Volume 6 Issue 1 CONTENTS


Production of and Trade in Food Between the Kingdom of Hungary and Europe in the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Era (Thirteenth to Sixteenth Centuries): The Roles of Markets in Crises and Famines*

Andrea Fara

Tuscia University of Viterbo


Over the late Middle Ages and the early Modern Period, Western Europe was stricken by cyclical crises of subsistence or famines, related to several economic and social factors, such as the trend of production and the increasing price of wheat, the inadequate functioning of the market, the inappropriate intervention policies at the time of particular difficulties, and so on. In the Kingdom of Hungary crises and famines were caused by the same forces. But, surprisingly, cyclical large crises of subsistence and vast course famines had been nearly unknown in the kingdom between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. In this context, it is argued that the models of Ernest Labrousse and Amartya Sen may explain the emergence and development of crisis and famine not only and simply by the occurrence of exogenous forces such as a fall in crops, environmental shocks, war events and so on, but also and above all through a deeper analysis of the market, its functioning and its degree of integration with other markets. The paper thus highlights the particular Hungarian alimentary regime as characterized by a non-contradiction, but rather a thorough-penetration, relationship between agricultural and sylvan-pastoral activities. This not-contradiction was reflected by an alimentary equilibrium that characterized the kingdom throughout the period. In comparison with other parts of Europe, in Hungary alimentary alternatives such as grain, meat and fish remained accessible to most of the population, so the inhabitants’ normal diet remained diversified and not entirely based on cereals. The specific production and exchange structures of the kingdom permitted the maintenance of this alimentary equilibrium that prevented the rise of vast alimentary crises, unless a shock such as war, climatic difficulties and so on occurred. Another reason for the absence of vast course famines was the kingdom’s place in the exchange structures of Europe. The paper argues that, while wars—first of all against the Ottoman Empire—caused great damages and problems in food supplying, the complex economic interaction between crisis, famine and war that characterized the Hungary between over late Middle Ages and the early Modern Period is evidence of the kingdom’s increasing and notable maturation as a market in the European context.

Keywords: food, production, commerce, market, nutrition, crisis, Hungary, Europe.


In the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Era, Western Europe was stricken by cyclical famines. In this part of the continent, the crises of subsistence and famines alternated in cyclical waves, both short cycles (at least once a year, in periods preceding the harvest, essentially in relation to an expected increase in the price of wheat) and long cycles (approximately every 7–10 years, in relation to several complicated economic and social factors, such as the trends in production and the increasing price of wheat, the inadequate functioning of the market, inappropriate interventionist policies in a moment of particular difficulty, and so on).1 As remarked by Fernand Braudel, “famine recurred so insistently for centuries on end that it became incorporated into man’s biological regime and built into his daily life. Dearth and penury were continual, and familiar even in Europe, despite its privileged position.”2

In the Kingdom of Hungary famines were clearly caused by the same forces that caused them in Western Europe, such as a drop in the harvest, environmental shocks, wars, and so on. And, of course, when a famine occurred, it afflicted Hungary no less severely that it did other European regions. But, surprisingly, regular and cyclical large subsistence crises and long famines were nearly unheard of in the Kingdom of Hungary between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. Similarly interesting, a growing number of food crises and famines was recorded with the passing of time, from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries, with the largest number of events in the last one. Why did this happen? Does the admittedly fragmentary documentation provide an incomplete or distorted picture of the food regime of the Hungarian population? Or can the virtual absence of mention of famine and subsistence crises in the sources be interpreted as a sign of the existence of what might be termed a specific “nourishing order”? Can the political and institutional context and the production, distribution, and exchange structures of the Kingdom of Hungary explain the absence or limited impact of famine in these territories between late Middle Ages and Early Modern Era? And can this particular phenomenon be explained by applying to the world of medieval and Early Modern Hungary the models elaborated by Ernest Labrousse and Amartya K. Sen to clarify the appearance and evolution mechanisms of crisis and famine in a preindustrial and industrial context, respectively (with a non-Malthusian approach) through a deeper analysis of the market, its functioning, and its degree of integration with other markets?3

Labrousse has defined the imbalance between production and demand of alimentary goods, and in particular the supply and demand of wheat (which was almost the sole basis of nourishment in the preindustrial societies of Western Europe), as a crise de type ancien. In the absence of intervention by the central or local authorities to address the consequences of a bad harvest or misguided speculation, this imbalance caused a famine, which should not be understood as a shortage of wheat, but rather as an increase in wheat prices. This increase could give rise to a large-scale crisis, and not only with regard to nourishment. In fact, in cases in which wages were non-elastic, i.e. they were not adjusted in any way to compensate for increases in the prices of agricultural goods, the necessary purchase of these goods (primarily of wheat) for daily nourishment meant a drop in available resources to purchase other agricultural and manufactured articles. It brought about a fall in consumption, prices, and the production of some articles. As mentioned, the central or local authorities could eliminate or limit the most negative effects of this imbalance through specific interventions: they could import alimentary goods or regulate prices. However, such measures did not always yield positive results, as they could inhibit the farmers’ will to invest, since the husbandmen expected to earn higher profits thanks to crisis and famine, or rather thanks to increases in the price of wheat. In conclusion, sometimes such steps were followed by a phase of economic stagnation and crisis.4

Amartya K. Sen has explained the rise and diffusion of alimentary crises, including the phases when crises evolve into famines of vast proportions, through the concept of the entitlement approach, meaning the possession (or not) of some suitable entitlement (title). Hunger does not become a problem because of a shortage of alimentary goods (on the contrary, in most cases, goods are available in sufficient if not abundant quantities on domestic or international markets), but because an individual has no useful title with which to acquire alimentary goods or participate on the marketplace. By entitlement, Sen means above all an income (in general, the whole of suitable rights) that guarantees the satisfaction of individual needs, among which the primary need is for nourishment. In order to understand hunger and famine it is therefore necessary to put the accent on market dynamics and dysfunctions: when there is no possibility to join or participate on the marketplace or some market actors are engaged in speculation (even if not on a large scale) and intervention by central or local authorities is lacking, these anomalies can cause the emergence of sudden and unexpected alimentary crises.5

In this sense, the models of Ernest Labrousse and Amartya K. Sen can explain the emergence and development of crisis and famine not simply as a consequence of the concurrence of external forces, such as a bad harvest, environmental shocks, wars, and so on, but also and above all, through a deeper analysis of the market, its functioning, and its degree of integration with other markets more or less distant. It thus exceeds the Malthusian and neo-Malthusian approaches, which attribute the onset of crisis and famine to the imbalance between the growth of food supply (expected to be arithmetical) and the growth of population (expected to be exponential).

So, in order to understand how and when crisis and famine began to appear in the Kingdom of Hungary in the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era and to see whether it is possible to apply the models elaborated by Labrousse and Sen, it is necessary briefly to describe: a) the available sources; b) the market, i.e. the structures of production, distribution, and exchange in these territories, in particular with reference to food.


