“The King in the Saddle”: The Árpád Dynasty and Itinerant Kingship in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries

Pavol Hudáček
Slovak Academy of Sciences
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 3  (2022):505–544 DOI 10.38145/2022.3.505

The rulers of the Árpád dynasty spent a great deal of time on the road traveling from one royal castle, palace, mansion, monastery, or bishop’s seat to another. The ruler’s travel and personal presence were an important way of exercising power during this period. However, few sources have survived from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, making it difficult for historians to do much research on the travel of the Árpád kings. The Kingdom of Hungary was a large country and it is necessary to determine what was the main power center and where the periphery territories were located. For the most part, the Árpád kings stayed in the central region, where the most important royal settlements, the oldest monasteries, and the first bishoprics were located, and they visited the peripheral parts of the country only sporadically. The king met every year with his faithful magnates, bishops, abbots, and so on, and these important events was included various ceremonies, rituals, banquets, court proceedings, conferences with political elites, and gifts or donations.

Keywords: Kingdom of Hungary, house of Árpád, itinerant kingship, royal travel, royal power

Early medieval monarchs spent a great deal of time traveling from one castle, palace, mansion, monastery, or episcopal seat to another. The presence of the ruler was an important element in the use and maintenance of power in this period. Kings did not have a single main seat. The royal court was constantly on the move. Kings had several centers of power in the territories they controlled, and they frequently moved between them with their courts or entourages (iter regis). Medieval monarchs most often traveled for economic reasons, including the use of products and services from royal estates in the individual regions, and also for reasons of politics or power. Their journeys were elements of “highly ritualized” practice, whether they were the consequences of a military campaign, the negotiation of peace treaties, the reconciliation or settlement of disputes, important Christian holidays, countrywide assemblies, church synods, or hunts. When he traveled to his estates, the centers of power, or an ecclesiastical center, the king took the main royal roads and their turn-offs, which formed the “road network” of the country. The use and concentration of these roads depended on whether they were located in the central territories or in peripheral areas. The royal roads connected the monarch’s residential palaces, mansions, monasteries, and episcopal seats. Sometimes, the monarch only stopped in these places for short periods of time, but depending on his needs and material provisions, he sometimes stayed for much longer. During these travels and sojourns at individual places the king ruled, made decisions, issued judgments, and met with the political elites of the country (princes, magnates, abbots, bishops). Therefore, the royal presence was nearly always accompanied by various ceremonies and rituals.1

Itinerant Kingship

Research on royal travel is closely linked to research on medieval roads, the central and peripheral regions of the given kingdom, the favorite territories of the monarch, the reconstruction of the network of royal estates (including ecclesiastical centers and monasteries), which contained royal palaces or agricultural mansions that served as residences of the king or his family, and the monarch’s right to supplies, hospitality, and services.2 Historians who focus on the period use the terms itinerant kingship, Reisekönigtum, and peripatetic kingship to refer to the “on the road” form of rule of medieval monarchs. This manner of rule, where the king performed his practical duties and symbolic demonstrations of power by occasionally or constantly traveling around his estates, was used, for instance, by the monarchs of the Holy Roman Empire. The movement of the royal court around the country had a number of common elements, but the individual dynasties had different specific expressions that changed over time and were adapted to new circumstances. Not all monarchs traveled with the same frequency, and itinerant kingship was hardly the only manner of rule and execution of power. Unlike military campaigns or other journeys abroad, so-called itinerant kingship refers to the regular visits of the king to more or less the same places at more or less the same time of the year, for example the chief religious holidays, the holidays of the patrons of important churches, the countrywide assemblies, hunts, etc. The personal presence of the monarch during his travels to the individual parts of the country was an important channel of communication between the central power and local sites of power.3

According to historians, itinerant kingships had these common characteristic elements: a predominantly subsistence economy, the sovereign authority of the monarch, which was fostered through personal relationships, the magical or sacral perception of the ruler (or dynasty), and very often little dependence on the written word in the management of the country. It was in such societies that the ruler constantly traveled through his territory with his court. His personal presence gave legitimacy to his position, emphasized his majesty, and fostered relationships with loyal locals. The extent to which this style of the exercise of power was applied, the frequency of royal visits and the favored territories or places changed during specific periods. To a great extent, this was determined by gradual changes in the form of government, which were related to the conditions within the administrative institutions, new forms of representation of the monarch, changes of dynasties, and the monarch (some traveled more, some less).4 For instance, the Carolingians traveled the country but routinely stayed in their favorite residences for longer periods of time. From these places, they sent written instructions to surrounding parts of the country. Their arrival and meetings with important figures were accompanied by political rituals that used symbolic expressions during public events, such as important church holidays, countrywide assemblies, etc.5

According to the secondary literature, the East Frankish, Ottonian, and Salian rulers traveled much more than the Carolingians. During their reigns, they spent nearly half of their time on the road. They rarely stayed in one place for longer than a few days, though they did sometimes remain for several weeks. As part of the ways they ruled, they also sent instructions in writing and by messenger, but far less frequently than their predecessors. The power and position of these kings were based to a much greater extent on their personal presence and the sanctity of their person. For them, travel was an effective way of fostering power and winning loyalty. It was a demonstration of their exceptional position of authority. Through the regular personal appearances of the monarch, the individual parts of the large kingdom were connected. During the newly elected kings’ travels around the country (Königsumritt), the rulers won approval for their ascendance to the throne, mainly in the most important centers of power and at local assemblies of the nobility, and they also solved disputes and revolts and received honors and oaths of loyalty.6 Over the course of a year, they ceremoniously arrived on important church holidays or at important meetings in the episcopal seats, monasteries, and cities (adventus regis). They publicly demonstrated the sanctity of their royal position through their presence at masses and the symbolic wearing of the crown. In his visits to these places, the monarch executed his political and judicial duties, for example, rewarding people who were loyal to him, participating in rituals of reconciliation, and taking part in the punishment of enemies.7 The planning and organization of the journeys to the various locations particularly depended on the material possibilities along the selected route. These were provided by the royal estates and the right held by the king to hospitality, provided by the royal church institutions, such as bishoprics and monasteries.8

Iter Regis and Hungarian Medieval Sources

The aim of research on travel during an itinerant kingship is not to compile a complete itinerary of the travels of the individual Árpád kings. A reconstruction of the journeys undertaken by the king rather encompasses a description of the events, rituals, and ceremonies connected with his presence in the important ecclesiastical or worldly seats during Christian holidays or during other important events such as the conclusions of peace treaties, rituals of reconciliation, countrywide assemblies, etc. It is equally interesting to observe the changes in the preference for different seats or even whole territories and the construction of new residences or monasteries, which frequently took place during the rule of the individual kings. This text is an attempt to outline possible outcomes of research on the reigns of the Árpád kings in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when some of their administrative duties and the symbolic demonstration of their power took place through continuous travel around their kingdom.

Some historians who have studied this period have only briefly stated that, like other monarchs, the Hungarian kings traveled around their kingdom with their court.9 But they have not considered the precise destinations to which the Árpád rulers traveled, when they traveled, how long they stayed, or what was the intention of their visit was. Similarly, they have also failed to consider whether the Árpád kings stayed for long periods of time only in the central territories or also took more frequent and longer sojourns to the peripheral areas of the kingdom. Although these are very important questions related to research on the journeys undertaken by the kings, in the case of the Kingdom of Hungary, it is difficult to find reliable answers.10 As far as their frequency and diversity (chronicles, legends, charters, etc.) are concerned, Hungarian sources from the eleventh and twelfth centuries are rather limited in comparison to the sources for other countries.11 It is difficult to find and compare information about the itinerant kingship of the Árpád kings with itinerant kingship in the surrounding countries, and one is compelled to rely on the isolated mentions from Hungarian medieval narrative and hagiographic sources or law-codes and charters. Very few documents have survived, and this prevents historians from engaging in thorough or penetrating research, so I highlight only some of the main points related to the travels of the kings of Árpád House.12

Most of the events described in the Hungarian Chronicle Composition of the fourteenth century take place in the central part of the Kingdom of Hungary. This Chronicle Composition was based on older sources that acquired a coherent textual form, known as the lost Gesta Ungarorum or Gesta Ungarorum Vetera, sometime within the second half of the eleventh or the beginning of the twelfth century. These earliest Gesta Ungarorum, however, were heavily rewritten, supplemented and interpolated in the course of the twelfth and thirteenth century. As they were also adapted, depending on the needs of the individual Hungarian kings, a certain degree of caution is necessary when using information from this source.13 The Chronicle Composition underwent several redactions and not all the information is trustworthy, but the places visited by the Árpád kings, where they spent time and celebrated Christian holidays are certainly not made up. They took place in the real geographic space of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, in localities that were important to the monarchs. Therefore, for research into iter regis, we consider the references in this source related to the journeys of the kings, princes and their courts and the information related to the localities and territories that they visited to be reliable information which was probably already included in the earliest version of the lost Gesta Ungarorum.

We know that the Hungarian kings traveled, we know some of their favorite places, where they built palaces and mansions, but the available sources only provide a rough outline of where the rulers of the Árpád dynasty traveled and where they stayed most often.14 In the Chronicle Composition or in some Hungarian medieval legends important seats are not mentioned so often (e.g. Esztergom, Székesfehérvár, Veszprém, Óbuda, Visegrád)15 and only a few references to royal palaces,16 hunting or agricultural mansions,17 monasteries and collegiate chapters appear.18 Although very few sources from the eleventh and twelfth centuries have been preserved, the kings may have regularly visited other locations, as evidenced, for example, by some documents from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. However, it should not be forgotten that the topography of power changed over the centuries as individual monarchs abandoned or less frequently visited traditional seats and built new residences in other places.19

From the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century come two itineraries by Károly Ráth and Béla Sebestyén, in which they also recorded the journeys and stays of the kings of Árpád.20 Their compilers acquired information from narrative sources, royal charters (often also forged) or literature, and it is not possible to verify the credibility of some of the data without mentioning the source. Only a few royal charters have survived from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, some of which were not drawn up by the royal chancellery, but were only sealed by the monarch at a later date. Some of them are either forged or interpolated and their form is often known only from later copies. Only very rarely is the place of issue mentioned in these documents and great caution is therefore needed when using unique information from these oldest documents about the places where the Árpád rulers stayed.21

According to the register of royal charters compiled by Imre Szentpétery, 192 documents have been preserved from the period 1000–1200. Of this number, approximately 48 were forged or not very reliable, and only 17 documents (including forgeries) mention the place of issue. These were Győr, Székesfehérvár (3x), Óbuda (2x), Pécs, Szeged, Somogy, Zadar, Vác, Nitra (Nyitra), Esztergom (2x), Eger, Veszprém and Csepel-sziget.22 According to György Györffy, 73 royal charters were issued between 1000 and 1131, of which 23 were forgeries and only three of them have the place of issue. They were Sóly (near Veszprém) and the already mentioned Győr and Somogy. Of the forgeries that have been made after 1526, these were Óbuda (2x), Szeged and Zadar (Zára). 23 In the selection register of charters from 1001–1196 by the same author, only Székesfehérvár was as the place where the royal document was issued. Other non-royal charters, issued in the presence of the monarch in 1134, 1146 and 1152, mention locations such as Oradea (Nagyvárad), Szentendre (near Óbuda)24 and Şemlacu Mare (Mezősomlyó).25 In these cases the king (his chancellery) issued, confirmed or sealed the charter when he was staying in the main royal and episcopal residences, royal castles, Dalmatian towns, collegiate chapters or other favorite places near important seats.26 Because of their small numbers, these mentions are not very representative if one is seeking to learn more about how often the Árpád rulers visited individual sites during this period.27

We only have information about the movements of the royal court from rare mentions in narrative sources and charters—if they include their place of issue, which was not common practice in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. According to the precious few references, we have information that the Hungarian kings nearly always stayed in important seats, monasteries and royal castles of medium regni or in its vicinity. These sources, however, may give the impression that monarchs always spent their time in the central part of the kingdom. But these sources are not a representative sample, they only record several important events from the times of the Árpád dynasty (coronations, meetings of rulers and funerals). From the few mentions we do know where the ruler was in a particular year, month or day, but we know almost nothing about most of the trips and sojourns of the Hungarian kings. Like the majority of medieval monarchs, the Árpád rulers stayed mostly in the chief center of power of the kingdom where had the best opportunities for travel in this area - a dense road network, plenty of royal estates (palaces, mansions, castles), which provided them with accommodation and supplies for the “court on the road,” royal monasteries or episcopal seats, etc.28

The Central Region and the Peripheries

In the secondary literature on the regular journeys undertaken by the rulers of the Kingdom of Hungary, we need to indicate what should be considered the central territory and what was the periphery.29 It is also important to consider where the centers of power were and whether they underwent change. For example, with regards to the travels of rulers from the Holy Roman Empire (Ottonians) around the country, Eckhard Müller-Mertens identified four types of geopolitical regions or zones: the core/central regions, the remote regions, the transit zones, and the zones of proximity, depending on their importance and the frequency of the king’s visits.30 The central regions were those where the king spent the most time and where the greatest level of material support, in the form of royal estates, could be found. They were the most important centers of power, where people from other parts of the country gathered when they went to see the king. The central regions could change or new ones could spring up (in which new residential palaces were sometimes built), depending on the popularity of a specific area with an individual monarch or a successor.31

Hungarian medieval sources most frequently mention the presence of the kings in the medium regni or in its vicinity. The most important royal and ecclesiastical centers were located there, along with the highest number of monasteries, which led to the densest road network. This contributed to the founding of the first bishoprics in these centers. The remote regions were those where the king’s power and presence was limited (mostly border or peripheral territories). There was a lack of material resources to allow a longer stay by the monarch, and also fewer royal centers of power, so the kings only visited them sporadically and under exceptional circumstances. The deficiencies in these territories were, to a certain extent, compensated for by the royal monasteries that were gradually built in them. An example of this, in the Kingdom of Hungary, was Transylvania, which, in the narrower sense, is always considered to be a territory, an administratively distinct unit, in the available sources. They were also wooded, hilly or frontier regions (confinia),32 which had originally also served as royal forests (hunting areas).33

In the time of the Árpád dynasty, there were no changes in the central region. In other words, there was nothing that could be compared with, for instance, the case of Saxony, a marginal region, which became a central region during the reign of the Ottonians.34 The transit zones were narrow strips of territory around important roads which the kings used when traveling to other parts of the country or to other centers of power outside the central region. In the Kingdom of Hungary, these centers may have been found in the territories between the Danube River and the Tisza River, which connected the medium regni, for instance, with Bihar and Transylvania and, from the time of Ladislaus I, the territory beyond the Drava River in the direction of Dalmatia and Slavonia-Croatia. They may also have been found in the territories through which royal roads led to the episcopal seats, royal mansions, and hunting areas to the south, north, and west, outside the medium regni. And finally, the zones of proximity were the adjacent territories where the kings had their favorite haunts (in particular, the bishoprics and royal palaces) located on the margins of the central regions. In the Kingdom of Hungary, this may have been, for example, the territory between the Danube River and the Tisza River (e.g. Vác, Kalocsa, Tiszavárkony, etc.).

If the king began to travel more frequently from the center to marginal parts of the country which previously had been less often visited, the importance of the remote regions grew markedly, as did the importance of the transit and proximity zones. This is clearly shown by the more frequent donations made to the older centers of power, the construction of new royal residences, and the foundation of monasteries in these territories. For example, when King Coloman was in the Dalmatian city of Zadar in 1101, he stayed at palace, who had commissioned previously built there.35 Dalmatia became part of the Kingdom of Hungary only during his reign, and so he established a new residence in this city, which he then used when he came to Zadar.

The Árpád rulers certainly built such royal palaces at other important places within their kingdom. Within the political geography, these grand residences, which were often edifices of several stories which sometimes included a tower and fortification, were physical embodiments of royal power. Through their architecture and their external and internal decoration (paintings, tapestries, etc.), they were also symbolic expressions of the king’s authority in these parts of the country during his absence.36 According to Thomas of Split, Coloman visited the Dalmatian city of Split (Spalato), probably in 1102, where citizens received him respectfully after a time. The burghers of Split allocated a tower on the eastern edge of the city fortifications to Coloman, where the king accommodated his deputy (dux), together with the military garrison, which was in charge of the collection of the royal fee.37 Coloman and his court visited the Dalmatian cities (Trogir [Trau] and Zadar) several times, for example, in 1102, 1105, 1108, and 1111. Later, Béla II, Géza II, and Stephen III also stayed there.38

Medium Regni

The center of power for the rulers of the Árpád dynasty was in the territory of the former Roman province Pannonia, and some sources therefore continue to refer to it as Pannonia, medium Ungarie or caput regni, or sometimes just as Hungaria. In the secondary literature, one smaller part of this territory is most often referred to as medium regni.39 Grand Prince Géza, followed by his son Vajk (Stephen I) and other Hungarian kings, most often stayed here, in this center of power of the kingdom. Important royal seats existed here, along with the oldest monasteries and first bishoprics to be founded.40 In addition to these important seats, the sources sometimes mention, usually only once, places which cannot always be located and the importance of which for the kings cannot always be determined. As the monarchs spent time at these places, they may have been important sites that the Árpád kings regularly visited. In this period, the seat of the kingdom was the so-called traveling court, and the power center was wherever the monarch was staying.41

In addition to the medium regni, which formed a small territory from Esztergom through Óbuda to Székesfehérvár, the broader center of Árpád power was bounded by the Danube River in the north and west (circa partes Danubii), the Drava in the south, and the frontier areas near the borders with Margraviate of Austria and Carinthia in the east. In the early eleventh century, the Kingdom of Hungary was also comprised of territories on the left bank of the Danube River,42 between the Danube and the Tisza, and Bihar in the east.43 When Stephen I defeated the independent rulers Gyula II and Ajtony, he annexed their expansive areas in the east (Transylvania) and south to his kingdom.44 The medieval sources differentiate between Hungary in the narrower sense (Pannonia, Hungaria, including Bihar) and Transylvania (regnum or provincia), which had a specific position within the kingdom.45 During the reign of Ladislaus I and Coloman, Dalmatia and Croatia were also added to the Kingdom of Hungary.46

The power expansion of the Árpád dynasty to other parts of the country determined and gradually also changed the direction of travel and sojourns of the kings, which began to include these newly added territories more and more frequently. The planning of regular visits to these parts of the country, which were rather distant from the central part, was also adapted. During journeys to new locations undertaken by the royal court, new routes began to be used along which stood mansions or monasteries where the king could stop and replenish supplies or make longer stays.

The importance of certain sites in the central part of the kingdom is also indicated by mentions of places where individual members of the Árpád dynasty were buried. Stephen I and his son Emeric were buried in the Basilica of the Virgin Mary in Székesfehérvár.47 All the royal coronations took place at Székesfehérvár (with the exception of the coronation of Stephen I in Esztergom), and beginning with Coloman, several of the Hungarian kings and their family members were buried next to the graves of the first dynastic saints, Stephen I and his son Emeric.48 But before Coloman, all kings were buried in monasteries, episcopal or collegiate churches which they had built, completed, or richly endowed, and not in Székesfehérvár: Samuel Aba in Abasár, Peter Orseolo in Pécs, Andrew I in Tihany, Béla I in Szekszárd, Géza I in Vác, Ladislaus I either in Oradea or perhaps at the Somogyvár monastery49 (which he founded), Coloman’s son Stephen II also in Oradea, and Emeric I in Eger. Esztergom, Székesfehérvár, and Óbuda were important sites, but the Hungarian kings also built their own monasteries or churches next to the chapters where they had their palaces, and apparently they stayed there regularly. These places were of exceptional importance to the kings and their families, which is evidenced by several donations, confirmations, and gifts from individual members of the Árpád dynasty, such as those by Domoslaus to the monastery of Pécsvárad,50 by David to the Tihany monastery,51 and by Lampert to the collegiate chapter in Titel.52 These important power and sacred centers were also visited by their descendants, and within the dynasty’s sacral topography some of them became the favorite residences of the Hungarian monarchs, where the memory (memoria) of famous ancestors was preserved, as is sometimes mentioned in charters of foundation or donation.53

The Árpád Rulers on the Road

According to the Lesser Legend of St. Stephen, when his enemies were destroying royal castles, mansions, and estates, they also wanted to conquer Veszprém castle, where the king allegedly liked to stay.54 The Árpád rulers left this central territory when they traveled to their estates in the peripheral areas of the country to meet the local political elites, when on military campaigns, for synods and countrywide assemblies (Tarcal, Szabolcs),55 to hunt (Igfon, Sárospatak, Maramureş [Máramaros] or Zvolen [Zólyom]),56 or in exceptional cases, to celebrate important Christian holidays (Csanád, Ikervár, Bodrog).57 However, the sources do not reveal how often they did this, nor do they indicate where the monarchs and their entourages stayed most frequently when they traveled to the peripheral parts of the kingdom. For example, the Lesser Legend of St. Stephen mentions that at the time the Pechenegs unexpectedly invaded Hungary (sometime between 1017 and 1018), the king was hunting in remotae partes.58 This reference to a remote area suggests that Stephen was not hunting in the forests of the medium regni but somewhere in the east of the country, maybe in the popular Igfon Forest in Bihar, which was located outside the center of power of his kingdom.59

When Béla I became king, he summoned an assembly at Székesfehérvár in 1060–1061, and he issued orders according to which two elders from each village should come to an audience with the king. Székesfehérvár was the traditional location for countrywide assemblies and also the main center of power where the Árpád kings were crowned.60 The kings spent a substantial period of time in Székesfehérvár every year in order to celebrate the important holidays, including the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the death of St. Stephen, and the lifting of his remains.61 People from different parts of the country had the opportunity to see the monarch and to participate with him in royal legal courts, liturgical ceremonies, and feasts.62 The king reached judgements, solved disputes, received foreign ambassadors, and planned military campaigns, and there were also debates on the state of the kingdom. He fostered relationships with his faithful magnates, ispáns, bishops, and abbots, and he granted gifts and issued charters of donation. These events were accompanied by various ceremonies and rituals.63

The countrywide assemblies were mainly held once a year, or more frequently, if necessary, mostly out in the open, for instance on islands, in the vicinity of important castle centers, and next to episcopal or royal palaces. The times at which assemblies were convened coincided with the celebration of the important church holidays within the liturgical year, such as Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.64 For example, according to The Long Life of St. Gerard, Stephen I came to Székesfehérvár every year, where abbots and bishops gathered to celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary together.65 The Chronicle Composition states that King Samuel Aba was staying in Csanád during Lent in 1044. This is one of the first references to the presence of a king outside the central territory. Csanád was an episcopal seat, where the Hungarian Bishop Gerard worked at the time. Samuel Aba may have traveled there to spend time in the episcopal seat during Lent and to meet the important bishop. It is very likely that at that time, due to the presence of the king, a local assembly was convened at Csanád, with about 50 noblemen gathered there.66 This possibility is also suggested by a later reference to the meeting of Hungarian noblemen in Csanád, who were unhappy with the reign of Peter Orseolo.67 The members of the Árpád House mostly celebrated a number of Christian holidays in their main residences, episcopal seats, and monasteries in the power center of the kingdom. It is not clear, therefore, whether this was an isolated event or whether kings regularly visited outlying parts of the kingdom in this connection too. In 1046, the village of Zámoly is mentioned, where Peter Orseolo stopped on his way from the border castle of Moson to Székesfehérvár. When he realized that Prince Andrew wanted to capture him, he took refuge in a curia, where he and his men defended themselves for three days.68 It may therefore have been a fortified royal mansion in the central part of kingdom along a road that connected several important sites in its vicinity.

Among the important royal palaces was Tiszavárkony, which was mentioned at the meeting of King Andrew and Prince Béla in 1059 as a pallacium, and in 1098, King Coloman also traveled there when he was about to fight his brother Álmos.69 Tiszavárkony was strategically located because it stood on the right bank of the Tisza River, and the far side of the river was already Bihar territory. This is why rulers of the Árpád family often stopped there on their way to the Igfon Forest, Transylvania, or even to the more distant northern or southern parts of the country along the Tisza River. In 1064, King Solomon and Prince Géza were staying in Győr during the holiday of St. Fabian and Sebastian, where they concluded a peace treaty.70 The selection of Győr as the site may not have been accidental. Although Solomon had been crowned in Székesfehérvár, he did not yet have a firm grip on power, so he withdrew to the border castle of Moson for a period of time. Prince Géza also returned to the Kingdom of Hungary at that time. He had been residing in Poland.

Through the intercession of the Kalocsa Archbishop, Dezider, the cousins finally met in the seat of the Győr bishop, which was located near the border where Solomon was staying. It is probable that in order to prevent a new conflict between them, they did not choose any of the most important royal seats, such as Esztergom or Székesfehérvár, for the meeting, but preferred instead the “neutral” city of Győr.71 Several months later, Solomon and Géza visited another episcopal seat together, Pécs, on Easter Sunday.72 Maurus, the bishop of Pécs, who had contributed significantly to the peace agreement between them,73 must have known that at Easter, the king and the prince would come to his palace and he therefore had to make sufficient preparations for their arrival. When the king and prince arrived with their entourages,74 the bishop had to provide them with suitable lodging in his seat and ensure they had everything necessary for their stay.75 During this holiday, Prince Géza placed the royal crown on the head of Solomon in the presence of the noblemen of the country.76 As it was an exceptional event, it is very likely that Hungarian bishops, abbots, magnates, and ispáns also took part in this ritual, who were apparently in Pécs at that time.

The very valuable and unique information in the Chronicle Composition on royal travel during a relatively short period (1072–1075) relates to Solomon’s reign. They were not confined to the central part of the kingdom, where, for obvious reasons, he stayed most often as king, but also traveled outside this territory because of military campaigns or important meetings. First he was in Niš (Serbia), then he went to the Keve castle (on the road to Belgrade), from where he traveled to a meeting in Esztergom (where he negotiated and concluded a peace treaty with Prince Géza on the nearby Danubian island).77 He then traveled to Székesfehérvár, after which he stayed briefly in the royal village of Megyer (probably Kismegyer near Győr), from where he went to a meeting near the Rábca River. He then celebrated Christmas in the nearby Ikervár, from where he went to Zala, then to the Szekszárd Abbey, then to Kemej near the Tisza River, where fought with his cousins. He then moved to the curia of Peter’s son (probably Peterka near Pest), from where he went to nearby Rákos (near Pest). He then fought at Mogyoród, and after the military defeat, he crossed the Danube River at Szigetfő and arrived at the border castle of Moson.78

In 1073, King Solomon celebrated Christmas at a place called Geminum Castellum, which was mentioned as Ikervár, located on the right side of the Rába River. Since it is mentioned as castellum and the Hungarian name has the ending vár, it was very likely a royal fortified palace or mansion, which must have included a church or a royal chapel where Solomon could have celebrated this important Christian holiday.79 The king went from there to Zalavár, where he met with Marquard, duke of the Germans, who apparently had promised him military assistance against Géza.80 Although Zalavár was a county castle, Stephen I founded a Benedictine abbey there sometime at the beginning of the eleventh century,81 so at the end of 1073 or at the beginning of 1074, Solomon may have stayed either in this castle or in the royal monastery. The king then apparently visited Szekszárd Abbey in early 1074, and he camped near it and attended mass in the monastery church in the evening.82

When Géza, his opponent, became king, he celebrated Christmas at the Szekszárd monastery sometime between 1074 and 1076, which had been built by his father, Béla I.83 Although Vác was exceptionally important to the Árpád dynasty and was also the seat of the bishop, very little information has been preserved about its earliest history. According to the Chronicle Composition, Vác was an important seat of King Géza I, and the bishopric was probably established there during the reign of Peter Orseolo (the territory of the diocese was split off from the territory of the Eger bishopric).84 When Géza was still a prince and fought against Solomon for power, he met his brother Ladislaus and also later the Olomouc Prince Otto in Vác.85 Sometime in the beginning of March 1074, before the famous Battle of Mogyoród, Princes Géza, Ladislaus, and Otto (from Moravia) left from Vác for the manor of Cinkota (part of Budapest today), which is mentioned as allodium. This Latin term might indicate that there was also a royal mansion, similarly to Dömös (regale allodium), where the Árpád rulers had their mansion or palace in the second half of the eleventh century.86

According to the Chronicle Composition, King Ladislaus I celebrated Easter Sunday of 1093 at the county castle of Bodrog.87 Unless we count the episcopal seat of Csanád, the royal visit to Bodrog is the only reference to the celebration of an important Christian holiday at a county castle. We do not know why Ladislaus was staying at the Bodrog castle at that time. It was in a strategic position on the left bank of the Danube River, near the spot where the Drava River flows into the Danube. As Ladislaus was spending Easter there, there must have been a church. As in the case of Csanád, it is not possible to determine whether the Hungarian kings visited this site more frequently or if this was merely a one-off visit by Ladislaus. Béla II, at the suggestion of his wife Helene and the barons, convened a countrywide assembly near Arad probably sometime between 1131 and 1132.88 We do not know why this place was chosen. After Béla was blinded, some Hungarian magnates helped him find refuge at an unknown place in the kingdom so that the king would not find out about it.89

During the reign of Stephen II, Béla may have stayed in Arad or in its vicinity in secret, in other words beyond the main center of power, where the Hungarian king moved most frequently, and this might explain why the assembly was held there. For Béla II, Arad was probably a favored and important seat where he frequently stayed, as indicated by the fact that he founded a collegiate chapter there, probably in 1135.90 The countrywide assemblies over the course of a year could also take place outside of the medium regni at places which were linked to an older tradition of the holding of local assemblies, possibly in the vicinity of the favorite seats of the king or his family. The selection of a site depended to a great extent on the preferences of the monarch too. He could select a suitable place to hold a royal tribunal and meet his loyal magnates based on the political situation in the country at the time.

When traveling from one place or territory to another, the kings likely only stopped a single night in the various localities (e. g. royal agricultural mansions or villages). These stays were referred to as “one-night stops.” If need be, the king would spend a single night or several days in a tent or on the estates of his loyal magnates.91 When King Béla III, together with his notary, validated the last will of Csaba sometime around 1177, he did so on a Sunday, next to the house of comes Zenie, while he sat under an oak tree in the presence of his ispáns.92 In 1071, for example, King Solomon and Prince Géza stayed in the village of Buziás on the estate of Vid, the ispán of Bács.93

The Árpád rulers also traveled in response to invitations from loyal magnates, most often to be present for important events. Thus, in 1061 (1064), Palatine Otto invited King Solomon and Prince Géza to celebrate the consecration of his St. James’ Monastery, which he had had built in Zselic (Zselicszentjakab, part of Kaposvár today).94 The consecration of a church or monastery was an important event that the monarch had to attend. Several people from the royal court and the close vicinity of the monastery gathered for the occasion. At such a public event, the ruler presented himself as the protector of Christianity. This celebration included feasts, gifts, rituals, and ceremonies.95 On similar occasions and for other reasons (the confirmation of loyalty, creation of alliances, planning of a military campaign, etc.), the Hungarian kings visited the estates of important magnates and ispáns much more frequently than is mentioned in sources.

The king’s arrival at a place was demanding and expensive for the host, but the king’s presence also created important advantages for the host. A stay by the king was a great honor and an exceptional event for the surrounding area. During such visits, the king and his hosts exchanged gifts, and the king would be accommodated and entertained throughout the whole visit. As a reward, the host might “obtain” some donations.96 The consecration of the chapter church in Dömös in 1108 was probably similarly spectacular. Prince Álmos even invited King Coloman to this important event, despite the fact that he had a long-standing dispute with him.97 The importance of this residence is evidenced by the fact that, when the king had Álmos and his young son Béla blinded in 1113, he was then taken to his “monastery” in Dömös.98 However, there was originally a royal (hunting) mansion on the site, which is mentioned as regale allodium as early as 1063 and as curia Dimisiensi in 1079.99

Very little information has been preserved about the number of journeys and stays of the Hungarian kings in various parts of the country in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. That is why the mentions in the charters from 1134 and 1152 are exceptionally valuable. The document from 1134 related a dispute, which lasted several years, concerning the Dubrava Forest between the Zagreb bishopric and Somogy ispán, or the Somogy castle-warriors. Fáncsika, the archbishop of Kalocsa, and Macilinus, the bishop of Zagreb, and three important men from the Zagreb bishopric gave testimony in favor of the bishopric at the synod in Oradea and swore on the local altar.100 It is very likely that King Béla II was also present at this synod.

King Géza II’s charter of 1152 records the verdict of Palatine Belus, the court judge Hendrik, and three ispáns concerning the dispute brought by royal servants who were to present themselves at a divine tribunal before the Veszprém chapter. This royal decision was probably previously taken and approved under oath in the Church (of the collegiate chapter?) of St. Stephen the King next to the Şemlacu Mare royal estate. This could have happened during a countrywide assembly at which Géza II may also have been present.101

Iter Regis in the Law-Codes and Synods of the Árpád Rulers

Pursuant to King Coloman’s law-code, all payments received from the royal counties before the holiday of St. Michael were to be sent to Esztergom, and a share of them belonged to the king. The shares due to the ispáns and centuriones were to be set aside from the county’s fees in Esztergom.102 Thus, sometime before the holiday of St. Michael, the king or his deputy could stay in Esztergom in order to supervise the payment of his share. The king thus must have met with his loyal magnates, bishops, or abbots in Esztergom every year, and this important event was accompanied by various ceremonies, rituals, feasts, tribunals, agreements with political elites, bestowal of gifts, and the award of donations. The Synod of Szabolcs in 1092 forbade priests to celebrate mass outside of a church with the exception of travel that lasted for several days. and under such circumstances, they were allowed to celebrate mass in a tent. This probably also applied to the royal chaplains if they were on the road with the king for an extended period of time and there was no church in the vicinity.103

Another article of this synod mentions that if an abbot or monk were to visit the royal court, he was not to greet the monarch in the church but should to do so in either king’s residence (domus) or a tent.104 The king could thus be found at the places where he had a domus,105 thus presumably meaning the royal palace, agricultural mansion, or royal village. But if he was on the roads and there was no suitable accommodation available in the vicinity, he camped in a tent in which he received visitors. This is also proven by the Synod of Esztergom, which took place sometime in the years between 1105 and 1112/1113. According to one of its articles, mass could not to be celebrated anywhere but in a church, not even in a tent or “house” (domus), which probably meant residences in which there was no chapel. However, this did not apply to the king, for whom masses could be celebrated outside of a church, as well as to bishops, ispáns, and abbots, but only if they had a designated tent or similar specially adapted place for holding mass, and this only applied when they were traveling.106 King Coloman’s law-code also stipulates that a mass could only be held in consecrated places, but this did not hold true for journeys or pilgrimages, which probably only applied to the king, senior church dignitaries, and magnates, who were permitted to celebrate mass at a portable altar, within a tent, or at an alternative place deemed suitable. However, this exception did not apply when they were on the hunt.107

In order for the Hungarian kings to be able to exercise their power even in the more distant territories of their kingdom, they had to visit them in person from time to time. The personal presence of the monarch and his court was also often linked to the execution of royal judicial powers and the confirmation of the loyalty of the local powerful elites in these peripheral parts of the country.108 However, the Árpád kings probably did not visit these territories every year, because they spent most of their time in the medium regni. Whether they were staying in the central region or the peripheries the kingdom, in order better to deal with the necessary “administration,” they had their ispáns available at the royal castles or abbots in royal monasteries and provosts in collegiate chapters. Kings used messengers (nuntii regis) to communicate with the surrounding areas. The task of these messengers was to announce royal regulations, important changes, or exceptional events concerning the kingdom and the ruling dynasty. For example, Life of Archbishop Conrad of Salzburg mentions that the Archbishop of Esztergom sent a messenger (nuntius) with an urgent message to King Stephen II, who sometime before 1131 was staying outside the central territory in the marchia Ruthenorum.109

The Árpád rulers may also have used their messengers to announce the arrival of the royal court to individual parts of the country. Even if kings routinely visited the same places over the course of a year, sometimes their plans may have changed due to various circumstances, making it necessary to inform loyal dignitaries of these changes. Therefore, the royal messengers had to convey the plans of the monarch to the individual bailiffs of agricultural or hunting mansions, abbots, bishops, ispáns, etc., well in advance to give them sufficient time to prepare for the arrival of the king, which meant gathering supplies, ensuring available fodder for horses, and making sure that the items necessary to accommodate the royal court were on hand.110 The royal messengers had to travel to a public place in the various localities of the kingdom, where people normally gathered, usually the markets, and announce the royal regulations there. In addition to royal messengers (nuntii), who probably enjoyed royal protection and an important position, the law-code of Ladislaus I also mentions other messengers who traveled by horse (cursores).111 While it is not entirely clear how these messengers differed, cursores were apparently of lower status than the royal messengers, who seem to have been sent (also on horseback) directly from the royal court (nuntii as well as precones and veredarii).112 Cursores may have been county messengers who only traveled within their territory and were forbidden to ride a horse (probably only one) further than the third village. This may suggest that their movements were limited to a comparatively small area, and cursores were apparently subordinate to the royal messengers.113

It is very likely that stud farms were established near some royal residences, mansions, or main roads. In the medium regni, there was an important and probably large royal stud-farm in Csepel-sziget, which was close to royal residences such as Óbuda or Székesfehérvár.114 A mention from 1067 says that a royal stud-farm was also found in the frontier county of Borsod, next to the royal mansion at Szihalom and close to the main road along the Tisza River.115 Next to Alpár, at the border of Csongrád and Szolnok counties, close to the road to Szolnok castle, according to a reference from 1075, a man lived who cared for and guarded royal horses.116 These horses, which were kept only at designated places in the kingdom and were apparently a kind of network of royal stud-farms, were probably also used by royal messengers when delivering regulations from the royal court to other, often remote parts of the country.

Coloman’s law-code contains a wealth of information concerning the various laws governing the travel of members of the royal family. Should the king or a prince enter any county, he was to receive a war horse from this county.117 It is not quite clear if this provision only applied in the case of a military campaign or whether the king and prince had the right to a war horse for their entourage whenever they crossed through the territory of a royal county. Apparently, upon entry into another county, they returned the first war horse and got a new one. This practice seems to have been repeated whenever the king or prince was traveling in the country and passing through the individual counties. Another article of this law-code is related to this provision according to which, if the ispán of a border territory (marchia) received important news from the royal court, he was to send two messengers with four war horses to the king (only horses without riders?). The messengers were to cover the expenses of the journey themselves, and the expense incurred on their return to the frontier area was to be covered by the palatine. Should these horses die or be injured, financial compensation was to be paid to these messengers, but should the horses return uninjured, their journey back to the frontier territory was to be considered a military campaign.118

The meaning of this provision is not quite clear, but the ispán and the two messengers from the border territory had to know where the king was staying and what road he would take so that they could bring him the war horses. The dignitaries of the royal court therefore had to inform the (border) ispán in advance about the monarch’s journey to his territory, and it was probably the royal or county messengers who came to the frontier area to announce this important news.119 This may have been an unexpected military campaign due to the invasion by an enemy from the neighboring country, and the monarch therefore had to move to the frontier with the army. However, it is possible that this merely referred to information about the regular arrival of a royal, and it did not concern any matter of defense, but rather applied only to “annual” travel within the country. This provision in Coloman’s law-code is related to the previous regulation about the provision of a war horse by the county. While the former probably concerns the ordinary needs of the royal or princely entourage, the latter likely applies more to a military campaign. This law-code further mentions that if the king visits a (royal) village and somebody steals a (royal) horse there, the inhabitants will not be expected to provide compensation.120 Apart from traveling from one county to another and occasionally arriving in the border areas of the kingdom, Arpad’s kings apparently regularly visited their villages, which may have been hunting or agricultural mansions scattered across the countryside.

Another regulation in Coloman’s law-code concerns the royal judicial powers. If the king entered a county, two counties judges were to join him, and together they would decide local lawsuits.121 Thus, in the course of his regular travels, the ruler came to the counties, where he personally exercised his judicial authority and thereby also demonstrated his position of power (though it is not clear whether he traveled to each individual county every year). The following provision of this law-code is also very interesting. It regulates the collection of denarios from the free inhabitants of the Kingdom of Hungary. Eight denarios were originally paid by all freemen, but after the new regulation, this amount was to be paid only by the men of the castle (cives hedbomadarii), who apparently were exempt from the duties of the common “castle folk,” but as freemen, they still had to pay the king a tax for their freedom. Free of the men who usually furnished the king with horses, transport wagons and “services for pay” (servitia stipendiaria) when the king traveled through their territory were to only pay four denarios.122 The freemen who provided services to the king were favored, as they paid only half of the amount usually paid, presumably because they were expected to fulfill special duties intended to address the needs of the monarch. There also seem to have been free royal people whose services were mainly related to supplying the royal court, though it is not impossible that their duties also included providing for the needs of the king in the course of his regular travels around the country.123 The question is what, in fact, is meant by the Latin term servitia stipendiaria, which some historians translate as mercenary services. From the context of this provision, it follows that it might be more appropriate to translate stipendia as hospitality or the provision of supplies (victuals, fodder for horses, etc.).124 It probably meant duties and services similar to those provided by the specialized servants of the kings of the Holy Roman Empire, who provided supplies for rulers when they were on the road, which were referred to by the Latin terms fodrum (fodder), gistum (hospitality), and servitium regis/regale (services). Later, an “umbrella term,” hospitium, was used.125

Adventus Regis and Descensus

In Hungarian medieval narrative sources, very few references to the ceremonial arrival (adventus regis) of the individual Árpád kings to important residences in the eleventh and twelfth centuries have survived.126 The king’s arrival at a residence, town, monastery, or bishop’s seat was a ceremonial event, accompanied by liturgical-celebratory songs (laudes) and the public wearing of the crown (Festkrönung).127 We can only assume that the regular arrivals of the rulers to popular localities also involved honoring the memory of saints128 or royal ancestors or commemorating exceptional events, ceremonies which included the bestowal of gifts, public liturgical processions, and participation in church services, as we have documented, for example, in the case of kings Solomon and Géza during their visit to the Szekszárd monastery. In this context, one of the provisions of the Synod of Szabolcs is particularly important. It stipulated that, if a king or a bishop were to come to an abbey, the abbot and the monks should not welcome him or give him the kiss of peace in the monastery church. The solemn welcoming ceremony should take place, rather, in the cloister. At the same time, the abbot was to permit the king to enter the monastery with as large an entourage as he required.129 As the rules for the ceremonial entry of the king were specially regulated, this is evidence that monarchs came to the monasteries regularly and, in addition to a “proper” welcoming ritual, very probably also expected shows of hospitality. This is clearly one of the first indirect references to the fact that members of the Árpád dynasty commonly exercised the right to descensus (lodging and provisioning) in the monasteries.

Thus, the aforementioned regulation of the Synod of Szabolcs was based on the actual practice of Hungarian monarchs, as is confirmed by The Life of St. Emeric in the description of the visit of Stephen I and his son to Pannonhalma, when the honor which, upon entry to the monastery, belonged to the king was left to Emeric.130 The royal visit was an important event for the monastic community and an effective way for the monarch to control the activities, commitments, and fidelity of the leaders of his abbeys. Kings gave generous endowments to the monasteries, in return for which they expected abbots to provide financial or military support and, on their repeated arrival, the right to descensus. Although it was costly for the abbot to provide welcome and host the monarch and his entourage in the manner expected, during these visits, kings gave the abbots valuable gifts, and they confirmed estates or privileges and often granted new donations.131 The first reliable document about the obligation of the monastic populi udvornici to provide supplies for the monarch’s entourage upon arrival of the king (adventus regis) dates back to 1226 and concerns Pannonhalma Abbey.132 This common practice was apparently applied by the Árpád rulers in all the royal monasteries, as evidenced by a document from 1247 on the rights and duties of the iobagiones of the Hronský Beňadik (Garamszentbenedek) Abbey, which were, however, based on their earlier freedoms granted by King Stephen III. If the monarch came to this monastery, they were to “assist” the abbot like other monastery populi, which very probably meant supplying the royal court with foodstuffs and providing various services.133

Royal travel was closely related to the right held by the monarch to hospitality that extended to his family, court dignitaries, and servants (ius descensus regii, Hung. szállás), but Hungarian sources from the eleventh and twelfth centuries do not contain any direct information related to this right. Although mentions of this right appear only in law-codes and privileges from the thirteenth century, it is nevertheless possible to assume that the members of the Árpád dynasty had exercised the descensus in the preceding centuries as well, as indirectly evidenced, for example, by the provision for the king’s arrival at the monastery according to the Synod of Szabolcs.134 Interesting in this context is Coloman’s privilege for the Dalmatian city of Trogir from 1108, in which he allowed the Trogir burghers to live according to the old customs they had previously observed. If the king visited the city (advenio), he had no right to demand hospitality in the burghers’ houses. Inhabitants of the city could welcome the ruler into their domiciles, but this was done on a completely voluntarily basis. If the kingdom were attacked by an enemy, the king, his wife, his sons, and his entourage were allowed to enter Trogir without limitation.135

Royal charters from the eleventh and twelfth centuries related directly to the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary do not regulate the king’s right to descensus in any special way. The reason why no information of concerning this has survived may be related either to the insufficient number of preserved medieval sources or the fact that the Árpád dynasty commonly exercised this right, and thus it was not necessary to make special mention of it in the individual donation documents from this period. Apparently, after the annexation of Dalmatia, the Hungarian kings could not claim the right to descensus as was their custom in the Kingdom of Hungary, and therefore in important Dalmatian cities, which were already governed by other customs, they had to respect the old rights of these communities. According to the revenues of King Béla III, every ispán entertained the king once a year and gave him financial gifts during the banquets, which may be one of the first indirect references from the second half of the twelfth century to the royal right to descensus in the Kingdom of Hungary. The queen and her sons also received gifts such as silver, fine fabrics, and horses, probably on the same occasion when the king visited his ispáns during the year.136

The first mention of this royal right is found in the Golden Bull of 1222, when Andrew II promised not to collect any collecta or freemen’s denarios from royal servientes and also pledged that he would not claim the right of descensus in their houses or villages unless they voluntarily invited him.137 One of the articles in the 1231 confirmation of the Golden Bull deals with descensus, due to the significant damage and burden caused by the obligation to welcome and host the king, the queen, the royal sons, the archbishops, the bishops, the barons, and the nobles. The king ordered that the tithe required to supply the royal kitchen (coquina nostra) and the material provisions of the royal court would only be accepted if a payment was made upon the provision of victuals, such as corn, wine, and so on.138 This provision provides evidence that in addition to the members of royal family, the ispáns, provincial dignitaries, and high church representatives also traveled the country and demanded the right of descensus.


