Encyclopedia of the Early Modern Period - a project jointly undertaken by the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (Essen) and J.B. Metzler Verlag (Stuttgart/Weimar)
Project objective: The Encyclopedia of the Early Modern Period is a continuation of J.B. Metzler's highly successful encyclopedias Der Neue Pauly (18 volumes plus index volume) and Lexikon des Mittelalters (9 volumes plus index volume) covering Antiquity and the Middle Ages respectively. It focusses on the time span from 1450 to 1850, providing comprehensive treatment of the 400 years in question in 15 volumes. The novel approach distinguishing this new macropedia from encyclopedias and handbooks on the period is the joint treatment of what is conventionally termed the Early Modern Period (ca. 1450 to 1750) and the Revolutionary Modern Period (ca. 1750 to 1850) as one historical era. In doing so it never loses sight of its multiple links with the Modern Period.
This new encyclopedia represents state-of-the-art scholarship in all disciplines of history. It is not, however, an additive collection of special subject encyclopedias, but emphasises the cultural linkage of historical developments, life styles and mentalities. The language and style of the articles are aimed at readers who are not experts in the respective fields. Thus the Encyclopedia of the Early Modern Period is a highly useful tool for the entire realm of historical disciplines, both in the humanities and in the sciences.
Time frame: The Early Modern Period, situated between the Middle Ages and the Modern Period, starts around the middle of the 15th century with the introduction of the printing press, with the great voyages of discovery bringing Europeans into contact with hitherto unknown countries and civilisations, with the formation of early modern national states, with the confessionalisation processes in the wake of the reformation and the revolution of the sciences. It comes to a close halfway through the 19th century with the sweeping transformations that ring in the Modern Period, among them the Industrial Revolution with its far-reaching consequences for the living conditions of broad social strata and the development of new class structures; changing life modes as a result of urbanisation, professionalisation and the increasing importance of science and technology; the rise of mass media; new forms of political organisation; and international conflicts exacerbated by imperialism in the second half of the century.
The Early Modern World: The Encyclopedia centres on "Old Europe". However, this is not from an Eurocentric perspective interpreting the Early Modern Period through the lense of Europe's subsequent global hegemony. On the contrary, it is from the perspective of global interaction that the articles discuss the contacts and conflicts of European nations with countries and civilisations which were highly developed long before they were "discovered", conquered and exploited by Europeans. Thus they accord due importance to the multi-faceted relationships and mutual influences between the continents. The history of Europe is continuously subjected to reflection and complemented by the view of other civilisations.
Subject areas: Concretising the multiple historical frames of the Encyclopedia of the Early Modern Period in the form of entries involved many challenges since it is the first undertaking of its kind - nationally as well as internationally. Rather than classifying knowledge only along the lines of traditional academic disciplines such as philosophy, theology, physics, the history of literature or law, the Encyclopedia is structured along thematic fields defined by the forms of social organisation, the patterns of conflicts, mentalities and modes of life characteristic of pre-modern societies. Highly renowned subject editors working together in close consultation are responsible for the scholarship and the organisation of the following main fields:
The State, Political Government and the International System of States
Looking at Europe as a whole, the emphasis is on the monarchic and estates-related foundations of early modern states, wars and peace-keeping strategies, essential political movements and revolutions as well as ideals of freedom and nationhood which became influential in the political theory of the epoch.
After the discovery of the Americas and Australia on the one hand and the extension of the contact areas with Asia and Africa on the other the relations between European and non-European civilisations took on a new quality. This is demonstrated in the fields of trade relations, slavery, mutual (cultural) influences and perceptions and in concomitant changes of European self-images.
Law and Constitution
Apart from public, private and criminal law entries from this field outline the procedures and stages of legislation, the development of legal philosophy and jurisprudence, natural law and human rights, the institutions and processes of justice as well as the social aspects of crime and violence.
