“Our Empire’s City” – Interactions between Emperor, Empire and Imperial Cities

Mühlhausen/Thuringia, 16th – 18th February 2015

Third academic conference of the Research Working Group “History of the Free Imperial Cities”, organised by the Friedrich Christian Lesser Foundation, the City of Mühlhausen, and the Historical Society of Mühlhausen.


Cities of the Emperor, actors on the stage of the Imperial Diet, members of an association of towns, regional centres of power – the Imperial Cities were part of diverse spaces of interaction. They acted as lower estates on the regional level and simultaneously influenced decisions that shaped the Empire as a whole. Authorities of the Imperial cities sought to gain greater leverage in politics through alliances and informal contacts while at the same time being dependent on Emperor and Realm as guarantors of their privileges.

The coexistence of an Empire of institutions and the Empire as a reference framework for federal alliances was very much tangible in the urban centres of imperial immediacy, but so were the strained affiliations with regional and trans-regional networks. Imperial Cities were both – small and medium-sized Imperial Estates competing and interacting with the aristocracy and the clergy, and part of the Realm’s territory.

The Imperial Cities show the many faces of the Holy Roman Empire and epitomise the various overlapping spaces and orders. Taking into consideration different contexts in a diachronic perspective is a promising way to bring together diverse approaches to the history of the free Imperial Cities. The aim of such a reexamination is to interpret the Imperial Cities not as monolithic, isolated entities, but rather as changeable focal points of highly different spatial orders and systems of governance. Thus the local context has to be taken as seriously as the cities’ role in shaping the various forums of the Realm.

… conference programme

… Coverage (selection)