Research for an October talk found a book review for:
Austrian Farmers and the Revolution of 1848 by Brigitte Biwald. The book
is in German: Die Revolution von 1848 in der Habsburgemonarchie: Der Bauer
als Ziel politischer politischer Agitation. European University Sudies,
Series III, History and Allied Studies, vol 685, Frankfurt am Main: Peter
First written as "Diplomarbeit" at Uni. Vienna under supervision of Prof.
The review is in English and appeared in HABSBURG list reviews, 1996, nr. 35.
Notes from the review:
The 'Bauernbefreiung" is seen as the most significant consequence of the
revolution of 1848. On Sept 7, 1848 Austrian farmers were freed from
obligations for compulsory labor (Robot) and tithes (Zehent). The rebellion
also brought an end to the judicial and administrative authority of the
landed aristocracy and replaced it with imperial bureaucracy.
Under the new system the economic "winners" were those who invested in modern
farming methods and related industries. Elimination of feudal inefficiencies
gave them the opportunity to modernize and expand operations. Peasant farmes
with larger land holdings were able to profit from these opportunites. But
landlords who "lacked vision or were crippled by debt found it difficult to
adjust to the new system, as did many small farmers and landless cottagers."
"...chapters focus on the situation of Austrian farmers before 1848, the
outbreak of the 1848 Revolution, the events of May 1848 and their impact on
farmers, the situation in Bohemia and Galicia, propaganda for and against the
farmers, imperial decrees, deliberations in provincial assemblies, the role
of the Catholic Church, the farm problem in the "Reichstag", the events of
autumn 1848, the press and the liberation of the farmers, and the legends
surrounding the activities of Hans Kudlich, the "hero" of the
The author notes difficulties in such research...common to European societies
before the 20th century. There is a lack of written records for the common
people and in Austria much of that sort of documentation was destroyed in a
1927 fire at the Vienna Palace of Justice. (!!! - May include land records
!!!) Newspapers, pamphlets, handbills and other such accounts are the
pricipal sources for this book. Police reports and petitions to the
Reichstag from Bohemian farmers still held in archives were also used.
The author ... illustrates the extraordinary diversity and complexity of the
farm problem ... in Galicia and Bohemia before 1848. The "bitter legacy" of
the Polish farmers uprising against the nobility in 1846 created continuing
social tensions that were further exacerbated by growing nationalism among
the Ruthenians living in Galicia. In Bohemia the differences between Czechs
and Germans made issues more complex. But overall, the main obstacle to
reform was Vienna's unwillingness to allow any autonomous action in the
The author concludes that 1848 was the Austrian farmers' first success at
bringing their problems before the public. It was not simply forced babor
and payments to noble and clerical landowners at issue but "emancipation of
an entire social class." (p.121). [Before 1848 any complaint a farmer had
was adjudicated by representatives of his noble landlord -- thus complaints
against the lord were often dismissed without resolution.]
The widespread publicity given farm issues still did not produce a unified
movment among farmers or create any sort of solidarity with workers or
students. But it did make the Reichstag understand that farmers had to be
freed from obligations that were "hated, onerous, and outdated." The author
finds it ironic that most farmers credited the emperor with their liberation,
not their representatives in the Reichstag.
Hans Kudlich, a representative from Silesia, called for the liberation of
farmers on July 26, 1848. A legend surrounds Kudlich which includes
celebration of his heroic deeds among German-American groups in the U.S. (???
Does anyone know what this is about???) His story was even used by Nazi
propagandists! The author says that overall his contribution was really
quite modest and the legend surrounding him was largely created by extremist
groups later on.
The book is poorly organized and repetitious and contains many quotations
(perhaps too many) which make the overall thread difficult to follow. It is
also badly printed and some words run together but it is still rewarding
reading for those who persevere per the reviewer.