Volume 9 Issue 2 2020

Volume 7 Issue 4

Natural Resources and Society

Gábor Demeter and Beatrix F. Romhányi Special Editors of the Thematic Issue

Contents

ARTICLES

Éva Bodovics
Weather Anomalies and Their Economic Consequences: Penury in Northeastern Hungary in the Late 1870s 179

Abstract

Abstract

This study investigates an episode of penury in 1879–1880 in Borsod and Zemplén Counties which occurred as one of the negative consequences of a short-term weather change which was experienced across Europe in the late 1870s and early 1880s. From the mid-1870s on, due to the wetter and cooler weather, the annual crop yields repeatedly fell below the usual and expected averages in Hungary. After a catastrophic harvest in the autumn of 1879, when the quantity of harvested cereals was sufficient neither for reserves nor for spring sowing, the situation became severe. 1878 had also been a bad year for agriculture: the severe floods in the second half of 1878 not only had washed the crops from the fields but had also covered them with thick sludge that made it impossible to sow in autumn.
Since the spring of 1879 was characterized by unfavorable conditions for agriculture (increased rainfall, widespread floods, low average spring temperatures), the local and national authorities continuously kept their eyes on the crops. Thanks to this preliminary attention, the administration was able to respond quickly and in an organized manner to the bad harvest in July and August and could avert catastrophe at national level.
The leadership of the two counties responded more or less in the same way to the near-famine conditions. First, they asked the Treasury to suspend tax collection until the next harvest at least so that the farmers who were facing financial difficulties would not have to go into debt. Second, they appealed to the government for financial and crop relief to save the unemployed population from starvation. For those who were able to work, they asked for the approval of public works and major construction projects from the Ministry of Transport and Public Works. For many, such state-funded road construction or river regulation projects were the only way to make a living. Third, the county administrations also gave seeds for spring sowing to the farmers. While Borsod county survived the years of bad harvests without dire problems due to the higher proportion of better quality fields, in the more mountainous region of Zemplén, most landowners had smaller and lower quality lands, and they often chose to emigrate to avoid starvation. These difficult conditions may have provided the initial impetus for mass emigration to Western Europe and America.
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Sándor Rózsa
Evaluation of the Floodplain Farming of the Settlements of Nagykunság Based on the First Cadastral Survey 213

Abstract

Abstract

River control was perhaps the most significant form of anthropogenic environmental intervention in the Carpathian Basin, and in recent decades it has been the focus of considerable attention in the scientific community. However, in order to be able to evaluate this intervention, we need to know more about the floodplain management before the river regulations. In this essay, I provide data concerning the eighteenth-century floodplain management, on the basis of the first cadastral survey documents.
According to Klára Dóka and other researchers, the settlements of the region along the Tisza River were in crisis in the early nineteenth century because the floodplain farming system was not adequate to sustain the growing population. However, they based this conclusion on sources concerning population growth, and they did not substantiate their essential contention concerning overpopulation with accurate data on production and consumption. I have sought to determine whether there really was an overpopulation crisis in Nagykunság at the end of the eighteenth century. The main question concerns the relationship between production and needs. The next question is whether the farmers had excess grain which they could take to markets. In other words, was the floodplain farming system profitable? My research constitutes a contribution to the debate between Bertalan Andrásfalvy and Miklós Szilágyi on floodplain management.
The first cadastral survey documents contain detailed and reliable data on the management of the settlements, and I contend that they are more accurate and useful than the tax censuses which were compiled at the same time. The first step in the research was to establish the average annual consumption of the population.
According to the data of the cadastral survey, production exceeded the needs of the population in each settlement, and the value of the production surplus covered the tax burdens. Wheat had a marketable share of the yield, come to 30–40 percent of the total. Assuming that livestock breeding was even more advantageous, one could contend that the floodplain farming system was profitable. However, natural resources are distributed disproportionately as a result of property relations. In Nagykunság, this found its most dramatic embodiment in the redemptus-irredemptus contrast.
There were several events in the late eighteenth century, such as the construction of the Mirhó dam and migration to Bácska, on the basis of which researchers have inferred that the floodplain farming system was in crisis, but the cadastral survey suggests otherwise.
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Beatrix F. Romhányi, Zsolt Pinke, and József Laszlovszky 
Environmental Impacts of Medieval Uses of Natural Resources in the Carpathian Basin 241

