Friday, May 16, 2014

Timber and lord-peasant relationships

We commented last year on Paul Warde's article on commons regulation in early modern Germany, which gave English readers a taste of the vast German literature on the subject. Takashi Iida's Agricultural History article from last year, "The Practice of Timber Granting from Lords to Peasants: A Forest-Historical Perspective of the Gutsherrschaft in Brandenburg-Prussia from 1650 to 1850", gives a similar glimpse into the literature on forest regulation, with regulation coming in various legal forms, including feudal relationships, statutes, building codes, and royal patents. The abstract:

File:Friedrich Zweite Alt.jpg
Anton Graff, Frederick the Great
In early modern Brandenburg-Prussia, feudal lords (Gutsherren) were primarily the owners of both large estates that required peasant labor and large forests from which they were obligated to supply their peasants with life's necessities. This paper examines the practice of timber granting to peasants in the sovereign demesnes of the Kurmark Brandenburg from 1650 to 1850. To challenge the general understanding that peasants both remained dependent on timber grants and abused them until approximately 1800, this paper investigates the increases in peasants' share of the building costs for their farmsteads and the positive effects of timber regulations in the eighteenth century, including self-regulation by peasants. In addition, while previous studies have accentuated the peasants' thefts of wood after losing their entitlements to the lords' forests due to the reform legislation of the early nineteenth century, this paper presents cases in which peasants successfully retained their entitlements, gained payment for timber grants, or afforested their own land.

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