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The Salzburg Transaction: Expulsion and Redemption in Eighteenth-Century Germany.

Though most German historians have come to regard the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 as the terminal point of the age of religious wars, it is important to remember that confessional issues and confessional sensibilities remained volatile and controversial problems in Germany until the demise of the Holy Roman Empire and even beyond. Mack Walker, who has devoted the last quarter century to the study of the intricacies of the empire with his monographs on conservative localism, German Home Towns (1971), and on the public law compilations of a prominent German jurist, Johann Jakob Moser and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (1981), turns his attention with the present study to the complexities of the confessional problem by examining one of the most notorious confessional confrontations in eighteenth-century Germany: the 1731-32 expulsion of some twenty thousand Protestants from the Archbishopric of Salzburg, and their resettlement by the Hohenzollern Frederick William I in east Prussia.

The refuge granted by Electors of Brandenburg to pious and industrious Protestants fleeing persecution from backward, benighted, and intolerant Catholic regimes, of course, has always been one of the brightest jewels in the crown of the Whiggish hagiography of Prussia's manifest German destiny. In this case Frederick William followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, the "great Elector," who is generally credited with beginning the momentum that was to lead to the rise of Brandenburg-Prussia, and who established both his Protestant and cameralist boiza fides by his absorption of the French Huguenots exiled by Louis XIV after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. There seems little doubt that Frederick William I, like his grandfather, saw not only the economic and religious, but also the propaganda value in such an action - particularly since in the moral economy of confessional rhetoric, Protestant refugees fleeing from Catholic persecution had by that time already acquired a far greater publicity premium than Catholic refugees fleeing Protestant persecution.

Walker's analysis of this episode is divided into five distinct and overlapping chapters, each of which examines the problem from a different perspective. The first looks at the episode from the perspective of the Archbishopric of Salzburg, the second from the perspective of the Kingdom of Prussia, the third from the perspective of the constitutional politics of the Holy Roman Empire, the fourth from the perspective of the migrants themselves, and the fifth from the perspective of the myths and legends subsequently built up around the events. Of these, by far the strongest chapter is that which deals with the episode as a constitutional problem within the Holy Roman Empire. Here Walker demonstrates, as he has in previous works, how the constitutional mechanism of the empire - in delicate balance between the slight majority Catholic Estates and the Protestant Association, known as the Corpus Evangelicorum (whose tone and demeanour Grete Klingenstein has recently likened to Amnesty International), and presided over by a Catholic but largely impartial and honest broker emperor with his own dynastic agenda - for all its complexity was still a very viable and effective political organism indeed. If Walker can speak of a "Salzburg Transaction," it is not only because he demonstrates in detail how the settlement of Salzburg exiles in Prussia served the complex social and political self-interest of both the Archbishop of Salzburg and the King of Prussia, but perhaps primarily because he so effectively disengages the role of the constitutional mechanisms of the Empire and the role of the emperor in brokering this transaction.

In his chapter on the migrants themselves, Walker makes a valiant effort to harness all possible quantitative analytical modes to track social profiles, but as he himself admits, these analyses are based largely on records of success, while "records of failures and tragedies ... are harder to come by" (p. 160). In addition, since nearly a quarter of the emigrants died before resettlement, the full picture remains elusive. Even the partial picture is hardly as edifying as subsequent Protestant mythologizing suggested. It took some time for lusty and sense-oriented alpine southerners to adopt the prudish Kadavergehorsam which was de rigeur in their much more structured new environment of cameralist Sozialdisziplinierung. Walker shows that while the resettlement might have satisfied all the principals, the one exception was likely the migrants themselves. This is an important point because in retrospect perhaps the most important dimension of this problem for present-day historians is not the confessional one, but the analysis of methods of social and political control within early modern rural society. In this respect the migrants, in some ways jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, no matter what legitimization Max Weber was in due course to lend the process.

Slightly weaker is Walker's analysis of counter-reformation Catholicism in Salzburg. His largely conventional survey here does not do justice to the complexities of conformity and dissent in the alpine Catholic south, and the importance of so-called "crypto-Protestantism" to the development of Reform-Catholicism is ignored altogether. In addition, because of the unusual (though laudable) segmented structure adopted for this volume, a brief concluding synthesis would certainly also have been in order. These critiques, however, should not detract from the over-all value of this work. Despite the enormous literature that has already emerged on the subject over the past 250 years, Walker's monograph remains a welcome addition, and by far the best introduction to the subject in English.
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Author:Szabo, Franz A.J.
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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