The Árpád kings spent a great deal of time on the road with their court over the course of a year. Even if they had a longer stay in the same place, mostly in their favorite residences, they also seem to have moved frequently to other sites, about which very little information has survived. In all likelihood, more trips took place in the eleventh and twelfth centuries than are mentioned in Hungarian medieval sources, whether merely sporadic excursions or regular sojourns, as part of the movement around the country. The presence of members of the Árpád dynasty is most often associated with the central part of the kingdom (medium regni and the surrounding territories). As very few sources from this period have survived, it is not possible to state unequivocally that iter regis was confined to this area and that other parts of the country were not regularly visited by the kings. Isolated mentions suggest that royal travel outside the main power territory was related not only to military campaigns but also to the celebration of religious holidays, assemblies, the judiciary, hunting, and very probably, even the consumption of foodstuffs and the provision of services in individual palaces, mansions, and monasteries throughout the kingdom. In this period, the personal presence of the monarch, which was related to symbolic shows of power, rituals and ceremonies, the resolution of conflicts, the strengthening of relations with faithful ispáns, etc., was extremely important and could not be limited only to the main part of the kingdom. When members of the Árpád dynasty left the central territory and traveled to other parts of the kingdom, though it is not possible to determine how frequent these sojourns were or how long they lasted, the sources do indicate that they stayed in county castles, mansions, and monasteries (possibly also in tents) which formed parts of the dynasty’s network of power-sacral centers as the rulers moved around the country.


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1 Brühl, “Remarques”; Perroy, “Carolingian,” 133, 138–40; Nelson, “Rulers,” 105–6, 112–13, 116; Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 303–6; Bachrach, “Exercise,” 393–95; Reuter, “Regemque,” 129, 133–37; Innes, “People,” 397–98, 409, 415–16, 423–27, 434–35; Airlie, “The Palace,” 2–3, 7–8.

2 Rösener, “Zur Topographie”; Iversen, “Royal villas.”

3 Peyer, “Das Reisekönigtum,” 1–5; Helmarath, “Reisekönigtum,” 106–10; Bernhardt, Itinerant, 45–75; Reuter, “Regemque,” 129–30, 133–44; Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 304–6; Ehlers, “Having the King,” 1–8; McKitterick, “A King,” 146–52, 166–68; Zotz, “Kingship,” 316–17, 327–28.

4 Nelson, “Kingship,” 389–98, 407–17, 422–30; Nelson, “Rulers,” 96–97; Zotz, “Kingship,” 317–18.

5 Helmarath, “Reisekönigtum,” 110–15; Leyser, “Ottonian,” 746–49; McKitterick, “A King,” 145–46, 150–53, 166–68; Reuter, “Regemque,” 129, 133–36.

6 Schmidt, “Königsumritt”; Bernhardt, “King.”

7 Leyser, “Ottonian,” 732–33, 746–49; Leyser, “Ritual,” 196, 201–2; Ehlers, “Having the King,” 2–16, 26; Bachrach, “Exercise,” 394–95; Reuter, “Regemque,” 129–44; Althoff, “The Variability,” 71–74, 86–87; Nelson, “Rulers,” 96–97, 105–11, 119–20; Roach, “Hosting,” 34–35, 42–45.

8 On the bishop’s seats, see Schlesinger, “Bischofssitze.”

9 Bernát Kumorovitz is one of the few historians to have dealt with this topic in detail. Kumorovitz, “Buda.”

10 Within the framework of itinerant kingship, it would also be appropriate to examine the royal manorial organization and the system of royal servants (condicionarii). However, the study is primarily concerned with the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and the greater number of sources on the subject date only from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (see for example Kis, A királyi szolgálónépi, 10–86), so this interesting issue is not considered in this text. On this subject, see Györffy, “Zur Frage der Herkunft, 1 and 2,” 39–83 and 311–37. Within the broader Central European context, see Krzemieńska and Třeštík, “Zur Problematik der Dienstleute,” 70–103; Kučera, “Anmerkungen zur Dienstorganisation,” 113–27, and Modzelewski, Organizacja gospodarcza, 5–75.

11 Engel, The Realm, xviii; Klaniczay, “The Birth.” Caution must be exercised when comparing historical circumstances in different countries. It is necessary to consider the time period is involved, the different geographical environments, often specific developments, the state of the sources, and the traditions in the scholarship. Wickham, “Problems,” 6–11. See also Veres, “A magyar,” 361–62.

12 Györffy, “A Case”; Hunyadi, “…scripta manent”; Berend, “Historical.”

13 The source value of individual chapters of the Chronicle Composition, which relate to the period of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, is still the subject of historical research. See Gerics, Legkorábbi gesta, 63-70; Györffy, Krónikáink, 3–10, 183–88; Szőcs, “A 14. századi krónikaszerkesztmény,” 59–64, 87; Thoroczkay, “A magyar krónikairodalom,” 23–26, 30–31; Veszprémy, “Korhűség és forrásérték,” 809–10; Bak and Grzesik, “The Text,” 7–16.

14 Kumorovitz, “Buda,” 12–16; Veres, “A magyar,” 355–58, 363–64.

15 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 13, 268; Cap. 23, 281; Cap. 28, 290; Cap. 64, 313–14; Cap. 66–67, 316–18; Cap. 112, 378; Cap. 124, 394; Cap. 133, 407; Cap. 170, 462.

16 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 92, 353–54; Cap. 98, 363; Cap. 146, 426; Legenda sancti Gerhardi episcopi II, Cap. 5, 487–88. See also Syn. Szab., 41, DRMH I, 59; AA, His. Iero., Liber II, Cap. 3–4, 64–65.

17 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 85, 343; Cap. 93, 357; Cap. 96, 360; Cap. 113, 378; Cap. 114, 379; Cap. 121, 388; Cap. 144, 423; Cap. 148, 427–28; Legenda sancti Gerhardi episcopi II, Cap. 5, 487–88. See also AA, His. Iero., Liber II, Cap. 3, 64–65; Cap. 4, 66–67.

18 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 88, 345; Cap. 93, 357; Cap. 139, 416; Cap. 141, 420; Cap. 148, 427–28; Legenda maior sancti Stephani regis, Cap. 8, 383; Cap. 9, 385; Cap. 6, 381; Cap. 10, 385; Legenda minor sancti Stephani regis, Cap. 3, 395; Cap. 4, 396; Legenda S. Emerici ducis, Cap. 2, 452; Cap. 3, 453; Legenda Sancti Ladislai regis, Cap. 5, 519; Cap. 8, 522–23; Legenda sancti Gerhardi episcopi II, Cap. 9, 493; Cap. 12, 498; Cap. 15, 503.

19 Jong and Theuws, “Topographies.”

20 Ráth, A magyar, 1–13; Sebestyén, A magyar, 13–17.

21 Szentpétery, “A datum,” 127; Györffy, “Die ungarischen.”

22 RA, vol. 1/1, 1–58; CDSl, vol. 1, no. 63+++r, 60; no. 72+++r, 69; no. 74+, 73; no. 85++, 82; no. 90, 86; no. 99, 93.

23 DHA, vol. 1, 19–424; appendix, 435–37.

24 ÁMTF, vol. 4, 696–97.

25 ChAH, 49–50, 58, 61, 84–85; Györffy, “Die ungarischen,” 263–64. On private medieval charters certified with the royal seal, see Veres, “A magyar,” 364–69.

26 See Györffy, “Die Anfänge”; Györffy, “Die ungarischen.”

27 In documents from the first of the half thirteenth century, there are more references to places where kings, queens, or other family members stayed. Often, there were, in addition to important seats such as these, places that are not mentioned at all or only exceptionally in previous periods. For example, Insula Bubalorum, Isle of Hares, Erked, Szatmár (today’s part of Satu Mare), Verőce, Segesd, Tekov (Bars), Krupina (Korpona), Hrhov (Görgő), Sárospatak, Zvolen (Zólyom), Bereg, Šariš (Sáros), and many others. These sites may have been visited by the Árpád rulers as early as the twelfth century, or even earlier, but some of them may have become favorite places of the rulers only during the thirteenth century. RA, vol. 1/1, no. 296, 97; no. 431, 139; no. 458, 147; no. 467, 150–51; no. 483, 155; no. 485, 155–56; no. 500, 159; no. 528, 167; RA, vol. ½, no. 604, 185; no. 638, 195; no. 645, 197; no. 731, 220; no. 732–25, 218; no. 727, 219; no. 758–59, 226–27; no. 765, 229; no. 777, 233; no. 790, 237; no. 793, 237–38; no. 813, 243; no. 818, 244–45; no. 934, 287–88; no. 744, 223; no. 991, 308; RA, vol. 1/3, no. 1165, 357; no. 1220, 374; CDSl, vol. 2, no. 199, 132; no. 200, 133; RD, no. 1, 21–22; no. 12, 27; no. 32, 36; no. 39, 40; no. 49–52, 46–48.

28 See Font, Koloman, 49–50; Veres, “A magyar,” 368–69, 373–81. For details on royal roads in the Kingdom of Hungary, see Szilágy, On the Road, 18–24, 53–62, 76–84, 86–98, 101–3, 107–20, 186–96.

29 Bartlett, “Heartland”; Remensnyder, “Topographies,” 195–97; Guarini Fasano, “Center,” 74–75, 95–96. See Veres, “A magyar,” 358–63.

30 Müller-Mertens, Die Reichsstruktur, 101–24, 133–48. See Bernhardt, Itinerant, 60–63, 65–67; Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 307–8.

31 Leyser, “Ottonian,” 746–49; Airlie, “The Palace,” 263–64, 275–76; Innes, “People,” 410–12, 419–22, 426–27; Bartlett, “Heartland.”

32 Zsoldos, “Confinium.”

33 Hudáček, “Silva Bereg.”

34 Ehlers, “Having the King,” 15–16, 26; Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 307–10.

35 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 146, 426.

36 Reuter, “Regemque,” 140–41; Airlie, “The Palace,” 256–61, 277–79, 286.

37 Thomae archidiaconi, Cap. 17, 95; Cap. 18, 99.

38 Györffy, “A XII. századi,” 47–50; Steindorff, Die dalmatinischen, 11–25; Szeberényi, “Remarks,” 36–37; Gál, “The Roles,” 472–74, 483–84.

39 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 10, 261; cap. 26, 286; cap. 28, 288, 290; cap. 83, 339; cap. 124, 394; AA, His. Iero., Liber I, Cap. 7, 12–13; Simonis de Kéza, Liber 2, Cap. 27, 43, 165–66, 172; Barta and Barta, “Royal,” 22; Altmann et al., Medium Regni, 5–8, 11–199; Veres, “A magyar,” 371–72.

40 Kumorovitz, “Buda,” 44–46; Kralovánszky, “The Settlement.”; Barabás, “The Christianization,” 119–23, 125.

41 MacLean, “Palaces,” 313; Airlie, “The Palace of Memory,” 1–8; Leyser, “Ottonian,” 739–40.

42 In historiography referred to as the Principality of Nitra.

43 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 28, 288; Cap. 64, 312–14; Cap. 102, 366; Cap. 104, 369–70. Kristó, “Die Entstehung,” 14–15.

44 Györffy, Święty, 138–52; Kristó, “Die Entstehung,” 15–16; Thoroczkay, “The Dioceses,” 50–52.

45 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 26, 286; Cap. 28, 287; Cap. 30, 291; Cap. 64, 314; Cap. 65, 314–15; Cap 102, 366; Cap. 134, 408; Cap. 137, 412; Simonis de Kéza, Liber 2, Cap. 27, 165–66; Cap. 43, 172; Kristó, Early, 17–30; 43–114.

46 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 132, 406; Szeberényi, “Remarks,” 36–37.

47 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 70, 322; Legenda minor sancti Stephani regis, Cap. 8, 399; Legenda S. Emerici ducis, Cap. 7, 458–59.

48 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 152, 433; Engel, “Temetkezések,” 613–14, 616–22, 632–34; Thoroczkay, “A székesfehérvári,” 11.

49 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 76, 332; Cap. 85, 343; Cap. 93, 357; Cap. 96, 360; Cap. 130, 403; Cap. 141, 420. Historians still do not agree on the question of where Ladislaus I was actually originally buried. László Solymosi assumes that it was Oradea. László Koszta, however, leans towards Somogyvár and suggests that his remains may have been transferred to Oradea only under Coloman or Stephen II. Solymosi, “Egy tévedés nyomában,” 171–72; Koszta, “Bencés szerzetesség,” 294, 297–300.

50 DHA, vol. 1, no. 12, 63 and 77 (1015), no. 76, 222; no. 103, 306.

51 DHA, vol. 1, no. 86, 264; no. 96, 284; Simonis de Kéza, Liber 2, Cap. 58, 180; Györffy, “Die Kanzleien,” 327.

52 DHA, vol. 1, no. 106, 309; Romhányi, “The Ecclesiastic,” 309–10.

53 MES, vol. 1, no. 65, 94–96 (1138); Nemerkényi, The Latin, 269–78. See Bernhardt. “King,” 44, 59–61; Remensnyder, “Topographies,” 194–96.

54 Legenda minor sancti Stephani regis, Cap. 3, 395. In the Chronicle Composition, the chapter on Óbuda also mentions that Stephen I habitually visited the churches he founded three times a year. This is very likely just a topos and only a later interpolation about the famous Christian king and founder of the monarchy. But this sentence might suggest the Árpád kings often traveled to the places where there were older royal churches or churches which they themselves had founded, whether they were churches on their demesnes or in chapters, episcopal seats, or monasteries. Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 67, 317.

55 Colomanus: Proem, DRMH I, 23; Syn. Szab., DRMH I, 53.

56 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 114, 380; Cap. 115, 381. Probably also Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 139, 416; Szűcs, “Sárospatak.” 1–57; Hudáček, “Kráľovské,” 38–41.

57 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 75, 330; Cap. 139, 417.

58 Legenda minor sancti Stephani regis, Cap. 5, 397.

59 It was in this forest, for example, that Prince Géza also hunted and stayed in 1074. Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 114, 380; Cap. 115, 381. See Szabó, Woodland, 93–97, 105–9, 120–26, 135–37.

60 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 95, 359; Göckenjan, “Stuhlweißenburg.”

61 Libri liturgici, vol. 1, 14–15, 37–39.

62 Reuter, “Regemque,” 143–44; Reuter, “Assembly,” 196–205; Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 310–11; Roach, “Hosting,” 41–42; Zupka, Ritual, 55–57, 123–24.

63 Deér, “Aachen,” 16–18; Font, Koloman, 50–51.

64 Such as king Peter Orseolo in 1045. Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 78, 334; Font, Koloman, 49–50, 55.

65 Legenda sancti Gerhardi episcopi, vol. 2, Cap. 5, 487–88.

66 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 75, 330; Legenda sancti Gerhardi episcopi, vol. 1, Cap. 5, 476; Legenda sancti Gerhardi episcopi, vol. 2, Cap. 14, 500; Zupka, Ritual, 42–43; Veres, “A magyar,” 361.

67 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 81, 337; Bak and Lukin, “Consensus,” 100–1.

68 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 85, 343; ÁMTF, vol. 2, 417.

69 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 92, 354–54; Cap. 144, 423; Zupka, Ritual, 74, 94; Bagi, “The Dynastic,” 148–49.

70 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 97, 362; Zupka, Ritual, 77–79.

71 ÁMTF, vol. 2, 595. See Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 311–13.

72 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 97, 362; Bachrach, “Exercise,” 394–95; Helmrath, “Reisekönigtum,” 114–15.

73 Fedeles and Koszta, Pécs (Fünfkirchen) das Bistum, 48–49.

74 The royal entourage could have numbered about 150–300 people, together with supplies and baggage. In the case of a military expedition, it could be up to as many as 1,000 people. Helmrath, “Reisekönigtum,” 112; Strömberg, “The Swedish,” 167.

75 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 98, 363; ÁMTF, vol. 1, 359.

76 See Zupka, Ritual, 38–39, 42–46, 69, 76–78.

77 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 112, 378. See also MES, vol. 1, no. 62, 87 (1136); ÁMTF, vol. 2, 284–85. In 1188, Béla III and his magnates were staying at Esztergom, probably also on a nearby island. CDSl, vol. 1, no. 99, 93.

78 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 111–21, 377–91.

79 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 114, 379.

80 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 114, 379.

81 Ibid.

82 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 114, 380–81.

83 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 130, 402; Cap. 96, 360.

84 ÁMTF, vol. 4, 309–10, 314; Koszta, “State Power,” 72; Barabás, “The Christianization,” 127.

85 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 117, 385; Cap. 119, 387. On the presence of the king in Vác see the charter from 1139. CDSl, vol. 1, no. 79, 77.

86 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 121, 388; Gerevich, “The Royal,” 385; ÁMTF, vol. 4, 512–13. Glossarium, 25; Lexicon, 36–38; LLMH, vol. 1, 136; Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 96, 360.

87 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 139, 417; ÁMTF, vol. 1, 712.

88 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 160, 447.

89 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 157, 443; Bagi, “The Dynastic,” 147.

90 ÁMTF, vol. 1, 170–72; Juhász, “Az aradi,” 494–96.

91 Helmrath, “Reisekönigtum,” 113; Roach, “Hosting,” 40; McKitterick, “A King,” 150–51.

92 CDSl, vol. 1, no. 93, 89.

93 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 109, 375.

94 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 99, 364; DHA, vol. 1, no. 50/I, 169; no. 50/II, 170–174.

95 Zupka, Ritual, 55–57, 64, 123–24.

96 Leyser, “Ottonian,” 746–49; Roach, “Hosting,” 34–40; Ehlers, “Having the King,” 3–9.

97 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 148, 427–28; Thoroczkay, “A dömösi,” 411–12.

98 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 150, 430.

99 Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 96, 360; DHA, vol. 1, no. 78, 226; ÁMTF, vol. 4, 583–93; Gerevich, “The Royal.” See also mansion of Zirc in Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 93, 357.

100 ChAH, no. 41, 49–50; Šišić, Geschichte der Kroaten, 346–48; Szeberényi, “Birtokviszonyok,” 115–18.

101 “X principes servants iustitiam G. rex prenominatus in Mezeusumlusiensi sancti Stephani regis ecclesia conventa in unum gloriosorum multitudine principum, sic ab iniusta perversorum incursion causam cuiusque studuerunt statuerunt…” ChAH, no. 23, 61. In the thirteenth century, there was a royal mill and monastery of Augustinians-hermits who had been invited there by the monarch, in Şemlacu Mare. Based on documents from the first half of the fourteenth century, county assemblies took place next to this church on the holiday of St. Stephen the King. The 1152 assembly may also have taken place in August during the holiday of St. Stephen the King (sometime between August 15 and 20). Géza II probably visited Şemlacu Mare more often, as it was his estate, and he could stay there while traveling around the country. During the time the king was present, tribunals and local assemblies were probably held there. ÁMTF, vol. 3. 493–94; Mező, Patrocíniumok, 19.

102 Colomanus: 79, DRMH I, 31; Deér, “Aachen,” 4–5; Font, Koloman, 44, 50.

103 Syn. Szab.: 29, DRMH I, 57; Font, Koloman, 52–53.

104 Syn. Szab.: 36, DRMH I, 58.

105 To the term domus and its meaning see Zsoldos, “A királyné,” 268, 300–1.

106 Syn. Strig.: 33, DRMH I, 62.

107 Colomanus: 68, DRMH I, 30.

108 See Roach, “Hosting,” 39–40; Bachrach, “Exercise,” 394–95; Zotz, “Kingship,” 318.

109 Vita Conradi archiepiscopi Salisburgnesis, Cap. 18, Gombos, Catalogus, no. 4950, 2326.

110 See Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 305–6; MacLean, “Palaces,” 313; Roach, “Hosting,” 37.

111 Ladislaus III: 1, 2, 14, DRMH I, 17, 20.

112 DHA, vol. 1, no. 28/II, 123; no. 73/II, 218; no. 81, 236; no. 114, 326; Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 95, 359; Bartoniek, Legenda maior sancti Stephani regis, Cap. 13, 389; MLLM, 1074.

113 Ladislaus III: 28, DRMH I, 22; Chron. Hung. comp. saec. XIV, Cap. 92, 354; Györffy, Święty, 293, 295.

114 DHA, vol. 1, no. 14, 91 (1019); ÁMTF, vol. 4, 198–200.

115 DHA, vol. 1, no. 58, 183.

116 DHA, vol. 1, no. 73/II, 216; CDSl, vol. 1, no. 58+, 56.

117 Colomanus: 36, DRMH I, 27. See Veres, “A magyar,” 359–60.

118 Colomanus: 36, DRMH I, 27.

119 Sometimes, the king unexpectedly decided to come to a place where the locals were not prepared for his arrival. Leyser, “Ritual,” 198.

120 Colomanus: 62, DRMH I, 29.

121 Colomanus: 37, DRMH I, 27. On the Hungarian judicial system and procedural law under the kings of the Árpád dynasty, see Hajnik, A magyar bírósági, 3–31.

122 Colomanus: 45, DRMH I, 28.

123 See Bolla, “Das Dienstvolk,” 15–24, 29–34.

124 Mediae latinitatis, 991–92.

125 Brühl, Fodrum, 10–11, 33–34, 337–38, 414–15; Metz, Das Servitium, 47–50; Göldel, Servitium, 19–35, 55–65, 78–89, 128–29, 138–54, 184–85.

126 Only Székesfehérvár, Split, Trogir and Zadar. Zupka, Ritual, 123–28.

127 Zupka, Ritual, 11–12, 26–28, 38–39, 42–49, 76–78, 117–21. See Bernhardt, Itinerant, 49–50; Warner, “Henry II,” 137–42; Warner, “Ritual.”

128 See Warner, “Henry II.”

129 Syn. Szab., 35, 36, DRMH I, 58. See Warner, “Ritual.”

130 Legenda S. Emerici ducis, Cap. 2, 452; Zupka, Ritual, 122–23.

131 Bernhardt, Itinerant, 45–84; Leyser, “Ottonian,” 722–24, 732–33; Bernhardt, “King,” 41–48, 53–58; Warner, “Henry II,” 135–36; Warner, “Ritual.”

132 CDSl, vol. 1, no. 322, 233–35 (1226) and CDSl, vol. 2, no. 75, 52–54 (1240). See also references to the provision of victualia by royal monasteries in forged documents. DHA, vol. 1, no. 17, 101 (1024); no. 108/II, 316 (1101) or no. 43/II, 156 (1055); no. 96, 285 (1092).

133 CDSl, vol. 2, no. 241, 166 (1247).

134 Glossarium, 209; LLMH, vol. 3, 94–97; Solymosi, A földesúri, 55–73. See Veres, “A magyar,” 355.

135 However, this charter has only survived in a copy from the seventeenth century, and it is assumed that the original text was not written until sometime in the first third of the fourteenth century. It is therefore quite possible that the mention of the descensus does actually refer to a later period. DHA, vol. 1, no. 130, 355–57; Györffy, “A XII. századi,” 49–50; Steindorff, Die dalmatinischen, 11–25, 57–61. See Veres, “A magyar,” 382.

136 Barta and Barta, “Royal,” 22; Györffy, Święty, 415. See Font, Koloman, 43, 52, 57–60; Bernhardt, “On the Road,” 306–7. On the revenues of the kings of Árpád, see Weisz, “Royal Revenues,” 255–64.

137 1222: 3, DRMH I, 32.

138 1231: 4, DRMH I, 37.


* The research on which this article draws was supported by the [VEGA] under Grant [2/0028/22]: Stredoveká spoločnosť v Uhorsku (štruktúra, koexistencia a konfrontácia sociálnych skupín do konca 13. storočia) and by the [APVV] under Grant [19–0131]: Ars Moriendi. Fenomém smrti v stredovekom Uhorsku.


The Town of Gölnicbánya in the Árpád Era

Péter Galambosi
Research Centre for the Humanities

Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 3  (2022):545–569 DOI 10.38145/2022.3.545

In this article, I describe the emergence and early development of Gölnicbánya (today Gelnica, Slovakia) from a settlement-historical and historical-geographical approach, mainly based on the diploma material of the Árpád and the early Angevin Eras concerning the settlement and its region. I examine the origin of the town in the context of the northern expansion of the royal forest-estate of Torna and the economical upgrading of Szepes, which dates to the beginning of the thirteenth century. I show how Gölnicbánya became the primary center of the county’s southern part in the second half of the thirteenth century thanks to mining and holding markets. I offer a detailed analysis of the provisions of the privilege charter from 1287, emphasizing that the border description covered a larger area far beyond the original extent of the settlement. I contend that although the charter refers the donations of two predecessor kings, the points set new provisions. Finally, I show how the economic importance of Gölnicbánya became apparent during the internal wars following the extinction of the Árpád dynasty and the consolidation that was underway in the early fourteenth century.

Keywords: Settlement history, urban history, historical geography, regional social history, economic history.

The formation and early history of Gölnicbánya (today Gelnica, Slovakia) is a critical point in Hungarian urban historical research on the Middle Ages. The early history of the settlement is obscure, but at the end of the thirteenth century, the town appears as an important regional economical center. Gölnicbánya was mentioned for the first time in 1278, when Ladislaus IV (also known as Ladislas the Cuman), laid down the customs tariffs for the town’s markets.1 In 1280, the king offered 100 marks a year from the income of the Gölnicbánya silver mine to the papal legate Philipp, Bishop of Fermo, because he had tried to impede the convocation of the synod of Buda.2 The town obtained its first known privilege charter in 1287, which refers to the privileges donated by Béla IV and Stephen V. However, no mention of these donations is found in other sources.3 A few decades later, these privileges became an example, as in 1317 Charles I granted the people of Zsidópataka the freedoms that the citizens of Kassa (today Košice, Slovakia) and Gölnicbánya had already been enjoying.4

From this short overview, it is clear that the development of Gölnicbánya was based on mining and holding markets. Moreover, both had reached and maintained a significant level of advancement through the course of the decades before the town was mentioned in the sources. The rise of Gölnicbánya can be described in detail through the tried and tested methods of the Hungarian settlement-historical and historical-geographical research. However, it is not adequate solely to gather the sources concerning Gölnicbánya. We must also consider the wider context in which the town became increasingly important, including the surrounding lands and settlements.5

The Beginnings

The source of the Gölnic (Hnilec) River, from which the town took its name, lies on the eastern side of Low Tatras at the foot of Mount King (Kráľova hoľa, 1946m). The river flows southeastwards through the narrow valleys in the Slovak Ore Mountains. It turns to the northeast between Svedlér (today Švedlár, Slovakia) and Remete (today Mníšek nad Hnilcom, Slovakia) and then takes the Szomolnok (Smolník) Stream from the right, finally joining the Hernád River at Szentmargit (today Margecany, Slovakia). The Slavonic name of the river, which means rotten water, took its place in the Hungarian language through German transmission. According to a view widespread among linguists, the term came into Hungarian at the latest at the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, as the g turned into an h in the Slavonic at that time.6 According to a popular view based on this observation, Gölnicbánya was founded by German settlers in the second half of the twelfth century. Gusztáv Heckenast questioned this contention and drew attention to the fact that the archaic Slavonic forms appear in the written sources from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in the surrounding region. Based on this, he argued that the town had been founded only after the 1241–1242 Mongol invasion.7 Although he emphasized correctly the unreliability of the linguistic-based chronology, he could not cite any data about the river or the town. If one examines all the available sources and, in particular, the border descriptions, however, it is clear that the name of the river already appeared with a g at its first contemporary mention (1255), and this form was in use in the period under discussion.8

It is worth noting that Hungarian vernacular geographical names often appear in the sources from the area surrounding the town at the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. A source from 1282 mentions the “Hársmező” (Linden Meadow) in the forests that belonged to Gölnicbánya. The “Ökör-hegy” (Mount Bullock) and the “Szénkő” (Coal Stone) are also mentioned in the border description of the 1287 privilege charter. The place “Jakóréte” (Meadow of Jacob) is mentioned in 1325, also on the town’s periphery.9 These data reveal that a significant Hungarian-speaking population lived in the region that was able to preserve its cultural identity. This is also proven by the settlement’s name, in which the Hungarian word “bánya” (mine) appeared even in the earliest sources.10

Based on these data, the early history of Gölnicbánya cannot be explored through a comparison of the linguistic concepts regarding the etymology of the river’s name and the historical conclusions based on the written sources. Due to the presence of the archaic Slavonic forms in the toponymy of the region, no time limits can be determined. The linguistic-ethnical diversity and the use of vernacular names, seen in sources from the late thirteenth century, prove that the various ethnic groups had been living together for a long time. From my point of view, given the lack of direct data, the context of public history offers the most reliable framework within which to describe the emergence of Gölnicbánya.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century, the Gölnic region was annexed by the royal forest estate of Torna. This is mentioned in the 1243 privilege charter of Olaszi (today Spišské Vlachy, Slovakia), which notes that the village was founded by German and (as the name of the settlement shows) Valloon royal mining people resettled from Torna. According to the source, the villagers’ taxes were specified by Prince Coloman, the younger brother of Béla IV, who had held dominion over Szepes from the 1210s to 1226, when he became the duke of Slavonia.11 Shifting economic trends prompted the mining people to be resettled. At the turn of twelfth and thirteenth centuries, iron mining ceased in Galyaság and the Bódva region. The exploitation of the Slovak Ore Mountains then began in the Gömör and Szepes regions.12 Two important conclusions can be drawn from the mention of Coloman. First, the development of the mining region may have prospered under the governance of Coloman and his escort. Second, his presence in Szepes gives the temporal framework of these economic and social tendencies. Olaszi’s location proves that the Torna forest estate expanded northwards at least to the Hernád River, which means that the villages of the Gölnic region were also founded by the royal mining people. This in turn implies that the beginnings of Gölnicbánya date back to the first third of the thirteenth century, when the Germans settled in lands occupied by indigenous Slavonic groups.

The German-speaking population of medieval Szepes was not homogenous.13 After the Mongol invasion, Saxon settlers came to the region, and they were granted collective privileges by Stephen V in 1271. Their privilege charter was confirmed by Charles I in 1317, who supplemented the rewritten text with a list of the settlements that formed the Saxon community. These villages all came into existence north of the Hernád River. Alcnó is the only settlement that was founded on the right bank of the river, however it was an external part of Olaszi. The Hernád River determined the settlement system of Szepes and clearly separated the German-speaking groups of the land, as the 1299 record about the foundation of the Carthusian monastery of Létán Hill (Klástorisko, 760m) proves. According to the source, the mountain, which rises on the right bank of the river, was located along the border of the Saxon province (“situm in terminis nostre provincie”).14 This makes clear that the privileged Saxons didn’t expand southwards from the Hernád River. These tendencies can be explained by the aftermath of the Mongol invasion. The villages in the Hernád basin were exposed to the destructive invading forces, while the settlements of the Gölnic region were defended by the mountains, which were difficult to cross, so the mining people could survive the invasion without significant losses.15 As a consequence of the different structures of their settlements, the Gründers of the Gölnic region and the Zipsers of Szepes spoke different dialects, and the differences between these two dialects still constitute a cultural difference between these two groups today.16

While the kingdom was being rebuilt in the wake of the Mongol invasion, Béla IV reorganized the royal forest estates in Northern Hungary, which led to the creation of new counties. It is worth noting that the king dealt directly with this region in May and June 1243, as he released three charters arranged for the surrounding territories. On May 31, the privilege charter of Olaszi was released. On June 2, the king donated the royal estate of Pelsőc (today Plešivec, Slovakia). Finally, on June 7, he gave collective privileges to the lancers of Szepes.17 These tendencies show that the county system of Szepes was also formed after the Mongol invasion, from the northern parts of the Torna forest estate and the lands along the banks of the Poprad and Hernád Rivers, which were referred to as the Szepes Forest (Silva Zepus) by Anonymus, who was Béla III’s notary.18

After these territorial reorganizations, the estate of Pelsőc was attached to Gömör County. According to the 1243 charter, the borders started from the mouth of the Szomolnok Stream and then followed the stream to its source. The last section extended from the source of the Gölnic River to the mouth of the Szomolnok Stream.19 The territories east of the Szomolnok belonged to the premonstratensian provostry of Jászó (today Jasov, Slovakia). As the 1255 privilege charter of the monastery reveals, the border of its properties ran northwards from the Bódva River to the source of the Szomolnok Stream and then continued along the stream to the Gölnic River, which separated the ecclesiastical estate from parts of Szepes, at last in the tributary streams of Gölnic southeastwards among the mountains to the Ida River.20 Thus, the original territory of Gölnicbánya did not extend farther than the Galmus Mountains north of the river and the land between the Hernád River and the Gölnic River east of the town.

The Early Privileges

Although this territory wasn’t as large as the borders described in the 1287 charter, the town’s agglomeration already covered the southern part of the county, south of the Hernád River. Thanks to this, the importance of Gölnicbánya rose in the administrative system that emerged immediately after the Mongol invasion. Since Béla IV had dealt directly with this region in May and June 1243, the first privilege charter might also have been released at this time to support the development of the mining region attached to Szepes County.21

It is more difficult to determine the topicality of the privileges given by Stephen V. After Béla and his son had divided the kingdom in the 1260s, Szepes belonged to the part under Béla’s rule, but Stephen was also interested in this region, as indicated by many sources.22 In 1265, he rewrote and confirmed the privilege charter of Olaszi as iunior rex. Later, in 1271, acting as the king of Hungary, Stephen gave collective privileges to the Saxons of Szepes.23 Unfortunately, his donation politics do not give any insight into when he turned his eyes to the Gölnic region.24

The content of these privileges is unknown, but the sources from the late thirteenth century contain clear indications of the direction of the town’s economic development. In the 1270s and 1280s, Gölnicbánya appeared as a mining town and a commercial center with high incomes, which confirms that these sectors were supported by the original privileges.

According to the tradition that was registered in the 1487 statutes of the seven mining towns of Upper Hungary, Gölnicbánya was the oldest mining town. Although this category of settlement became clearly distinct only in the Angevin Era, they had started developing in the middle of thirteenth century.25 The Mongol conquest had broken the eastern economic relations of Hungary, and in the following decades, the Hungarian Kingdom gradually integrated into the economical and mercantile system of the West. Thanks to this, Hungarian mining, especially silver mining, reached a significant level of development, which is clearly shown by the fact that a quarter of the silver mined in Europe came from the Hungarian mines at the end of the thirteenth century.26 Gölnicbánya and the surrounding region were the center of this development, as is clearly shown by the offering of Ladislaus IV in 1280 to give 100 marks a year from the income of the Gölnicbánya silver mine to the papal legate. The 1278 customs tariffs also offer an indication of the mining development, as it determined in detail the value of gold, silver, lead, iron, and the timber used in the mining process.

It is worth noting that the 1278 ordinance was based on the 1255 customs tariffs of Buda, and the king just tailored several points to the local needs. The regulations show diversity not only in the scale of products but also in the measurement units in use. Both local products, for example metals, timber and fish, and imported goods, for example cloths, can be found in the regulations. Although the measurement units were arranged to the concrete products, most of the items were measured in wagons. The text mentions the great wagon named quintal (“de curro magno… quod vulgo masa dicitur”), which was the typical transport vehicle for long-distance trade in the thirteenth century.27 This makes clear that the town’s markets had not only a local but also a regional importance. The first known marketplace of Szepes was Szombathely (today Spíšská Sobota, Slovakia), which appeared under this name (Forum Sabati) in 1256, but it had lost its importance to Késmárk (today Kežmarok, Slovakia) by the late 1260s, and the settlement’s name “Szentgyörgyhegy” (Mount St. George) became permanent. Késmárk obtained customs-free status on its markets in 1269, which guaranteed the town’s leading role in the economy. The seat of the ten-lancers, Szentlászló (today Spišský Štvrtok, Slovakia), appeared as Csütörtökhely (Quintum Forum) for the first time in 1292, which shows that the market acquired greater importance in the late thirteenth century. Other markets in Szepes were only mentioned first in sources from the fourteenth century, which means, that there were two important economic centers in the county in the middle of the thirteenth century: Késmárk in the northern parts and Gölnicbánya to the south of the Hernád River.28

The royal privilege charters released to settlements used to allow the election of the mayor and the parish priest. The council of Gölnicbánya first appeared in the 1287 privilege charter, which specifies that the confirmation of donations was requested by the mayor and the jurors, although the text does not give their names. The first mention of the town’s parish priest can be found in the 1286 verdict of Lodomer, Archbishop of Esztergom, which settled the conflict between Provost Jacob and the canons. According to the source, the provost had to pay one mark in the presence of Gölnicbánya’s parish priest and the Cistercian Abbot of Savnik (today Spišský Štiavnik, Slovakia). In 1329, the parish priest of the town appeared as the general vicar of the provost.29

The economic importance of Gölnicbánya was clear in the civil war of the 1270s. The ispán of Szepes, Roland son of Mark, rose up against Ladislaus IV in the autumn of 1274. He took hold of royal goods and harassed the people of the land. The king and his ispán were reconciled by Saint Kinga of Poland (the daughter of Béla IV of Hungary), and the king kept Roland in his favor. In 1277, Roland revolted again and joined the uprising of the Geregye kindred, who built an oligarchic lordship in the Transztisza region. After the fall of the Geregyes, the king sent his veteran warlords, Finta of the Aba kindred and George of the Baksa kindred, against Roland, and in the battle, which took place at an unknown site, the rebel count fell. According to the 1285 donation charter of George, in which his merits are listed, Roland had occupied Szepes with the town of Gölnicbánya (“unacum Gylnuchbana”).30 It seems clear that Roland invaded the town to ensure that he would be able to use the town’s economic power, its incomes from mining, and its markets to put up long-term resistance. Although other sources make no mention of the occupation of Gölnicbánya, it is almost certain that the revolt led by Roland somewhat hampered the town’s development. The rebel count probably made an attempt to found his own oligarchic territorial lordship, and the oligarchs of the age usually considered the towns as resources and tried to draw profit from them.31 It is certainly no coincidence that Ladislaus IV arranged the customs tariffs in 1278 just after the revolt in order to preclude cheating and abuses (“volentes amputare omnem calumpniam et sopire materiam iurgiorum in tributis exigendis sive persolvendis”).32 Although the source makes no mention of Roland, he probably monopolized the incomes from the customs.

In 1282, the king donated an uninhabited forest between Gölnicbánya and the Hernád River (“silvam nostram desertam et inhabitabilem a Gulnychbana incipiens usque ad Harnad”) to a citizen of the town named Jekel, who gave his name to the village Jekelfalva (today Jaklovce, Slovakia). The border description of the estate mentions Korompa (today Krompachy, Slovakia) on the right bank of the river and the silver mine of Svedlér to the west of the Szomolnok Stream, which also became a settlement in the fourteenth century.33 In 1328, the villages Szentantal and Szentmargit appeared in the same territory.34 This suggests that some settlements came into existence spontaneously, but other villages were founded consciously through royal donations. Jekel got his estate with noble rights, which made him be able to settle people on his territory and have legal authority over them. Gölnicbánya thus lost territories and, more importantly, natural and human resources.

The 1287 Privilege Charter

The oldest surviving privilege charter of Gölnicbánya was issued in 1287 by Ladislaus IV. According to the preamble, the king confirmed the privileges donated by Béla IV and Stephen V, including the estates, territories, the gold, silver and iron mines, the waters and forests, and all incomes from these resources at the request of the mayor, the jurors, and the citizens. Although the text clearly refers to the donations of two predecessor kings, the charter details only three provisions:

(1) In all litigations between the citizens and those who lived within the borders of the settlement the town was given exclusive jurisdiction. According to János Bárdossy, who commented on the source at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the privileges of the town were significantly damaged under the revolt led by ispán Roland, which necessitated the restoration of the status of the community. Bárdossy cited the arenga of the 1287 charter, according to which the king sought to ease the situation of his subjects, who suffered from harassment and oppression.35 In contrast with Bárdossy’s thesis, the 1278 customs tariffs clearly shows that the king has already arranged the case of the settlement after the revolt. Moreover, the 1280 offering to the papal legate regarding the incomes from the town’s silver mine proves that the settlement had again embarked down the path towards development. The preamble of the 1287 charter also proves that the town’s government was working, as it specifies that the confirmation was requested by the mayor, the jurors, and the citizens.

(2) The villages that emerged within the borders of the town were prohibited from holding markets, and their inhabitants were obligated to trade at the markets in Gölnicbánya. In this provision, we find an early form of the ban-mile right (Bannmeilenrecht), which was borrowed from the German legal system. This institution ensured the monopoly of a market within a determined territory, in its advanced form usually one mile, but sometimes the monopoly concerned only a few products. In this case, the prohibition concerned the territory of Gölnicbánya in order to hamper the economic and the political independence of the villages in the town’s periphery, and in this way to grant raw material and foodstuffs for the settlement.36

(3) The king ensured the citizens of Gölnicbánya the right to work undisturbed within the borders of the town, including the fishermen on the rivers and the burners and lumberjacks in the forests. Because proper silviculture was indispensable to mining, the privileges of the mining towns usually determined the rights of citizens to logging from a territorial perspective, usually within the borders of each settlement, as in the case of Gölnicbánya.37

Interestingly, the 1287 privilege charter does not touch on some questions that usually appear in the royal charters released to mining towns or dealing with mining activity.38 The provisions don’t concern mining, apart from the formal preamble, which mentions the gold, silver, and iron mines of the town. The fact that Gölnicbánya had high incomes from mining at the end of the thirteenth century indicates that the most important questions had been arranged in the previous decades, for example the right to search for ore and metal. It is also worth noting that the 1287 charter doesn’t detail the situation of the local market. Although its monopoly was ensured, the charter does not indicate its type and date. In my opinion, the arrangement of these questions was in no way urgent or pressing in 1287, because the privilege charter of Ladislaus IV essentially set new provisions necessitated by the developments of the previous decades, even if it refers to the donations of two predecessor kings. The common denominator of these provisions is the fact that they prevail within the borders of the town. Although the territorial aspect is not surprising in the case of a settlement, it is worth analyzing the border description in detail.

According to the 1287 charter, the border of Gölnicbánya started from the road to Dryn (“a via Dryn”) and then ran to the house of hermits (“ad domum heremite”) and Ökör Mountain (“ad montem bovum, qui Wkurhegh vulgariter nuncupatur”), where it turned towards the source of the Szomolnok Stream (“ad caput cuiusdam fluvii Smolnyk nominati”). It then ran to the houses where the iron that had been mined was melted and purified (“ad domos seu aedifica, in quibus ferrum flari et purgari consuevit”), from where it turned towards the source of the Kallós Stream (“ad caput cuiusdam alterius fluvii Valkensesyn nominati”), arriving at last at Szénkő Mountain, a place where customs were taken (“ad montem Scynkw nuncupatum, usque ad illum locum, ubi tributum exigi consuevit”).39 The borders cover almost the full catchment of the Gölnic River, except the territory in its eastern part, which was taken from the town and given to Jekel in 1282. This means that Gölnicbánya got hold of the southern part of Szepes County, to the south of the Hernád River. It is worth noting that the border description of the 1287 charter incorporates the territories in the western and eastern neighborhoods of the Szomolnok Stream that belonged to the estate of Pelsőc in 1243 and to the Premonstratensian provostry of Jászó in 1255. Two years later, in 1289, Wygandus, provost of Jászó, protested at the chapter of Szepes, because the king had attached a large forest estate at the Gölnic River from his monastery to Gölnicbánya (“super eo, quod serenissimus dominus noster rex Ladislaus de possessione sui monasterii porcionem possessionariam in magna quantitate iuxta fluvium Gylniych existentem, ad montana sue nove civitatis Gylniychbanya abstulisset”), but he hadn’t paid the promised compensation. The litigation ended in 1342, when the provostry came to an agreement with the governments of Gölnicbánya and Szomolnokbánya (today Smolník, Slovakia), which became independent during the first half of the fourteenth century. This meant that the citizens were allowed to cut half of the monastery’s forests between the Gölnic and Bódva Rivers. In return, they had to pay one unit of white cloth, but the territory still remained in the property of Jászó.40

The westernmost point of the border is the Szénkő (Tri kopce, 1056m), which is found in the northeastern ranges of the Ore Mountains. An important long-distance trade route ran under the mountain, which came to Szepes from Gömör County and led to Poland following the Poprad River.41 Due to its location, it seems doubtful that the market customs were paid at the Szénkő, because only those merchants could have been called to account here who came to or left the town from or to the west. In the second half of the thirteenth century, Gölnicbánya began to play a more important economic role in the region, but the sources mainly show the importance of the southern, northern, and eastern relationships. A border description from 1255 mentions the road to Jászó, which ran on the left bank of the Gölnic River, then turned southwards at Remete and followed the Szomolnok Stream. The 1284 border description of Kolcsó (today Klčov, Slovakia), a village in the eastern neighborhood of Lőcse (today Levoča, Slovakia), mentions the road, that came from Gölnicbánya. Some border descriptions from 1318, 1321, and 1325 mention the roads connecting Gölnicbánya with Szinye (today Svinia, Slovakia) and Újfalu (today Chminianska Nová Ves, Slovakia), villages in the neighborhood of Eperjes (today Prešov, Slovakia).42 The lack of the western relations could be explained simply by the fact that the southern part of the county belonged to the town. The intensity of the eastern relations is also clear, because the main trade route in the region followed the Hernád River and brought the rise of several settlements, for example Kassa in the second half of the thirteenth century.43 Due to its peripheral location, the merchants usually didn’t go around Szénkő, because they usually chose the roads that led to the important markets. The markets of Gömör and Abaúj counties were accessible by the southern and eastern roads, and the crossing points on the Hernád River provided access to the other markets of Szepes. Considering that the road under the Szénkő led to Krakow, I think that some kind of road toll was taken here, which is not mentioned in other sources.44

During the analysis of the border description, it is worth touching on the manuscript tradition of the 1287 privilege charter. The original copies of the 1287 charter and its confirmations from 1318 and 1327 by Charles I are lost. In 1359, Louis I rewrote and confirmed his father’s 1327 charter, which contained the text of the 1287 privilege charter and its 1318 confirmation, but this charter is also lost. Its text was rewritten by the chapter of Szepes in 1699, which has survived in six copies. In 1637, the chapter of Szepes rewrote the text of the 1327 charter at the order of Ferdinand III, which was confirmed by the king in the same year. The original copy of this variant is also lost, but its text is known from the 1813 rewriting by Francis I. An original charter issued by Louis I from 1367 epitomizes the provisions of the 1287 privilege charter, but its preamble makes clear that the excerpt was made of a charter issued by Louis I, probably the 1359 charter, which contained not only the original 1287 charter but also its confirmations.45 A comparison of the known variants reveals an interesting contradiction at the beginning of the border description. The sources that copy the 1699 rewriting of the 1359 charter indicate that the border description was composed using the report of a comes (“prout idem comes nobis retulerat”). However, the borders were reported by the citizens according to the 1367 extract (“prout iidem cives eidem domino Ladislao regi retulissent”), and this form is also found in the 1813 copy, which rewrote the 1637 confirmation of the 1327 charter (“prout iidem cives nobis retulerunt”). The modern source publications by Ľubomír Juck and Tibor Almási publish the text in the latter way, and Iván Borsa also published the border description in this form, following the 1367 extract.46

A comparison of the surviving copies does not give a clear answer to the question, because the variants abound in misspellings and hiatuses. However, the historical geographical analysis clearly proves that the border description of the 1287 privilege charter covers territories that had belonged to other estates in the previous decades. Thus, the citizens couldn’t refer to these territories as their own property. As the 1287 protest made by the provost of Jászó reveals, Ladislaus IV promised compensation for the forests of the monastery. Thus, it is clear that the extension of the borders was initiated by the king to ensure the development of Gölnicbánya with more raw materials.47 Given this, I am concerned that the variants mentioning the comes in the beginning of the border description stand closer to the truth, and in the usual way, the king may have delegated a homo regius to designate the borders of the settlement. The pronoun “idem” suggests that he had been mentioned in the text before, but that part could have been lost the same way, as most of the known variants do not contain the 1287 date of the charter. The mention of the citizens in the 1367 extract and in the confirmations issued by the Habsburg rulers might have been the results of a mistake in the reading of the text.

