The conjunction of Middle Ages and Early Modern Europe in this work field follows the innovative model of periodization Premodernity / Modernity that is so characteristic for Historical Research in Bielefeld. We thereby distance ourselves from the traditional model of Antiquity / Middle Ages / Modernity. We understand the era of the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age as being part of pre-modern societies. It is constituted by its relation to modernity just as modernity always defines itself through its relation to premodernity by demarcation or stressing of parallels and continuities. Critical reflection of this concept is necessarily based on the study of premodernity. This is what imparts an enduring social relevance to medieval and early modern history.
The shared relationship towards modernity is supplemented by the productive tension between two sub-epochs. This imposes the question of how or in how far the Middle Ages and Early Modern Europe are distinct periods with their own characteristics that can be demarcated around 1500. The notion that these are two chronological periods, each of which representing certain units within European history, further asks for the grade of alterity. This turns the eyes towards internal social differentiation in the course of historical processes and on characteristics of the 16th to 18th century as an "Early Modernity".
Our research in the fields of social and cultural history of the Middle Ages and Early Modern Europe is characterized by theory-based and interdisciplinary approaches: We break up disciplinary boundaries and transcend their limitations by integrating concepts from the Social and Cultural Studies into our analysis of social phenomenons. Consequently, a methodical pluralism enfolds that includes systems theory and theory of action in its approaches and thereby leaves room for innovative and dynamic research.
We accommodate to this profile through our research foci: With a view to societies of Old Europe we focus on time spans between the 12th century and 1850. Central topics are, for example, sanctity of rule and phenomenons of individuality. We are also interested in aspects of social differentiation in urban societies and forms of mobilization in rural societies. Research in historical semantics of the political field is joined by research on historical corruption, analysis of knowledge and practices of merchants as well as studies in pre-modern violence.