The Professor's Family Household at the University of Helmstedt, 1576-1810

Maria Dorothea Roth (1700-1745),
wife of theology professor Johann Georg Pertsch

Part of the project "Wissensproduktion an der Universität Helmstedt 1576-1810"

The 15th and early 16th century witnessed massive changes in the lifestyle of the Christian scholar. Where once celibacy had been the rule among learned men, in Protestant territories this model now was replaced by the ideal of marriage and formation of households. From this time on, professors lived and worked in a fundamentally transformed social structure, in which the family as a whole had a share in accumulating income, for example, by providing students with board and lodging. In this newly created domestic space it was also common for wives and daughters to be directly involved in their husbands', respectively their fathers' academic pursuits.

Both science and social history have told the universities' past one-sidedly as a story of men. However, it is indisputable that the academic family played a key role in establishing the scholars' status, recruiting further generations of academics, safeguarding economic resources and securing a marriage alliance for scholars; all this was sustained by special privileges issued by territorial authorities. Also, the professor's family household contributed to shaping the unique cultural way of life of learned men, particularly in the area of status and gender distinctions which became highlighted and reproduced both at the centre and the edge of the households.

By focussing on the University of Helmstedt, this project aims to provide a more comprehensive picture of the academic family household, which has so far been only rudimentarily studied. Moreover, its role as a significant site for social, economic and cultural reproduction as well as scientific production was discussed. Areas which have been investigated include marriage practices und choice of partner, the household and its economic management, role expectations and scope of actions inside the family household. The monograph is in production.



Elizabeth Harding, Der Gelehrte im Haus: Ehe, Familie und Haushalt in der Standeskultur der frühneuzeitlichen Universität Helmstedt. Wolfenbütteler Forschungen 139 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2014).
Catalogue  HAB Publications


Funding: Niedersächsisches Vorab (Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur)
Researcher: Dr. Elizabeth Harding
Phone: +49(0)5331-808-239, Fax -277