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Richard Kirwan’s research in Germany

Dr Richard Kirwan, Department of History and member of the Centre for Early Modern Studies, Limerick writes about his research sabbatical this semester:

“Since January 2017 I have been undertaking research in German archives in Tübingen, Stuttgart, Nürnberg, Erlangen, Munich, and elsewhere. My purpose has been to identify and examine primary sources relating to the experiences of converts and religious exiles from the world of learning who sought and sometimes found refuge at the universities of the Holy Roman Empire in the period between the Peace of Augsburg (1555) and the Peace of Westphalia (1648).

This was a time of heightened confessional antagonism in which universities became partisan in their religious affiliations. In this they followed the lead of the territorial rulers who determined the confession of their territories, a privilege guaranteed under the Peace of Augsburg. In this context, universities came to play an important role in establishing and maintaining confessional orthodoxies, especially among the learned. The pressure placed on students and professors to conform to a given confession was considerable.

My research project explores the experiences of the men of learning and their families who defied such impositions of orthodoxy, often by seeking to convert to a rival confession. This forced them into exile in search of asylum in territories and universities where their preferred confession held sway. This project will determine patterns of conversion and exile through the examination of a range of individual cases from prominent converts and refugees to minor and forgotten figures. It will also examine responses to conversion and exile from the perspectives of the communities, institutions, and political authorities affected.”

This research project is funded by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung. The archival research is being conducted during a period of sabbatical granted by the University of Limerick.

 

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