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. 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 or more.
|History of Germany|
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.