The first and greatest difficulty for anyone seeking to study the economic history of Central and Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages is caused by the scarcity of the available sources, a consequence of both the more limited use of the written word than in Western Europe and the extensive damages suffered by the archives of the region over the centuries. The Kingdom of Hungary is no exception, and because of this dearth of sources, the economic and demographic conditions of the vast domains that were subject to the crown of Saint Stephen in the Middle Ages in many ways remain obscure.6

There are no comprehensive records regarding the collection of taxes or the number of settlements. The only source of this kind is the records of the collection of taxes prepared by papal collectors active in the Hungarian lands from the end of the thirteenth century to the second half of the fourteenth century, and these records are fragmentary at best.7

It was probably during the reign of Sigismund of Luxemburg (1387–1437) that records began to be compiled for large estates, with inventories of settled tenants and villages, for military and fiscal purposes. But not many of these documents have survived, and they are mostly incomplete until 1531. The most important and extensively used among them are the lucrum camerae registers of five northeastern counties (Abaúj, Gömör, Sáros, Torna, and Ung) from 1427;8 the register of lucrum camerae of the Tramontane district of Nyitra County from 1452;9 the tax list of Nógrád County from in 1457;10 and the register of royal revenues prepared by Sigismund Ernuszt, bishop of Pécs and royal treasurer, for the fiscal year 1494/95, which is also incomplete, but which contains important information, such as the number of estates and tenants in each comitatus of the kingdom.11 Similar documents for noble estates are exceptional before the end of the fifteenth century, and even then, they remain a rarity and are generally incomplete. A notable exception is the record prepared by Ippolito d’Este, bishop of Eger, then archbishop of Esztergom and Primate of Hungary (†1520).12 However, more detailed administrative documents survive from the sixteenth century, and they offer, at least indirectly, valuable data concerning demographics and population.13

For the urban settlements, beginning with the reign of Louis I (1342–82), lists of accounts and taxes paid by the towns begin to survive in increasing numbers.14 Some records of tax estimation have survived from the first period of Ottoman rule in the central territories of the kingdom (1540–90).15 The daily life of peasants, on the other hand, is described only superficially in official documents, and mostly in relationship to legal matters.16

Given this scarcity of sources, it would be foolish to hope to arrive at accurate mortality rates, and in particular mortality rates for times of subsistence crises and/or famines, in the Kingdom of Hungary between the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era: the available documents provide no precise information, and they offer only a rather impressionistic and vague image of such events. However, there are good indicators, such as descriptions of the phenomena and their amplitudes, in sources of different types from more or less neighboring geographical areas; prohibitions on the export of alimentary goods and (more or less) simultaneous requests for their import; some information about prices and price increases (though the available sources are not detailed enough to allow us to arrive at any overview of continuous trends in price increases); interventions or regulations concerning prices and markets on which alimentary commodities were sold by local and/or central authorities. Archaeological investigations have also contributed useful information.

Despite these limitations, it is possible to reconstruct a coherent framework of the economic structures and arrive at a realistic picture of the impact of famines in the Kingdom of Hungary between the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era.

Market and Food in Medieval and Early Modern Hungary

The sources dating from between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries, in particular those of a narrative character, agree in their characterizations of the Kingdom of Hungary as a fertile land, rich in waters, pastures, and woods, where farming and cattle-breeding were practiced with good results.17 At the beginning of the fourteenth century, an anonymous Dominican who traveled a lot in East and Central Europe reported that the Realm of Saint Stephen was rich not only in cereals, meat, fish, and wine, but also in salt, gold, and silver.18 Accordingly, the anonymous chronicler deduced that the ancient names of Messia and Panonia derived from abundant harvests and the availability of bread in Hungarian lands.19

The territorial expanse of the kingdom, Croatia included, was about 325,000 km2, and the average population density was very low. While some areas were more densely inhabited, in general land was available in great abundance, and most villages had a vast area for arable land, pasture, and woods at their disposal. Moreover, urbanization lagged far behind by Western European standards. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, most uncultivated land was colonized thanks to the arrival of hospites coming, above all, from the Holy Roman Empire.20 Colonization proceeded until the fourteenth century, but at the beginning of the fourteenth century the Kingdom of Hungary was still far from densely inhabited. For instance, only a few settlements were clearly identified as civitates.21 Density remained low, with considerable differences between individual regions. The situation may have partially changed by the beginning of the fifteenth century, but the overall size of the population of medieval Hungary (and therefore calculations concerning population density, mortality, etc.) remained a highly controversial issue on account of the lack of relevant sources. As Pál Engel remarks, “it is almost impossible to determine how large the population of Hungary was at the end of the Middle Ages. Indeed, current estimates vary between 2.5 million and 5.5 million, which only serves to underline the prevailing uncertainty surrounding this issue.”

In this sense, the size of the settlements varied greatly throughout the kingdom. The urban network of the Kingdom of Hungary included some 30–35 towns with urban privileges of various degree, but they were all small from a Western European perspective, and the urban population is estimated to have been no more than 3 percent of the total population. Buda had about 10,000 inhabitants; Sopron, Pozsony (today Bratislava, Slovakia), Kassa (today Košice, Slovakia), Kolozsvár (today Cluj-Napoca, Romania), Brassó (today Braşov, Romania), Nagyszeben (today Sibiu, Romania) and the mining towns of Besztercebánya (today Banská Bystrica, Slovakia) and Selmecbánya (today Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia) about 4-5,000 each; Pest, Szeged, Székesfehérvár, Nagyszombat (today Trnava, Slovakia), Eperjes (today Prešov, Slovakia), Bártfa (today Bardejov, Slovakia), Lőcse (today Levoča, Slovakia), and the mining towns of Gölnicbánya (today Gelnica, Slovakia) and Körmöcbánya (today Kremnica, Slovakia) about 3,000 each. In the southern and southwestern part of Transdanubia and in the eastern edge of Transylvania there were hundreds of little villages with a population of well under 100, while in the Great Plain much larger villages were more common. These villages had at their disposal a large quantity of land, albeit with great differences between the various Hungarian territories. According to Engel, in the counties of Abaúj and Tolna the average village territory was around 2,800 acres at the end of the Middle Ages. Yet there existed great regional differences. The Great Plain was characterized by populous villages with extensive territories, whereas in the southern part of Transdanubia and south of the Drava small villages were more usual. For example, around 1500, in the County of Vas the extent of a village’s territory was 2,100 acres on average, while the corresponding figure in Zala was 1,700 acres.22

It is nevertheless important to underline two general features: a) there was a general trend of population increase; b) there was a large availability of land. These two elements, and above all the second one, affected the structures of production in the primary sector (agriculture and livestock) and led to economic specialization. Agriculture (cereals and wine) had represented an important economic sector in the kingdom’s economic structure since the twelfth century, although it was practiced above all through a periodic change of cultivated lands, given the abundance of available land. This remained the principal cultivation method, up to the first half of the thirteenth century, when it was progressively replaced by a more coherent system of open fields, most of which were still exploited in an extensive way, but with the use of more developed techniques (such as the two-field rotation and in some regions even the three-field rotation, as well as the assymmetrical heavy plough). Agricultural productivity increased from a yield of 1:2 at the beginning of the thirteenth century to 1 : 3–4 one century later.23 Nevertheless, livestock breeding (above all the raising of horse and oxen) maintained a fundamental economic role, in accordance with the traditional Hungarian nomadic and semi-nomadic forms of organization, as well as the abundance of land, forest, and pastures.24 Hunting and fishing were also notable natural resources, and in general not closed to peasants; only limited areas were subject to absolute royal and noble control.25

Thus, Hungarian lands produced and exported more agricultural products and livestock than they did raw materials, but they also exported mineral and metals like iron, copper, salt, gold, and silver, as well as slaves (at least up to the beginning of the thirteenth century). Imported goods were mostly luxury products: the crown, the royal court, and the nobility demanded these goods in great quantities. Italian, French, and German cloths of various quality were brought into the country from the West, as were jewels and handicraft products; from the East, goods like skins, wools, and cloths of different types were imported, along with wax and spices.26 Non-luxury items were also imported in large quantities, for instance knives, pottery, etc.27 A considerable share of the imported commodities passed through the region on its way to Eastern or Western Europe.

