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2012 | 110 | 2 | 189-233
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K pozemkové výbavě české nobility ve starším středověku

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Around the mid–10th century Boleslav I. united the whole of Bohemia under the rule of one prince. He, thus, established the foundations of the Bohemian medieval state, which had to cope, in the initial stages of its development, with a number of systemic problems, primarily with limited economic opportunities and a lack of a more developed economic market. „The state“ represented by this Prince from the Przemyslid dynasty, therefore, took specific measures to ensure its proper functioning. It relied on the support of a class of „noble Czechs“. By conferring benefices (beneficia) on them, the Prince, entrusted to their care not merely the administration of his castles (civitates, urbes), which formed the backbone of „state“ administration, but also granted them other positions at the Prague court and in the provinces. These comites, nobiles, primates, milites, primores and so on, could not yet base their claims to power on their large landed estates and they relied primarily on their positions at the court and in the provinces. They primarily lived on their share of princely incomes and revenues. In recent times some historians have returned to earlier opinions which claimed that the early nobility in Bohemia and Moravia (10th–12th centuries) had relied on large landed possessions partly acquired, it is said, in the period before the unification of Czech territory. At the same time, it is suggested that there was a partial continuity with the traditional „pre-state“ aristocracy, possibly with the „Bohemian dukes“ (duces Boemanorum), who shared Czech territory in the 9th century and at the beginning of the 10th century (in the year 845 there were at least 14 princes). They disappeared from the stage of history with the Big Bang foundation of a unified „state“. Relatively large land possessions were also supposed to guarantee to these nobles their strong position and influence with regard to the Prince. The current study questions these views and presents other arguments as to why the possessions of the early nobility could only emerge as a result of princely service and „state“ administration. Principally, larger noble estates could have barely been accommodated there. Early settlement sites covered no more than 15–20% of the area of current Bohemia and the possessions of both the Prince and the Church dominated, with Church posssessions being derived almost exclusively from the princely benefices. If the properties of comites, primates, nobiles, milites and others can be documented, they were limited and dispersed before the mid–12th century. They were usually transferred into the hands of „lay persons“ (Church terminology) from originally all embracing princely ownership of land, often in the form of a gift of land for life (the so-called grant of benefice), the disposal of which was subject to the Prince’s consent. At times, it is pointed out that the early nobility was able to found monasteries, which would have reflected its economic strength, yet these were outright exceptions before the mid–12th century (Sedlec, Podlažice). Only after the mid–12th century were there better preconditions for the establishment and construction of larger landed estates on the part of the foremost noble families. The Czech Lands and the whole of Central Europe underwent a period of transformation and modernisation, accompanied by urbanisation, the development of exchange and the spread of minted coins. Society underwent changes and the nobility naturally changed also. A mighty wave of colonisation led to the settlement of not merely the hinterland plains and undulating countryside, but in Bohemia it also penetrated as far as the foothills of the border mountains. Foremost noble families put roots down in the newly settled territories and transferred the focus of their property interests there. In these places the conditions were ripe for the establishment of a new kind of dependence structures, the lord on one hand and the serf on the other. At the same time the circulation of chieftains in lucrative positions gradually slowed down. Their material possessions slowly overflowed into a qualitatively new „landed“ nobility (sometimes this is referred to as a so-called „privatisation“). No longer a position or a benefice but one’s landed estate dictated its owner’s influence, power and social status. These tendencies strengthened in the later stages of the 13th century. There appeared huge landed dominia belonging to a number of noble families who flourished in princely service such as the Hrabische family, the Witigonen family, the Markwartinger family. Yet, others, especially the second ranking milites and partially those yeomen who managed to preserve a certain independence, clamoured for better financial security in the newly settled terrritories. The above gave rise to a future lesser nobility. At the same time, the value of an estate held came to be assessed more rationally. It was no longer its area but its profitability, which became the determining criterion, also reflected in price relations (sale, purchase, exchange). In these processes the nobility attained features, which came to characterise it for the remainder of the Middle Ages: large landed ownership and political unification in a common „Land community“ (communitas, in the words of the chronicler Dalimil – a fence), forming a counterbalance to the ruling power.
  • Historický ústav AV ČR, v. v. i., Prosecká76, 190 00 Praha 9, Czech Republic
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