Office (historical administrative area)

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The office was from the late Middle Ages to the 20th century an institution with the task of domination bound rights of the sovereign , the lord of the city or the monasteries to manage. The designation was also transferred to the corresponding areas themselves, partly also to the seat of the office. It was not only about property rights of the rulers, but also about regional jurisdiction .

The head of the office was a bailiff who resided in an office building .

Establishment of the offices in the Middle Ages

Initially, the office was exclusively responsible for sovereign rights. Originally it referred to the area belonging to castles or palaces that had come into the possession of the sovereigns or the nobility. Predecessors of the office tended to be the Vogtei and the Kammergut . Sometimes the terms Vogt and Amtmann were used synonymously .

Most offices had in common their responsibility for both the administration (especially of the manorial estates) and the jurisdiction over the subjects. In addition, the convening of the military contingent, the responsibility for police security and financial administration belonged to the duties of the bailiff.

In some cases, the offices developed regionally differently over the centuries.

Further development

In the areas affected by the Reformation there was extensive secularization of monastery property in the 16th century , which came into the possession of the respective sovereigns. The former possessions of a monastery were often combined into one office that was not necessarily territorially related. A prime example is the Saxon office of Nossen , which essentially emerged from the ownership of the former Cistercian monastery Altzella near Nossen .

The offices developed more and more into general administrative organs. In Saxony , originally knightly landowners , the so-called writers , were not assigned to the offices, but were directly subordinate to the sovereign. As a result, however, the offices extended their competence to include those in writing and also became the lower body responsible for state administration for the estate subjects. From the 17th century onwards, the entire Saxon national territory was divided into offices.

In Mecklenburg-Schwerin too, with the exception of the larger cities, all places were completely assigned to offices in the 17th century. For several centuries, the division of office essentially followed the administrative structure that emerged after the division of the country between the Schwerin and Güstrow lines in 1621. A basic distinction was made between domains (formerly: domains) in sovereign property and knightly property. Correspondingly, one spoke of domination offices and knighthood offices. If there were both knightly and sovereign property in such an area, one and the same office was responsible for both.

In the Margraviate of Brandenburg , only those places owned by the rulership were assigned to offices, although the ownership situation in individual places was complicated. A well-known example of an office in Brandenburg was the Mühlenhof office with its seat in old Berlin , which was originally intended for the administration of the mills and the associated areas. As a result of the “ unwillingness of Berlin ” in 1448, the mills had to be ceded to the sovereign to build the palace . A number of villages and manor districts in the Berlin area that the sovereign had acquired later belonged to the Mühlenhof office.

Instead of the term office there were a number of other terms for such institutions, especially in Upper German areas , such as care , bailiwick , winery , and sometimes also place .

Offices in the 19th and 20th centuries

In Mecklenburg-Schwerin the domains and knighthood offices retained their unrestricted importance into the 20th century. Offices existed in most regions until the 19th or 20th century, although the development was very different: In western Germany, the former Prussian Rhine Province , the last offices disappeared in the early 1970s, while they continue to exist in the northeast to this day (see Office (Local law) ).

In Prussia , after the wars of freedom, in the course of the Stein-Hardenberg reforms from 1815, rural districts were introduced as uniform administrative structures. They were no longer subordinate to aristocratic officials, but appointed district directors. The offices lost in importance, but still existed. There was a series of restructuring, individual offices were dissolved and integrated into others.

In Saxony, the constitution of offices ended in 1856. The judiciary divided the state into court offices that were no longer divided according to historical, but rather rational criteria and formed the basis for the local courts introduced there in 1879. In the province of Hanover , the offices from the royal or electoral Hanover period continued until 1885, when the Prussian district constitution was introduced.


Further meanings for the word “office” have been derived from the term “office”, for example in the sense of an authority or in civil service law . In the years after the Second World War , intermunicipal cooperations took place in both parts of Germany . There were and are different names for such community associations . In Schleswig-Holstein , the term “ office ” has continued to be used for such amalgamations since 1948 . In the states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania , these associations, which were set up after 1990, also bear the designation "Office".


  • Uwe Schirmer : Das Amt Grimma 1485 to 1548. Demographic, economic and social conditions in an Electoral Saxon office at the end of the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the modern era (= writings of the Rudolf Kötzschke Society. Volume 2). Sax-Verlag, Beucha 1996, ISBN 3-930076-22-5 .
  • André Thieme: The offices of Freiberg and Wolkenstein. In: Yves Hoffmann, Uwe Richter (ed.): Duke Heinrich the Pious (1473–1541). Sax-Verlag, Beucha 2007, ISBN 978-3-86729-005-0 , pp. 43-74.

Individual evidence

  1. a b c keyword Office 2). In: Johann Christoph Adelung : Grammatical-critical dictionary of the High German dialect. Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf and Compagnie, Leipzig 1793, p. 252 ( digitized).
  2. a b c d Older district and administrative authorities, offices on the website of the Chemnitz State Archives, accessed on June 13, 2015.
  3. ^ Grand-Ducal Mecklenburg-Schwerin State Calendar 1837. Verlag der Hofbuchdruckerei Schwerin, p. 60.