Outlook: Gölnicbánya at the Beginning of the Fourteenth Century

As distinct from modern source publications, Bárdossy published the text based on the 1699 rewriting. He thought that the comes mentioned in the beginning of the border description was Andrew, son of Polanus mine judge (iudex montanus) of Gölnicbánya.48 Andrew was one of the ancestors of the Berzeviczy family, one of the most important noble families in Szepes since the beginning of the thirteenth century. The first estates of the clan lay at the foot of the Tatra Mountains. Later, the family got donations in the forests between the Spiš Magura and the Dunajec River, and they started collecting estates in Sáros County in the thirteenth century.49 One of them, Kakas, son of Rikalf, appears as mine judge of Szomolnokbánya in 1327, and Bárdossy assumed from this data that the family might already have held this position in Gölnicbánya at the end of the thirteenth century. In the previous decades, the Slovak secondary literature assumed the origins of the mine judge’s office of Szomolnokbánya may have led back to the end of the thirteenth century and that Rikalf had it when the office still worked in Gölnicbánya.50 However, this interpretation is inconsistent with the sources, because the members of the family didn’t hold any political offices in the Árpád Era. Although most of the clan stood with Wenceslaus III after the extinction of the Árpád line, Kakas pledged himself to Charles I. After the fall of the Aba kindred in 1311–1312, the king entrusted the castle of Szepes to Kakas, who later became court judge (curialis comes) in the county and appeared as the mine judge of Szomolnokbánya under the regional lordship of the Druget family.51 The chronology based on the sources clearly shows that Kakas got supervision over mining at this time, when his political career reached its high point. The sources concerning the town and its surroundings don’t let one assume that the office of the mine judge emerged in Gölnicbánya.

After the adherents of Charles I had expelled the armies of Wenceslaus from Szepes in the autumn 1304, the region fell under the control of Amadé of the Aba kindred, the most powerful landlord of northeastern Hungary at the time. The German citizens of Kassa descended upon the escort of Amadé and murdered the warlord in the September of 1311, and the king forced his widow and sons to give the castles, settlements, and all natural and material resources to the crown. In the third point of the Treaty of Kassa they undertook to give Szepes and the towns Gölnicbánya and Kassa, with all of their thirtieths, customs, taxes, and other incomes, back to the king (“Scepus, Gylnuch et Cassa cum universis tricesimus, tributis, censibus et quibusvis obvencionibus… resignamus domino nostro regi”).52 Charles I realized the political importance of the towns, and he supported their economic development from the beginning of his reign in order to create a stable home front during his fights against the oligarchs. The success and social popularity of this politics are proven by the Georgenberger Chronik, as it tells that Louis I and his father cared for the towns and improved their lots.53 In the case of Gölnicbánya, the 1318, 1327, and 1359 confirmations of the 1287 privilege charter clearly prove that the town enjoyed the support of the Angevin kings. In 1317, Charles I granted the people of Zsidópataka the freedoms that the citizens of Kassa and Gölnicbánya had already been enjoying, which also shows the importance of the town.54

The confirmation of the privileges was requested by Mayor Perenger in 1318 and then by notary Kolin in 1327. The 1330 last will of William Druget, ispán of Szepes, indicates that Mayor Perenger was hanged for his crimes by order of the ispán, but William left 30 marks to the town (25 for the homicide and 5 for masses) for the sake of his conscience.55 It is worth noting that William became the ispán of Szepes in the summer 1327, and it was notary Kolin, who asked the king for the confirmation in October of that year. These circumstances imply that William executed the mayor just after he had become the lord of region, then the notary, who temporarily took over the government of the town, turned to the king to defend the town’s rights before the ispán could have infringed on them. The mayor’s name and the notary’s name suggest that Gölnicbánya was ruled by the German-speaking elite.

The appearance of Kolin is very valuable, because the first written document of the town’s government survived only from 1395, but the mention of the notary proves that there was already some urban literacy in Gölnicbánya in the early fourteenth century. Although the imprint of the medieval seal of Gölnicbánya is known only from 1497, the two-barred cross depicted in the coat of arms refers to the thirteenth-century origin of the seal.56

Thanks to the development which took place during these decades, new settlements came into existence on the periphery of the town, but the villages, which emerged spontaneously, couldn’t secede from the mother town. This was only possible through direct foundation or royal support. According to a 1368 charter issued by Louis I, which is known only in extract, along with the abovementioned Korompa, Jekelfalva, Szentmargit, and Svedlér, other villages, namely Abucuk, Zakárfalva (today Žakarovce, Slovakia), Folkmár (today Veľký Folkmar, Slovakia), Kojsfalva (today Kojšov, Slovakia), Prakfalva (today Prakovce, Slovakia), and Kuncfalva also emerged in the territory of Gölnicbánya. With the exception of Kuncfalva, these settlements don’t appear in the sources from the previous decades, which proves their dependent status and also indicates that they came into existence in the first half of the fourteenth century.57 Kuncfalva was founded in 1326, when Thomas castellan of Szepes arrented an estate to Kunc from Szalók to settle it.58 The village Wagendrüssel (today Nálepkovo, Slovakia) emerged in the same way, as its territory was donated to a nobleman, count Batiz, in 1290, though he sold the village to a citizen of Gölnicbánya named Pecoldus in 1315.59 Szomolnokbánya became independent through royal support. The early settlement emerged on the estate of the Premonstratensian provostry of Jászó, but the territory was attached to Gölnicbánya in 1287. In 1327, the king granted the privileges of Selmecbánya (today Baská Štiavnica, Slovakia) to the town and founded a mint in the settlement. According to a source from 1338, almost the whole northeastern part of the kingdom was under the authority of the mint of Szomolnokbánya, including Szepes, Abaúj, Sáros, Zemplén, Ung, Gömör, Borsod, and Heves Counties. Some have even suggested that the beginnings of the mint may have led back to Gölnicbánya, but the sources don’t offer any convincing evidence in support of this theory.60


Over the course of a century in the late Árpád Era, Gölnicbánya became an important mining town and economic center of Upper Hungary. The settlement emerged in the beginning of the thirteenth century, when the German mining people from the Torna forest estate settled in the valleys of the Gölnic River, where Slavonic indigenous groups lived. After the county organization of Szepes was founded in the 1240s, Gölnicbánya became an important center of its southern part. The privileges donated by Béla IV and Stephen V led to the rapid development of the town, which became one of the most important economical centers of the region by the 1270–1280s thanks to its mining and markets, which brought high incomes. In these decades, the population of the surroundings of the town grew, settlements came into existence and began to move towards independence. These changes made it necessary to rearrange the status of the town. Ladislaus IV issued the first known privilege charter of Gölnicbánya in 1287, which indicates strategic town planning policies. Thanks to the support of Charles I in the beginning of the fourteenth century, Gölnicbánya reached the high point of its early development.

Archival Sources

Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára [Hungarian National Archives, State Archive], Budapest (MNL OL)

Diplomatikai Fényképgyűjtemény [The Photo Collection of Medieval Documents] (DF)

Diplomatikai Levéltár [The Archive of Medieval Documents] (DL)


Printed sources

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AOklt. = Anjou-kori oklevéltár [Cartulary of the Angevin Era]. 49 vols. Edited by Gyula Kristó et al. Budapest–Szeged: JATE–SZTE–Csongrád Megyei Levéltár–Szegedi Középkorász Műhely–Quintus, 1990–2020.

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CDES = Codex diplomaticus et epistolaris Slovaciae. 2 vols. Edited by Richard Marsina. Bratislavae: Academia Scientiarum Slovaca, 1971–1987.

Csáky = Oklevéltár a gróf Csáky család történetéhez [Cartulary to the history of the Csáky-family]. 2 vols. Edited by László Bártfai Szabó. Budapest: Stephaneum, 1919.

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MES = Monumenta ecclesiae Strigoniensis. 3 vols. Edited by Ferdinand Knauz, and Lajos Dedek Crescens. Strigonii: Typis descripsit Aegydius Horák, 1874–1924.

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Theiner = Vetera monumenta historica Hungariam sacram illustrantia. 2 vols. Edited by Augustinus Theiner. Romae: Typis Vaticanis, 1859–1860.

VMMS = Výsady miest a mestečiek na Slovensku [Privileges of the towns and markets in Slovakia], 1238–1350. Edited by Ľubomir Juck. Bratislava: Veda, 1984.

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1* The research on which this article is based on was supported by “Lendület” Medieval Hungarian Economic History Research Team of Research Centre of Humanities, Institute of History.

1278: ÁÚO, vol. 9, 204–5. The 1246 charter, which mentions the town Gölnicbánya, is a fake and was composed in the fourteenth century: CDES, vol. 2, 153. (RA, no. 2926).

2 1280: Theiner, vol. 1, 347 (RA, no. 3066). For the legation of Philipp, see Kovács, “Alter ego domini.”

3 1287: VMMS, vol. 1, 67–68; Almási, “Gölnicbánya.”

4 1317: VMMS, vol. 1, 88 (AOklt., vol. 4, no. 602).

5 For old and outdated syntheses, see Wenzel, Magyarország bányászatának, 75–79; Hajnóci, A szepesi bányavárosok, 66–68; Csánki, Magyarország történelmi földrajza, vol. 1, 251; Fekete Nagy, Szepesség, 126–36. For the Slovak research, see Martin Homza, “Gelnica,” in LSMS, 151–63.

6 Melich, A honfoglaláskori Magyarország, 374; Kiss, “A Felvidék víznevei,” 15.

7 Heckenast, “Vashámor,” 3–4.

8 1255: “ad fluvium Gylnych vocatum” – CDES, vol. 2, 345. The 1243 privilege of Béla IV, which mentions the river, remained only in a fourteenth-century transcription: RA, no. 744.

9 1282: MNL OL DF 262668 (RA, no. 3162); 1287: Almási, “Gölnicbánya,” 47 (RA, no. 3464); 1325: MNL OL DL 2393 (AOklt., vol. 9, no. 176).

10 1280: “de argentifodina nostra Guylnvchbana vocata circa Scepes” – MNL OL DF 289173 (RA, no. 3066).

11 1243: “hospitibus nostris in villa Ollassy de Tornava congregatis et congregandis” – CDES, vol. 2, 84 (RA, no. 742). For another interpretation, see Kristó, Vármegyék, 391. For the village of Olaszi, see Fekete Nagy, Szepesség, 123–24; Peter Labanc, “Spišské Vlachy,” in LSMS, 474–79. For Coloman and his presence in Szepes, see Font and Barabás, Coloman, 63–68.

12 Dénes, “Galyaság,” 279–80. For the geographical conditions of the region, see Skawiński, “Fyzicko-geográfické pomery,” 46–47.

13 On the German people of Szepes in the Middle Ages, see Kristó, Nem magyar népek, 144–49.

14 1271: VMMS, vol. 1, 55–56 (RA, no. 2116); 1317: VMMS, vol. 1, 89–90 (AOklt., vol. 4, no. 634). The 1299 historical record survived only in a copy from 1649: MNL OL DL 1541. For an outdated publication of the source, see SS, vol. 1, 433–36.

15 The destruction of the Szepes region is also proven by a 1249 charter of Béla IV. In that year, the chapter of Szepes requested that the king confirm their privileges given by Andrew II, because the archive of the church had burned down during the attack of the Mongols: CDES, vol. 2, 230 (RA, no. 910).

16 On German immigration in a Central European context, see Szende, “German Settlers.” On the ethnographic tendencies, see Bruckner, A Szepesség népe, 12–13.

17 May 31: CDES, vol. 2, 84 (RA, no. 742); June 2: CDES, vol. 2, 85–88 (RA, no. 744); June 7: CDES, vol. 2, 88–89 (RA, no. 745).

18 Dénes, Bódvaszilas, 36–48; Kristó, Vármegyék, 391–93. For data concerning the anonym notary, see Anonymus, 70–71. According to József Hradszky, Anonymus called the forests near the village Szepsi (today Moldava nad Bodvou) in Abaúj County the Forest of Szepes. See Hradszky, “Szepesvármegye,” 6.

19 1243: “Prima meta incipit in Genucz iuxta magnam viam, ubi Scumulnukan cadit in Genucz et per eandem aquam ascendit ad caput eiusdem Scumulnuk… ad caput fluvii Gulnucz, per quem, qui est pro meta, descendit ad praedictam metam Sumulnuk et ibi terminatur” – CDES, vol. 2, 87. For map, see ÁMTF, vol. 2, 470–71.

20 1255: “tendit ad fontem Sumugy Bulduafeu vocatum; relicto ipso fonte tendit ad alium fluvium Umulnukfeu vocatum et per eundem fluvium descendit ad fluvium Gylnych vocatum, qui separat a terris et metis Scepus et in eodem fluvio Gylnych vadit usque Nyznanou potoka et abinde descendit ad fluvium Bornanou potoka vocatum; et per eundem fluvium ascendit ad alpes Golcha vocatas et dividit ipsas alpes et transit versus orientem et ab inde descendit ad fluvium Ida” – CDES, vol. 2, 345. On the monastery of Jászó, see ÁMTF, vol. 1, 96–100.

21 József Hajnóci also thought that Gölnicbánya obtained its first privileges in 1243, but he didn’t give countenance to his concept: Hajnóci, Bányavárosok, 66–67. Hradszky mentions the date 1264 also without any argument: Hradszky, “Szepesvármegye,” 22, 69. Dezső Csánki then used this data in his historical geographical masterwork, which led to the acceptance of the date in the secondary literature: Csánki, Történelmi földrajz, vol. 1, 251. As distinct idea of Hradszky, Csánki cited a charter, although 1284 can be read in the date of the source, see MNL OL DL 26704. Richard Marsina drew a parallel with other privilege charters and argued that Béla IV released the first privileges to Gölnicbánya after 1248: CDES, vol. 2, 221. Marsina’s idea was accepted by Gyula Kristó: Kristó, Nem magyar népek, 148. Jenő Szűcs dated the town’s first privileges to the period “after 1255”: Szűcs, Az utolsó Árpádok, 53.

22 1261: CD, vol. 4/1, 162–64 (RA, no. 1778); 1267: RA, no. 1866; 1269: ÁOkl., 63. On the conflict between Béla IV and Junior King Stephen, see Zsoldos, Családi ügy.

23 1265: VMMS, vol. 1, 50 (RA, no. 1838); 1271: VMMS, vol. 1, 55–56 (RA, no. 2116).

24 Stephan released six charters to towns and hospes communities as junior king and five more as the king of Hungary. See Szende, “Kiváltságolás,” 56. On the reign and policies of Stephen, see Szűcs, Az utolsó Árpádok, 107–52.

25 Skorka, A gölnici bányajog, 30–36, 52–53. On the development of the mining towns, see Weisz, “Mining Town Privileges.”

26 Szűcs, Az utolsó Árpádok, 227–30.

27 For an analysis of the 1278 customs tariffs in detail, see Weisz, Vámok és vámszedés, 178–79, 451–52.

28 1256: CDES, vol. 2, 362 (RA, no. 1078); 1269: VMMS, vol. 1, 51–52 (RA, no. 1636); 1292: Csáky, vol. 1, 21–22. On Csütörtökhely, see Fekete Nagy, Szepesség, 191–96. On Szombathely: Fekete Nagy, Szepesség, 206–7; Karín Fábrová, “Spíšská Sobota,” in LSMS, 466–73. On Késmárk, see Fekete Nagy, Szepesség, 215–19; Karín Fábrová, “Kežmarok,” in LSMS, 171–82. On the markets in Szepes in the Middle Ages, see Weisz, Markets and Staples, 38–41, 191–93.

29 1286: MES, vol. 2, 208–13; 1329: MNL OL DF 281704 (AOklt., vol. 13, no. 95, 663).

30 On the civil wars, see Zsoldos, Adorján három ostroma, 28–51. For the archontology of the ispáns of Szepes, see Zsoldos, Archontológia, 205–6. The 1285 privilege charter of George: EO, vol. 1, no. 406.

31 On the urban politics of the oligarchs, see Kristó, Széttagolódás, 161–66.

32 1278: ÁÚO, vol. 9, 204.

33 1282: “quandam silvam nostram desertam et inhabitabilem a Gulnychbana incipiens usque ad fluvium Harnad et abhinc sursum usque campum Hasmezeu vocatum et deinde usque viam, per quam itur ad Kurumpah et ad Zepus a parte orientis, item a parte meridionali usque ad Balapatok, dehinc directe usque ad argenti fodinam Seyler vocatam” – RA, no. 3162.

34 1328: MNL OL DL 83199 (AOklt., vol. 12, no. 300).

35 1287: “Regali incumbit maiestati suos subditos, turbationibus et necessitatibus oppressos ab ipsa turbatione et necessitate misericorditer relevare, et eisdem in eorum iuribus indemniter conservare… Nos itaque, qui ex officio debiti et suscepti regiminis nostri subditos nostros oppressos turbationibus et iuribus eorum pro fidelitate nobis debita et impensa privatos relevare tenemur” – Almási, “Gölnicbánya,” 47. The commentary of Bárdossy, see SS, vol. 1, 331–32.

36 On the ban-mile right and its economic importance, see Fügedi, “Középkori magyar városprivilégiumok,” 33; Weisz, Markets and Staples, 38–41.

37 Weisz, “Mining Town Privileges,” 303–5. On the silviculture of the mining towns, see Magyar, Erdőgazdálkodás.

38 On the typical privileges of the mining towns, see Weisz, “Mining Town Privileges.”

39 On the identification of each point of the border description, see Hajnóci, Bányavárosok, 66–67; Jáchim, “Páni z Jakloviec,” 91. For the orology and hydrography of Szepes in the Árpád Era, see Števík, “Prírodno-geográfické pomery,” 103–14.

40 The charters released during the litigation were rewritten by the chapter of Lelesz in 1510: MNL OL DF 230080. See also: Csőre, Erdőgazdálkodás, 275.

41 The location of Szénkő is defined by a border description from 1260: CDES, vol. 2, 452–53 (RA, no. 1239). See also Števík, “Prírodno-geográfické pomery,” 110.

42 1255: “pertransit ipsum fluvium magna via, quae vadit versus Iazov per locum Heremitorii” – CDES, vol. 2, 343 (RA, no. 1061); 1284: “ad unam viam, qua venit de Gulnuch” – Hoklt., 101–3 (RA, no. 3329); 1318: “in unam viam, que transit de Stoina in Gelnyczbanyam” – CD, vol. 8/2, 186–88 (AOklt., vol. 5, no. 102); 1321: “in unam viam, que transit de Swyne in Gelnuchbaniam” – CD, vol. 8/2, 306–8 (AOklt., vol. 6, no. 270); 1325: “in viam magnam, per quam itur de Wyfolu versus Gelnikchbana” – MNL OL DF 269903 (AOklt., vol. 9, no. 569 and vol. 10, no. 573).

43 For Kassa, see ÁMTF, vol. 1, 102–8; Miroslava Slezáková and Katarína Nádaská, “Košice,” in LSMS, 194–216.

44 For the types of road tolls, see Weisz, Vámok és vámszedés, 13–14.

45 For the manuscript tradition of the 1287 charter, see Almási, “Gölnicbánya,” 45–46. Almási gathered four variants of the copies of the 1699 charter, and two more can be added based on the digital database of the Collection of Medieval Documents. These variants are signed by underline: 1359/1699: MNL OL DL 24805, 24896, 71419; MNL OL DF 258631, 287781, 291733; 1327/1637: MNL OL DF 276159; 1367: MNL OL DL 67376.

46 1287: VMMS, vol. 1, 67–68; Almási, “Gölnicbánya,” 47; RA, no. 3464. The latter listed the old, outdated publications.

47 Fügedi, “Középkori magyar városprivilégiumok,” 47.

48 For Bárdossy’s comment, see SS, vol. 1, 332.

49 On the early history of the family, see Labanc, Vývoj šľachty na Spiši, 17–43; Berzeviczy, “A Tarkőiek,” 414–25.

50 1327: MNL OL DL 68804. For the Slovak research with more references, see Labanc, Vývoj šľachty na Spiši, 41–42.

51 In 1302, Kakas supported Wenceslaus, who confirmed his rights to an estate donated originally by Andrew III. RDES, vol. 1, 92 (AOklt., vol. 1, no. 284). In 1308, Charles I also confirmed the donation made by Andrew III as a remuneration for Kakas’ services in the 1304 occupation of the castle of Szepes: MNL OL DL 1173 (AOklt., vol. 2, no. 436). Kakas was mentioned as curialis comes in 1314: CD, vol. 8/5, 91–92 (AOklt., vol. 3, no. 854). On the Druget family and its lordship in Szepes, see Zsoldos, A Druget-tartomány.

52 1311: RDES, vol. 1, 391–93 (AOklt., vol. 3, no. 150). On the events, see Kristó, A rozgonyi csata.

53 For the data of the Georgenberger Chronik, see SRH, vol. 2, 284. On the urban politics of Charles I, see Zsoldos, “Károly és a városok.”

54 1317: VMMS, vol. 1, 88 (AOklt., vol. 4, no. 602).

55 1330: MNL OL DL 71270 (AOklt., vol. 14, no. 473). According to Martin Homza, the mayor executed by Count William was not Perenger, who appeared in 1318. Martin, Homza, “Gölnicbánya,” in LSMS, 157. His misunderstanding is based on a publication by Charles Wagner, who wrote the mayor’s name incorrectly in the form Nerenger: AS, vol. 1, 127–31.

56 1395: MNL OL DL 83450 (ZsOklt., vol. 1, no. 4127). On the beginnings of urban literacy in medieval Hungary, see Szende, “Városi írásbeliség.” On the seal of Gölnicbánya, see Szende, “Hivatali írásbeliség,” 514–16.

57 1368: CD, vol. 9/4, 114–19.

58 1326: MNL OL DF 262903 (AOklt., vol. 10, no. 455).

59 1290/1315: MNL OL DL 74786 (AOklt., vol. 9, no. 44).

60 On Szomolnokbánya, see Daniela Dvořáková and Martin Štefánik, “Smolník,” in LSMS, 437; 1327: VMMS, vol. 1, 110–11 (AOklt., vol. 11, no. 227); 1338: MES, vol. 3, 306–12 (AOklt., vol. 22, no. 150). For the conception concerning the mint, see Weisz, “Váradi kamara,” 94–104.


Zadar, the Angevin Center of Kingdom of Croatia and Dalmatia

Judit Gál
Research Centre for the Humanities
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 3  (2022):570–590 DOI 10.38145/2022.3.570

When royal power started weakening in Hungary in the last third of the thirteenth century, the Hungarian royal authority in the Dalmatian towns also started to lose influence, and by the first third of the thirteenth century, most of the towns previously under Hungarian rule had become Venetian territories. The reoccupation of these towns and even more lands on the Eastern Adriatic coast could be connected to King Louis I of Hungary, who defeated Venice in 1358 in the war between Hungary and the Italian city state. This study focuses on the king’s exercise of power in Dalmatia, particularly the economic aspects of royal policy and the place of Zadar in this policy. My analysis also focuses on the formation of a Hungarian center in Dalmatia from the twelfth century and on how King Louis turned away from the policies of the previous kings of Hungary. My intention is to highlight the economic importance of Zadar, the process of the formation of an economic and trade center of Hungary, and also the formation of the Dalmatian elite, with a particular focus on the citizens of Zadar, who were in the closest circles of the Hungarian king. The focus will be also on the integration of the coastal territories into the mainland of Hungary under the reign of King Louis I. 

Keywords: urban history, Kingdom of Hungary, Dalmatia, economic history, Angevin dynasty

Zadar under Hungarian rule

Zadar fell under the control of several different centers of power during the period that began with the early eleventh century and concluded with the early twelfth. This began with the conquest of the city by Peter II Orseolo at turn of the tenth and eleventh centuries, who brought Zadar, a coastal town which had spent centuries under Byzantine authority, under the rule of the doge of Venice.1 By the second half of the eleventh century, Croatian rulers had extended their influence over the city.2 The reign of the Trpimirović dynasty came to an end at the end of the eleventh century, when King Zvonimir (1075–1089) died in 1089 without leaving an heir and was replaced by Stephen II (1089–1091), an elderly relative of King Krešimir IV (1058–1074). When Stephen II died after a short reign of only two years in 1091, the Croatian dynasty died out with him.3 The resulting power vacuum ushered in a decade of turbulence and upheavals in the lives of the Dalmatian cities. Zvonimir’s brother-in-law, King Ladislaus I of Hungary, launched a campaign to conquer Croatia and Dalmatia in 1091.4 In the course of this campaign, Croatia fell into Hungarian hands, but the Hungarian forces were unable to capture the Dalmatian cities until the rule of Coloman, king of Hungary. Coloman eventually secured his hold on power in Croatia in 1102, when he was crowned king of Croatia and Dalmatia in Biograd na Moru.5 Although Vekenega, abbess of the monastery of the Virgin Mary in Zadar, had the privileges the city had enjoyed confirmed by the new ruler,6 neither Zadar nor any other Dalmatian city actually came under the rule of Coloman at the time. This did not happen until 1105, when the ruler conquered northern and central Dalmatia.7 Coloman’s conquest of the cities of Dalmatia did not last long, however. In 1116, Zadar, like some other Dalmatian territories under Hungarian rule, fell into Venetian hands and remained under the rule of Venice until 1181.8 The city of Zadar rose up against Venice in 1159, 1164, 1168, 1170, and 1180.9 The rebellion in 1180 was successful, because by then, Zadar was able to count on the support of King Béla III, who was leading successful military campaigns in the Balkans. The Hungarian conquest only lasted for about two decades, and by the time of the fourth crusade in 1204, Zadar was again the control of Venice.10 In the thirteenth century, the city briefly fell into Hungarian hands again when Béla IV fled to Dalmatia to escape the Mongol invasion. The king supported the citizens of Zadar, who were rebelling against Venetian rule, and in 1242, he managed to bring the city under his control. This success, however, was only temporary. Some of the denizens of Zadar fled the Venetian counterattack for Nin, and in January 1244, Béla IV made peace with Venice.11 Béla IV made no further attempts to take the city, and after his death in 1270, the Hungarian royal house was weakened by civil strife and the unexpected death of the former king’s heir to the throne in 1271. This meant that Zadar had to find an ally other than the Hungarian ruler if it wanted to challenge Venetian rule. Eventually, the city found this new ally in the Šubić family, who had established themselves as a provincial power and, by the end of the thirteenth century, had seized control of all the cities of central and northern Dalmatia except Zadar. Essentially, they had emerged as the greatest political power in Croatia.12 In 1311, Mladen Šubić conquered Zadar (which again was rebelling against Venice) in the name of King Charles I of Hungary, but he was only able to hold the city for two years.13 The next attempt to wrest the city from Venetian control was made in 1345, during the reign of Louis I, when the denizens of Zadar rebelled against Venice. The Hungarian king, however, didn’t offer any meaningful support due to entanglements with affairs in Naples. The rebellion failed, and Venice punished the city with unprecedented austerity.14 Louis I launched another war against Venice in 1356–1358, from which he emerged triumphant. His victory was crowned by the Peace of Zadar on February 18, 1358, which made him the ruler of all Dalmatia.15

The Comes of Zadar and Hungarian Administration in Dalmatia

In order to further a more nuanced understanding of the place of Zadar within the Kingdom of Hungary, I will first analyze the relationship between the secular leadership of the town, especially the so-called comes (a position in the hierarchy of feudal Europe comparable to a count) who governed Zadar, and the royal administration in Dalmatia (Croatia). Before delving into the matter in detail, however, it is worth taking a moment to note that, as mentioned in the overview above, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Zadar came under the rule of the Kingdom of Hungary only temporarily, sometimes for no more than one or two decades. It was only after 1358 that the city found itself under Hungarian rule continuously, for periods of several decades. For this reason and also because of the scarcity of surviving sources, it is not possible to offer an in-depth analysis of the place of the city in the Árpád Era. When Zadar fell under the rule of the Hungarian king, this did not bring significant changes to the administration of the city. The only real shift concerned the terms used for the city leader. The term that had been in use, prior, was replaced with the aforementioned term, comes.16 The surviving sources offer the names of two comeses in Zadar in the decade between 1105 and 1116: Cesar, who is mentioned in a document from 1105 and was probably of Hungarian origin,17 and Kledin, who must have held the title around 1116.18 Some Croatian historians have suggested that they were one and the same person and that Kledin had in fact assumed leadership of Zadar in 1105, but his name was written incorrectly in the document.19 The name Cesar is not found in any other document, while there are many sources about Kledin, assuming that the two were not identical. After Croatia and Dalmatia had fallen under the control of the Hungarian crown, King Coloman made Kledin the ban (who was a representative of royal power), though we do not know precisely when. The sources are admittedly scarce, but it is nonetheless not unreasonable to assume that there was an overlap between his time in office as ban and his tenure as comes of Zadar. His name is also mentioned in the Zadar laudes, which the denizens of the city were required to sing in honor of the king during certain festive days.20 As mentioned above, the sources are scarce, but we know of no other city that had a Hungarian comes in the early twelfth century. Split was the only settlement in which the surviving sources indicate that a representative of the Hungarian king ended up, though Manasses did not become a comes, but rather was archbishop of Split.21 Thus, after having captured Dalmatia, Coloman placed his man at the head of the ecclesiastical and secular center of the region, which also had a particularly important military-defensive role, especially in the case of Kledin. In 1116, the ban defended the city against Venice, and he did so with the royal Hungarian armies under his command. After Coloman’s death, Zadar ended up in the hands of Venice, and though the city rose up against Venetian rule several times, hoping instead to come under the rule of the Hungarian king, this situation did not change until 1181.22 After the triumphant military campaign led by Béla III, Zadar remained in Hungarian hands for more than 20 years. Béla III made Maurus the comes of Zadar,23 who also held the office of ban of the maritime region (a position created in a somewhat ad hoc manner next to the bans of Slavonia) in 1182.24 Maurus was succeeded in 1183 by Damianus, who remained comes of the city until his death in 1199.25 Damianus referred to himself as comes by the grace of God and the king, which indicates that his appointment to this position was not simply the result of a decision reached by the city but rather was the consequence of direct royal intervention.26 We find a similar example in the mid-thirteenth century, when the posts of comes of Trogir and comes of Split were held by the bans of Slavonia.27 In 1251, Mihailo the castellan of Klis, who had been entrusted by ban Stephen to serve in the position of comes of Split, referred to himself as comes of Split by the grace of God and the king and the consent of the ban.28

Turning back to Zadar, the fact that Damianus remained in the position of comes in Zadar until his death offers a clear indication of the influence and power of the king. In addition to his position as leader of the city, the sources also indicate that he was the ban of the maritime region in 1188.29 The essential common point in their careers was that both Maurus and Damianus were given the title of ban of the maritime region for one year when the Kingdom of Hungary was at war with Venice.30 When Zadar fell back into Hungarian hands in 1242, there was no similar pattern of events, which was perhaps because Hungary was not able to assert its rule in the city. It was not until 1311 that the municipal administration and the Hungarian royal administration again merged. Mladen Šubić seized the city in the name of King Charles I of Hungary and assumed the office of comes, which he held for two years, from 1312 as ban of Croatia, until Venice retook the city.31 It is worth noting, however, that Mladen’s position as someone who held two offices differed from the above examples. He was not appointed as the leading figure in the city by the Hungarian royal power but rather acquired this place himself. Charles I, after all, could hardly have been a powerful figure in the region at this time. Mladen used his own army to take the city, and his conquest of Zadar was not in the interests, first and foremost, of the Kingdom of Hungary, but rather furthered the consolidation of the power of the Šubić family in Dalmatia.32 After 1358, the Hungarian administration and the office of the comes of Zadar remained closely linked until the end of the reign of King Louis I in 1382. The ban of Dalmatia and Croatia, Nicholas Szécsi was the first person to serve in this office, a post he held from 1359 until 1366.33 He was followed by Kónya Szécsényi, who served as both ban and comes from 1366 until 1368.34 When Emeric Lackfi replaced Kónya as ban in 1368, he was also given the office of comes of Zadar in that year.35 Lackfi held both titles for one year and was succeeded in both by Simon Mauritius, who held these offices from 1369 until 1371.36 This pattern was broken by Peter Bellante in 1371–1372, who was not a ban of Croatia and Dalmatia, but rather received the titles of comes of Počitelj and Bužan from the king.37 In 1372, John de Surdis, who was Bishop of Vác and royal governor of Dalmatia and Croatia, became the comes for a short time.38 His brother, Rafael, succeeded him that same year, who held the same two posts and later was made archbishop of Esztergom.39 It is worth noting that at the time, the title of ban of Croatia and Dalmatia was held by the Duke Charles of Durazzo, 40 and thus really the person who replaced him was given the title of comes. It should also be noted that, from the perspective of Zadar, Charles of Durazzo occupies something of a special place in the succession of Hungarian kings and dukes of Slavonia. After receiving the title of duke of Slavonia from Louis I in 1370, he made Zadar his seat and established his court there, thus transforming the city into the administrative center of the territories south of the Drava Rive and he was the first duke who made a Dalmatian town his seat since the beginning of the twelfth century.41 Although Nicholas Szécsi became the ban of Croatia and Dalmatia first in 1374–1375 and again in 1376,42 he only acquired the office of comes of Zadar in 1378, and he held it until 1380.43 He was succeeded by Emeric Bebek, who held both offices between 1380 and 1383.44 It is thus clear that the office of comes of Zadar and, first and foremost, the benefits that came with it belonged to the highest official representative of the king. The only exception to this was the brief period in 1371–1372, when the office was held by ban Peter Bellante.45 If we compare the position of comes of Zadar with the office of comes in other cities, we find only one case in which there was a similar pattern during the rule of Louis I. The admiral of the royal fleet was permanently granted the title of comes of the islands of Brač, Hvar, Korčula, and Vis.46

As is evident from this discussion, during the period under study, the offices of comes and ban were closely related, but before diving into a detailed analysis of this, it is worth pausing to clarify exactly what the office of ban meant for each of the people listed above who held this title. When King Coloman conquered Dalmatia, he placed a ban at the head of Croatia and Dalmatia whose Latin name for a long time was simply banus. This term remained in general use until about 1235. After the power of the ban was extended to the territories south of the Drava River at the end of the twelfth century, beginning in the 1220s, the title of ban of all Slavonia gradually came into widespread use, and the territory that belonged to this office covered most of the lands south of the Drava including Croatia and the Dalmatian towns under Hungarian rule.47 The ban of whole Slavonia was replaced on an ad hoc basis by the aforementioned bans of the maritime region in areas along the coast and in Croatia48 until, towards the end of the thirteenth century, the office of ban of Croatia was separated from the office of ban of Slavonia, first under the reign of Nicholas, son of Stephen (I) from the kindred Gutkeled, and then under Paul Šubić.49 Under Louis I, the division survived, and the Dalmatian-Croatian territories and Slavonia were governed by separate bans. The rulers of the Árpád Era and those of the Angevin Era placed their own comeses at the head of Zadar, ignoring the city’s right to elect the person to hold this office. In the Árpád period, too, there was a connection between the office of the comes of Zadar and the office of the ban. In the case of Kledin, given the scarcity of sources, we do not know whether he held the two titles at the same time from 1105 onwards, but there was clearly some overlap between the two around 1116. Maurus and Damianus, who served as comeses of Zadar in the 1180s, both held the title of the ban of the maritime region, though only for one year each, at least as far as one can tell on the basis of the surviving sources. Since with regards to Maurus’ position as comes we only have data from 1182, we can presume that there was indeed some overlap in the period when he held this office and the period when he served as ban of the maritime region. In the case of Damianus, however, though he served as comes for a long time, he held the position of ban of the maritime region only briefly during this period. Both Maurus and Damianus were given the title in a time of war, when Béla III was fighting Venice for control of the Dalmatian cities and the comeses of Zadar also served as the commanders of the royal forces. The combination of the office of comes with that of ban in the Árpád Era was really more a matter of necessity than anything else, as it enabled the king to ensure that he had a reliable representative of royal interests at the head of the most important trading city in Dalmatia and also made it possible to organize the military defense of the territory more effectively as the ban was the commander of the royal forces in the region. In the Angevin era, it was a priority to protect the city against Venice, and this could provide the motivation to link the two offices. Another reason behind the linking could be that the office of comes of Zadar was one of the most lucrative municipal positions in all Dalmatia so the royal appointment was a huge financial honor as well for the recipients. Furthermore, Hungarian King Louis I exercised his prerogative to choose the leaders of the Dalmatian cities (the city of Dubrovnik was an exception, as it enjoyed full autonomy).50 The comeses were appointed by him, and the city councils could make decisions concerning who held the office only as a matter of form.51 The comeses usually did not exercise their functions in practice, but rather entrusted them to a deputy, especially in the case of the larger cities. As will be clear later, these offices were used by the ruler to reward his supporters in a given settlement and build a local elite, and Zadar was no exception. In the period between 1358 and 1382, with only one exception, the person who was given the title of comes of Zadar was a local representative of royal power, either the ban or the vicarius generalis.

Zadar as the Hungarian Economic Center of Dalmatia

Among the Dalmatian cities, Zadar was not only the most important political center, it was also one of the most important economic center and trade hub, alongside Dubrovnik and Kotor. The development and economic structure of the Dalmatian settlements varied considerably: some towns relied primarily on trade with the Balkan interior (Dubrovnik), while others built economies on agriculture among others. Zadar was important and strong in no small part because of its excellent location, but also due to its close relationship with the Croatian hinterland and its spontaneous integration with it. Over the course of the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, while this hinterland was primarily part of Hungary and Zadar was under the control of Venice, the symbiosis between the two nonetheless grew steadily stronger. Agriculture was the economic driving force of the city thanks to this expansive hinterland, as well as the salt trade, which began playing an increasingly important role in the city’s economy after 1358. Salt was produced mostly on the nearby island of Pag,52 and the income from this and from the salt trade became the city’s main source of wealth.53 The policies of the rulers in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries gave the Dalmatian cities a remarkably high degree of autonomy and did not integrate either Croatia or Dalmatia into the Kingdom of Hungary, so the economic institutions, taxes, and other duties in place in the Hungarian territories were unknown in the cities, including Zadar. The only income to which the king had claim was a third of the port toll.54 Furthermore, according to data from the thirteenth century, the obligation to provide accommodation to the king was only introduced later.55 As the influence of the royal court in the region was weak during the reign of Charles I, no significant changes took place. After the conquest of the area by Louis I in 1358, however, Hungarian policy differed significantly from the prevailing practices of the previous centuries. Louis I sought to link Dalmatia and Croatia into the Kingdom of Hungary more and strengthen his authority, and so new economic institutions began to appear in the region.

These institutions mostly affected the salt trade and trade in general. With regards to the salt trade, there is no indication in any of the sources that the Hungarian rulers of the Árpád Era interfered in any way in the regulations in Zadar, nor is there any sign that they levied any taxes or customs duties. As the statutes from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries make abundantly clear, Zadar’s ambition (and indeed the ambition of every city on the seaside) was to hold a monopoly on the salt trade in all the cities. This economic aspiration clashed with the politics of Louis I when the city came under Hungarian rule in 1358. Instead of adopting policies similar to those of his predecessors and allowing the city to enjoy a considerable degree of autonomy, the Hungarian king seized the monopoly on the salt trade and introduced a new tax, the tricesima or thirtieth, in Croatia and Dalmatia. The conclusion of the Treaty of Zadar also meant the establishment of the Dalmatian-Croatian salt and thirtieth tax chamber.56 We do not know the precise date of this, given the lack of sources, but it must have taken place shortly after Hungary took control of the region, because a charter from Trogir dated August 5, 1359 makes clear reference to the payment of the thirtieth and the ways in which salt was traded.57 It is worth noting, however, that Dubrovnik was an exception when it came to the efforts of the Hungarian ruler to integrate the cities of Dalmatia into his kingdom, due to the Treaty of Visegrád between the king of Hungary and the town, as the chamber did not expand its influence to this city in the relatively distant south, and it was not brought into the Hungarian tax system. The chamber existed until the beginning of the fifteenth century and only ceased to function when Venice captured the city of Zadar in 1409. Thanks to its prominence and the position and natural features of the city, Zadar became the center of the Hungarian economic administration in Dalmatia. Regrettably, very little information has survived concerning the functioning of the chamber, but we can be plausibly assumed that the leader of the Zadar chamber also stood at the head of the Dalmatian-Croatian salt and thirtieth chamber and that this was also the largest source of local income for the king. Baltasar de Sorba, admiral of the royal navy, was the first known manager of the chamber, a position he assumed in 1366. He was succeeded by Frisonus de Protto, the vicar of Senj, who served until 1369. In 1372, George de Zadulino, a patrician from Zadar, was at the head of the chamber.58 In the mid-1370s, however, control of the chamber was taken over by Florentines, who assumed an ever-larger role in the salt trade, alongside the Zadar merchants who earlier had held the leading positions.

The presence of the king of Hungary meant not simply the introduction of new institutions but also significant changes for the cities, especially Zadar and Dubrovnik, from the perspective of trade. Venice, which earlier had dominated trade along the shores of the Adriatic Sea, was pushed to the margins, and the rival Dalmatian cities—in particular Zadar, which had endured harsh retaliations after 1345—suddenly had a chance to rise to positions of influence, and Zadar become the Hungarian trading center along the Adriatic. The Venetians, who previously had not had to pay any duties, were obliged to pay the thirtieth, and the Hungarian king ensured that the cities could trade freely on the Adriatic.59 The king did not simply make Zadar the administrative economic center, he also regarded the city as one of the major trading powers of the Kingdom of Hungary. To facilitate the flow of goods, Louis I also strove to improve trade between Dalmatia and the Saxon cities around Hermannstadt (or Nagyszeben by its Hungarian name and Sibiu by its current Romanian name) in Transylvania and Pressburg (or Pozsony by its Hungarian name and Bratislava by its current Slovak name). In 1361, the king exempted the citizens of Pressburg from customs duties on goods imported from Dalmatia, in particular from Zadar, with the stipulation only that they pay the Zadar thirtieth.60 In 1366, the denizens of Pressburg were again granted an exemption, though this time there was no mention of any obligation to pay the Zadar thirtieth.61 In 1370, the king granted a similar exemption to the people of Hermannstadt, with the provision that they would pay no customs duties whatsoever except the Buda thirtieth.62 The Transylvanian city of Kronstadt (or Brassó by its Hungarian name and Braşov by its current Romanian name) was then granted a similar exemption, and later the king exempted all the merchants in the country from the obligation to pay customs duties on trade between Buda and Zadar.63 By the 1370s, Zadar had become the driving force and firmly established center of Hungarian trade on the Adriatic.

The Denizens of Zadar as Knights of the Court: The Dalmatian Elite of King Louis I

One of the interesting features of Hungarian rule in the Árpád Era was that the cities were given a relatively high degree of autonomy. The royal court had no permanent representative in Dalmatia, and the rulers very rarely interfered in the election of city officials. The office of the comes of Zadar, however, was an exception, and there was a period during the reign of Béla IV in which the same was true of the office of comes in the cities of Split and Trogir. As noted above, this situation changed after Louis I took the throne, as the new king regarded it as his prerogative to appoint the people who would serve as comes. Also, with the connecting of Croatia and Dalmatia into the Kingdom of Hungary, Hungarian institutions and officials became common in the region.

