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Debts and claims as a part of administration and everyday life of Bohemian chamber estates in the early modern period


The following text deals with various manifestations of debts and claims captured in archival sources reflecting everyday life of chamber estates Pardubice, Kohn, and Podebrady in the early modern period. Bohemian Chamber dominium belonged to the ruler of the Kingdom of Bohemia and it was meant to provide resources for the needs of the monarch (from 1526 member of Habsburg Dynasty), his family, and the court. As we will see later, the ruler established a sophisticated system of control and administration of chamber-goods with the Court Chamber (Hofkammer, Dvorskd komora), central financial authority of the monarchy on the top, and Bohemian (Royal) Chamber (Böhmische Kammer, Ceskä komora} as a subordinate agency (Hochedlinger, Mata & Winkelbauer 2019, Tb 1, pp. 382-5,Tb 2, pp. 825-55, 896-902). Among other things, the Bohemian Chamber coordinated the administration of chamber estates belonging to the Czech lands and represented the main authority for patrimonial apparatus and local authorities such as town councils, headmen, and village officers. Branched systems of administration gave birth to various types of archival records including instructions, orders, relations of visitation commissioners, accounting books, biannual accounts, land registers, report from land books as well as ‘regular’ correspondence between central authorities, estates and its communities. Those that have been preserved show us that aspects such as debt, claims or remarkable ‘phenomenon’ of large arrears steadily visible in biannual accounts (in very blunt terms called embezzlement) represented important parts of patrimonial as much as town and rural economy. The chapter is largely based on the analysis of these sources, placed mostly in National Archives in Prague (Narodni archiv, NA) and State Regional Archives in Zämrsk (Statni oblastni archiv Zämrsk, SOA Zämrsk) but deals also with published edition of archival sources (Cerny 1930), (Kalousek 1905) and literature related to the topic (Maur 1966, 1975, 1976 et al.), (Beränek 2004, 2005), (Pesak 1929, 1930, 1933).

Bohemian chamber estates and its administration

Definition and structure of the dominium

Before we come to the theme of the chapter itself, I consider it important to introduce the dominium of Bohemian chamber estates, its genesis, and the system of administration. Only with this brief excursion could we fully understand the complex (and sometimes even complicated) relations within particular estates, the circulation of money and therefore also the dynamics of debts and claims. In the strictest sense of the term, Bohemian chamber estates after 1526 meant the property purchased (or confiscated) by Ferdinand I or his descendants and was considered as private property of the sovereign. He could thus manipulate them without supervision of the Bohemian noblemen (and traditional land institutions in which they usually had a key word). The revenues generated from the estates (camerale) were intended to finance the court and the administration of the estates (Hledikova, Janak & Dobes 2005, p. 107).

In the course of the 16th century, thanks to original and newly associated territories, two chamber complexes were established. The smaller part consisted of estates Zbiroh, Tocm'k, Kralûv Dvûr, Kfivoklât with Krusovice, and Prisecnice and it was well known for forestry and iron deposits. However, the core of the dominion laid along the river banks of the Elbe, expanding from Brandys in the west through Pferov, Lysa (Berânek 2004), (Berânek 2005), Podëbrady, and Kolin to Pardubice in the east. Even after some territorial losses, which the dominium suffered at the end of the 16th century and the first half of the 17th century, with its length of 116 km and the size of 2580 km2, it occupied a considerable part of the Czech lands (Maur 1966, pp. 151-2).The largest estate was Pardubice (745 km2) which, in the middle of the 17th century, consisted of an eponymous administrative centre Pardubice, town Prelouc, five other small towns, and approximately 130 villages or its parts (Sebek 1990, pp. 184, 202). Just for a point of comparison, the size of Podèbrady estate (at the same period consisted of two towns and 47 villages) was 315 km2 and estate Kohn 118 km2 (Maur 1976, pp. 15-17).

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