Prof. Dr. Hillard von Thiessen
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Prof. Dr. Hillard von Thiessen
Käte Hamburger Kolleg "Legal Unity and Pluralism"
Servatiiplatz 9
48143 Münster

Hillard von Thiessen was a Fellow of the Kolleg from October 2022 to September 2023.

  • Vita

    Hillard von Thiessen studied History, English Literature and Linguistics and Political Sciences at the Universities of Kiel, Edinburgh and Freiburg im Breisgau. In 2001, he earned his Dr. phil. at the University of Freiburg with a dissertation on “The Capuchins. A Reformed Order between Confessionalisation and Popular Culture in Freiburg and Hildesheim, 1591–1750“ (title translated; supervisor Wolfgang Reinhard). Subsequently, he worked at the University of Freiburg as a research assistant in a project on micropolitics in the foreign relations of the Roman Curia during the pontificate of Paul V Borghese (1605–1621); his research focus was official relations and informal networks between the Papal States and Spain. He carried on with this project at the University of Berne as assistant at the chair for early modern history and wrote his habilitation thesis on this topic, published in 2010 under the title (translated) “Diplomacy and Patronage. The relations between the Roman Curia and Spain 1605–1621 in an actor-centred view”. From 2007 on he taught at the University of Cologne as a Substitute Professor of Early Modern History until he was appointed Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Rostock in 2012/13. Since then, his research concentrates on transnational relations and new approaches to the history of diplomacy, corruption in the early modern period and concurrence of norms and values as a distinguishing feature of late medieval and early modern European societies. He has recently summed up his research on the last-mentioned topic in the book (title translated) “The Age of Ambiguity. How early modern contemporaries dealt with norms and values”.

  • Research Project

    Concurrence and Competition of Legal Norms as Origin and Characteristic Feature of the ʻAge of Ambiguityʻ

    The project is intended to further develop and modify my concept of the early modern period as the ʻAge of Ambiguityʼ. I regard a particular constellation of concurrence and competition of norms of different origin – religious, social and political – as a distinguishing feature of the early modern (and partly the late medieval) period. On the one hand, in this span of time norms were propagated more vigorously and more specifically than in any other historical period before by agents like confessional churches, worldly authorities and social groups. On the other hand, effective disciplining was not the result of those endeavours. In contrast, on a practical level early modern societies were characterized by negotiation, dissimulation and casuistry – i. e. by cultural ambiguity. My aim is to take a particular look on the role of legal norms in the formation and upholding of normative concurrence/competition and ambiguity in Christian European societies, referring to recent concepts like multinormativity, legal pluralism, legal hybridity and jurisdictional pluralism. My initial hypothesis is that, alongside the experience of casuistry with regard to religious norms, legal pluralism was a core factor in generating cultural ambiguity as early as in the late medieval period. Furthermore, I assume that endeavours to standardize and centralize law and jurisdiction in the early modern period all in all failed. As a result, cultural ambiguity continued to be a characteristic feature of legal practice at least up to the 18th century.

  • Selected Publications

    von Thiessen, Hillard, Das Zeitalter der Ambiguität. Vom Umgang mit Werten und Normen in der Frühen Neuzeit, Köln/Weimar/Wien 2021.

    von Thiessen, Hillard, Normenkonkurrenz. Handlungsspielräume, Rollen, normativer Wandel und normative Kontinuität vom späten Mittelalter bis zum Übergang zur Moderne, in: Karsten, Arne/von Thiessen, Hillard (eds.), Normenkonkurrenz in historischer Perspektive, Zeitschrift für historische Forschung, Beiheft 50, Berlin 2015, pp. 241–286.

    von Thiessen, Hillard, Diplomatie vom type ancien. Überlegungen zu einem Idealtypus des frühneuzeitlichen Diplomaten, in: von Thiessen, Hillard/Windler, Christian (eds.), Akteure der Außenbeziehungen. Netzwerke und Interkulturalität im historischen Wandel, Externa, vol. 1. Köln/Weimar/Wien 2010, pp. 471–503.

    von Thiessen, Hillard, Diplomatie und Patronage. Die spanisch-römischen Beziehungen 1605–1621 in akteurszentrierter Perspektive, Frühneuzeit-Forschungen, vol. 16, Epfendorf 2010.

    von Thiessen, Hillard, Korruption und Normenkonkurrenz. Zur Funktion und Wirkung von Korruptionsvorwürfen gegen die Günstling-Minister Lerma und Buckingham in Spanien und England im frühen 17. Jahrhundert, in: Engels, Jens Ivo/Fahrmeir, Andreas/Nützenadel, Alexander (eds.): Geld – Geschenke – Politik. Korruption im neuzeitlichen Europa, Historische Zeitschrift, Beiheft 48, München 2009, pp. 91–120.

    von Thiessen, Hillard, Die Kapuziner zwischen Konfessionalisierung und Alltagskultur. Vergleichende Fallstu­die am Beispiel Freiburgs und Hildesheims 1599–1750, Rombach Wissenschaften – Reihe Historiae, vol. 13, Freiburg 2002.