Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The Temporal Structure of Dying in an 18th Century German Parish: Historical Time, Everyday Time, Ritual Time and Timelessness

Peter Keir Taylor.

This paper explores historical time, everyday time, ritual time, and eternity as experienced by German peasants and Pastor of a Hessian parish during the 18th century. It argues death was a circumstance in which these different orders of time became confused. The sources for this enterprise were the unusually verbose death register entries made by Lutheran Pastor Georg Wilhelm Busch. The entries included descriptions of the dying process, the funeral, and outlines of funeral sermons for a large percentage of those buried in this parish of 800 between 1705 and 1748. The register itself was an instrument which promoted increasing penetration of historical time with its uniform units and covert cycles. It was against the background of historical time that the elasticity of everyday time, the rigid lurching of ritual time and difficult meanings of eternity could be distinguished. In distinguishing it becomes possible to see how they overlayed one another.


Peter Keir Taylor  (United States)
Associate Professor
Department of History, American Studies and Social Science, Rosary College of Arts and Sciences Dominican University

Born 1950 into the family of a Biochemist and a Professor of Political Science Taylor was marked by the experiences of Vietnam War Generation. From that stemmed an interest in Peasants, Military Institutions and Conscription. These interests got him involved with the qualitative and quantitative analysis of German parish registers. This in turn lead to interests in the perceptions and experiences of death in 18th century rural German parishes.

  • Death
  • Time
  • Popular Culture
  • Rural Life
Person as Subject
  • Georg Wilhelm Busch

(Virtual Presentation, English)