Western sources almost unanimously describe the Kingdom of Hungary as a land in which it was possible to make good profits through the exchange of Western luxury products for local livestock, precious metals, spices, and other Levantine articles. Unfortunately, the available sources do not enable us to reconstruct price levels continuously from the Late Middle Ages to the Early Modern Era. However, on the basis of the available documents, scholars agree that the difference in price between local and imported goods created many profitable bargains, above all for Italian and German mercatores, with a considerable outflow of cheap staples from Hungary to Western Europe.28

For instance, in 1376, the Florentine Bonaccorso Pitti was in Buda and, before going back to Italy, he decided to buy six Hungarian horses. Their local price was very low, though they were famous in Western markets, thus making it possible to make a good profit. During his journey home, Bonaccorso lost one horse, gave another away as a present, and sold two others, losing some of his profits through gaming. Nonetheless, he returned to Florence with two horses, 100 gold florins, and the satisfying experience of having made an excellent bargain.29 Other documents also indicate that the Kingdom of Hungary was rich with economic opportunities.30 At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the price of an ox in Hungary was around three or four florins, and a horse of average quality was not much more expensive. Bertrandon de la Broquière noted that in Hungary a horse of the best quality cost around ten florins, while in Western Europe it could cost as much as 50 florins. On the other hand, a cheap roll of Bohemian cloth could be bought for seven florins, while the same quantity of the best Italian cloth cost around 45 florins, that is, the price of 10-15 oxen.31

In this context, Hungarian households were able to produce a substantial share of their own food instead of purchasing it on the local markets. Of course, it was always possible to turn to the market, but only in cases of specific necessity. This allowed most of the Hungarian population to have almost continuous access to different alimentary resources, such as cereals, meat, and fish, and also to maintain a very diverse diet, not based almost entirely on cereals, as was the case in Western Europe. Moreover, long-distance trade did not affect the availability of food for the Hungarian population. Data gathered by Vera Zimányi confirms 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, 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 2 items and a half of clothing, and, in the 1600s, for 3 and 1/3. […] Livestock breeding, therefore, involved, temporarily, greater advantages than cloth production.32

On average, about 100,000 cattle were exported from the Hungarian lands per annum, with peaks of up to 200,000. In periods of strong demand, more cattle could be added from Moldavia and Wallachia through Transylvania. About four fifths of all cattle reached the Austrian, German, and Moravian markets, while about one fifth went to Venice. Only a few cattle were destined for the Ottoman lands (essentially to satisfy the demand of a section of the armed forces). It is calculated that in 1580 the total number of cattle was about 3 million. This would mean that, at least in that year, the exports comprised merely six per cent of the available livestock: evidently the rest remained available for domestic consumption.33

Indeed, meat was the main protein source for most of the inhabitants of the kingdom, and it played a central role in the Hungarian diet in the Middle Ages and in the Modern Era. If in the Hungarian lands the average annual consumption of cereals was about 112 kilograms (well below the European average, estimated at 175 kilograms), the consumption of meat was very high, 63 to 69 kilograms per capita (well above 50 kilograms in Nuremberg, 47 kilograms in the cities of southern Germany, and 26 kilograms in southern France). Moreover, the large size of the animals should also be kept in mind. Between the tenth and the twelfth centuries, Hungarian cattle lacked the special traits that became their distinguishing features by the sixteenth century, specificially the large size and large horns: these features were probably the product of a selection of species, even for commercial purposes, which took place over the course of several centuries; so, in the middle of the sixteenth century, the weight of an average Hungarian ox was about 300–350 kilograms, a figure which increased to about 450–500 kilograms by the beginning of the seventeenth century, while the European standard was 200 kilograms.34 Not surprisingly, in the Hungarian lands the production and consumption of cereals continued to have only limited importance until the middle of the eighteenth century, when Hungarian agricultural structures underwent a deep transformation, with an increasing economic and commercial integration into the Habsburg Empire and, as part of the Empire, Europe.35

In his Cronaca of 1348, the Florentine Matteo Villani offers information concerning some Hungarian alimentary habits based on meat and the importance of cattle-breeding in the local economy:

The Hungarians [...] are well and easily stocked with food even when they are in inhospitable places. This is because there is a large number of oxen and cows in Hungary which are not used to work the land; and since there are wide pastures in which to graze them, the animals grow faster and fatter. The animals are then slaughtered for leather and fat, which are heavily traded; the meat is boiled in large pots, and when it has been cooked and salted and separated from the bones, it is desiccated in ovens or in some other manner. Once dried, the meat is pulverized in a subtle mode; in this manner, it is preserved. And when they are traveling or marching with the army, when they cannot find anything to eat, they carry pots and copper vessels and each a small bag with this meat powder, as a war provision; and other bags are carried on carriages at the orders of their lord. And when they encounter a river or other water, they stop and fill their pots and pans with water; once the water has come to a boil, they add an amount of the pulverized flesh depending on the number of men who are eating. The meat powder grows and swells, and a handful or two of it can fill a pot with a kind of soup which is very nourishing to eat and which makes men vigorous with little bread, or even without bread.36

Between the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era, the general characteristics of production and exchange in the Kingdom of Hungary remained almost unchanged, including in regard to food. With the passing of time, a notable development in the internal market occurred, characterized by a greater use of money and a meaningful increase in commercial activities over short, medium, and long distances. Although the prices of the Hungarian products slowly but consistently increased, potentially these prices remained low in comparison with prices in the West. Thus, the exchange of Hungarian raw materials and livestock for Western and Eastern products (textiles in particular) remained profitable.37

The realm of Saint Stephen was rich in alimentary resources, which were easily accessible to a large stratum of the population. The levels of nutrition in the Kingdom of Hungary were therefore higher, both quantitatively and qualitatively, than in Western Europe. The normal diet of the kingdom’s inhabitants was based not only on cereals but also on fish and, above all, meat, which was available to most of the population. Even if there was a decrease in crops, it was always possible to fall back on the consumption of meat, or even pulse, fish and game.38

The kingdom of Hungary remained in this state of alimentary equilibrium for the whole of the Middle Ages and most of the Modern Era. The absence in the sources of mention of crises or famines suggests that in this period famine, which was cyclically frequent in other territories of Europe, was nearly, if not completely, unknown in Hungary. Furthermore, the structure of exchange in the kingdom also suggests that there were no enduring famines. Keeping in mind the general lacunae in the available documentation, there are very few traces of a resort to the import of alimentary goods (while there are some signs that they were exported), and very few indications of intervention or regulation of prices and markets of alimentary commodities by the crown or by another secular or ecclesiastical authority of the kingdom.39

I will now offer a brief survey of the main events related to hunger and famine in the Kingdom of Hungary between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries.40

Crisis and Famine in the Thirteenth Century

In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, hunger and famine were reported in 1044, 1074 (or 1075), and 1141. These dates all overlapped with periods of military conflicts, but unfortunately the sources do not permit a real analysis of the economic impact of the events of the wars. One should note that there were wars and conflicts in other years too, but no signs of other hunger or famine events.41

More interesting data are available beginning in the thirteenth century, when a great famine occurred in 1243/45. It was not caused by earlier or repeated bad harvests, however, or by correlated speculations. Rather, the famine was a direct consequence of the Mongol invasions and devastation wreaked by the Mongols, which led to a genuine collapse of the political, economic, and social structures of the kingdom in 1241/42.42 According to the Chronicon Austriacum, in 1243–45 famine took a much bigger toll on human lives than the previous invasions and devastations; in all likelihood, the episodes of cannibalism referred to by the author never took place, but they do give an idea of the emotional impact of the catastrophe on contemporary society.43 The destruction and demographic loss were certainly considerable, estimated to between 20 and 50 per cent of the entire population, and even higher, with high divergences among the different Hungarian territories.44

Another famine was recorded in 1263, in a period characterized by clashes between the Hungarian nobility and the crown, as well as conflicts within the royal family itself (with civil wars in 1262 and 1264–66 between king Béla IV and his son and heir Stephen). So, the uncertain political situation created by the trauma of Mongol invasions seems to have contributed to a breakdown of normal economic and commercial progress.45 In this context, the Chronicon Austriacum reported a maxima fames in 1263, not only in Hungary, but in most of East and Central Europe. Nevertheless, this generic report does not allow us to assess the real impact of the famine.46

Crisis and Famine in the Fourteenth Century

On the other hand, the same wartime events also triggered wide-ranging political, economic, and social changes which overlapped with: a) elements of the previous period of economic expansion and growth (which was interrupted by the trauma of the Mongol invasions); b) the political and economic reforms, institutional stability, and stronger royal power established by the new Angevin dynasty, with Charles I (1301–42) and his son Louis I the Great (1342–82);47 c) the so-called “advantage of backwardness” (as explained by Alexander Gerschenkron).48

