Andrey Prokopiev (ENG)

Prokopiev photoDoctor of Historical Sciences, Professor. Graduate of the Faculty of History of St. Petersburg State University, since 1991 he has been teaching at the Department of Medieval History, St. PetersburgStateUniversity. In 2006 he defended his doctoral thesis on the topic: „Johann Georg I (1585 – 1656), Elector of Saxony: power and elite in confessional Germany“. Author of several books and numerous articles on the early modern history of Germany. In the spotlight of his research: nobility, organization of power and spiritual culture of Saxony of confessionalization era and the Thirty Years’ War. Currently works as a Professor of the Department of Medieval History at the Historical Institute of St. Petersburg State University.

Main publications related to the history of education:

  • Johann Georg I, Elector of Saxony(1585 – 1656). Power and elite in confessional Germany. – SPb: St. PetersburgStateUniversity publisher, 2011. — 821 P.
  • Case of magister Reinhart, or why is it prohibited to strap sovereign’s children // Problems of social history and culture of the Middle Age and Early modern period, 2010. — № 8. — pp. 261-285
  • Dynasties and nobility of confessional Germany: to the problem of elites identity // Nobility of the history of Old Europe — SPb, — 2009. — pp. 194–228
  • Children’s room – foundation of state?// Albo dies notanda lapillo. Colleagues and students –  G.Е. Lebedeva/ Edited. V.А. Yakubsky. SPb., 2005. pp. 239-263.

 

Between Confessional and Social Standards: Education of the German Nobility in 16th – 17th Centuries.

The fundamentally important goal of education and training of the German nobility after the religious schism happened in the 16th century was acquisition of identity within the limits of traditional estates structures. Reformation could not reave its supporters from the age-old values of the estates organization. Fostering in a young nobleman fighting qualities of a defender of faith, an entirely religious person ready to defend to the last the creed of the Church with a sword in his hand, was inevitably to be combined with the acquisition of „quality“ on the steps of the universal hierarchy. Thus a peculiar and unique in Europe of early and modern period „dualism“ of the educational model emerged, which implied the churched commitment on the one hand, and the openness to non-denominational social and intellectual values on the other. It became particularly problematic for the German Protestant nobility and gentry, doomed to exist in the bosom of a single empire in constant contact with the heterodox environment.

The way how the Protestant nobility overcame their obvious discomfort, was seen in the examples of educational and training practices of leading Lutheran families of Germany: Wettin of Dresden and Württemberg. Since the beginning of the Reformation and until the Thirty Years‘ War we see the absolute predominance of educational priorities in both families. In the education itself the decisive emphasis was made solely on religious studies. The number one priority was to raise a dynast devoted to the creed of the Holy Gospel and intolerant of other faiths, whether Calvinism or Catholicism. All other areas of cognitive development, including applied courses, classical philology or philosophy, were of pronouncedly marginal significance. There was a striking manifestation of the late medieval tradition features, which seem to be completely untouched by the physicophilosophical progress of the Renaissance. On the contrary, in contrast to the explicitly limited sphere of education there was a triumphant strive for comprehensive estates socialization. As early as possible teaching of military arts, horse riding, tournaments, everyday duty orders took the central place. To an even greater extent this was evident in the organization of children’s rooms and in constant contacts of future rulers with close and distant relatives, and with the estate elite of the Empire.

Tours became a mirror of this model, during which, as it was especially evident in the journey of Duke Johann Georg of Saxony in 1601, the motifs of confessional stamina and estates affection played a key role. It was important to bring up a personal immunity to the hostile religious culture, yet remaining a „good guy“ in the eyes of the local elite. It would be appropriate to segregate in this context a whole group of such tours as „confessional“, which are not only far from the applied educational functions, but even opposed to them.

Only in the next generations of the Thirty Years’ War and the middle of the 17th century we can see certain shifts. Knowledge of modern languages, especially French, applied mathematical disciplines resulting from the military needs, was changing the priorities gradually. Not the last role was played here by the full realization of churched commitment of dynasts who perceived now, after generation passed, their faith as an integral part of the everyday life. This opened up access to the estates affection among the European nobility. Paradoxically, it was the recognition of the nobility equal in status, but alien in religion became an important factor of the religious conversion. The return to fold of the Catholic denomination of many representatives of the Lutheran princely elite after the Thirty Years‘ War was facilitated by the similarity of educational and training standards.

The result of almost centennial movement has become the gradual smoothing out of the internal imbalance between the education and the estates socialization, and the development of a relatively uniform standard of education inherent in general both to the Protestant north and to the Catholic south, while preserving crucial differences in the spiritual domain.


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