Dishonest profession

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Dishonest professions were forms of employment without socially recognized respectability in the class society of the European Middle Ages and well into the early modern period .


In early modern society, integrity of repute and personal honor were essential social capital . They established the status in the respective social group as well as in the communal community as a whole. On the other hand, their loss through infamation resulted in social exclusion and the associated stigmatization in varying degrees.

Dishonest professions bore the stigma of social contempt . Unlike today, dishonest did not mean “fraudulent”, but “ dishonorable ”, “not honorable”, without any status . The ideas about what constitutes dishonesty, what activities are to be counted among the dishonest, differed according to time and space, so that there cannot be a general catalog of dishonest ways of acquiring.

A distinction must be made between “dishonest people” who fell into disrepute due to certain forms of employment , according to three categories:

Social background

In the feudal class order , the members of dishonest activity groups stand as "subordinates" on the edge of the class society. It was very difficult for them to overcome their pariah status . An endogamous marriage pattern imposed on them , the prohibition of exercising socially recognized professions, the associated prohibition of access to the guilds , and often simple poverty, maintained this status and prevented switching to other social classes. They received more and more new arrivals from relegated people from the sedentary lower-class milieu . Anyone born into a family with a dishonest profession was usually held in it for life.

The transition into the milieu of the legally, socially and economically excluded people (“rogue rabble”, “ Janhagel ”) from the majority population, who did not belong to any subject association and were forced to migrate permanently, was fluid . They had their lives by begging and with little respected or despised Noterwerbsmethoden as outpatient exerted Flick crafts, peddling and services with low status ( Scherenschleiferei , mole-catcher, exterminator activities ) try to deny. A legendary representative of this vague subordinate and non-subordinate population in West Germany at the end of the 18th century was Schinderhannes Johannes Bückler , who was a peddler's son.

The knackers and the executioners ("messengers") occupied a special position . It is true that they too were at the bottom of the social hierarchy. This is represented by the prohibition of public social contact, as it was expressed in a separate table in the inn or in the location of the house outside the city ​​wall . On the other hand, the executioners, who were also responsible for carrying out the ordeal , were good experts on the human body and the different constitution of the body. Their medical skills were in demand, and as a result they competed with bathers and doctors, and in the 18th century there were repeated ordinances in which “all internal and external curating, with high fiscal penalties, was completely forbidden” or only under certain conditions was allowed. After the legal status of dishonesty in general and in their case was abolished in the course of the 18th century, they or their sons often switched to the profession of doctor.

Roma were very rare among members of “dishonest” professions . They are not occupied as executioners or knackers. Yenish surnames, however, can be found in the relevant sources. So was z. B. Jacob-Peter Huber (* 1771), a progenitor of the Yenish politician Robert Huber , Wasenmeister in Oberhalbstein in Graubünden .

See also

Pariah , Buraku (in Japan)


Individual evidence

  1. To the following statements see a summary: Richard van Dülmen: The honorable man. Dishonesty and Social Exclusion in the Early Modern Period. Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 1999.
  2. ^ Jost Schneider: Social history of reading: on the historical development and social differentiation of literary communication in Germany . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-11-017816-8 , p. 154.
  3. Richard van Dülmen: The dishonorable man. Dishonesty and Social Exclusion in the Early Modern Period. Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 1999, p. 24 f.
  4. Wolfgang Oppelt: About the "dishonesty" of the executioner with preferential use of Ansbach sources. Phil. Dissertation, Würzburg 1976 (= Lengfelder Libellen , 1).
  5. Jürgen Kocka : Neither class nor class. Lower classes around 1800. Bonn 1990, p. 108
  6. Wolfgang Seidenspinner: Jenische. On the archeology of a suppressed culture. In: Contributions to folklore in Baden-Württemberg. 8 (1993), p. 81 f.
  7. ^ Julius Gustav Alberti: The state of doctors in Prussia. FA Brockhaus, Leipzig 1846, p. 53 f.
  8. Willi Wottreng: Gypsy chief . Orell-Füssli-Verlag, Zurich 2010, ISBN 978-3-280-06121-3 , p. 73.