In the fourteenth century, the Hungarian markets were still not adequately developed, and thus they offered profitable spaces for investment for European merchant capital, which had fallen on hard times. With the reorganization of the kingdom’s economic structures, Hungarian raw materials and livestock found extensive markets, and trade over short and long distances with the Italian Peninsula and the Holy Roman Empire suddenly grew considerably livelier. These innovations launched and favored dynamic and sustained economic development in the kingdom. The series of subsistence crises that struck Western Europe between 1315 and 1322 had a limited impact on the Hungarian lands.49 This economy continued to grow until at least the beginning of the fifteenth century, and this was followed by a further growth phase in the same century and in the next one, with a different economic cycle in comparison with Western Europe.50

In this political and economic context, fourteenth-century sources report on four main cases of increases in the prices of alimentary goods; three of these cases include mention of famine phenomenon and/or food crises of varying extents. Two events were just local and occurred in the northern regions of historical Hungary (in what today is Slovakia). In 1312, in the Szepesség (Spiš) region, the prices of alimentary goods increased to the point of causing a food crisis; prices increased again in 1316 in Pécsújfalu (today Pečovská Nová Ves, Slovakia), but without bringing about large scale famine.51 In all likelihood, these two episodes were influenced by the struggle for the throne, which divided the kingdom at the time.52 However, there is no evidence of large scale economic or demographic impact.

Two other events were of greater importance with regards to external factors. In 1338, a great locust invasion hit Transylvania, from Brassó up to Lippa (today Lipova, Romania): with the exception of the region around Arad (today Arad, Romania) region, locusts devoured a great share of the crops, triggering an increase in the prices of alimentary goods, which eventually ushered in a food crisis. The famine was not terribly prolonged, however, because summer rains forced the locusts to move westwards.53 A second event is reported to have taken place in 1363/64. The summer was remarkably dry, and it was followed by a hard winter. This caused a fall in agricultural production, which led to an increase in the prices of alimentary goods and therefore a food crisis. Even in this case, the famine was of limited significance. It was felt above all in the eastern territories and the markets of the Great Hungarian Plain. Moreover, with the intention of preventing food crises and famines of greater dimensions, King Louis I ordered his officers to locate and inventory the cereal stocks in order to put the surplus on the market.54

However, beginning in the fourteenth century, with the progressive involvement of the Kingdom of Hungary in the so-called “world economy,”55 crises and famines began to be reported with growing frequency, and they had an ever larger impact, even in prosperous periods, evidently in connection with the oscillations in the functioning of the market.56 Furthermore, wars (first and foremost the conflicts with the Ottoman Empire), caused considerable damage and led to problems in the food supply. However, warfare often created opportunities for profitable bargains.57

Crisis and Famine in the Fifteenth Century

In the fifteenth century, the Kingdom of Hungary played an important role in European politics and the European economy. The strong royal power of Sigismund of Luxemburg (1387–1437)58 and Matthias Corvinus (1458–90)59 and the prestige and valor of Filippo Scolari (Pipo Ozorai or Pippo Spano) (1369–1426)60 and John Hunyadi (c. 1407–56)61 made the crown of Saint Stephen strong again after the political crisis that had weakened the country after the extinction of the Angevin dynasty.

In the fifteenth century, most of the Hungarian political and economic resources were devoted to war. While the “centrifugal forces” of the nobility were thwarted by Sigismund after years of intense struggle, military pressure increased along the borders of the realm. In the north, the Hungarian lands were involved in the Hussite Wars, triggering far-reaching political, economic, and social transformations. In the West, clashes with the Habsburgs became inevitable. In the south, the struggles with the Ottoman Empire increased to the point of constant war. Other conflicts put Hungary in opposition to political entities in the Balkans and the Carpatho–Danubian area (first and foremost Serbia and Bosnia, Wallachia, and Moldavia), which were struggling to maintain an uneasy equilibrium between the long-established power of the Kingdom of Hungary and the increasing strength of the Ottoman Empire.62 Yet, despite the internal political difficulties and the almost endemic warfare along all of its frontiers, the kingdom enjoyed a phase of strong economic growth throughout the whole century.63

The events of the wars interfered with normal commercial activities; but often war was an occasion to make profits and bargains.64 For instance, in the summer of 1438, the eastern territories of Hungary suffered a large scale Ottoman invasion. All of the Transylvanian towns suffered huge damage, and many inhabitants were carried off as slaves.65 This brought about a partial interruption in the import of wheat from the Carpathian regions, a shortfall aggravated by attempts at speculation. For this reason, in January 1439 the authorities in Nagyszeben sent a missive to the authorities in Brassó urging the restoration of the normal flow of wheat imports from the south; in the case of a refusal, Nagyszeben threatened to close paths of communication between the north and Brassó. The sources do not allow us to know whether the city ever actually made good on its threat, nor do they indicate when the situation was normalized. But the attempt is evident: the municipal authorities of Brassó, taking advantage of the fact that their city was situated in a border area through which a significant share of the commodities coming from the Carpathian regions was being transmitted, tried to raise the price of wheat in the Transylvanian territories in order to make huge profits.66

Years of unfavorable climate could also lead to a poor harvest. Documents report on events of greater importance, such as hard winters in 1407/08, 1428/29, 1441–44, 1457/58, 1463, and 1491 and dry summers in 1460, 1463, 1473 (which also bore witness to a locust invasion), 1474, 1478–80, 1491, and 1493/94. In particular, the cold winter in 1428 and the warm summer in 1429 caused a fall in wheat and wine production, again limited to the eastern territories of the Great Hungarian Plain. Food crises of some importance occurred in 1456, 1463, 1470–74, and 1493/94.67

Nevertheless, the documents make no mention of events of widespread or prolonged hunger or famine in any of these years. In 1456, further difficulties arose because of the critical political and military situation of the Kingdom of Hungary. The Ottoman advances towards the west were halted at Belgrade in a battle led by John Hunyadi.68 For 1463, sources mention a particularly unfavorable year, with direct consequences for crops; but the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia, involving a reorganization of markets, probably had a greater impact on commercial exchange.69 In February 1470, King Matthias of Hungary forbade the Transylvanian Saxon towns from exporting “triticum, milium, avenam et alias fruges” to Wallachia in order to avoid a shortage of these products on the Hungarian markets.70 It is not possible to establish, however, whether this decision was motivated by a real shortfall of agricultural products in the eastern territories of the kingdom. Prolonged difficulties due to low crop yields were registered up to 1474.71

It is worth noting, however, that at the time a customs war was underway between the Kingdom of Hungary and the voevodate of Wallachia. The clash dated back to the times of Voevode of Wallachia Vlad III Ţepeş–Dracula (October 1448; 1456–62; November–December 1476), who tried to annul the staple right of the Transylvanian Saxon towns by creating a parallel line of border markets in Wallachian territory and to penetrate the Hungarian markets directly and secure the free circulation of Wallachian merchants in Transylvanian lands.72 So it is probable that the decision of 1470 was intended to protect the Hungarian markets, not only from the commercial threat posed by the Wallachian towns but also from the excessive dynamism of the Transylvanian Saxon towns, which made high profits from the exchange of commodities between East and West, often undermining the interests of the Kingdom of Hungary. Sources do not reveal whether or not the import ban actually took place or, if it did, how it was enforced. The customs war between the Kingdom of Hungary and the voevodate of Wallachia certainly dragged on for a long time. Thus, in all likelihood, it was a combination of political conflicts and adverse climatic factors that badly affected the normal course of the market, giving rise to a new famine in Transylvania in 1493/94.73 Events affected above all the chief urban centers, but not the surrounding villages: for instance, Brassó faced a stagnation of its population in the town center, but not in its outlying territories.74

In conclusion, in the fifteenth century neither wars nor bad harvests exerted a considerable influence on the availability of foodstuffs in the Kingdom of Hungary, and they certainly did not give rise to famines. Only on a few occasions do documents make mention of increases in prices, and they contain no references to alimentary crises of vast proportions. Mentions of hunger and underfeeding are also rare.

