More then 100 years ago mainly local and regional historians began to develop interest in the VIA REGIA as medieval trading route. They made investigations on route courses, told history and stories because at the end of the 19th century an interest in regional history arose. Often the impulses came from active or pensioned teachers who founded local homeland associations, initiated small museums and were considered as competent in questions on history of the communes. An impressive example for this approach is a publication by Luise Gerbing from Schnepfenthal (Thuringia, district Gotha) that has been published in 1909:
„Erfurter Handel und Handelsstraßen“ (trade and trading routes in Erfurt [de]).
Till the middle of the 20th century many details about the history also of the VIA REGIA were collected and published giving different names to the route.
We began to collect and publish these texts in a virtual library. The page is still in its infancy. The texts that have been published yet mainly deal with the VIA REGIA in Thuringia, other federal states and the other European countries have to follow. There is also material that often has been published in regional periodicals, festschrifts or anniversary publictions which we want to make accesible in an interregional collection in order to create a European portrait of the history of the route VIA REGIA.
A different question arises on the development of the VIA REGIA literature in the first half of the 20th century when the history of the route is connected with incidents that traditionally belong to themes of the “Grest investigantions”. 1933 Hans Bürgin published his book „Der Minister Goethe vor der römischen Reise; seine Tätigkeit in der Wegebau- und Kriegskommission“ (The Minister Goethe before his journey to Rome and his activities in the Commiccion for route development and war). In this material the practices of Goethe as member of the “Secret Consilium” in the duchy Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach where he was primarily responsible for route constructions is described based on acribical historical investigation. The publication is about the modernization of the duchy and the resistance against the young minister Goethe and his ambitions to reform. The history of the VIA REGIA is described here in the plans of Goethe to build an avenue between Erfurt and Weimar, Weimar and Jena in order to mislay the trading route from Erfurt-Leipzig to Weimar-Apolda resp. Weimar-Jena. That is the origin for a massive change of the VIA REGIA corridor in Thuringia although the project has not been finished during his mandate which ended in 1786.
In 1941 the book „Des Reiches Straße - Der Weg der deutschen Kultur auf der Strecke Frankfurt – Berlin“. (The Empires Route – The Way of the German Culture on the track between Frankfurt – Berlin [de]) by Erwin Redslob has been published. He created a new approach within the German VIA REGIA literature. Redslob has been Reichskunstwart (supervisor for art in the Empire) and responsible for all national questions on art and culture until the National Socialists unseat him from all functions. In the following years he published several books on cultural-historical themes. After the war Redslob was cofounder of the Berlin daily newspaper “Der Tagesspiegel” and coinitiator as well as rector of the Freien Universität Berlin (FU) in the Western part of the city. Redslob has been the first author who dealed with the VIA REGIA as symbol for cultural processes in an exchange between the East and the West. He also developed the idea of the VIA REGIA corridor by describing places, personalities and achievements who were connected to differing route courses in different times. Hereby his geographical view on the VIA REGIA is of special meaning because he did not follow the course from Leipzig on to Görlitz and Wrocław, but to Berlin.
This is in surely against the history because Berlin as settlement had no transregional meaning in the time when the “King’s Road” has been a “King’s Road” in legal terms. There was no “King’s Road” that led from Leipzig to Berlin till the 13th century. The first documented mention of Berlin took place in 1244. He also did not name the road VIA REGIA but “Empires Road”. Though Redslob refered from Frankfurt to Leipzig to the route course of the VIA REGIA that existed already for many centuries.
So the impulse not to reduce the VIA REGIA to an old route course from medieval times which expired with the invention of the railroad came from Redslob. He included the political and economic development of the 18th century till the 20th century in his work and stayed abreast of shifting the balance of power and changes in economic development through the strength gaining of Prussian metropolitain areas Berlin and Potsdam. These situations had massive influence on the traffic corridors in Central Europe, so on the European East-West-axis VIA REGIA.
After the end of World War II there were two main tendencies regarding the development of the VIA REGIA literature.
On the one hand because of the separation of Germany and Europe the VIA REGIA became metaphore of a people connecting exchange between the East and the West. The outstanding proof is the exhibition catalogue „Die Straße – Geschichte und Gegenwart eines Handelsweges“ (The Road – History and Present of a Trading Route). To mark the 750th anniversaries of the fairs in Frankfurt/ Main the administration of the National Castles and Gardens Hesse and the Institute for Culture Anthropology and European Ethnology of the Johann-Wolfgang-von Goethe-University Frankfurt/ Main prepared a common German-German co-production to deal with the history of the VIA REGIA between both exhibition centers Frankfurt/ Main and Leipzig. The very wide and profound exhibition has been opened in autumn in 1989. It did not achieve the attention the theme would have gained during the years before Wend because of the parallelism with the inner-German opening of the borders. But both catalogies are till today the most detailed documentation of the VIA REGIA part between Frankfurt/ Main and Leipzig.
On the other hand the evaluation of the past in the scientific research has changed during the post-war centuries: “history from bottom” became relevant in its meaning. The new questions that were connected with this development caused a trend from state and national history to regional history. A change of perceptions took place that could not deny local-historical incidents a scientific meaning. Within this frame a VIA REGIA related research dealing with regional parts developed and in the meanwhile lead to several insights. Especially during the last twenty years several workings on VIA REGIA themes have been done. At the Bauhaus-University Weimar, at the University of Applied Sciences for Technics and Economy Dresden, at the University of Applied Sciences Zittau/ Görlitz research projects and master thesis have been realised that dealt with different VIA REGIA-themes reaching from historical routes research to urbanism to touristical development. Scientists like Prof. Dr.-Ing Hartmut Wenzel, (Bauhaus-University Weimar), Prof. Dr.-Ing. Hans-Dieter Blanek (University of Applied Sciences for Technics and Economy, Dresden), Prof. Dr. Margita Großmann (University of Applied Sciences Zittau/ Görlitz) and other published on a broad spectrum of VIA REGIA themes. Prof. Dr. Dieter Hassenpflug (Bauhaus-University Weimar) published the article „Die VIA REGIA und das 'Neue Europa'“ (The VIA REGIA and the new Europe [de]) that draws a bow from the history of the route to its potencial that can be connected with the VIA REGIA on a level of post-modern expectancy of life.
From 1991 till 2004 the European Centre for Culture and Information in Thuringia published the journal series
„VIA REGIA – Blätter für internationale kulturelle Kommunikation“ (VIA REGIA – pages for international cultural communication [de]). In those magazins the VIA REGIA has the symbolic meaning of East-West exchange. The historical, cultural-theoretical, artistical or sociaopolitical articles that were often written by international renowned authors were here in no direct connection with a concrete route course. The “pages” are still of present interest because they document important mindsets of the post-Wend time on a European standard.
During the last years a new group of VIA REGIA literature developed: scientific analyses and studies which arose from actual questions and deal with possibilities of the VIA REGIA idea for the future progress of the process of European unification. These studies cover question of traffic planning as well as touristical development concepts. The EU-funding project ED-C III VIA REGIA made important contributions here. The project has been realised under the leadership of the Saxonian Ministry of the Interior from 2006 till 2008.
On the webpage “VIA REGIA – Cultural Route of the Council of Europe” one article of these materials
„VIA REGIA – Den Süden Polens mit Bus und Bahn entdecken.“ (VIA REGIA – discovering the South of Poland by bus and rail [de]) is published.