Kleinstaaterei (German: [ˌklaɪnʃtaːtəˈʁaɪ], "small-state-ery") is a German word used, often pejoratively, to denote the territorial fragmentation in Germany and neighboring regions during the Holy Roman Empire (especially after the end of the Thirty Years' War), and during the German Confederation in the first half of the 19th century.[note 1] It refers to the large number of nearly sovereign small and medium-sized secular and ecclesiastical principalities and free imperial cities, some of which were little larger than a single town or the surrounding grounds of the monastery of an Imperial abbey. Estimates of the total number of German states at any given time during the 18th century vary, ranging from 294 to 348[2] or more.

The Holy Roman Empire in 1789
The 39-state German Confederation (1815–1866) still included several microscopic states.
A German cartoon from 1834 poking fun at the microscopic size of the Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe, one of the many tiny states of the German Confederation
Early 19th century anti-Kleinstaaterei cartoon calling for the elimination of the myriad custom barriers between statelets
The hyper-fragmented Principality of Ansbach
The ancient Prince-Bishopric of Liège, with its tormented geography, was the French-speaking counterpart of German Kleinstaaterei. Liège was part of the Holy Roman Empire for 800 years.

Territorial fragmentation was compounded by the fact that, due to the haphazard territorial formation of many states or the partition of dynastic states through inheritance, a very large number of Holy Roman Empire states were constituted of non-contiguous parts, which resulted in countless enclaves or exclaves.

An example of the territorial fragmentation is the story of how a young Wilhelm von Humboldt and his friends traveled from Brunswick, capital of the Principality of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, to France in the summer of 1789. In order to observe the revolutionary events unfolding in Paris, Humboldt's party entered and exited six duchies, four bishoprics and one free imperial city (Aachen) before reaching the French border.[3]

Share this article:

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Kleinstaaterei, and is written by contributors. Text is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International License; additional terms may apply. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.