Life styles and Social Change
Social change affected all population classes, social groups such as the nobility, the bourgeoisie, the craftsmen and the underclasses. It influenced the basic units of social life, the family and gender relations, as well as everybody's life course from childhood to old age, agrarian and urban life styles and forms of social organisation.
The focus is on the rapid periodical transformations of the European economy as a result of functional differentiation, commercialisation and the increasingly dominant market principle. Due importance is accorded to important developments in the realms of labor, agriculture, crafts and trades, the monetary economy, dietary habits and not least in political economy.
Science and Medicine
The beginning of the Early Modern Period witnessed the onset of a revolution of the sciences and medicine. The entries will focus on the centres, the media and the consequences of these breakthroughs in mathematics, physics, chemistry and medicine, which transformed notions of humanity, the world, nature, life and evolution.
Education, Civilisation and Communication
The Encyclopedia's broad concept of culture encompasses Humanism, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and Historicism as the main cultural epochs of the period, the systems of education and the cultural disciplines ranging from historiography and philosophy to philology, but also everyday and popular culture as collective mentalities, symbols and rites, public and private forms of communication and their media along with the changing conception of time.
The Churches and Religious Culture
The Early Modern Period was an epoch of religious transformation the consequences of which are still felt today. The entries deal with the churches, religions and religious movements and their conflicts and co-existence, the processes of confessionalisation and secularisation, cultures of piety, world pictures, symbols and practices of everyday religious life as well as the content, questions and cultural contexts of theological doctrines.
Literature, Art and Music
The Encyclopedia does not simply provide information on the main forms and developments in literature, drama, architecture, painting, sculpture and music of the early modern periods of art; articles also discuss institutional aspects, the cultural and social framework of the period's literature, art and music, and its aesthetic theories discourse.
The Environment and Technological Change
Technology is not simply viewed as an aspect of material culture, but as human activity aiming to appropriate nature and its resources, which has had dramatic effects on the environment. Subjects include the technological developments and their social contexts, the people and institutions in possession of technological knowledge, the transfer of technology, transport and traffic, mining and issues of early modern energy production.
All these dimensions of early modern history have been equally taken into account in the selection of sample articles.
Editors: The overall editorial responsibility for The Encyclopedia of the Early Modern Period lies with the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (Essen), represented by the Managing Editor. 24 internationally renowned scholars are in charge of the individual subject areas. On the next level, 60 scholars acting as coordinators organise thematic sub-fields within the subject areas.
Authors: The project involves more than 1000 scholars from European and non-European countries who bring their expertise to bear on over 5000 historical topics. This ensures that all internationally relevant approaches and schools of thought are represented.
Entries: Articles present both events, patterns and developments of early modern history as well as methods of analysis, concepts and issues of research. Consequently the head words are taken, on the one hand, from the source languages of the 15th to the 19th centuries, on the other hand they represent the terminology of present-day scholarship. Thus the Encyclopedia can be used for looking up detailed data on a multitude of detailed subjects, but it also offers information on approaches of historical research and interpretation. Every article is rounded off by a bibliography summarising the latest state of international scholarship.
llustrations: The Encyclopedia of the Early Modern Period is richly illustrated. The images, photographs, diagrams and maps provide additional visual representation of the contents. Detailed explanatory legends support precise interpretations of the illustrated subjects.
General Structure and Article Types: About 100 key articles provide a survey of the principal phenomena and major topics of early modern history, covering the countries and centuries in question in a broad overview. Facts and their underlying connections are presented concisely, with an introduction to the relevant methods of research and terminology. References take readers to the entries providing detailed treatment of individual points.
On the next level, about 900 umbrella articles develop essential aspects of the key articles on a less general level; they present summarized information on specific aspects of early modern history and culture.
The 4000 individual articles serve the purpose of even more specific, concrete information. They present details on more narrowly defined topics and they, too, are carefully cross-referenced with the key- and umbrella articles.
Essen / Stuttgart, May 2004
Friedrich Jaeger (Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities, Essen)
Bernd Lutz (J.B. Metzler Verlag, Stuttgart)