Crisis and Famine in the Sixteenth Century

In the sixteenth century, Hungarian territories were characterized by a notable institutional instability and prolonged external and internal wars. The defeat at Mohács (1526), the tripartite division of the kingdom (1541), and the Treaty of Speyer (1570) left the ancient lands of Saint Stephen in a situation of confusion and war, to which the most deleterious effects of famine and the decrease or relocation of the population were added.75 Nevertheless, in the middle of the century the situation quickly normalized in connection with the integration of western and northern Hungarian territories into the Habsburg dominions, the formation of the Ottoman Vilayet of Buda, and the creation of the autonomous Principality of Transylvania. Therefore, in the sixteenth century, a phase of political decadence was not accompanied by a parallel economic decline. A partial adjustment of the commercial network and the exchange flows took place. Documents suggest that merchants of different origins operating in the area looked for and easily opened new and convenient commercial paths. Imports of large consumer goods increased (including cheap textiles from the East and the West), as did exports of raw materials (agricultural products and livestock to the East and the West).76 Hungarian lands were becoming increasingly integrated into the European markets.77

In the middle of the sixteenth century, the so-called Little Ice Age began to affect the entire European continent, and it reached its peak in the middle of the eighteenth century. The Little Ice Age was characterized by increasingly adverse and unstable climatic conditions, which influenced all the spheres of the economy and agriculture in particular. Nevertheless, the shift in the climate did not have an absolutely negative impact on the agriculture, because the disappearance of some crops brought about the introduction of others (including new ones) in the different climatic areas of the continent. Thus, famine was not the product of periodic and ordinary climatic adversities; on the contrary, more often famine was tied to some short term, anomalous, and extreme climatic perturbation, aggravated by the poor functioning of the markets.78

In this context, Hungarian documents report on three famines of local importance: in 1529–31 (when abundant rains and bloody wars for the Hungarian throne between the supporters of Ferdinand of Habsburg and John Szapolyai caused a crop failure), in 1545 (caused at least in part by an invasion of locusts and the continuous wars against the Ottomans), and in 1553 (after a very severe winter). Sixteenth-century documents also refer to another seven years characterized by severe and widespread famines with high mortality rates. The first event was recorded in 1507/08. It was caused by excessive rains and floods, followed by a period of drought. These events caused a food shortage on all of the Hungarian markets, with a general increase in the price of food and the emergence of intense speculation (“magna caristia rerum”).79 Between 1534 and 1536, unfavorable climatic events were recorded: they caused a shortage of various goods, followed by a steep increase in prices. In 1534, a cubulus (80–85 litres)80 of wheat could cost 18 silver coins in Brassó, 12 in Medgyes (today Mediaş, Romania), 14 in Nagyszeben, and up to 3½ gold florins in other territories of Transylvania; the following year, the price of a cubulus of wheat rose to six gold florins. The price of livestock witnessed an analogous rise: a cow could cost six gold florins, a calf 60 silver coins, and a sheep 12 silver coins. Thus, a food crisis of vast proportions was recorded, marked by high mortality rates.81 The excessive drought and the persistent war caused a new food shortage of alimentary goods between 1574 and 1575, with the hardships continuing up to 1577 in some regions. To limit damages and losses, between April and May, the Diet of Transylvania decreed a general tax reduction and total tax exemption for unmarried young people, wage-earning servants, and people belonging to other categories with low incomes.82 Drought again caused low crop yields, and food prices rose between 1585 and 1586: in Kolozsvár and Marosvásárhely (today Târgu Mureş, Romania) a cubulus of wheat ended up costing six gold florins.83

There were other examples of crisis and famine in Transylvania, one of the most economically developed lands in the kingdom. It is interesting to note that, in the sixteenth century, famines had a greater impact in the Transylvanian lands before and after the division of the Kingdom of Hungary. Historical data show that in sixteenth-century Transylvania, over a period of 80 years, crop yields were of exceptional quantity in 28 seasons, on an average level in 27 years, below the average in 18 (only three of which were characterized by limited hunger of only local impact), and in seven years crops were not available in sufficient quantities, resulting in widespread famine.84 Of course, throughout the entire century, these territories were marked by bloody clashes, but the war also offered occasions to make profits. Indeed, Transylvania consistently remained very active from the point of view of commerce, as it was in a favorable position of mediation between East and West. Although it remained in a basically marginal position from a European perspective, Transylvania functioned as an important market up to the Modern Era.85 Even the famines recorded in Transylvania were closely connected to a malfunctioning of the local markets: in particular, in periods of exceptional difficulty (a drop in the harvest, environmental shocks, or events caused by the war), the absence of suitable policies for food imports or price regulation could favor a rise in the prices of food and consequently lead to crisis and famine.86

It is evident that, also in the sixteenth century, famines in the Hungarian territories were conditioned not only by external elements, such as poor harvests, environmental shocks, events cause by the war, and so on, but above all by a malfunctioning of the markets. In fact, in other periods when wars, unfavorable climatic events, and/or crop failures were recorded, there were neither famines nor higher mortality rates, and even the prices of food did not go up. Moreover, it is interesting to note that, although in general the sixteenth century represents a period of political and institutional crisis in Hungary, major demographic crises (which involved significant drops in the population and the desertion of villages and whole regions) only occurred at the end of the century as a result of all of these factors, eventually combined with climatic changes. Thus, the huge population decrease which took place in the last part of the century was not the result of famines.

Conclusion – An Alimentary Equilibrium

Documents and observations thus apparently confirm the hypothesis that it is possible to apply the models of crise de type ancient by Ernest Labrousse and entitlement approach by Amartya K. Sen to the Kingdom of Hungary between the late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era to clarify the appearance and evolution mechanisms of crisis and famine in a preindustrial and industrial context (according to a non-Malthusian approach).

In comparison with other parts of Europe, in the late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era alimentary alternatives in Hungary, such as wheat, meat, and fish, remained accessible to most of the population, which maintained free access to the alimentary resources (agricultural and sylvan-pastoral). Consequently, the normal diet remained diversified and not entirely based on cereals or on wheat, in particular. This permitted the maintenance of an alimentary equilibrium which, in part because it was based on a wide and comparatively diverse array of foods (and on meat in particular), prevented the rise of vast alimentary crises and famines, unless a shock such as war or climatic changes occurred. Moreover, the production and exchange structures were very specific. Raw materials and agricultural articles, in which the country abounded, were exported, while imports consisted mainly of specific luxury articles demanded by the crown, the nobility, and the wealthiest social groups of the kingdom. As a consequence of this economic situation, the Hungarian population turned to the market only in cases of specific necessity, and rarely merely to obtain necessary foodstuffs.87

Western Europe had also had a similar alimentary regime, characterized by vast access to resources and based above all on meat, but this was between the Early and High Middle Ages.88 In the most developed and integrated markets of Western Europe, between the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era, cereals and wheat in particular had emerged as the almost exclusive basis of nourishment. The shortage of these goods, the production of which was subject to significant fluctuations as it depended on seasonal rhythms and not (or not completely) on market movement, led to increases in their prices. Therefore, given the rigid wage system and the lack of alimentary alternatives that might be socially approved, and in the absence of adequate policies to complement supplies, shortages could easily lead to famines with large impacts and even to a fall in demand and production (sometimes of significant proportions) of non-agricultural goods and services until the phase of economic crisis passed.89

In contrast, although increasingly integrated into the European markets, Hungary did not suffer periods of serious famine because it preserved an alimentary equilibrium and the free access of its population to the food resources in most of the regions of the kingdom. Engel notes that on the whole, by the 1500s the living conditions of the peasantry had improved rather than deteriorated. They could freely change their place of residence, they were allowed to bear arms and to hunt and they sometimes even took the field alongside the nobles. […] Famine was a rare visitor among them. Although sometimes there was less bread than necessary [...], they had no difficulty in supplementing their diet with pulse, meat, fish and even game. As the density of the population remained rather low, there were abundant expanses of woodland and pasture throughout the country. At the beginning of the sixteenth century an average household raised two or three cattle and—at least in the eastern part of the kingdom—no fewer than eight pigs, not to mention poultry. In the 1510s it was quite natural for the servants of the domain of Ónod to eat meat every day, sometimes even twice, and we have no reason to believe that the diet of the peasantry in general was significantly worse.90

The complex economic interaction of difficulties due to crop yields, climate, war, and famine, together with the responses of the institutional framework to these factors, are evidence of the economic dynamism and increasing and notable maturation of the Hungarian market, as well as its growing integration into and role as a mediator between Western and Eastern markets between the late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era.91


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1 Palermo, Sviluppo economico, 225–82; see also the footnotes below.

