The legal landscape of the Holy Roman Empire was characterised by pluralities, ambiguities and conflicts, which intensified in the Protestant territories particularly during the period of confessionalization. After the introduction of the Lutheran, then the Reformed Confession in the 16th and 17th centuries, the princes of the early modern county of Lippe decreed new police laws and church ordinances which, in several respects, contradicted local customary law, resident town charters, common law traditions and socio-cultural practices. Such diversity of norms was especially evident within the practice of marriage formation. Depending on the norm – be it a social custom, a religious command or an enacted secular law – a couple was perceived as married on the grounds of their mutual consent, engaging in coitus (copula carnalis), the approval of their parents, the presence of witnesses or clerical consecration. Normative plurality could provoke conflicts not only because it evoked contradictory expectations and assessments of action, but also because it generated and legitimized diverging sanctions. It therefore highly depended on the competences and proceedings of the local courts, which of the norms could - under which circumstances - claim validity and which of them were dismissed as invalid.
Against the backdrop of recent research approaches dealing with the “competition of norms” (Hillard von Thiessen) and “normative ambiguity” (Thomas Bauer), this project investigates the relation between formal and informal norms of marriage formation and separation and in doing so examines the various institutions, proceedings and individual actors which were responsible for the regulation of marriage conflicts after the Reformation. An additional focus lies on the question of how the state, the church and the subjects themselves dealt with the plurality and competition of marriage norms in practice and what kind of function normative pluralities had in general for the development of the early modern state. This research project builds on the project A2-5 pursued in the second funding phase.