside, from the late Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. The trials and fortunes of everyday life come into view - in the family, the workplace, in the private lives of both men and women, in courtroom and jailhouse, and under the gaze of the rising Prussian monarchy's officials and army officers. What emerges is a many-dimensioned, long-term study of a rural society, inviting comparisons on a world-historical level. The book also puts to a test the possibilities of empirical historical knowledge at the microhistorical or 'grass-roots' level. But it also reconceptualizes, on the scale of Prussian-German and European history, the rise of agrarian capitalism, challenging views widespread in the economic history literature on the common people's working standards, and including massive documentation on women's condition, rights and social roles.

    • Includes great depth and immediacy through first-hand historical testimony, especially from ordinary country people
    • Includes fresh interpretations of popular living standards, women's status, and village self-defence against state and noble domination
    • Offers an alternative interpretation of the problem of authoritarianism in Prussian and German history
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    • Winner of the 2002 Hans Rosenberg Book Prize

    Reviews & endorsements

    '… with its rich mines of data and insight on rural political, economic, gender and social history, this will be an essential text for years to come.' Roland Spickermann, H-German

    'This book will be important for a long time to come. There is no study like it in English, and it can rightly claim to make some original contributions to German history.' The Agricultural History Review

    'This work is full of … iconoclastic approaches, which the author presents in a captivating, entertaining and yet scholarly manner.' Reviews in History

    'Drawing upon a treasure-house of files and sources, William Hagen presents a vivid and colourful picture of the East Elbian people, and is determined to reshape the old-fashioned view of this rural society. This is an extraordinary people.' German Historical Institute

    '… this volume is a significant and convincing contribution to early modern European agrarian history.' Journal of Early Modern History

    '… this is an excellent, thought-provoking book … Each chapter brims with compelling stories about local experience, while making a larger point about the transition to 'modernity'. all n all, this is a model study and fruitful ground for future comparative work.' Sixteenth Century Journal

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2007
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521037006
    • length: 712 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 157 x 35 mm
    • weight: 0.981kg
    • contains: 22 b/w illus. 3 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    Currencies, weights and measures employed in the text
    Introduction: grand narratives, ordinary Prussians
    1. After the deluge: a noble lordship's sixteenth-century ascent and seventeenth-century crisis
    2. The Prussianization of the countryside? Noble lordship under early absolutism, 1648–1728
    3. Village identities in social practice and law
    4. Daily bread: village farm incomes, living standards and lifespans
    5. The Kleists' good fortune: family strategies and estate management in an eighteenth-century noble lineage
    6. Noble lordship's servitors and clients: estate managers, artisans, clergymen, domestic servants
    7. Farm servants, young and old: landless labourers in the villages and at the manor
    8. Policing crime and the moral order, 1700–1760: seigneurial court, village mayors, church, state and army
    9. Policing seigneurial rent: the Kleists' battle with their subjects' insubordination and the villagers' appeals to royal justice, 1727–1806
    10. Seigneurial bond severed: from subject farmers to freeholders, from compulsory estate labourers to free, 1806–1840

  • Author

    William W. Hagen, University of California, Davis
    William W. Hagen was born in 1942, and has taught at UC Davis since 1970. He is the author of Germans, Poles, and Jews: The Nationality Conflict in the Prussian East, 1772–1914 (Chicago, 1980). Ordinary Prussians is the culmination of his research over the past two decades, including two years in the Prussian State archive.


    • Winner of the 2002 Hans Rosenberg Book Prize

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