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  • Framed by Nature. The Idea of "Natural Borders" as a Resource of Identity around 1800

Framed by Nature. The Idea of "Natural Borders" as a Resource of Identity around 1800

Project supervisor: Winfried Müller
Research: Henrik Schwanitz

Around 1800, against the background of the Wars of the Revolution and of the Coalition Wars, the political-territorial order in Europe was transformed. This led to debates about alternative concepts of the organization of the political space. Drawing from the idea of a natural course of borders, such as mountain ranges and rivers, not only served to draft new demarcation lines but also helped to foster national identities. Consequently, on one side, in the German-speaking area, national actors argued with a space that was defined by nature in order to legitimize their own draft of a German nation. On the other side, the reference to nature and geography played an important role in the states of the Confederation of the Rhine, as it was the intention to reform the interior division of the territory. In the context of the Saxon state diet of 1811, there was a broad debate how to standardize the individual parts of the country according to the example of the French Revolution, taking into account an allegedly natural order. Also here, the recurrence to nature and natural borders aimed at the creation of identity formation. The focus of the PhD thesis is on the way nature was used as an authority of the intended new organization of the political space in this time of upheaval, and how far it was possible to evoke identities and legitimize ideas of nations by referring to nature and geography and to the natural borders they indicated.