From the Middle Ages to the 19th century, a person who is subject to the rule of another was referred to as a subject or subject ( Latin subicere "to subordinate, subordinate") . Subjects were not fully personally free . The relationship between subjects and their authorities was regulated by law and could be very different: from more symbolic subordination to servitude to serfdom . The philosopher Hegel defines the social relationship of the subject as the middle level of civilization of measures to compensate for irreconcilable differences in interests, which is to be located between the aggressive duel and the conclusion of a binding contract.
In the Middle Ages , most farmers were serfs to a landlord . But also free ones, e.g. B. Nobles , some of whom commanded subjects themselves, were by definition subjects in their relationship with the sovereign or the king . However, the rights of the authorities against him were restricted. In the Roman-German Empire , the relationship between authorities and subjects was more and more legalized since the early modern period . For example, subjects in Germany could turn to one of the imperial courts as part of a subject trial and sue against arbitrary acts by their sovereign.
When modern state power emerged during the period of absolutism , citizens who were subject to a regime (a monarchy ) that could not be removed by legitimate means were referred to as subjects. In this sense the subject stands in opposition to the free citizen of a republic . After the French Revolution, the concept of the subject changed from subject to free citizen.
In linguistic usage, submission is a form of the social behavior of the subject (cf. submission , slime, crawl ). A premature obedience characterizes this behavior, which is conditioned by social dependencies. This was characterized in detail in Heinrich Mann's essay The Reichstag (1911) and in Der Untertan (begun in 1906 and published in Simplicissimus in 1914 before the outbreak of war, in book form in 1916).