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Beat Kümin: Public Engagement

These pages highlight initiatives related to my research on early modern local communities.

A survey of media dissemination activities appears here.

Any questions or ideas for new projects? Please get in touch (e-mail).

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Restoration of the Republic of Gersau: Bicentenary 1814-2014

For over 400 years, the parish of Gersau on Lake Lucerne formed a sovereign mini-state under the protection of the Swiss Forest Cantons and the Holy Roman Emperor. From the purchase of all feudal rights in 1390 to the French invasion in 1798, this rural commune passed its own laws, ran its own jurisdiction and maintained its own militia. It even appointed the local priest and wrote its own chronicles. Following the defeat of Napoleon, the Swiss were free to return to the old order. On 2 February 1814, the Landsgemeinde (communal assembly) decided to restore the independent republic. This was short-lived, however, and Gersau became a district of the Canton of Schwyz in 1818.


In the course of researching The Communal Age in Western Europe and a Bristish Academy project dedicated to the rural republic, I devised a proposal for a series of 'Gersau 2014' bicentenary celebrations under the general theme of 'Geschichte Gestalten' (Shaping History). The project, also intended to reassess how Gersau sees its future, was officially endorsed by the district council and I joined its organizing committee (see my interview in the regional newspaper Bote der Urschweiz). A Landsgemeinde in the parish church and 'Feast of the Republic' in the school served as launch events on 2 February 2014 (covered e.g. in the Wochen-Zeitung and a Swiss National Radio podcast). In March 2014, furthermore, I hosted a workshop on premodern republics (see video interview) and chaired a public panel debate on the extent of Gersau's freedom past and present. Full information can be found on the project homepage.

Thu 30 Aug 2012, 19:03 | Tags: early modern, local history, media work, parishes

Parish Studies

I regularly give presentations to groups and societies with historical interests. Such visits have taken me to Avon Dassett, the Birmingham Central Area ACTA, the Bishop's Tachbrook History Group (reported in the May 2012, June 2014 and October 2017 issues of the Parish Magazine), the Claydon History Society, the Compton District History Society, a community course on the European Renaissance in Kenilworth, four branches of the Historical Association (Nuneaton / Coventry & Mid-Warwickshire / Chichester) / Winchester), Kineton, the Lenten Breakfast Talks of Churches Together in Balsall and Berkswell, the Lyddington Manor History Society, a day school organized by the Simon de Montfort Society, the Stoneleigh History Society, the Warmington Heritage Group, a local history society conference at Warwick, the Warwickshire Local History Society and the Woodford Halse History Society. In October 2017, I participated in a panel discussion on the impact of the Reformation hosted by the Warwick Words History Festival.

bishops_tachbrook_flyer_3.jpg Warwick Words

Between 2007-9, I directed the steering committee for "Catholic Warwick", a history of the Warwick parish of St Mary Immaculate written by Ruth Barbour. At the book launch event in the social centre in November 2009, I moderated a panel debate involving the author, Canon Edward Stewart, the parish priest; Michael Hodgetts, a historian of Catholicism; and Warwick professors Peter Marshall and Jack Scarisbrick (Photo left: John Mullis for the Coventry Observer; right: BK).

Book Launch Book Launch 

Since 2003, I have acted as webmaster for an online communication platform. The Warwick Network for Parish Research (see the brief description in Local History News) offers a range of services to the wider public:

  • Information on parish-related events, projects and publications in the UK and beyond;
  • A public forum for the discussion of current issues and concerns;
  • Highlighting the significance of churches and local communities throughout the centuries;
  • Starting-points and materials for independent research on parish history.

The Network also organizes the annual 'Warwick Symposium on Parish Research' (hear participants talk about the 2006 theme of 'Parish Pieties' in this podcast). For the tenth anniversary meeting in May 2012, we hosted a major conference under the title of 'Parish Studies Today'. It showcased the wide range of research / initiatives currently undertaken by local history societies, church conservation bodies, universities and other organizations. Further details can be found here.

An ongoing initiative is the My-Parish community platform launched in autumn 2012, which allows anybody interested in parish history and culture to upload information on projects, resources and related activities.

Thu 17 Mar 2011, 11:04 | Tags: early modern, lectures, local history, podcasts, panel debates

Learning Resources

cover_web.jpg cover_pic_2nd_edn_9780415628648.jpg Cover 3rd Edn

Early Modern History Textbook: Drawing on the wide expertise of my Warwick colleagues (and our Year 2 core module), I edited a survey work on early modern European history aimed at a general audience. All contributions provide concise and accessible introductions to the major themes and debates in the field. Reviewers have described the book as 'impressive', 'precise' and 'brilliantly executed'. It has been adopted as a set text by numerous tutors in the UK and overseas, but can also serve as a free-standing guide to the period. The European World, published by Routledge in 2009, contains essays, illustrations, excerpts from primary sources, seminar questions, maps, tables, suggestions for further reading and an extensive index of names, places and subjects. There is also a companion website featuring a module outline, glossary, thematic chronologies and two video recordings (of a panel debate about early modern historiography and tutor/student discussions of the role of textbooks in the digital age). An updated and enlarged second edition with companion site appeared in 2014, an extended third edition in 2018.

Parish Church DVD: I acted as associate editor of The English Parish Church through the Centuries, an interactive DVD published by the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture in 2010. It includes contributions by over 200 academics and parish researchers, supplemented with 3-D models, video introductions and numerous illustrations.

Reformation Video / Podcast / Article: I recorded a course of five video lectures on the German Reformation for the MASSOLIT site aimed at sixth form students, assessed the impact of Luther's Ninety-Five Theses for A-level audiences and - together with my colleagues Henry Cohn, Peter Marshall and Penny Roberts - a podcast series on the origins, character and effects of religious change in the sixteenth century for the Historical Association.

Interdisciplinarity in undergraduate teaching: some reflections on my Year 3 advanced option 'The World of the Tavern in Early Modern Europe' at the University of Warwick's 'Teaching & Learning Showcase' in June 2011.

Wed 16 Mar 2011, 15:10 | Tags: early modern, videos, textbook, parishes, panel debates