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Author Topic: GERMANIC TRIBES  (Read 2080 times)
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Posts: 41646

« on: November 30, 2007, 06:10:13 pm »

                                          Late Middle Ages to modern times

Rudolf I (1273-91) was the first Habsburg to take the throne. Now the material foundation of the emperorship was no longer the lost imperial estates but the house estates of the dynasties, and house power politics evidently became every emperor’s main preoccupation.

The Golden Bull (imperial constitution) issued by Charles IV in 1356 regulated the election of the German king by seven electors privileged with special rights. These sovereign electors and the towns, because of their economic power, gradually gained influence while that of the small counts, lords and knights declined. The towns’ power further increased when they linked up in leagues. The most important of these, the Hanseatic League, became the leading Baltic power in the 14th century.

From 1438 the crown although the empire nominally was an electoral monarchy practically became the property of the Habsburg dynasty, which had become the strongest territorial power.

In the 15th century, demands for imperial reform increased. Maximilian I (1493-1519), the first to accept the imperial title without a papal coronation, tried to implement such a reform but without much success. The institutions newly created or reshaped by him Reichstag (Imperial Diet), Reichskreise (Imperial Counties), Reichskammergericht (Imperial Court) lasted until the end of the Reich (1806) but were not able to halt its continuing fragmentation.

A dualism of Emperor and Reich developed: The head of the Reich was offset by the estates of the Reich electors, princes and towns. The power of the emperors was curtailed and increasingly eroded by capitulations, which they negotiated at their election with the respective electors. The princes, especially the powerful among them, greatly expanded their rights at the expense of imperial power. But the Reich continued to hold together, the glory of the imperial idea remained alive, and the small and medium-sized territories were protected in the Reich system from possible attack by powerful neighbors.

The towns became centers of economic power, profiting above all from growing trade. In the burgeoning textile and mining industries, forms of economic activity grew which went beyond the guilds system of the craftsmen and, like long-distance trading, were beginning to take on early capitalistic traits. At the same time an intellectual change was taking place, marked by the Renaissance and Humanism. The newly risen critical spirit turned above all on church abuses.
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