Friday, February 23, 2018

Royal forests in Poland and Lithuania

Title page of Jan Kochanowski’s Satyr albo dziki mąż (1564),
a political satire in verse that criticized forest exploitation.
(National Digital Library Polona, from the article)
Forest law continues to provide grist for scholarship.

October's Environmental History published, alongside an article on early Chinese forest law, Mateusz Falkowski's "Fear and Abundance: Reshaping of Royal Forests in Sixteenth-Century Poland and Lithuania". The abstract:
This article analyzes new restrictive forest legislation announced by king Sigismund Augustus (d. 1572) in Poland and Lithuania. In the sixteenth century, eastern Europe remained the most densely forested region on the continent; Poland and Lithuania, however, were blessed not only with resources but also with an unusual combination of plains, forests, rivers, and seaports that facilitated the development of large-scale forest industries. Drawing on a combination of royal documents, domain surveys, correspondence, customs registers, and contemporary literature, I argue that the significant resources available to the king allowed him to think of the forest economy and long-distance trade in its products as the backbone of state finances. I recognize changes in the forest regime as part of the greater state reforms redefining the relationship of the king’s subjects to his domain, as well as a strategic move designed to increase treasury income to finance the military during the Livonian War (1558–83). I also argue that changes in the forest regime were established because of the abundance of resources, unlike in many contemporary European states that introduced prohibitive laws as a result of wood shortage fears.
For other recent takes on forest law see herehere and here, or click on the "forest" label.

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