2 Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism, 73. Of course, Braudel refers to Western Europe, not Eastern Europe.

3 The applicability of both models to the phenomena of crisis and famine in medieval times has been the subject of broad debate. Today, their usefulness enjoys wide acceptance among economic historians of the Middle Ages. For a further bibliography, see: Palermo, Sviluppo economico; Herrer and Monclús, eds., Crisis de subsistencia; Monclús, ed., Crisis alimentarias; Monclús and Melis, eds., Guerra y carestía; Palermo, “Scarsità di risorse,” 51–77; Strangio, “Urban Security,” 79–93; Palermo, “Il principio dell’Entitlement Approach,” 23–38; Palermo, Monclús, and Fara, eds., Politiche economiche, in press; see also the footnotes below.

4 Labrousse, Esquisse du mouvement, XXI–XXIX, 609–18, 621–42; see also idem, Come nascono le Rivoluzioni, 3–45, 46–96.

5 In his vast bibliography, see for instance: Sen, “Famines as failures,” 1273–80; idem, Poverty and Famines; idem, Resources, Values and Development; idem, “Food, Economics and Entitlements,” 1–20; idem, La ricchezza della ragione; idem, Etica ed economia.

6 Schmid, “Le pubblicazioni di fonti,” 141–210; Jakó, introduction to Erdélyi okmánytár, 7–32 (Hungarian text), 33–60 (Romanian text), 61–90 (German text); Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen, XV–XIX; Ştefănescu, “Izvoarele istoriei românilor, 3–30; Fara, “La Transilvania medievale,” 155–87; idem, “La città in Europa centro–orientale,” 15–62; see also the footnotes below. For a more recent summary of the Hungarian source situation concerning economic historical issues, see Laszlovszky, “Késő középkori gazdaság,” 13–19.

7 Monumenta Vaticana, vol. 1.

8 Engel, Kamarahaszna-összeírások.

9 Neumann, “Nyitra megye hegyentúli,” 183−234.

10 Kádas, “Nógrád megye adójegyzéke,” 31–82.

11 Solymosi, “Veszprém megye,” 121–239; idem, “Az Ernuszt-féle számadáskönyv,” 414–36.

12 Kovács, ed., Estei Hippolit püspök egri számadáskönyvei.

13 See Maksay, Magyarország birtokviszonyai, 1–78. On demographic calculations for medieval Hungary, see footnote 22.

14 See for instance sources edited in: Manolescu, Comerţul Ţarii Româneşti; Szende, “Sopron (Ödenburg): A West–Hungarian Merchant Town,” 29–49; Pakucs-Willcocks, SibiuHermannstadt. With more bibliographical information in Fara, “La città in Europa centro–orientale.”

15 See for instance Németh, “Die finanziellen Auswirkungen,” 771–80.

16 See Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen, XIX.

17 See for instance Hrbek, “Ein arabischer Bericht,” 208–09; “Géographie d’Édrisi,” 377; “Sunt autem predicti Ungari facie tetri, profundis oculis, statura humiles, moribus et lingua barbari et feroces, ut iure fortuna culpanda vel potius divina patientia admiranda est, quae, ne dicam hominibus, sed talibus hominum monstris tam delectabilem exposuit terram” Otto Frisingensis, “Gesta Friderici I Imperatoris,” 369; Costantino Manasse, “Oratio,” 158. On this issue see also: Nagy, “The Towns of Medieval Hungary,” 169–78; Szelényi, The Failure, 1–42; Fara, “La città in Europa centro–orientale.”

18 In the middle of thirteenth century, in his De proprietatibus rerum, the Franciscan Bartholomeus Anglicus remembered that in the Kingdom of Hungary “sal etiam optimum in quibusdam montibus effoditur”: Schönbach, “Des Bartholomaeus Anglicus,” 55. At the end of the same century, the import lists of Bruges registered that “Dou royaume de Hongrie vient cire, or et argent en plate”: see Inventaire des Archives de la ville de Bruges, 225–06.

19 “[Et est] notandum, quod regnum vngarie olim non dicebatur vngaria, sed messia et panonia. Messia quidem dicebatur a messium proventu, habundat enim multum in messibus, pannonia dicebatur etiam a panis habundantia; et ista consequenter se habent, ex habundantia enim messium sequitur habundantia panis”; 46: “Est enim terra pascuosa et fertilis valde in pane, vino, carnibus, auro [et] argento, copia autem piscium excedit fere omnia regna, preterquam norvegiam, ubi pisces comeduntur pro panibus, vel loco panis. terra est comuniter plana, colles parvos permixtos habens, alicubi tamen habet montes altissimos: in partibus transilvanis sunt maximi montes de sale et de illis montibus cavatur sal sicut lapides et apportatur per totum regnum et ad omnia regna circumadiacentia.” Anonymi Descriptio, 43.

20 Colonization was common throughout East and Central Europe in the Middle Ages: see with other bibliographical information Higounet, Les Allemands en Europe centrale. On this topic, and with particular reference to the Kingdom of Hungary, more recently see Kubinyi and Laszlovszky, “Völker und Kulturen,” 397–403.

21Preter [Buda, Esztergom, Győr, Zágráb (today Zagreb, Croatia), Veszprém, Pécs, Gyulafehérvár (today Alba Iulia, Romania), Pozsony (Bratislava, Slovakia), Nagyszombat (Trnava, Slovakia), Baja] non sunt plures civitates in tota vngaria, preter quinque alias circa mare in dalmacia; sunt tamen multa opida, [castra] seu fortalicia et ville innumerabiles in dicto regno, et cum hoc [toto] videtur prefatum regnum esse omnino vacuum propter magnitudinem eiusdem.” Anonymi Descriptio, 48–49. See Nagy, “The Towns of Medieval Hungary;” Szelényi, The Failure; Fara, “La città in Europa centro–orientale.”

22 On the demographic course in the Kingdom of Hungary: Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen, 267–77, 326–34 (quotations respectively at 330 and 273); Györffy, “Einwohnerzahl und Bevölkerungsdichte,” 163–93; Fügedi, “The Demographic Landscape,” 47–58; Kristó, “Die Bevölkerungszahl,” 9–56; Engel, “Probleme der historischen Demographie,” 57–65. For an analysis about the problems of different demographic calculations for medieval Hungary, with detailed references, see Kubinyi and Laszlovszky, “Népességtörténeti kérdések,” 38–48. A most recent reference of this issue, with relevant literature, is Romhányi, “Kolostorhálózat,” 1–49. See also the footnotes below.

23 In general, Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen, 56–8, 271–77, 326–28; for more information and a good bibliography, see the historical and archaeological studies of Laszlovszky, “Einzelsiedlungen,” 227–55; idem, “Field Systems,” 432–44; idem, “Földművelés,” 49–82. See also: Belényesy, “Der Ackerbau,” 256–321; Maksay, “Das Agrarsiedlungssystem,” 83–108; Makkai, “Agrarian Landscapes,” 193–208; Kubinyi, “Mittelalterliche Siedlungsformen,” 151–70. See footnotes 32, 33, 34, 38.

24(…) parvos habent equos comuniter, licet alias multum fortes et agiles, principes tamen et nobiles habent equos magnos et pulcros (…).” Anonymi Descriptio, 49. In 1433, the knight Bertrandon de la Broquière from Burgundy had similar impressions in the course of his travels through the Great Hungarian Plain: he noted the great quantity of free horses, which were easily purchasable in the markets of Szeged and Pest: Broquière, “Voyage d’Outremer,” 233. See footnotes 32, 33, 34, 38.

