Müller, Ulrich, Das Geleit im Deutschordensland Preußen. (Veröffentlichungen aus den Archiven Preussischer Kulturbesitz, 1.) Cologne and Vienna: Böhlau, 1991. PP. xiii, 316. DM 86.
The Teutonic Order ruled in Prussia from 1230 until 1525. Through most of this period the grandmaster and his officials were responsible for a wide variety of tasks involving legal procedure and\or diplomacy: the supervision of an armed crusade against the enemies of the Church; defending their territorial holdings in Prussia, Livonia, and the Holy Roman Empire from Christian neighbors; the protection of domestic and international commerce; and the enforcement of local civil and criminal laws.
Although today one often encounters cynical skepticism about how serious governing officials are (and were) in trying to be fair and just in carrying out their administrative responsibilities, the extensive surviving archives from Prussia demonstrate that, at the very least, officials seemed determined to assure that every individual received a hearing on whatever issue concerned him. Since persons wishing to attend hearings often had to travel through checkpoints, war zones, and areas inhabited by personal enemies, they needed safe-conducts. These documents, grouped by the author as Geleit, assured the holder of the protection of the powerful Teutonic Order. The fearsome reputation of the grandmaster as a warrior, as ruler of a well-regulated state with intimate connections to the highest officials in Christendom, and as a relentless pursuer of wrong-doers, dissuaded officials, nobles, burghers, and peasants from risking his displeasure by attacking the possessor of a safe-conduct pass.
In a similar manner, several cities in the region issued safe-conduct passes, recording the sparse details in Geleitbücher. In Tallinn (Reval), for example, the city council acquired the right to issue passes for all of Estonia in 1273, but the surviving records date only from 1365 and continuous records are available only for the period 1515-1626. Because of the incomplete nature of such records, Baltic historians have experienced some frustration in understanding Geleit. Studies of safe-conducts issued in the Holy Roman Empire could explain the situations encountered by Jan Hus and Martin Luther, but they were not necessarily applicable to manslaughter cases in Livonia. The legal records in Prussia which Müller has combed so carefully not only reflected a similar social and economic milieu, but were also much more extensive than the surviving records from Livonia. In short, this book will be welcomed by all scholars of the medieval Baltic for its description of administrative and judicial procedures.
Müller is not an exciting writer--he follows his survey of the officials who could issue or who were given Geleit with detailed analyses of types of Geleit, the process of issuing them, the form of the document, and, finally, sixty-five pages of examples. However, his insights are valuable. He demonstrates once again that diplomacy in this region is not to be understood according to the standards of the West, even when the negotiations are with the Pope and his legates. The practices and traditions of Prussia and Poland, based on the practical experience and political sophistication of the rulers and their advisors and the technical competence of the chanceries and archives, are not difficult to master when one has a guide like Ulrich Müller or Klaus Neitmann's Die Staatsverträge des Deutschen Ordens in Preußen 1230-1449 (Wien: Böhlau, 1986). It is the mental hurdle that one must clear.