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Religion and Politics in Protestant Sermons of the 16th and 17th Century in the Thuringian-Saxon Region

Deep Structure Analysis of Printed and Handwritten Sermons at the Gotha Research Library

The Project

The Gotha Research Library has - due to their religious anchorage - a reference collection for the history of the Central German Protestantism in the 16th and 17th Century. A very extensive collection of sermons is part of this outstanding tradition.

The aim of the actions supported by the Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft within the action line "libraries and archives in conjunction with research" is, to develop the stock of political sermons formally and content-based to make it available online to an interested public.

Although the source group sermons represented a central communications medium in the early modern period, which could transfer theological content into the community practice, they have been perceived by the historical research only in the form of funeral sermons and were developed accordingly. This project is now devoted to the political sermons and thus to a very unique source group. Initially those sermons are to be understood as political sermons, which were written on political occasions in the broadest sense and articulate from different contexts conceptions of the social order up to ideas of secular rule. These are mainly regent’s news, state assembly sermons, homages or valet sermons. Beyond these more formal criteria, the research currently has no substantive access to the source group. The previously little tested methodological approach of deep exploration, connecting the formal and material library developmental with deeper scientific development forms, aims to remedy the situation. The sermons thus are not only subject to an intensive formal processing, but are also examined for their political language, that is reflected for example in key terms such as iustitia or pietas. In conclusion, this research creates a thesaurus of political language, which not only unlocks the texts using concrete terms, but in addition will be an able connection for other similar projects in the humanities and linguistics.

The corpus of texts to be processed includes three manuscripts and 190 pamphlets, that have emerged in the Wettin territories and the adjacent areas of domination in the 16th and 17th  Centuries. The time frame of the processed corpus is resulting from inner-Protestant and wettin-dynastic struggles in the run-up to the Interim since the 1530s and the death of Ernst the Pious in 1675.

Apart from the formal and thematic depth development of the sermons, the digital processing of the stock forms a second focus of the project. Besides the feeding of the formal text data into the corresponding union catalogues and databases, the sermons are made available online as digital versions for scientific use. In cooperation with the Digital Library Thuringia in Jena a Web Portal „Political Sermons“ will combine the information and subsequent research on the topic. The results of the research project will be provided for discussion in 2010 to the specialized science in a working meeting and finally will be presented to the interested public in an exhibition in 2011 in Gotha.

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The Working Group

The research project represents a collaboration between the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main and the Research Library Gotha.

Head

Prof. Dr. Luise Schorn-Schütte (History Department, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main)
Dr. Kathrin Paasch (Head of the Gotha Research Library)

Scientific Editors

Dr. Anja Moritz - October 2008 until March  2009 (History Department, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main)
Dr. Philip Hahn - June 2009 until November 2011 (History Department, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main) 

Research Assistant

Martin Stelte (History Department, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main) 
Fabrizio Dal Vera (History Department, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main)

Project Manager

Cornelia Hopf (Head of the Department of Manuscripts, Gotha Research Library)
Dr. Wolfgang Runschke (Director of the publication department, Gotha Research Library)

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