Helmstedt (1620–81): potential interplays between theoretical and everyday notions of privacy

Helmstedt 1620–1681: Theoretical interplay between theoretical and practical concepts of privacy

The University of Helmstedt, founded in 1576 by the Duke Julius of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, was one of the most vibrant Lutheran universities during the 17th century. As the Duke never signed the Formula of Concord, the University of Helmstedt was less bound by orthodox statements than other Lutheran universities of the time. In addition to a more open attitude in confessional issues, the knowledge production was also marked by a rising interest for Aristotelianism. The buildings of the town and the university belonged to different jurisdictions but were nevertheless intermingled in the relatively small urban space for the 3,000 inhabitants. Students were housed in chambers within both citizens’ and professors’ houses. The professors’ houses served as a multifunctional site for intellectual work, so-called ‘private’ teaching, and home for the professor’s household.

The Helmstedt case team investigates both theoretical and practical notions of privacy around the university, and how these may have interplayed. We pursue this interest by, firstly, analyzing treatises published by professors of various disciplines, and secondly, by tracing notions of privacy in the everyday life of the students as well as among the professors and their households. Central themes in our research are the following: private and public in Aristotelian thought, practices of private teaching and researching, private and public aspects in funeral sermons for professors’ and professors’ wives, professors’ intellectual privacy, regulation of student life, and spatial/social/temporal pockets of privacy related to physical/visual/sound-related thresholds.

The initial findings of the Helmstedt case team include how legal and theological tracts related to notions of the private (for example the ‘public’ and ‘private’ conscience of the judge) linked to both Lutheran and Catholic positions. Furthermore, our ongoing studies on the life in and around the University of Helmstedt points to notions of privacy in the way that co-presence was mediated and controlled by the members of the professors’ households, people affiliated to the university, and inhabitants of the city 

Activities and presentations

  • Frank Ejby Poulsen, ‘Presentation of Research on Hermann Conring’s teaching at the University of Helmstedt’, Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, March 2022
  • Frank Ejby Poulsen, Short-term Fellowship at the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, January–March 2022
  • Paolo Astorri & Lars Cyril Nørgaard, ’The Lutheran Household as a Private Jurisdiction’, at the NOS-HS workshop HOUSEHOLD, Uppsala/Aarhus/Oslo (online), 02.12.2021
  • Søren Frank Jensen, PhD Student Fellowship at the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, October–December 2021
  • Paolo Astorri, ‘Privacy Regulation: Between Law and Moral Theology, Spaces of Privacy II: Theorizing, Legislating, and Inhabiting the Private Sphere in 17th Century Helmstedt, at the 67th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America (virtual), 21.04.2021
  • Frank Ejby Poulsen, ‘The Place of the Private and the Public in Hermann Conring’s Political Thought’, Spaces of Privacy II: Theorizing, Legislating, and Inhabiting the Private Sphere in 17th Century Helmstedt, at the 67th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America (virtual), 21.04.2021
  • Natalie Patricia Körner, ‘The Professors’ Houses of Helmstedt: Gendering Privacy’, Spaces of Privacy II: Theorizing, Legislating, and Inhabiting the Private Sphere in 17th Century Helmstedt, at the 67th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America (virtual), 21.04.2021
  • Johannes Ljungberg, ‘Protecting Privacy in Practice? Investigating Spatial and Social Thresholds in Late 17th Century Helmstedt’, Spaces of Privacy II: Theorizing, Legislating, and Inhabiting the Private Sphere in 17th Century Helmstedt, at the 67th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America (virtual), 21.04.2021
  • Natalie Patricia Körner, The Professors’ Houses of Helmstedt: Demanding Privacy. Presentation at the seminar series Historical Notions of Privacy in Latin America, 25.02.2021
  • Frank Ejby Poulsen, Private academic debates and public knowledge: Hermann Conring’s analysis of the Holy Roman Empire at the University of Helmstedt. Presentation at the conference Practices of privacy, Centre for Privacy Studies, April 2020
  • Natalie Patricia Körner, ‘Professors’ Wives at Work: Private Practices of Knowledge in the Houses of Helmstedt’s Professors’, Presentation at the conference Practices of privacy, Centre for Privacy Studies, April 2020
  • Paolo Astorri, Søren Frank Jensen, Natalie Patricia Körner, Johannes Ljungberg and Frank Ejby Poulsen, Combined city tour, archival trip and visit to Herzog-August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel and Helmstedt, 09.01-15.01.2020

Published publications

  • Paolo Astorri, ‘Can a Judge Rely on his Private Knowledge? Early Modern Lutherans and Catholics Compared’, In Comparative Legal History, vol. 9:1, 2021, 56–88, 33p.
  • Paolo Astorri and Søren Frank Jensen, ‘Heinrich Hahn (1605–1668), Priest of Justice: Portrait of a Lutheran Jurist at the University of Helmstedt’, In Zeitschrift Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte: Kanonistische Abteilung, 108, 2022 (in print)

Publications currently in peer-review

  • Paolo Astorri & Lars Cyril Nørgaard, ‘A little republic. The jurisdiction private according to Henning Arnisaeus (1570–1636)’, in Reformation and Everyday Life, ed. by Niva Javette Koefoed and Bo Kristian Holm

Publications in preparation (preliminary titles)

  • Natalie Patricia Körner, ‘The Professors’ Houses in Helmstedt: Gendering Privacy’
  • Frank Ejby Poulsen, ‘The Privacy of Knowledge: Hermann Conring’s analysis of the Holy Roman Empire at the University of Helmstedt’, for the Journal for the History of Knowledge (2022)
  • Frank Ejby Poulsen, ‘Conceptions of the Private and the Public in Hermann Conring’s Political Thought’
  • Natalie Patricia Körner and Johannes Ljungberg, ‘Visual, Physical, and Sonic Privacy in late seventeenth-century Helmstedt’
  • Paolo Astorri and Johannes Ljungberg, ‘Theoretical and practical notions domestic peace and regulation’
  • Paolo Astorri, ‘The Notion of Fama in Lutheran Legal and Theological Treatises’
  • Johannes Ljungberg, ‘Keep the Students Out! Regulating Student Access to the City of Helmstedt, 1660–1720’

Members

Paolo Astorri (Legal History),
Søren Frank Jensen (Church History)
Natalie Patricia Körner (Architecture)
Johannes Ljungberg (Cultural History)
Frank Ejby Poulsen (Intellectual History)

The case team from left to right: Johannes Ljungberg, Frank Ejby Poulsen, Natalie Patricia Körner, Paolo Astorri, and Søren Frank Jensen.

The case team from left to right: Johannes Ljungberg, Frank Ejby Poulsen, Natalie Patricia Körner, Paolo Astorri, and Søren Frank Jensen.