Leipzig, city in a state of flux – Urban-fluvial symbiosis in a long-term perspective

enlarge the image: Elsterflutbett, Photo: J. Schmidt
Elsterflutbett, Photo: J. Schmidt

Leipzig – city in a state of flux

Leipzig, today a metropolis with 600.000 inhabitants, originated in the Middle Ages at the edge of the Pleiße and Weiße Elster floodplain. The place gave the city its name, which derives from Indo-European „Leibh“, meaning watery, slippery, loamy area. At least since the 12th century, Leipzig’s inhabitants engaged in water engineering methods in order to secure water provisioning and allow for the use of water power and waterways. This led to an anthropogenic transformation of the existing waterbodies, which shaped the city for centuries. While the close connection between city and water tended to disappear in the 20th century, it is being rediscovered today through town planning, tourism and nature conservation.

Major Aims and Study Area

With its varied water history, Leipzig is a particularly well-suited case study for investigating the interdependencies between humans and water in the sense of a „fluvial anthroposphere”. The city is characterised by a dense network of smaller water courses, a still-existing riparian forest, and a high density of archival sources, provided by both cultural and natural archives. The project takes a long-term perspective, investigating the period between 1000 and 1800, and combines historical, archaeological and geoscientific analyses. Its main objectives are the investigation of

  1. hydrological dynamics and city politics
  2. floods and droughts as social-natural events
  3. urban water pollution
  4. floodplain economies

Methodological Approach

Within the Priority Programme „On the Way to the Fluvial Anthroposphere” it stands for a decisive urban approach that provides the basis for drawing out the specifics of an urban-fluvial anthroposphere.

Our Study Area

enlarge the image: Study Area of the project „Leipzig – city in a state of flux“, Illustration: J. Schmidt
Study Area of the project „Leipzig – city in a state of flux“, Illustration: J. Schmidt

Principal Investigators

Prof. Dr. Julia Schmidt-Funke

Prof. Dr. Julia Schmidt-Funke

Principal Investigator

Geschichte der Frühen Neuzeit
Beethovenstraße 15
04107 Leipzig

Phone: +49 341 97-37101
Fax: +49 341 97-37149

Office hours
https://moodle2.uni-leipzig.de/course/view.php?id=33145

Dr. Johannes Schmidt

Dr. Johannes Schmidt

Principal Investigator

Physische Geographie
Johannisallee 19a
04103 Leipzig

Phone: +49 341 97-32966
Fax: +49 341 97-32799

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Prof. Dr. Matthias Hardt

Principal Investigator

Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)
Reichsstraße 4-6
04109 Leipzig

Telephone: +49 341 97 35 563

Our Team

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Sophie Lindemann

Doctoral Researcher

Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe
Reichsstraße 4-6
04109 Leipzig

Telephone: +49 341 97 35 560

Dr Bernhard Muigg

Dr Bernhard Muigg

Co-Investigator

Forest and Forestry History
Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources
Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg
79106 Freiburg

Telephone: +49 176 703 351 42

Professor Tony Reimann

Professor Tony Reimann

Co-Investigator

University of Cologne
Institute of Geography
Zülpicher Straße 45
50674 Köln

Telephone: +49 221 470 1724

Dr. Birgit Schneider

Dr. Birgit Schneider

Co-Investigator

Physische Geographie
Johannisallee 19
04103 Leipzig

Phone: +49 341 97-38578

 Niels Lohse

Niels Lohse

Doctoral Researcher

Geschichte der Frühen Neuzeit
Beethovenstraße 15
04107 Leipzig

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Dr Harald Stäuble

Co-Investigator

Saxony State Office for Archaeology
Zur Wetterwarte 7
01109 Dresden

Telephone: +49 351 8926 672
Telefax: 0351 8926-999

Co-Investigator

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Dr. Patrik Flammer

Co-Investigator

Kiel University
University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein​
Institute for Clinical Molecular Biology
Rosalind-Franklin-Straße 12
24105 Kiel

The Team

enlarge the image: Four team members standing next to each other
Team members at the 2024 plenary session, from left: Johannes Schmidt, Sophie Lindemann, Matthias Hardt, Julia Schmidt-Funke, Photo: Victor S. Brigola