Research Databases and Internet Platforms

by Jonas Bechtold

The importance of scientific databases and online platforms for historical scholarship is evident. The methodical and geographical diversity of early modern court historiography creates a particular demand for the linking of research projects. In view of this, the present post aims to present a small selection of important online projects, which may be of use to interested students and “newcomers” in this field of historical research.

The French court holds a central position in court historiography. It is thus not surprising that a whole online platform is dedicated to French dynastic and courtly history: Cour de offers reviews on recent publications, a vast bibliography, call for papers and refers to upcoming academic events. The platform provides direct access to highly readable, online material and is structured into five major topics: “Histoire et fonction”, “Art et culture”, “Représentation et féstivités”, “Individus, familles et groupes”, “Historiographie et méthodologie”. Furthermore the website gives access to prosopographical databases and links to a variety of other research projects. Users of this platform will find numerous articles introducing the field, as well as pointers for more in-depth research.

While Cour de focuses on the French court, the platform “Marrying cultures. Queen Consorts and European Identities” aims to bring together individual research projects on queen consorts in all of early modern Europe. The research group’s stated aim is to study “how culture was transferred between European kingdoms through the person and the court of the consort”. The group consists of a cooperation between the University of Oxford, Kensington Palace, the Royal Armoury in Stockholm, and the Duke August Library in Wolfenbüttel. Besides the information regarding the individual projects, this website offers literature recommendations, as well as a general introduction to Queen Consorts and the project’s methodical groundwork.

The “court” refers both to the material dimension of the princely residence, as well as to the entirety of the people living and working within its confines. As a result, the personal dimension of a court has to be one starting point of court historiographical research but also constitutes – with regard to the great number of courtiers – a challenge. For facing this challenge, scientific prosopographical databases provide a huge amount of biographical data on court members as well as court servants: Researchers and students dealing with the court of the Austrian Habsburgs will find very useful the database “Kaiser und Höfe. Eine prosopographische Datenbank”. The projects aims to identify courtiers and provide users with their curricula vitae by analyzing the voluminous “Hofstaatsverzeichnisse” and “Hofzahlamtsbücher”. As every Habsburg household from Ferdinand I. (1503–1564) to Leopold I. (1640–1705) will be presented, this longterm project is still a work in progress. Due to its detailed data on the registered persons including links to bibliographies, online digitalization and archival indices, this database will be an invaluable tool for any research project on Austrian court society.

Furthermore researchers interested in the Austrian court can look forward to the launch of a new database entitled „Personnel and Organization of the Viennese Court (1711-1806) – organizational and prosopographical studies on the early modern Viennese Court”. Based on an analysis of the “Hofkalender“ and the “Hofparteienprotokolle”, the database will provide scholars with rich information about courtiers at the court of Habsburg.

The prospographical research these two databases (will) offer are necessary for in-depth analyzing of early modern courts in Europe. They not only promise interesting possibilities for research on courtly careers, the distribution of courtly offices and structures of hierarchy and power, but also on how people at courts interacted and thus “did” politics. As for example the recent publication of Leonhard Horowski has shown, this prospographical knowledge is an important starting point for studies on “Practices of Power and Interpersonal Relationships at Dynastic Centres”.

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