Consequences of Private Networks and Private Discourse in Early Modern Dresden: Interface of Court, Household and Society, 1541-1586

Throughout the sixteenth-century, Dresden rose to prominence, both within German speaking lands with European powers, through the influence of the Electors of Saxony. Established by Moritz of Saxony and flourishing under the cultural and social influence of August and Anna of Saxony, the city of Dresden became a vital civic entity that fostered scientific knowledge, religious identities, political power, and scholarly discourse. As a team, we quickly discovered connections between the networks and communication that emerged from the Dresden electoral court. These networks and communications serve as the basis for our interdisciplinary approach to the case. Early modern Dresden provides an ideal location to explore the notions of privacy and the private and how these concepts transformed the city and pushed the boundaries by redefining culture (i.e. the dominating presence of Lutheranism, architectural innovation, and civic identities).

Painting from Daniel Bretschneider’s Contrafacture des Ringrennens und anderer Ritterspiele auf Christian’s fürstlichem Beilager am 25 April 1582 in Dresden (part of Library of Congress exhibition: Dresden: Treasures from the Saxon State Library)

Research Objectivities 

  • private devotion/writings (impact of confessionionalism; public/private preaching; media dissemination/reception)
  • political privacy (dynamics of the electoral court; private exchanges; gender roles)
  • private experimentalism/science/supernatural (gendered laboratories/practices; prayers, healing and witchcraft)
  • regulations of privacy (laws of marriage/household; scholarly discourse-theologians/jurists relations)
  • private spaces (court and household as spatial models; representation of scientific spaces; gendered spaces)

These research objectives will help to develop an interdisciplinary study on the evolving themes of: conflicting forms of citizenship, consolidation of Dresden as a Lutheran state, establishing political connections with the Holy Roman Empire, the emergence of networks, and the ideas of public and private boundaries.

Planned Activities

  • Research trip to Dresden archives (November 2019)
  • Forthcoming seminar (Autumn 2020) on the theme: Early Modern Private Networks and Private Discourse
The Dresden under Moritz case team from left to right: Natalie Körner, Dustin Neighbors, Natascha Käfer, Paolo Astorri, and Søren Frank Jensen.