Under the reign of King Louis I, with the flowering of chivalric culture, the number of knights of the court (miles aulae regiae) increased,64 and this was true of Dalmatia as well, where for the most part the knights were denizens of Zadar.65 Ágnes Kurcz has already called attention to the unusually large number of knights in the court who were from Dalmatia and, first and foremost, Zadar.66 This tendency is also significant because the knights of the court were among the king’s closest circle of consorts, and they were rewarded by the monarch with prominent offices and missions. Two members of the de Georgio family from the city of Zadar were among the knights of the court. The name Francis is mentioned in sources from 1345 as a member of the Zadar delegation which sought military assistance against Venice,67 and his son Paul is first referred to with this title in the sources from 1377.68 Among the members of the Cesamis family, Jacob was the first to be given this title by Louis I. He was held captive by Venice until 1352 after taking part in the rebellion in 1345.69 He was first mentioned in the sources as a knight of the court in 1358, before the Peace of Zadar, when, together with Daniel de Varicasso and George de Georgio, he came before Louis I as a delegate from Zadar to ask the king to confirm the old privileges the city had enjoyed.70 Stephen de Nosdrogna (Stephanus de Jadra) was probably one of the first of the denizens of Zadar to be given the title of knight, and he is mentioned as such in a source from 1358.71 John de Grisogono was a member of the Zadar delegation that sought out King Louis in 1357 and asked him to put the city under his protection. One can plausibly assume that he was granted the title in connection with the role he played as part of this delegation.72 Paul de Grubogna first appeared before the king as a figure of some influence in 1345, when, together with Francis de Georgio he too went as part of a delegation to the Hungarian king’s court.73 Unlike his predecessors, Mafej de Matafaris did not catch the attention of the king in the 1340s and 1350s, as he was too young to have done so. He was first mentioned in the sources as a knight in 1376.74 Jacob de Varicasso is first mentioned in the sources from 1357, when he appeared before the king as a member of the aforementioned delegation from Zadar, and presumably, like John de Grisogono, he was knighted at the time, though in the sources, he was only referred to by this title in 1363.75

The knights of the court had very different family, economic, and political backgrounds, and they caught the attention of the Hungarian king primarily during the wars against Venice or through later shows of personal valor. Some of them hailed from families in the Croatian hinterland, and they maintained their links with this territory, where they owned expansive estates. One finds among them members of the de Nosdrogna family, a branch of the Draginić family, who, in addition to having become part of the Zadar elite, gradually assumed control of the clan over the course of the fourteenth century, thanks in no small part to the support of King Louis I. In 1359, the Hungarian king gave the estates which had belonged to the Grabovčane branch of the Draginić family (which had died out in the meantime) to Francis de Nosdrogna, and they continued to acquire territories which had belonged to their kindred but had been left without an heir.76 The Cesamis family, who begin to be mentioned in the Zadar sources from the thirteenth century, also came to the city from the Croatian hinterland.77 The de Varicasso family followed a similar path, also appearing in Zadar in the thirteenth century.78 The first mention of the de Georgio family dates to the thirteenth century. Initially, they did not have any considerable influence in Zadar. This shifted because of Francis and the role he accepted in the court of Louis I.79 The de Grubogna family begins to pop up in the sources from the twelfth century onwards, and members of the clan held offices of various importance in the city. Their rise in prominence is linked to the name of Paul, a member of the family who distinguished himself before Louis I.80 The de Grisogono and de Matafaris families were among the oldest and most influential members of the Zadar nobility, both economically and politically.81 The de Matafaris also had a special place among the members of the Angevin dynasty, and they were in close association with them and supported the family’s ambitions both in Zadar and the region well before the accession of Charles I to the throne.82 Indeed, the family included the lily in its coat-of-arms because of its ties to the Angevins.83 Of the families to which the knights of the court belonged, the de Varicasso, de Matafaris, and de Grisogono clans were among the economically elite of Zadar, and they were the only such families about which we know that they were involved in the salt trade.84 The other people from Zadar who belonged to the elite around King Louis I derived their incomes primarily from their extensive land holdings, their acquired offices, and their royal mandates, and they were more dependent on the whims and wishes of the court than the families listed above.85

The Zadar elite occupied a much higher place in the royal court than the ruling stratum of any other Dalmatian city. Louis I relied on the aforementioned knights of the court who were part of his closest circles for diplomatic and military matters in Dalmatia and Croatia. They took part in missions entrusted to them by the ruler, for instance when John de Grisogono and Jacob Cesamis, together with Dalmatian-Croatian ban Nicholas Szécsi, negotiated with the Venetian envoys on questions which arose in the wake of the war.86 Mafej de Matafaris was among the confidantes of Queen Elizabeth who helped her make a reliquary dedicated to Saint Simon.87 In 1373, because of the war underway with Venice, King Louis I ordered de Georgio to leave his position as comes of Trogir and return to Zadar, where he was made commander of the military forces.88 The aforementioned charter of 1377 issued by Queen Elizabeth lists him and his son Paul, who was also a knight of the court, as confidantes in the matter of the relic, much as it lists de Matafaris. In 1381, he took part as a delegate of the Hungarian king in the Hungarian-Venetian negotiations before the Peace of Turin, and he played an important role in the Hungarian takeover of Kotor.89 Louis I used other means, in addition to these kinds of missions, to show his favor for his closest loyal supporters from Zadar. He regarded it as his right to appoint the person to serve as comes, as the case of Split in 1367 clearly illustrates. The city wanted to elect the Dalmatian-Croatian ban to serve as comes, but the king ordered them to choose his candidate,90 the aforementioned John de Grisogono, who was entrusted with several offices by Louis I after 1358. He held the title of comes of Nin from 1359 to 1369,91 and from 1363 to 1369 he was comes of Split.92 Mafej de Matafaris held this office between 1374 and 1379.93 In 1358, Jacob Cesamis was given the title of admiral of the emerging Hungarian fleet in the Adriatic,94 which he held until his death in 1366.95 Stephen de Nosdrogna served as comes of Omiš from 1358, but the few surviving sources do not reveal when his term in this office came to an end.96 Stephen also was made deputy to ban Nicholas Szécsi in Šibenik, where the latter was also head of the city.97 In 1358, Francis de Georgio was given the office of comes of Trogir by King Louis I,98 a position which was taken from him in 1373 by Paul, the son of the knight of the court, for one year99 because of de Georgio’s duties in Zadar. Later, Francis held the title again until the end of 1377.100 Paul was given the office again in 1384, and he also held the position of comes of Rab from 1376 to 1378. In no other Dalmatian city did the elite manage to secure for themselves positions of influence comparable to the offices held by the Zadar elite, nor for that matter did any other Dalmatian city have among its leaders, people of such prominence in the Hungarian administration. Alongside the denizens of Zadar, the control of the cities was mainly in the hands of the leaders of the Hungarian royal administration, such as the ban or the admiral. The knights of the court from Zadar, furthermore, were not the only ones who benefitted from the privileges of their positions. Their extended families also enjoyed similar advantages. Like Jacob Cesamis, his son Mathias was made admiral of the Hungarian fleet under the reign of Queen Mary.101 Like Francis de Georgio, his son Paul was given the title of knight of the court, and, as noted in the discussion above, the king rewarded him with various offices. In the case of Philipp, brother of Stephen de Nosdrogna, the sources do not offer any indication that he ever had the title of knight, but he held important positions in the Dalmatian administration. Between 1361 and 1366, he was castellan of Omiš, and he also had jurisdiction over the market of Drijeva at the mouth of the Neretva River at the order of the ban.102 Alongside these individuals who enjoyed advantages because of the influence of their family members, several members of the de Grubogna, de Varicasso, Cesamis, de Grisogono, and de Georgio families served as vicars in the Dalmatian cities in the second half of the fourteenth century.103

As a last point in this discussion, it is worth noting in connection with the role of Zadar that, as the Angevin center of Dalmatia, the city had a strong economic and political appeal for the people who settled in it. In addition to the figures mentioned above, several members of the Dalmatian elite of Louis I settled in the city in the second half of the fourteenth century. Although their prominence was not linked to this move, their very presence in the city is a clear indication of Zadar’s appeal and its economic and political importance. Among these individuals, one should mention Baltasar de Sorba, the admiral of the king, who was born in Genoa, and his son, Rafael de Sorba, who, like the people discussed above, was given a knighthood and lived in Zadar even after Louis I had died. Admiral Simon Doria, also from Genoa, settled in Zadar, and he was accompanied by his brothers Hugolin and Bartol. Frisonus de Protto from Senj, who was among the leaders of the salt and thirtieth chamber, also moved to Zadar, as did jurist Jacob de Raduchio, also from Senj. Jacob de Raduchio was very close to King Louis I, having served as comes of Trogir between 1377 and 1379 and having participated in the negotiations for the Peace of Turin. Over the course of the years, de Raduchio became a respected member of the Zadar elite, and his descendants played significant roles as prominent denizens of the city. 104


In the Árpád and Angevin Eras, both capturing and holding the Dalmatian city of Zadar were among the main goals of the Hungarian rulers. The city fell into the hands of the Hungarian kings for only brief periods during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, but the occupation of Zadar by Louis I in 1358 ushered in almost five decades of Hungarian rule. While the Árpád rulers had granted the cities considerable autonomy and had only rarely interfered in their internal affairs, Louis I began the process of the economic and political integration of the maritime territories into the Kingdom of Hungary. Zadar had been the political center of Dalmatia since the early Middle Ages, and this did not change under Hungarian rule. It is thus not surprising, given the city’s importance, that for the whole period under study, the Hungarian kings intervened in some way in the election of its leaders. In the Árpád period, the comes could be a person appointed by the monarch, who could also hold the office of ban on an ad hoc basis if the foreign policy and military exigencies so dictated. In contrast, under the reign of Louis I, the king considered it his right to appoint the person to serve as comes, and the office was linked to the position of the ban or to the highest local official of the king’s court. Zadar also emerged as the center of Hungarian economic administration and trade in Dalmatia, and although the rights of the city to control of the salt trade were curtailed, the conditions created by Louis I brought prosperity to Zadar. The local Dalmatian elite consisted almost without exception of people from Zadar. In contrast to the rulers of the Árpád Era, Louis I did not seek to win over the local political elite in order to secure his hold on power. Rather, he strove to create his own elite, based on the knights of the court, among whom the knights who hailed from Zadar were in the vast majority in Dalmatia. These knights, like the elite of Louis I in Poland, for example, did not play any part in the affairs of other parts of the country, but they occupied a very prominent and influential place in the governance of Dalmatia and Croatia.

Archival Sources

Arhiv Samostana Sv. Marije u Zadru [Archive of the Monastery of Saint Mary in Zadar] (ASM)

Kaptolski arhiv u Splitu [Chapter Archive of Split]

Nadbiskupski Arhiv u Splitu [Archbishopric Archive in Split] (NAS)

MS 528, 531–542 Rukopisna građa Ivana Lučića

Hrvatski Državni Arhiv u Zadru [Croatian State Archive in Zadar]

HR–DAZD–31-ZB Petrus Perençanus

Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára [Hungarian State Archives] (MNL OL)

Diplomatikai Fényképgyűjtemény (DF)


Printed sources:

CDCr = Codex diplomaticus regni Croatiae, Sclavoniae et Dalmatiae. Vol. 1–18. Edited by Tadija Smičiklas. Zagreb: JAZU, 1904–1934.

Inventari = Inventari fonda veličajne općine zadarske Državnog arhiva u Zadru godine 1325–1385 [Inventar of the fonds of the Municipality of Zadar in the Zadar State Archive 1325–1385]. Edited by Robert Leljak. Zadar: Državni arhiv u Zadru, 2006.

Listine = Listine o odnošajih izmedju južnoga Slavenstva i Mletačke Republike [Documents on the relations between the Southern Slavs and the Republic of Venice]. Vol. 1–10. Edited by Šime Ljubić. Zagreb: Albrecht, 1868–1891.

Rački, Franjo. “Notae Joannis Lucii.” Starine (JAZU) 13 (1881): 211–68.

Thomae archidiaconi Spalatensis Historia Salonitanorum atque Spalatinorum pontificium. Edited by Damir Karbić, Mirjana Matijević-Sokol, and James Sweeney. Budapest: CEU Press, 2006.

UGDS = Urkundenbuch zur Geschichte der Deutschen in Siebenbürgen. Vol. 1–7. Edited by Gustav Gündisch et al. Hermannstadt–Bucharest: Franz Michaelis, Georg Olms. 1892–1991.


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1* The research on which this article is based was supported by the Ministry of Innovation and Technology from the National Research, Development, and Innovation Fund of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (NKFI Fund), on the basis of the TKP2021-NKTA-15 support charter.

Klaić and Petricioli, Zadar, 96.

2 Nikolić, “Madijevci,” 10.

3 Gál, Dalmácia helye, 11.

4 Pauler, A magyar nemzet, 201.

5 Gál, Dalmácia helye, 12–13.

6 1102: CDCr, vol. 2, 9.

7 Györffy, “A 12. századi,” 49.

8 Makk, The Árpáds, 14, 18–21, 96–99; Ferluga, Vizantiska uprava, 127–53; Gál, Dalmácia helye, 14.

9 Klaić and Petricioli, Zadar, 165–69.

10 Thomae archidiaconi, 151.

11 Makk, The Árpáds, 122–23.

12 Karbić, “Šubići bribirski,” 18.

13 Klaić and Petricioli, Zadar, 212–15.

14 Bertényi, Nagy Lajos, 60–62; Klaić and Petricioli, Zadar, 291–315.

15 Brković, “Ugovor.”

16 Novak, Povijest Splita, 300.

17 1105: CDCr, vol. 2, 15.

18 1116–1117: CDCr, vol. 2, 393.

19 Lončar, “Pjesma na grobu,” 48.,

20 1116–1117: CDCr, vol. 2, 393.

21 Gál, Dalmácia helye, 41–42.

22 Makk, The Árpáds, 14.

23 February, 1182: CDCr, vol. 2, 179–81.

24 February, 1182: CDCr, vol. 2, 180.

25 First mention: February 9, 1183: CDCr, vol. 2, 184. Last mention: October 3, 1199: CDCr, vol.2, 326–28.

26 “…dei dominique Hungarici regis gratia eiusdem ciuitatis comes Dalmacieque princeps…” – March 28, 1188: CDCr, vol. 2, 223–24.

27 Gál, Dalmácia helye, 128–31.

28 “Dei gracia et regie maiestatis et consensu Stephani ban comes Spalatensis” – October, 1251: CDCr, vol. 4, 461.

29 March 28, 1188: CDCr, vol. 2, 223.

30 Jászay, Velence és Magyarország, 20.

31 October 21, 1311: CDCr, vol. 8, 295.

32 Karbić, “Šubići bribirski,” 19; Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 22.

33 April 23, 1359: CDCr, vol. 12, 564; November 17, 1366: CDCr, vol. 13, 587; Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23.

34 The first mention of Kónya Szécsényi as comes is found in the records of the notary Petrus Perençanus, held in the notarial records of the Zadar State Archives, on December 6, 1366. l. HR-DAZD-31-ZB Petrus Perençanus, b. 1, fasc. 4. fol. 7–8; February 1368: CDCr, vol. 14, 117–18; Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23.

35 May 5, 1368: CDCr, vol. 14, 129; February 25, 1369: CDCr, vol. 14, 175; Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23.

36 June 5, 1369: CDCr, vol. 14, 193; March 9, 1371: CDCr, vol. 14, 311; Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23.

37 March 6, 1371: CDCr, vol. 14, 309; June 21, 1371: CDCr, vol. 14, 356; March 23, 1372: CDCr, vol. 14. 411.

38 June 28, 1372: CDCr, vol. 14, 426; Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23.

39 November 1, 1372: CDCr, vol. 14, 458; March 12, 1373: CDCr, vol. 14, 502; April 24, 1378: CDCr, vol. 15, 360.

40 Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23.

41 Klaić and Petricioli, Zadar, 335.

42 Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23–24.

43 October 28, 1378: Inventari, vol. 1, no. 39; October 18, 1380: CDCr, vol. 16, 3, 128.

44 December 31, 1380: CDCr, vol. 16, 140; June 20, 1383: CDCr, vol. 16, 373; Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 24.

45 Engel, Archontológia, vol. 1, 23.

46 Juhász, “A késő Anjou-kori,” 7; Klaić, “Admirali ratne mornarice,” 36–37.

47 Zsoldos, “Egész Szlavónia,” 269–81.

48 Gál, Dalmácia helye, 117.

49 Zsoldos, Magyarország világi, 48.

50 Gál, “A dalmáciai városkiváltságok,” 264.

51 Ibid., 269.

52 Granić, “Paško-zadarski odnosi,” 67–79.

53 Dokoza, “Zadarsko plemstvo i sol,” 86.

54 Gál, Dalmácia helye, 97–110.

55 Ibid., 99.

56 Raukar, “Zadarska trgovina,” 24.

57 August 5, 1359: CDCr, vol. 12, 589–92.

58 Raukar, “Zadarska trgovina,” 25–26.

59 Fekete, A magyar-dalmát, 52–53.

60 January 23, 1361: MNL OL, DF 238 791.

61 February 21, 1366: DF 238 835.

62 1370: UGDS, vol. 2, 337–39.

63 1370: UGDS, vol. 2, 361.

64 Veszprémy, “Az Anjou-kori,”12.

65 Kurcz, A lovagi kultúra, 290–97.

66 Ibid., 27.

67 Grbavac, “Prilog,” 38.

68 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 95.

69 Ibid., 97.

70 February 10, 1358: CDCr, vol. 12, 451–52.

71 July 27, 1358: CDCr, vol. 12, 497.

72 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 103.

73 December 31, 1345: CDCr, vol. 11, 260–61.

74 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 107.

75 Ibid., 109.

76 Majnarić, Plemstvo zadarskog zaleđa, 227–30.

77 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 96.

78 Ibid., 109.

79 Ibid., 93.

80 Ibid., 105.

81 Dokoza and Radauš, “Grisogono,” 205–10; Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 106.

82 On the relationship of Zadar and the Angevins before 1301: Peričić, “Zadar,” 31–46.

83 Babić, “Anžuvinski biljezi,” 323.

84 Ibid., 101.

85 On the families and historical demography of medieval Zadar, see Đokoza and Andreis, Zadarsko plemstvo, 74–77, 81–591.

86 January 16, 1360: Ljubić, Listine, vol. 4, 17–20.

87 July 5, 1377: CDCr, vol. 15, 296.

88 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 95.

89 August 8, 1381: Listine, vol. 4, 163–69.

90 June 30, 1367: CDCr, vol. 14, 52.

91 October 1, 1359: CDCr, vol. 12, 629; May 2, 1369: ASM, sv. 4., nr. 259.

92 November 29, 1372: ASM, SSR, nr. 1183; January 22, 1369: Kaptolski arhiv u Splitu, MS. 64. fol. 13.

93 September 17, 1374: NAS, Rukopisna građa Ivana Lučića Lucius, MS 536. fol. 118; January 25, 1379: Rački, “Notae,” 243.

94 February 10, 1358: CDCr, vol. 12, 451–52.

95 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 98.

96 November 4, 1358: CDCr, vol. 12, 520–21.

97 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 101.

98 November 22, 1358: CDCr, vol. 12, 528.

99 March 26, 1373: CDCr, vol. 14, 504.

100 October 18, 1377: CDCr, vol. 15, 319.

101 Grbavac, “Zadarski plemići,” 98.

102 Ibid., 102.

103 June 22, 1383: CDCr, vol. 16, 375; December 10, 1373: NAS MS 536. fol. 118. etc.

104 Begonja, “Zadarsko plemstvo,” 194–200.


Silver and Spices in the Runtinger Trade with Prague

Isabel Scheltens
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 3  (2022):622–646 DOI 10.38145/2022.3.622

In the late medieval period, a prominent trade route led from Prague through Regensburg to Venice. Silver mined in the Bohemian hinterland was traded for luxury items from the Near East. The Regensburg merchant house of Runtinger made vast profits by buying cloth and luxuries cheaply in Venice—in particular spices from India—and selling them in exchange for comparatively large quantities of silver in Prague. This study treats their ledger, Das Runtingerbuch (1383–1407), as a case study for an analysis of the Prague economy. The Runtingers sold the same types of spices and cloth in Regensburg and in Prague during the same span of years, which makes it possible to use their records as sources with which to compare the two markets. The Runtingers are shown to have market power in the Prague spice market but no market power in the Prague cloth market or the Regensburg markets. The reasons for these market differences are theorized in reference to the socioeconomic positions of the Regensburg and Bohemian elites. Luxury items were traded for silver or silver coins, constituting a continuous drain of silver from Bohemia towards Regensburg, which led to a degree of stagnation in the local economy in Bohemia.

Keywords: Runtingers, Das Runtingerbuch, silver, spices, long-distance trade


“In Bohemia, a pig eats more saffron in a year than a German in his whole life,” notes a German chronicler.1 Trivial as this contention may seem, to understand this Bohemian taste for Eastern spices, one must grasp a complex web of trade routes and the shifting interests of those who desired, sought, and sold these luxury items and got rich along the way. The Bohemian taste for Indian spices underscores the character of European economy and European society. It also offers a perspective from which to study the evolution of this economy and this society. Bohemia was in many ways an obscure and ignored corner of medieval Europe. Connected to the surrounding lands only by dangerous roads through dense forests and bypassed by the main thoroughfares of trade, it was ruled by a lesser-known local dynasty. Bohemia remained largely ignored in the early medieval period. With the discovery of silver in the thirteenth century, much changed. Bohemia was thrust into an important role in the European economy, which came to rely heavily on Central European silver for coins. Demand for silver was particularly strong in the city-states of northern Italy, which maintained an unfavorable trade balance all over the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, suddenly acquired wealth caused sudden demand in Bohemia for Mediterranean luxuries. South German merchants took advantage of geography to become middlemen and make a handsome profit.

The impact of Bohemian silver on the rest of Europe has been well explained,2 but what of the effect of Europe on Bohemia? Only vague answers have been given to this question, in part because Bohemian traders left only three fragments of their records behind.3 Thankfully, their south German counterparts were somewhat more thorough. Few ledgers have survived,4 but Das Runtingerbuch contains surprisingly complete information about Bohemia over a relatively wide timespan. Based on the available sources, it also can be said to offer an adequately detailed record of contemporary Regensburg long-distance trade during the period in question.5 This makes it useful material for a case study. The Runtinger family of Regensburg emerged as merchants in the late 1300s and early 1400s. Das Runtingerbuch records the years between 1383 and 1407. Runtinger activities varied widely. They operated a mint, held public office in Regensburg, and dealt in Flemish cloth.6 They also traded with Bohemia and Venice. Although this ledger has been thoroughly studied as a source on economic and civic life in southern Germany, it has not been extensively used to analyze the Bohemian economy.

This article focuses on spices for many reasons: they were the most profitable item sold; they can be easily divided into subgroups, such as pepper, ginger, and cloves; they were bought and sold frequently; and they were sold both in Regensburg and in Prague. In other words, quantitative data on the same commodities are available for comparison across different years and different markets. Furthermore, spices not only position Bohemia in a much wider network of trade, but as exotic luxury items, their purchase offers an indication of the prosperity of the customers in a given year. All this raises the following questions: why were spices the most profitable part of the Runtinger trade with Prague? And what implications did this trade have for Prague and the greater Bohemian economy?

Silver and Spices in Bohemia and Venice

Before grappling with the ledger of a single company threading its way across a continent of jostling competitors, it is worth taking a moment to recall the established economic patterns within which the Runtingers acted. Both Central European silver and the Venetian spice trade affected Europe’s economy in fascinatingly profound ways; they not only bound geographically distant societies together by shared—if not always equal—interests, they were also catalysts for change within these societies over time.

Silver was discovered in several sites in Central Europe, first in Freiberg in Meissen in 1168, then in Jihlava around 1230s,7 and in Kutná Hora in the 1280s.8 The volume of output in Bohemia reached ten tons a year towards the end of the thirteenth century and 20 tons in the first half of the fourteenth.9 Some of this was used to make coins. Around 1300, more than six tons of coins were minted annually in Kutna Hora, which was the most prolific of these mines. Gold was also discovered in Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia, and in the early thirteenth century, these mines yielded around 600 kilograms a year.10 Later in the fourteenth century, more gold was mined in Kremnica.11 Burgeoning mining towns, each in turn the largest in Central Europe, stimulated the whole economy by generating centers of demand.12 Silver was also nearly the only serious Bohemian export. In the thirteenth century, wax and certain other regional products were exported. By the fourteenth century, few of these exports are mentioned in the sources.13 The wide availability of fabrics from the Low Countries also appears to have depressed the local industry in Bohemia.14 Thus, the overall tendency in Bohemia was to export raw materials in the form of precious metals and import finished products.

The wealthy elite in these areas naturally demanded all manner of luxurious paraphernalia. Spices certainly ranked high among them. Spices had a versatile and complex connotation, since they were used not only for cooking, but also as medicines and disease preventatives and in perfumes and as a liturgical incense. Spices were thought to promote the body’s equilibrium and come from a mysterious paradise just west of the garden of Eden.15 With the connotion of spices as wonderous in many ways, their use became an expensive mark of class distinction, indicating gracious and sophisticated sensual pleasure.16 The medieval category of spices was comparatively vague and expansive. It included dates, raisins, rice, dried grapes, aromatic but inedible substances, dyestuffs such as alum, madder, and indigo, medical borax, aloes, and dried rhubarb from China. Nevertheless, by far the most common spices were pepper—which amounted to two-thirds of the Venetian culinary spice import17—cinnamon, ginger, and saffron. Nutmeg, cloves, and galangal were also widely used, but in smaller amounts.18 Spices such as pepper and ginger were grown on the western coasts of southern India and Sri Lanka.19 Saffron, by contrast, was cultivated in the Mediterranean, especially Tuscany. Its expense was connected to the labor required to harvest it. Each crocus contains only three stigma, which meant it took 70,000 flowers to produce one pound.20

Although the spice trade had considerable cultural importance, its formed only a small fraction of total trade. Around 1400, Venice imported an estimated 500 or 1,000 tons a year.21 However, the extreme value of spices relative to their compact size meant that they dramatically impacted the balance of payments.22 While Europe imported thousands of ducats of goods from the east, far less in terms of value flowed in the other direction. The balance therefore had to be paid in coins. Table 1 indicates the balance of payments per year in the fifteenth century, as proposed by Peter Spufford with reference to Eliyahu Ashtor. A striking quantity of coins was paid eastward—net 370,000 Venetian ducats in coins on a total trade worth 660,000 ducats a year! This constituted an ongoing drain of Europe’s silver supply, so that Europe became dependent on continuous mining to support trade, upon which much of the developed economy came to be built. Indeed, Spufford argues that when silver mines dried up and closed down in the 1440s, the economy of Europe ground to a halt on all levels by the 1460s, plunging into a depression which lasted as long as the bullion famine.23

Regensburg, the Runtingers, and Their Ledger

During the late medieval period, expanded sea routes from Italy, the consequent decline of the Champagne fairs, 24 and the Central European boycott of Vienna conspired to give merchants from the Holy Roman Empire an expanded role in international trade. After the boycott of Vienna was codified in the 1335 treaty of Visegrád, Regensburg possessed a clear geographical advantage as a replacement intermediary between Prague and Venice. It was centrally located, and its vicinity to the Danube offered easy access to the Rhine.25 Autumn and Eastertide fairs in Frankfurt-am-Main supplied merchants in the Holy Roman Empire with cloth from the Low Countries. There, the northerners brought their goods from Russia, Scandinavia, and England, and the southerners brought their goods from Spain.26 Regensburgers sold wares from Frankfurt mostly in Vienna or Venice, while the Bohemian merchants found their own way west to Flanders and Brabant, competing fiercely enough to cause Holy Roman merchants to focus on exporting other items to Bohemia.27

Regensburg rapidly became the most important city in Bohemian trade, developing earlier and stronger ties with Prague even than Nuremberg. Even before the treaty of Visegrad, trade appeared to be regular and varied. The following goods were confiscated from Regensburger merchants in Prague, presumably on account of customs infractions: In 1321, seven merchants: 189 rolls of fustian, seven from Ypern, one from Tornai, and 80 pieces of fine linen, two knives and 30 schock 19 groschen. The fustian seems to have been produced in Regensburg. In 1324, 16 merchants: eight sacks and 289 pounds of saffron, 102 pieces of fustian, 40 pieces of cloth from Ypern, a hook, three horses, eight flutes, two loads of coins, seven pairs of scales, two pieces of fine linen, three rolls of rough cloth, three colts, two barrels of Italian wine, three pieces of white linen, a knife, a silver belt, and some cash.28 Clearly, many merchants and a wide variety of goods were involved, and a great deal of money as well.

The importance of Regensburg merchants to Venice was codified by their position in the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. Prominent cities had rooms at their private disposal—the Regensburgers possessed one called la volta di San Piro29and all “German” cities had representatives at a common table, where the Regensberg coat of arms took the highest place.30 Displeased, their rivals the Nurembergers31 tried to supersede by force in 1347–48.32 Because the Regensburgers owed their status as a free town partially to this position, they could not afford to lose. They dispatched merchants and money to the markets, buying more in a day than the Nurembergers could buy in a year. When the Nurembergers reprised the issue some years later, Matthäus Runtinger and Franz Pütreich of Regensburg beat them with sticks. The matter was brought before the Venetian doge, who, pressured by economic interests, granted the Regensburgers the highest place “forever.” 33

Matthäus’s role in this escapade hints at the Runtingers’ prominence in Regensburg. His father, Wilhelm Runtinger, married into the patriciate and rapidly rose to high public office. In 1388, he was appointed the Frager, who took absolute control in times of war like a Roman dictator, as well as the Kämmerer, who saw to revenues, represented the mayor in his absence, and settled minor disputes during regular hours at the town hall. Wilhelm was also the head of taxation, the head of excise, and the bridge master.34 Because long-distance trade and wine production were crucial to the town, many council members represented these occupations in the town council, including Wilhelm in 1383/84 and Matthäus in 1399.35

While father and son formed the core of the Runtinger business, they also formed limited, temporary partnerships with their servants, pooling capital and sharing risks for specific purchases and then splitting the profit correspondingly after sale.36 According to the Regensburg customs book of 1340–41, most or all of the 14 highest capital trading companies were family-based. Their economic activity was not limited to trade. The Runtingers held vineyards and Matthäus ran a mint for silver Pfennige along with its money exchange after 1392. They occupied a large house in which they lived, did administrative work, and stored goods.37 Regensburg produced cotton cloth, and the Runtingers participated in its export. They also bought cloth from the Low Countries in Frankfurt and even sent servants to Brabant to buy it straight from the source. Such wares were purchased in exchange for cash for resale in Vienna.38

Wilhelm hired servants for a salary, noteably Ulrich Furtter, to stay in permanent premises in Prague for months at a time.39 The wares sent to the Prague office were almost universally sold wholesale to regular clients, among them Poles and Silesians as well as Bohemians. While the former were likely middlemen, the latter were often grocers or apothecaries who sold to consumers, such as Friedrich of the Apothecary. Goods, therefore, would have been marked up again before the individuals intending to consume them bought them on the market. The more detailed record book of this outpost has not survived, but Furtter frequently returned with summaries, which were included in Das Runtingerbuch.40

In volume one of his published edition, Franz Bastian summarized this data by calculating the original prices, travel costs, amounts sold, markups, and profits for the goods for different years. These figures are averages or sums derived from individual entries which usually contain smaller amounts of multiple goods, making patterns difficult to identify. For ease of comparison, these numbers are calculated in Venetian ducats and Venetian weights, although the Runtingers often had to exchange their money and often recorded figures in local weight and currency. I will be focusing on information relevant to trade with Venetian goods, taken from volumes I and II.

Interrogating Das Runtingerbuch

The main wares that Runtingers sold in Prague fall into two categories: spices and cloth. The Runtingers purchased some cloth, primarily wool, from the Low Countries. Other cloths, primarily fustian, were produced in Regensburg, and silk from the east was purchased in Venice. What made spices the most profitable commodities in the Runtinger trade with Prague? To answer this question, I first compare spices sold in Regensburg with spices sold in Prague. I then do the same for cloth. This analysis will show that spices yielded a higher and more stable level of profit than cloth on the Prague market, but not in Regensburg. Finally, I offer an interpretation of this trend based on the relevant scholarship.

Spices in Regensburg

The Runtingers traded primarily in pepper, saffron, cloves, and ginger, although they also purchased small amounts of spices such as anis, coriander, and sugar.41 Table two presents data on the four main spices. Unless otherwise stated, all data are calculated in Venetian ducats and Venetian weights. The Venetian pound (hereafter V.lb.) for spices was equal to 297.5 modern grams.42 The Runtingers were able to sell saffron in Regensburg at a 19.6 percent markup in 1383, but at a 13.8 percent markup only in 1400–1401–a 5.8 percent decrease. The profit decreased by the same percentage. The price the Runtingers paid in Venice decreased slightly and transportation-related expenses remained constant, so the reason for this change cannot have depended on the Venetian market. The price customers paid decreased from 2.48 to 2.45 ducats/V.lb, and sales increased by 40 percent. This shows that customers were extremely responsive to a small reduction in price. Here we see that when the Runtingers sold at a lower markup, they made less profit as well.

Pepper was sold in 1383, 1400–1401, and 1403–1404. Markup steadily rose, but profitability dipped betweeen 1383 and 1400–1401. This dip can be explained by a 3 percent increase in transportation expenses and an increase in prices on the Venetian market. Hoping that prices would continue to rise in Regensburg, the Runtingers held back the remaining pepper from that lot,43 selling it off at a 27 percent profit and thus creating a 50 percent increase in profits. When the price rose, customers bought less. Ginger appears to have been comparatively unimportant, as in Regensburg it was only sold once, in 1400, in a relatively small amount at a profit of only 9.25 percent. While cloves were sold in Prague, they are not mentioned in any of the sources related to Regensburg.

To summarize, the Regensburg market responded keenly to price changes in both directions. When prices fell, customers bought more, and when they rose, customers purchased less. Furthermore, we can already deduce that the Runtingers scrutinized the market. When they noticed profits decreasing, they sold. When market prices rose, they held back in hopes of selling for a greater profit later on. In other words, the Runtingers had no market power in Regensburg, and they used spices for speculation.

Spices in Prague

In Prague, in contrast, spices were sold with comparative regularity between 1395 and 1404. Transportation expenses remained constant during this period. For all spices except saffron, markup, prices, and profit remained relatively stable. As shown in table three, between 1395 and 1401, both the amount of saffron sold and the markup varied noticeably. The price of saffron in Venice rose from 1.54 Venetian ducats per pound to 2.54 ducats in 1399, a 54 percent increase. Nevertheless, the Runtingers managed to increase their Prague sale price by 62 percent and the amount that they sold only fell by 22 percent. In contrast, by 1401, the price of saffron in Venice had fallen by 15 percent from its 1399 price. The Runtingers decreased their Prague sale price by 14 percent and sold 16 percent more. This shows that saffron customers were more responsive to a decreased price but less responsive to a price increase. This indicates high demand at every price and a relatively gently sloping demand curve. If the demand curve were steeper, we would expect to see a change in the amount sold inversely proportional to change in price. When the good becomes 40 percent more expensive, for example, 40 percent less is sold, and when the good becomes 40 percent cheaper, sales increase by 40 percent. Note that in spite of these fluctuations, profit remained nearly steady at 20 percent.

If we consider these data against the backdrop of the high and stable profitability of other spices during this time, we can conclude that the demand for spices in Prague was very high and stable over time. The fact that the Runtingers could substantially increase their prices without sacrificing much profit suggests that they possessed some measure of market power.

The Roll of Spices

Spices were overall more than twice as profitable in Prague as in Regensburg—with the exception of the speculation with pepper in Regensburg in 1403–04, when pepper returned a 27 percent profit in Regensburg and a 42.5 percent profit in Prague. Even that is a very considerable difference. Ginger was somewhat less profitable in Prague, but it was traded in comparatively small amounts and seems to have played a minor role in the Runtingers’ trade overall. The average profitability of all spices in Regensburg was 16.83 percent, while in Prague it was 25.51 percent. Since profit margins usually ranged from 10-20 percent during the period in question,44 the profits made in Prague were extraordinarily high.

In terms of amount, we see similar amounts of saffron and ginger sold on both markets, but a startling difference in pepper and cloves. A moderate amount of cloves was sold in Prague for a 30.7 percent profit, but none was sold in Regensburg. Most striking of all, between 1395 and 1404, the Runtingers sold 3,219.24 V.lb. of pepper in Regensburg, compared with only 63.75 V.lb. in Prague. In modern kilograms, that is equivalent to 957.72 kg in Regensburg, compared with only 18.97 kg in Prague.45

Thus, it is evident that spices played a different role in Prague than in Regensburg. In Regensburg, the market responded elastically to price changes, while in Prague, demand was very high even when prices rose. While in Regensburg we see the Runtingers acting as price takers, waiting for the market to change to get a better price, in Prague we see them acting as price makers to a certain extent. In other words, they were able to raise the price without substantially affecting overall profits.

The Role of Cloth

The Runtingers traded in many types of cloth including silks and raw cotton from Venice, fustians produced in Regensburg, and wool from Flanders. The Runtingers seemed to have used cotton as a packing material while transporting goods from Venice.46 It was only rarely sold for money. In 1383, 43.2 Venetian pounds were sold in Regensburg at 22.5 percent profit.47 In Prague, some cotton was sold at a loss in 1399, after it had served as packing material twice.48 Instead, the cotton was mainly part of their fustian trade.

In 1400, the Runtingers dealt with eight Fustian weavers. The following is a typical example of their arrangement:

.E Charpf parichantter.

.E Item dez mitichen von Laurenti chauft der alt Charpf von mir 3 zennten pawmwoll, je 1 zennten umb 11 parichant richtten auf weichnachten schirst. (Aug. 4)

a L Item mir gab der Charpf parchanter 32 parchant dez pfingtztags vor weinachten. – Er peleib mir ain virtail ains parchant noch schuldig.49 (Dez. 23.)


In their dealings with all eight weavers, the Runtingers bartered cotton at one zentner—51 modern kilograms50—for 11 “fustians,” or 18-meter lengths of cloth, to be delivered by a date which had been agreed upon. The Runtingers exchanged a total of 17 zentners and 612 Venetian pounds of cotton for approximately 222 fustians.51 Most of these were sent to Prague and sold in 1401–02, as summarized in table four. Transportation costs rose while the price in Prague decreased, leading to a drastic decline in profit. Here, we see a fluctuating price on the Prague market and the Runtingers acting as price takers. While the Runtingers traded in wool from Flanders, they never attempted to sell it in Prague. The Runtingers also sold silk bought in Venice. These silks came in many types and from many places. The following excerpt from April 29, 1383 details silks bought in Venice and shows just how varied this trade was:

. R Venedig.

.R Item ich chauft ze Venedig 5 atlas umb 60 Tukat: gron, satgrab, plab, sborcz, prawn.

.R Item und 5 samat umb 224 Tukat: 2 sbarcz, 1 prawn, 1 gron, 1 plab.

.R Item 16 Pfund 2 uncz ze 4 ½ Tukat: 72 ½ Tukat 1 ½ g., grab, leichtplab, satplab, prawn, sborcz, weis, gron d R seid.

.R Item 6 Pfund ziegelvar seid ze 5 ½ Tukat suma 32 Tukat.

.R Item 6 walikin ze 12 Tukat, suma 72 Tukat, 2 gron auf prawnem podem, 2 prawn in prawn, 2 weis in weis.

.R Item 6 tuch von Tomask ze 18 Tukat, sum 108 Tukat; 2 prawn, 2 gron, 2 sbarcz. Er gab mir 2 Pfund Chreichisch seid in den chauf.

.R Item 5 pfund Chriechisch seid ze 30 g., suma 6 ¼ Tukat. Da sin(d) dy anderen 2 pfund pey.52 53

The different types and weights of silk have already been analyzed elsewhere.54 It suffices here to note the great variety of silks from the perspectives of type, quality, and price. Silk was sold both finished and unfinished, but always by length, not tailored. Silk sold in Prague in 1383 is displayed in table five. Four types of luxury silks were sold with an average profitability of 26 percent, compared with a 25.51 percent average profit on spices in Prague in 1395–1404.

The popularity of silk was apparently short-lived. In 1383, six of twelve bundles of unfinished silk from Bologna were sold in Regensburg at a 25 percent markup and 20 percent profit. The rest was sent to Prague, where it sat unsold for four years before being sent back to Regensburg. Osana, a clerk who worked in the Runtinger’s shop, managed to sell a piece of it in 1405 for cash. The rest she sold against credit at a 3.3 percent markup the following year.55

Likewise, finished silks were sold in Regensburg in 1400 for a 13.2 percent markup, which returned somewhat more than a 12 percent profit. The rest was sent to Prague. Half a pound was sold in Breslau along the way, and nearly 2.5 pounds were sold in Prague for a 20 percent markup, but the rest was immediately sent back to Regensburg. Once again, Osana sold it in small amounts in 1404. She brought in an average of 23 percent markup and a 20.5 percent profit.

A Comparison of Prague and Regensburg

Table six offers a comparison of the average profitability of all goods. Several clear conclusions can be drawn. Spices were much more profitable in Prague than in Regensburg. The Regensburg market for spices and the Regensburg market for other goods were not markedly different. In Prague, the market for spices was quite stable, while the market for cloth was volatile. The Runtingers could therefore depend on a higher profit for spices in Prague than in Regensburg, while selling cloth in Prague was a risk which did not always pay off.

Regensburg owed its prominence, if not its existence, to the intersection of two major trade routes at its location. Regensburg was primarily invested in transit trade. Its merchants depended on remaining efficient and profitable middlemen by staying well-informed about which goods were on offer and which goods were in demand at markets across various geographical areas.56 A wide variety of goods from a wide variety of places regularly passed through Regensburg. The Runtingers were by no means the only merchants to bring wares from Venice. Klaus Fischer mentions Konrad Dürrenstetter, Stephan Notangst, Heinrich Altmann, and Jakob Ingolstetter alongside Matthäus Runtinger in the Kämmerrat as representative of Venice-Regensburg-Prague trade in 1383.57 Thus, it is easy to understand why the Runtingers did not appear to possess market power in Regensburg: numerous suppliers meant fierce competition. Therefore, the Runtingers sold comparatively larger amounts for a comparatively smaller markup and profit but at lower risk to themselves (as opposed to the risk incurred by transport to Prague). They even occasionally profited from a favorable change in market price, as with their sale of pepper in 1400–1401.

The situation in Prague was considerably more complex. The cloth market in Prague could be divided by social strata: inexpensive, low-status cloth for daily use and luxury cloth designed to indicate elevated social position. The Runtinger trade in fustian falls into the former category. While the Bohemian textile industry was not known for export even into the sixteenth century, some domestic production for the immediate hinterland did exist, so the Bohemians had substitutes when fustian became especially expensive. Silks from Venice and wool from the Low Countries, on the other hand, were luxury items. Although the Runtingers acquired such wool in Brabant and Frankfurt, they never attempted to sell it in Prague. This is likely because Bohemian merchants already imported wool from Brussels, Tournai, Ghent, Lowen, and Ypern.58

Spices, however, have no substitutes. Except for limited amounts of saffron, they cannot be grown in Europe, and after the 1335 treaty of Visegrad, Regensburg surely had a strong hand in Bohemian trade with Venice. This is not to claim that they were without competitors; Nuremburg fought them,59 as did others. However, Prague lay outside the network of banks, so everything was paid in silver,60 which discouraged merchants from selling large amounts of the precious spices at once, as this would have forced them to transport large quantities of silver. Political instability in Bohemia also led the Runtingers to close their permanent branch in 1389.61 This explains the 195 kilograms of spice sold in Prague, compared with 2,155.5 kilograms in Regensburg, much as it also explains why the Runtingers were careful not to transport more than 2,000 gulden at once.62 Competition and caution thus combined to limit the supply of spices in Bohemia, and the Runtingers could demand much higher prices in Prague than in Regensburg.

Another factor allowed the Runtingers to charge more for spices in Prague: customers in Prague could pay more. Regensburg was home to merchants and craftsmen, and it had a population of between 10,000 and 11,000 people.63 Prague housed a university, an archbishopric, and the Holy Roman Emperor’s court.64 Smahel estimated its population at around 37,500 in 1378.65 Because of the mines, luxury goods were comparative inexpensive for members of the upper class in terms of silver.66 Prague therefore became a consumption market, with customers willing and able to pay much higher prices for the prestigious spices. This created a situation in which the Runtingers competed with other Regensburgers for a much smaller, less wealthy population of customers in Regensburg, but in Prague, they competed with merchants from many other cities (probably including others from Regensburg) for a much larger, wealthier consumer base.

In addition to these larger economic factors, the Runtinger transactions were also affected by certain practicalities. After 1389, the Runtingers no longer had a permanent branch in Prague.67 In Regensburg, their employee Osana was able to sell individual pieces of silks to veil makers,68 thereby selling merchandise at reasonable profit which the Runtingers could not sell profitably wholesale. Perhaps if the Runtingers had had such an opportunity in Prague they could have sold more items profitably.

For a more exact explanation of the Bohemian preferences, one must consider what Bohemian nobles were wearing at the time. Perhaps they preferred wool over silk because of the climate. Likewise, to explain why saffron was in such high demand in Prague—roughly eight times as much saffron was sold as pepper, although pepper was most popular spice elsewhere—one must explore Bohemian cuisine and other uses.69 From Das Runtingerbuch, we can only conclude that these things were important. The question of the uses to which they were put (i.e. the reasons why they were important) lies beyond the scope of this inquiry.

What Implications Did This Trade Have for the Prague/Bohemian Economy?

The answer to this question involves a detailed analysis of the trade balance. I consider three factors which may yield insights: the real value of the goods sold in Prague and the money obtained thereby; the raw resources in silver that the Runtingers purchased in Bohemia; the nature of these respective goods in relation to stimulating local industry.70

In 1372, during the construction of a new cathedral in Prague, a mason could earn 2.5 to three groschen a day, whereas a stone setter could earn three to five groschen a day. A carpenter could earn two to three groschen—although the tariffs one and 2.5 also appear—and an unskilled day laborer could earn eight to 14 parvi, which converts to roughly one half or one whole groschen.71 Table 7 presents the amount of spices sold calculated in modern kilograms, as well as their prices in terms of groschen per 100 modern grams. Saffron, the most popular and most expensive, sold for up to 24 groschen for 100 grams. In terms of unskilled labor, that is approximately a month’s labor for a wage laborer hired at a groschen a day (assuming a six-day work week.) The price of this spice varied considerably, but it never dropped below 14 groschen for 100 grams. Even cloves, the cheapest and least popular spice, sold for .84 groschen for 100 grams—nearly a day’s work for an unskilled laborer.

The total money paid to the Runtingers for spices between 1395 and 1404 comes to 28,019 groschen.72 That would be approximately equivalent to employing 90 unskilled laborers for one year.73 By contrast, the total cloth goods discussed above sold for 10,011.75 groschen, the yearly wages for approximately 32 laborers. Altogether, this suggests that the Runtingers took in at least 38,030.75 groschen during this nine-year period: enough to hire 122 people. Note that these figures are not exhaustive; they do not take into account every good that the Runtingers ever sold, but only those which they sold regularly and in large amounts.

While they did not export finished goods, the Runtingers did buy one local resource: silver in the form of gebegen gelt, or damaged groschen. The Prague groschen was intended to be an eternal coin, with unchanging weight and fineness. Originally, it was minted from silver of up to 15 lots—essentially the Medieval standard of pure silver.74 Although it was debased gradually, it retained a very high and stable value relative to other coins of the period. When worn or damaged coins were removed from circulation, they were sold by weight for their silver. The Runtingers bought this gebegen gelt and sold it both in Regensburg and in Venice. Their trade in this commodity can be divided into two periods: 1384–87, when father and son traded together and operated a permanent branch in Prague, and from 1392 onwards, when Matthäus Runtinger struck coins. I focus on the earlier period.

