This article explores the spatial generation and perception of administrative districts. It has a particular focus on how certain administrative practices contributed to diminishing spatial distance between district offices and local society, that is, residents and municipalities, from the early 19th century to the 1870S in the Grand Duchy of Baden. TWO different administrative systems – a centralized one introduced in 1809 and a more participative one dating from 1863/1865 – characterize the period under consideration. With regard to the methodological approach, the understanding of the generation and perception of administrative spaces is informed by cultural, communications, and media studies.
With respect to the spatial generation and perception of the administrative districts, two administrative practices are of particular interest. Firstly, administrative visitations (›Ortsbereisungen‹) were periodically carried out in the villages by the district officers, starting in the early 19th century, to gather information as the basis of a ›close‹ description of the administrative, agricultural, economic, infrastructural, security, welfare and health conditions in the districts for the purpose of administrative reports. Oral communication and immediacy in conducting the administrative visitations contributed in particular to reducing distance between district administrations and local society.
Secondly, the article explores the role of honorary district councillors as middlemen between local society and district administration from the mid-1860s. In their roles as experts, advisors, and mediators – which they also fulfilled in the context of administrative visitations – the honorary district councillors enhanced the proximity of local society to the district administration and in this way contributed to the perception of the district as a rather small space.