Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees? Ottoman-Hungarian Wars and Forest Resources*
Eötvös Loránd University / Central European University and Czech Academy of Sciences
The present paper analyzes the relationship of the Ottoman wars to the loss of forests in the Carpathian Basin. An important thesis of twentieth-century scholarship was that the Ottomans were to be blamed for the crash of the so-called “traditional” landscape of the lowlands of the Carpathian Basin. The paper argues that this view needs serious reconsideration, especially in light of research into two interconnected aspects found in a Hungarian region, Transdanubia, that is the focus of the paper. First, we estimate the amount of woodland before and after the Ottoman occupation. Second, we quantify the role military fortifications may have played in wood consumption (and therefore potentially in deforestation). We focus on the central parts of the Transdanubian region. The counties to be examined in more detail (Vas, Veszprém, and Zala) were among those most significantly impacted by the continuous wars in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This area arguably could be indicative of processes in other lowlands and hilly areas in the Carpathian Basin, though bearing in mind that forest regeneration may have been fundamentally different in the territories of lowlands, hilly areas, and mountain ranges.