Matthäus Runtinger rode to Prague for the express purpose of buying this silver in December 1385/January 1386, May 1386, and March/April 1387. I analyze the 1387 journey in detail because it offers a concise demonstration of how this trade functioned. First, on March 6, Wilhelm Runtinger recorded the following:

Item ich santt gein Prag dez mitichen in der andern vastwochen in ainem pallen newn sekch und ainen chlainen sakch mit pfeffer. Da waz in 1382 pfeffers; da hab wir drew jar in dem hauz von verzirt und ze weinachten auzgesanntt.75

Considerable amounts of pepper were not profitably sold in Regensburg until 1395.76 Evidently, the Runtingers gave pepper as Christmas presents only in years when it did not bring a good price. On the same day, Wilhelm added the following:

E Item mir furt der Pakerl von Chamb den pfeffer gein Prag; ich gib im ye von ainem saum 98 grozz. Ich gab im 7 guldein daran, da er auzfur; so gab ich dem Taberstorfer 9 guldein, da sol er den wagenman von richtten ze Prag. Er sol den pallen in dem franhof wegen; waz der wigt, da lon ich im nach.77

A saum equals roughly 200 kilograms,78 about the amount that a packhorse could comfortably carry. Here, we see that the Runtingers loaned their carriers enough money to get them to Prague and then paid them the difference based on what was successfully delivered and weighed by government officials. This gave the carriers a high incentive to protect the goods. Five days later, Wilhelm sent his son Matthäus to Prague:

a E Item ez rait mein sun Matheus der Runttinger gein Prag dez Montag vor mittervasten, er furt mit im 1800 fugspalg, di sol er da ynn verchauffen und sol ein wegzel darumb pringen, alz er wol waiz. Ez rait mit im hie auz Hanns und Hainreich di Portner. b R Und 4 fuchspalig. Di sind verchauft ye ainer umb 18 g. und 8 haler, suma an gelt pringt 551 sxn. 14 g. 8 haller. B R Item dez piper vaz 1475 pfund; der ist verchauft ye 1 zent umb 10 sxn. G., suma der piper 147 ½ sxn. G.

b R Suma uberal der piper und di fugspalig pringent 708 sxn. 44 g. 8 haler.79

From this account, it becomes clear that the Runtingers sent designated goods to Prague, sold them for money, and then bought silver with these proceeds and took it back to Regensburg. This saved them the expense and risk of transporting money unnecessarily. The profit from the pepper and “fox pelts” was not their primary object; they stood to gain more from the low prices of silver.

The “fox pelts” mentioned here are a curious anomaly. The corresponding silver purchase in May 1386 records 1,000 red squirrel pelts. Bastian suggests that these furs are shorthand for actual gulden. While Wilhelm writes of 100 squirrel pelts in 1386, Matthäus refers to them as gulden in the next entry. Also, the squirrel pelts were each sold for 18 groschen and four haller, while the fox pelts sold for 18 groschen and eight haller, which is odd because fox was usually much more expensive than squirrel. On the other hand, these prices seem like reasonable numbers for a slightly fluctuating gulden-groschen exchange rate over this ten-month period. Finally, based on other sources, furs typically traveled from Prague to the south, not the other way around.80 Interestingly, this shorthand is only used by Wilhelm and only in connection with Prague silver trade, never concerning trips to Frankfurt, for example. Coupled with Wilhelm’s shorthand wegzel in this entry, it may indicate that Wilhelm wanted to avoid drawing attention to this trade.

This intriguing but somewhat speculative digression aside, on April 16, Matthäus recorded the following.

b R Item so han ich chauft 469 march an 2 lot gebegener g., suma pringt an gelt 698 ½ sxn. 3 g. 8 haler, chumpt ye 1 march umb 1 ½ sxn. an 6 haler.
Di ist (!) in acht stuchen.81

The rest of the entry details some of the proceeds from resale in Regensburg and the money Matthäus owed Wilhelm. Proceeds from fustian in 1386 were used in a similar way.82 The modus operandi, then, was to send valuable goods to Prague, sell them off, reinvest the proceeds in gebegen gelt, and bring the silver to Regensburg or Venice for resale. In this case, low silver prices were more likely to influence their decisions than high sale prices for other goods.

Frantisek Graus has already calculated the total amount of money that was sent from Prague back to Regensburg during the period between 1384 and 1387 (see table eight). A schock of groschen equals 60 coins and a gulden was equal to 18 groschen around 1385.83 We can see that a total of 320,236.5 groschen were removed from Prague. In terms of unskilled labor, that is the annual salary of 877 people. To give these numbers further perspective, Graus notes that the biannual income of the Prague Archbishop, who was one of the wealthiest Bohemian landowners, was 1,338 schock and six groschen in cash, 1382/83.84 That is equal to 80,286 groschen total. Comparing this figure with table eight, we see that the amount of money the Runtingers removed from Bohemia was on average comparable to the biannual income of the very wealthiest Bohemian nobles.

It is abundantly clear that the Runtinger family drained enormous amounts of money and silver from Prague on a regular basis. This was accentuated by the fact that the Runtingers were selling finished consumer goods for raw materials. This meant that the trade did not stimulate economic growth. When the Runtingers traded in cotton with the fustian weavers in Regensburg, for example, the Regensburg economy was stimulated because Regensburg fustian weavers were employed. The weavers added value to the product and some money stayed in Regensburg as their wages. In contrast, when the Runtingers brought silver, they stimulated no such local industry. The mine owners, miners, and other personnel only turned a profit as long as the silver lasted. The same principle applies to the spice trade. Some luxury consumer items could lead to local industry. Imported Islamic glass was gradually mingled with Venetian imitation and eventually replaced by production in Bohemia in the fourteenth century.85 Spices, however, could not be grown or imitated in Bohemia,86 but only purchased for money. Precious metal therefore flowed out of Bohemia in two forms: money and raw silver. Finished goods flowed in, raw materials flowed out.


Das Runtingerbuch is a rich source, and this article has certainly not exhausted it. For example, I have not explored the role of credit in Prague or the exact role of the money trade. Without the trade in gebegen gelt, would Prague have attracted spice merchants? To answer this question, one could analyze the entire Runtinger financial operations involving silver. One could also compare rival merchants for the Prague market, i.e. Regensburg and Nuremburg.

Neither has this article placed the Runtinger activities fully in context. Since the Runtingers sold wholesale, the spices would have been marked up yet again. To fully understand the role of spices in the Bohemian economy, one must consider the end customers and the prices they were paying. One might investigate the travel accounts of Henry of Derby, for example, who bought many luxury goods during his stay in Prague. One might also examine the impact of events in Bohemian political history and the activities of other trading companies, be they from Frankfurt, Cologne, or Nuremburg or even Jews from Prague.

At the same time, this case study supports our existing understanding of the trends: Prague was a silver supplier and was consequently blessed with economic prosperity, but it remained relatively passive and undeveloped in its economic activity. The treaty of Visegrad testifies that the Bohemian rulers understood the significance of their silver and the power it gave them. Nonetheless, they were content to rely on the offices of assertive foreign merchants such as the Runtingers. Certainly, we see some progress, such as the presence of Bohemian merchants in Flanders and some amount of domestic textile production. At the same time, compared with Regensburg and Venice, such development was slow and unimpressive. Yet this long-distance trade did promote Prague as a political and intellectual center. Like the Syrian glass found in the Old Town of Prague, the spices indicate a refined (or at least pricey) dining culture, reflecting the desire of the Bohemian nobles to raise their status by participating in wider trends typical of high society. A French manuscript made in 1378 depicts Charles IV and Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia at a feast at the court of Charles V of France. Along with the usual trappings of this kind of ceremonial occasion, we see two silver boat-shaped spice dishes prominently displayed in front of the two men. These two things, the silver and the spice, are symbols of the new position Charles IV wished to obtain (and temporarily achieved) for Bohemia.


Table 1. The European imbalance of payments in the fifteenth century

The European Balance of Payments

The Venetians brought back

The Venetians sent out

400,000 ducats of spices from farther east

300,000 ducats in coins

880,000 ducats of goods from the Near East

200,000 ducats in goods

20,000 ducats in coins




Other Europeans brought back

Other Europeans sent out

130,000 ducats of spices from farther east

100,000 ducats in coins

20,000 ducats of goods from the Near East

60,000 ducats in goods

10,000 ducats in coins



Source: Spufford, Power and Profit: Te Merchant in Medieval Europe, 346.


Table 2. Spices in the Runtinger trade: A comparison of Prague and Regensburg







Amount (in V.ilb.)



Amount (V. Ilb.)



































































Source: Bastian, Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 616–27, 636–38.

Table 3. Saffron sold in Prague





Amount sold (in V. Ilb)




Ducats per pound in Venice




Ducats per pound in Prague









Source: Bastian, Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 636–38.


Table 4. Fustian sold in Prague




Amount sold



Sale price: Venetian ducat per length of Fustian



Transportation costs










Source: Bastian, Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 639–40.


Table 5. Silks sold in Prague in 1383














1 piece, red, from Venice




1 red, 1 gray from Lucca




Source: Bastian, Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 634–35.


Table 6. Average profitability















(none sold)







All spices





(none sold)





(Sold; unprofitable)



17.5% after 1400.

26% in 1383; afterwards little to no profit


Gold thread


(Sold; unprofitable)


Source: Bastian, Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 618–38, derived.


Table 7. Spices in Prague in modern kilograms, 1395–1404


Amount sold, modern kg.

groschen/100 g.







Safran, 1395



Safran, 1399



Safran, 1401







Source: Bastian, Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 636–38, derived.


Table 8. Total money removed from Prague by the Runtingers, 1384–1387


In actual currency

Recalculated in groschen


1,919 gulden 1,098 schock 49 groschen 2 hellers

100,471 groschen 2 hellers


1,696 gulden 558 schock 58 ½ groschen

64,066.5 groschen


1,186 schock 51 groschen

71,211 groschen


1,408 schock 8 groschen 8 hellers

84,488 groschen 8 hellers


3615 gulden 4252 schock 46.5 groschen 10 hellers

320,236.5 groschen 10 hellers


Source: Graus, “Die Handelsbeziehungen Böhmens,” 107–8.


1 This figure deliberately overlooks the sale of pepper in 1383 for a profit of 14.2 percent. This sale will be discussed in detail below. It suffices here to say that it constitutes an exception or outlier, and including it would not help give a clear picture of the normal state of the market.

2 Here again the sale of 1383 for a 70 percent profit is not considered. See 92.

3 Since my object is to offer a general impression of the markets, I am comparing all silks sold in Regensburg with silks sold in Prague from 1383, when there was a real market for them. I am excluding the slight sales in Prague after 1400.


Primary sources

Das Runtingerbuch. Edited by Franz Bastian. Regensburg: Die Historische Komission bei der Bayernischen Akadamie der Wissenschaften 1930.


Secondary literature

Bilek, Jaroslav. Kutnohorské dolování. Vol. 9, Historický přehled k problematice poddolování, hald a Vrchlické přehrady [Kutná Hora mining. Vol. 9, Historical overview of the problems of mining, piles at the Vrchlice Dam]. Kutná Hora: Kuttna, 2001.

Demetz, Peter. Prague in Black and Gold: The History of a City. London: Penguine Books, 1998.

Denzel, Markus A. The Merchant Family in the “Oberdeutsche Hochfinanz” from the Middle Ages up to the Eighteenth Century. Firenze: Firenze University Press, 2009.

Eikenburg, Wiltrud. Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg. Ein Spiegel süddeutschen Rechts-, Handels- und Wirtschaftslebens im ausgehenden 14. Jahrhundert. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1976.

Fischer, Klaus. Das “Runtingerbuch als Quelle zum Wirtschaftsleben Regensburgs im Spätmittelalter.” In Regensburg im Spätmittelalter, edited by Peter Schmid, 215–30. Regensburg: Schnell und Sneier, 2007.

Fischer, Klaus. Regensburger Hochfinanz. Regensburg: Universitätsverlag, 2003.

Freedman, Paul. Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2008.

Gilomen, Hans-Jörg. “Die ökonomischen Grundlagen des Kredits und die christlich-jüdische Konkurrenz im Spätmittelalter.” In Ein Thema – zwei Perspektiven. Juden und Christen in Mittelalter und Frühneuzeit, edited by Evelin Brugger, and Birgit Wiedl, 139–69. Innsbruck: Studien Verlag, 2007.

Graus, František. “Die Handelsbeziehungen Böhmens zu Deutschland und Österreich im 14. und zu Beginn des 15. Jahrhunderts. Eine Skizze.” Historica. Historical Sciences in Czechoslovakia 2 (1960): 77–110.

Lopez, Robert S., and Irving W. Raymond, eds. Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.

Spufford, Peter. Power and Profit: The Merchant in Medieval Europe. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2003.

Spufford, Peter. Money and its Use in Medieval Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Stromer, Wolfgang von. “Nuremburg in the International Economics of the Middle Ages.” The Business History Review 44, no. 2 (1970): 210–15.

Suchý, Marek. “St. Vitus Building Accounts (1372–378): The Economic Aspects of Building the Cathedral.” In Money and Finance in Medieval Europe during the Late Middle Age, edited by Roman Zaoral, 222–46. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. doi: 10.1057/9781137460233_15

Eikenberg, Wiltrud. Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg. Ein Spiegel süddeutschen Rechts-, Handels- und Wirtschaftslebens im ausgehenden 14. Jahrhundert. Göttingen: Veröffentlichungen des Max-Planck-Instituts für Geschichte, 1976.

Milejski, Pawel. “Weight debasement of Prague groschen of Wenceslas IV (1378–1419) based on Polish and Lithuanian hoards.” In From ore to money, mining, trading, minting. Proceedings of the Tallinn (2018) Conference, edited by George Depeyrot, and Ivar Leimus. Collection Moneta 202, 99–112. Wetteren: Moneta, 2018.

Musílek, Martin. “Zlomek knihy vydání, v níž jsou jména Židů ‘Nově objevený’ rukopisný zlomek kupeckého rejstříku a jeho výpověď pro pražský obchod ve středověku” [A fragment of an edited book containing the name of Jews: The newly discovered manuscript fragment of a merchant register and its informative value for Prague trade in the Middle Ages]. In Pražský sborník historický 44 (2016): 141–66.

Zaoral, Roman. “Silver and Glass in Medieval Trade and Cultural Exchange between Venice and the Bohemian Kingdom. The Czech Historical Review 109, no. 2 (2011): 284–310.

1 Eikenburg, “Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg,” 130.

2 See Spufford’s book Money and its Use in Medieval Europe.

3 These were published by Frantisek Graus in 1956, and one was published more recently by Musilek. Musílek, “Zlomek knihy vydání, v níž jsou jména Židů,” 141.

4 Graus, “Die Handelsbeziehungen Böhmens,” 100.

5 Fischer, Regensburger Hochfinanz, 140, 161.

6 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 88, 97.

7 Spufford, Money and its Use in Medieval Europe, 109, 119, 124.

8 Bilek, Kutnohorské dolování.

9 Zaoral, “Silver and Glass,” 285.

10 Spufford, Money and its Use in Medieval Europe, 123–24.

11 Ibid, 268.

12 Spufford, Power and Profit, 372.

13 Graus, “Die Handelsbeziehungen Böhmens,” 81, 83–84.

14 Spufford, Money and its Use in Medieval Europe, 340.

15 Freedman, Out of the East, 13–14.

16 Ibid, 46–47.

17 Spufford, Power and Profit, 310.

18 Freedman, Out of the East, 19–20.

19 Spufford, Power and Profit, 310.

20 Freedman, Out of the East, 134.

21 Spufford, Power and Profit, 310.

22 Lopez and Raymond, Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World, 342.

23 Spufford, Money and its Use in Medieval Europe, 360.

24 Spufford, Power and Profit, 400–1.

25 Fischer, Regensburger Hochfinanz, 38.

26 Ibid., 208.

27 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 105–6.

28 Graus, “Die Handelsbeziehungen Böhmens,” 97, 99–100.

29 Fischer, Regensburger Hochfinanz, 260.

30 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 70–71.

31 Stromer, “Nuremburg in the International Economics of the Middle Ages,” 211.

32 Fischer, Regensburger Hochfinanz, 261.

33 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 70.

34 Ibid, 23–25, 42–44.

35 Fischer, Regensburger Hochfinanz, 75, 78.

36 Denzel, The Merchant Family, 372–73.

37 Eikenburg, “Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg,” 52, 62–63.

38 Ibid., 88, 97.

39 Ibid., 102.

40 Ibid., 102, 108–10.

41 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 2, 112–13.

42 Eikenburg, “Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg,” 289.

43 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 626.

44 Gilomen, “Die ökonomischen Grundlagen des Kredits,” 153.

45 Superficially, it would seem that there was an inverse relationship between amount sold and profit, but after a more detailed analysis of the sale of individual spices diachronically and across both markets, this relationship breaks down. These discrepancies involved more nuanced factors.

46 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 2, 627.

47 Ibid., vol. 1, 627.

48 Ibid., vol. 1, 640.

49 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1,150. Translation: Item On the Wednesday of Laurenti, Karpf the elder bought three Zentner of cotton from me, each zentner for 11 fustians, to be delivered by Christmas. Item Karpf the fustian weaver gave me 32 fustians on the Tuesday before Christmas. He still owes me a quarter of a fustian.

50 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 289.

51 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 2,150–51.

52 Ibid., vol. 2,44–45.

53 Translation:
Item: In Venice, I bought five atlas silks for 60 ducats: green, deep gray, blue, black, brown.

Item: and five sammats for 224 ducats: 2 black, 1 brown, 1 green, 1 blue.
Item: 16 pounds two ounces for 4½ ducats: 72½ ducats 1½ g. gray, light blue, deep blue, brown, black, white, green silk.
Item: six pounds brick colored silk, for 5½ ducats, 32 ducats total.

Item: six Bagdad silks for 18 ducats each, total 108 ducats; two brown, two green, two black. He gave me two pounds of Greek silk with the purchase.
Item: five pounds Greek silk for 30 g., total 6¼ ducats. This includes the other two pounds.

54 Cf. Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 120–24.

55 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 628–29.

56 Fischer, Regensburger Hochfinanz, 59.

57 Ibid., 76–77.

58 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 84, 137.

59 Stromer, “Nuremburg in the International Economics of the Middle Ages,” 211.

60 Spufford, Power and Profit, 37.

61 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 115.

62 Cf. Table 8.

63 Fischer, Regensburger Hochfinanz, 70–72.

64 Demetz, Prague in Black and Gold, 82.

65 Smahel, Husitská revoluce, 356.

66 Zaoral, Silver and Glass in Medieval Trade,” 299.

67 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 115.

68 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 2, 159–67.

69 One must keep in mind that not all spices were consumed in Prague; some were exported further into the hinterland.

70 Certainly, these factors are not exhaustive: the role of credit, politics, and Matthäus Runtinger’s involvement in the money trade are other possible factors. The question concerning the extent to which the Runtinger trade in goods and trade in money were connected is beyond the scope of this article.

71 Suchy, “St. Vitus Building Accounts,” 228, 230.

72 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 636–38.

73 Laborers were paid once a week. They were hired as needed, and tariffs could change, so this is an incredibly crude approximation, not a concrete historical case. It does, however, give a general idea of the scale of the opportunity cost.

74 Milejski, “Weight debasement of Prague groschen,” 99.

75 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 86.

Translation: On Wednesday of the second week in Lent, I sent nine sacks and also a small sack of pepper in a bale. Inside were 1,382 pounds of pepper; we ate of it three years in the house and sent some out as Christmas presents.

76 See table 2.

77 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 87.

Translation: Pakerl of Chamb took the pepper to Prague for me; I am to give him 98 groschen for each saum. I gave him seven gulden thereof, as he is traveling; likewise I gave Mr. Taberstorfer nine gulden for the wagon man to Prague. He is to weigh the bundles in the Fronhof [customs courtyard]; I will pay him according to what it weighs.

78 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 290.

79 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 2, 87.

Translation: My son Matthäus Runtinger rode to Prague on the Monday before Miterfast. He took 1,800 fox pelts, which he is to sell there and bring back an exchange, as he knows. Hanns and Hainreich, the porters, rode with him. b.R and four fox pelts. They were sold for 18 groschen and eight heller each, total of 551 marks 14 groschen and eight haller. B.R. item the pepper was altogether 1475 pounds, they are sold at ten marks of groschen, per Zentner, total for pepper 147½ groschen. b.R Total of both pepper and fox pelts 708 marks 44 groschen eight haler.

80 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 2, 86–88.

81 Ibid., 88.

Translation: Item I bought 469 marks and two lots devalued groschen, total money 698½ schock 3 groschen and eight heller, which comes to one mark for 1½ schock six haler. They are in eight pieces.

82 Das Runtingerbuch, vol. 1, 83.

83 Eikenburg, Das Handelshaus der Runtinger zu Regensburg, 278.

84 Graus, “Die Handelsbeziehungen Böhmens,” 108.

85 Zaoral, “Silver and Glass in Medieval Trade, 301.

86 Saffron might have been an exception.


Tender Contracts, Speculation, and Monopoly: Venice and Hungarian Cattle Supply between the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

Andrea Fara
Sapienza University of Rome
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 3  (2022):647–672 DOI 10.38145/2022.3.647

The livestock production and trade structures that connected the Italian peninsula and, in particular, the city of Venice with the vast Hungarian lands have been the subject of various inquiries in the secondary literature. Nevertheless, many questions remain. In this essay, I analyze the meat market in Venice (where the complex supply chain and slaughterhouse activities had considerable economic and social importance) in relation to the production and exchange structures of meat in the Hungarian lands (where the breeding of livestock and, in particular, cattle underwent considerable growth and specialization over the course of the centuries). I contend that Venice was an important end market for Hungarian beef exports. In other words, growing Venetian demand and the similarly growing Hungarian export of beef met and connected with mutual satisfaction, although not always in an entirely efficient way, giving rise to several cases of shortage and sometimes starvation and famine on the lagoon city markets. And this is a second point to investigate. If the individual and institutional Italian and Hungarian intermediaries that were interested in beef as an item of commerce can in a large part identified, many questions still surround the involvement of these economic operators in food crisis phenomena and economic practices aimed to give rise to famines in order to obtain greater profits (such as hoarding, raising prices, speculation, and export to more profitable markets). In this sense, I seek to clarify the link between the activities of operators and companies involved in the cattle trade from Hungarian territories and the famines (understood as “high price phenomena”) created in part by the lack of beef on the Venetian markets. I also examine the causes and functions of legislation and practices adopted in response to (and to prevent) starvation and/or famine and the roles of the attitudes of specific groups and economic actors involved in the meat market. Ultimately, I seek to further a more nuanced assessment of the connections between the Hungarian markets and the Italian markets between the late Middle Ages and early modern period.

Keywords: cattle trade, market, speculation, crisis, famine, Hungary, Venice

The livestock production and trade structures that reached the Italian peninsula and, in particular, the city of Venice from the vast Hungarian lands have been the subject of several inquiries in the secondary literature.1 Nonetheless, very little information is available to clarify the link between the activities of operators and societies involved in this trade and the famines which were caused in part by a lack of beef on the Venetian markets, perhaps in part as a deliberate strategy to drive up prices. At the current state of research, many questions remain. While the individual and institutional intermediaries (both Italian and Hungarian) involved in these trades have been identified, their involvement in food crises and economic practices aimed at creating famines (such as hoarding, price gouging, speculation, and diversion to more profitable markets) remains largely in the shadows. Similarly, legislation and practices intended to prevent famine (contra caristiam) that were intended to exert an influence on the activities of specific groups and economic actors involved in the meat market remain to be investigated. Fabien Faugeron’s recent in-depth work offers important information and insights from the Venetian point of view, with a careful analysis of food market structures and sites in Venice. As Faugeron notes, there is no specific research on slaughterhouse activities in the complex chain in Venice, despite the economic and social importance of this sector for the survival of one of the largest urban centers in Europe, with an estimated population of 110,000 in 1338, 85,000 in 1442, and 150,000 in 1548.2

The inquiry if offer here, therefore, is an analysis of the specific meat market in Venice in relation to the production and exchange structures of this commodity in Hungary, where livestock breeding and in particular cattle breeding grew and became increasingly specialized over the centuries, finding an important end market in the Venice. In other words, it is a question of describing a market, that of meat, in which the growing Venetian demand and the equally growing Hungarian supply met, to their mutual satisfaction, although not always in an entirely efficient way, giving rise to cases of shortage and sometimes outright famine on the lagoon city markets. In order to examine the ways in which the interrelationships between the supplier (Hungary) and the consumer (Venice) influenced both the price and availability of this export (meat), I jump back and forth at times between sources originating in Venice and sources originating in Hungary. In order to do this, it is necessary to move “on the fly” between Hungary and Venice several times.

I offer first a brief overview of the economic structure of the Kingdom of Hungary between the late Middle Ages and the early modern period. By virtue of a rather favorable geographical position, the Kingdom of Hungary maintained profitable trade relations with a large part of Europe, from Venice to Florence, from Vienna to Nuremberg, from Krakow to Lviv, from Wallachia and Moldavia to the Black Sea ports, up to the Near East. Hungarian lands were described as rich in opportunities to make easy profits through the exchange of Western luxury products (especially textiles, which always represented one of the kingdom’s primary imports) for local raw materials (first and foremost, cattle), as well as spices and other items of Levantine origin. Specifically, the low population density and the available pastures and lands always made extensive farming easy and profitable, especially on the so-called Great Plain.3

The sources offer countless references to the ease of breeding and the abundance and affordability of cattle in Hungarian lands, as well as the existence of trade routes for beef, whether over short, medium or longer distances. In the thirteenth century, there was a well-organized butchers’ guild in Buda engaged both in live cattle trafficking and in the meat trade. In 1305, sources from Nuremberg record the expression corria hungarica, and in 1358 a merchant from Nuremberg bought cattle in Buda. In 1327, Hungarian oxen were mentioned in the Wrocław (Breslau) customs tariff, and in 1473 and 1492 it was possible to find Hungarian cattle on the markets in Basel and Cologne markets, if in a somewhat unusual way.4 In the mid-fourteenth century, in his Chronicle, Matteo Villani also highlighted the importance of cattle breeding and exploitation in the Hungarian economy, noting the great multitude of oxen and cows, which did not work the land and, as they had large pasture on which to graze, fattened quickly, offering more potential for exports of leather and fat.5 It was also during this century that the Hungarian cattle trade towards the Italian peninsula, in particular towards Venice, seems to have undergone notable growth but the information in the available sources remains scarce.6 In 1433, the Burgundian knight Bertrandon de la Broquière noticed that on the Hungarian markets, a fine Italian textile roll cost about 45 gold florins, which was the price of ten to 15 cattle, and thus a head of cattle was between three and four and a half gold florins.7

I turn now to a discussion of the main characteristics of the meat market in Venice between the late Middle Ages and the early modern period. The Venetian authorities were constantly striving to organize efficient supply structures in the lagoon city, both for grain and meat. As was the case in any sector, for the meat market, this involved arriving at a compromise between the many public and private actors involved, from merchants to butchers and retailers up to the many administrative offices, and balancing their often conflicting interests. The supply system was further complicated by the fact that the Venetian lands were unable to ensure the meat requirements for Venice, and the lands closest to the lagoon city were not large enough for the breeding of large livestock. Therefore, the meat supplies had to come from distant places, mostly from Romagna, Lombardy, Dalmatia, and to an increasing extent from the fourteenth century, from Hungary.8

Fabien Faugeron has shown that, to guarantee adequate meat on the city market in Venice or to encourage an increase in the meat supplies in times of difficulty, the Venetian authorities put in place a real “arsenal de mesures”: centralization of supplies, stimulation of import prices, bonuses or a donations system, tax relief, price controls, direct sales by foreign operators, and particular tax concessions. In the fifteenth century, more often than not, it was preferred to resort to an increase in consumer prices rather than to lower customs tariffs (though at times customs were lowered, though only under exceptional circumstances). Difficulties related to supply therefore weighed on the consumer rather than on public finances.9 The first piece of relevant information about this in the sources is dated to 1283, when, to remedy a lack of meat on the city markets, the authorities established a price increase of 7 denari per pound for beef and 13 denari per pound for pork.10 In August 1367, there was a great shortage of mutton, and the authorities argued that this shortage had been caused by the high price of beef, because butchers had failed to supply mutton “propter magnum lucrum quod ipsi consequantur ex carnibus manzinis.”11 In 1370, meats of every variety were in short supply on the Venice markets. This time, the Consiglio dei Quaranta pointed the finger at the higher prices that were being charged at the nearby fairs, in particular in Mestre, Murano, and Mazzorbo, which drew sellers to these markets instead of Venice. A recommendation was made to limit the sale price in these markets in order to encourage sellers to bring meat to the markets in Venice. On August 1440, the Senate prohibited Venetian butchers and “mercatores cranium” from selling meat and livestock on markets other than those of Venice.12 But, as mentioned, in order to cope with a shortage situation, the city authorities most often focused on increasing the margin of butchers and other importers through an increase in consumer prices. This happened, for example, in May 1371 (with all meats) and in April 1407 (in particular with mutton and lamb) and again in the following years.13

The data collected by Faugeron also show how in the fifteenth century the meat market in Venice was strongly segmented. The trade involving the meats that were most in demand (oxen, calves, and castrates) was mainly in the hands of major operators, such as butchers-entrepreneurs (who were later replaced by customs duty tenants). When it came to trade in pork and lamb, in contrast, these operators gave way to a multitude of occasional players, small and medium, who ensured the market in a timely manner and for specific products, after having practiced slaughter domestically and in more or less clandestine way, or by resorting to the macellum services when it came to the production of particular cured meats (in winter, for instance, or for the supplies of lamb during the Easter period).14 In 1436, the Provveditori alla Beccaria estimated that 12,000 head of cattle were coming in from “de partibus Sclavoniae” (that is, Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia, lands part or all of which were under the influence of the Hungarian Crown) without bills (bolletta): the continuous complaints made by the Venetian butchers show the importance of supply lines created with Bosnian, Kosovar, and Montenegrin breeders and cattle merchants.15 But Venice constantly had to fight against the diversion of herds destined for its markets. Treviso, for instance, which lay at the confluence of many trade routes towards the lagoon city, periodically tried to take part of supplies destined for Venice, even after its submission to the Republic in 1339. On the far shore of the Adriatic, Zadar also claimed to stop a quarter of animals passing through its territory.16 On other occasions, such as in the 1440s, the Venetian authorities had little success in their attempts to secure meat supplies at a time of severe shortage on the city markets, since Morlach breeders preferred to transport the animals to other ports which were more profitable.17 It therefore became necessary better to organize the meat supply sector, essential to economic and social life in Venice. And when, during the fifteenth century, the demographic growth in Venice put increasing demands on the city’s meat supply, a search for new and safer markets began, and the local authorities turned with increasing attention to sources of meat in Central and Eastern Europe, including Styria, Carinthia, Tyrol, Bavaria, and Hungary in particular.18

As the sketches offered above make clear, Hungarian cattle breeding and trade, intensely practiced in the vast domains of the Kingdom of Hungary, were not only able easily to satisfy the internal demand for meat on the Hungarian market but also allowed a large export of meat to Western Europe, including Venice, where demand was growing. Likewise, the rich Venetian market was an important market for Hungarian production.

The 1457–1458 Bratislava (Pressburg, Pozsony) customs registers are the first to provide interesting information on this trade. Undoubtedly, these registers do not take into account the Kingdom of Hungary as a whole, but they provide clear proof that as early as the mid-fifteenth century, the city represented one of the major export centers of Hungary for any type of livestock, primarily bovine. In that year, about 55 percent of Hungarian exports through these customs on the western borders of the kingdom consisted of livestock, mainly cattle and sheep, for a total amount of about 11,000 gold florins on just over 8,000 heads of various kinds of livestock. Similarly, about 75 percent of imports consisted of textiles, especially cheap ones from Bohemia, Moravia, England, Italy, and German and Flemish regions, for more than 130,000 gold florins. The surplus of imports (89 percent of the total value, against the 11 percent brought in by exports) was offset by the release of gold and silver in the form of money.19

From the second half of the fifteenth century, some 75 percent of Hungarian exports consisted of live cattle (mainly bovine) and animal products (various hides), and a similar percentage of trade consisted of imports in textile articles. This exchange was so profitable that even nobles and prelates trafficked directly with the Italian peninsula, and above all with Venice, through their own intermediaries. This was the case, for example, of Bishop Zsigmond Ernuszt of Pécs (1473–1501), who, according to Ludovico Tubero, “ita quaestui deditus erat, ut ne a mercatura quidem abstineret. Emebat enim institorum suorum opere magnam vim boum, quod genus pecoris leui pretio in Hungária paratum, apud lanios Venetos magno venibat.”20 In 1488, Matthias Corvinus commissioned Mathias Harber, civis of Buda and one of the major city merchants, to transfer and sell livestock from the royal lands to Venice. He then used the proceeds from this trade to buy valuable goods for the crown on the markets in Venice.21

The advances of the Ottoman Empire did not nullify the importance of Hungarian exports, nor did they dramatically transform the characteristics of the Hungarian economy. On the contrary, they accentuated some of the features of this economy and made some aspects of the export trade more important. In the period between the fall of the Kingdom of Hungary following the battle of Mohács in 1526 and the final partition of what had been the Hungarian domains among the Habsburgs, the Ottoman Empire, and the Principality of Transylvania in 1541, there was a temporary decline in population. Although there were considerable differences between one territory and another, this favored the further expansion of grazing and cattle breeding in the Great Plain, while in the western regions of the former kingdom, wine production and trade played a greater role.22 The population growth that was occurring simultaneously in much of Western Europe stimulated the strong specialization of Hungarian production structures, which in the course of the sixteenth century became even more oriented towards the export of livestock (particularly cattle) to meet the growing demand for meat. Prices in this sector tended to increase in the Hungarian lands as well, but they remained lower than in the West. Thus, in spite of almost endemic wars, cattle breeding and trade were able to attract considerable capital and investment, with large guaranteed profit margins.23 In this context, it is not surprising that the breed was carefully selected, as can be seen in the appearance of references to the well-known “magnus cornuotes boves Hungaricos” in sixteenth-century documents.24 There are essentially two hypotheses that attempt to explain the origins of the Hungarian great gray ox. According to the first, the breed was the result of cross-breeding with wild oxen. According to the second, it was related to an archaic breed originating from the eastern steppes that arrived in the Carpathian basin around the thirteenth century in connection with the Cumans settlement in these lands. There is no conclusive evidence in favor of either of these theories. Drawing on extensive archaeological investigations, László Bartosiewicz has shown that in the period between the tenth and twelfth centuries, Hungarian cattle lacked the traits of the Hungarian cattle of the sixteenth century, i.e., their large size and wide horns, so it is likely that these elements are the result of a long and careful process of species selection for commercial purposes, further enhanced by the recognized taste and quality of the meat. One thing that is quite certain is that in the mid-sixteenth century, a Hungarian ox weighed on average between 300 and 350 kilograms, and thie figure went up to 450–500 kilograms by the early seventeenth century, while the European standard was 200 kilograms.25

Sources that were created in the sixteenth century and later contain more precise quantitative data on the Hungarian cattle exports to the Venetian markets. In this context, while in Venice there was an increasingly dominant monopoly organization in order to avoid any lack of meat on the city markets (though there were still difficulties and it was ultimately impossible to ensure that there would never be famines),26 from the Hungarian point of view, interest in the Venetian market always remained strong, and indeed it increased, leading to a further specialization of cattle breeding and trade infrastructure towards the lagoon city.27Approximately 100,000 cattle were exported annually from Hungary, with peaks of up to 200,000 cattle in exceptional years. A further 10,000 cattle could be added, exempt from customs duties, which the authorities (especially the Habsburg authorities) often granted to individual merchants as payment for an outstanding loan. In times of high demand, additional cattle arrived from Moldavia and/or Wallachia via Transylvania.28 Roughly 80 percent (on average between 80 and 85 thousand) were destined for the Austrian, German, Moravian, and Hanseatic markets (in particular the cities of Vienna, Augsburg, Nuremberg, Munich, Württemberg, Ulm, and Strasbourg). Roughly 20 percent (on average between 15 and 20 thousand) reached Venice. A small share was destined for the Ottoman Empire.29 Sales and transfers of herds to the central and northern European markets were carried out through individual contracts between western traders and major Hungarian owners and traders, who as a rule used skilled labor for each individual stage of cattle breeding and transfer.30 This was not the case for Venice, where trade was regulated on the basis of a single contract in favor of a merchant operating on his own or in partnership, who undertook before the city authorities “à far la carne.” Thanks to the import of between 15 and 20 thousand Hungarian cattle, Venice organized an almost constant supply and ensured about two thirds of its domestic needs.31 The merchant or company holding the privative contract had to conclude appropriate commercial agreements with the authorities from the other countries who might be interested in the trade. This included the part of the Holy Roman Empire that was ruled by the Habsburg dynasty (which wanted to concentrate business on the Vienna market place), the Principality of Transylvania (through the territories of which cattle from non-Carpathian regions passed), and the Ottoman Empire (which was affected by the passage of the herds); a tribute was due to each customs, of course. Once contracts had been signed, livestock could be obtained in the major markets in Buda and Pest, in the agricultural centers on the Great Plain or at the fairs along the western borders of the former Hungarian dominions. By the end of the sixteenth century, most of the herds were bought or concentrated in Győr. Once collected, the Hungarian herds reached Venice after a journey of more than a month if they came from the Great Plain and about twice as long if they arrived from outside the Carpathian region, crossing Transylvania, then the regions under Turkish control, the Hungarian royal territory and the Habsburg domains, and finally reaching the lands surrounding Venice. Routes already in use since the fifteenth century were followed, marked by pastures and fountains which were maintained with care, sometimes by the central authorities though more often by the merchant or the company that had been contracted to purchase and sell the livestock. This was all part of the work necessary to keep the animals healthy.32 The trade routes crossed the Great Plain and southern Transdanubia, passing the Danube River and then the Mura or the Drava River, depending on the chosen route, going towards Ptuj (Pettau, Pettovia, in present-day Slovenia). Two routes to Gorizia started from here: 1) the “strada di sopra” (the upper road), which passed through Celje (Cilli), Ljubljana (Lubiana), Vrhnika (Vernich), Logatec (Longatico), Planina, Postojna (Postumia), Hrenovice (Crenovizza), Razdrto (Resderta), Vipava (Vipacco) and 2) the “strada di sotto” (the lower road), which passed through Novo Mesto, Krka, Lož, and Planina and then rejoined the first route. From Gorizia, the route continued onward to Udine and finally Portogruaro, and then went by sea to Venice or by land, to take further advantage of pastures, crossing the Piave near Maserada and then heading for Marghera and Venice. Another route involved moving from Ptuj to Bakar (Buccari, on the coast of present-day Croatia), from where the cattle were shipped to Venice. This made it possible to avoid Habsburg customs duties by passing through lands belonging to the noble Zrinyi family, whose estates stretched from the Croatian coast to the confluence of the Mura and Drava Rivers (where, around 1610, a weekly market was organized in the nearby center of Légrád (today Legrad, Croatia), where cattle bred on the Hungarian plains under Turkish rule were concentrated, ready to be easily transferred to Venice).33

Thus, the transfer of Hungarian cattle to Venice and to central and northern Europe could yield large profits, but it required a high availability and a large advance of capital. Likewise, as mentioned, in order to meet the supply needs and avoid a lack of meat on the city market, the Venice authorities were constantly engaged in the organization of this sector, which was essential for the city’s economic and social life.34

In 1529, Marin Sanudo estimated the annual meat needs in Venice at 14,000 cattle, 13,000 calves, and 70,000 “anemali menudi” (pigs, rams, lambs) for a population estimated at around 120,000.35 The meat retail price was capped, and the city authorities endeavored to maintain this cap for long periods. As early as the fifteenth century, prices remained essentially stable, with the exception of brief periods of increase in connection with particular war events or the spread of foot-and-mouth disease.36 Over the next century, the price of beef remained stable at three soldi per pound, rising to four soldi in 1586 and five in 1594. Prices generally rose by one soldo per pound during Lent. But the failure to adjust prices to market levels often discouraged meat imports into the Venetian marketplace because operators preferred to divert meat to more profitable markets.37 Compared to the previous century, in the sixteenth century, there was a preference for lowering import duties rather than increasing consumer prices. The meat supply had become a real obsession for the Venetian authorities, and the dazio delle beccherie was increasingly granted not to the highest bidder in money, but to the one who undertook to bring the largest quantity of livestock into the city.38 In 1507, the dazio was contracted out for 141,000 lire and in 1508 for 152,000 lire. In 1509 and 1510, there were no operators willing to take on the contract. In 1511, it was possible to conclude a discount contract for 101,300 lire. In 1512, there was a moderate increase to 116,000 lire, and in order to combat the meat high price, there were also plans to abolish the tithe on contracts, but with little success.39 In 1513, the Hungarian cattle supply to the Venetian markets was further jeopardized by the strong friction between the Venetian Republic and Emperor Maximilian,40 to which was added the following year the reigning insecurity in the Hungarian lands due to the peasants’ revolt led by György Dózsa.41 It was in response to this possible crisis that, in 1513, Johannes Pastor (Zuan Pastor, Jan Pasztor, or Sowan Pastoir), a Florentine merchant active at the time in Zagreb, promised to supply the Republic of Venice 7,000 cattle by transporting them by sea along the Dalmatian routes, avoiding Habsburg customs. So, in 1515, using the Bakar (Buccari) route, Pastor supplied the Venetian markets with some 5,000 head of cattle, albeit at considerable loss. Although crisis had been averted, the following year, the venture was abandoned, as peace between Venice and the emperor allowed the reopening of usual and safer overland livestock transfer routes.42

The Venetian markets experienced a new meat shortage on the eve of Easter in 1526, when, following the Battle of Mohács, the Kingdom of Hungary fell to the Ottoman Turks. The transport across the border of cattle that had already been purchased was blocked, causing a sudden increase in prices in Venice. The city authorities immediately intervened. They summoned the merchants and butchers and decided to impose severe penalties on those who failed to supply the markets, evidently engaging in illegal hoarding, speculation, and diversion of meat, causing increases in prices.43 The shortages persisted in 1527, and so an attempt was made to encourage the importation of livestock through the premium system. The following year, there was also a reduction in customs duties, and eventually a total exemption was granted.44 But new difficulties related to the so-called Little Hungarian War from 1529 onwards45 triggered a prolonged meat famine in Venice. The authorities required the Venetian mainland to supply just under 15,000 cattle a year, but the provinces were completely unable to meet this demand, especially given the technical backwardness of local breeding practices. Difficulties continued in the following years. At the beginning of 1532, the import of meat was finally liberalized and exempted from customs duties, provided that the meats were sold only in public markets. This expedient measure had the desired effect, and Venetian markets began to be better supplied. This was repeated in 1535, 1537, and 1541, and it led to a marked improvement in the situation in Venice, despite the new and increasing insecurity and floods in the Hungarian lands in 1533. In 1536, it was even possible to draw up a new contract for the dazio delle beccherie, albeit at a price of only 110,000 lire, with a clause to terminate the contract in favor of the assignor in of the roads were to be closed by any authority.46

1542 was a year of particular political and military difficulties. The Hungarian dominions were finally definitively divided between the Habsburgs and the Ottoman Empire, with the Principality of Transylvania largely managing to retain its independence. Customs records of some Hungarian cities on the western borders attest that while textiles continued to account for just under 69 percent of imports, at a value of around 100,000 gold florins, livestock alone now made up about 93 percent of exports, for a total of 300,000 gold florins. About 275,000 gold florins came from the bovine cattle trade, calculated for that year at just over 27,000 heads. And if in 1457–1458 in Bratislava (Pressburg, Pozsony) the export tax on an ox was 2.83 gold florins, in 1542 it had risen to about 10 gold florins per head, while the import tax of a medium quality textile piece dropped from 6.57 gold florins in 1457–1458 to 5.33 gold florins in 1542. Obviously, the customs values do not allow one to calculate the exact market price of a single commodity, much as the sixteenth-century increase in prices and the inflation trend must also be taken into consideration. But these data allow us to imagine the interests and opportunities associated with these transactions.47 In this period, between 1544 and 1564, Peter Valentin, in the sources often identified as Pietro l’Italiano, civis of Ptuj (Pettau), traded Hungarian cattle on the Venetian market for various articles of Western origin, in particular textiles. At the end of this period, he declared that he had paid taxes for a total of 360,000 gold florins, valued at 340,000 by the Vienna Chamber.48

However, despite the numerous precautions taken, it is clear that the Venetian meat market was highly unstable on the supply side. Many heads of cattle arrived exhausted from the long journey, and others did not survive the trip. Furthermore, particular meteorological events, political conflicts, and war clashes could make it difficult to move or keep the animals. All this could lead to shortages, rising prices, and possibly meat famines on the end markets. Indeed, some of the moments of greatest difficulty in procuring meat on the Venetian market are related to the Turkish military campaigns, the consequent insecurity of the trade routes, and the confiscation of animals for war reasons (with repercussions, as seen, in 1526, 1529, 1532, and 1552). Similarly, floods in the Hungarian lands (for example in 1533) could also lead to increases in prices and to famines, as could diseases, such as the cattle diseases that spread in 1566 (with negative impacts in 1569–1571).49

One of the initial responses from the Venetian authorities was the election of two Provveditori alle Beccherie in 1545, who were charged with the task of ensuring that the city remained adequately supplied with meat, even if this required the use of force, on the basis of the model adopted in 1529, albeit with the reduction of requests to 8,000 heads of cattle a year. However, this policy could not have been successful, because in stark contrast to the specialization in the Venetian territories, which were oriented towards the more profitable crops of cereals, rice, and mulberry (useful for the silkworm) or towards sheep breeding (which, moreover, provided the wool necessary for production of clothing and textiles). On the contrary, meat from the Hungarian lands remained cheaper and more practical.50

The next step, therefore, was to encourage the creation of a real monopoly on meat in Venice that would be held in private hands,51 both the merchants interested in this sector and the Venetian authorities, whose objective remained ensuring a safe supply of meat to the city. More often than not, Venetian operators tended to organize themselves into companies to ensure the necessary advances of capital and share the numerous risks associated with the business. To facilitate trade, someone also decided to settle and become civis in main centers along the cattle transit routes between the Hungarian lands and Venice, in particular Ptuj (Pettau) and Ljubljana (Lubiana). In this way, thanks to greater liquidity and economic capacity, not to mention citizenship (after it had been obtained), which also meant the commercial privileges guaranteed to the city and its residents (among all the ius stapuli), these operators were able to monopolize the purchase of cattle on the Hungarian markets, buying up the best animals, outperforming the Austrian and German merchants, and thus obtaining enormous profits.