25 Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen, 328, 356; Bak, “Servitude,” 394, footnote 17.

26 See for instance the expenses of Prince Stephen and his court in 1264, compiled by the Venetian merchant Syr Wulam, for the purchase of many articles, textiles in particular (from Gand, Milan, Lucca and German territories of the Roman Holy Empire, but even from Byzantium and territories of Rus’), for about 1,500 silver marks. Zolnay, “István ifjabb király számadása,” 79–114.

27 See for instance Holl, “Külföldi kerámia,” 147–97; Voit and Holl, Old Hungarian Stove Tiles; Holl, Fundkomplexe.

28 For a synthesis see Nagy, “Transcontinental Trade,” 347–56. For a discussion with a focus on the Kingdom of Hungary, see Pach, Hungary and the European Economy. See also Nagy, “The Study,” 65–75.

29 Bonaccorso Pitti, “Ricordi,” 366–68.

30 Dionisio Huszti, “Mercanti italiani,” 10–40; Branca, “Mercanti e librai,” 336–37; Kellenbenz, “Gli operatori,” 333–57; Dini, “L’economia fiorentina,” 633–55; Raukar, “I fiorentini in Dalmazia,” 657–80; Budak, “I fiorentini nella Slavonia,” 681–95; Teke, “Operatori economici,” 697–707; Arany, “Firenzei kereskedők,” 483–549; Fara, “Attività,” 1071–89; idem, “Italian Merchants,” 119–33.

31 Broquière, “Voyage d’Outremer,” 233.

32 Zimányi, “Esportazione,” 148.

33 Makkai, “Der ungarische Viehhandel,” 483–506; Tucci, “L’Ungheria,” 153–71; Żytkowicz, “Trends of Agrarian Economy,” 73–80; N. Kiss, “Agricultural and Livestock Production,” 84–96; Sárközy, “Mercanti bovini,” 31–39; Blanchard, “The Continental,” 427–60; Fara, “An Outline,” 87–95; idem, “Il commercio di bestiame.”

34 Bartosiewicz, Animals; idem, “Cattle Trade,” 189–96; idem, “The Hungarian Grey Cattle,” 49–60; idem, “Animal husbandry,” 139–55; idem, “Turkish Period Bone Finds,” 47–56; Bartosiewicz and Gál, “Animal Exploitation,” 365–76; Bartosiewicz, “Animal Bones,” 457–78; Hoffmann, “Frontier Foods,” 131–67; Rácz, “The Price of Survival,” 21–39. See footnotes 32, 33, 38.

35 See footnotes 87 and following.

36Li Ungheri (…) di loro vivanda co lieve incarico sono ne’ diserti bene forniti, ella cagione di ciò ella loro provisione è questa; che ‘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, ella carne fanno cuocere in grande caldaie; e com’ell’è ben cotta e salata la fanno dividere da l’ossa, e apresso la fanno seccare ne’ forni o in altro modo, e secca, la fanno polverezzare e recare in sottile polvere, e così la serbano; e quando vanno pe’ diserti con grande esercito, ove no truovano alcuna cosa da vivere, portano paiuoli e altri vasi di rame, e catauno per sé porta uno sacchetto di questa polvere per provisione di guerra, e oltre a cciò il signore ne fa portare in sulle carrette grande quantità; e quando s’abattono alle fiumane o altre acque, quivi s’arestano, e pieni i loro vaselli d’acqua la fanno bollire, e bollita, vi mettono suso di questa polvere secondo la quantità de’ compagni che s’acostano insieme; la polvere ricresce e gonfia, e d’una menata o di due si fa pieno il vaso a modo di farinata, e dà sustanzia grande da nutricare, e rende li uomini forti con poco pane, o per sé medesima sanza pane.” Villani, Cronaca, 773–77.

37 See footnotes 32, 33, 34, 38.

38 László Makkai offers a description of the diet in medieval and modern Hungary, “Economic landscapes,” 24–35; Kiss, “Agricultural and livestock production,” 84–96. See also the ethno-anthropological analyses by Kisbán, “Food and Foodways,” 199–212. Some specific studies in idem, “May His Pig Fat Be Thick,” 26–33; idem, “The Beginnings of Potato Cultivation,” 178–91; idem, “Milky ways,” 14–27. See footnote 90.

39 Andrea Fara, Guerra, carestia, 22–31. See footnotes 23, 32, 33, 34, 38.

40 For a more detailed description of the single event, consult the bibliography indicated in the related footnotes.

41 See data in Kiss, “Weather and Weather-Related I,” 5–37.

42 Among the available sources, see Magistri Rogerii Epistola. On the impact of the Mongol invasion on Hungary, with an ample bibliography, see the papers in: “Carmen miserabile;” see also Fara, “L’impatto,” 65–86; and the appended footnotes.

43Interea fames horribilis et inaudita invasit terram Ungariae, et plures perierunt fame, quam antea a paganis: canes comendebant et cattos et homines: humana caro publice vendebatur in nundinis. Deinde locuste illud, quod seminatum erat, corroserunt. In quindecim diaetis in longitudine et latitudine homo non inveniebatur in regno illo: a nativitate Christi non est tanta plaga et miseria visa et audita in aliquo regno, sicut in Ungaria, propter peccata eorum: in plaga et post plagam erant, quales antea fuerunt.” “Chronicon Austriacum,” 1958. “Et quia seminare in illis temporibus non potuerunt Hungari, ideo multo plures, post exitum illorum, fame perierunt, quam illi, qui in captivitatem ducti sunt, et gladio ceciderunt.” “Chronici Hungarici Compositio saeculi XIV,” 468.

44 Historiography on this topic is ample; different evaluations of the Mongol invasions and the impacts of these incursions are discussed in Berend, “Hungary, the Gate of Christendom,” 206–07, footnotes 46–48; idem, At the Gate of Christendom 33–39, 163–71. See also Laszlovszky, “«Per tot discrimina rerum».” 37–55.

45 See Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen, 101–11.

46 “Chronicon Austriacum,” 1958: “Hoc anno [1263] fuit maxima fames per totam Austriam et Hungariam et Bohemiam et Moraviam, qualis antea raro visa fuit, et duravit usque ad messem.” Other difficulties but not critical situations in Hungarian lands are noted in Curschmann, Hungersnöte in Mittelalter. For an overview of the thirteenth-century data, see Kiss, “Weather and Weather-Related II,” 5–46.

47 Hóman, A magyar királyság pénzügyei; idem, Gli Angioini di Napoli, 120–283; Pach, “La politica commerciale,” 105–19; Kristó, “Hungary in the Age of the Anjou Kings,” 56–66; Várdy, Grosschmid, and Domonkos, Louis the Great; Kristó, “Les bases du pouvoir,” 423–29; Petrovics, “The kings,” 431–42; Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen, 153–94; Fara, “Le riforme politiche,” 41–70; idem, “Il conflitto e la crescita,” 5–38; see also the papers in Hungarian Historical Review 2, no. 2; and in L’Ungheria angioina.

48 Although he refers to the industrialization in Italy and Russia, see the analysis in Gerschenkron, Economic Backwardness.

49 Szántó, “Természeti katasztrófa,” 50–64; idem, “Az 1315–17. évi európai éhínség,” 135–42; idem, “Környezeti változások,” 159–64. More difficulties are noted by Vadas, “Documentary evidence,” 67–76; idem, Weather Anomalies. See also footnote below.

50 Hoszowski, “L’Europe centrale,” 441–56; Małowist, “The Problem of the Inequality,” 15–28; idem, “Problems of the Growth,” 319–57; Topolski, “Causes of Dualism,” 3–12; see also papers in Pach, Hungary and the European Economy; Samsonowicz and Mączak, “Feudalism and capitalism,” 6–23; Topolski, “A Model of East-Central European,” 128–39; Laszlovszky, “«Per tot discrimina rerum»”; Kłoczowski, ed., Histoire de l’Europe du Centre-Est, 621–41; Fara, “Tra crisi e prosperità,” 285–325.

51 Kiss, “Some weather events II,” 58–61 (Table 1. Records of weather and hydrological events in Hungary in the period between 1301 and 1387, nr. 2 and 5).

