Territorial state

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A territorial state has been understood since the high Middle Ages to be a state in which the ruler, the territorial prince, has a claim to rule over a certain territory and its population. The constitution of such a state is accordingly referred to as a territorial constitution .

Unlike the old tribal duchies or as persons member State organized dominions is territorial state's territory and not tribal affiliation or other personal rights based on the rule. Until the 16th century and in some cases beyond that, territorial states were shaped by dualism, so that the territorial lords (the sovereigns) faced the estates and both sides often had opposing rights and separate institutions or administrations. This applies in particular to the Holy Roman Empire , whose 300 individual territories gradually gained sovereignty.

Forerunner of the territorial state

As early as 3000 BC, the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt made the first characteristics of a territorial state visible. The princely states of the Holy Roman Empire symbolically embodied the structure and forms of rule of a territorial state.


The territorial state emerged as a result of the transfer of royal sovereignty over a certain area to a feudal lord in the 12th century. The territorial state went out of the people Convention country out which was not due to rule over a definable area, but to rule rights against people. Nevertheless, the territorial state does not embody the exclusive opposite of a union state, since both forms of statehood were often to be found in one and the same state.

Laws and decisions within a territorial state

Only in the defined areas of the territorial state were the laws enacted by the associated territorial prince. The laws, which extended over the entire domain of the state, also applied to all residents in the state, i.e. not only to registered citizens . This decision was derived from the principle of territoriality, which states that all persons are subject to sovereignty and the laws of the state on whose territory they are located.

Legal regulations can also apply supranationally through agreements between territorial states. Based on the European Union, it can be seen that this principle has proven itself in the long term and has ultimately also prevailed in the present.

Ruler of the territorial states

The aim of the respective territorial princes was to incorporate all legal titles of an area into their rule and thus to enforce their personal claim to power. A first attempt in this regard was made by Heinrich the Lion in the tribal duchy of Saxony , but the Guelph failed with his plans due to the resistance of competing rulers who were able to maintain opposing rights of rule in the same territory . An early successful example of the enforcement of territorial rule is the Archduchy of Austria , which was converted into a state rule through the forged Privilegium maius from 1359 .


  • The German territorial states pursued a strict policy of domestic power , which led to numerous, often armed conflicts within the empire.
  • Ideally, the territorial prince should not be assisted by any institutions that served to advise or had the power to pass laws or govern in any other way.
  • Primogeniture was guaranteed by the Golden Bull of 1356 , which states that only the first-born takes on the complete inheritance and thus also takes over the power of the predecessor.

See also

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