Around 1566, new unknowns weighed on the Venetian markets meat supply. The first of these unknowns was livestock diseases, which, as noted earlier, spread that year.52 The second was the prospect of a new clash between the Habsburgs and the Turks on Hungarian lands.53 Fearing a decline in meat supplies, the Venetian authorities favored the creation of the Compagnia del partido della beccaria, a special office the sole objective of which was to guarantee a continuous supply of meat. This office was contracted out for periods of five or six years to a single operator or, more often, to companies of several operators who were interested in finding new investment opportunities and an adequate return on their capital. Thanks to an immediate and considerable availability of capital, the Compagnia was able to implement a very aggressive commercial policy. This involved, first, hoarding the best animals available on the various Hungarian fairs and, second, the creation of obstacles to the purchase of animals by other merchants. Furthermore, in 1572, the members of the Compagnia obtained from the Archduke Charles of Habsburg the privilege of buying cattle directly on the Hungarian markets, despite ius stapuli privileges enjoyed by Ptuj (Pettau) and Ljubljana (Lubiana). This skillful political and economic strategy greatly benefited the merchants coming from the lands around the Serenissima, and in a short time, it led the Compagnia to dictate prices on the market and even secure a monopoly position in the trade of cattle among the Hungarian lands, Venice, and the Italian peninsula. Between 1566 and 1572, Iseppo de Francesco was in charge of the Compagnia. Between 1572 and 1577, the office was contracted out by Francesco Cicogna, together with and supported by the capital of a dozen wealthy merchants. In this period, the Compagnia definitively affirmed its monopoly position. From 1577 to 1583, the Compagnia was contracted out to the society of Lucas Bazin, a Venetian who had become civis of Ptuj (Pettau). In this period of six years, it was possible to bring roughly 120,000 bovines to Venice. Lucas Bazin himself maintained a leading role in the cattle trade until 1587 and again between 1593 and 1597.54 To achieve its goal, the Compagnia resorted to every means. When, for example, in 1583–1584 the Habsburg authorities increased the duty from four soldi to 48 per head in the Gorizia transit station, Venetian operators and Hungarian breeders made an agreement with the Buda pasha. Using an old route, they were able to lead the herds through the Turkish territory as far as Zadar, from where the cattle were shipped to Venice, with a considerable reduction in customs and transport costs. The pasha also ensured an armed escort, while Venice guaranteed the maintenance of the roads and also pledged to cut the woods near Zadar to create a vast grazing area. 9,000 animals were brought to the markets in Venice in this way. The attempt, however, was short-lived, mainly due to the loss of livestock due to transport by sea, and already in 1586–1587, the normal route through the Habsburg customs was resumed. Nonetheless, this and many other episodes clearly show that commercial relations with the Turks were not excluded a priori and indeed could prove very advantageous.55

The Compagnia del partido della beccaria organization and its acquisition of a monopoly position did not completely solve the problems with the supply of meat and, therefore, meat famine in Venice. Political conflicts, war events, and various kinds of calamities were always possible, and they threatened totally or partially to compromise the transport of animals, thus triggering meat shortages, price increases, and famine on the Venetian markets. In this sense, new difficulties arose in 1569 and again between 1570 and 1573 in relation to new clashes between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans, which made the roads unsafe and led to the confiscation of animals for war reasons.56 In 1599, similar problems were caused by a new Hungarian cattle infection.57 But certainly the Compagnia’s office was of mutual benefit both to the Republic of Venice and the merchants involved. The Serenissima succeeded in assuring itself a more reliable supply of meat (except, of course, in the case of some unforeseeable event), and the Venetian merchants found in this contract a further opportunity for investment and profit, protecting themselves from the risk (always present and linked to uncontrollable factors) through complex forms of economic and financial collaboration, as well as personal collaboration, with operators who were able to support Venice’s long-term needs. The position of the Hungarian operators, however, was less favorable, and in the long run, they returned for the most part to carry out the sole breeders’ function.58

The roles of individual operators and companies active in the meat trade between Venice and the Hungarian lands in the problems of scarcity or shortages of beef and/or the consequential famines in Venice are still unclear. If Venetian demand and Hungarian supply met to generate a coherent market, this did not completely protect Venice from a crisis and/or a famine in meat, despite the countless and diversified efforts put in place by the city authorities over time. And in this sense, albeit briefly, the sources highlight the most “usual” economic practices aimed at developing famine and possibly hunger, from hoarding to high prices, speculation, and shifts to more profitable markets. Nonetheless, the available data highlight the relevance of Hungarian livestock to the Venice market, as well as, vice versa, the importance of the market in Venice as an outlet for the growing and increasingly specialized Hungarian production. They also offer some insight into how, in all this, the individual and institutional intermediaries participating in this trade maintained political and economic interests of absolute importance.

It is worth recalling the words of two great intellectuals of the Venetian Republic. In 1525, the Venetian Vincenzo Guidotti described the Kingdom of Hungary as one of the most beautiful kingdoms in the world (“tra i regni del mondo bellissimo”), where it was easy to get not only gold, silver, marcasite, rock salt, and cereals, but also animals large and small, of all kinds, and in large numbers (“animali grossi e minuti d’ogni sorta in numero grandissimo”).59 In 1598, in his Geografia, the Paduan Giovanni Antonio Magini (1555–1617) celebrated the now well-known and renowned Hungarian cattle, recalling that the Kingdom of Hungary was most abundant in all the goods that nature offered, because it gave an infinite quantity of excellent products. It was so rich in domestic animals, such as sheep and oxen, that with great wonder it sent them to other countries, and especially to Italy and Germany. Moreover, a single farmer could keep a hundred oxen grazing for several years, seeing them grow up to three times their original size. Almost the whole of Europe, Guidotti claimed, could be fed with meat from this region alone.60

And yet, despite crises which lasted for shorter and longer periods of time, this finally testifies to the deep integration of the Hungarian market into the European context between the late Middle Ages and the early modern period.


Printed sources

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1 Pickl, “Der Handel Wiens und Wiener Neustadts”; Mákkai, “Der ungarische Viehhandel”; Zimányi, “Esportazione di bovini ungheresi”; Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti”; Pickl, “Der Viehhandel von Ungarn”; Blanchard, “The Continental European Cattle Trades”; Pickl, “Die Handelsbeziehungen”; Fara, “Il commercio di bestiame ungherese”; Fara, “An Outline of Livestock Production and Cattle Trade.”

2 Faugeron, “Nourrir la ville. L’exemple,” 53–70; Faugeron, Nourrir la ville. Ravitaillement, 440–49.

3 For an in-depth bibliography, see the recent The Economy of Medieval Hungary, and before Gazdaság és gazdálkodás a középkori Magyarországon.

4 Pickl, “Der Viehhandel von Ungarn,” 40; Kiss, “Die Bedeutung,” 105; Stromer, “Zur Organisation,” 173, 188; Vilfan, “L’approvisionnement,” 61, 64; Carter, Trade and urban development, 241–51.

5 Villani, Cronaca, c. VI, 773–77: “‘n Ungheria cresce grande moltitudine di buoi e vacche, i quali no· lavorano la terra, e avendo larga pastura, crescono e ingrassano tosto, i quali elli uccidono per avere il cuoio, e il grasso che ne fanno grande mercatantia”; cf. Miskulin, Magyar művelődéstörténeti mozzanatok, 72–73.

6 Vilfan, “L’approvisionnement,” 64.

7 Broquière, Voyage d’Ouţremer, 233.

8 Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 156–57.

9 Faugeron, “Nourrir la ville. L’exemple,” 56–57.

10 Deliberazioni del Maggior Consiglio di Venezia, vol. 3, 52.

11 Le deliberazioni del consiglio dei XL della Repubblica di Venezia, vol. 3, 120.

12 Faugeron, “Nourrir la ville. L’exemple,” 68.

13 Faugeron, Nourrir la ville. Ravitaillement, 238–39. In the sixteenth century, the preference was to reduce import duties rather than increase consumer prices. See the disc on the following pages.

14 Ibid., 449.

15 Bilanci generali della Repubblica di Venezia, vol. 1/1, 85; cf. Faugeron, “Nourrir la ville. L’exemple,” 58; Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 157.

16 Faugeron, Nourrir la ville. Ravitaillement, 386 (for Zara), 368 (for Treviso).

17 Ibid., 386.

18 Idid., 370.

19 Other exported items, after cattle, were wine (roughly 23 percent), copper (just under 4 percent, though the transfers of copper were much more considerable and took place through other customs), and other agricultural and animal products in varying, smaller percentages. In imports, after textiles, German and Austrian knives and iron objects followed for 10 percent, spices and Levantine articles for just under 5 percent, and other goods in varying and smaller percentages. The source is published in Kováts, Nyugat-Magyarország áruforgalma; for an analysis, see Pach, “The Role of the East-Central Europe”; cf. Nagy, “Magyarország külkereskedelme,” 253–76; Nagy, “The Problem of the Financial Balance,” 13–20; Nagy, “The Study of Medieval Foreign Trade,” 65–76.

20 Information about the economic involvement of Bishop Zsigmond Ernuszt of Pécs in the livestock trade can be found in Lvdovici Tvberonis, 81. The work of Ludovico Cerva Tubero, also known as Cervarius (1459–1527), offers a vivid and contemporary testimony of political, economic, and social characters and events that involved the Kingdom of Hungary from the death of King Matthias Corvinus (1490) until the death of Pope Leo X (1521), first published in 1603: cf. Kubinyi, “Budai kereskedők udvari szállításai,”104; Teke, “Rapporti commerciali,” 150–52.

21 See again Kubinyi, “Budai kereskedők udvari szállításai,”104; Teke, “Rapporti commerciali,” 150–52.

22 An overview in Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen, 345–71; Engel et al., Histoire de la Hongrie médiévale, 369–400; cf. next note.

23 With further bibliography, from an archaeological and environmental point of view: Bartosiewicz, “Animal husbandry”; Bartosiewicz, “Turkish Period Bone Finds”; Bartosiewicz and Gál, “Animal Exploitation”; Csippán, “Meat Supplies”; Rácz, “The Price of Survival”; cf. Hungarian Archaeology, 60–64; 405–13: 411; from an economic point of view: Zimányi, “Esportazione di bovini ungheresi”; Blanchard, “The Continental European Cattle Trades”; Ágoston, “The Costs of the Ottoman Fortress-System”; Fara, “Crisi e carestia.” Looking at the northern regions of historical Hungary (present-day Slovakia), Zimányi, “Esportazione di bovini ungheresi,” 148–49 recalls that: “before the ‘price revolution’ in the 1520s, for the price of an ox it was possible to have Moravian cloth [of average quality and largely accessible] sufficient for an item or an item and a half of clothing; after the differentiating effects of the ‘price revolution’ around the 1580s, in exchange for an ox, it was possible to buy cloth sufficient for two and a half items of clothing, and, in the 1600s, for three and one third. […] Livestock breeding, therefore, involved, temporarily, greater advantages than cloth production.”

24 Milhoffer, Magyarország közgazdasága, 74.

25 Mákkai, “Economic landscapes”; Kiss, “Agricultural and Livestock Production”; Topolski, “A model of East-Central European continental commerce”; Blanchard, “The Continental European Cattle Trades”; Bartosiewicz, “Cattle Trade”; Bartosiewicz, “The Hungarian Grey Cattle”; Bartosiewicz , “Animal husbandry”; Bartosiewicz , “Turkish Period Bone Finds”; Hoffmann, “Frontier Foods”; Bartosiewicz and Gál, “Animal Exploitation”; Bartosiewicz, “Animal Bones”; Rácz, “The Price of Survival.”

26 Faugeron, Nourrir la ville. Ravitaillement, 171–292.

27 Fara, “Il commercio di bestiame ungherese.”

28 Sixteenth-century sources record numerous commercial enterprises engaged in livestock trade between the two sides of Carpathians and also managed or participated in by operators of Italian origin. For example, between 1520 and 1521, the Italian Vincenzo di Giacomo and his Moldovan partner Drăghici were involved in buying and selling cattle between Moldova and Transylvania. Documente privitoare la istoria românilor, vol. 15/1, nr. 447 (10 September 1520); Quellen zur Geschichte der Stadt Kronstadt, vol. 1, nr. 367 (26 November 1521), 368 (5 December 1521); see Goldenberg, “Notizie del commercio italiano,” 255–88: 262. On the cattle registered as “Hungarian” but coming from the Romanian Principalities (Wallachia and Moldavia) see: Murgescu, “Der Anteil der rumänischen Fürstentümer,” 61–91; Murgescu, “Balances of Trade and Payments,” 961–80; Murgescu, “Participarea Ţărilor Române la comerţul,” 207–26: 210–16. Finally, a case study in Luca, “Un tentativo d’importazione,” 303–22.

29 On the basis of historical analyses and archaeological data, it is estimated that in 1580, the total number of herds was about three million, which means that, at least for that year, exports did not exceed 6 percent of the available livestock. Mákkai, “Der ungarische Viehhandel”; Pickl, “Die Auswirkungen der Türkenkriege”; Zimányi, “Esportazione di bovini ungheresi”; Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti”; Vilfan, “L’approvisionnement”; Żytkowicz, “Trends of Agrarian Economy”; Kiss, “Agricultural and Livestock Production”; Blanchard, “The Continental European Cattle Trades”; Sárközy, “Mercanti di bovini”; Rădvan, “On the Medieval Urban Economy”; cf. Carter, Trade and urban development, 241–51.

30 In 1518, an anonymous Nuremberg resident claimed that all of Germany is supplied with meat from Hungary (“tutta la Germania è rifornita di carne”): Lütge, Strukturwandlungen, 6, and Blanchard, “The Continental European Cattle Trades,” 435 note 37.

31 In 1569, an anonymous Venetian cattle trader apologized to the Venetian authorities for not being able to supply the city with the necessary meat, because on the Dalmatian route it was not possible to bring 7,000 or 8,000 animals a year, as was customary (“per la via di Dalmatia non si è potuto condur li anemali si come per avanti se faceva, quali erano al numero de 7 in 8 miliar all’anno”); moreover, Charles of Habsburg had forbidden the transit of Hungarian cattle through Austria. The same person recalled that Hungarian livestock was in the highest demand on the Venetian meat market, and for a good part of the year, since the animals that could be bought for the subjects of the Serenissima were barely enough to satisfy the city markets for only a third of the year (“detti animali della Ongheria li quali erano quelli che mantenivano le beccarie di carne per il piu, et la maggior parte dell’anno, se donche li animali che si comprano nelli mercati et lochi suditi alla vestra serenita non sono bastanti per il terzo del tempo dell’anno a mantener dette beccarie”). Zimányi, “Esportazione di bovini ungheresi,” 154–55.

32 Hungarian cattle were so sought after that even when an animal was injured and required excessive care and was therefore unable to continue the long journey, it could be easily exchanged for local cattle; so much so that many accidents were deliberately caused by the cattlemen in order to speculate on replacement. Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 165–66.

33 For a description of possible routes and the duties that were due at individual customs, from Moldova to Venice, see Pickl, “Die Auswirkungen der Türkenkriege,” 88; Zimányi, “Esportazione di bovini ungheresi”; Teke, “Rapporti commerciali”; Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 160–61, 164–65, 171; Vilfan, “L’approvisionnement,” 62–63; Blanchard, “The Continental European Cattle Trades.”

34 Faugeron, Nourrir la ville. Ravitaillement, 171–292.

35 I Diarii di Marino Sanuto, vol. 50, 65.

36 Faugeron, “Nourrir la ville. L’exemple,” 56.

37 Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 156.

38 Faugeron, “Nourrir la ville. L’exemple,” 70.

39 Bilanci generali della Repubblica di Venezia, vol. 1/1, 182; cf. Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 155.

40 And this forced transport by sea: ibid.

41 Recently, with bibliography: Péter, “The Other Way”; and other papers on the topic in Armed Memory.

42 Pickl, “Die Auswirkungen der Türkenkriege,” 85–86; Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 155; Budak, “I fiorentini nella Slavonia,” 694–95; Faugeron, Nourrir la ville. Ravitaillement, 370.

43 I Diarii di Marino Sanuto, vol. 41, 165; cf. Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 155.

44 Ibid.

45 See the overview in Bérenger, La Hongrie des Habsbourgs, 85–104.

46 See Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 156–57.

47 In imports, after textiles, came German and Austrian knives and iron objects at nine percent, followed by spices and Levantine articles at just under four percent. In exports, after livestock, there was wine, which fell to just under two percent (perhaps because it was exempt, at that time, from the border tax due to the political vicissitudes in the kingdom), and copper, at just 0.33 percent (again because it was mostly transferred via other customs). Pach, “The Role of the East-Central Europe.”

48 Pickl, “Die Auswirkungen der Türkenkriege,” 96–98; Zimányi, “Il ruolo degli Italiani,” 176–77; Vilfan, “L’approvisionnement,” 64–65.

49 Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 157–58, 162–63.

50 Ibid., 158–59.

51 Faugeron, Nourrir la ville. Ravitaillement, 171–292.

52 See note 49.

53 Again Bérenger, La Hongrie des Habsbourgs, 85–104.

54 Pickl, “Die Auswirkungen der Türkenkriege,” 98–104; Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 159–63, 168–71; Zimányi, “Il ruolo degli Italiani,” 177–78, with a detailed description of these and many other contracts; see Pakucs-Willcocks, SibiuHermannstadt, 104–39; Ciure, Relaţiile dintre Veneţia şi Transilvania, 143–211.

55 See Pach, “The Role of the East-Central Europe.” The Hungarian and Italian merchants’ agreement with the pasha of Buda is described and analyzed in Pickl, “Die Auswirkungen der Türkenkriege,” 117; Zimányi, “Esportazione di bovini ungheresi,” 151; Zimányi, “Il ruolo degli Italiani,” 177–78; Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 166–67. A similar use of Dalmatian routes was attempted in the early sixteenth century by Johannes Pastor, a Florentine nation merchant working in Zagreb: see note 42. On the organization and management of the Hungarian borderlands occupied by the Turks through the implementation of a careful policy of controlling costs and the settlement and taxation of the population favorably engaged in agriculture and livestock breeding for commercial purposes, see Ágoston, “The Costs of the Ottoman Fortress-System.” The Adriatic Sea economic and commercial vitality, with particular reference to the Dalmatian coasts and the Balkan area, is the subject of a vast literature; with further bibliography, see: Raukar, “I fiorentini in Dalmazia”; Budak, “I fiorentini nella Slavonia”; Moroni, “Le Marche e la penisola balcanica,” 199–220; Moroni, “Mercanti e fiere”; Moroni, Tra le due sponde dell’Adriatico, 1–54; Moroni, L’impero di San Biagio.

56 See note 31.

57 Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 170–71; on the difficulties of procuring Hungarian meat for the Venetian market between the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth (with an interesting French point of view), see also Sahin-Tóth, “A velencei magyar marhaexport.”

58 Fara, “Il commercio di bestiame ungherese.”

59 Document in Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 153, note 4.

60 Magini, Geografia, vol. 1, 112: “Ella [Hungary] è abondantissima di tutte le più prestanti cose, che può far natura, perché dà infinita copia d’ottimi frutti […]. È tanto ricca d’animali domestici, come di pecore, e di buoi, che negli esterni paesi, e specialmente nell’Italia, e nella Germania, manda tante, e sì gran schiere di buoi, e di pecore, che è un stupore. Percioche si come riferisce un certo, spesse volte un villano solo alquanti anni mantiene cento buoi à paschi, dove li vede à tre doppi cresciuti. Perché quasi tutta l’Europa potrebbe da questa sola Regione essere nudrita di carni.” Cf. Tucci, “L’Ungheria e gli approvvigionamenti,” 153, note 5.


The Prochaska Affair Revisited: Towards a Revaluation of Austria-Hungary’s Balkan Consuls

Sven Mörsdorf
European University Institute, Florence
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 2  (2022):305-328 DOI 10.38145/2022.2.305

Consuls and consular diplomacy in the long nineteenth century are enjoying a growing interest across various historiographies. This article explores the prominent case of the Austro-Hungarian consul Oskar Prochaska in an effort to offer insight into consular officials as actors of diplomacy and empire in a Habsburg setting. Prochaska, who famously got caught up in a major diplomatic crisis during the First Balkan War in 1912, has never been studied as a protagonist in the events that came to be known as the Prochaska Affair. This calls for an analysis of Prochaska’s diplomatic activity as consul, understood here as his social interaction with his counterparts and adversaries on the ground in Prizren, Kosovo. Adopting a local perspective on a crisis of European and global importance, the article argues for a revaluation of consuls and their bureaucracy as a promising subject for cultural and social histories of the Habsburg Empire and its foreign policy, both in the Balkans and around the world.

Keywords: diplomacy, consuls, Balkan Wars 1912–13, Serbia, Austria-Hungary


It began with a mistake. When Oskar Prochaska, the Habsburg representative in Prizren, heard of the approaching horrors of the battlefield, he should have known better than to write any letters home. In the early days of the First Balkan War, the consul should have realized that his courier could be intercepted and his correspondence seized. This is indeed what happened on October 24, 1912 on the road between Prizren and the post office at Ferizovik (Ferizaj, Ferizović/Uroševac).1 That afternoon in Kosovo, the finer points of diplomatic custom did not impress a Serbian cavalry patrol. Nor did civilian concerns have much bearing on the soldiers’ superiors. They broke the seals and read the letters. Any resistance, any information that could aid the enemy, had to be suppressed.2 With his own written words, the consul, too, had revealed himself to be an enemy.

A week later, when Serbian forces finally reached Prizren, Prochaska may have anticipated what was coming. Unlike his Russian colleague, the only other foreign consul who had stayed behind, Prochaska did not greet the new rulers at the gates, nor did he show up at their celebrations of victory, waiting instead for instructions from Vienna to arrive. As time went by, none would. The Serbian military now controlled all lines of communication between the war zone and the world. Or rather, all means except for word of mouth. Rumors spread through town and country: Had the Austrian consul organized resistance, handed out weapons to the locals? Had shots been fired from the attic of his consulate, had the consul even fired at the Serbian soldiers himself? In Prizren, there were people willing to attest to this, and Prochaska’s silence seemed to confirm his guilt. So did his hiding behind the consulate’s high walls and his refusal to visit with the new commanding general, Božidar Janković, or any Serb official.3 With his own lack of action, the stranded diplomat had isolated himself even more.

Meanwhile, the consul’s lost letters traveled up their captors’ chain of command, from desk to desk and from Kosovo to Belgrade, and briefly even to Saint Petersburg.4 The many officers, government officials, and diplomats who saw them never publicly acknowledged their existence. What precisely it was that Prochaska wrote to his mother in Vienna and his brother in Brno (Brünn) is not known, but a Serbian internal report summarizes what irritated the letters’ unintended audience so much: “Mr. Prohaska [...] says that our army bombed and set fire to Priština and massacred its inhabitants, that Serbs and Montenegrins are die Wilden, and many other untruths.”5 This says it all. Frank in expression and careless in delivery, Prochaska’s words betrayed his private feelings to a very partial public in the Serbian military and government, convincing “the savages” as he called them that the rumors of his scheming must be true.

But the consul Prochaska is not remembered only for having penned these outrageous letters. He is remembered as the man who caused the Prochaska Affair, a major diplomatic crisis on the European stage.6 Much like the precise contents of his letters, the details of his activity on the ground have remained elusive, and the local roots of the conflict remain unexplained. Cut off as he was from the world beyond Prizren, Prochaska found himself on his own and, as we will see, unable to cope. The world, in turn, began to wonder what had happened to Prochaska. Once again, rumors arose, but this time in Austria-Hungary and in the press, and now it was the consul who was portrayed as the victim. Had Prochaska been detained, insulted, injured, even executed? Had he—the most sensational claim of all—been castrated by the Serbs?7

For several weeks in the winter of 1912, war over the consul’s sad fate seemed imminent and necessary to many in the Dual Monarchy. The passions stirred across the Habsburg Empire, and across Serbia in defiant reply, had turned a matter of diplomatic discretion into a raging public spectacle.8 While the two governments’ internal investigations were conducted behind closed doors, Europe looked on in sympathy with one side or the other. By the time it transpired that Prochaska was well and unharmed, just as the Serbs had always maintained, the public agitation so long in the making would not simply go away. It turned against the Habsburg elites, especially the foreign minister and his top officials, who appeared as warmongers and bullies against their tiny, innocent neighbor. Indeed, the pressure that Vienna had put on its adversaries in Belgrade forced them to back down. The Serbian government issued a public apology for its share in the escalation and quietly abandoned its most coveted aim, which was to gain a harbor on the Adriatic.9 In effect, however, this momentary victory cost the Habsburgs dearly. It antagonized the Serbs even further and deepened the impression already prevalent, both among European diplomats and in the public eye, that the Dual Monarchy always tried to cheat and manipulate its smaller Balkan rivals.10


The Prochaska Affair shaped the political outcome of the Balkan War of 1912 for Austria-Hungary and Serbia and thus brought both one step closer to the Great War of 1914. Accordingly, Prochaska’s name is found in many histories of Austro-Hungarian foreign policy, Habsburg-Serbian relations, and the build-up to World War I, though it is usually mentioned only in passing.11 Apart from scattered references, very little original and in-depth work on the Prochaska Affair was published over the course of the past century. Moreover, there has hardly been any interest in Oskar Prochaska (1876–1945), the man and diplomat, so much so that he does not appear as a historical actor in the scholarship, or even just as an active participant in his own story.

Most traditional histories of Austro-Hungarian foreign relations and the power politics of empire, even if they consider seemingly remote and unimportant places such as Prizren at all,12 would still not pay much attention to people like Prochaska because he was merely a consul.13 The reasons for this neglect seem to lie in the late-Habsburg period itself. Even though, by the turn of the twentieth century, consular activity had long since become essential to the conduct of diplomacy, with hundreds of imperial-and-royal consulates dotting the globe,14 consular officials generally could not hope to be perceived as fully competent diplomats. As members of a predominantly bourgeois institution, most consuls were separated from their blue-blooded superiors by a wide social gulf in a division that reflected Habsburg society at large.15 Later observers, frequently drawing on anecdotal evidence, were led to believe that the rigid social hierarchies that pervaded the Habsburg foreign service precluded most consuls not only from socializing with their aristocratic “betters” (which is accurate)16 but also from engaging in actual diplomatic work.

Today, as actor-centric and socially-informed biographic approaches to diplomacy are gaining traction, historians are finally ready to perceive consuls as diplomats and actors of empire.17 Social practices and micro-level interactions come into focus, raising large-scale questions about the relations between “society,” “state,” and “empire” beyond the outdated national paradigm.18 Further inspiration can be found in new histories of the state administration. Here, too, scholars increasingly study state officials as actors, both individually and collectively.19 All three branches of the Habsburg foreign service (the central ministry; the diplomatic service; and the consular service) were part of the same bureaucratic organization and, as such, must be studied together. The hundreds of foreign-service officials employed in Vienna; at embassies and diplomatic missions; and at consulates answered to a common hierarchical structure and worked towards shared objectives, at least ideally.20 That said, the foreign service was anything but lifeless and monolithic.21 Consuls, whose numbers grew rapidly from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, added to the diversity of this bureaucracy and the Habsburg civil service at large with their varied backgrounds, skills, and career trajectories.22

There is now a growing interest in consuls across different historiographies.23 Notably, in the context of the Balkans in the long nineteenth century, Holly Case’s argument that the activity of foreign consuls in the Ottoman Empire led to a “quiet revolution” of the international order deserves wide discussion.24 When it comes to Austria-Hungary, however, studies focused specifically on consular diplomacy, the consular bureaucracy, and consuls as agents of formal and informal empire are still few and far between. A quick review of important exceptions (Nicole Phelps writing on transatlantic migration and international law, Alison Frank Johnson on emotions and honor codes, Barbara Haider-Wilson on transnational entanglements, and Ellinor Forster on intermediaries and knowledge production) serves to underscore the potential of the field.25

Given that the primary direction of Austria-Hungary’s imperial ambitions faced to the southeast, any exploration of Habsburg consuls as political actors should take into account the Balkan-Mediterranean region in which Prochaska and his colleagues were engaged.26 So far, the great importance of this region to the k.u.k. imperial project contrasts with a dearth of in-depth studies on Habsburg consuls, whose names are usually limited to the footnotes (where their reports are cited) or who are portrayed as the featureless chess pieces of their distant masters. Once again, there are important exceptions: among them, Tamara Scheer’s book on the Habsburg “presence” in and around Taşlıca (Plevla, Pljevlja) just north of Kosovo sheds much light on everyday life and local diplomacy at an Austro-Hungarian consulate;27 an article by Krisztián Csaplár-Degovics traces in detail how consuls built local networks of informants and political clients in central Albania;28 and Dušan Fundić’s recent monograph on Austria-Hungary and the creation of the Albanian state offers a complex view on consular activity.29 It is no coincidence that these three works investigate the same part of the world and that two of them tackle the same context, specifically, the Habsburgs’ cultivation of relations with Albanians. Indeed, by 1900, this had become the primary political task for Prochaska and his colleagues in the central Balkans. Nevertheless, it bears repeating that consuls’ political roles were varied and not limited to this region alone.

The final academic work that needs to be discussed here is also the most important contribution on the Prochaska Affair. In the 1970s, the renowned Habsburg historian Robert Kann explored the topic in a lecture that was later published as a booklet.30 This, in itself, was already fortunate. Without the help of Kann’s erudite and stylish account, the Prochaska Affair might have faded from the memory of Habsburgists altogether. But Kann’s short text also has its limitations. It remains firmly centered on Vienna and pays exclusive attention to elite actors at or near the foreign ministry. With much of the given space devoted to a discussion of the press coverage and public opinion, Kann’s account offers little information on Prochaska in Prizren. On the contrary, Kann uses every opportunity to belittle the consul, depicting him as more of a curiosity than a serious subject of inquiry.31 While Kann’s study offers considerable insight into the political events of the day and manages to place the Prochaska Affair in its diplomatic context on the highest level, it falls short in its overall failure to take a local dimension into consideration as well. To date, Kann’s essay remains the only dedicated study of the Prochaska Affair, and while it continues to be highly useful and relevant, it should by no means be seen as definite.

It seems unsatisfactory, then, that we know nearly nothing about the situation in Prizren, where everything began. Let me therefore pose the simple question: What did Prochaska do during the Prochaska Affair?

A Local Affair

Events unfolded rapidly in Kosovo during the first weeks of the war. On October 17, 1912, Serbia joined its allies and declared war on the Ottoman Empire. Soon thereafter, Prochaska’s letters were seized en route to the post office (as mentioned above) and the first detachments of the Serbian forces reached Prizren and captured it without a fight. Well before the end of the month, telegraphic contact between Vienna and its three consulates in Kosovo had been lost.32 On November 5, General Janković arrived in Prizren and established his administration. On November 8, the Serbian envoy in Vienna demanded that Prochaska be immediately recalled, leading the Ballhausplatz to push for an investigation that would allow an Austro-Hungarian consul to travel to Kosovo.33 It took several weeks to agree on the particulars, during which time the Serbs began to gather information for their own purposes. Vienna spoke of deliberate delaying tactics, while the Pašić government blamed an uncooperative military.34 In the end, both procedures ran parallel and separate from each other in another sign of the two governments’ mutual distrust.

As part of the Serbian investigation, General Janković filed a first report on Prochaska’s alleged activity on November 20.35 This preliminary report mostly consisted of a long list of unlikely rumors and unfavorable interpretations of the consul’s daily work with political clients, but it also included several points that seem more plausible. Four of them involve Nikolai Alekseevič Emelianov, the Russian consul, who had probably raised these allegations himself. According to the first one, Prochaska had stopped an Ottoman officer in the street shortly before Prizren was captured and berated him in public for his intention to seek Emelianov’s protection. Prochaska had then led the officer (and the 6,000 lira he had intended to take to the Russian consul) to his own consulate. Another allegation notes how Prochaska had publicly exclaimed on two occasions (once in the presence of an unnamed foreign consul, who must have been Emelianov) that he was opposed to the offensive alliance of Montenegro and Serbia and that “Austria will never allow it!,” meaning its success.36 Finally, the third and fourth allegations contrast the two consuls’ reactions to the arrival of the Serbian administration: Emelianov had established personal and official relations by visiting the general two times within 24 hours and had also taken part in a celebratory church service, whereas Prochaska had refused any contact whatsoever.37

Complaints about Prochaska’s discourteous behavior also set the tone in the general’s second and longer report, dated December 19, with which the Serbian investigation came to a close.38 After several pages which mostly repeated the previous allegations against Prochaska and added supporting testimony by townspeople, Janković’s account took a sudden turn to the personal: “Apart from the above,” wrote the general, “I consider it necessary that, for a more accurate assessment of the incorrect actions of Mr. Prohaska, I present his attitude towards me, as the commander of the army and the occupied area, and my relationship with him.”39 The remainder of the report suggests that Janković felt truly offended by Prochaska’s every action: that the consul had not introduced himself, neither in an official capacity nor in private; that he had treated one of Janković’s officers, whom the general had sent with what amounted to a formal invitation to meet, rudely; and overall, that Prochaska had refused to recognize the Serbian administration but at the same time had pestered Janković with all kinds of petitions in writing and by sending his consular messenger-interpreter (dragoman).40 The general, in turn, took a corresponding stance and refused to deal with Prochaska’s complaints. Instead, Janković informed his adversary through the dragoman that he was simply not acquainted with Prochaska on a personal level and that there was also no legal procedure in force that could compel him to acknowledge the consul’s presence in an official capacity. He then let Prochaska know that this would not change until the consul visited with him directly.41

Faced with the general’s ultimatum, Prochaska announced himself for November 17. This is how Janković described their meeting:

That same day, at 11.30 am, finally, after a whole thirteen days of demonstrations, Mr. Prohaska presented himself—a short, chubby, squinting, unsympathetic figure. As soon as my adjutant reported him, I let him in. When he entered the room, he introduced himself to me; I received him politely and seriously, greeted him with a handshake, building on the power of a benevolent God, as far as this was possible with this type. However, the following was characteristic of the man’s upbringing and arrogance: as soon as I shook his hand and while I had not yet offered him a seat or sat down, he immediately sat down on the first chair closest to him, while I remained standing, looking at him from above with a questioning regard, which he fully understood and, embarrassed, he stood up [again]. Only after this fiasco of his, I offered him to sit down and did so as well, and then our conversation began.42

The rest of the meeting, according to Janković, brought only further embarrassment to Prochaska, since the general had the upper hand on all questions. (This impression is reinforced by Prochaska’s own reportage, which only devoted a few inconclusive lines to their conversation.43) Janković, it is obvious, had many reasons to mistrust Prochaska and found his suspicions confirmed in the consul’s antagonistic behavior and rudeness in personal relations. There is a strong element of contempt in Janković’s descriptions of Prochaska’s person throughout his report. To give another example, when Prochaska decided to leave Prizren, Janković withdrew one of his higher-ranking officers from the military escort after he learned that the consul would be traveling with his “mistress.” He also reported with visible satisfaction that Prochaska had been chased out of Prizren by an angry mob on the day he left town.44

In sum, relations between the two officials were strained from the outset and only deteriorated when they met face to face. Prochaska made the worst possible impression on Janković by fumbling the rules of both official procedure and social courtesy. While Janković might have been biased against Prochaska, the representative of a hostile power, it seems that the consul, at least during this encounter, did not display the polished manners that were expected of a gentleman and diplomat. With that being said, Prochaska was also the victim of unfavorable circumstances. When the fog of war had cleared, the Serbian government acknowledged that its military had acted inappropriately when it hindered the consul’s work and barred him from communicating with his colleagues and superiors.45 There is also reason to believe that Prochaska’s Russian counterpart, Emelianov, was in fact a bitter rival and in cahoots with Janković. In Prochaska’s subsequent reportage, we read the following about the first days of the Serbian occupation:

Local Russian representative Emelianov did not return my three consecutive visits, by now completely ignores this consulate and apparently regards himself not as a Russian representative but as a Serbian agent.46

Prochaska felt humiliated and enraged by what he perceived as unjustified slander and chicanery against his person by Emelianov and especially the Serbs.47 He was convinced that it had been the general and his officers who had arranged for the group of people who had harassed him in the street.48 Even a decade later, writing in retrospect, Prochaska still felt very much aggrieved:

I was abused, threatened, marauding soldiery and komitadjis rioted in front of the consulate and threatened to put it on fire, I was blockaded inside, savaged soldiers were quartered (as guards!) in the consulate, who threatened to shoot if I left the house, my horses were stolen, every night those arrested during the day were massacred behind my garden, in short, those were three upsetting weeks, and I was cut off from the outside world and, due to the constant agitation in newspapers and pamphlets, in growing danger of life. At my departure, I was led like a prisoner right through a lane of soldiers and wild rabble, who kept screaming, among the worst abuse against the Monarchy and myself, that I should be killed, hurling large pebbles, petrol tankards and such against my carriage, so that it is a miracle that I got out alive. I can say without exaggeration that—at least before the World War—no consul has ever been treated like this.49

Placed side by side, both the consul’s and the general’s comments about their mutual relationship express remarkably similar emotions.50 What, then, are we to make of the two men and their grudge against each other? Recent works on diplomatic representation and interpersonal communication as well as “face-to-face diplomacy” suggest some analytical themes for further study.51 More attention should also be paid to the third main protagonist, the Russian consul Emelianov, among many other local actors in the shared urban setting of Prizren.52 All this requires adding a decidedly local view to Prochaska’s story and its diplomatic significance, which I have tried to sketch in brief and in only one of the many possible ways.53 After all, if Prochaska and Janković had been ministers meeting in a palace or gilded drawing room, we would already have many volumes of analysis and portraiture.

This does not mean that only sources locally produced in Prizren are relevant. For example, historians have sometimes interpreted Prochaska’s antagonistic behavior as a deliberate, officially sanctioned tactic to spark a diplomatic conflict.54 Judging by the Habsburg foreign ministry’s internal files, however, this ran counter to its intentions. In response to the Serbian complaints about Prochaska that had reached Vienna in early November, the ministry had immediately issued new instructions to its consuls in the occupation zone: “The situation brought about by the war,” they began, “is merely de facto and lacks recognition under international law.” Although the consuls were never to fail to observe this, they were also instructed to act in their own interest and “get in touch with the factual rulers and strive to maintain the best possible relations.” The only line not to cross was to commit “acts that could be interpreted as the direct recognition of the sovereignty of any of the Balkan states or the annexation.” Moreover, while all “contractual and customary rights” that consuls enjoyed under the Ottomans continued to be in force, exceptions might be tolerated on account of the ongoing war. In case of problems, consulates were to turn to the foreign ministry and their supervising embassy in Constantinople.55 In other words, these were extremely flexible, practical guidelines. They insisted in principle on upholding the status quo ante but also acknowledged the demands of the evolving situation, encouraging consuls to interact with the new authorities in an amicable way.

Unfortunately for Prochaska (and Janković), this good advice never reached Prizren. Does this mean that Prochaska’s poor performance can be excused because he simply did not get the circular? In order to answer this question, we have to take a brief look at his colleagues in neighboring consulates and how they portrayed their own actions at the time. This is because Consul Heimroth in Üsküp (Shkup, Skopje, Skoplje) as well as Vice-consul Tahy and his Chancellery Secretary Umlauf in Mitrovica were cut off from communications in much the same way and faced similar difficulties, but seem to have managed much better.

One advantage that Consul Heimroth had was the benefit of collegial company in Üsküp, the provincial capital. After the Ottomans had lost the Battle of Kumanovo on October 23–24 and retreated in chaos, the remaining foreign consuls formed a provisional government council to try to maintain order and organize humanitarian relief. The consuls also ventured outside the city to meet the advancing Serbian army in the field and offer to surrender without bloodshed.56 In their various ad-hoc measures, the consuls exceeded their mandate as neutral observers, choosing instead to rely on their combined authority to avert even greater disaster. There were also some tricky situations that Heimroth had to tackle on his own. Early on, a deputation of local notables asked the consul to hoist the flag of Austria-Hungary over the city, hoping that this would spare it from being shelled, but Heimroth refused on the grounds of international law. He also opened the doors of the consulate to refugees. When a group of Ottoman officers begged him for shelter, he allowed them in, too, but felt relieved when they changed their minds and left, since their presence might have compromised his own position. After the arrival of the Serbian army, Heimroth consented to the placement of a military guard inside his consulate, knowing that a refusal would put him in danger.57 Overall, Heimroth’s various choices seem quite appropriate and may have prevented further escalation.

In Mitrovica, a small town bordering Serbian territory, Ladislaus von Tahy (Tahvári és Tarkeői Tahy László) found himself in an isolated position that is quite comparable to Prochaska’s situation farther south. Tahy also experienced similar difficulties with the new Serbian administration. Unlike Prochaska, however, Tahy paid a visit to the Serbian military commander as soon as the latter had arrived on October 27.58 During this meeting, Tahy argued that, as a diplomat accredited to the Ottoman authorities, he was not permitted to establish any official relations with the Serbian military but that he intended to carry on with his duties until new instructions would arrive. Unfortunately for Tahy, however, his initiative was not crowned with success. In the days that followed, his Serbian counterpart did not return the visit, which humiliated Tahy and caused him lasting emotional distress.59 The Serbian authorities began to prevent the consul and his personnel as well as their clients from entering and leaving the consulate. Tensions rose to the point that Tahy decided to leave and return home on November 7.60 In doing so, he probably chose wisely, since his regular activity had become impossible and his attempt to reach a compromise had obviously fallen on deaf ears.

Tahy left behind a caretaker, Chancellery Secretary Umlauf, who would rise to the occasion and display remarkable diplomatic capabilities.61 Umlauf’s daily chronicle from that time gives the impression that he was aware that any argument or other small occurrence might cause trouble and create another diplomatic incident. Far from remaining passive, though, Umlauf acted on his newfound role as the sole representative of the Dual Monarchy in Mitrovica. As such, he entered into a protracted conflict with the local Catholic priest, who tried to shift away from Habsburg protection to a pro-Serbian course. Umlauf’s quiet struggle with Don Nikola Mazarek culminated one Sunday towards the end of November. The consul went to attend mass and noticed that the Austria-Hungarian flag had been removed from its usual place near the altar. In response, Umlauf stood still in the middle of the church and did not take his seat until the priest had the flag brought back in. Other examples could be added, such as the skillful way in which Umlauf used procedural arguments during a meeting with the Serbian consul Milan Milojević to assert his position as a serious consular representative in all but official rank.62 In sum, Umlauf, the experienced chancellery official, used his understanding of a consul’s ceremonial role and his technical knowledge to stand his ground successfully in an unprecedented situation.

This quick comparison of Prochaska’s actions with those of his colleagues indicates that there were indeed different paths that the isolated consuls could take. Success required active communication and an ability to judge when proper procedure should be followed and when flexibility was preferable, which is exactly what the instructions from Vienna that never reached Kosovo had tried to suggest early on in the conflict. When the Ballhausplatz’s internal investigation concluded in mid-December 1912, it did so with a mixed picture: clearly, Prochaska had been wronged on multiple occasions by the Serbian military, but he had also added to the tensions himself, and in some cases the picture remained quite murky.63 In Belgrade, Minister Stephan von Ugron (Ábránfalvi Ugron István) thought that “calm cold-bloodedness and a tactful demeanour” on part of Prochaska and Tahy might have prevented the worst, and cited Heimroth’s much more favorable example.64 Likewise, Consul Heinrich Wildner, also in Belgrade, believed that his two colleagues should have met their adversaries with “tact and adaptability” to “repair” their strained relations with them. According to both Wildner and Ugron, the special privileges that foreign consuls enjoyed under Ottoman rule had given them an inflated sense of status and made them inflexible; indeed, perhaps it would be wise to recall the old guard and send fresh faces to the Balkans.65


In this article, I have used the case of a single individual to try to make a larger point about Habsburg consuls as important but understudied actors of diplomacy and empire. In retrospect, Prochaska’s lack of caution, social courtesy, and, altogether, diplomatic skill in the high-stakes setting of a town under military occupation created a cascade whose magnitude the consul himself could not even begin to comprehend while the communication blockade lasted. Prochaska cannot be held responsible for what others outside Kosovo—soldiers, diplomats, politicians, journalists—made of his predicament in pursuit of their own varied motives. The consul was, however, very much responsible for how it all had started, and he could have taken steps to defuse the situation later on. Therein lies his agency as a diplomat and his appeal as a subject of history-writing.

The unusual prominence of Prochaska’s case and its relevance to multiple historiographies make clear why consuls deserve our full attention. In my own work, I follow an actor-centric and practice-based approach, but the true strength of the contemporary scholarship on the Habsburg Empire lies in its polyphony and openness to experimentation.66 Other methods and perspectives, and less obviously striking cases than the Prochaska Affair, should also be explored to allow us to gain a deeper and more varied understanding of Habsburg consuls as part of the foreign service and the imperial bureaucracy as a whole. If the same scrutiny and erudition that the best traditional diplomatic scholarship has produced were also to be applied to the study of consuls and extended to the broad variety of contexts beyond courts and capitals in which they were active we would glean many new insights into the local (or regional or “provincial”) life-worlds of diplomacy and empire.67 In the Balkans, Austria-Hungary’s ambitions depended on its ever-widening network of consuls, and much the same can be suspected of its growing engagement across the world as an “empire without overseas colonies.”68 Prochaska, for instance, concluded his tarnished career at the consulate-general in Rio de Janeiro,69 out of harm’s way but still as a member of an imperial bureaucracy with a global presence and outlook.

There is a rich source tradition on which a cultural and social history of consuls and consular diplomacy in the Habsburg Empire could be founded. This includes both consular reports, which are already a principal source in nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Balkan history,70 and administrative papers, such as the consuls’ personnel files. These often very messy boxes are rarely examined and always full of surprises. Prochaska knew this, too. Near the top of his personnel file, we find a request from 1922 in which the former consul asked if “possibly existing ‘evrak i muzire’—harmful papers” stemming from the Prizren incident could be removed from “this mysterious folder.” As a native of Moravia, Prochaska had become a Czechoslovak citizen (although he later opted for Austria), and he feared that his old file, when handed over to Prague, might get him in trouble again.71 The bulk of the paperwork that the Prochaska Affair had generated in the foreign ministry had, however, already been collected separately.72 It is quite possible that previously unknown documents could still be found, especially in the administrative collections, which diplomatic historians have usually not taken into account. Although archived separately from each other, political and administrative papers were produced by the same group of people in a shared bureaucratic setting.73 When analyzed together, the two types sometimes complement and sometimes subvert each other, bringing diplomacy to life.

