Joseph zu Salm-Reifferscheidt-Dyck belonged to a generation of Rhenish nobles who, yet formed by the Ancien Régime, bore the brunt of the fundamental changes in the wake of the French Revolution and witnessed the ensuing upheavals in their distinctive unpredictability. Soon after his accession as territorial ruler of the tiny imperial county of Dyck, the French revolutionary army seized the left bank of the Rhine in October 1794. Despite being deprived of all authority, titles, and privileges and the sequestration of the most part of his estates, he, other than many of his noble peers, opted against emigrating but for cooperating with the representatives of the French rule which should last for almost two decades. Since his youth closely intimate with the language and culture of France as well as enlightened thought, Joseph zu Salm-Reifferscheidt-Dyck matchlessly succeeded in adapting to the meritocratic system of Napoleon by means of a steady willingness to compromise, excellent negotiation skills, and a Europe-wide social network which he managed with great virtuosity. Within just a few years he held various administrative functions within the French Empire, obtained the Légion d'honneur, and was elevated into the Napoleonic Noblesse d'Empire holding the rank of an imperial count.
Far beyond politics and civil service, Joseph zu Salm-Reifferscheidt-Dyck knew how to benefit from the abundance of chances a dramatically altered social order offered him. His (second) marriage with the French authoress Constance de Théis, his commitment as a forerunner of scientific botany, as a freemason, as an art collector, a landscape gardener, and not least as a traveler are just figureheads of a wide-ranging 'departure for modernity'. He nevertheless retained a decidedly aristocratic self-perception aligned to the incessant pretence of local lordship. He could at least partly satisfy his claims under Prussian rule from 1815 onwards as he once more arrived at convincingly presenting himself as a regional partner and mediator of a just recently established rule by an 'external' power. This did not mean, however, that he dispensed with an engagement as a 'Liberal' interceding in regional politics and helping defend at least parts of the Rhineland's French legacy.
The multi-perspective online biography at hand examines Joseph zu Salm-Reifferscheidt-Dyck as a 'leveling board' of noble 'winners and loosers' during the Revolutionary Era round 1800. Relatively short but much focused and intensely interlinked, the individual articles give a survey of the numerous and very different fields of action the protagonist's path of life went through. The articles' dialogic appearance as well as their expandability is intentional. The project as a whole should be seen as a 'living' attempt to develop new, more inclusive formats of knowledge acquisition and knowledge transfer in view of an ever growing expertise reaching far beyond the traditional boundaries of academic research.
Florian Schönfuß, Abstract (english), aus: Martin Otto Braun, Elisabeth Schläwe, Florian Schönfuß (Hg.), Netzbiographie – Joseph zu Salm-Reifferscheidt-Dyck (1773-1861), in: mapublishing, 2014, Seitentitel: Abstract (Datum des letzten Besuchs).