Menzel, Die Zeit der Entwürfe. 1273-1347
Annotation author: Wiedmaier, Helen
Book author: Menzel, Michael

Michael Menzel, Die Zeit der Entwürfe. 1273-1347 (Gebhardt Handbuch der Deutschen Geschichte 7a), Stuttgart 2012

With “Zeit der Entwürfe. 1273-1347”, Michael Menzel presents an important overview that deals intensively with the political, social and artistic developments of the time from Rudolf I to the death of Ludwig VI. With Michael Menzel, Professor of Medieval and Regional History at the Humboldt University in Berlin, a recognized expert on royalty in the late Middle Ages could be won as an author. This expertise is also evident within the book, which is divided into several large chapters.

The first chapter, the introduction, defines the chronological framework, mentions the most important sources of the epoch to be examined and gives an overview of current developments and tendencies in research (p. 10-30). This is followed by a section on “Landschaften und Herrschaften”, in which Menzel focusses on the role of cities and, above all, the founding of new cities (p. 32-79). The connection between rule and reign was already illuminated in this section and taken up again in the following when Menzel portrays the various kings of this time (p. 80-191). He does not present them alone but explains how they are embedded in personal networks and the political realities of their time. Menzel also shows how the rulers legitimized themselves and what role the electors, for example, played in this. He shows what the rulers’ power was based on and how they were legitimized in each case. What role did the personal ties or the electors (“Kurfürsten”) play?

Menzel also pays special attention to the dispute between Ludwig VI with the Pope, which enables him to move smoothly from the section on rulership to that on the Church (p. 191-222). In addition to the ecclesiastical hierarchy, he also takes religious spirituality, lay communities and lived piety into account in the form of foundations, pilgrimages and flagellants. The book ends with an overview of developments in science and art (p. 222-283), which bridges the gap with the introduction, in which these topics have already been addressed. The book also has extensive family tables, a register and two maps.

All in all, it offers an excellent overview of this era and can be used, for example, to get a first impression. Menzel succeeds in showing the connections between the different chapters of his book and contemporary developments. Historians cannot study events, phenomena, or developments without looking at related factors. The book is therefore also of importance for all those who deal with warfare and victoriousness, as Menzel shows how much these aspects are determined with others such as the financial situation of individual rulers or their relationship to the church. It would only have been desirable to have more maps in order to get an even better overview.

For my own work, the chapter on Ludwig IV and Frederick of Habsburg is particularly important, as, for example, the developments that I have examined in the battles near Gammelsdorf and Mühldorf are explained in more detail. In addition, the influence of the “Doppelkönigtum” on the constitution is described as well as the embedding of the rulers in international politics. This results in an informative panorama that makes it possible to understand the problems, opportunities, and peculiarities of this reign (p. 153-191).

But the book is also helpful for researchers who do not deal specifically with the rulers from the period between 1273-1347, as it shows how much military conflicts are embedded in the political realities. The employees of the graduate school can receive ideas and suggestions on how difficult and complex topics can be structured and how topics such as war or victoriousness can be combined with developments in society.