Over the course of the past century, generations of historians who took note of the Prochaska Affair never cared to portray the consul at its center as a complex protagonist and veritable (albeit catastrophic) diplomatic actor. I have attempted to offer a different perspective. In doing so, I have also tried to tell a good story.74 Thanks to a thriving community of scholars, the stories we tell of the Habsburg Empire are transforming: studies on consuls and diplomacy can add to this common project.75 My sincere hope, therefore, is that the curious case of Oskar Prochaska, dusted off a little, will inspire historians of the Habsburg Monarchy from various backgrounds and with varying interests to consider giving consuls a try in their work as well.

“For many years, we have lived without knowing that a certain Mr. Prochaska represented us,” wrote Pesti Napló on its front-page on November 27, 1912, at the height of the crisis. “One day, we reach for the newspaper and find that we have a new hero named Prochaska, whose shed blood calls for vengeance.”76 Today, a diplomatic history freed from narratives of pride and pain can contribute essential insight into empires and nation states by recognizing the many and diverse people who inhabited and built them. It can dissolve strict dichotomies of thought, endeavoring to overcome rather than perpetuate divisive political and academic traditions. For many years, we have lived without knowing what a certain Mr. Prochaska could represent to us, and I hope that one day, we may reach for a new kind of Habsburg diplomatic history and find out so much more.

Archival Sources

Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv, Vienna (HHStA), Ministerium des Äußern (MdÄ)

Politisches Archiv (PA)

XII Türkei 385, 386, 415

Administrative Registratur (AR), Fach 4

Personalia 272


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1 See the reports written by Prochaska and forwarded via telegraph by his immediate superior Consul Heimroth in Üsküp to the Foreign Ministry in Vienna, November 26–27, 1912, no. 104, 106–107. These became part of a voluminous internal dossier which can be found in Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv Vienna, Politisches Archiv (hereafter cited as HHStA PA) XII 415; for the three reports, see fol. 101–106 and 117–120.

2 Circulating information on violent transgressions (whether real or alleged) was common during the Balkan Wars, as belligerents sought to mobilize support for their own causes and condemn their opponents; see Çetinkaya, “Atrocity Propaganda.” On the heightened brutality of the conflict, which displayed “elements of a civil strife,” see Delis, “Violence and Civilians.” The political function of violence during and after the Balkan Wars in a broader perspective is discussed in Biondich, “Balkan Wars.” For a long-term perspective on everyday violence in Ottoman Kosovo up to and including 1912–13, see Frantz, Gewalt und Koexistenz.

3 General Janković in Prizren to Army High Command in Skoplje, November 7–20, 1912, no. 661. DSPKS, vol. 5/3, no. 255.

4 Passages in DSPKS, vol. 5/3, no. 255 and 464 indicate that Prochaska’s original letters and/or copies passed from the hands of General Božidar Janković (Third Army) via Živojin O. Dačić (civil servant and author) to Crown Prince Aleksandar (First Army) and later, after an excursion to Russia, to Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Nikola Pašić, who intended to keep them. In addition, there are several documents in Miloš Bogičević’s edition of Serbian sources (Boghitschewitsch, Auswärtige Politik) which detail how the letters were sent in secret between Serbia and Russia. They also contain a passage in which Pašić writes that “we will, if necessary, make use of them [i.e. Prochaska’s letters], but of course only if we can say that we found them accidentally and not that they have been taken from the courier.” (Ibid., vol. 1, no. 227–229, 232–234, quote on 234.) One must add, however, that Bogičević, a disgraced former Serbian diplomat, is known to have manipulated and falsified documents in his edition very frequently, which calls into question the assumption that the passages on Prochaska’s letters are genuine. Nonetheless, the underlying intention to keep and use them seems credible enough and shines through in the much more reliably edited documents in DSPKS as well.

5 See the previously cited report by Janković, point 9 and annex point 19. DSPKS, vol. 5/3, no. 255.

6 A useful overview can be found in the online encyclopedia article by Hall, “Prochaska Affair.”

7 On the Prochaska Affair in two important Viennese newspapers, see Gulla, Prestigeverlust oder Krieg?, 64–82. The notions of “civilization” vs. “barbarism” in the press coverage of the Balkan Wars in a broader perspective are explored in Keisinger, Unzivilisierte Kriege, a short English version of which appears in Geppert et al., Wars, 343–58.

8 As Tamara Scheer has pointed out, issues of Austro-Hungarian domestic and foreign policy were closely intertwined both in government thinking and the press coverage of the Balkan Wars; the public perceived the events as anything but distant; see Scheer, “Public Sphere,” 301–19.

9 The larger foreign political context is explored from an Austro-Hungarian and German perspective in Kos, Interessen. Prime Minister Pašić paid a personal visit to the Austro-Hungarian representative in Belgrade, Ugron, to express his regrets about the incident and also confided that his government had already resolved internally to give in on the harbor question. See Minister Ugron in Belgrade to Foreign Ministry in Vienna, December 21, 1912, no. 186 A–C. HHStA PA XII 415, fol. 215–223.

10 For example, as late as July 21, 1914 in St. Petersburg, the French president Poincaré alluded to the Prochaska Affair (together with the similarly inflammatory Friedjung Affair of 1909) in a public exchange of words with Szapáry, the Austro-Hungarian ambassador to Russia. See Paléologue, Ambassador’s Memoirs, vol. 1, 18.

11 Although offering different interpretations, various authors underscore the crisis’s “manipulative” character (i.e. its alleged orchestration by various interest groups) as well as its place in the run-up to the First World War. See for example, Friedjung, Zeitalter, vol. 3, 222–27 (pro-war circles and the governments on both sides are to be blamed for fueling and delaying the resolution of the Prochaska Affair, while the Viennese press deliberately scandalized it in order to attack the Ballhausplatz’s changed press policy). Seton-Watson, “Murder at Sarajevo,” 491 (“the imaginary Prochaska incident was invented [by the Austrians] to prepare opinion for a war”). Ćorović, Relations, 553–56 and 575–76 (Prochaska was biased by his “hatred for the Serbs” and “these incidents were welcomed and deliberately exploited” by his government). Clark, Sleepwalkers, 283 and 445 (“a modest but inept exercise in media manipulation that provided further ammunition for those who claimed that Austria always argued with forged documents and false accusations”). Scheer, Minimale Kosten, 71–72 (given their “mistrust against Serbia” that had been nourished by years of alarming political reports, Habsburg officials were “certain that abuse [against Prochaska] could actually have occurred”). Rauchensteiner, First World War, 104 (“incompetence and a targeted campaign” resulting in a “loss of prestige and credibility” for the Habsburgs, a development which their rivals happily exploited). Bjelajac, “’Humanitarian’ Pretext,” 133–35 (biased reportage created by Prochaska and his colleagues contributed to the spread of misinformation and atrocity propaganda against Serbia).

12 Compare the comprehensive argument for “previously overlooked forms, venues, geographies, and levels” of international/diplomatic history from an Ottomanist perspective in Alloul and Martykánová, “New Ground.”

13 As exemplified by Helmut Rumpler’s brief and rather superficial but subsequently frequently cited assessment that the consular service had no form of political or diplomatic mandate and was therefore largely irrelevant except with regard to matters of trade. See Rumpler, “Rahmenbedingungen,” 48–50. On the misrepresentation of consuls in a broader historiographical perspective, see Leira and Neumann, “Past Lives.”

14 To give precise numbers, in 1900, Austria-Hungary maintained 414 consular representations around the world, most of them honorary offices. Among the 77 effektive Ämter (i.e. those staffed by salaried state officials), there were 24 consulates-general, 40 consulates, eleven vice-consulates, and two consular agencies. See Agstner: “Institutional History,” 39–40.

15 On the social and cultural history of the Austro-Hungarian foreign service (albeit with relatively few remarks on consuls), see William D. Godsey’s pathbreaking work in Godsey, Aristocratic Redoubt and Godsey, “Culture of Diplomacy.”

16 One popular anecdote comes from Paul von Hevesy (Hevesy Pál). In 1912, the year of the Prochaska Affair, Hevesy arrived at the Austro-Hungarian embassy in Constantinople as a newly appointed attaché. When Hevesy started spending time with colleagues from the consulate as well, his peers at the embassy intervened: “Either you socialize with us or with them.” This anecdote appears in works by several authors, including in Matsch, Auswärtige Dienst, 92.

17 On actor-centric and biographical approaches to diplomatic history and the history of empires, see e.g. Mösslang and Riotte, Diplomats’ World; Thiessen and Windler, Akteure der Außenbeziehungen; Tremml-Werner and Goetze, “Multitude of Actors”; Buchen and Rolf, Eliten im Vielvölkerreich; Hirschhausen, “New Imperial History?”; Nemes, Another Hungary.

18 For a comprehensive discussion of practice-based approaches to diplomatic history, see the introduction to Hennings and Sowerby, Practices of Diplomacy.

19 Adlgasser and Lindström, Habsburg Civil Service; Deak, Multinational State; Göderle, “De l’empire des Habsbourg”; Heindl, Bürokratie und Beamte.

20 For a study of intra-imperial policy rivalries in which consuls play a part, see Callaway: “Battle over Information.”

21 See Godsey’s works (as cited above) and more recently also Somogyi, “Influence of the Compromise.”

22 In recent years, two voluminous handbooks have been published by the most prolific scholars of the Habsburg consular service, Rudolf Agstner (posthumously) and Engelbert Deusch. Their many works are of mixed quality and reliability, as the two authors generally did not seek to place the rich source material they unearthed over many years in a larger context of analytical questions and academic debates. That said, both have created indispensable preconditions for further research, especially with their handbooks. See Agstner, Handbuch and Deusch, Konsuln.

23 For an introduction to new approaches to consular history, see Ulbert and Prijac, Consulship and Melissen, “Consular Dimension.”

24 Case, “Quiet Revolution.”

25 Phelps, U.S.-Habsburg Relations; Frank, “Bureaucracy of Honor”; Haider-Wilson, Friedlicher Kreuzzug; Forster, “Mapping and Appropriating.”

26 For an example of newer studies on this topic, see Brendel, “Drang nach Süden.” An overview of the political role of Austria-Hungary’s consuls in the Balkans is given in Kammerhofer, “Konsularwesen.” Further material on consuls as actors of empire can be found in Gostentschnigg, Wissenschaft.

27 Scheer, Minimale Kosten. While not formally a consulate, the Austro-Hungarian “civil commissariat” in Taşlıca was always headed by a consular official and performed the regular duties of a consulate (on this, see ibid., 107–18).

28 Csaplár-Degovics, “Interessendurchsetzung.”

29 Fundić, Austrougarska i nastanak Albanije.

30 Kann, Prochaska-Affäre. The text is 39 pages long.

31 Ibid., 1 and especially 36–37.

32 Minister Ugron in Belgrade to the Foreign Ministry in Vienna, October 19, 1912, no.112. HHStA PA 385. When Prochaska forwarded Tahy’s report that Mitrovica was being cut off by the Serbian military, this was apparently also the last of his own telegrams to make it through to Vienna; see Consul Prochaska in Prizren to the Foreign Ministry in Vienna, October 23, 1912, no. 74. HHStA PA 385.

33 Foreign Minister Berchtold in Vienna to Minister Ugron in Belgrade, November 8, 1912, draft. HHStA PA XII 415, fol. 2–3.

34 On the protracted negotiations from the Austro-Hungarian point of view, see HHStA PA XII 415, fol. 2–17 and 39–41. The conflictual relationship between the Serbian civil government and the military is discussed in Newman, “Hollow Crown.”

35 This is the previously cited DSPKS, vol. 5/3, no. 255.

36 DSPKS, vol. 5/3, no. 255, annex points 10 and 14.

37 Ibid., annex point 20–21.

38 General Janković in Prizren to Army High Command in Skoplje, December 6/19, 1912, no. 796. DSPKS, vol. 5/3, no. 464.

39 Ibid.

40 Ibid.

41 Ibid.

42 Ibid.

43 Prochaska’s report in Consul Heimroth in Üsküp to the Foreign Ministry in Vienna, November 27, 1912, no. 106. HHStA PA XII 415, fol. 104, 106.

44 DSPKS, vol. 5/3, no. 464.

45 The negotiations that resulted in the Serbian government’s public apology are an interesting topic on their own: see various documents towards the end of the dossier on the Prochaska Affair in HHStA PA XII 415.

46 Prochaska’s report in Consul Heimroth in Üsküp to the Foreign Ministry in Vienna, November 26, 1912, no. 104. HHStA PA XII 415, fol. 103.

47 Prochaska’s report in Consul Heimroth in Üsküp to the Foreign Ministry in Vienna, November 27, 1912, no. 107. HHStA PA XII 415, fol. 118–9.

48 Ibid., fol. 119.

49 Letter, Prochaska in Brno to the Foreign Ministry in Vienna, December 28, 1922. HHStA MdÄ AR F4 272 Personalia Prochaska-Lachnit, Oskar.

50 Compare Prochaska’s report (ibid.) with the entire second half of Janković’s final report (DSPKS, vol. 5/3, no. 464).

51 Rack, Unentbehrliche Vertreter; Steller, Diplomatie von Angesicht zu Angesicht; Holmes and Wheeler, “Social Bonding”; Holmes, Face-to-Face Diplomacy; Trager, Diplomacy, especially “The Fruit of 1912 Diplomacy,” ibid., 151–73.

52 For an approach that places diplomatic actors in a shared urban social context, see Do Paço, “Trans-Imperial Familiarity.” Cities as sites and consuls as actors are discussed in Leira and Carvalho, “Intercity Origins.”

53 Compare the discussion in Ghobrial, “Global History and Microhistory.”

54 See e.g. Bjelajac, “’Humanitarian’ Pretext,” which echoes traditional Serbian historiography.

55 Foreign Minister Berchtold in Vienna to Minister Ugron in Belgrade, November 8, 1912, no. 5042. HHStA PA XII 415, fol. 4–6.

56 Consul Heimroth in Üsküp to the Foreign Ministry in Vienna, November 18, 1912, no. 125–126. HHStA PA XII 386, fol. 509–218 and 521–524.

57 Ibid.

58 Tahy’s official daily chronicle (Amtserinnerung), November 6, 1912. HHStA PA XII 415, fol. 20–24.

59 Minister Ugron in Belgrade to the Foreign Ministry in Vienna, January 9, 1913, no. 17. HHStA PA XII 415, fol. 301–302.

60 Tahy’s official daily chronicle (Amtserinnerung), fol. 24.

61 Chancellery Secretary Umlauf in Mitrovica to the Foreign Ministry in Vienna, January 3, 1913, no. 1 secret. HHStA PA XII 415, fol. 260–274.

62 Ibid., fol. 269–271.

63 Compare the marginal notes that Consul Theodor Edl added to an edited copy of Prochaska’s previously cited three reports. HHStA PA XII 415, fol. 145–50. Edl had been entrusted with carrying out the Ballhausplatz’s investigation and had visited the Kosovo consulates to make his own appraisal. The debriefing meeting for which he prepared these notes took place on December 15 back in Vienna. The following day, the foreign ministry released a short, amicably-worded communiqué in which it informed the public that the conflict had been settled. On the disappointment and public outrage that followed, see Kann, Prochaska-Affäre, esp. 8–9 and 18–33.

64 Minister Ugron in Belgrade to the Foreign Ministry in Vienna, December 13, 1912, no. 400 res. HHStA PA XII 415, fol. 143–144.

65 Consul Wildner as quoted in letter, Minister Ugron in Belgrade to Section Chief Macchio in Vienna, January 21, 1913. HHStA PA XII 415, fol. 323–324.

66 For a general perspective, see Feichtinger and Uhl, Habsburg neu denken and for various approaches to the history of diplomacy and international relations, Haider-Wilson et al., Internationale Geschichte.

67 Regrettably, consuls do not play any noticeable role in the most recent, highly detailed surveys of Habsburg foreign policy in the Dualist period; see Rauscher, Fragile Großmacht and Canis, Bedrängte Großmacht.

68 For a recent discussion of global approaches to late-Habsburg history, see Hirschhausen, “Habsburgermonarchie in globaler Perspektive?” side by side with Judson, “Global Empire”; and compare Sauer, “Habsburg Colonial.”

69 Deusch summarizes and comments on Prochaska’s time in Brazil and his return after World War I in Konsuln, 538–42.

70 On the value of consular reports as a source for Balkan history, see the introduction to Frantz and Schmitt, Politik und Gesellschaft.

71 Typed extract from letter, Prochaska in Adamov (Adamsthal) to Consul-general Kraus in Vienna, June 25, 1922. HHStA MdÄ AR F4 272 Personalia Prochaska-Lachnit, Oskar.

72 In the previously cited dossier in HHStA PA XII 415.

73 Future studies on histories of knowledge in the Austro-Hungarian foreign service may find it useful to consult Wiedermayer, “Geschäftsgang” and to consider the methodological reflections with a special emphasis on Austrian/Habsburg archival contexts in Hochedlinger, Aktenkunde.

74 I believe that, for historians, engaging in storytelling (trying to tell engaging stories) is more than a matter of personal taste, but rather a professional responsibility and skill that we should actively seek to develop and experiment with; compare the extended reflections offered by Cronon, “Storytelling.”

75 See Judson, Habsburg Empire and, on the need for renewed interest in matters of “statecraft,” diplomacy, and foreign policy, Cole, “Visions and Revisions.”

76 Pesti Napló, November 27, 1912, 1 (my translation of Kann’s German translation of the Hungarian original as given in Kann, Prochaska-Affäre, 32).



Austro-Hungarian Colonial Ventures: The Case of Albania

Krisztián Csaplár-Degovics
Research Centre for the Humanities
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 2  (2022):267-304 DOI 10.38145/2022.2.267

In his unpublished 1955 doctoral dissertation, Johann Wagner persuasively argued that certain members of the leading political, economic, and military circles in Austria-Hungary were very interested in the possibility of global colonization.1 Furthermore, as the data gathered by Evelyn Kolm clearly shows, in the last decades of the nineteenth century, joint Ministers of Foreign Affairs Gusztáv Kálnoky and Agenor Gołuchowski and joint Minister of Finance Benjámin Kállay promoted the idea of creating a competitive military fleet, and they were ready to offer political support for the economic interest groups that insisted on the necessity of colonialism.2 Two out of these three people initiated and played a crucial role in the 1896 Vienna Conference, where they decided to adopt and implement a new Albanian policy.
This Austro-Hungarian Albanian policy was shaped in part by new colonial ambitions and was not merely the result of a one-time decision made in response to singular circumstances. The new Albanian policy harmonized with the general aspirations of the 1890s: Gustav Kálnoky and Agenor Gołuchowski, as heads of Ballhausplatz, made political and institutional attempts to include, in some form or another, the practice of global colonization as part of the foreign policy profile of Austria-Hungary. One of their allies in these efforts was Benjámin Kállay, who, as the governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was well-versed in both the theoretical and the practical issues of colonization.
This study presents the context and consequences of the 1896 conference from a transnational perspective. It also draws attention to two things. First, historical research on the question of colonization should be extended to the Balkan peninsula in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Second, Austria-Hungary’s new Albanian policy was based not only on international models but also on its own experiences in Africa.

Keywords: Albania, Austria-Hungary, colonialism, Balkan Peninsula


Historians have paid little attention to the fact that in the 1890s, the ministers of common affairs of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy made a concrete attempt formally to include colonialism in the Austro-Hungarian foreign policy portfolio.

The unusual constitutional structure of Austria-Hungary made this a challenging task. According to the laws on which the Compromise of 1867 rested, Emperor and King Franz Joseph’s realm was divided into two large public entities, the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary, each of which had its own government and parliament. The joint ministers of foreign affairs, finance, and war in Vienna were only allowed to deal with common matters as defined in precise terms by the representatives of the two halves of the new empire in 1867. Formally, they did not form a government for the whole empire. The two parliaments could only deal with the joint ministers separately, through delegations of their own envoys. The acceptance of an open portfolio for colonial endeavors was a major political and social challenge for the joint ministers because any kinds of ambitions in this direction could easily have undermined the stability of the dualist system, which had been achieved at no small cost. Colonial policy, after all, raised a number of questions that touched on public law. Who would be responsible for colonization, the empire as a whole or a separate Austria and a separate Hungary? Who would finance the costs of colonial ventures, and who would benefit from these investments? Would colonial issues come to constitute a new, fourth common affair?

Since the study of Austria-Hungary’s colonial past has so far been mainly limited to case studies and the study sites have for the most part been found in eastern and southeastern Europe, as far as I know, no conceptual context has emerged that has marked the place of the Dual Monarchy in Europe’s colonial past in the global context. This study therefore undertakes to examine, in the order and logic of the unpublished archival sources in the National Archive of Vienna, the global strands of history that can be connected to the Albanian policy of the joint ministry of foreign affairs, also known as Ballhausplatz. The study connects a number of issues and facts which have been part of hitherto unrelated, parallel historical narratives (including consuls, cult protectorate, competition with other powers, the Sudan policy of Ballhausplatz, and imperial pressure groups).

In this inquiry, I focus on a joint ministerial conference held in Vienna in 1896 at which the decision was reached to launch a new Austro-Hungarian Albanian policy. I also consider the consequences of this conference. Going beyond the historical publications on the conference, including the views of Teodora Toleva,3 I claim that the new policy had an imperial character but also an equally significant colonial character, since it was a long-term goal of joint ministers Agenor Gołuchowski and Benjámin Kállay to bring the territory and inhabitants of geographical Albania in the Western Balkans under the political, economic, and cultural influence of Austria-Hungary in an asymmetrical relationship. Drawing on unpublished archival sources and the secondary literature on international colonial practices at the time, I seek to determine why the term colonial can be reasonably applied to the new Austro-Hungarian policy towards Albania launched at the end of the century. I begin by offering a brief summary of the attitudes in Austria-Hungary towards colonialism in 1890s. I then provide a broad overview from a transnational perspective of the historical context of the conference where the new Albanian policy was adopted. I analyze the minutes of the conference, examine the personalities and roles of the participants, describe the main features of the new Albanian policy, reveal the hitherto unknown roots (e.g. African aspects) of this policy, and present the imperial interest group that managed to keep the new Albanian policy in operation for two decades, in spite of the fact that the people filling the roles of common ministers were constantly shifting.

Finally, it is worth clarifying the concepts used as a basis for a colonial interpretation of the Austro-Hungarian ventures in Albania. Though Albania was far from the only colony of the Monarchy on the eve of World War I, the colonial expansion pursued by the Ballhausplatz towards the territories inhabited by Albanians was a kind of mixture of “border colonization” and “construction of naval networks” described by Jürgen Osterhammel.4 Albanian politics was at once a border colonialism, as geographical Albania lay in the immediate vicinity of Austria-Hungary. On the other hand, it was also part of the strategies involved in the construction of naval networks, as the target area was surrounded by a wreath of huge mountains towards the Central Balkans, so the region was most easily approached from the sea.

Another source on which I draw in my interpretation of Austro-Hungarian expansionist efforts in Albania as an essentially colonial venture is an article by Trutz von Trotha on colonialism. According to Trotha, the distinctions historians draw among colonies should be based more on the forms of expansion and the goals set by the colonial power with respect to each individual colony than on classifications according to type (colony, protectorate, or mandate). Thus, building on this idea, I suggest that historians would be well to examine imperial expansion in Eastern Europe as a form of colonial expansion.5

The Ballhausplatz’s Colonization Efforts in the 1890s

Based on the monograph of Stephen Gross, Export Empire, we have reasons to suggest that the colonial policy pursued in the 1890s by the two Austro-Hungarian foreign ministers, Gustav von Kálnoky and Agenor Gołuchowski, was originally inspired by the work of the German chancellor Leo von Caprivi.6 Under Caprivi, the state became the most dominant actor in German (informal) colonialism. Caprivi sought to make Germany a much more active participant in the global project of colonialism than it had been in Bismarck’s time, but he did not seek to achieve his aims through a great power policy. He used the organizing power of the state and soft power policies to win the active support of German economic interest groups for his policies. Furthermore, he considered it necessary to win the support of broad sections of German society for the cause of colonialism. In order to do this, he gave active political support to the mass social organizations of the upper and middle classes which promoted colonialism, including, for instance, the Deutsche Kolonialgessellschaft (German Colonial Society).

Kálnoky and Gołuchowski started taking preparatory steps in the 1890s to transform Austria-Hungary into an openly colonial power. In the Austro-Hungarian foreign ministry, the questions of colonialism and emigration were entrusted to a separate organizational unit independent within Ballhausplatz. Gołuchowski also provided political support for Austrian civilian organizations which, through their lobbying and publishing activities, urged the participation of the Dual Monarchy in the colonial partition of the world. Finally, Gołuchowski strove to win the support of the political elites of the two empires: the two parliaments and the two delegations debated Gołuchowski’s ideas concerning possible colonial ventures during the annual negotiations concerning the joint budget (1898–1901).

In 1891, at Kálnoky’s instructions, Adalbert Fuchs, who worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was entrusted with the management of overseas and emigration affairs. In 1894, the reorganization of Fuchs’ office was ordered. However, the new organizational system, which was based on new departments or Referatur, was only put in place under Agenor Gołuchowski, who assumed the position of joint Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1895. The new III. Referatur, or third department, headed by Fuchs as section chief (Sektionschef), was entrusted with an array of tasks, including colonial policy and the emigration question (Kolonialpolitik und Auswanderungsfrage).7

This third department was created first and foremost because of economic considerations. The Austrian Empire enjoyed a flourishing period of industrial and commercial development at the turn of the century, and this naturally led to the emergence of new types of lobbying organizations. These organizations included a group of large banking consortia (Bodenkreditanstalt, Wiener Bankverein) and chambers of commerce and industry. Although these lobby groups did not have financial assets or backing that would have made them competitive in the spaces under the control of the great powers, they had enough spare capital to look for investment opportunities in Africa, Latin America, and even the Far East. They soon began to take a growing interest in the question of emigration. Many of their publicists who were engaged in propaganda in support of colonial ventures believed that, as was the case in other European states, the issue of emigration should be linked to the economic interests of Austria-Hungary on the African and Latin American continent. In other words, without active state involvement, the big Austrian banks and the chambers of industry and commerce did not dare take serious independent action. The creation of the third department was thus partly in the interests of the new lobby organizations.8

In 1894, Ernst Franz Weisl founded the Österreichisch-Ungarische Kolonial-Gesellschaft, or Austro-Hungarian Colonial Society, on the model of the German Colonial Society. The Society was established to promote the foreign economic interests of the Dual Monarchy and to win social support for the third department of Ballhausplatz. The society was under the political wing of Gołuchowki, and in the 1890s, it worked together with the Ballhausplatz consular network on several African endeavors (Rio de Oro, Morocco). The joint minister either maintained direct contact with them through the head of the third department or held personal meetings with their leaders. Gołuchowski encouraged his officials and consuls to serve as active figures in the society.9

In the delegation meetings and the parliamentary sessions held in both halves of the empire at the turn of the century, the possibility of Austro-Hungarian participation in global colonialism was raised during debates concerning the development of the navy and the budget of the joint ministries. It also came up in connection with the Spanish-American War and the suppression of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion.10 The majority of the Hungarian MPs consistently voted in favor of covering the expenditures of the navy fleet, despite the debates concerning public law. The minutes from meetings of the House of Representatives reveal that Hungary’s elected representatives opposed the idea of colonial policy in principle but not in practice. After 1867, most Hungarian deputies, both those of the governing coalition and the opposition, did not rule out the possibility that sometime in the distant future, if the conditions were favorable, Austria-Hungary or even Hungary might join the ranks of the powers who were leading the colonial division of the world, whether through force of arms or economic influence. By “favorable conditions,” they meant that Hungarian foreign trade and industry would share in the various opportunities and anticipated benefits in proportion to the so-called quota (the rate at which Hungary and Austria contribute to the costs of common affairs between the two states) or on a parity basis. It is also worth noting that, while supporters of a possible Austrian colonial project would have ventured into Africa, Latin America, or the Far East, the attention of those who were kindling visions of Hungarian imperialism was focused primarily on the Balkans, the peninsula where, according to the consensus of the members of the Budapest House of Representatives, Austria-Hungary already had a colony: Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Drawing on domestic political and public law considerations, the Hungarian prime ministers and the Budapest parliament managed to prevent Ballhausplatz from espousing an open and long-term colonial policy in Africa and the Far East at the turn of the century. Ministers of common civilian affairs drew a number of lessons from this failure. One of these lessons was the need to launch and finance, when the circumstances were auspicious, concrete colonial ventures without, however, calling political attention to their endeavors.

Ballhausplatz’s New Albania Policy

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Albania (understood as a geographical territory) began to play an increasingly important role in Ballhausplatz’s visions for the Balkans, primarily for reasons of foreign trade and foreign policy. The strategic importance of the region grew to such an extent for the empire that, at the turn of the century, the joint Viennese ministries announced a new Albanian policy. This was seen as necessary first and foremost to prevent the emergence of a Russian “iron ring” running alongside Austria-Hungary, from the German-Russian border to the Adriatic. But the new Albanian policy was also intended to help keep Italian and Serbian ambitions for the Eastern Adriatic at bay and to prepare the Dual Monarchy for the eventual collapse of the Ottoman Empire.11

The direct cause of the new Albanian policy on the eve of the turn of the century and a clear sign of the impending collapse of the Ottoman Empire was a memorandum written in early 1896. The memorandum was written by Muslim Albanian nobleman and later grand vizier of the empire, Ferit Bey Vlora of the Great House of Vlora (grand vizier: 1903–1908).12

In the 1890s, Albanian Muslims along the coast of Albania who earlier had been loyal Ottoman subjects were becoming increasingly convinced that the Ottoman Empire would soon disintegrate. Out of concern for the future of the Albanian territories and fearing the ambitions of the neighboring nation states, prominent Albanians who held high civil service or military positions in the capital formed a secret organization. Soon, several similar associations were formed in central and southern Albania. One of the goals of these associations was to cultivate the mother tongue (Albanian) and, through it, the national idea. Members of these circles were increasingly convinced that the Albanian people would never be able to create national and state unity on their own, given their cultural backwardness, their social and ideological fragmentation, the threats posed by neighboring peoples, and the sultan’s repressive policy towards the Albanian national movement. In their assessment, it would only be possible to create national and state unity with the help of a benevolent European great power.

In the early spring of 1896, Ferit Vlora, the leader of the Albanian nationalists in Constantinople, met with Austro-Hungarian ambassador Heinrich Calice to inquire about Ballhausplatz’s plans for Albania and to share his thoughts. He said that, thanks to its policy towards Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Austria-Hungary had managed to win the trust of Albanian Muslims. During the visit, Ferit Vlora gave Calice the abovementioned memorandum. It would be hard to overstate the importance of this document. A leading official of the Ottoman Empire was asking Austria-Hungary, a Christian European power, for protection for the Muslim-majority Albanian people.13

Ferit Vlora’s memorandum was essentially a detailed political plan, and it ended up serving as the basis of the program of the Vienna Conference of 1896 (where it was discussed) and the so-called Albanian Action Plans that were a product of the conference. Ferit Vlora asked Ballhausplatz to play a role as protector against the Balkan Slavs and also to launch a consistent policy of intervention against the sultanate in support of Albanian nationhood. This interventionist policy was to have a military side and an economic side. Ferit Vlora proposed that Austrian warships appear in Albanian ports as often as possible and that the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy acquire railway construction and operation concessions on the eastern Adriatic.14 In 1897, in a telegram to Ballhausplatz, Ferit Vlora’s younger brother Syrja Vlora went even further in his proposals: he called for the establishment of an independent Albania as an Austro-Hungarian protectorate.15

Ballhausplatz took the invitation seriously but also with measured caution. The Vlora brothers came from southern Albania, or in other words not from the traditional area of interest for Austria-Hungary. Until 1896, within the framework of the Catholic cult protectorate, only the Catholic Albanians living in the northern regions of geographical Albania belonged to Vienna’s jurisdiction. According to the treaties signed with the Ottoman Empire in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the concordat signed with the papal state in 1855, the duties of the cult protectorate included the protection of the free exercise of religion by local Catholics; the maintenance and operation of churches, schools, and other church buildings; providing training for the Albanian Catholic clergy; preventing taxation of the Church by the state; building new denominational schools and churches; providing financial and humanitarian assistance; and generally providing finances for the operation of the local Catholic Church and providing it with legal protection from the Ottoman authorities. The Vlora brothers were essentially calling for the political and economic extension of this sectarian and humanitarian protectorate power to all Albanians. While it kept this request secret from the outside world and from public opinion in both halves of the empire, Ballhausplatz embarked on a long-term policy of intervention.

Thus, in the name of an influential Muslim group, Ferit and Syrja Vlora, sought the active intervention of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in Ottoman internal affairs in the interest of the Albanians against their legitimate ruler, the sultan. When a group of subjects in Africa or Asia sought the active and long-term intervention of a foreign European power in order to assert their interests against their ruler and settle a local, internal political conflict, this is regarded in the secondary literature as the beginning of the establishment of the intervening European state as a colonial power. This type of request, after all, was one of the most important sources of legitimacy for the establishment of colonial rule at the time.16

Regrettably, none of the surviving sources contain information concerning Ferit Vlora’s views on contemporary European colonial issues. However, drawing on contemporary Ottoman sources, Leyla Amzi-Erdoğdular suggests that the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was as much an anti-colonial experience for Muslims in the Ottoman Empire as the loss of other lands which belonged to the empire in Asia and Africa. According to Amzi-Erdoğdular, in the eyes of the Muslims of the Ottoman Empire, the loss of European territories was qualitatively no different from the colonial annexation of Asian and African provinces.17

It would be worth noting, in connection with the independent political initiative taken by the Vlora brothers that they were not the only people to embark on this kind of undertaking among the Albanian pressure groups. In 1901, Haxhi Zeka Mulla, the political leader of the so-called League of Peja, which was a supra-confessional organization which urged Albanian national development, repeated the request, as did influential Kosovo landowner Jashar Erebara in 1903. Zeka and Erebara represented two Muslim Albanian pressure groups which had considerable influence in rural Albanian areas. Like the Vlora brothers, they believed that the fall of the Ottoman Empire was nigh, and Albanians would only be able to prosper under the protection of a great European power. Given of the tolerant policy shown by the Monarchy towards Muslims in Bosnia, both Zeka and Erebara saw Ballhausplatz as a suitable protectorate. Thus, Austro-Hungarian intervention was sought not only by a group of Constantinople officials and intellectuals with roots in southern Albania, but also by the leaders of political groups with influence in the Albanian vilayet of Kosovo.18

On November 17, December 8, and December 23, a conference was held to discuss the foundations of the new Albanian policy.19 The meetings were attended by the two aforementioned joint ministers, Agenor Gołuchowski and Benjámin Kállay, and several experts were also invited. Head of Department Eduard Horowitz, the leading official in the joint Ministry of Finance, managed affairs concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina and was also involved in Kállay’s activities in connection with the World Expositions. Julius Zwiedinek von Sündenhorst, a former student at the Academy of Oriental Languages in Vienna (which trained consuls, interpreters, and economists), was the leading official at Ballhausplatz. He was recognized not only as an expert on Albanian affairs, but also as an international authority and publicist on the Ottoman Empire, trade in the east, the Levant, and Syria.20

Norbert Schmucker, another former student at the Oriental Academy, had served in various Albanian consulates between 1881 and 1893. He was invited to the conference in part because he had served as Consul General of Austria-Hungary in Bombay from 1893 to 1896, he was familiar with the Indian subcontinent, and he had been a member of the Austro-Hungarian Colonial Society since 1896 and was one of its liaisons to the Foreign Ministry.21

The aforementioned Adalbert Fuchs, head of department for colonial policy, was invited by the common foreign minister. Earlier, Fuchs had been responsible for an array of tasks, including keeping an eye on the territories (mostly in Africa and Asia) to which the Habsburg dynasty or the Common Foreign Office had internationally acknowledged religious, economic, or political claims. He was also responsible for organizing, on request, communication and shipping ties with the regions that had caught the interest of politicians in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy who were eager to pursue colonial ventures.22

Four additional experts were later invited to assist with the implementation of the decisions reached at the conference. Kállay brought in Lajos Thallóczy as an expert on Orientalism, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Albania.23 Consul General in Shkodra (Northern Albania) Theodor Ippen was called on by the Joint Foreign Minister, partly because of his experience as a civilian envoy in the Novi Pazar Sanjak. Although Ballhausplatz did not include Austria-Hungary’s experiences in the sanjaks (which contemporary historian Tamara Scheer has interpreted as informal imperialism)24 among the colonial ventures, the secondary literature on British Punjab (North-West Frontier Province) suggests that it might well be worth regarding them as such.25 The Novi Pazar Sanjak in the Balkans and the Punjab in India served very similar functions. While there were differences in the international legal status of the two territories and in the titles of possession, these were the two regions through which the Dual Monarchy and the British Empire could reach the interior of the Ottoman Empire and Central Asia and pursue their ambitions to conquer and control more territory. The tasks and functions of the military occupation regimes, administration, civilian commissioners, and railway construction plans in the two regions are largely comparable.

After graduating from the Academy of Oriental Languages, Julius Pisko served as a consul in Belgrade, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and (geographical) Albania.26 He trained himself to be an expert in colonial affairs precisely under the influence of his experiences in Albania. In 1902–1903, he took part in the SMS Zenta mission to Africa and Latin America, which had three objectives: to demonstrate Austria-Hungary’s great power status, to demonstrate the Monarchy’s military capabilities on the ocean, and to make trade policy surveys and gather statistics. As a participant in the military mission, Pisko visited the British, French, German, Portuguese, and Belgian colonies in Africa and studied them as a trade correspondent for the common foreign office. He also assessed possibilities for Austro-Hungarian economic colonization on the African continent. He regularly sent reports both to the joint ministries and to the Austrian and Hungarian governments. On the basis of his work as a publicist, Pisko seems to have identified, in the course of his travels, with the supremacist, racist views which undergirded the British and French colonial projects. Like all the Austro-Hungarian consuls who later took part in the ventures in Albania, he became a member of the Flottenverein (in 1906). The Flottenverein was a mass Austrian social organization which, on behalf of its several thousand members, demanded of the joint ministries and the governments of the two halves of the empire that the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy play an active role in the colonial partition of the world.27

Heinrich Calice recommended to the conference organizers that they also invite Albanian monk Prenk Doçi. Doçi had taken part in the League of Prizren’s uprising against the Ottoman Empire (1878–1881). He escaped execution by fleeing to Rome with the help of the Austro-Hungarian consular service, which turned to Propaganda Fide to help Doçi escape. In Rome, Doçi became secretary to Cardinal Antonio Agliardi, a papal diplomat, who took him first to Canada and then to India as apostolic delegate between 1884 and 1889. During his two major trips to India, Agliardi was entrusted with the task of reorganizing the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the complex political, administrative, ethnic, and sectarian context of the subcontinent and preparing a concordat on the local modus vivendi with Portugal. He developed a close working relationship with Doçi, one of the consequences of which was that, during the Balkan wars, as nuncio in Vienna, he often presented himself as one of the papacy’s experts on Albania.28 It is perhaps worth noting that, in August 1913, the cardinal, who had visited India, referred to the Austro-Hungarian protectorate in Albania as the jewel in Franz Joseph’s crown.29

As part of the Albanian initiatives, Doçi wrote a memorandum for the common foreign ministry in 1897 in which made concrete suggestions concerning the potential organization of Albania as a state. If one examines his proposals, which included a Catholic Principality in northern Albania as an autonomous administrative unit which would be formally dependent on the sultan but practically dependent on Austria-Hungary, it seems quite possible that Doçi drew on Indian examples when drafting his memorandum.30

The Role of Benjámin Kállay in Launching Operations in Albania

The minutes of the conference reveal that the Joint Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Joint Ministry of Finance played different strategic roles in shaping the new Albanian policy. Foreign Minister Agenor Gołuchowski was looking primarily for answers to logistical and political questions, for instance where and with whom the so-called “Albanian actions” should be carried out and how the Albanian consulates should be reorganized. In contrast, Benjamin Kállay, the Joint Minister of Finance, wanted to implement the new policy within the framework of a complex great power operation. Kállay determined first and foremost the means which would be used to influence the Albanians and the practical tasks which would need to be carried out in support of Albanian nation building. His main proposal was for Vienna to draft an organizational charter for a future Albanian principality which would lay the foundations for a state which would be formally independent but would practically function as an Austro-Hungarian protectorate.31

The strategy adopted by Kállay in 1896 was based largely on his experiences as governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina and his knowledge of British colonial practices. In order to assert the interests of the Monarchy as a great power, Kállay proposed that the plan of action should include the distribution of arms and ammunition to the Albanians and that Ballhausplatz should openly take the side of the former in the recurring Albanian-Montenegrin border disputes. In his assessment, these two steps would offer an immediate sign of the strength of the protections being offered by Austria-Hungary and would win allies for Vienna. Kállay also suggested that some influential Albanian political and military leaders should be provided with financial subsides from time to time through the consulates.32

According to Kállay, an active economic policy was indispensable for the Albanian actions to succeed. In his view, the Austro-Hungarian press should pursue active propaganda to increase trade with the Albanian territories. Albanian merchants, he felt, should be able to bring their goods to Vienna, as this would help win their support. Furthermore, he felt that a trading house should be established to carry out the essential functions of mediation in order to nurture trade between the Dual Monarchy and Albania. Kállay also considered it important that, instead of relying on smaller shipping companies, Ballhausplatz get the Trieste-based Austrian Lloyd, the largest Austrian shipping company, for “special and regular service to Albania.” Head of the colonial department Adalbert Fuchs, who organized shipping connections with Albanian ports, was entrusted with this task. Within a few years, the transport link between Austria-Hungary and Albania was established. The aforementioned Austrian Lloyd and Ungaro-Croata, the largest Hungarian steamship company (Fiume), operated the ship services.33

Although historians have only rarely made the economic expansion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its trade relations with the eastern Adriatic between 1896 and 1914 the focus of their studies, unpublished archival sources reveal that an Austrian businessman and banker named Paul Siebertz established a department store and printing press in the southern Albanian port town of Vlora in the early years of the twentieth century and even bought a hotel at some point. The infrastructure created by Siebertz furthered the interests of Austro-Hungarian imperial expansion because it physically linked the center to the periphery at a historic moment when not only Ballhausplatz but also the Austrian Industrialists’ Association was aiming to acquire Vlora, together with Thessaloniki. Siebertz’s endeavors also helped consolidate pre-capitalist conditions in the region.34

We also know that Zef Curani, an Albanian from the city of Shkodra in northern Albania who had studied at the Vienna Commercial Academy, was one of the Albanian merchants who came into contact with Ballhausplatz as a consequence of the new policy. Curani’s principal tasks in the implementation of operations in Albania included information gathering, propaganda, arms smuggling, nation building, and the creation of a single Albanian alphabet. Ballhausplatz rewarded Curani for his services with regular subsidies. The joint foreign ministry also gave him a financial incentive in the development of Austro-Hungarian-Albanian trade relations: in the summer of 1913, for example, he handled all the shipments of goods between Oboti and Shkodra (northern Albania) on the Buna River to and from the Monarchy (he enjoyed a monopoly), and he received a share of the profits from these shipments. The relationship between Ballhausplatz and Curani offers a clear example of the kind of soft power imperialism described by Stephen Gross in his aforementioned monograph Export Empire.

In connection with the idea of supporting Albanian nation building, Kállay had two fundamental questions in mind. First, he sought to strengthen the social groups and organizations that were capable of shouldering the burden of modern nation building and on which Austria-Hungary could rely. Second, he wanted to nurture national sentiment among Albanians who belonged to social strata which had hitherto been indifferent to the national idea. Kállay wanted to use the new subsidy policy to exert an influence on three social groups: members of the Albanian Catholic Church, Muslim beys from impoverished but respectable families of noble birth, and members of the Albanian diasporas abroad.35

Kállay wanted to transform the Catholic Church into a national church. While it was true that the episcopacy in Albania was indeed comprised of Albanians, most of the lower clergy and monastic orders consisted of Italians or pro-Italian priests who were involved in political propaganda in the interests of Italy. Kállay therefore proposed that, in cooperation with the Vatican and the Jesuit order, the noviciates who were being sent to the Albanian territories would in the future be chosen from among young people of Albanian nationality who were studying theology in the seminaries in Austria-Hungary. With this proposal, Kállay sought, in essence, to reconcile the interests of the Catholic Church with Austria-Hungary’s foreign policy interests so that the latter would dominate. Kállay made two demands that he expected to be met in exchange for more financial support through the institution of the protectorate: the clergy should actively spread pro-Albanian national propaganda and, politically, it should be loyal to Ballhausplatz’s visions. Otherwise, the subsidies would drop or be cut off, or Vienna could even find a way to compel a given monastic order to leave the region.36

Kállay agreed with Ferit Vlora’s memorandum, and he felt it was important to make the Albanians understand that Austria-Hungary was not supporting a denomination, but rather hoped to further the creation of an independent Albania where Catholics and Muslims would strive together to achieve national goals. He urged the participants in the conference to harness the ambitions of influential beys to reach these goals. The quantities and frequency of the subsidies given to individuals, he felt, should depend on the extent to which the beneficiaries took clear political stances.37

The method suggested by Kállay (and later adopted) of selecting the beys is reminiscent of the ways in which the British Empire in West Africa drew distinctions between “good” and “bad” Muslims. Formally, Ballhausplatz strove to maintain a neutral attitude towards the various Muslim groups in Albania, but it supported and strengthened the power, economic sway, and influence of the social stratum of beys who cooperated with it. The Austro-Hungarian consular network, furthermore, was increasingly willing to engage in conflicts with the group of officials running the Ottoman administration when their endeavors threatened the sustainability of the social order. The disruption of the social status quo would have had repercussions which would have been felt on the international stage.38

Kállay also suggested that the planned operations should be extended beyond the Albanian territories and that subsidies should be provided to influence the cultural organizations of the Albanian diasporas in Bucharest and Sofia. The print materials published by these cultural organizations in Albanian and then smuggled into the territory of the Ottoman Empire could be used to propagate a national Albanian idea that was also pro-Austrian. The conference adopted and implemented Kállay’s proposals.