Abstract

Abstract

Various natural resources were abundant in medieval Hungary, and contemporary sources offer a portrait of the kingdom as rich because of these natural conditions. The different forms in which these resources were put to use were decisive for the history of the Carpathian Basin, including its environmental history. In the Middle Ages, there were two key economic activities which played an especially significant role both in the sphere of local production and in foreign trade and which also had a significant environmental impact: livestock farming on the Great Plain (primarily but not exclusively of cattle) and mining, including the processing of primary metals, which was closely related to mining in certain mountain areas. On the basis of analyses of sources drawn from the monastic network, medieval rural churches, and selected archaeological findings and written evidence, we examine the environmental consequences of these activities with particular focus on the changes in the settlement network and relative population density. Our data suggest that the long-term effect of the prevailing practices in the most lucrative, export-oriented economic sectors of the late medieval Kingdom of Hungary—both of which contributed to the ability of the country to withstand pressures from the advancing Ottoman for about 130 years and to some extent even beyond—was serious environmental degradation in the affected regions. The environmental problems caused by these practices could not be fully overcome for a long time. Certainly, the impact was increased by the consequences of the Ottoman wars and the changing climatic conditions of the Little Ice Age, but the process began well before the Early Modern crisis, in some respects as early as in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.
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Miklós Kázmér and Erzsébet Győri
Millennial Record of Earthquakes in the Carpathian-Pannonian Region: Historical and Archaeoseismology 284

Abstract

Abstract

This is a short essay on earthquakes in the Carpathian-Pannonian region and its surroundings. Earthquakes have been recorded using seismographs since 1902 in Hungary. The relatively small number of seismic events and the long return period of major earthquakes make it necessary to use historical data in order to assess seismic hazard. Historical earthquake catalogues aim for exhaustiveness both in time and space, but they are limited by the lack of documentary data. A simple arithmetical assessment is provided to estimate our lack of knowledge of past seismic events. All destructive earthquakes of the twentieth century (above magnitude 5) are included in the catalogue (100%). Of the seismic events which took place in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, only 23% are on record, while this figure drops to 4.6 percent for the eleventh–sixteenth centuries and 0.2 percent for the first millennium AD. On average, we have no information about 90% of the destructive earthquakes which occurred in the Carpathian-Pannonian region over the course of the past two millennia.
According to both instrumental measurements and historical sources, there were relatively few earthquakes in the central era of the period of time in question. This era coincides roughly with the two centuries of Ottoman rule (the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries). Were there really few earthquakes over the course of these two centuries, or we do not have the relevant records? We contend that warfare resulted in the destruction of settlements and the annihilation of documents.
Fragile historical documents can be supplemented by the study of robust edifices, an approach to the study of the past which is known as archaeoseismology. Evidence of damage and destruction can be identified, and earthquake parameters can be assessed. One can find evidence corroborating other sources indicating an earthquake (e.g. Savaria), and one can also identify traces of previously unknown seismic events (Visegrád). One can also assign intensity values to the existing historical records. Damage observed to a Roman road in Savaria, to the medieval donjon of Nagyvázsony offers support for our fundamental contention. In order to understand the seismic hazard that was faced in the Carpathian-Pannonian region, renewed study of historical sources and new archaeoseismological investigations are needed.
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András Grynaeus
Dendrochronology and Environmental History: The Difficulties of Interpretation 302

Abstract

Abstract

The study provides insights into questions concerning forest management and timber use by drawing on case studies in the dendrochronological research which has been underway over the course of the past couple of decades in Hungary. The essay refers to natural resource-use and historical and demographic questions which arose in analyses of the wooden materials. The study questions some of the topoi of historical research, such as the immense forest loss traditionally associated with the Ottoman wars.
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Viktória Kiss
Transformations of Metal Supply during the Bronze Age in the Carpathian Basin 315