52 See footnote 47.

53 Quellen zur Geschichte der Stadt Kronstadt, vol. 4, Chroniken und Tagebücher, vol. 1 (1143–1867), 52. See Réthly, Időjárási események 42–43; a synthesis in idem, “Les calamités naturelles,” 1: 373–78; 2: 77–87.

54 Fejér, ed., Codex diplomaticus, 3, 408–11. See also Cernovodeanu and Binder, Cavalerii Apocalipsului, 35; Kiss, “Some Weather Events II,” 57; Kiss and Nikolić, “Droughts,” 13–14.

55 Wallerstein, The Modern World-System.

56 Fara, Guerra, carestia, 31–45. More references related to food shortage and famine in the fourteenth century were recently collected by Kiss, “Bad Harvests,” 23–79.

57 See for instance Ágoston, “The Costs,” 196–228.

58 Mályusz, Die Zentralisationsbestrebungen; Hoensch, Kaiser Sigismund; Takács, ed., Sigismundus rex et imperator.

59 Nehring, Mathias Corvinus; Kubinyi, Matthias Corvinus; Kovács, Mattia Corvino.

60 Engel, “Ozorai Pipo,” 53–89; Haţegan, Filippo Scolari; Papo and Papo, Pippo Spano.

61 Mureşanu, Iancu de Hunedoară (English translation: John Hunyadi); Held, Hunyadi; Dumitran, Mádly and Simon, ed., Extincta est lucerna orbis.

62 Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen, 195–322.

63 See footnote 50.

64 Ágoston, “The Costs;” Fara, “Economia di guerra,” 55–98; idem, “Le relazioni,” 231–54; idem, “Tra crisi e prosperità.”

65 Urkundenbuch, vol. 5, nos. 2523, 2524, 2588. See the report by Georgius de Septemcastris in Georgius de Hungaria; see also Banfi, “Fra Giorgio di Settecastelli,” 130–41, 202–9; Pall, “Identificarea,” 97–105.

66 Urkundenbuch, vol. 5, no. 2325.

67 Réthly, Időjárási események, 46–47, 52–58; Cernovodeanu and Binder, Cavalerii Apocalipsului, 36–39.

68 See footnote 61.

69 In 1463, the last king of Bosnia, Stephen Tomašević, was killed. See Fine, The Late Medieval Balkans, 583–85.

70 Urkundenbuch, vol. 6, no. 3782.

71 Cernovodeanu and Binder, Cavalerii Apocalipsului, 39.

72 Manolescu, Comerţul Ţarii Româneşti; Cazacu, Dracula.

73 Réthly, Időjárási események, 46–47, 52–58; Cernovodeanu and Binder, Cavalerii Apocalipsului, 36–39; for more data, see Kiss and Nikolić, “Droughts,” 14–17.

74 Philippi, “Cives Civitatis Brassoviensis,” 11–28; idem, “Die Unterschichten,” 657–87.

75 Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen, 345–71; Histoire de la Hongrie médiévale, vol. 2, 329–400; Bérenger, La Hongrie des Habsbourg, vol.1, 45–65.

76 Ágoston, “The Costs.” See footnote 50.

77 Zimányi, “Mouvements des prix,” 305–33; idem, “Economy and Society,” 1–119; idem, “The Hungarian economy,” 234–47; and see the papers in Pach, Hungary and the European Economy.

78 Historiography on this topic is ample; for deep analyses and discussions see: Brázdil, “Historical Climatology,” 197–227; idem et al., “Historical Climatology in Europe,” 363–430. For the Hungarian territories: Rácz, “Variations of Climate,” 82–93; Landsteiner, “The Crisis of Wine Production,” 323–34; Kiss et al., “Wine and Land Use,” 97–109; Kiss, “Historical climatology in Hungary,” 315–39; Vadas, Weather Anomalies.

79 See for instance Estei Hippolit püspök egri számadáskönyvei, 316 and 324. This document makes mention of “magna caristia rerum” and an increase of prices in alimentary commodities in previous years: ibid., 64, 168–69, 221. See Réthly, Időjárási események, 59–60; for more data, see Kiss and Nikolić, “Droughts,” 17–109.

80 Lederer, “Régi magyar ürmértékek,” 123–57.

81 Quellen zur Geschichte der Stadt Kronstadt, vol. 2, 370, 375, 377, 379. See Cernovodeanu and Binder, Cavalerii Apocalipsului, 48.

82 Prodan, Iobăgia în Transilvania, 417.

83 Cernovodeanu and Binder, Cavalerii Apocalipsului, 54–55.

84 Ibid., 45, 70–71.

85 Manolescu, Comerţul Ţarii Româneşti; Fara, La formazione di un’economia.

86 Goldenberg, “Urbanization and Environment,” 14–23; idem, “Urbanizarea şi mediu înconjurător,” 311–20; idem, “Supplying of Transylvanian Towns,” 231–39; idem, “Aprovizionarea şi politica,” 199–207. See also Fogarasi, “Habitat,” 189–205. Often, not even the measures taken by the local authorities sufficed to eliminate or limit the imbalances in the markets; an intervention could even worsen a temporary conjuncture and lead to an additional rise in food prices and therefore a more serious crisis: see footnotes 4 and 5.

87 Fara, Guerra, carestia, 45–52.

88 Montanari, Campagne medievali, 191–201; idem, La fame e l’abbondanza, 7–49.

89 Palermo, Sviluppo economico, 225–82.

90 Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen, 328.

91 The Ottoman occupation and a long period of war lasting for a century and half resulted in a huge population decrease in Hungary. Thus, vast areas were empty and there was a relative abundance of fertile, non–cultivated land which allowed new colonization and new extension of the agricultural area. These conditions and the maintenance of almost completely open, free-market access reduced the chances of emerging famines. Furthermore, new land colonization and extension of the agricultural area were combined with new innovations in agriculture and the introduction of new agricultural products (corn, potato, etc.). This also contributed to the decrease in famines in modern Europe (and Hungary) by offering different foods (not only grain or meat) for a growing population. See the analyses by Kisbán, “Food and Foodways”; “May His Pig Fat Be Thick”; “The Beginnings of Potato Cultivation”; “Milky Ways.” In this sense, it seems that Hungarian alimentary equilibrium and free access to market and food resources were progressively restricted, or even negated, only in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, i.e. in a different political, economic, and social context, when, within the Habsburg Empire, Hungarian markets became even more integrated into the European economy. But restriction or negation of the market and food resources was not always successful: it led to differences in the crises and the impacts of the famines, including their frequency and lethal consequences, depending on the territory of the country in which they hit. Of course, these hypotheses need to be evaluated. The following works of secondary literature merit further study and analysis: Makkai and Zimányi, “Structure de production,” 111–27 (Makkai and Zimányi note the low mortality caused by famines in Hungarian lands at the end of seventeenth century); Fara, “Crisi e carestia,” 251–81; Gunst, “Hungersnöte und Agrarausfuhr,” 11–18 (Gunst notes an increase in famine events in Hungarian lands and their relationships to economic and social changes in the eighteenth century); idem, Agrarian Development; idem, “Az aszályok,” 438–57. One should also consult the data collected—but analysed according to a Malthusian approach—in Komlos, “Patterns of Children’s Growth,” 33–48; idem, “Stature and Nutrition,” 1149–61; idem, Nutrition and Economic Development.

* This paper is based in part on the following conference papers: Andrea Fara, Crisis and Famine in the Kingdom of Hungary in the late Middle Ages and early Modern Period (XIIIthXVIth centuries), in XVth World Economic History Congress, Utrecht, August 3rd7th, 2009 – Session B6, Medieval Central and Southeast Europe: Towards a New Economic and Social History; Idem, Some Considerations about Crisis and Famine in EastCentral Europe in the late Middle Ages and early Modern Period (XIIIthXVIth centuries), in 7th CEU Conference in Social Sciences: “What Follows after the Crisis? Approaches to Global Transformations.” Budapest, Central European University, May 27th29th, 2011.