When Albania declared its independence in 1912, of the four large groups of the founding fathers (members of the so-called great houses, refugees, beys, and intellectuals who belonged to the diasporas), the latter two became influential political factors in Albanian society, both because of the unusual political circumstances and to no small extent thanks to the support they were given by Austria-Hungary.39

If one considers Kállay’s proposals from the perspective of the prevailing colonial practices at the time, the new subsidy policy seems to have functioned in part as a tool with which to maintain the diversity of Albanian society by creating a new hierarchy between and within groups which was then controlled and overseen through subsidies. The creation of a national Catholic Church meant that, within the new hierarchy, some orders (Jesuits) enjoyed conspicuously more support, while others (Franciscans) had to make do with less. The deal offered to the Catholic Church in 1896 meant unequal conditions and political subordination for Propaganda Fides on Albanian territory, since the amounts of the subsidies received through the Austro-Hungarian protectorate were also determined by the political reliability shown to Ballhausplatz.

The same logic was applied in secular society to the funding provided for the selected Muslim beys. The Austro-Hungarian consular network identified bey families which, fundamentally because of their economic circumstances, had drifted into the camp of internal opposition to the Ottoman Empire. Their opposition had become an important means of expressing their commitment to the Albanian language and the Albanian national movement (one could mention, for example, the Toptani family in central Albania). As a reward for their political loyalty to Austria, Ballhausplatz began to strengthen the economic position of this social group and its place in Albanian society. Austria-Hungary’s ability to use the beys as tools to achieve its ends was limited, however, by the fact that Italy, in pursuit of its own imperialist interests, also began to finance this social group, as well as the members of the lower priesthood, who were partly Italian.40

All in all, the implementation of the new Albanian policy was successful and remained secret partly because it was possible to avoid calling any attention to the measures among political circles by bypassing the two parliaments on the issue of funding. There was always enough money for the Albanian policy without it appearing anywhere as a separate budget item. Through the item of “Catholic churches in Levant,” Ballhausplatz could use monies provided for the common ministries to pursue its aims in Albania. In addition, since 1864, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been handling the so-called “united Oriental funds,” which were pooled from the assets of two civil foundations (the Sklavenredemptionsfond and the Orientalische Missionsfond). The pooled funds were basically used to run Catholic schools and missions in the Ottoman Empire. If additional funds were needed for the new Albanian policy, these budgets could be increased without attracting notice.41 (For a thorough account of the concrete details and statistics concerning the use of these funds, see the monographs by Schanderl, Schwanda, Toleva, Deusch, and Gostentschnigg.)

The monarch also regularly used monies from the private funds of the Habsburg family to support the Catholic archdioceses in Albania. The sources contain no concrete indication of the Emperor and King having used these funds to finance political enterprises in Albania, but it is worth noting that as early as 1858, Franz Joseph had given permission to finance specific colonial projects, such as Wilhelm Tegetthoff’s expedition to the Red Sea, by secretly using state funds through the private funds of his brother Archduke Maximilian.42

Pax Austro-Hungarica

The participants in the Vienna Conference of 1896 thus adopted a policy of subsidies intended to ensure that, in time, the eastern Adriatic would come under the sway of a prince who would rule under an Austro-Hungarian protectorate. Since the minutes of the conference do not reveal what pattern the protectorate would follow, it is worth keeping in mind that two great powers, Russia and Great Britain, had already used this form of rule not far from the Albanian territories. In the eastern Balkans, Russia had held the Romanian principalities (1830s) and Bulgaria (1878–1885) under its power as a protectorate. Similarly, in the nineteenth century, the so-called Septinsular Republic (1797–1812) in the Ionian Islands near the Albanian coast enjoyed protections as a British protectorate, as did Malta (1800–1813) and Cyprus (1878–1914) in the Mediterranean. In each of these territories, the role of the British Empire as protector was a sort of next step to colonization: United States of the Ionian Islands (former Septinsular Republic) was under British colonial rule from 1815 to 1864, and Malta became a Crown colony in 1813, followed by Cyprus a century later, in 1922.43

For Ballhausplatz, of the two protectorate models, the Russian was preferable, as the Ballhausplatz officials envisioned a prince and principality in Albania after the possible collapse of the Ottoman Empire rather than an administration led by a governor or administrator.

Kállay proposed that an organizational statute be drafted for the future Albanian principality, a suggestion which indicates that he may have been drawing not only on the models of Wallachia and Moldavia, but also the smaller Ottoman units with administrative autonomy and mixed Muslim-Christian populations. These units—Samos (1834), Lebanon (1860–1864), Crete (1868, 1898), and Eastern Rumelia (1878)—had been given an organizational statute (reglement/statut organique) in the nineteenth century with international assistance. As the Austro-Hungarian delegate, Kállay had participated in the drafting of the latter’s organizational statute.

In the formulation of concrete action programs, or in other words, the operations that it was hoped would lead to the creation of a protectorate, the participants in the 1896 conference drew heavily on the example of Syria. The activities of the French consuls in Syria after 1861 and the new methods they had developed to exert an influence on the local population were incorporated into the practices of Austro-Hungarian consuls. But alongside the international models, Ballhausplatz drew at least as much on its own imperial experiences and practices. Ballhausplatz adopted practices which had been used in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Novi Pazar Sanjak, and it took into consideration and learned from the experiences of the Austro-Hungarian consulate in Khartoum in Sudan (see below).44

After the conference, the various tasks were divided up among the joint ministries. Under the influence of the theoretical and practical guidance of Lajos Thallóczy, the focus of Kállay’s line was primarily on nation-building tasks. They decided to publish a textbook in Albanian on Albanian national history for Albanian ethnic schools. To further the creation of a uniform Latin alphabet, literature programs were launched in Vienna, Borgo Erizzo (or Arbanasi in Croatian and Arbneshi in Albanian, where the population was Albanian-speaking) in Dalmatia, Brussels (where the French-language journal Albanie was published), Bucharest, and Sofia. Several Albanian-language publications were published as part of the program. The joint Ministry of Finance also strove to put forward economic and trade action plans.

The Gołuchowski line undertook political tasks: preparing the Albanian elite and intellectuals for the state-building project; logistical and financial support for the Albanian national movement; and the development of a consular network able to carry out the new tasks.

Although the idea arose of creating a separate department within the joint foreign ministry for the oversight and organization of the new Albanian policy, ultimately, the operations were carried out by the Albanian experts at Ballhausplatz, who worked within the existing organizational structure.45 (Unfortunately, the sources reveal little concerning what the actual responsibilities of this Albanian department would have been.) Lajos Thallóczy selected the consul candidates for the program from among the students at the Academy of Oriental Languages in Vienna, where Thallóczy himself was also an instructor. After having completed their studies at the academy, the candidates attended a six to twelve month continued training course on site, i.e., at the Albanian consulates, where they learned Albanian and acquired knowledge of the circumstances on the ground. Training courses were also organized for these emerging Albania experts in Borgo Erizzo. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs worked together with the Dalmatian governorate to organize Albanian language courses in the local schools in part for Austrian and Hungarian citizens who voluntarily sought, either as civilians or as soldiers, to participate in the implementation of the new Albanian policy. Those who received training in these schools included Heinrich Clanner von Engelshofen, for instance, who was a confidante of Joint Chief of Staff Conrad and the most important intelligence officer for Joint Staff and Ballhausplatz in Albania.46

The allotment to the consuls of the tasks involved in the Albanian operations was the result of a concerted effort by the two joint ministries. The preservation of the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire was still a primary interest for Austria-Hungary, and the preparations underway for the creation of an Albanian state were merely a cautionary step in anticipation of the imminent collapse of the empire, so the consuls had to operate in secret.

Thus, the consuls could not do anything to alter the organizational system of the Ottoman state administration, and they had to build their policies on local structures. Ballhausplatz gave them a free hand in this and did not exercise close supervision over them. Nonetheless, even if the Albanian policies were broken down to the level of the sanjak, they were to be implemented in a coordinated manner. The consuls had to be fluent in Albanian and familiar with local customs and conditions, and they had to build up their own networks of contacts by traveling regularly within the territories of their offices. The consul was expected to build a network of contacts to ensure that, through him, Austria-Hungary would gain prestige as a protector power and would be able to propagate its vision of the values of civilization. The consuls had to prevail on the Albanian beys to turn to them with their complaints and to seek them out as representatives of their interests and sources of advice, and not the state administration or state officials. The Austro-Hungarian consuls took this pattern from the practice of the French consuls in Syria. The primary means used to build a network of contacts were the distribution of gifts and distinctions of various kinds, regular or temporary subsidies, personal visits (e.g. extended stays with the bey families), measures taken against the state authorities, support for education in Albanian, and cultural and financial support for the Albanian national movement. Ballhausplatz also provided logistical support for the leaders of the national movement: they could bypass the controlled communication channels of the Ottoman Empire by using the local branches of the Austrian Post and Austrian Lloyd, which meant that the secrets contained in their letters were safe.47

All in all, the responsibilities and tasks of the consuls described above, the push for the transformation of the Albanian social hierarchy, and the efforts to promote economic expansion were little more than a west Balkan, Austro-Hungarian adaptation of the everyday practices used by the so-called indirect rule protectorates, which were based essentially on the British models in Africa and Asia. The fact that the Joint Chiefs of Staff allowed the military fleet to make regular demonstrations of force in Albanian ports in Ottoman territorial waters buttresses this claim. Indeed, an annual show of military force was one of the features of the British indirect rule in West Africa.48

For as should be noted, Ballhausplatz’s new Albanian policy also enjoyed the support of the joint staff. In a memorandum of April 2, 1897, Chief of the General Staff Friedrich Beck pushed for the creation of an independent, pro-Vienna Albania, which he supported with reference to allegedly “vital” reasons.49 He considered it important to have a strong presence on the eastern Adriatic coast for two reasons from a military point of view. First, control of the area would ensure free passage for Austria-Hungary’s military and merchant fleets to the Mediterranean through the Otranto Strait. Second, it would give the Monarchy a strategic position just to the south of Serbia and Montenegro.50 In effect, Beck’s plan would have meant the creation of a cordon sanitaire in Albania that would have protected the sea route, the free use of which was essential if Austria-Hungary sought to maintain its status as a great power. The chief of the General Staff (and Ballhausplatz) was merely adopting a common practice of colonial great powers: the British Empire, for example, surrounded its sea routes to India with a network of British protectorates in order to ensure that these routes remained safe for its ships.51

Beck adopted a committed imperialist policy: he asked the Austro-Hungarian consuls in Albania to gather geographical, cartographic, and infrastructural data. He was prepared, furthermore, to carry out independent military operations in Albanian territory, and he accepted the proposal which had been made by Ferit Vlora and allowed units of the joint navy to make regular demonstrations of force. One of the primary tasks of the units of the fleet that were deployed was to give Albanians a tangible demonstration of Austria-Hungary’s military capabilities and the protections they enjoyed as a kind of protectorate. The first such demonstration was held in 1902, when the SMS Monarch (1895), SMS Wien (1895), and SMS Budapest (1896), three vessels which belonged to a relatively new class of battleship, docked in Durrës, a coastal city with the largest port in Albania.52

In the first decade of the twentieth century, Austria-Hungary’s new Albanian policy led to serious great power rivalry between the Monarchy and Italy over the assertion of influence in Albania. To this day, the secondary literature on the subject has reduced this great power rivalry, which unfolded in the ecclesiastical, economic, and cultural spheres, to the phenomenon of informal imperialism.53 Yet the interests of the two great powers collided in another fringe territory of the Ottoman Empire, namely the Sudan. North Africa was an important cornerstone not only of Austria-Hungary’s Balkan policy but also of Italy’s.

Ballhausplatz’s Experiences in the Sudan

Historians who have done research on the Austro-Hungarian empire’s policy in the Balkans have paid little attention to the fact that Ballhausplatz’s ambitions in southeastern Europe went hand in hand with its presence in North Africa in the 1880s and 1890s. As early as the British occupation of Egypt and the 1882 Constantinople Conference to address the resulting Egyptian uprising, it had been perfectly clear to joint Foreign Minister Gustav von Kálnoky that any shift of power in Egypt would automatically give rise to international tensions in the Balkans, thus making it difficult to stabilize the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and hampering Austria-Hungary’s efforts to position itself in southeastern Europe. Furthermore, the conflict in Egypt threatened Austria-Hungary’s economic markets in the Levant. This was primarily why Ballhausplatz took an active political stance in North Africa during these two decades. In the great power rivalry, Ballhausplatz took part in diplomatic negotiations in support of British foreign policy interests.54

But how did Ballhausplatz end up getting involved in affairs in the Sudan? From the outset, in the 1840s, the Catholic missionaries from the Habsburg Empire, while spreading the faith and fighting the slave trade, very consciously sought to acquire economic markets for the empire in the region. In 1850, the Khartoum consulate was established to provide political protection for the missions. The Habsburg Consulate and the Catholic missions (Apostolic Vicariate of Central Africa, 1846) immediately developed a symbiotic relationship with each other, and under their oversight, religious and ecclesiastical affairs became completely intertwined (“indivisibiliter ac inseparabiliter”) with commercial and political affairs. That was in part a consequence of the support shown by the Franz Joseph for the Catholic missions founded by the subjects of the Habsburg Empire in 1851. A letter written in 1850 by the Slovenian Father Ignacij Knoblehar, who headed the missionaries, suggests that the monks involved in the mission were aware that, with their work, they could help further the process of colonization.55

The symbiosis between the missions in the Sudan and the Habsburg Consulate in Khartoum was so strong and their commercial ambitions so encouraging that Charles Augustus Murray, the British consul General in Alexandria (and also a man who acquired a reputation as an author of fiction), initiated the establishment of a British consulate in Khartoum. At Murray’s suggestion, in 1850, John Petherick was appointed consul. Petherick was a merchant and mining expert with a strong knowledge of Arabic and the local conditions. In his reports to the Foreign Office in the 1860s, Petherick repeatedly accused Austria of using its local representatives to organize a colony at the confluence of the White and Blue Niles. Even if Ballhausplatz had entertained this idea, in the 1890s, political colonization had long since ceased to be one of the Dual Monarchy’s aims in the Sudan.56

When developing the new Albanian policy, which of its experiences in the Sudan did Ballhausplatz learn draw on? The consulates in Khartoum and Albania were able to work closely with the denominational structure of the protectorate under the same conditions because they were all formally subject to the same international agreements. The Ottoman sultans had consented to the establishment of Habsburg Catholic missions and consulates in the Sudan and in the Albanian territories in the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718 and the Treaty of Belgrade in 1739.57

The Austro-Hungarian consulates in the Sudan and Albania had one important thing in common: the consults sent by Ballhausplatz to both areas were well-qualified, multilingual, and had studied at the Academy of Oriental Languages in Vienna. This stood in sharp contrast to the practices of other great powers, which appointed people from very mixed backgrounds to similar posts.58

Although state interests and the interests of the Catholic Church were traditionally intertwined in the practices of the Austro-Hungarian foreign policy missions in the Ottoman Empire (the ambassador and consuls in Constantinople were also officials of the cult protectorate), the situations of the consulates in Khartoum and Albania differed from the situations of the other consulates. The Common Foreign Office coordinated its policies in the Balkans and North Africa in the last two decades of the nineteenth century: in order to appear as a successful great power in the former, it abandoned its previously acquired positions in the latter and supported the British Foreign Office. Albania and the Sudan, however, were on the periphery of the Ottoman Empire, where the various great powers had conflicting interests. In the Sudan, the British, French, Italian, and Egyptians competed to assert their interests. In Albania, Ottoman, Italian, Austro-Hungarian, and French ambitions collided.

The experiences in the Sudan were also useful in the development of the new Albanian policy because the work of the consulate in Khartoum was intertwined not only with the management of the protectorate but also with the efforts to handle the political tensions that had developed with Italy over the operation of the protectorate. These tensions stemmed essentially from the two problems discussed below, each of which also affected the work of Propaganda Fide.

Although 90 percent of the missions were financed by the Monarchy or the recently unified Germany, the institutions where the next generation of missionaries was trained were still in Italy (which also had unified in the meantime), in territories which had belonged to the Habsburgs. With the birth of the modern Italian state, Italian missionaries became increasingly committed to serving their government’s aspirations for power. While the Ballhausplatz consuls and the personal commitment of Franz Joseph provided political protections for the missions in the Sudan and the missions were financed almost entirely by the German-speaking regions of Europe, many Italian missionaries were increasingly supportive of Italy’s great power aspirations. They were encouraged in their work by the ambitions of the Italian state in neighboring Ethiopia and Somalia. According to Walter Sauer, the missionary order in the Sudan, which was created by Daniele Comboni, pursued a similar nationalist church policy.59

The other conflict of a legal nature related to the cult protectorate concerned the exercise of consular functions. In international relations, it has long been accepted that each state has formalized the right to protect its citizens in foreign affairs affecting its citizens. For many missionaries, the creation of a unified Italy means a change of nationality (or more precisely, citizenship). One could think of the aforementioned Daniele Comboni (1831–1881), for instance, who was one of the most prominent leaders of the Vicariate of Central Africa and who, from one moment to the next, went from being a Habsburg subject to being a subject of the House of Savoy. For decades, the Austro-Hungarian and Italian consuls struggled in their day-to-day workings with the legal complexities of this change of citizenship. Some Italian consuls were also sometimes eager to intervene in the affairs of Catholic clergy who, although Italian nationals, were Austrian citizens.60

The activities of missionaries of Italian nationality and Italy’s great power ambitions in North Africa created lasting friction between Ballhausplatz, the Consulta (the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and Propaganda Fide (1866–1890). These frictions may have played a role in the decision of the papacy to work together with Austria-Hungary in its ecclesiastical policy in the Albanian territories at the turn of the century. The events which had taken place in the Sudan were repeated: this was why, in part, Balhausplatz sought to replace members of the lower clergy and the orders in Albania who were of Italian nationality with Albanian priests educated in Austria.

It is worth keeping in mind, in the interests of understanding the broader context, that, in connection with the cult protectorate, in the last decades of the nineteenth century, Austria-Hungary was confronted in North Africa and Albania not only by Italy but also by France. The French state had an older protectorate over Catholics in the Ottoman Empire dating back to the sixteenth century. Furthermore, in the nineteenth century, the French cult protectorate also went beyond its denominational borders and became an instrument with which France could pursue political aims. Between 1878 and 1903, the governments in Paris attempted to take the position of the Austro-Hungarian cult protectorate in the Albanian territories from the papacy.61

At the same time, as the French colonial ventures got closer and closer to the Austrian mission houses in the Sudan, the French Catholic Church wanted to annex the Vicariate of Central Africa too. It made its first attempt to do in the 1860s, when Franz Binder from Transylvania was serving as consul in Khartoum. The second attempt came during the Mahdi uprising, when Europeans were forced to flee the Sudan. Charles Martial Allemand Lavigerie, cardinal of Carthage and Algiers and Primate of Africa, was laboring ambitiously to Christianize the continent. With the help of Propaganda Fide, Lavigerie was able to get his hands on the two most important Austrian mission houses, Gondokoro and Heiligenkreuz. After the British put down the Mahdi uprising, the two mission houses were returned to the Vicariate of Central Africa. They were returned not only because the British sought to push the French out of the region. The events were also shaped by the fact that British General Charles Gordon, who was leading the efforts to consolidate the Sudan politically, was working alongside Rudolf Carl von Slatin, an Austrian colonial figure who had entered British service (and who had been raised to the rank of Pasha by the Ottomans).62

Finally, it is worth considering why it was possible for the Monarchy to benefit directly in Albania from its experiences in the Sudan. This was due primarily to the simple fact that, since the early 1880s, however Ballhausplatz’s internal organization (the grouping of cases and referrals) shifted, the European, Asian, and African territories of the Ottoman Empire and its vassal states in Europe and Africa were always in the hands of the same referent. In 1896, this was Julius Zwiedinek, who was entrusted in part with developing concrete plans for the Albanian operations (the other person in charge of the Albanian action plans was the aforementioned Norbert Schmucker, who at the time was the Austro-Hungarian consul general in Bombay).63

Another clear indication of the ways in which the cult protectorate policies in the Sudan and Albania had an impact on each other after 1896 is the fact that, in accordance with Ballhausplatz’s system for managing documents, the consulate in Khartoum received extracts or copies of some of the statistics concerning payments related to operations in Albania. Accordingly, duplicates of certain cult protectorate documents relating to Albania (understood as a geographical region) were also filed under the heading “Africa” in the Austrian State Archives.64

Later evidence that Ballhausplatz’s Balkan and Albanian policy was not completely divorced from its approach to North Africa is found in the person of Aristoteles Petrović. Petrović left his post as consul general in Alexandria to become the Austro-Hungarian delegate to the International Control Commission for Albania, which was formed in 1913. Petrović was also one of the experts in charge of colonial affairs for and a confidant of Leopold Berchtold, the joint foreign minister.65

The Albanian Lobby

In time, the people responsible for the implementation of the decisions reached at the 1896 conference and the participants in the operations in Albania formed a lobby which, by the year of annexation, had grown into an imperial interest group. Kurt Gostentschnigg devoted an entire monograph of several hundred pages to a detailed presentation of the activities of this lobby, including the ways in which it influenced Ballhausplatz’s Albania policy, so in the discussion below I limit myself to the most important features of this interest group.66

The Albania lobby never formally organized into an association. It was very heterogeneous, as it was made up of loosely connected subgroups. Members were recruited from different social strata and ethnicities, and they joined the lobby for varying reasons and with varying aims. However, the interest group did have a strong Catholic, aristocratic character. The subgroups consisted of diplomatic officials, military officers, aristocrats, scientists, scholars, journalists, and one official-historian. For the most part, they were indifferent to Albania. In their eyes, the Albanian cause was little more than a means of demonstrating the strength and unity of Austria-Hungary as an empire, both to the outside world and domestically. In the last decade and a half of the Dual Monarchy, they came together to form a supranational lobby which, step by step, brought Ballhausplatz’s Albania policy under its influence.

The lobby was both the driving force behind Austro-Hungarian policy towards Albania and the source of expertise on the culture and region. The interest group functioned within the sphere of the joint Foreign Ministry. Some of its members were also ministry officials or consuls. In time, they emerged as experts on the Albanian question in the eyes of the relevant policymakers. Step by step, they instrumentalized the foreign ministry and, through it, the consular network. They participated in Albanian nation-building and state-building as external ethnic entrepreneurs.67 This was possible because the changes in personnel at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not drastically hamper the work of the lobby and its pursuit of the original program. The Albanian beys and the diaspora communities involved in Vienna’s project and the various political and cultural operations undertaken in the service of this project were able to count on continuous subsidies from Vienna over the span of some two decades. In the first decade of the new century, some members of the lobby were also continuously recruiting new members who were committed to the imperialist Austro-Hungarian Albanian policy: experts in the Foreign Ministry who had been in charge of Albanian affairs since 1896 were joined at Ballhausplatz for the most part by new young people selected and appointed for this purpose from among the students at the Oriental Academy by Lajos Thallóczy (including, for instance, Carl Buchberger and Konstantin Bilinski Jr.).

In addition to the work of the lobby, another important part of the background of Vienna’s aspirations and operations in Albania was the birth of Albanian studies as a modern, scientific discipline in Austria-Hungary. In the 1850s, Habsburg consuls serving in Albanian territories began, purely out of their own interests, to pursue scholarly research in which they examined questions concerning the linguistic, ethnographic, and historical aspects of the almost unknown Albanian people.68 In time, their research was published in book form. As the great powers began to take an increasing interest in Albania, some of the most eminent Balkan historians of the time also started studying Albanian history, including for instance the Czech historian Konstantin Jireček, the Croatian Milan Šufflay, and the aforementioned Thallóczy.69 By the turn of the century, modern Albanian studies had claimed its place as one of the philological sciences. By supporting this new discipline, Ballhausplatz gained another opportunity to increase the support it enjoyed among the activists of the Albanian national movement, much as it also gained new opportunities to arrive at clearer assessments of the economic potential of the Albanian territories and to arrive at a more precise scholarly and statistical understanding of Albania.

Though the new discipline of Albanian studies was not the product of great power politics, it nonetheless was in a closely symbiotic relationship with the politics of Ballhausplatz after 1896 and with members of the Albanian lobby. Officials in the common foreign ministry regarded Albanian studies as an imperial discipline. In 1911, Head of Department Karl Macchio noted in a summary for internal use that the study of Albanian culture and history played the same role for Austria-Hungary as Egyptology did for France and Mesopotamian studies for Britain. All three disciplines were important because of the interests and aims of the great powers in the east, and the financial support that was provided was an indispensable part of great power politics. It is worth noting, however that unlike Egyptology and Mesopotamian studies, Albanian studies not only gained an institutionalized form in Austria-Hungary.70

Conclusion and Epilogue

Though the archival sources that I have drawn on in the course of this inquiry avoided the use of the contemporary colonial terminology, in my view, one can confidently regard the new Austro-Hungarian Albanian policy of 1896 as a fundamentally colonial policy. On the one hand, the Austro-Hungarian ventures in Albania fit Osterhammel’s concepts of “border colonization” and “construction of naval networks” and Trotha’s interpretational perspective on colonialism. Coastal Albania before World War I was a perfect example of an ideal potential colony according to the turn-of-the-century definition. It was relatively close to the Dual Monarchy, which meant that formally, the new Albanian policy formally fell into the category of so-called border colonization.71 Albania was separated from the interior by high mountains and was therefore most easily accessible by sea, which means that from a certain perspective it could have been considered an overseas territory. Almost all of Albania’s coastline was splotched with swamps that were breeding grounds for malaria. This strip of land which belonged to the Muslim East was practically unknown in Europe. There was a considerable cultural difference and distance between the potential colonizer and the colonized. In 1896, the Dual Monarchy began diligently acquiring scientific knowledge of the region and its culture, a project that enjoyed the support of the joint ministries, the scientific institutions in both halve of the empire, and the joint Austro-Hungarian General Staff.72

On the other hand, the unpublished sources cited in this study (the memoranda written by the Vlora brothers, joint Chiefs of Staff Friedrich Beck, and Head of Department Karl Macchio and the minutes of the 1896 conference) very clearly reveal that Ballhausplatz’s operations in Albania were aimed at establishing an unequal, asymmetrical relationship with the Albanian territories: geographical Albania was to be made dependent on Austria-Hungary politically, economically, and culturally. Through a policy of subsidies and an indirect form of rule adapted to the circumstances in the western Balkans (based in part on military and economic influence), Ballhausplatz sought to transform and control the hierarchy of Albanian society and the Catholic Church; and through the Albanian nation-building project, Ballhausplatz wanted gradually to transform and replace the local cultural mindset, which essentially had been under the influence of the Muslim, oriental Ottoman Empire, with the Central European, Christian values of the “civilized” empire of Austria-Hungary.

The fact that Adalbert Fuchs, who was the head of Ballhausplatz’s colonial affairs department, took part in the launch of the operations in Albania further confirms that the empire’s Albania policy was indeed a fundamentally a colonial undertaking, as does the fact that the Austro-Hungarian consuls involved in the day-to-day shaping of Albanian policy (as did many of the members of the Albanian lobby, including Friedrich Beck, Ferenc Nopcsa, and Leopold Chlumetzky) were all members of the Austrian Flottenverein. The contemporary British and French analogies in Syria, West Africa, and India also lay bare the colonial character of Albanian politics.

The final stop, as it were, of the Austro-Hungarian policy towards Albania in 1912–1914 was the complete economic exploitation of the emerging independent state of Albania. The propaganda efforts of the Albanian lobby between 1896 and 1912 had successfully mobilized society in the two halves of the empire. In Austria, in 1913, inspired by the formation of the British Albanian Committee, an Albanian Committee was formed consisting of aristocrats and leading figures from large industrial and financial interest groups. The primary objective of this committee was to bring the financial affairs of the new Balkan country under its control through the organization of the Albanian National Bank. In an interesting episode in the evolution of colonial thinking in Austrian public opinion, when a revolt broke out in Albania against the princely power in June 1914, civil activists began to recruit a so-called Albanian Legion in Vienna in defense of public order and the interests of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The goal of the recruiting office was to organize independent fighting units consisting of volunteers who would travel to Albania at their own expense and fight against the rebels in central Albania with their own weapons. According to unpublished archival sources, within 24 hours, 2,000 people had signed up, and according to the Vienna police, nearly 10,000 more were expected to arrive the following day. In the end, this office, with which the Austrian Albania Committee was in direct contact, was closed by the Vienna police at the request of joint Foreign Minister Berchtold. Despite the Foreign Ministry’s prohibition, however, several dozen volunteers still traveled to Albania to take part in the fighting.73

As for Hungary, the establishment of Albania went hand in hand with the birth of independent Albanian studies in Hungary, which served Hungary’s imperial aspirations of Hungary at the national level.74 More important was the fact that an Austro-Hungarian-Italian negotiating committee agreed to divide Albania economically into three spheres of interest in November 1913 (50 percent for Italy, 25 percent for Austria, and 25 percent for Hungary). Key to the Hungarian success was, first, that the members of the Asiatic Society of Hungary (the Turanian Society), as Hungarian state-officials, play a significant role in the imperial and colonial actions of Ballhausplatz in Albania and Anatolia between 1912 and 1914. Second, the Hungarian Prime Minister István Tisza pressured Leopold Berchtold to win acceptance for the Budapest government’s national aspirations.75

Ultimately, the way in which Albania was economically partitioned reveals that colonialism did not become a fourth common cause within the Habsburg Empire. Austria and Hungary acted as separate colonizing parties. In talks with the Italian representatives, a joint team of economists of Austrian and Hungarian nationality took part in the negotiations. In other words, the international negotiations were conducted at the level of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The signing and of the agreements and their parliamentary approval, however, were the responsibilities of the respective Austrian and Hungarian authorities. Formally, this never actually took place, as the January 1914 coup d’état led by the Young Turks took events in Albania in an entirely new direction.

Archival Sources

Österreichisches Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv (ÖStA HHStA)

Administrative Registratur (AR)

F4: Kt. 99, 450, 456,

F 27: Kt. 8, 28-30,

(I.) Allgemeines

(2. Geheime Akten) Kt. 473,

(7. Delegationsakten) Kt. 573,

(8. Generalia) Kt. 685, 710,

(19.) Nachlässe

Nachlass Kral, Kt. 1,

Nachlass Kwiatkowsky, Kt. 1-2,

Nachlass Mérey, Kt. 15,

Politisches Archiv

XII. Türkei, Kt. 419,

XIV. Albanien, Kt. 21, 64,

Kriegsarchiv in Vienna (KA)


Kt. 3498,

Militärkanzlei Franz Ferdinand (MKFF)

Kt. 203,

Operationsbüro, Fasz. 46,

Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Magyar Országos Levéltára [Hungarian State Archive] (MNL OL)

K 255 Pénzügyminisztérium, elnöki iratok

Z 41 Pesti Magyar Kereskedelmi Bank Rt., Okmánytár (PMKB)

Országos Széchényi Könyvtár [National Széchényi Library] (OSZK)

Kézirattár, Fol. Hung. 1677


Printed sources

Der Österreichische Lloyd und sein Verkehrsgebiet. Officielles Reisehandbuch. Edited by Dampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft der österreichischen Lloyd. Vienna–Brünn–Leipzig: Rohrer, 1903.

Die Flagge. Zeitschrift für Seewesen und Seeverkehr. Organ des Österreichischen Flottenvereins.

Hahn, Johann Georg. Albanesische Studien. Vienna: k.k. Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1853.

Hof- und Staats-Handbuch der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie: für das Jahr 1897 nach amtlichen Quellen zusammengestellt. Vienna: Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1897.

Jahrbuch des K. und K. Auswärtigen Dienstes 1903–1914. Vienna: K.K. Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1903–1914.

Jahresbericht der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Colonial-Gesellschaft 1896. Vienna: Selbstverlage, 1896.

“Kolonialpolitik.” Kolonial-Zeitung (Offizielles Organ der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Kolonialgesellschaft) 13, no. 5/6 (1915): 18–19.

Kőszeghy, Mihály “A Balkán-protektorátusról” [On the protectorate of the Balkan]. Magyar Kultúra 1, no. 1–12 (1913): 178–81.

Pisko, Julius. Berichte des commerciellen Fachberichterstatters des k.k. Handelsministriums. Vienna: Aus der kaiserlich-königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1903.

Pisko, Julius. Die Südhalbkugel im Weltverkehr. Reise als Handelspolitischer Fachreferent des k.k. österr. u. k. ung. Handelsministeriums. Vienna: Alfred Hölder, 1904.

Thallóczy, Ludwig, ed. Illyrisch-albanische Forschungen. Vol 1–2. Munich–Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1916.

Thallóczy, Ludovicus et al., eds. Acta et diplomata res Albaniae mediae aetatis illustrantia. Vol. 1–2. Vindobonae: Holzhausen, 1913–1918.


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1 Wagner, “Österreichisch–ungarische Kolonialversuche.”

2 Kolm, Die Ambitionen, 17–21.

3 Toleva, Der Einfluss Österreich-Ungarns.

4 Osterhammel, Colonialism, 4–10.

5 Trotha, “Colonialism,” 433.

6 Gross, Export Empire, 35.

7 ÖStA HHStA, AR, F4/450, no. 69–70, “Kanzleiverordnungen.”

8 Loidl, “Kolonialpropaganda,” 38–43.

9 Jahresbericht der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Colonial-Gesellschaft 1896; “Kolonialpolitik,” 18–19.

10 Kolm, Die Ambitionen, 24–25.

11 ÖStA HHStA, Nachlass Kwiatkowsky, Kt. 2, 1: Albanien in der Politik der Großmächte.

12 ÖStA HHStA, I/2, Kt. 473, Ferit bey’s memorandum; ÖStA HHStA, Nachlass Kwiatkowsky, Kt. 1, Manuscript, 179–181; ibid., Kt. 2, Orange-Pallium, 180.

13 ÖStA HHStA, Nachlass Kwiatkowsky, Kt. 1, Manuscript, 179f.

14 ÖStA HHStA, I/2, Kt. 473, Ferit bey’s memorandum.

15 Clayer, Në fillimet e nacionalizmit shqiptar, 526–27.

16 Hofmeister, Die Bürde des Weissen Zaren, 33.

17 Amzi-Erdoğdular, Afterlife of Empire, 50–51.

18 ÖStA HHStA, I/8, Kt. 685, Akten 1895–1904, Varia 1901, report of Führer, August 27, 1901, 1–3; Verosta, Die völkerrechtliche Praxis der Donaumonarchie, 112–13.

19 Schwanda, Das Protektorat Österreich–Ungarns, 31; Toleva, Der Einfluss Österreich–Ungarns, 51–93.

20 Zwiedinek, Syrien und seine Bedeutung; Hof- und Staats-Handbuch, 88, 117, 1005.

21 Jahresbericht der Österreichisch–Ungarischen Colonial-Gesellschaft 1896, 4, 38.

22 Wagner, “Österreichisch–ungarische Kolonialversuche,” 203; ÖStA HHStA, AR, F4/99, Adalbert Fuchs; ÖStA HHStA, Nachlass Mérey, Kt. 15/273, A private letter written by Pasetti to Mérey, Ischl, August 26, 1895. Callaway, “The Battle over Information,” 278–87.

23 Csaplár-Degovics, “Ludwig von Thallóczy,” 141–64.

24 Scheer, “Minimale Kosten, absolut kein Blut,” 241.

25 McCrone Douie, The Panjab, 188–200, 212–19.

26 Jahrbuch des K. und K. Auswärtigen Dienstes 1903, 265.

27 Die Flagge 2, no. 2 (1906): 12; Pisko, Berichte der commerciellen Fachberichterstatters; Pisko, Die Südhalbkugel im Weltverkehr.

28 ÖStA HHStA, Nachlass Kwiatkowsky, Kt. 2, Kwiatkowski: Lebenslauf, 64; ÖStA HHStA PA, XII/419/e/Prinz Achmed Fuad, Pálffy’s report to Berchtold, no. 26 A-B, Rome, August 14, 1913, 1–11; Kőszeghy, “A Balkán-protektorátusról,” 178–81.

29 ÖStA HHStA PA, XII/419/e/Prinz Achmed Fuad, Pálffy’s report to Berchtold, no. 26 A-B, Rome, August 14, 1913, 3.

30 ÖStA HHStA, Nachlass Kral, Kt. 1, Promemoria – Monsignore Primo Dochi’s über Albanien, Vienna, March 14, 1897, 1–15.

31 ÖStA HHStA, I/2, Kt. 473, minutes of the conference on on November 17, 1896, 6; Behnen, Rüstung–Bündnis–Sicherheit, 361.

32 ÖStA HHStA, I/2, Kt. 473, minutes of the conference on November 17, 1896, 8, 10–12.

33 ÖStA HHStA, I/2, Kt. 473, minutes of the conference on December 8, 1896, 22–25; ibid. minutes of the conference on December 23, 1896, 7; Der Österreichische Lloyd und sein Verkehrsgebiet.

34 ÖStA HHStA, I/7, Kt. 573, letter from the Alliance of Austrian Industrialists to Gołuchowski, no. 1634, Vienna, May 10, 1898, 4; Kolm, Die Ambitionen, 18; Gostentschnigg, Wissenschaft im Spannungsfeld, 309–16, 480.

35 MNL OL, PMKB, Z 41, 458/3230, Letter written by Handels- und Transport-AG to Weiss, 3230/-1, Vienna, August 1, 1913, 6; Csaplár-Degovics, “A dalmáciai Borgo Erizzo,” 6–7; Csaplár-Degovics, “Österreichisch–ungarische Interessendurchsetzung,” 181; Gostentschnigg, Wissenschaft im Spannungsfeld, 472, 583–84, 609, 650, 658–60, 677–78; Gross, Export Empire, 12.

36 ÖStA HHStA, I/2, Kt. 473, minutes of the conference on November 17, 1896, 17–18; ibid. Minutes of the conference on December 8, 1896, 15, 17, 19–20; ibid. Minutes of the conference on December 23, 1896, 2–4.

37 ÖStA HHStA, I/2, Kt. 473, minutes of the conference on December 8, 1896, 4–6.

38 Reynolds, “Good and Bad Muslims.” To the distinction of “good” and “bad” Muslims in contemporary Austria, see Gingrich, “Frontier Myths of Orientalism,” 106–11.

39 ÖStA HHStA, I/2, Kt. 473, minutes of the conference on November 17, 1896, 19–20; ibid., Minutes of the conference on December 8, 1896, 16, 18; ibid., Minutes of the conference on December 23, 1896, 4–5; Csaplár-Degovics, “Der erste Balkankrieg und die Albaner.”

40 Csaplár-Degovics, “Österreichisch-ungarische Interessendurchsetzung.”

41 Deusch, Das k.(u.)k. Kultusprotektorat, 623–27.

42 Wagner, “Österreichisch–ungarische Kolonialversuche,” 58–59.

43 Egner, Protektion und Souveränität, 59–79, 62–63, 312–19.

44 ÖStA HHStA, I/2, Kt. 473, Fol. 517–736, Pisko, Elaborat über die Consularämter, Beilag: 9, Üsküb, January 25, 1897; Toleva, Der Einfluss Österreich-Ungarns, 102–29, 427–31.

45 ÖStA HHStA, I/2, Kt. 473, Fol. 517–736; Pisko, Elaborat über die Consularämter, Üsküb, January 25, 1897, 5.

46 ÖStA HHStA, I/2, Kt. 473, Fol. 517–736, Pisko, Elaborat über die Consularämter, Üsküb, January 25, 1897. 3–4; Csaplár-Degovics, “A dalmáciai Borgo Erizzo.”

47 ÖStA HHStA, I/2, Kt. 473, Fol. 192–516, Calice’s report to Gołuchowski, no. 658, Constantinople, February 18, 1897, 1–10; ibid., Private letter written by Calice to Zwiedinek, Constantinople, March 3, 1898; ibid., Reverta’s report to Gołuchowsky, no. 8 D–K, Rome, March 20, 1897; ÖStA HHStA, I/2, Kt. 473, Fol. 517–736; Pisko, Elaborat über die Consularämter, Üsküb, January 25, 1897. 1–6, and Beilag, 1–45; ibid., The Information Bureau’s report on Doçi’s memorandum, Vienna, March 29, 1897, 1–13; ÖStA HHStA, I/2, Kt. 473, Fol. 517–736, Die albanesische Action im Jahre 1897; ibid., Der Stand der nationalen Bewegung in Albanien (1901); ibid., Memoire über Albanien; ÖStA HHStA, Nachlass Kwiatkowsky, Kt. 1, Manuscript, 178–191; ÖStA HHStA, Nachlass Kwiatkowsky, Kt. 2; Kwiatkowski: Lebenslauf, 30–79; Toleva, Der Einfluss Österreich-Ungarns, 427–31.

48 Crowder, “Indirect Rule: French and British Style”; Green, “Indirect Rule and Colonial Intervention”; Power, “‘Individualism is the Antithesis of Indirect Rule’: Cooperative Development”; Grishow, “Rural ‘Community,’ Chiefs and Social Capital,” 70; Spear, “Neo-Traditionalism,” 4; Nwabughuogu, “The Role of Propaganda”; Fisher, “Indirect Rule in the British Empire”; Reynolds, “Good and Bad Muslims”; Ruthner and Scheer, Bosnien-Herzegowina, 36–42, 228.

49 KA Operationsbüro, Fasz. 46, no. 29, Beiträge zur Klarstellung der bei einer etwaigen Änderung des status quo auf der Balkanhalbinsel in Betracht zu ziehenden Verhältnisse.

50 Schanderl, Die Albanienpolitik Österreich-Ungarns, 64.

51 Krause, Das Problem der albanischen Unabhängigkeit, 26–27; Hecht, “Graf Goluchowski als Außenminister,” 125–27, 140; Onley, “The Raj Reconsidered,” 44–62.

52 ÖStA HHStA, Nachlass Kwiatkowsky, Kt. 2, Kwiatkowski: Lebenslauf, 44–45.

53 Behnen, Rüstung–Bündnis–Sicherheit; Gostentschnigg, “Albanerkonvikt und Albanienkomitee,” 313–37; Komár, Az Osztrák–Magyar Monarchia, 26, 29, 194; Schanderl, Die Albanienpolitik Österreich-Ungarns, 22–23, 71, 117–27.

54 Komár, Az Osztrák–Magyar Monarchia, 26, 29, 194.

55 ÖStA HHStA, AR, F27/8, a letter written by Knoblecher to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, December 6, 1850. Sauer, “Ein Jesuitenstaat,” 23; Agstner, Das k. k. (k. u. k.) Konsulat für Central-Afrika, 10, 13; McEwan, A Catholic Sudan Dream, 43–44; Hill, Egypt in the Sudan, 98.

56 ÖStA HHStA, AR, F27/29/1/IIc, Die österreichische Mission von Central-Afrika 1894, 8–9; Santi and Hill, The Europeans in the Sudan, 174–75; McEwan, A Catholic Sudan Dream, 42.

57 ÖStA HHStA, AR, F27/30, Huber’s report to the Ministry of Trade, no. 528, Alexandria, August 6, 1850; ÖStA HHStA, AR, F27/8, Übersetzung eines Fermans für den Generalvikar von Centralafrika, Constantinople, early April, 1851; Agstner, Das k. k. (k. u. k.) Konsulat für Central–Afrika, 6–17.

58 McEwan, A Catholic Sudan Dream, 35–36, 85.

59 ÖStA HHStA, AR, F27/28/2/I; ÖStA HHStA, AR, F27/29/1/II: 1871–1911/d–j; McEwan, A Catholic Sudan Dream, 85, 93, 120, 126, 133, 137; Sauer, “Ein Jesuitenstaat in Afrika?” 61.

60 Benna, “Studien zum Kultusprotektorat,” 33–35; Gstrein, Unter Menschenhändlern im Sudan, 25.

61 ÖStA HHStA, I/8, Kt. 710, Umfang und Art der Ausübung des französischen Kultusprotektorates, 1–175; Ippen, “Das religiöse Protektorat,” 296, 299–300; Deusch, Das k.(u.)k. Kultusprotektorat, 635–36.

62 ÖStA HHStA, AR, F27/28/2/I, Africa 2a, a letter written by Reverta to Kálnoky, no. 46, Rome, December 31, 1889, 5.

ÖStA HHStA, AR, F27/28/2/I, Africa 2b, Centralafrikanische Mission and Abgrenzung des Sudan Vicariats; ÖStA HHStA, AR, F27/29/1/IIc, Die österreichische Mission von Central-Afrika 1894, 26; Hill, Slatin Pasha; McEwan, A Catholic Sudan Dream, I, 74–76, 116–17, 120.

63 ÖStA HHStA, AR, F4/450, no. 69–70, “Kanzleiverordnungen”; ÖStA HHStA, AR, F4/456, Referats- und Geschäfteinteilungen.

64 ÖStA HHStA, AR, F27/28/2/I, Africa 2b, Abgrenzung des Sudan Vicariats, Subventionen III–VI.

65 Jahrbuch des K. und K. Auswärtigen Dienstes 1914, 378–79; Bridge, “Tarde Venientibus Ossa,” 319–30.

66 Gostentschnigg, Wissenschaft im Spannungsfeld.

67 Gostentschnigg, “Die albanischen Parteigänger Österreich–Ungarns,” 119–70; Csaplár-Degovics, “Österreichisch-ungarische Interessendurchsetzung,” 180.

68 Hahn, Albanesische Studien.

69 Thallóczy, Illyrisch-albanische Forschungen; Thallóczy et al., Acta et diplomata res Albaniae.

70 ÖStA HHStA PA, XIV/21, Äußerung betreffs der materielle Unterstützung des […] Werkes “Acta et diplomata res Albaniae med. Illustrantiam,” Vienna, October 25, 1911.

71 Trotha, “Colonialism,” 433; Wendt, Vom Kolonialismus zur Globalisierung, 234; Osterhammel and Jansen, Kolonialismus, 1–8; Osterhammel, Colonialism, 4–10.

72 Ruthner, Habsburgs “Dark Continent,” 45–48.

73 ÖStA HHStA, XIV/64/26, Löwenthal’s report to Berchtold, No. 51A-B/P, Durazzo, July 11, 1914. KA MKFF, Kt. 203, Haberl’s report, no number, Vienna, June 27, 1914. KA AOK-Evidenzbureau, Kt. 3498, Hranilovic: Albanien 1914, Anwerbung von Freiwilligen für Albanien; OSZK, Kézirattár, Fol. Hung. 1677, Bosniaca IX/6, a letter written by Berchtold to Tisza, Vienna, June 27, 1914. Freundlich, Die albanische Korrespondenz, XXXVII, 499–500.

74 Csaplár-Degovics and Jusufi, Das ungarisch-albanische Wörterbuch, 73–98.

75 MNL OL, K 255, 672/6 (1913), no. 4926/P.M./1913, “II. rész; Elnökség,” [Part II. Presidency], Budapest, December 19, 1913, 1–5.