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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2020/21 Dr. Niels Grüne

Dr. Niels Grüne

Universität Innsbruck
Junior Fellow (Marie S. Curie FCFP)
October 2015 - September 2016


Niels Grüne studied history, economics and German studies at the universities of Bielefeld and Exeter (UK). The research for his doctoral thesis on south-west German rural society in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was supported by a grant of the “Gerda Henkel Foundation” and a fellowship at the “Institute of European History” (Mainz). After his PhD he started to work on political corruption in early modern Europe in a sub-project of the Collaborative Research Centre “The Political as Communicative Space in History” (Bielefeld). Since 2012 he is a Postdoc Assistant for Modern History at Innsbruck University (Austria). He has published widely on rural history, political corruption and related topics. He is managing editor of the journal “Zeitschrift für Agrargeschichte und Agrarsoziologie” and review editor of the online platform “H/SOZ/KULT”. He serves on the advisory board of the Innsbruck research focus “Cultural Encounters – Cultural Conflicts” and is co-leader of the study group “Political Communication” there. He is also member of the scientific committee of “Transparency International Germany”.


Selected Publications

  • „Leute, welche dieser Stellen […] unwürdig sind?“. Konsistenzerwartungen und Normenassimilation in der Frühen Neuzeit, in: Arne Karsten / Hillard von Thiessen (Hg.), Normenkonkurrenz in historischer Perspektive, Berlin 2015, 121-138
  • Wertpapierhandel und reflexive Frühmoderne. Verhältnisbestimmungen von Wirtschaft, Politik und Moral in der englischen Finanzrevolution (ca. 1690-1735), in: Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte 2013/2 (Spekulation / Speculation), 27-47
  • (with Tom Tölle) Corruption in the Ancien Régime: Systems-theoretical Considerations on Normative Plurality, in: Journal of Modern European History 11/1 (2013) (Corruption and the Rise of Modern Politics), 31-51
  • Dorfgesellschaft – Konflikterfahrung – Partizipationskultur. Sozialer Wandel und politische Kommunikation in Landgemeinden der badischen Rheinpfalz (1720-1850), Stuttgart: Lucius & Lucius 2011 (Quellen und Forschungen zur Agrargeschichte 53)
  • (ed. with Simona Slanička) Korruption. Historische Annäherungen an eine Grundfigur politischer Kommunikation, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2010


FRIAS Research Project

'Verkäufer in Rebus publicis'? Corruption as a political argument and field of conflict in early modern Europe: German territories and England compared

The project aims at re-evaluating political corruption in early modern Europe. It examines norms, debates and conflicts in the field of corruption and their relevance to the criticism and legitimisation of authority. The concept places the labelling of ‘public’ actors as behaving improperly in terms of receiving or granting benefits at the core of the analysis. The theoretical framework – mainly referring to institutional economics, ‘neo-classical’ perspectives in political science (M. Johnston), and systems theory – ensures that notions of and discussions about corruption are interpreted within the wider contexts of political order and social change. The empirical focus lies on four polities of Ancien Régime Europe, which represent different systems of parliamentary or estate participation: the Kingdom of England/Great Britain, the Duchy of Württemberg, the Prince-Archbishopric of Cologne and the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel. In each instance three levels of investigation are taken into account: (1) (anti-)corruption norms in laws and ordinances; (2) corruption-related proceedings of parliament and territorial estates; (3) case studies on particularly intense and conflict-ridden struggles over corruption. By this means, the project combines long-term overviews with an in-depth approach. In contrast to the emphasis on transformations from the mid-eighteenth century onwards in the previous historiography of corruption, the results underscore the co-existence of distinct ‘cultures of corruption’ due to institutional diversity already in early modern Europe. Additionally, the project’s findings strongly relate to a number of other larger themes recently addressed in history and the social sciences: e.g. competition of norms, formality and informality, social capital and trust.