Serf, Seigneur, and Sovereign: Agrarian Reform in Eighteenth-Century Bohemia
by William E. Wright
University of Minnesota Press, 1966
Paper: 978-0-8166-5893-0


Serf, Seigneur, and Sovereign was first published in 1966. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

This is a detailed history of the agrarian reforms which took place in Bohemia during the reigns of the Habsburg rulers Maria Theresa, 1740–1780, and Joseph II, 1780–1790. The enactment of the land reforms had far-reaching social, economic, and political effects, and the subject constitutes an important chapter in the history of the nation we now know as Czechoslovakia. The topic has been hardly touched in English, however, and has only recently been properly treated by the Marxist historians of post-World War II Czechoslovakia. Much of Professor Wright's account is based on documents not previously used by historians, particularly materials in the Hofkammerarchiv in Vienna.

The author provides a background by describing the development of serfdom in Bohemia over approximately two hundred years prior to the accession of Maria Theresa to the throne of Austria in 1740. In major sections of the book Professor Wright traces the causes, events, and effects of the program of agrarian reform which Maria Theresa and Joseph II carried out. He shows how the changes in the land system profoundly affected the relationships of the serf, seigneur, and sovereign, and how they paved the way for the much greater social revolution which was to come with the emancipation of 1848.

In addition to providing a wealth of factual information, the account gives a dramatic picture of the plight of the peasant, along with valid glimpses of the personalities of the rulers and their ministers. Specialists in European history, social history, or agrarian history will find the book particularly rewarding.

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