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The political representation of the estates in the European societies of the Middle Ages and the early modern period in relation to the respective sovereign is called Landstands .


The composition of the estates varied greatly depending on the country and time. In addition, both the representations of the older estates , in which the estates element was predominant, and the popular representations of the newer representative systems were referred to as estates. The term Landtag had become common for the general assembly of the estates both in the estates and in the newer representative systems . The totality of the estates of a dominion was also called landscape .

In the older estates system, the estates originally consisted of the assembly of the members of the privileged estates of a country, the nobility and the clergy , who had come together to form a permanent body. Later also representatives from cities joined them. In individual cases (e.g. in Tyrol , Württemberg or Mecklenburg ) free farmers were also entitled to have a say as members of the farming community . A peculiar exception were the estates of the Land of Hadeln : These were almost exclusively made up of large farmers.

At the state parliaments the estates were divided into individual curiae (departments). As a rule three curiae were distinguished: the prelates , the knighthood and the cities . The earlier estates initially only represented the rights of their own estates and could in any case only indirectly represent the entire population of their country. In the estates , in contrast to absolutist systems of rule , the sovereign could not raise any new taxes or pass new laws without the consent of the estates outside his own territory ( chamber property ). In some respects the estates also had a share in the administration of justice and other public affairs. As a rule, however, the limits of their powers were not precisely defined.

In some cases, the designation Land estates was also retained for the constitutional representations of the people in the newer representative systems , which in many states had replaced the privileged estates of the estates system in the course of the 19th century. In this sense, the German Federal Act demanded that the member states of the German Confederation should have a state constitution .



The emergence of the estates did not appear until the 14th century. The term “land estates” did not appear in Middle High German and was probably only translated later from the French word états . According to the records of the Roman historian Tacitus , participation in more important public affairs took place in antiquity . According to the old Germanic law, people's and court assemblies, the so-called Thing , were held in the open air. In the later Frankish Empire , too, there was a certain kind of representation of the people with the general assemblies of the nobility and clergy , the so-called Placita. Even with individual tribes, z. B. the Bavarians and Saxons , there were such gatherings. However, these assemblies did not correspond to the permanent associations of the estates as they emerged in the 14th century. On the yard u. Knights' days and the Landthingen of the 12th and 13th centuries were indeed subjects of general state welfare negotiated, but the assemblies still lacked the character of connection to an independent body .

Origin of the estates

Since the 14th century, with the development of state sovereignty and with the tighter delimitation of the territories of the individual rulers, the actual estates of the established lords, vassals and ministerials emerged. These began to obtain documentary assurances from the sovereigns about their rights and freedoms and concluded alliances with one another to protect their own rights and freedoms.

There were various reasons for merging into permanent organizations. On the one hand, the sovereigns now often demanded taxes and the larger landowners wanted the sovereign to make more definite promises about the future application of taxes. On the other hand, disputes about succession relationships , the transition of the country to a new master or the reunification of separate parts of the country prompted the formation of a permanent union. The privileges gained in this way gradually gave rise to a sum of national freedoms of the estates vis-à-vis the sovereigns.

In the 15th and 16th centuries the influence of the estates grew. The sovereigns were often dependent on the support of their estates due to the limited nature of their own resources, which made them more important. Therefore, in the 15th and 16th centuries, the estates often appeared as real co-rulers and dealt with all more important matters, even those that initially only concerned the princely family. From the original duty of the vassals to support their liege lord in certain cases with special services, the tax approval law of the estates developed. This was followed by the establishment of its own landscape coffers, into which the approved taxes were initially paid, only to be transferred from there to the princely coffers. In many cases, the estates set up committees (called collegium, committee, commissariat, ordinance, etc.) that were in constant session and built representative buildings.

Decline of the estates

In the 17th century, the Thirty Years' War began the decline of the estates in most of the German states. This continued in the 18th century.

With the growing power of the sovereign principality (according to the ideas of absolutism ) and the development of a princely civil service, the power of the rural estates declined, which in many territories became almost insignificant, but in other areas still had great influence on the state administration in the 18th century. The complete change in the war system, which concentrated power in the hands of the sovereigns, contributed to this. In addition, the imperial legislation limited the independence of the estates.

In Württemberg it was fully effective until 1805. In the Kingdom of Saxony , the state estates retained their supremacy until the constitutional constitution was introduced in 1831. In Mecklenburg the estates were even able to maintain their power until 1918. In Lower Saxony, “ landscapes ” with a state constitution still exist today.

Individual estates


For the estates, estates were built in the 19th and into the first years of the 20th century as separate buildings with assembly halls and administrative rooms .

See also


Web links

Commons : Landstands  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Herder's Conversations Lexicon. Volume 3, Freiburg im Breisgau 1855, p. 704.
  2. ^ Eduard Rüther: Hadler Chronicle. Source book for the history of the country Hadeln. 1932. (New edition, Bremerhaven 1979, p. 37 ff)
  3. ^ A b c E. Götzinger: Reallexicon of the German antiquities. Leipzig 1885, pp. 943-944.
  4. ^ Peter Michael Ehrle: People's Representation in Vormärz. Studies on the composition, election and function of the German state parliaments in the area of ​​tension between the monarchical principle and class representation. (=  European university publications. III / 127). 2 volumes. Frankfurt am Main 1979.
  5. a b c d e Pierer's Universal Lexicon. Volume 10, Altenburg 1860, pp. 91-96.
  6. a b Meyer's Large Conversation Lexicon. Volume 12, Leipzig 1908, p. 128.
  7. ^ Maximilian Lanzinner: Land estates. In: Historical Lexicon of Bavaria. (