Abstract

Abstract

This paper presents recent research questions which have been raised and methods which have been used in the study of Bronze Age metallurgy in connection with available natural resources (ores) in and around the Carpathian Basin. This topic fits in the most current trends in the research on European prehistoric archaeology. Given the lack of written sources, copper and bronze artifacts discovered in settlement and cemetery excavations and prehistoric mining sites provide the primary sources on which the studies in question are based. The aim of compositional and isotope analysis of copper and tin ores, metal tools, ornaments, and weapons is to determine the provenience of the raw materials and further an understanding of the chaine operatiore of prehistoric metal production. The Momentum Mobility Research Group of the Institute of Archaeology, Research Centre for the Humanities studies these metal artifacts using archaeological and scientific methods. It has focused on the first thousand years of the Bronze Age (2500–1500 BC). Multidisciplinary research include non-destructive XRF, PGAA (promptgamma activation), TOF-ND (time-of-flight neutron diffraction) analyses and neutron radiography, as well as destructive methods, e.g. metal sampling for compositional and lead isotope testing, alongside archaeological analysis. Microstructure studies are also efficient methods for determining the raw material and production techniques. The results suggest the use of regional ore sources and interregional connections, as well as several transformations in the exchange network of the prehistoric communities living in the Carpathian Basin.
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Zoltán Czajlik
Along the Danube and at the Foothills of the North-Eastern Hungarian Mountains: Some Data on the Distribution of Stone Raw Materials in the Late Iron Age 331

Abstract

Abstract

Stones as raw materials are important environmental resources often found at prehistoric sites. Since their various types essentially retained their original geological features, it is generally relatively easy to identify their origin. Nevertheless, there is hardly any systematic research on late prehistoric stone raw materials. Furthermore, these materials are mentioned very inconsistently and the geological terms, definitions and analyzes are absent from the discussions. The general picture that we can sketch based on secondary literature is therefore mosaic-like. However, it is by no means impossible to identify extraction sites. Based on on-site experience and using modern analyzes, it is possible, for example, to differentiate between individual types of sandstone and andesite. From the perspective of future research, analyzes of late Iron Age stone materials from well-studied archaeological contexts could contribute to understand better how stones as raw materials were used in late prehistoric periods.
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BOOK REVIEWS

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Ottoman Law of War and Peace: The Ottoman Empire and its Tributaries from the North of the Danube. By Viorel Panaite. Reviewed by Gábor Kármán 343

Tábori sebesültellátás Magyarországon a XVI–XVIII. században [Care for the wounded in the field in Hungary in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries]. By Katalin Mária Kincses. Reviewed by Katalin Simon 347

Styrian Witches in European Perspectives: Ethnographic Fieldwork. By Mirjam Mencej. Reviewed by Gergely Brandl 350

The Habsburg Civil Service and Beyond: Bureaucracy and Civil Servants from the Vormärz to the Inter-War Years. Edited by Franz Adlgasser and Fredrik Lindström. Reviewed by Mátyás Erdélyi 355

Az uradalom elvesztése: Nemesi családok a 19. századi Békés megyében [The loss of the estate: Noble families in Békés County in the nineteenth century]. By Adrienn Szilágyi. Reviewed by Krisztián Horváth Gergely 358

Deszkafalak és potyavacsorák: Választói magatartás Pesten a Tisza Kálmán-korszakban [Plank walls and freebee dinners: Voter behavior in Pest in the era of Kálmán Tisza]. By Péter Gerhard. Reviewed by Réka Matolcsi 362

Men under Fire: Motivation, Morale and Masculinity among Czech Soldiers in the Great War, 1914–1918. By Jiří Hutečka. Reviewed by Tamás Révész 366

The Fortress: The Great Siege of Przemyśl. By Alexander Watson. Reviewed by Kamil Ruszała 369

Tiltott kapcsolat: A magyar–lengyel ellenzéki együttműködés 1976–1989 [A forbidden relationship: Oppositional cooperation between Hungarians and Poles, 1976–1989]. By Miklós Mitrovits. Reviewed by Ferenc Laczó 373

Dissidents in Communist Central Europe: Human Rights and the Emergence of New Transnational Actors. By Kacper Szulecki. Reviewed by Una Blagojević 377

Corn Crusade: Khrushchev’s Farming Revolution in the Post-Stalin Soviet Union. By Aaron Hale-Dorrell. Reviewed by Alexandra Bodnár 380

 

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