Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Late Modern European -- Zwischen Klasse Und Konfession: Katholisches Burgertum Im Rheinland 1794-1914 by Thomas Mergel

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Late Modern European -- Zwischen Klasse Und Konfession: Katholisches Burgertum Im Rheinland 1794-1914 by Thomas Mergel

Article excerpt

Zwischen Klasse und Konfession: Katholisches Buergertum im Rheinland 1794-1914. By Thomas Mergel.

Buergertum: Beitraege zur europaeischen Gesellschaftsgeschichte, Band 9.

(Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 1994. Pp. xiv, 460. DM 112,-.)

This book is the ninth volume in a series on the "social history of modern Buergertum"; its focus is thus on social history rather than on political Catholicism. The subtitle's dates, 1794-1914, are misleading, because the author ends both his narrative and his theme with the Kulturkampf of the 1870's. His subject is the Catholic upper middle class, which formed the elite in the Rhenish cities of Cologne, Bonn, and Aachen, where the nobility played no significant role. Mergel distinguishes among the three categories of Wirtschaftsbuerger, leaders in commerce and industry; Bildungsbuerger, the educated professionals; and Beamtenbuerger, the higher civil servants, but he makes frequent reference to the Kleinbuerger also, the shopkeepers, craftsmen, teachers, and lower officials. He traces an extraordinary continuity over more than a century in the great urban families such as the Trimborns and Bachems who served as officials under the Electoral Archbishops, passed easily into the service of the French administration, moved with equal facility into Prussian service, accepted the united Second Reich, and continued to hold prominent positions in the twentieth century.

As for the conflict between class and confession: the author makes it clear that class or status in society was always the more important consideration. These families were comfortable with their Catholicism but subscribed to a liberal, enlightened Hermesian version of it, frequently intermarrying with Protestants and regarding the new ultramontanism as embarrassingly extremist. Such attitudes prevailed, according to Mergel, well past the "Cologne troubles" of the 1840's and the Syllabus of Errors of 1864, only to be temporarily confronted and questioned in 1870 by the dogma of papal infallibility. Even during the early years of the Kulturkampf many Catholic Rhinelanders in the upper voting circles continued to vote for liberal parties rather than for the Center and approved of much of the government's legislation, especially the educational reforms. …

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