prof. dr. R.M. Esser

Professor of Early Modern History


Research interests

Research And Writing In Progress:


     ‘...te erhaldinge van alle goede frunttschap en naaburschap’: Crisis, Changing Borders and Citizens’ Resilience in the Eighty Years War’

The project addresses the current academic debates on “crisis” as a form of societal reflection. It challenges the still prevalent notion that premodern societies had a limited repertoire of responses to crises and change, which was predominantly framed in perceptions of a godly and/or eschatological order. While looking at the different media, practices and rituals used to express crisis and to apply a “crisis management”, it investigates the possibilities and resources available to early modern society to cope with crisis and to negotiate change. A range of mechanisms to foster stability in transitional times will be investigated. The study focuses on contemporary historiography, legal codes and material culture(s) applied by various agents as devices for the different rhetorical models used to come to terms with religious conflict and partition: these could be rhetorics of unity or division, continuity or change, memory or oblivion.

The border region of the early modern Low Countries and the Holy Roman Empire provides an ideal laboratory for this study. It utilizes recent research on the embeddedness of early modern notions of change in the local, and it applies theories taken from Border Studies to the scenario in question.

The project is funded by a research grant from the HAB Wolfenbüttel from September to December 2015.



The “Catholic Eye and the Protestant Ear”? The New Materiality of the Sacred

This cross-border project undertaken in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Oldenburg and the Johannes a Lasco Library in Emden.

The theme “Image and Reformation” is used as a starting point to address contemporary perceptions of the changes that they witnessed in the religious spaces around them. Did they apply a rhetoric of cleansing or reform taken from the confessional debates on pulpit or university? How was the new Counter-Reformation church furniture – confessionals , altar rails etc. – received by Catholics? In many instances, the Reformation changes to church interiors were not complete and elements of the medieval Catholic devotional objects and artefacts remained (for instance in the Ludgeri-Church, Norden, St. Peter, Schleswig). How were these continuations understood?


Trans (Re-)Formations: Frisian Monasteries as places of transition and reform in the 15th and 16th centuries

The project challenges established views on the anti-monastic narrative of the Reformation which is still prevalent in much of the historiography on the period. Rather than conceptualizing monasteries and their inhabitants as forces of intellectual standstill and backwardness we aim to focus on monasteries as space of education and learning, which contributed to a new approach to spirituality. Humanism and the Devotio Moderna were intellectual and spiritual movements which were also embraced by members of the monastic orders. They offered intellectual pathways into the religious changes in the 16th century and beyond.

The project aims to visualize these monastic contributions through a series of exhibitions on both sides of the Dutch-German border: Kloster Ihlow, Klooster Ter Apel and the Johannes a Lasco Library in Emden to be opened in August 2017.

The project is funded by EDR ( and Freiheitsraum Reformation (

Project partners: the Universities of Groningen and Oldenburg, Klosterstätte  Ihlow, Klooster Ter Apel, Johannes a Lasco Bibliothek Emden, Stichting Oude Groninger Kerken. Stichting Oude Groninger Kerken.

  1. "als in eenen spiegel..." Katholische Märtyrerbücher in den Niederlanden im Achtzigjährigen Krieg

    Eßer, R. M., Jul-2019, Märtyrerbücher und ihre Bedeutung für konfessionelle Identität und Spiritualität in der Frühen Neuzeit: Interkonfessionelle und Interdisziplinäre Beiträge zur Erforschung einer Buchgattung. Strubind, A. & Voss, K-D. (eds.). Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 203-222 20 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

  2. (K)ein sicherer Hafen - Migrantinnen im Fruehneuzeitlichen Emden

    Eßer, R. M., Jul-2019, Freie Friesentoechter: Tradition und gelebte Wirklichkeit. Voss, K-D. (ed.). Oldenburg: Isensee Verlag Oldenburg, p. 69-78 10 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

  3. Bristol

    Eßer, R. M., 2015, Lexikon zur Ueberseegeschichte. Hiery, H. (ed.). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, p. 129

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionaryAcademicpeer-review

  4. Sankt Rumbolds Rettung: Reliquien als Erinnerungsobjekte in der Frühen Neuzeit

    Eßer, R. M., Jan-2019, Europa und die Welt: Studien zur Frühen Neuzeit in memoriam Günther Lottes. Charlier, R., Trakulhun, S. & Wehinger, B. (eds.). Hannover: Wehrhahn Verlag, Vol. 40. p. 305-316 12 p. (Aufklärung und Moderne).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

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Press / Media
  1. The Christmas Flood of 1717

    Raingard Esser


    1 media contribution

    Press/Media: Expert CommentPopular

  2. Trans(Re)Formation - Three cross-border exhibitions

    Raingard Esser


    4 items of media coverage

    Press/Media: Public Engagement ActivitiesPopular

  3. Trans(Re)formatie: Kloosters en kerken als broedplaatsen voor vernieuwing

    Raingard Esser & Andrea Strübind


    1 media contribution

    Press/Media: ResearchPopular

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  1. Tresoar, Fries historisch en letterkundig centrum (External organisation)

    Raingard Esser (Member)
    2015 → …

    Activity: MembershipMembership of committeeAcademic

  2. Wissenschaftskolleg, München (External organisation)

    Raingard Esser (Member)

    Activity: MembershipMembership of committeeAcademic

  3. ERC, European Research Council (External organisation)

    Raingard Esser (Member)

    Activity: MembershipMembership of committeeAcademic

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  1. Fellowship for Innovation of Teaching

    Raingard Esser (Recipient), 11-Apr-2018

    Prize: Fellowship awarded competitivelyAcademic

  2. May-June 2012, Visiting Research Fellow, Moore Institute NUI Galway (funded by NUI Galway)

    Raingard Esser (Recipient), May-2012

    Prize: Fellowship awarded competitivelyAcademic

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