Luca Scholz

The Forbidden Road. On the Use of Roads in the Early Modern Holy Roman Empire

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Exploring the distinction between «ordinary» and «forbidden» roads in the Holy Roman Empire, this article addresses a central feature of the early modern roadscape. In the fractured lands of early modern Germany, the ability to criminalize the use of certain roads and force mobile populations onto «ordinary» roads was an essential tool for channelling commercial flows through a ruler's dominion and his toll stations. The first part of this article reviews the prevalence of forbidden roads in the medieval and early modern Old Reich and discusses the difficulties that many authorities faced when they attempted to enforce such restrictions vis-à-vis neighbouring authorities, mobile populations, and local communities in Thuringia, one of the Empire's most fragmented regions. Centring on an official who leveraged his authority over a road to pursue his personal quarrels, the second part of the article highlights the importance of a micro-historical approach for understanding road politics in old-regime Europe. The conclusion places the results in a broader methodological perspective.


  • Roads
  • Holy Roman Empire
  • Customs
  • Transport
  • German History


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