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Peasants' labour obligations for the lords' forests: another form of corvée in the Gutsherrschaft of Prussian monarchs, 1763–1850

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Demesne lords (Gutsherren) in early modern Brandenburg-Prussia often owned and managed sizable forests besides their demesne farms. In royal domain lordship, while peasants' corvée for demesne farms prevailed from the sixteenth century to 1799, corvée for royal forests only began in the late eighteenth century, when the authorities began to reform the management of the forests, switching from natural to artificial regeneration. Peasants gave their forest labour in return for their long-established entitlements to receive building timber from royal forests and, to retain these rights, often continued to undertake it until the mid-nineteenth century. Some peasants became independent of the royal forests by creating their own woodlands and readily ended their obligation to do forestry service. Thus, the peasants' accommodation to the new corvée did not arise from their subordination to lords' oppression, as assumed in traditional research, but their calculation of self-advantage in a reciprocal relationship with their lords.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2019

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  • Agricultural History Review is the leading journal for the publication of original research in all aspects of agricultural and rural history. First published in 1953, the Review reflects the diversity of approaches which are possible in rural history. Its editors welcome submissions in any aspect of the history of agriculture, rural society and rural economy over the past millennium. Whilst it is not concerned with current policy debates, it is interested in considering discussions of the historical dimensions of current problems in rural society and food supply. The Review is especially strong in British rural history, but actively seeks submissions in European and American rural history and has no bar on submissions concerning the remainder of the world. It is also the journal of record for book reviews in the discipline.

    Agricultural History Review has an international editorial board. The current editors are Professor P. S. Warde, University of Cambridge, UK, who is responsible for articles, and Dr J. E. Morgan, University of Bristol, UK, who serves as editor for book reviews. The Review is fully peer-refereed.

    Agricultural History Review is published by the British Agricultural History Society from whom personal subscriptions may be obtained.
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