Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type




The Electoral state of Bavaria was reformed through a comprehensive project of land-based allodification (the creation of a distinction between privileged titles and property designations) through the process of “redemption” beginning in 1799. This process was previously impeded by the strength of landholding estates that included notables and the Catholic Church. In addition, Electoral Bavarian leaders lacked centralized control. Civil servants, known as cameralists, mediated political and economic interactions between these estates. The economy was based on subsistence and the productive capacity of Gutsherrschaft, a manorial system based on regional jurisdiction and rent collection by notables who largely did not own property that could be bought or sold.

A shift in this system took place first in terms of cameral education, and second in its application by controversial reformers such as Maximilian Joseph von Garnerin, later ennobled as the Graf Montgelas, or simply, Montgelas. Cameral reformers in Bavarian, and German universities, proposed that the role of such civil servants be expanded to included arbitrating land sale as part of a centralized state. Additional educational reforms included the Enlightenment idea of physiocracy that cameral scholars interpreted as a school of thought that included land enclosure for productive crop yields. Montgelas was an early proponent of this school of thought but was exiled due to his membership in the Enlightenment inspired secret society, the Illuminati.

Montgelas found support in exile in the Duchy of Zweibrücken from its ruler, Maximilian IV Joseph. Also referred to as Max Joseph, this ruler allowed Montgelas to develop his ideas including the Ansbach Memorandum which called for a larger, centralized cameral authority in the model proposed by reformers in cameral institutions. Similar reforms in Bavaria were seldom pursued and when attempted failed.

Max Joseph, a member of the minor Wittelsbach line, became Elector of Bavaria when Elector Karl Theodor died in 1799. The new Elector brought Montgelas with him to serve as his First Minister of state. Montgelas reformed the centralized bureaucracy and aligned Bavaria with France, leveraging the success of the Revolutionaries’ armies to quash internal and external threats to Max Joseph’s rule. This brought territorial expansion, recognition of Bavaria as a Kingdom, and the implementation of a unitary legal code in the form of the 1808 constitution. Legal supremacy allowed Montgelas to begin the process of allodification. Claiming the land for state use was beyond the power of the state ministries and Montgelas could not pursue this project by fiat. Instead the process, known as “redemption,” was voluntarily done by notables seeking cash payment for their land. The collapse of the Napoleonic system nearly destroyed Montgelas’ reform programs as debt, famine, and disorder ensued though Montgelas’ efforts were vital to the state and the allodification, through compromise and modification, remained.

Montgelas was removed from power in 1817 and a new constitution in 1818 was implemented and included the creation of a legislative body, the Landtag, to advise the King. The limits of the Bavarian state, financially and beholden to an acceptable constitution in the eyes of much stronger postwar reactionary powers, impeded its ability to address pension payouts and other forms of support to landholders. Redemption efforts stalled but the process of land reform was given much-needed structure and transparency. The system survived until the 1830 when stronger German economic forces in the form of the Prussian led Zollverein (Customs Union) effectively placed Bavaria under the dominance of Berlin.



Committee Chair

Marchand, Suzanne